It has been over a month now, a very long, VERY long month. But here we are, still pressing on and finding the blessings in the everyday ups and downs that are life. Mr. Smiles is not out of the woods yet medically, but we have a reprieve from doctors and hospitals for awhile.
It is fall and I LOVE fall in the Rockies. The weather is crisp but still warm enough for jeans and a t-shirt. The smell is beautiful, and the views are, as always, impressive. Even the sounds of fall are great – especially the elk bugling.
The harvest has been bountiful. We have been harvesting, canning, and freezing consistently for the last month. Our first frost came through, later than usual, but still it meant we had to harvest all the beans and tomatoes. The basement has tables full of green tomatoes that will ripen for us over the next few months and we canned all the green (purple) beans. Our experimental drying beans produced well and we are looking forward to growing more in future years.
Because we have such a short growing season (approx 10 weeks frost to frost), we have to harvest our tomatoes green right before the first frost, and let them ripen in the cool basement. They will ripen over the next few months and still taste just as good as fresh from the garden! The first year they all ripened within about a month of picking, but we have been purposefully breeding a long-keeping variety of tomatoes and saving the seeds from the longest keeping ones to lengthen how long they last each year. Last year in December we were eating “fresh” tomatoes that had been harvested from the garden in September and had taken that long to ripen. The flavor was still amazing and we are hoping to continue to extend the length of time they keep so we can eat fresh tomatoes farther and farther into the winter. It will be interesting to see how long they last this year.
We also have enjoyed eating fried green tomatoes a few times this month as well.
The new onion patch we built in the spring really paid off. We harvested more than 30 lbs of big beautiful onions. We braided some of them and hung them in the basement. Others are stored in a crate in the basement and we have been using them a lot for cooking. We are making more changes to the new onion patch this fall and next spring to make it even better. More on that project later.
The carrots, turnips, beets, lettuce, peas, and spinach are still going strong in the garden.
The grape harvest this year was much bigger than ever before at 2 lbs. Still not enough for a batch of jelly, but we are hopeful now that the vine is established we will be able to get more and more.
We harvested a lot of herbs before the frost as well, and they are hung all over the house drying. Once dry we will crush them up and store them in jars, using them through the winter to season our food.
Fall does mean bear trouble in our area as the bears start to prepare for hibernation. Every year we have barn break-in attempts made by bears, last year was the worst with 8 attempts between Sept-Nov. They were stopped only by the barking of our LGD, Tundra, that woke us so we could chase the bear off. Now that Tundra is dead, our new LGD, Anya, is holding down the fort. We have been very surprised to have no attempts at all made on the barn this year by the bears. We are not sure what it is that is different and making them not even try…is it Anya’s larger size and larger bark? We are not sure but we are happy about it.
Unfortunately, the bears have been breaking into cars on our property. In our area we have multiple generations of garbage-fed bears that don’t know how to eat naturally and only know how to eat from humans. Last year they finally implemented a law forcing people to lock up their trash, which is good, but a bit too-little-too-late. Now the bears are so desperate for food they are breaking into homes and cars because they can’t get trash from dumpsters anymore. If a vehicle is left unlocked they will open it up and check it out, even if there isn’t any food in it. They can actually operate the door handles. And even when a car is locked they will often try to open it and leave nasty scratches all over the door. Also, a friend left their car window cracked an inch while parked on our property over night and the bear grabbed it and busted it out.
Lastly, and definitely the least of the bear troubles, was a bear that decided to try out some of our squash. Apparently it didn’t fit his tastes as he left it on the ground after tasting it.
All the pullets are now laying and we are enjoying bountiful fresh eggs.
One of the two roosters we kept for breeding roos is getting pretty aggressive, so we will likely be butchering him soon and just keep the one.
One of the new laying pullets, a Partridge Chantecler named Alice, decided she wanted to set right away as soon as she started laying. So we went ahead and gave her 7 eggs since the roos were mature and we had fertile eggs. All seven were fertile and 6 of them hatched! One died in the first day or so, which is not uncommon, so we have 5 adorable chicks with their mama hen in the barn now.
We have separated the ram off from the ewes until November when we want them to breed. He hasn’t shown signs of being mature enough yet, but we are hoping that he will be ready in the next month or so and we don’t want winter lambs being born.
I caught this pic of one of the chickens “grooming” the sheep by picking seeds out of the wool. They do that often and I love it.
More updates coming later this week…