Friday, September 2:
The first week of the new school year is over for our institutionalized sons, that is, those attending the university. The rest of us, more dependent upon the seasons for our calendar, are still working outdoors most of the time, trying to knock a few more jobs off the long list before the weather, and a sense of guilt felt only by Mom, chases us in to our school books.
The barn is effectively finished. The doors – ten by twenty foot panels on tracks — are not hung or even built, and may not be hung before winter, but the loft is closed, the feed and tack room has doors on it, and the pigpen is now housing three forty-pound weanlings. The barn will function as we need it to this winter, so that project can be reasonably put to rest for the season.
The chicken palace, on the other hand, is not yet battened. There is some difference of opinion whether the chickens need the cracks in the walls of their lovely home battened or not. Mom holds that they will lay better this winter if they are protected from the winds which will undoubtedly come in through those cracks if they are not stopped. The boys, on the other hand, are skeptical, mostly because they are the ones who will have to rip siding and tack up the battens. In cases of this kind, it is hard to predict the outcome, whether the boys will decide to humor Mom, or find other more important things to do. If, however, Mom goes out to the barn and starts ripping battens, they will probably take over and finish the job, just to protect the power equipment from her inexperience.
There is still some wood to be split and stacked. The new woodshed is nearly full of split wood, but we will stack the overage at the south end of the shed on pallets and throw a tarp over it. No one has wanted to begin the process, however, while S-2 and S-3 were at school and therefore unavailable to make a hand with this tedious job. Instead, the boys who are still at home have cleaned up around the barns, stacking lumber left over from our various building projects, moving three bins of manure and wood chips, and tightening up the electrical connections in the small tractor. Presently they are engaged in the long, dirty task of trenching for our spring improvement project.
Following the diagrams left us by our wonderful USDA county agent – don’t knock all of them, this one is like an organic Clark Kent, pop him into a phone booth and he leaps out wearing a cape and mask, an inexhaustible resource for whatever you need to know about sustainable agriculture, pastured chickens, and mob grazing – following, as we say, his diagrams, we are digging about fifty feet of trench diagonally across the hill above the spring from which we water the stock, in order to gather more of the water running below the surface and sequester it in our hlding tanks. This job would be burdensome in any case, but with the weather having turned hot again, even to attempt to dig this trench wins S-4 and S-5 the silver cup for heroism. The postal employees have nothing on our sons – not snow, nor rain, nor sleet, nor even a large nest of hostile yellow jackets, can divert these guys from the performance of their duties.
Particularly when the alternatives include Algebra II and ancient mythology.
We, on the other hand. By night making crib notes from the 1989 edition of Eliot Coleman’s New Organic Grower, by day we are trying to apply his principles to some of the areas of the garden already vacated by harvest. The garlic bed was planted to pole beans in late July, and these are tall and lush now, and hopefully will soon begin to blossom. Bush beans, planted a little earlier in the raised beds, are already supplying the table. The area previously occupied by onions was composted and planted to winter carrots, and those the grasshoppers have not eaten are about five inches tall. Only after the fact do we discover that ground to be planted to root crops should not be manured the same year. Wouldn’t you know.
Doing our homework more timely, we made sure beforehand that the beds we are preparing for winter lettuce and spinach should, in fact, be composted with plenty of our best before the leafy greens are planted. Braving a nest of hornets rumored to have taken up residence under the seventh, or was it eighth, compost bin, we opened the seventh, or was it eighth, and found dark crumbly stuff under the top layer of undecomposed weed trash and hay. There was enough to spread thickly on the section of the big garden where we intend to start winter greens and spring onions, and an additional cartload to take up to the raised beds by the house, where we will plant more winter salad stuff. We have started lettuce seedlings indoors, and will start more as soon as Mom gets it to the top of her list. These will be set out about the middle of September, covered with spun bonded row cover, and, God willing, grow into our winter salad supply.
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