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fall harvest

Thursday, October 29:

Those of us who are employed off-farm are on break today.  All eight of us were busy with fall chores:  one was giving a late clipping to the pastures where canes cut or grazed in July, but regrown since, were spreading wine-colored snarls over the green cool-season grasses; two cut and shocked the Country Gentleman and Japanese hulless corn; three worked on the trim in the new farm store, and one more topped fodder beets for the root cellar.  The last, a seven-year-old, floated from job to job as the fancy took him.

gouda done

If you start a gouda in the time between morning milking and seven fifteen mass — one hand stirring the culture, the other stirring the breakfast hash that will stay warm in acast iron skillet until we get home — , the hour-long rennetting just about matches the long sermons at the monastery.  Someone cuts the curd while the breakfast eggs are frying. Gouda curd is cooked at a low temperature, by adding hot water to the whey, so there is no need for a water jacket — not that we have a water jacket.  Short pitching and pressing times mean that the cheesemaker finds herself, at nine-thirty in the morning, with the breakfast dishes done, a five-pound cheese in the press, and time to call her mother, help people with their math lessons, and hang a load of laundry.

All this is noteworthy in a life where melee is punctuated only thinly by episodic completion.

per Hydrogen

It’s amazing the things we overlook.  The pasture up at the monastery was limed two years ago, applying three tons per acre for soil with a pH of 5.2.  I’m sure our good forage yields of the past two years are partly due to the remediation of the pH.  So how does it happen that  in about seven years of gardening we have never thought about the pH of that soil?  The big forage and staple garden is in the middle of those same pastures, and there is little doubt that it has a similarly low pH.  And I just thought the potatoes needed more organic matter.

One more job before snow flies –

The last weeks of October are full and straining at the seams.  Apple cider and pie apples leave only sauce apples to process; when they are done it will be high time to get the cabbages out of the garden and start kraut.  There are still some bell peppers to freeze, and the green beans the frost hasn’t burned could still be harvested; we hope the field corn will dry and the ears drop before the deer get really determined about jumping the fence.

The animals are on a different cycle:  all the cows and heifers have been bred — some more than once — but it remains to be seen whether they settled; we watch the cows through the barn door while we milk, but no one seems frisky.  The heifers, who are at the back of the farm, are wearing heat stickers, which we hope will let us know if any one needs to be re-bred.  On All Saints’ the ram goes in with the ewes; the sow, God willing, will farrow in the next week or so.

What doesn’t kill us will make us strong –

 

We have something less than half of the mangel-wurzels harvested.  They filled the back of the pickup.  We brought them home and topped them and put them in the root cellar between the rows of potato crates, and our muscles ache from the hauling, but they are money in the bank — piggy bank, actually, since they are a good part of our winter pig food.  Mangels, according to our sources, shouldn’t be fed until they have aged a few weeks; this is fine, since there are still quite a few sub-prime winter squash for the pigs to finish first.  Isn’t it nice that squash seeds are a natural wormer, just when we are going into the winter and want to make sure that everyone has his parasites under control?

We should have a litter of piglets soon; we were aiming for July, but the boar was a little slow off the mark . . .

the fall rush

Fall was invented so we’d be glad to see winter — just like human beings gestate for nine months so mom is willing to go through anything to get her body back.  Right now we are so busy that if we didn’t have to sleep we wouldn’t.  There are crops to harvest, gardens to be put to bed, winter beds to cover, some still to plant, garlic to put in the ground for next year, piglets to prepare for, the ram to move in with the ewes, heats to watch to make sure all the cows are bred, feeder hogs to fatten for November butchering, steers to fatten on the best grass for December butchering, fifty new chickens (the gift of our beloved Sisters of Reparation) to move into the barn — and the list goes on and on.  The moon is waxing in its second quarter, and before it is full we need to have many of these chores checked off the list; and the new milk room has yet to be painted and floored.

This time of year the pigs are eating the best of the best.  Tall  green stalks of corn with the ears still on, sweet corn after our neighbors had all they wanted for the freezer.  Green tomatoes, and red, squishy overripe ones.  Mangels thinned from the winter fodder patch, many of them over a pound, or two, or three.  Beans planted for nitrogen after the potatoes were harvested,  then cut while the pods are still green.  We take some beans for canning — forty quarts or so, so far — but the majority are like the green sweet corn, planned excess to feed the animals.  Milk, buttermilk, and whey from the dairy, where we are making something in the neighborhood of twenty-five pounds of cheese a week right now — and it will be that much again when the calves are weaned.

Today we cut the winter squash and set it out on dry grass to cure.  The meteorological forecast is for warmer, drier weather for a bit, so we hope to have a week to get it all into the barn and the dry cave.  We speculate that the two-hundred eighty-some squash — butternut, blonde pumpkins and cushaw — weigh in the neighborhood of nine hundred or a thousand pounds — the cushaw especially being about twenty pounds average.  The best will store for our table, and the monastery table, but the pigs will get all that threatens not to keep.

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