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.

late summer

Mad as March hares around here.  The run-in shed is ready for winter, but the ram pump will have to wait until next summer.  God help us when cold weather comes, but if we survived last winter we can this.

Our presentations at the Mother Earth News fair in Seven Springs, PA, were very well received; we taught a session on making artisan-quality bread with home-ground meal, and another on small-scale rotational grazing for beginners.  We also met with the publishers who are looking at our book; we hope to be able to announce a contract one day soon.

The mangel-wurzels have given us at least six hundred pounds in thinnings, and will give us well over a ton of fodder for the pigs when we harvest this October.  The legumes planted for nitrogen and pig fodder are already feeding six pigs half their daily rations; after Thanksgiving there will only be Porca and He-man and their new litter to feed.  Turnips and heirloom corn are growing now for winter food as well.

The cows are drowning us in milk; we now have shares available by contract.  If you are looking for raw milk in east central Ohio, check out Two Sisters Creamery for more information

common ground

We will be presenting again at the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs, PA.  This year we demonstrate methods of using coarse home ground wheat in home baking; we’ll also demonstrate small-scale rotational grazing with portable electric fence.  So many people in one place, of widely varied viewpoints and backgrounds, united in an interest in sustainable land use and low-impact living, is an exhilarating experience; here, Zendik and Baptist, liberal and conservative, feminist and Catholic, find common ground.


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