A catch up letter to good friend and former farm helper Jon.
I will never have someone to help me down here on the farm that worked as hard or was as much fun to work with as you were. We rocked almost an acre of produce with just the two of us and a few hoes… A single plowing from a tractor, a couple of run overs with a tiller but no other machines to help with the constant weeding of the newly turned wilderness.
The funny thing is that as hard as we worked, the worst of the weeds were to come in August as it become wet and stayed rather temperate towards the end. Let me catch you up on all of the things we set in motion.
The pig set up we made worked perfectly and Wilma finally gave birth to a rather small liter of 4 piglets. I learned to castrate them and did 2 of the 3 males myself, you would have hated it. We now believe that both Betty and Blossom Dearie are pregnant and will farrow by the end of Sept. We bought 5 more sheep so as to have something to bring to market this Fall after our horrendous lambing this past Spring. The Turkeys are huge and half of them will be ready way before Thanksgiving. I finished the new Turkey tractor we had built and even painted it. None of the new chickens are going to work as broilers as the breed is not intended for such and they are far too small, we will add the hens to our laying flock and stew the roosters when the time comes. Egg production dropped during that hot spell when you watched the farm while we were away and we are only getting back our numbers now. I found suitable breeding rabbits to replace the ones that died during that heat and we now have 4 does and 2 bucks for a much accelerated rabbit breeding program, I really enjoy working with them as you recall.
We have not lost any more birds since the hot spell. Oh wait, we did lose a chicken to a fox attack, he actually came into the yard and ran off with the bird. I have set many more traps to no avail. New Dog cornered a Possum who had made it into the yard one night and I was able to dispatch the thief in the wee hours. A comical scene of me in my skivvies, cowboy boots and a head lamp armed with the Henry rifle, if only Lisa had been awake, yippee. The ducks are not laying as well but they are still fun to have around. We took the rooster and the four like breed hens to the lower pen to see if we could hatch out a new brood of hens and I am happy to say we have a hen sitting on a large nest of eggs. It is the wrong time of year for this but we’ll see what happens.
As for the produce…
The tomatoes had been badly damaged by the extreme heat when I returned. I was able to harvest a few more weeks but the plants were caput really by the second week of August. The pear tomatoes and green tomatoes kept going through August. The second planting we began before I left did not take, it was too hot despite your and Carry’s faithful watering. I tilled the area and began again from which I have been able to raise a dozen or so broccoli plants, some beets and a row of cabbage. The Lima Beans took and are doing well. I have pulled out all the tomatoes now and have tilled the area, I will plant the lower half in winter wheat and the top part by the compost I hope to plant in Spinach and Garlic for the Spring. I have compiled quite a gourd collection from the volunteer gourds that took over the hill and young asparagus bed. I don’t know what to do with them, perhaps Christmas gifts, keep an eye out for yours. The Basil is thriving. The hot peppers picked up some sort of soil disease, they are coming in ok, but they are small and will shrivel quickly if left on the vine, I’m staying on top of them and will get a decent harvest for sauces and powders.
As for the lower field, you would be terribly disappointed in me and astonished by how the weeds have just taken this field back to a state of chaotic nature. Half of the corn actually came in quite well, I harvested all of the popcorn and blue corn both of which suffered the most from worm damage. I dried the ears on the back porch and lost a few more there to the dogs, who’d of guessed? All in all I have a bushel of the blue meal corn and a peck of the popcorn that is almost dried and ready to be shucked off the cob. We are still harvesting plenty of sweet white corn, it is delicious and abundant but the ears are rather small. I am learning when to harvest so as to be ahead of the corn worm. I will be on top of it next year and will try all three varieties again.
The butternut and baby pumpkins came in well. I expected more but am happy with what we got, about 10 bushels of butternut and 5 of pumpkin. The size is medium and the flavor is great, especially on the pumpkins. The green beans came in nicely. The peas and beans came in really well and we have spent many an evening shelling them in front of the TV. We have several large jars full of black eyed peas and Red Rippers, we even got a few pounds of the random red bean we planted though the white beans never made. The onions ended up doing alright, I got a full harvest of them even though they turned out small, we just finished drying them for storage as well. Adam and I harvested the Peanuts today. We ended up with a half bushel of good looking peanuts but I won’t know how we did until they are salted and roasted, the real test.
Last of all, and I hate to end on a bad note, but the potatoes did not make at all. I don’t know why. We spent the most time on them, gave them the most love and I just don’t know what happened. In the end they have been covered by weeds but the plants were not strong even prior to this. I dug a row out today and got a few handfuls of pearl to golf ball sized spuds. I just don’t know what to think. I will try again next year with less to get my bearings on growing them here, I have never had trouble with potatoes before.
I kept up our tradition of drinking a few cold beers at the end of each day. It was not the same without you so I had to drink a few for you also. When the weather became cooler I switched over to Campari and Soda and have been addicted to this drink ever since.
Anyway, that’s about it, remind me if I have forgotten anything. I miss you and Zoe but hope you are well up there in Yankee town. I am eager to put the farm in order and to bed this winter to begin again, lessons learned, next Spring. Lisa is keeping the farm blog updated with pictures so you can see what I have been talking about. Keep in touch, much love to you guys.