Sunday, August 10, 2014:
This time of year there are thousands of things to write about and no time to write them in.
The Joe Pye weed is frothing over in all the ditches, huge cauliflower-heads of mauve on six-foot burgundy stems, with whorls of lanceolate leaves from the ground up. Chickory still hangs blossoms the color of heaven at the edge of the road, and Queen Anne’s lace is so thick over the pastures they look frosted. But the first golden rod is in a tumbler in the middle of the kitchen table, so we know summer is on a limited tether.
The mangel-wurzels (real word, we kid you not) were thinned twice early on to give them room for expansion; they are supposed to be able to grow as big as twenty pounds. Nevertheless, the rows are crowded, and we decided to thin them once more. At least, we decided to see what would happen if we did, but we hedged our bets by only thinning alternate rows, leaving the remaining rows to do what they would. “Thinning” may not be the mot just — we are harvesting large mangels, one-half pound or more, mostly, and leaving more mangels, large and small, to grow as much as they will before frost threatens. We straddle the odd-numbered rows, pushing the harvested roots, candy-apple red, into woven feed sacks so we can carry them home to the sow and boar. A full sack weighs somewhere between thirty and forty pounds, we guess, the leaves taking up a lot of the room.
We just finished row eleven of fifteen — that is, the sixth row to be thinned of eight — and we have harvested somewhere in the neighborhood of twenty to twenty-five sacks of mangels, or about eight or nine hundred pounds. We feed them at the rate of a sack a day, with corn or milk or both for the second feeding. In October we will pull all the mangels, top them, and pile them on the big barn floor, tarped against frost and wandering sheep. Comparing the weights of the mangels from thinned rows against those from rows unthinned should give us some idea of which ultimately produces more. Leaving aside the food value of the tops, which the pigs will appreciate, there should be well over a ton of mangels to feed the hogs, that is to say, eighty to one-hundred twenty days’ worth of pig roots — Lord willin’ and the crick don’t rise. That’s a substantial amount of pig food. And we haven’t even begun to estimate the turnip crop.