Saturday, September 28, 2019

Racing the weather

We've had a frantic week as we raced to batten things down before a dramatic change of weather moves in, including potentially snow. This is the weather report as of 3:30 Thursday afternoon, Sept. 27:

We've lived here in North Idaho for 16 years, and we've never had snow this early. It doesn't look like it will last, but nonetheless we had to get ready for it -- notably harvesting what we could in the garden. (Some things in the garden will have to wait.)

Accuweather describes this incoming storm as a "freak" September blizzard: "As of Friday, winter storm watches and warnings were in effect across portions of four states. Winter storm watches were issued for parts of Montana, and areas in Washington, Wyoming, Idaho and the mountainous terrain of Montana were placed under a winter storm warning. The snowstorm could reach 'historic' proportions, forecasters have warned, and will unleash heavy and wet snow, tropical-storm-force winds and bitter cold in the Northwest and southern Canada. The heavy and wet nature of the early-season snow will threaten to weigh down tree limbs that are still covered in changing foliage. ... Widespread power outages may occur amid the cold conditions accompanying the winter-like storm. ... Winds are likely to average 15-25 mph (25-40 km/h) with gusts to 40-50 mph (65-80 km/h). Stronger gusts and sustained winds are likely during the height of the storm over the mountains and through the passes."

In our location and elevation, predictions are three to six inches of snow.

So, given a week to prepare, we focused mostly on harvesting the garden and battening down outdoor items. We're fairly well prepped for everything else, especially since we currently have no livestock.

I started with the grapes. It was hard not to go crazy photographing the grapes before picking because they were so beautiful. I almost hated to destroy the tableau by harvesting them.

I started with the green Himrod grapes. I only have one Himrod vine (the other died, choked out by a single morning glory seed I had foolishly planted last year, then ripped out after it dominated the trellis).

The one remaining vine yielded lots and lots of grapes.

Total yield (once they were plucked off the stem): 12 lbs.

I turned about half these grapes into raisins (a future blog post).

Then I turned my attention to the Canadice grapes, of which I had two vines. These are truly beautiful grapes, drawing "Oooohs" of appreciation from visitors to the garden.

As I picked, I found myself with a little competition.

Final yield for Canadice grapes: 37 lbs., or 18.5 lbs. per vine.

I'm juicing these grapes. Again, that will be a future blog post.

With the grapes harvested, I turned my attention to other vulnerable crops.

Darcy had a grand time exploring while I harvested.

I picked every cantaloupe and watermelon, regardless of whether or not it was ripe.

I picked every last tomato, green or red (and, amazingly, forgot to get a photograph). I ended up with 112 lbs. of tomatoes.

I pulled every last onion, which were definitely ready to harvest.

Total for onions: 64 lbs.

On Thursday I picked the pear trees clean.

For this, of course, a fruit-picking basket on a pole was necessary.

Here too I had a bit of competition, but not much. This has been a remarkably wasp-free summer.

Total for pears: 135 lbs.

Just after picking the pears -- and while I was channeling the Magic Pear Fairy and delivering pears to neighbors -- we had a storm cell move over us which dropped the heaviest rain I've ever seen (no photos, since I was traveling). A pear recipient who used to live in Florida said the only time he's seen it rain this hard was during hurricanes.

By the time I got home, the storm was passing...

...and the garden emerged sparkling.

The view to the east showed dark clouds lit up by the western sun.

Lots of weather drama this week, that's for sure.

The final thing I wanted to get harvested before the weather changed was potatoes, which we did yesterday.

As with so many other crops this summer, the potatoes outdid themselves in abundance.

This is one tires' worth of harvest.

We found some optimistic new growth too.

Lots and lots of worms, always a good sign.

The potatoes weighed in at 160 lbs., or almost 23 lbs. per tire (I had seven tires planted).

I also had one tire of multiplier onions (often called potato onions), which I pulled.

I added them to the groaning wheelbarrow, and tottered back to the house with the load.

Much of the produce was piled on the side porch, and we even dragged out the large bathroom scale to weigh some things.

I've been passing out pears, green tomatoes, and watermelons to neighbors.

Then to top off our week, we're working on a large production run of tankards.

So yes, it's been a chaotic week.

As I post this, it's early Saturday morning. It's raining hard and very windy. There is a very little bit of wet snow mixed with the rain (the thermometer current reads 35F). The rain will change to snow later tonight. We're bracing for power outages as the snow falls on trees which have not yet shed their leaves. We'll see what the morning brings.


  1. Tho I do not have as many planters as you I have been harvesting like mad also so I have a question from the expert. Would my potatoes make it till next Wed? I have them in wood box planters and I live about 30-40 miles north of you in the mountains. Why didn't I do it sooner? I was helping hubby and covering my hen house run, did that in the nick of time.
    You have a beautiful harvest.

    1. The potatoes should be fine until next Wednesday, but don't delay much beyond that. Once the vines are dead, the potatoes can rot in wet ground. Wild weather, ain't it?

      - Patrice

    2. Today I had to go to Kellogg, and what is that phrase "snow capped mountains". Snow in September?? wow, I knew something was up when I saw elderberries in August, the next harvest after potatoes. Thank you.

  2. Northern Illinois here. It's 58 as a high today, forecast for 88 Monday! Talk about wild weather for late September.

  3. It's 58 degrees for a high in Northern Illinois today. Forecast is for 88 on Monday. Talk about wild weather.

  4. I have Canadice grapes. I pick them off the stem and freeze them in 1/2 to 1 c. potions. Then, at night, when every one is asleep, I have a little popsicle treat.

  5. Welcome to CLIMATE CHANGE!!

  6. You must be exhausted! That is a LOT of produce all at once.