Tag Archives: Frost

Damage wasn’t too bad – October 18, 2017

In spite of feeling increasingly poorly as the day went on yesterday, the garden was assessed.  The tomatoes are done and were pulled and dropped in the chicken pen.  The pepper plants looked a bit sad, but the leaves did not burn in the frost and the peppers were unharmed.  An hour of so was spent  pulling corn stalks and weeds and dropping them into the chicken run.  The sweet potatoes were dug and brought in to cure.


A 22 quart bucket full of Beauregard and Blue sweet potatoes.


Laid out to cure on the hardware cloth shelf with the onions and garlic in the root cellar.

The sweet potatoes were grown this year in a raised bed that was deep with good soil.  Each vine had at least 4 good sized potatoes growing down into the soft soil, making a good crop fairly straight and nicely shaped.  There will be roasted winter vegetables and sweet potato fries, candied yams for hubby for Thanksgiving, and perhaps a simple baked one now and then.

If we can get the Xterra repaired, a friend has offered a trailer load of sheep manure that will be dug in before the beds are covered with spoiled hay to overwinter.  I need to figure out how to eliminate the nematode that damages the garlic and onions before I plant them again.

The asparagus bed needs to have the ferns cut back and mulched for winter and the raspberry bed needs a lot of fall work, there are too many volunteers and a tall woody mint family weed has infiltrated the bed.  I am thinking of sinking rings of culvert deep into the soil and planting the raspberries within the rings to try to regain control and make the harvest of berries easier.

When we were working on the deck on Sunday, we stirred up this guy.


He wasn’t happy that his abode was disturbed.  I hope he found another place to settle before Monday and last night’s frosts.

It is that time – October 16, 2017

Facebook reminded me of a post from two years ago yesterday when a frantic harvesting was undertaken as we were expecting three consecutive nights of frost.  Tonight we are forecast for our first potential frost.  Right on time, mid October.  A few years we have gotten an extra couple of weeks, and a few years, it has come a week or so earlier, but our average is mid October.

The weekend was busy.  Daughter and family went overnight camping with their Taekwondo group and one from a near city for their belting ceremony and fun.  Eldest son and eldest grandson came in Saturday to tackle some needed work.  While son did some set up, I headed to the garden and harvested 2 peck of hot peppers for him to take home.  His garden, though productive with some vegetables, did not produce many peppers. The 7 old chickens and the rooster were sent to freezer camp Saturday afternoon.  It is going to take an extra slow cook to be able to chew those old birds, they were tough as shoes.  With early sunsets, that was all that we got done Saturday afternoon, but took a post dinner trip to Lowes to price out deck rebuilding materials.  I actually missed hearing Mr. Croak the past two mornings.

When we built our house, we built a huge deck on the south side, using a new borate treated wood.  Decks have a 10-20 year life expectancy and that one only made the lower end of that.


Many of my blog photos have been take of or from that deck.  A couple of years ago,  when it was stained, the spindles that had all be hand cut had to be replaced.  They were replaced with pre routed boards top and bottom and new spindles that were pre cut at a top and bottom angle.  Last autumn, someone (maybe our 200 lb dog) put a foot through one of the boards on the decking, and we ended up replacing three boards with new pressure treated.  In the past year, more and more of the deck boards deteriorated until it just wasn’t safe to go on it.

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You can see the three replaced boards and two places where we stepped through it yesterday in preparation to resurface it and put on new railing.  Unfortunately, as son and I worked to remove the old railing, getting the nails and bolts out of the logs holding the balusters and spindles and assessing what would be necessary, it appears that most of the joists under the large part of the deck are rotting too and we just can’t rebuild the whole thing.  The 7.5 foot wide section coming out of the french doors of the dining room has sound joists, so it will be re decked with one of the composite decking materials, that will eliminate the need for the every other year re staining of this south facing deck, and wide steps will come off the side of it to the ground.  Over time, we will try to gather enough flat field stone from the piles on our property to make a ground level patio in the spot where the large part of the deck now stands.  It is disappointing, but because it is south facing and unprotected, it didn’t get the use we had planned for it to get over the years.

In anticipation of the next two very cold nights, the rest of the peppers will be harvested or if the wind dies down today, perhaps just covered with row cover or a tarp.  If the asparagus ferns burn, they will be cut back along with the raspberry canes and the sweet potatoes dug and put in storage for a couple of weeks curing time before we begin to enjoy them.  The garden is shutting down for the winter and the chickens will be given access to it for the winter.  If I can get some seed garlic, it will be planted in a couple of weeks and covered so the chickens don’t dig it up.  Until next spring, the garden is going to bed.  Bye bye sunflowers.


Soapy, Peppery Successes

The great freeze missed us the first night, but made up for it last night.  Whatever plants were left in the garden are burned off now.  For some reason, maybe the proximity to the front of the house, the Impatiens  survived the night.  The frost was thick on everything this morning.  The car was started about 10 minutes prior to driving A (Grandson that lives with us, (Grands and grown kids will now be referred to only by letter) to his bus stop as he is Florida born and thinks that the 28f and frost mean it is absolute zero and deep snow on the ground.  He has been here for 10 months now and survived a winter, but he is still adapting.  The pre-start warmed the car and defrosted the windows without having to scrape.

The soap was a success.  Once in a while, things go awry and I end up with a batch that never hardens properly.  One batch couldn’t even be rebatched to make a usable product and as it was a coffee scrub soap, I couldn’t make it into liquid soap as it would clog a pump or nozzle.  There are 27 beautiful, generous bars curing with scraps to cure for our use.  Each bar was more than 4.5 ounces, some nearly 5 ounces.  The molds are just shy of 10″ and the cutter cuts 1″ bars, so I get a small bar that I cure for our use from each batch made.


These bars will be cured in time for the first Holiday Market day if I am chosen as a vendor.  I just found out that decisions won’t be made until the end of the month and notification until November 2.  I am glad I made the additional product, there wouldn’t have been sufficient time if I waited.

The oven dried Ancho peppers took much longer than the internet instructions suggested, about 6 hours instead of 2 to 3, but the two pans combined here will make a good batch of enchilada sauce.


The greens ones are sunning each day on a baking rack to allow air circulation.  Some are beginning to turn red and they are beginning to show signs of drying out.  Once dry, they will be added to the oven dried ones.


Each night they are brought in to the kitchen to keep them from freezing or getting too wet from the dew or frost.  Each morning, they are returned to the south deck to continue to ripen and dry if it is a sunny day.

The remaining ripe peppers, instead of using the electricity to run the oven for another 6 hours, were strung and set on window sills in a south window of the breezeway to finish drying.


The garden was very generous with bell peppers and Anchos this year, not so much with Jalapenos and Habaneros.  We take what we get and are grateful for the bounty.

We have one more threat of frost tonight, then I can join the chickens in the garden, prepare a garlic bed and get the cloves in the ground, covered with spoiled hay and row cover so we will have the wonderful homegrown garlic next summer.  Our first frost as I look back, was 11 days earlier than last year.  I need to be better about garden planning and noting dates and harvest, I can’t look back but a  year.

Loving life on our mountain farm.


Olio – October 17, 2015

Olio: A miscellaneous collection of things.

This week has been busy and atypical.  Last Sunday, I drove Son #1 and Grandson #1 back to Northern Virginia from a weekend visit with us.  The plan had been to work on the staining of the south and west walls of the house, but again, it rained.  This gave them some much needed down time.  Son #1 and I did succeed in getting the leg leveling hardware on the extension ladder.  I had twice decided to do it myself and the first time I was too foggy headed with a cold and the second time, realized that because the rungs of the ladder extended through the fiberglass uprails, that it wasn’t as straight forward as hoped and I didn’t want to ruin the ladder.  It turned out that we had to go to Lowes and buy more aluminum metal strap to make spacers as the package did not come with enough to do the job.

They took a hike in the drizzle and fog at the top of the mountain and took Grandson that lives with us too.  They came back wet, tired and just in time for a dinner of Empanadas and Yellow Rice that always pleases everyone.  I used some of the last of the tomatoes and peppers to make a homemade Pico de Gallo with black beans and Daughter made a roasted Tomatillo salsa that was very tasty as toppers.

Son #1 and Grandson#1 took a mountain bike ride on the neighbor’s hill and up the gravel road off of which we live.  Sunday, before we left, Son #1 and I took down a dead tree and he started cutting it into firewood lengths.  I hauled loads up in the back of my car and in the tractor bucket and now I need to split  and stack it.  He will finish cutting it up when he comes again, maybe over Thanksgiving weekend.

Monday was spent being Grandmom in charge in Northern Virginia as Grandson #1 had a Columbus Day vacation from school.  We took the Metro into D.C. and spent some time in the Q-rius lab in the Natural History Museum.  That is quite a set up and Grandson #1 loves it.  We also walked through the history of the earth, erosion, meteor impact and minerals areas which he also enjoys.

Tuesday was travel back home with several calls from Mountaingdad that the roofers had showed up to realign and refasten the gutters, fix the leaking vent stack and attach snow guards to the front and back roofs.  This brought to our attention another less than stellar installation by our original contractor in that the metal roofing was not fastened down with enough screws and some of the screws were not even secured into anything when they tried to tighten them down.  We now have a second contract with this roofer to come back and make our decade old metal roof more secure.  We do now have snow guards to try to help prevent the snow from sliding off and taking out the gutters and making snow drifts across the front of the house and piling up on the south deck.

By Wednesday, they were beginning to threaten us with our first freeze due tonight, tomorrow, and Monday, so final harvest was undertaken.  The 5 gallon bucket of peppers that I brought in are all in the process of being preserved.  Three more pints of Jalapenos were pickled.  A quart of hot pepper sauce (mostly Tabascos, but a few Habeneros added in) was made and canned in 8 ounce jars. The smaller green bells sliced or diced and frozen for winter use, the larger ones will be stuffed with rice and ground meat and eaten for dinner this weekend.  The first two pans of Anchos are in a very low oven drying now and the house is filling with the spicy aroma they are emitting.


There is a string of ripe Anchos hanging in the breezeway south windows and at least two more pans full to oven dry.

The potted herbs and houseplants cleaned, pruned and tucked in corners and window sills to try to get at least a few more weeks of fresh herbs from them.


The garden was turned over to the laying hen flock and they are quickly cleaning it up.  They have revealed many more pumpkins that I will harvest before tonight’s frost.  If you look in the picture above, you will see our grass mowing neighbor, on the other side of the garden and chicken pens, she pays us daily visits.  I don’t generally mind her visiting, but yesterday, she came right up to the house and left two large gifts that cows tend to leave.  The dogs went straight to one and the German Shepherd did what dogs will do and rubbed her face and side in it.  That prompted an afternoon bath as it was too cool outside to hose her down with cold water.  While she was wet and wrapped in towels, we pinned her down and cut her nails.  She really gets frantic when you do her nails and it requires three of us to do her.  I ended up getting bitten before I got her head pinned down with a towel and my forearm.  The other two dogs and Daughter’s two cats also got theirs done while we were at it.  It is nice to not hear the click, click of them walking on the hardwood.


The front porch got a fall touch, the fall Welcome garden flag and the large Halloween flag hung.


Girlie Cat (the name she came with), our barn kitty enjoying the warm sun on the front porch.


Much of our fall color is already gone at our elevation, the trees already getting bare of leaves.  It won’t be much longer before the only color at all is the green of the evergreens, cedars and pines scattered about.


Though there was some scattered frost lower on the mountain this morning, we ventured to the Farmers’ Market, got what will probably be my last bouquet from Stonecrop Farms for this season and supplied with some beef and pork, greens, beets, carrots, potatoes and green beans to enjoy this week.  We will continue to be able to get some meat and produce at the market for at least a few more weeks before many of the vendors pack it in for the year until next spring.

We love our life on the farm at all seasons.  It is moving into a slower, hunker down and stay warm period of more reading, knitting and spinning and no garden work.  I do still have to clear a bed and plant the garlic next week after our three nights of freezing temperatures and it moderates again for a while.

Good Night, Garden

The forecast is 3 freezing nights in a row, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday.  Though I know that is hit or miss, I don’t want to take the risk, so this morning, after getting the Grands to the bus and preschool, I started with the houseplants that have summered outdoors and with the herbs that I want to overwinter indoors.


This giant Jade plant was given to Son #1 and DIL by friends when they moved a decade ago.  It has lived at our house every since, each summer moving to the front porch and basically being ignored, catching driving rain and an occasional drink by me for its water.  It has branches that get broken off by dogs, kids, and the wind.  Before I brought it in this morning, it was given an extensive pruning, removing the damaged branches and the branches that were 12-18″ long hanging over the edges.  Also, all the volunteer plants that had come up around the main trunk were removed.  Hopefully it will fare better in the house this winter and less of it damaged by wrestling dogs and running kids.

Also on that north porch were my Hibiscus that I bought three years ago to sit between the garage doors, but instead it summers on the porch and winters in the dining room.  The ginger plant was also out there.  On the back porch were the pots of two Rosemary shrubs, one each of Turmeric, Parsley, Thyme, Mint, and Bush Basil.  I had cut the basil a few weeks ago and dried it, leaving the pot on the south deck and the cut stems budded out and began producing more, so it will be nurtured indoors for some fresh basil.


Some of the herbs will live in this south facing corner near the dining table.  Others are lined up in the south facing kitchen window.

After preschool pick up and lunch, I visited the garden.  The rest of the peppers, Ancho, Habenero, Tabasco, Bell, and Jalapeno peppers were harvested.  Some of the Tabascos are still out there as they were too green, but I may revisit that tomorrow and pick them as well.  A few more pumpkins were picked, a handful of green tomatoes and more dried beans.  There are a few more beans that can be brought in, but a frost won’t hurt them, nor will it damage any hidden winter squash and pumpkins, which will be much more visible once the leaves are burned back.  The Asparagus bed and the Chard beds were fenced off with chicken wire.  When I reconfigured the fencing for the two chicken pens a few weeks ago, I deliberately overlapped a section of fencing between the laying hens run and the garden.  After I finished in the garden today, I opened that overlap to give the hens the winter run of the garden.  They can peck at the remaining over matured cucumbers and squash, snatch the cabbage worms off of the remaining kale, peck at the fallen split tomatoes and eat weed seeds, hopefully scratching some of them out of the ground.  When I plant the garlic next week, I will put a thick layer of spoiled hay then row cover to keep the chooks from digging it up.


A 20 quart bucket of peppers and green tomatoes.


Shelled beans and the next batch of Tabasco sauce pending preparation.


The corn shock from our popcorn stalks, the only purchased pumpkin (surprisingly light for its size) and the pots of Impatiens decorating the porch.

If it freezes, it will be about 2 weeks earlier than last year, but about average for our region.  The garden has been good, a lot more work than I expected with the expansion, but we have some homegrown goodies to stretch our food budget this winter.

Sunday Thankfulness

Last night it got cold, down in the 20’s cold. The morning was bright and sunny and the two together created frost shadows.








Every trip out to the garden area reveals a few more pumpkins.  I think I have harvested in the neighborhood of 100.  At this point, there is a small pile collected on the edge of the garden to throw to the chooks.  They aren’t producing many eggs lately.  Of the dozen hens, we are only getting 4-6 eggs each day.  One is in a serious molt, one just got over her broodiness, but that leaves 10 that should be giving me a few more than I am getting.  It is enough for us, but not really producing for my neighbor and knitting buddies.

On the knitting front, Granddaughter 1’s sweater for Christmas is progressing well.


The pattern is In Threes which has a cap sleeve, but I am modifying it to add long sleeves.  I need to find some buttons and finish the sleeves.  I still have two more kids sweaters to get knit before Christmas.  One of them is another 3T, so it won’t take too long, but the other is for an almost 8  year old and it will take a bit more time.

We are due for two beautiful days before we are faced with a few very cold days due to the Polar Vortex headed our way.  I need to get some extra hay in the coop and figure out how I am going to keep their water thawed.  The heavy barn coat has been moved back to the utility room near my gum boots for dealing with the coming winter woes.

Arctic Zone

Yesterday was cold and wet, rain at our elevation, snow about 800 feet above us.  With the cold was wind, stripping the gold and red leaves from the trees that had not lost their leaves yet.  A good day to stay indoors, but it was Farmers’ Market day and if we were to have meat this week, other than chicken, a trip to town was necessary.  We dallied, not leaving to have breakfast as on most weekends and knowing that there was a home game at the University in town, an attempt to try to miss the traffic seeking to find parking on side streets or failing that, paying $10/car in church lots or people’s yards. Home games are madness in our little town as the university is huge and the alumni dedicated, even in a cold rain.  The market was done, the vendors all thanking us for coming out in such nastiness, but we came home with ground beef, stew meat, onions and radishes, still having greens in the garden and a bit of the last salad in the refrigerator.  Our usual meat vendor wasn’t there, so I was unable to get the ground pork that I wanted to make a stuffed pumpkin this week, unless I can find a package in the chest freezer.   Or perhaps, I will make a pumpkin, chicken curry in a pumpkin shell, there is plenty of coconut milk and red curry in the pantry.

Once home, the winter squash picked over the prior two days were toted down to the root cellar in the basement, two big canvas sacks at a time, many, many trips up and down the stairs.  The shelves look ready to provide well this winter.


Pumpkins, sweet potatoes, garlic and canned goodies.  This is what is left after loads to northern Virginia and what is upstairs in the pantry.  The freezer stocked with green beans, peas, apples, chicken and a bit of pork and beef stockpiled from weekend trips to the Farmers’ Market.  Our favorite meat vendor toughs it out at the market on all but the worst winter Saturday’s throughout the upcoming winter.

As the wind blew last night, and the temperature dropped, our power failed.  Quickly gathering up the battery lanterns and flashlights and tossing a down blanket on the two quilts on the bed, I settled in with my tablet that had a good charge and the ebook that I am currently reading.  Fortunately, the power only stayed out a couple of hours and we were awakened by the TV and lights coming on and the computer printer doing a self start, though it had been powered off before.

The morning dawned an hour earlier, thanks to the time change last night from daylight savings time.  Yes, I know, an extra hour to sleep, hmmmph, I awake with the sun and get up once awake, my body doesn’t just switch gears like the clock.  As I let the pups out, I realized that we were seeing our first snow flurries and the lightest of dusting on the ground and decks.


Mountain snow showers are a common occurrence, rarely amounting to anything, whenever there is moisture in the air and the temperature below freezing.  The freeze last night, the first freeze burned back the pumpkin patch and the bean patch.  The greens look sad this morning but will perk back up as the daytime temperatures rise above freezing.


After feeding the chickens and breaking the ice on their water, a walk through the ruined patch revealed as I suspected, several more pumpkins.  The largest, not damaged ones gathered and brought in, like I really need more in the house.


Happily, several of them were Buttercup squash.  A couple were tossed into the chicken pen and the rest left to be gathered in the garage or thrown immediately to the chickens over this week once the wind dies down and the temperature rises to a more comfortable range.  This was the first morning that I had to don the heavy barn coat to go deal with the birds.


The peppers that were gathered prior to the expected Arctic chill have all been processed, the tiny jalapenos sliced and frozen, some used in last night’s chili with cornbread for dinner.  The small bell peppers, sliced and frozen, the ripe habeneros packed whole in freezer bags, the green ones set in a bowl to ripen as you can see they are doing.  They too will be bagged and frozen.  The tiny hot orange pepper that I still haven’t identified, was pureed with vinegar they had been soaking in for the past few weeks and a Tabasco-like sauce made that a single drop burned my mouth for an hour.  The rest of them are ripening on the upside down plants in the garage.  The tomatillos that we gathered were rid of their husks, washed and packed whole in freezer bags, another 3 pounds to be used in Pozole this winter.  A chicken, some tomatillos, a bag of dried hominy soaked, a handful of Mexican spices and a hearty soup to feed a small army is made.

We are lovin’ life on our mountain farm and now must accept another winter is upon us.  We were lucky this year, we got an extra 2-3 weeks before the first frost.

Pumpkins and Squash, Oh My!

It didn’t quite get to freezing last night, but we did get a light frost. Thinking that 20 something nights wouldn’t do the pumpkins and squash any good, a morning harvest was set in motion.
Last night we brought in 19, most of them seen here.


This morning I harvested 53 more. They were stacked around the perimeter of the garden as I debated how to get them all over to the house and the idea lightbulb flashed.


The two tobagans hanging in the garage awaiting grandkids and snow were put to use. I have no idea how many pounds of goodness are there but each was a challenge to drag them individually across the yard. This isn’t all of the year’s harvest, some were taken to NoVa, some to the neighbor that helped last night, several already cooked for us, a few damaged or small ones tossed to the chickens. Are there more out there? I am certain of it, many tiny baseball to softball sized ones, probably a few larger ones hidden in the jungle of dying leaves. Each time I go out I spot another.
A tiny white tailed denizen of the jungle was perturbed that I dared tromp through his habitat and took off through the garden.
Earlier this fall, I was certain that the Burgess Buttercup squash were the predominant winter squash and the Seminole Pumpkins lost to the overgrowth of leaves as none of the squash were turning the characteristic tan of the pumpkins. The harvest revealed very few Buttercups and predominately Seminole, most tan or tanning on the lower side. Next year they get the orchard to cover. We will enjoy the harvest as will our neighbors, chickens, and family.

Garden’s Swan Song

We are past our “Frost Date” and have had mild nights except a couple of weeks ago.  The garden survived those two nights with row cover fabric draped over the peppers and tomatillos.  We are expecting two nights in the 30’s tonight and tomorrow night and nothing is going to be done to protect what is left.  If the plants survive, great, we might get a few more tomatillos and peppers, the greens will be fine for a while.  If they freeze, it has been a good year.


To prepare, a harvest of 5 types of peppers, a basket of tomatillos, a handful of bush beans and two golfball sized turnips were brought in.  The Jalapeños were pickled into two more pints for winter.  The bell peppers sliced and frozen except for a few to stuff tomorrow.  The Anchos have been put in the window sill hoping they will turn red and can then be dried for Enchilada sauce.  The tomatillos and habeneros will be cooked down with onion and garlic for more of Son #1’s favorite XXX sauce.

With the garden waning, the chickens get to visit, eating bugs, weed seed and scratching around leaving chicken fertilizer.  When they aren’t in the garden, they wander around the orchard, the yards and out into the fields, but not too far from the house.

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They are healthy, producing plenty of eggs each day and live a good life.

On Saturdays, we generally go to town, have breakfast at the local diner then shop the Farmers’ Market.  We came home with some beef and pork for the freezer, a peck of eating apples and some carrots and onions.

Between our garden goodness and the Farmers’ Market take, we will eat well.

Lovin’ life on our mountain farm.