Friday, September 20, 2019

Plums 2019

Close up of plums growing on a tree
Czar plums, Sep 2019
We've picked over a hundred plums from our tree by now.  Some have been dehydrated, though a good proportion have been given away too.  The first flush of them were mostly full of worms, but these latest ones aren't, luckily.  The chickens and chicks had the wormy ones, and are still enjoying any bird-damaged.  The husband got up the ladder the other day to pick the highest ones, and there are probably about 60-80 left on the tree;  I'll be dehydrating and/or gifting them, and eating some too.  The house smells of plum jam as they dry.

To be honest, I don't mind the worms that much!  If I were at full capacity (which I'm not yet), I might have been willing to bottle those wormy plums, sans wormy bits of course, or make jam as I did last year (yum).  I'm even willing to cut the wormy bits out and eat the rest, but for now, the most I can manage is halving and pitting them, and placing them on dehydrator trays.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Chicks growing up

Chicken and chicks behind a wire fence
Rainbow and the kids, Sep 2019
Here's a photo of the chicks;  they're growing up fast and going through about 5 kg of growers pellets a week.  I imagine once they're done with their current 12 kg, we'll start the integration process with the main flock.  We've been letting them free range for a few hours in the evenings (so funny to watch them all spook and "take flight" together).  The boys have been too rowdy and though their mothers are still pretty indulgent. will no doubt get some discipline from the adults when they finally meet.

They're  just about eight weeks old now.  I anticipate having to eat the boys when they are around 12 weeks (when they start to crow), and the girls will probably start laying at around 20-25 weeks.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Runner beans

Runner bean pods hanging from a vine
Leaving the biggest pods for seed, Sep 2019
For a few years in a row, my runner beans have been a little disappointing.  The son doesn't like them much, so I guess having an overabundance isn't necessary.  Still, I like them and the husband likes them, and to have fresh runner beans with our Sunday roast dinner is a delicious treat, particularly since they've been so rare.

I've been saving seeds from this strain for many years now:  certainly longer than I've been blogging here.  The variety is Scarlet Emperor, and as I'm the only one in the immediate vicinity who grows a vegetable patch, I'm pretty sure they've not crossed with any other variety (it would be a different story at the allotment).  Since they've not been performing well, I had made up my mind to buy a new variety for next year--one that can set beans in drier/hotter conditions, which I believe has been the problem for Scarlet Emperor;  a (normal) wet summer used to give me beans upon beans, but the last few have been too dry.

Well, this summer was wetter and though we've had some dry, hot spells, they haven't lasted long and now the runner beans (all seven or so plants) are going for it with all their might, despite their late beginning (they only started producing in August, when for years I've been used to beans in July).  I still plan on getting a new variety, but I'll be saving seeds again too.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The big harvest

Now's the time to get the bulk of the harvest in, preferrably to store and preserve for the winter.  However, the bulk of the harvest in my case is about two rows of potatoes and five pumpkins and squashes.  Oh well...  We don't have adequate cool storage for a lot of potatoes, so have been digging them up when needed--when the tops die back fully we'll have dig them all up (at least another week or two).  I anticipate them lasting us for another six or eight weeks, which should bring us to the end of the Vegetable Challenge.

Luckily the pumpkins and squashes are easier to store, though by weight they might actually be about equal with the potatoes.  I will save them till the fresh veg runs low--and of course one is destined for Halloween (we'll carve it on the day and cook it the next).  I hope to have our own potatoes and squash for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

I've got a smaller "bulk" harvest of tomatoes coming in now.  Though none are very big, many are turning red despite it being a typical cooler/rainier summer (and don't normally get many red tomatoes from).  Twice last week I picked around a pound of tomatoes;  we've eaten some fresh and I'm trying to get in a few liters of salsa fresca too (once brined and fermented, it lasts a few months in the fridge).

The only other bulk harvest to come in is the plums, but again, it's not a big one--I was hoping to make a jug of plum cider this year but it doesn't look like there's enough.  And most of the fruits seem to have plum maggots (not a problem for cider, but not so nice for eating);  the chickens have had the majority of them so far.

Friday, September 6, 2019

State of the flock, September 2019

Well, egg production has slowed down.  Three hens are definitely not laying:  the two mother hens still hanging out with their chicks (now about six weeks old), and last year's cheep has gone broody.  Cheep is not going to get her chance at motherhood this year--maybe next year, if she goes broody again.  Conventional wisdom says to put her in a wire bottomed cage for a few days to break her broodiness (we had to do this to another hen last year), but I'll let her go a bit longer before I take drastic measures:  maybe she'll give up on her own. 

The other hens are mostly cooped up in their yard;  the ducks have also been penned in next to the pond for about two weeks.  I'll let the ducks go back to free ranging when we combine the chicks with the chickens, probably in another two or three weeks. 

The chicks are pretty well feathered now, and it looks like there are three girls, five boys and one undecided (though I'm tending toward boy).  Three new hens is a good number for us, as we have plenty of poultry in the garden for now--12 adult hens with two ducks and two drakes.  I told the husband I'm really looking forward to some fried chicken in another six weeks. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Food Totals August 2019

Runner bean vines flowering next to a fence
Three runner bean plants up a cane (it blew down a week ago) Aug 2019
Vegetables:

19.5 oz French beans
8 oz spring onion
128 oz potatoes
70.5 oz zuccini
14.5 oz beets
24.5 oz cherry tomatoes
4 oz regular tomatoes
22 oz runner beans
40 oz chard

Total: 331 oz, or 20 lb 11 oz

Note:  I weigh all my vegetables after preparation:  peeling, trimming, etc.  Does not include some fresh herbs which were too small a quantity to weigh, i.e. less than 0.5 oz.

Fruit:

26 oz figs
43 yellow raspberries

Eggs:

Total: 147 eggs from 12 hens and 2 ducks
Total feed bought: 1 bag layers pellets (20 kg), 2 bags mixed corn (40 kg), 1 bag growers pellets (5 kg)

Preserves:

1 medium jar dehydrated beets (from gift beetroot)
1/2 medium jar dehydrated cherry tomatoes
1/4 medium jar dehydrated figs

Homebrew:

Elderberry/blackberry wine bottled up (4 L)
Cider bottled up (16 L)

Friday, August 30, 2019

Resilience in the months ahead

Close up of a gladiola bloom
Gladiola, Aug 2019
Though the Vegetable Challenge ends at the beginning of November, there is some uncertainty about national food security for the coming autumn/winter here in this country.  I'm trying to grow and preserve what I can to help assuage that uncertainty for my own family;  depending on the national situation, we may not have much choice of fruit and vegetables at the store when the Challenge runs out.  If we want to keep eating vegetables, it's entirely possible they'll have to come from our own garden or allotment.

I mentioned before that the whole food growing engine I caretake has overwhelmed me this summer.  However, now the houseguests have left, and I'm feeling a bit better (though still not fully), I luckily can now do some light gardening, and have even been to the allotment once or twice.  I'm trying to put by a little of the harvest every day, using as little effort as possible:  dehydrating, freezing, salting.

It's true the freezer is pretty full now, and I don't actually freeze many vegetables;  but this summer I've added a bag of mixed berries, along with half a bag of cherries and a bag of chard stems (leaves were dehydrated or eaten as salads).

I've finally got the first jar of salted runner beans going.  It's not a big jar.  I didn't get many runner or French beans last summer (too hot and dry), but I've had better luck this year;  I just need to remember to keep skimming a few off the top for salting and not eat them all.

And dehydrating some cherry tomatoes and figs.  Small batches.  I was given a sack of beets and considered pickling them, but decided to go the easy route and dry them--they filled up a small jar once dehydrated.  The dry peas are all threshed now; we'll probably get only a couple meals off them, but they represent the future:  this year I had two rows of peas, next year I want four rows at least, and the year after maybe eight rows.