Olio – October 20, 2023

Olio: A miscellaneous collection of things

Fall is in the air. The daily walks are more vivid each day. A few days ago, we ventured farther into Heritage Park than we have ever walked before doing two more miles on the Huckleberry Trail. The park was a farm purchased by the town of Blackburg. One terminus of the Huckleberry is at one end of the farm and we have walked through the edge of the park many times but have never ventured into the fields. There are several of the old farm building and silos still there and several large fields that are mowed for hay still. Walking the perimeters of two of the large fields, we discovered a Play Park between the field and the old farm buildings.

The pullets have fully integrated into the flock or visa versa. They all reside in the coop together and free range as a unit now. The Orphans being a smaller breed don’t look as large as the others yet, but the Hatchlings and Marans that was added in with them are as large as the hens, but still lack much in the way of combs. The old Olive egger that was surrogate Mama Hen is being the most consistent layer, but a few days ago, she produced a robin’s egg blue egg that was as gritty as sand on the surface, but normal green eggs on the adjacent days. That has never happened before.

One of the Buff Orpingtons hasn’t laid an egg all summer. Her comb is small and pale. I think she may be removed from the flock. The older hens are all beginning to molt and the pullets are still weeks from starting to lay, so eggs are going to be scarce for a while.

Last weekend was a living history day at the Museum. I love this photo that was taken of me as I sat and demonstrated spinning, probably between visitors as I stood and talked when they were present.

The garden is still an overgrown mess. We may have our first frost Sunday night. I’m hoping so. I will then gather pumpkins and pull the vines, cut down tomato vines, cut back the asparagus, and prune the berries. Maybe then I can clear out a bed to plant next year’s garlic crop and move a wooden box over the asparagus bed to define their patch and add some soil and compost to the stalks before layering straw for the winter, and see if there are any potatoes and sweet potatoes in the hidden box.

The garden wasn’t as prolific as years past, but no fall garden was planted and the pumpkins just took over. There are pickles, pickled peppers, tomatoes and sauce, a small batch of apple/Asian pear sauce, and a very few quart bags of beans and peas. It looks like a couple dozen small Seminole pumpkins are hiding out in the vines.

Early mornings and evenings are being spent knitting on my sweater. Much more yarn than was needed was spun, so another project will have to be found for the remainder. The spindles get some time each day working on another batch of yarn.

On Sunday afternoon and evening, I will again participate in the Museum Spirit Trail event, portraying Mary Draper Ingalls, then Tuesday and Thursday, demonstrate for 4th graders at the museum in the mornings.

Wednesday, I have my consult for cataract surgery. I am a bit anxious about that even though I have been reassured by many people who have already had it done that it isn’t a big deal and I will be so happy once it is done.

Slow garden, lazy processer

The daily social media memory photos show lots of produce, much canning done and being done. The garden is slower this year. There were plenty of zucchini, enough to get tired of them. Enough cucumbers to ferment 3 quarts, quick pickle 2 half gallon jars, and plenty for daily cucumber salads or slices in green salads.

There were probably 3 1/2-4 gallons of tomatoes that I put in the freezer until there was no more room in the refrigerator freezer for them. I failed to core and cut out bad spots before I froze them, so this afternoon when I prepared to deal with them, coring and paring bad spots on frozen tomatoes was a challenge. Freezing them does allow for easy peeling. Once peeled and cored as well as possible, they were put on medium heat in my largest pot and cooked down for about 5 hours. Not wanting to haul out the canner at 8 p.m., the seasoned sauce was ladled into quart freezer bags, a couple wide mouth pints for freezing, and 2 regular mouth pints to use for dinner tomorrow night. That puts 5 3/4 quarts of pasta sauce away for winter.

The gallon of tomatoes that were harvested yesterday, were cored and bad spots cut out before they were put in a bag and frozen. Maybe when there is another pot full of tomatoes, some will be canned for shelf stability. The peppers are very slow, the plants are still small. I may have to purchase some jalapenos to make a batch of Rotel style tomatoes. Year before last the pepper was poor, last year there were plenty for canning, freezing, and using in sauces.

Tomorrow, two small eggplants will be fermented or made into Caponata.

As for the remainder of the garden season, the Tomatillos are beginning to ripen, though the first half dozen were spoiled on the plants. The pumpkins are taking over the garden. The vines have been redirected to the point that I am going to have to cut the ends to slow them down and just let them form whatever pumpkins that they will produce. Cucumbers will be harvested for fresh consumption and fed to the chickens. The peppers will hopefully produce more fruit in the next 7-8 weeks. It would nice to can some and make Salsa Verde and Tomatillo simmer sauce.

Mid Summer Heat and Weeds

This time of summer always makes me feel the garden is all weeds and finding the vegetables impossible. And I get frustrated with the whole vegetable garden idea, especially since we have such a stellar Farmer’s Market twice a week.

This past week, the hay team finally got the hay down and baled. A few scattered thunderstorms have the underlying grass greening up again and there are two small bales set aside for my use in the chicken run and garden.

There was still part of a large bale from two years ago that I couldn’t handle alone. Last time the local 16 year old grandson was here to mow, he helped me relocate what was left of it into the garden. This afternoon, after having spent a couple of hours over the past few days weeding what I could, the gas mower was pushed over and the wider paths were mowed, another couple of hours of weeding and a lot of wrestling, managed to stand the bale on end so it could be unwrapped and thick layers of the old, spoiled hay were applied over the mowed area and an idle bed. There is a small core about 14″ in diameter left and a little more path area that needs to be mulched with it, but the heat, sweat, and prickly skin ended the project for the day.

The beans are nearly done, cucumbers are beginning to come in enough to ferment a couple jars of sour pickles, pumpkin vines escaping the huge bed they are in, the tomatoes too close together are a tangle of branches and vines with fruit, but probably not as much as I would have gotten if they had been properly spaced and staked. The zucchini are producing baseball bat sized squash overnight, though it was supposed to be a compact small garden variety that produced smaller squash. Tomatillos are showing lots of blossoms and fruit, and some peppers are developing, though those plants will wait for it to cool off some to really shoot up and produce. Each trip out to the garden results in more notes for next year. I should remember from year to year, but still make the same errors. There is really more garden than I am comfortable with at this stage of life. Perhaps one of the beds will become the thornless blackberries and raspberries heavily mulched and get them out of the plastic half barrels. They would produce more fruit if they had more room. The asparagus when they aren’t 6 foot high ferns are going to be boxed to make weeding around them easier.

I would love to have taller raised beds with thick wood chip paths, but that will never be.

My photo memories show a lot of produce had already been canned by this time of the summer. This garden seems to be slower to provide.