Homestead Update: Autumn Is Coming
I am finding it harder and harder to believe that autumn will officially make its presence in one short month. This summer has flown by, and we have learned so much about our business, our farm, and ourselves as well. Farming definitely pulls out everyone's true colors and show the true integrity that one has based on the amount of work they put out during the week. Of course, we all have our strengths here, and that's what makes our family business a successful one. We know our places and we follow through with the things we set out to do.
I, for one, am finding that the more time I spend out in the field the more I feed myself, my soul. I have to keep reminding myself to call it a field because it's really no longer a garden; especially now that we make a profit off of it. Countless hours are spent out in the rows, harvesting and nitpicking at the plants. I am often alone in my thoughts and find myself making speeches or thinking long and hard about why I am even out there at all. It all boils down to food: planting, growing, harvesting, cooking, and eating it.
Last week I received my box of autumn seeds and started them on the porch where we made our makeshift greenhouse. We were tempted to line the outer walls with plastic again and realized that we'd basically be making an oven. The plants are just out on the porch now, and the weather has been mild enough that they have all started beautifully. It was kind of shocking how easy it was. This year I am growing broccoli, cauliflower, Chinese cabbage, Pac Choi, tatsoi, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, mini romaine lettuce heads, salad mix, spinach, arugula, carrots of all colors, beets, radishes, rutabagas, turnips, and bulb fennel for our autumn crops. This will be partnered with our potatoes and onions, Swiss chard, kale, late tomatoes, winter squash, pumpkins, beans, and late peppers. I am crossing my fingers for another bountiful harvest!
We also decided to take the leap and purchase some heavy duty weed barrier landscape fabric. We went with this brand, and it is beautiful and worth every penny. We decided that this would be the best option for our family at this point. It was going to be the fabric or an employee, and at this stage we just don't know if we want employees yet. So far I am loving the fabric; it has saved me so much time and stress. I also prepped the beds differently this time around. We applied some aged compost, tilled it in, burned the germinating weed seeds, and then planted. A few more extra preparatory steps that I am hoping pay off in the end!
The chickens are doing well. We ended up deciding to butcher their frien-emies, the ducks. Or as I like to say, we murdered them. It was not a necessarily mutual decision for our family. I also really wanted to them to not be delicious, but they were. I was surprised to believe that duck was pretty darn tasty - dang it! It was an experience that we all were curious about, and while it was hard to think all day that our ducks were down the road being killed, it was also not as hard as I initially thought. I am sure it would have been nearly impossible for me to do it myself - I don't need the duck meat to survive. The only way that I was okay with entire decision was because I knew exactly where the meat had been raised: on my farm, fed organic feed, allowed to completely free range and forage, given extremely great care (at least until we killed them), and loved in a way... They were pretty awful otherwise.
We brought them down the road to an Amish butcher. That was an experience! It's pretty difficult to find an "English" butcher around here that will process poultry. Apparently it has more risks to process over pork or beef? I don't really understand it, but we found an Amish family that was willing to give ducks a try. We loaded them into crates we borrowed from Cara and Shawn of Wild Farm, dropped them off, and my dad brought home 8 ducks over ice in evening after work. We decided to have a big party that weekend; our neighbors, The Barn, drove their smoker/roaster over and we roasted ducks over the fire. It was the first time we and all of our friends had ever tried duck and were all mostly pleased! It's definitely a different taste.
For now we are in the haze of tomatoes and honeybees. I love watching each harvest come and go. They seem to happen in sequence with each other; the peas are finished and the beans begin, the beans slow down and the tomatoes begin. We've harvested the sweet corn and two rows of red potatoes. I see new winter squash popping up everyday along with pumpkins of all shapes and sizes. Is there anything to get a gardener more excited about fall than finding those first funky pumpkins?!
I hope you have had a wonderful summer in your garden and embrace these last few weeks before the summer veggies are gone. I am trying to save as many tomatoes as I can before they are gone!