Sunday Homestead Update: First Frost

Today is an important anniversary for our country.  We remember the day vividly and pray for the families of all those who were lost 15 years ago.

For our little farm it is also the 3rd anniversary of the day the Colorado floods began ripping through our area.  They caused us to have to evacuate ourselves and over 70 animals from our farm on foot over half a mile to waiting trailers and friends.  So many wonderful people reached out to us and helped us through that very rough time – family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers – it was amazing.

We think on all of that today.

Our first light frost was followed by a harder frost this week.  It caught us by surprise.  Each evening and morning in late summer and fall we closely watch our weather apps and check the outdoor thermometer we have, watching for the first frost so we can deal with the garden.  When I woke up Thursday morning the app said it was 50F degrees outside, but when I went to the thermometer I saw this:

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Eeeek!  35F!?  That is a lot different than 50F!  I rushed out to the garden to see if it had frosted or not, and sure enough I found frost damage on the tips of the tomatoes and basil.

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Seeing that the weather app was calling for even lower temps Thursday night (even though they weren’t saying frost, they were saying lower than the previous night and they were very wrong on the previous night’s temp), we jumped right into the tomato harvest.

Here in the high altitude Rockies, with our 10-12 week growing season, we have worked hard to figure out how to successfully grow tomatoes without a greenhouse.  We start them indoors 10 weeks before the estimated last frost.  We then transplant them into the garden with Wall-o-Waters (WOWs) around them 4 weeks before the average last frost.  Once we have passed the average last frost date and the weather predictions are looking frost-free we remove the WOWs.  We then harvest all of them, whether green or red (we usually only have a few ripen fully in time), right before the first hard frost of the fall.  We cut them all off, leaving a small length of vine on them and we place them all in a single layer on a table in the basement.  They ripen during the next month or so (some take a week, some a month, and everything in between) and we use them and can them as they come ripe.

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We were very happy with the harvest amount of just at 100 lbs of tomatoes for the year.  It was a lot less than last year, but considering we had a major hail in the early summer that caused a lot of damage to the tomatoes we are very happy with what we got.

We also harvested all the herbs and hung them to dry.  Once dry we will crush them and put them in jars to use all winter.

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And we harvested the last of the purple bush beans.  We had a bumper crop of beans this year, with 47 lbs harvested.  We planted less plants than previous years and this is the most we have ever harvested, so that is great.

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Two days later we had a harder frost that killed the potato plants and did some damage to the carrot tops as well.  So potatoes, carrots, and the last of the lettuce came in that day.  I did leave some seed lettuce out.

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We continue to try to find a way to grow potatoes successfully.  This year was our best ever, but we are still getting a very small ratio compared to what we put in the ground.

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Carrots are always a good producer for us.  This year we noticed a higher ratio of smaller carrots, and our harvest weight was down a bit from last year.  I think it has to do with the massive aphid infestation we mentioned a few weeks ago.  But it was still a great amount and we were very happy with it.

All that is left in the garden now is some celery, beets, turnips, peas, and onions.  The beets and turnips were planted very late as an experiment because I had some unexpected extra garden space halfway through the summer.  We will see if they are able to produce anything.  It depends on how cold this fall is.

It feels so amazing to be bringing in so much food for our family.  We have eaten, canned, and frozen all of it and have a nice stock up for the winter.

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What a great season on the farm!

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