apple harvest

Diversity pays off in different ways.  Not everything we grow “makes” (matures to harvest) every year.  By September we are beginning to know what the storage cellars will be offering us this winter — to know what “made” and what didn’t.  IMG_5586[1]

This year will be remembered for its two biggest projects:  a wedding — two, actually — and a home salvage (two wrecked houses turned into one good one).  It will not be remembered as an organized garden year.  Nevertheless, we’ve seen good harvests in a number of crops, including apples.  With almost 90 quarts of applesauce in the cellar, 40 quarts of apple slices, and dozens of quarts of dried apple pieces, we move on to the cider making:IMG_5609[1]

imperfect fruit, shredded (crushed would be better) and juiced:IMG_5620[1]

and now bottled, to harden for a week or so before we enjoy it.  These bottles are a little too full — we’ll pour some off after 24 hours, for tasting and to leave room for the rest of the cider to ‘work’.IMG_5656[1]



Characteristic objects of the season:  dehydrating apples,IMG_5597[1]

winter greens, carrots and beets just getting started,IMG_5591[1]

and the first of the fall cheeses drying on the counter —IMG_5599[1]


Chickens in the garden, yes, but only under tight supervision.  This tractor of young pullets is pasturing on a bed of buckwheat.  Planted as green manure, and to smother weeds, this patch was allowed to get about four feet tall and set lots of seed before we started the tractor across.  Here’s what they did:IMG_5474[1] We didn’t want to till this patch (we’re trying to encourage the soil biota), so the chickens serve at least four purposes:  1) they are knocking it over and trampling it, so it goes from tall green plant to flattened brown mulch; 2) they are eating lots of buckwheat seed and plant, bugs, too; 3) they are spreading lots of hot chicken manure; and finally 4) piece de resistance, all the buckwheat seed they aren’t eating (buckwheat sets generous seed) is sprouting up through the mulch now,  binding all that chicken nitrogen so it won’t wash off or volatilize, and for a second crop of smothering green manure/mulch/honeybee food/chicken food!IMG_5470[1]



This year’s first chicken mushroom; it weighed almost five pounds, enough for dinner and half a gallon of dehydrated pieces.


Oyster mushrooms.  There were two fallen trees laden with these; again, lots for dehydrating!

Last weekend we found another chicken mushroom (easy to spot that bright orange color) and brought it home to fix for guests the next day.  When we cut the lovely thick yellow flesh into strips, they were full of little holes.  Pores, we thought, until tens of half-inch white grubs began popping out.  We aren’t the only ones who like chicken mushrooms; something had started a very large family on this one, and we had to pass it on to the pigs.

Very busy summer, for lots of people besides us.

Good farming!  Regular rains bear out what Dan Kittredge says about hydration:  just keeping your plants watered will make a really big difference in productivity, not only because plants need water, but because they need water to conduct the minerals they need, and because their symbiotic soil bacteria and fungi need water to live and do their jobs, too.  Now, in early July, the potatoes are waist high (no kidding) and a beautiful dark green, with no potato bugs.  Wow.  By this time our gardens have usually been the battle ground of many a campaign against potato bugs, with victory still divided between the humans and the insects.  Not that the only defense has been regular hydration; we’ve fed these plants three doses of very stinky jeeva (see previous post on ‘poo-brew).


IMG_5287[1]How much of Appalachia is disappearing under our up to eight-foot-tall invasive species, Japanese knotweed?  Known locally as ‘river weed’, this one moves in wherever there is bare ground in mixed sunlight and shade.  It spreads by means of underground stems like octopus tentacles, and its vigor has to be seen to be believed.  We’re supposed to fight it with bulldozers and herbicides, but our Katahdins love the stuff.  Look where they were grazing last week:IMG_5283[1]

several passes this summer with the sheep should start this bank filling in with grass . . .



Spring has come just in time to save our dispositions!  The young apple tree on the bank of the root cellar has broken out in bloom, the cows are out on good green grass at last, and the heifer calf that got herself stuck in a hot fence and was laid up in the nurse pen has found a new interest and is out with the ewes and lambs.  IMG_5155

— and the peas and carrots we put out in hope back in February are reaching for the sun!IMG_5156

See you in Asheville — #MENF !