Monday, September 18, 2017

Fall FELL hard

There has been a great reversing of the celestial weather machine. A week ago we were sweltering in 90F temps and bone-dry. Now it's windy, rainy, and cold. Fall has fallen.

Knowing we had a change in season coming, we've been embarking on a variety of projects with an aim toward buttoning up our farm for the winter.

Last week I harvested the peaches. These are the first fruits from our young newly planted orchard, and I couldn't be more thrilled to be picking my hands-down all-time favorite fruit from our own trees at last.

Altogether I got about 20 lbs. of fruit.

I won't bother canning them -- I have plenty of canned peaches -- but will instead happily eat them fresh. For a few days, I let them finish ripening on top our cookstove...

...until the fruit flies discovered them. Then I covered them with mosquito netting.

You can see the flies, pounding their little fists on the netting, wanting in. Tough patooties, guys.

Meanwhile Don embarked on cleaning out the bull pen sheds. Right now we don't have a bull, so we're going to get two piglets from a neighbor and raise our own pork. The sheds are the perfect place to put them (with a few modifications, of course) and the bull pen is spacious and well-fenced (I'll be aproning the perimeter to sabotage their rooting efforts).

He's also been transporting our enormous manure compost pile into the pasture where we'll be growing wheat next spring. The manure will be tilled into the soil this fall so it can decompose over winter.

The chickens think this is just a spiffy plan. There is nothing better for chickens than a manure pile.

I also started cleaning out the back of the barn. We have plans for this area -- moving the old chest freezer in place for grain storage, and putting in a new milking stall. But first, the mess. Before:

And after. The milking stall will go in the section where the florescent-orange reflector is; and we manhandled the chest freezer into position.

By the way, this will be my milking stall. We got this squeeze chute back in 2013 for an incredibly good price, but never used it. I have some cows I'd like to train to milk (notably Amy and Pixie, both half-Jerseys), and a squeeze chute will work perfectly for this purpose.

Next, the chest freezer.

It was filthy inside. But it's also mouse-proof, moisture-proof, and holds 25 cubic feet of material. In short, the perfect place to store bulk chicken feed.

So I scrubbed it out as best I could (without actually climbing inside) with a mop, then gave it a washover with bleach water. It will do for grain storage.

A couple mornings ago, the temperature dropped to 29F.

First frost on the windshield. Oh well, there goes the garden.

We also had rain moving in, the first appreciable rain in almost three months.

Time to harvest -- fast -- the garden. Everything got nipped by the frost. Tomatoes...

Red bell peppers...


And beans, among much else.

The chipmunks are voracious this year. Sometimes, standing still among the corn tires, I could see as many as a dozen, diligently harvesting my harvest.

This past weekend was a frantic couple of days of harvest, trying to get things under cover before the rain hit. Potatoes:

Beans (the corn is pretty much done). Here's a "before" photo:

And an "after" shot.

Lots of beans.

I ended up piling them in the wheelbarrow...

...and dumping them in the barn.

I'll have to hasten and pick the pods off the plants, but that will happen after the rain starts when I can't work outside.

The chickens enjoyed the stripped-out beds...

...and ate any leftover corn they could find.

I saw an occasional tiny frog.

Chipmunks were everywhere, harvesting whatever they could.

Not just chipmunks. We've had chickarees around here too. This one was in an old bird's nest in the pear tree, munching on a pear.

The weather was definitely thickening up as we worked.

Younger Daughter started in on the green tomatoes.

We didn't have a whole lot of ripe tomatoes, but we had lots of green ones. I'll put these in a box with apples and bananas to supply ethylene, and run them through the food strainer as they come ripe.

The red bell peppers were still green, so I picked them all and will ripen them in the house.

The chickens got most of my watermelons, but this baby was growing so well I netted it so they couldn't eat it. With the vine dead after the frost, I went ahead and picked it.

It weighed in at 20 lbs.

The pear trees are massively loaded with fruit.

I started by picking the low-hanging fruit...

...which nearly filled the wheelbarrow.

But I still have two or three times as much fruit in the upper branches. Holy cow, the Magic Pear Fairy is soon gonna have to wax up her wings and once again fly around the neighborhood, bestowing the blessings of pears on anyone she can catch.

But I had to put aside the rest of the pears until later. We had other stuff to do.

Don cut up a bunch of rounds of firewood, which I split.

Then we stacked it on the porch. First firewood of the year!

The last step of the day was to bring in the cattle from the neighboring property we lease for grazing each year. The beasties were all peacefully browsing...

...until they heard the universal cattle call: "Bossy bossy bossy bossy BOSSY!!!!!"

Instant response! They all threw up their heads and came galloping.

Here comes Brit, always first through the gate.

The rest thundered after her.

Except Matilda, of course. Matilda doesn't "thunder." She walks. Sedately.

Don had little Mr. Darcy on a leash to watch this twice-a-year "two-minute cattle roundup," as we call it.

The cattle came through the gate in no time...

...with elderly Matilda bringing up the rear in a stately fashion.

The cattle will stay on the wooded side of the pasture for the winter, where they have shelter under the barn awning when they need it.

It's a good thing we did all this harvesting and battening down, because today has been windy, rainy, and cold.

The fire in the cookstove feels good.

Winter is on its way. You can never forget that in north Idaho


  1. Wow! Look at your fruit! Our climate does not allow for peaches - or a lot of other things you grow so well.

    A former coworker of mine (now 86) used to tell me that one month after the first morning fog in the fall, we would get the first frost. He always commented, but I never paid much heed. This year I wrote down the date of the first fog at our house -August 18. Sunday, September 18th we had a touch of frost in the low areas between the stock dams. Guess I should start paying more attention!

    1. i read somewhere that if you cut off the tomato plants at the bottom and hang them upside down inside the tomatoes ripen. don't know if it is true.
      you can take pepper plants and bean vines the same way.

  2. This post is so cool to read because my husband and I have been visiting Northern Idaho for the last ten days and have experienced this change of weather and watching fall happen right before our eyes. We are headed home in the morning but hope to be back soon permanently.

  3. You folks accomplished a great deal for one day. Funny how the hint of winter, gets a person going. Vegetables and fruit looking good.
    Have a 50 ft row of white spuds to harvest yet, did a 40 ft row of reds already. Ended up with 134 lbs, tennis ball size and bigger. Cukes and tomatoes still coming on. One more peach tree to pick when they ripen. Made 14 its grape juice, still more to pick for eating.
    Thru your city last Thursday, the town looked quite busy. Had been to Kellogg, to pickup new vehicle to tow behind the motorhome. Turned off at Wolf Lodge and drove the east side of the lake. Noticed quite soon not the road for a 41 ft motorhome and a Jeep SUV. Made it without a problem, beautiful drive.
    You folks have a fine week. Time to figure out where the snow shovels are.

  4. Thanks for sharing! Harvesting is such hard word but oh-so very rewarding!
    Still sweltering in Florida. Who am I kidding, we haven't had a winter in 3 years. Sigh....


  5. make green tomato is the best use of green tomatoes

  6. Wow... The fruits of labor are really paying off. And many of us online are benefitting from your mentoring. Thank you for sharing your experiences.
    Montana Guy

  7. agreed! Better than red salsa...

  8. Peaches are picked, tomatoes are canned. Just canned the banana pepper rings. Green peppers still coming in. Apples are coming in. Still waiting to get eggs out of the hens, though.

  9. Your chipmunks are my pocket gophers. Nice peach harvest.