Strange Season

November started off too warm and dry. Then a few days ago, it switched to still warm and wet. The difference between the daytime and nighttime temperatures has only varied by less than 20 degrees, staying in the 50’s at night. That is going to change tonight. Today won’t reach 60 during the day and for the next 10 days the highs will be 40’s and 50’s and lows as low as 24. The fig I nursed with a ring of wire wrapped in translucent plastic and covered with mylar when necessary never ripened the dozen figs on it. It is a young bush, this was only it’s second year and I thought I lost it last winter. The leaves have mostly dropped along with the unripe figs, so this morning, I prepared it for winter hibernation. The branches were pulled together and loosely tied, a deep mulch of hay placed around the base, 3 long garden poles placed as a tripod and tied together with a long run of paracord then the sheet of plastic was wrapped around several times, wrapped with the paracord and tied. Spots that looked like they might pull up were anchored with rocks or garden stakes. With any luck, it will be better protected than last winter and maybe the upcoming summer will produce a crop of figs. I learned this year that it should have been planted on the south side of the house close enough to benefit from the protection and solar warmth. Maybe a second fig will join the orchard trees next year and be planted in a better location. This one is small enough still that it is possible to transplant it toward the end of the season next year if I prep it correctly, but I don’t want to stunt it’s growth and production.

Last evening during dinner prep, I went to the garden to see if any of the pea pods had filled out enough to provide us with some fresh peas for our meal. When I planted the garlic which in in the box uphill from the peas, I covered the straw mulch with plastic erosion fence and laid metal garden stakes on top to hold it all in place. The erosion fence was a few inches too short on one side and I discovered that the hens had found that and with an entire garden to scratch and dig, they had dug an 8″ deep trench along the inside edge of the box, uprooting several cloves of garlic. The trench was refilled and more garden stakes laid over the top until this morning. I found another piece of erosion fence that was idle and added it to the bare edge and anchored it with a couple of poles. A few minutes with a hoe cleaned up the asparagus bed and around it and it was fenced in with more fencing and a thick layer of hay dumped inside to mulch the asparagus for the cold. To try to distract the hens from their intense focus on how to get to the hay, I tossed a foot thick layer near their water in the run for them to dig through.

The near box with the garlic is the one that will be moved after the garlic harvest and that corner will again become a compost area. I think a real compost bin is going to be built there. The asparagus will mark the end of the growing bed there.

The molt seems to be mostly over, there are fewer feathers flying and only a couple of the hens look motley. For several weeks, two of the Oliver eggers, the two that lay green eggs have been providing. Last night there were two eggs and one was brown, so production seems to be on the upswing.

Tomorrow is two weeks since Halloween and all of the unmasked Trunk/Trick or Treaters in the county. Today there are 13 new cases of COVID since day before yesterday and 2 more hospitalizations. It’s getting ugly out there, but people here still won’t wear a mask.

Time to Update the Garden Journal

This has been a year of change with the garden and some lessons learned, some good, some not so good. And along with my garden, the reports from Granddaughter’s garden that I helped design and did the planting guide, I’ve made some decisions. The journal needs to be updated so that in the spring, when it is time to plan, I remember my lessons. Last weekend while talking to Son 1 on our socially distanced meet up, he described his A-frame trellis he made for his tomatoes. I tried the single leader method this year with tall poles, but the tomatoes won again and some production and harvest were lost. He built long 4 foot wide beds with sufficient path between them. Put the trellis in the middle and planted on both sides of it. He has the advantage that his yard is flat where my garden is anything but flat, but I have a blade on my tractor that is 5 feet wide and I think if I take down the fencing, I can terrace my garden. We are not lacking for large stones that could be the retaining walls between long beds. If I did that, an A-frame like he described could be built and set and the tomatoes trained through the open lattice work which would give them more air and more light. I think shorter versions of it might work for peas and cucumbers that also tend to overwhelm my efforts. When he and his wife were doing the grounds work, stone masonry, and waiting for the shell of the our house to be complete so they could turn to the interior finishing, the garden which they started was much larger and was long raised mound beds ignoring the slope by just leveling the tops of the mounds. Returning to that plan might be the easiest method for me to use, but I still have the paths that get so weedy even when I put down cardboard or newspaper first. But I have been using old hay in the paths, so I have been setting myself up for a problem there.

The compost pile was moved this year and a box built where it had been. That box gets shaded from the asparagus in the morning and the garage in late afternoon, so that box is going to be removed, the compost pile started there again and the space where it is now will be incorporated into a long bed with the asparagus at one end. The peppers had enough space and they did fine. The tomatillos were trained up a garden stake and tied but late season, they had gotten so tall they were falling all over the bed they had shared with beans early in the season, so that wasn’t a big deal. The ground cherries that I wanted to try were just planted too late. I gave them about 20 days longer than the package said they needed, but it wasn’t enough, so they will go in with late spring plantings. The fall peas were not trellised like the spring peas, the package said they didn’t have to be, but they are a fallen tangled mess that the slugs have found, so I’m probably not going to get many if any fall peas.

It may be time to open the passage way from the chicken run to the garden and turn them loose in there instead of the yard and let them clean up bugs and seeds, scratch up the weeds before tackling the reorganization plan.

Today and tomorrow are the last two days of a very warm, dry start to November. Cooler, more seasonal temperatures and rain are due beginning Wednesday and lingering through the weekend. Taking advantage of the beautiful morning, the last of the beans were pulled for next year’s seed and the plant skeletons tossed on the compost pile.

I love how the pods become speckled with red. They are now spread out on a raised screen in the garage to finish drying. Once dry they will be packaged in a small jar or bag for next spring’s planting. That is one seed that is easy to save and pure as they are the only variety of bean I planted and the neighbor’s gardens are far enough away and separated by woods on both sides according to the Seed Saver’s book.

While out there pulling them, the ground cherry plants were pulled and put in the burn pile, the marigolds are dead, so seed head were gathered for next year and the plants with the remaining seed tossed into the chicken run, though they are out in the yard and don’t realize it yet.

They will sit out for a few days to ensure they are thoroughly dry before packaging them up for next spring.

I should go harvest Zinnea and Calendula seed too before it begins to rain, though the Calendula usually self seeds and plantlets can be dug and moved once they are up. Harvesting some seed would be insurance though. . . .

I’m back, my thoughts sent me back out to harvest more flower seed and to open the chicken run to the garden for the winter.

Zinnea, Calendula, and Marigold seed drying for storage. By opening the garden to the hens, I’ve basically closed the book on the 2020 garden. It was a good one, productive with lessons learned.

Windfall

During the harvest season, canning jars and especially lids were impossible to locate. Yesterday when we went to meet up with Son 1 and Grandson 1, part of the exchange was taking them 16 pint jars of pickles and salsas, 6 quart jars of Tomatillos, plus two of the chickens from our freezer, along with some herbs grown here and dried, and strings of the drying Thai peppers. I had asked if they could return a similar number of pint jars from prior years.

The day before we left, our curbside grocery pick up did not have the soft drink brand and style that hubby enjoys, so we went to the other larger grocer in town and I masked and slipped in to see if I could purchase them and came out also with a flat of a dozen new pint jars with lids and bands.

When we were preparing to end our visit yesterday and head home, we made the exchange of goods, their filled jars, their old pressure canner that has resided here for 15 years but needs parts available at Rural King, and a few other items, and son loaded a huge box of empty jars in our car, including a brand new still sealed flat of half pint jars, my other go to size. Though the pantry shelves look less full, the jars were filled for them with love and goodness, but the supply for next year is great.

I have 3 dozen empty pint jars, 2 1/2 dozen empty half pint jars and since about half the jars have brand new lids and rings, they can be used for the goodies I can for them for next year. The reusable lids will go on jars that are destined for out use.

The afternoon was gorgeous. After making the lining for the Christmas stocking, blocking the stocking and sewing in the lining and tag, I gathered the dried pepper plants that were hanging in the utility room and carried them with a basket out to sit in the sun on the back deck and clip all of the peppers off of the branches. They will be strung to finish drying, it appears like another couple strings, and the tiniest ones will be infused in vinegar for winter greens.

A walk as the day was fading was added to the day then home for dinner, left in a delayed start oven.

Part of my sadness yesterday was notification that a young member of our extended family has passed away. It isn’t my place to share more, but my thoughts and heart are with the family.