September 1st already, where has the year gone? The nights are drawing in again, the early morning and evening temperatures are dropping and we are grateful to see any Sun at this time of year.
It’s been a funny year for growing here on the farm, I know others have struggled too. Most things were very slow to start and some never even got off the ground, literally, cucumbers most noticibly, failed to thrive here this growing season, the runner beans were slow but have now picked up and with the September sun that is forecast I am expecting a ‘flush’ of them. Peas were a non event entirely and now that the picking season is here for fruit I am finding that most fruits have maggot or in the case of nuts, have rotted in the shell. All in all a disappointing year and one I will be glad to see the back of as far as gardening is concerned.
Having said that I have been picking and processing a fair amount for the months ahead, I have already made the mincemeat for Christmas, I used the damson plums that a friend bought round and some of the better cooking apples, the smell was as always, divine, and I can’t wait to start making pies with it in December. The Rumtopf is steeping various types of fruit in Brandy and sugar, this should make a lovely fruit brandy by the middle of winter, just the thing for coughs and colds and, well a tipple or two for no reason at all!
I have been drying various crops in a dehydrator, lots of herbs to use in soups and stews, I dried onions because they will not store for winter after bolting in the spring, the risk of rotting was high and so drying chopped onions was a way of saving them. I also tried drying mushrooms, shop bought as I am not expert enough to forage my own, once dried I ground them down into a powder form, very successful. You may wonder why bother but Hubby cannot digest mushrooms and I do miss the flavour they provide, this way we can have the best of both worlds, flavour without a trip to the hospital ;)
I had a boiled egg for my breakfast this morning, it’s news worthy because we don’t often eat eggs, not because we don’t like them but because they are in such demand that there are never enough left, occasionally we have a glut but not very often. The hens have had a splendid summer out in the front paddocks, long lazy summer days wandering around, jumping to catch flying bugs, dust bathing in the dry dirt and now that we have had a splash of rain they are happily pulling worms up from the softer ground. We have doubled the laying flock to nearly 100 birds and still can’t keep up with demand. At this time of year I need to start to prepare them for the cold months ahead, I start by oiling their scratch feed and adding crushed garlic to help with their immune systems, then I will start to add cider vinegar to their water to help with the bacteria balance in the gut, they will also have a good dusting with powder to make sure that external parasites do not get the chance to build up and of course they will also be wormed over the course of a week. All this preparation will hopefully enable them to lay a sufficient amount of eggs throughout the Winter. In the Spring we had a successful hatch of bantams and they are now beginning to lay although the eggs are tiny and you need quite a few to get a meal of scrambled egg!
The ducks that I bought in as day olds are now reaching maturity although not laying yet, and I have a few too many boys in the mix, some of them will have to go in the freezer, when the time comes it will be a first for us having never done ducks before, I will let you know how that goes. The geese that were tiny when they arrived are now out in their own paddock, in previous years I have made the mistake of continuing to feed the geese but with this lot I turned them out and let them get on with eating grass only, they seem to be thriving and they do not come running and calling at the gate every time they see me like the last lot used to. What I want from these geese is their eggs, to sell at the gate although this won’t be until next spring and hopefully they will rear a few of their own offspring to increase the numbers.
Activity on and around the farm has been high in various forms over the last few weeks, the swallows have reared their young and are now beginning to collect together in readiness for their long migration back, they are most definitely the biggest indicators of summer arriving and leaving around here. The farmers have been very busy harvesting and hay making, one of the last fields to be cut was right next to us and they did that yesterday afternoon, there was a rising cloud of dust for a couple of hours while the combine was there and then quiet and still again. We have also had some unwelcome activity of the human kind, late one evening we went out with torches because one of the horses was clearly upset and charging around the paddock, we looked all around but could not see anything, we went off to bed and in the morning the geese were out of their hut and the other horses were in a different paddock with the slip rails down.
We thought no more of it except weird until my neighbour phoned and asked if there had been any funny business here the night before she found there had been some goings on with her horses as well and so at that point I decided to phone the police and let them know, no crime as such had been committed except perhaps trespass but if there is activity in the area it’s better that they are aware of it, ‘keep em peeled’ is the motto at this time of year.