Sunday, August 29, 2010

Get it while the getting's good

The light is quickly fading, rushing to a place beyond where I can see, feigning shy and tired. We are scrambling to bring in what we can while we can, kicking around in the abundance of all the light and water that has passed through and over our land this summer. The wild animals here are no exception. They feel the present urgency as well as we do. Which is why they are bringing in their harvest too.

This may have been what the predator who consumed two of our chickens saw before finishing them off. Having just posted about our Egg Mobile, you are aware of the safe living quarters many of our chickens find themselves in. What I didn't mention in that post was that three of our chickens, two Dark Cornish hens and one Silver Pencilled rooster, had decided to go it alone. They stopped roosting with the other chickens more than a month ago. I had been in awe of the three of them. They separated themselves from the flock, rejecting the comforts to be found there (reliable portions of grain and fresh water) and were thriving on a completely foraged diet. They drank water from the large tank we put out for the cows. They wandered the fields in a tight little group by day and lay their eggs high in the barn atop a mound of hay. We think they were fond of a roosting in the large lilac bush by the gate to the pasture, but they could have been anywhere. Garth and Edmund found a number of scattered feathers on the path to the barn the other morning. They left one Dark Cornish hen. Will she conform and join the rest? I hope so.

We dug the remaining beds of waxy red potatoes yesterday. We brought in quite a haul.

You can leave them in the soil and store them there until you are ready to eat them, but the soil here is very moist right now. Their tops have been withered for about three weeks. With the scab worsening and competition from other hungry mouths below the surface, it seemed imperative to gather them from the ground now. We are taking the advise of a book on root cellaring and curing them for two weeks before storing them. They are laid out on shelves of an unused book case upstairs. They are meant to sit like this at a temperature between 60 and 75 degrees without exposure to wind, sun, or moisture. I covered the front of the shelf with a large moving blanket. During this time they will repair any damage to their skins and harden off, making them more rot resistant than they would be otherwise. I've never done this before. It is amazing that a potato will heal itself prior to storage if given the right conditions.

And even though we are preoccupied with gathering and storing we are also planting things out. Edmund and I planted 53 small hazelnut trees on Friday. We planted most of them along the western side of our garden on about 4 foot centers. They will grow like shrubs and provide a windbreak for the garden. We planted the remainder along the North side at a greater distance from one another to maximize their fruit yield. If we keep the weeds down around them and fertilize them heavily next year, we may get a hazelnut crop in three years. This is all part of our plan to have living fences that will act both as boundary and as sanctuary, drawing birds and insects far and wide.

Today I plan to plant a cover crop over the beds we've harvested thus far. Either field peas or rye grass, depending on how I feel. These green manures will capitalize on what little light we have left.



  1. Your chickens post reminds me of an article I recently came across in Edible East End

    Although the story is about guinea hens, the observations are similar and it is a sweet story. Love following your blog-- can't wait to see you for the wedding, yes??
    Sue K

  2. I just read it. It is fabulous. Thanks for sharing that.

    (and yes... you will be seeing us at the wedding!!!!)