Sunday, October 20th the weather was the perfect for just about any type of outdoor activity (except snowmobiling, snow shoeing, ice fishing or anything else the requires temperatures to be freezing or below). We reached a high temp of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 Celsius), the sky was mostly clear and there was little if any wind.
We were surrounded by beautiful fall colors.
The chickens were happily doing what chickens do.
Our activity of choice was planting garlic, or playing in the dirt as we prefer to call it. This year planting did not take nearly as long as it has in the past, mostly because of the small amount that we had to plant. If you are a regular reader you probably remember that our harvest this year was much smaller than we had hoped, and that we had fewer bulbs that would be large enough to use as seed. We ended up with between 450 and 500 cloves planted. Much less than we have planted in years past.
A couple other things made our task easier. We try to rotate our crops at least every two years so this year we planted in a new location. We have not used this area for gardening in the past, but when my husband tilled the soil it was a moist loam which made pushing the cloves into the ground very easy. If the soil is too wet or too dry planting can be more difficult.
The other thing that made for light(er) work was this weed guard mat that we used. The mat is made from a heavy biodegradable, organic paper. It is pre-scored so that we could simply punch out the hole while pushing our garlic clove into the ground.
In past years we have not used the weed guard because we were concerned the mat would shift and the garlic sprouts would not be able to find their way through the holes.
To hold the mat in place my husband was able to get these broken or damaged paving stones from his landscaping job. While they might not have been suitable for building walkways or patios they were perfect for our needs. Remember One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure.
Once we had the weed guard rolled out we were able to get the planting done much quicker than in past years when we have used 4×8 sheets of lattice for our planting grid.
After we planted all of the garlic we put a temporary fence around it as an added protection, because while the paver stones may keep the wind from blowing the weed guard they may not hold up as well against deer running across it.
Ideally the weed guard will serve to keep the weeds down and help the soil retain moisture, lessening the time and effort that we will have to spend watering and weeding next spring and summer.
So with a “WOO HOO” (I always say that when we finish planting garlic) and a prayer of thanks our 2020 garlic season is under way.
Perhaps even more valuable than that infamous pot of gold at the end of a rainbow that we all dream of, is the goldenrod that fills the field to the east of our property. Several weeks back (when I started this post) it was in full bloom.
Goldenrod Gets A Bad Rap
Before I share with you the virtues of goldenrod I need to clear up a potential misconception. Many people have fall allergies and goldenrod often gets blamed for causing them when it is, in fact, ragweed that is likely the offending party.
I tried to take some pictures of ragweed to show you the difference but found that rag weed is difficult to photograph where it grows.
It tends to blend right in with everything surrounding it, so I pulled one out of the ground to get a closer look.
That fact that golden rod grows tall and blossoms into very showy flowers, while rag weed hides amongst it’s surroundings, probably contributes to goldenrod getting the bad rap.
It is my understanding that goldenrod produces pollen that is very sticky, thus it does not blow in the wind but requires insects for pollination. Ragweed on the other hand produces pollen that is very light and easily carried by the wind where we unknowingly inhale it causing us to be just plain miserable.
What Makes Goldenrod So Special?
Goldenrod has been on my list of things to blog about for a while now, because since we have been raising bees it has be our observation that it is highly foraged by honey bees. A couple of the things that make this plant so valuable to the bees is that it is both high in nectar and pollen, and that it blossoms in late summer and early fall, a time when many of the plants that provide food for the pollinators are finished blossoming.
An interesting thing that we have noticed is that when the bees are foraging in the goldenrod, and turning it into honey, the honey takes on a strong smell. While standing or walking within 20 feet or more from the hive(s) we can smell honey. This is the only time of year that the smell of honey radiates from the hives.
It was an incredible phenomenon that my husband and I observed that finally spurred me to find out more about goldenrod and write this post. It was a sunny Saturday several weeks ago when the goldenrod was in full bloom like in the photo above. We arrived at that farm and as I began my walk around our back field I noticed that the field to the east of us was full of butterflies. They were flitting and fluttering amongst and above the goldenrod and other plants growing in the field. (Wouldn’t it be more appropriate if the were called flutter-bys instead of butterflies? 🙂 ) I couldn’t even guess how many there were – way too many to count. I mentioned it to my husband and we agreed that neither of us had ever seen so many butterflies in one spot. Many of them were the small white and yellow varieties that frequent our farm (I haven’t studied them enough to learn their names). A large majority were also Monarchs. We see many types of butterflies on our farm as they are attracted to the many wild flowers, garden plants and we often see them drinking on our beach, but we have never seen so many as on this particular day.
Thus I decided to do some detective work (which means an internet search of course) to see what may be the cause of this wonderous display. I found that in the same ways that goldenrod serves the bees it also serves the butterflies. I learned that goldenrod is a great source of food for migrating butterflies. We were likely witnessing part of the monarch butterfly migration to Mexico. This article explains that A large number of wildflowers are needed so the Monarchs can store nectar in a part of their body called the lipid mass. This carries them through the long winter. Many die if the wildflowers are not plentiful due to heat or drought. Another article claimed that Pollinators will come from miles around to visit these nectar and pollen filled jewels, while referring to goldenrod.
What’s good for the pollinators is good for the people.
You are likely aware that many of the foods that we grow are dependent on insects for pollination making pollinators an essential part of our food production, but goldenrod can be of aid to humans in an even more direct manner. Goldenrod is used in herbal or natural medicine for many of the things that ail us. According to this link it is used topically for wound healing, muscle pain and arthritis. As a tea or tincture it has more antioxidants than green tea, some which make it beneficial for fighting free radicals and can even be good for the cardiovascular system, and ironically goldenrod can help relieve symptoms of seasonal allergies.
Lastly, while I’m singing it’s praises, I will also mention that goldenrod can be used to dye fabric. While this is something I have not tried (yet) I found someone who has. You can read about it here.
Does The World Need More Goldenrod?
It has been my observation that in our area goldenrod mostly grows wild along ditches or woodlines. Fields like the one in the photo above are not very common as most large parcels are either used for agriculture (either growing crops or grazing animals) or are residential lots where homeowners have planted grass which is mowed regularly during the warm months. In those areas goldenrod doesn’t have a chance.
I have never heard of anyone planting goldrod. I have never seen goldenrod seed for sale and when we purchased a wild flower seed mix goldenrod was not included in the mix. With it being such a valuable plants I wonder why?
This year we noticed that while our own back field is filled with various pollinator friendly plants, there was only smatterings of goldenrod. We hope to change that. A couple of weeks ago my husband tilled a strip across the field and when we noticed the goldenrod going to seed we began harvesting seed heads and spreading them in the tilled soil. It is our hope some of the seeds will sprout and eventually goldenrod will spread throughout our field so we too will have a field of gold.
It was sweatshirt weather when Trooper and I made our way to farm the last two mornings I snapped a few pictures and thought I would share them.
October 9, 2019
It was right around 8:00 A.M. The sun was up, the sky was blue but patches of fog hung near the ground.
The Autumn colors are showing up but are not nearly at their peak.
I took this shot photo from a distance because once we got closer Trooper was sure to chase her off.
The sun was shining through the fog.
While the drops of moisture that covered everything shimmered in the sunlight.
Trooper searched the field for mice.
Perched high over head, these two bids shared a barren tree. It looks like a red winged blackbird on the right, but I am not sure what the one on the left is. This tree is one of the few dead ash that remain standing. I suspect by this time next year we will have cut it up for fire wood.
Even chillier than yesterday – I wore a sweatshirt with a long sleeved turtle-neck underneath, a knit hat, and rubber boots to keep my feet dry.
As we started our walk I thought ‘gloves would have been nice too’.
Fog hovered above the pond.
As I looked at the grasses and various plant leaves they appeared to be covered in more than just dew. I reached down and touched a leaf I found that it was indeed frost on the leaves.
I could barely make out the deer who were grazing in the back of the field. I am not sure if they could see me or just hear me.
After chasing the deer off Trooper began his search for mice.
The sun is once again working to burn off the fog.
Since we have had frost I expect the fall colors will come on quickly now.
I spotted some geese in the neighbors back yard. I had to go full zoom to got this shot.
I wonder if any of my flowers will succumb to the frost.
Before leaving Trooper decided to get a nice cool drink. He then laid on the beach, but I had to be a party pooper and tell him it was time to go.
Thanks for visiting the farm with me. Until next time – be well. 🙂
It’s hard to believe that autumn is here. I just wanted to hold on to summer – perhaps indefinitely. Since it is humanly impossible to stop time, the best I can do is hold onto and treasure the memories that Summer 2019 gifted me. I have decided to place some of these precious memories in this post where, like keepsakes in a trinket box, they will be safely stored and I can return to them whenever I like. I will also share them with you.
At The Farm
In early August I used my hours at the farm for picking blueberries, watering plants, and mostly weeding the prayer garden (this is the time of year that weeds really start to take over if they are not kept in check).
I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts that the prayer garden was in full bloom. My husband said he wanted to correct that statement but didn’t. He is right of course – by design the prayer garden is in continuous bloom, from early spring, when the daffodils appear, until late fall, or at least until we get the first frost of the season there is always something blossoming.
By mid August my chore list had changed. We had some decent rain so we didn’t have to do much watering. We began picking tomatoes and peppers and I began cleaning our 2019 garlic crop.
For the past four weeks or so the focus has been on harvesting our garden and either cooking and eating or preserving the harvest. While most of the tomatoes have been frozen so far, I did manage to get 15 quarts of tomato sauce canned. We have been enjoying fresh red skin potatoes (boiled or made into potato salad), Swiss chard (sautéed with garlic, cooked into an omelet or added to a cream cheese stuffed chicken breast), baked butter nut squash, tomatoes (fresh on the side, on a sandwich, or cooked into homemade pasta sauce) and stuffed green peppers. I also cut up three small cabbages and started the process of turning them into sauerkraut. This is the time of year that all of the work pays off.
Busy, busy, busy.
We have eight healthy hives right now and our son-in-laws hive is thriving as well.
We have harvested honey three times this summer from three different hives. Each harvest yielded approximately 30 lbs. of honey. After we harvest the honey and wax from the frames my husband sets the frames back out for the bees to finish cleaning them up. The picture above shows the bees completing this task.
A few weeks ago one of the hives swarmed. My husband captured the swarm and put it in an empty hive. He then placed a feeder with honey in it on top. The next day the bees had left that hive. We are not sure why they weren’t happy there but they did fill up on the honey before leaving.
The eight Jersey Giants that were cute little chicks this spring are now full grown hens. They began laying in eggs in August and will hopefully keep us in fresh eggs through the winter months.
Normally I don’t make a lot of soap during the summer months but I found I was out of a few varieties. I decided to have some fun with it.
My sister had given me some silicone mini molds so I made a few small bars using them. I can see making holiday themed sample soaps or using teddy bears or duckies as favors for a baby shower. They would however need to be clearly labeled “Don’t Eat It!” as I would want someone thinking they were white chocolate.
I have also been practicing using my soap stamp and getting better at it. It’s really a matter of stamping the soap when it is still just a little soft.
Family and Fun
In early August we planned a family picnic at the farm. Not all of the girls could make it but Tina and Ken brought our grandkids and Kara also came out. After we ate, our three year old grandson, Jackson, went fishing with his dad and grandpa and caught his first fish. I didn’t get any pictures of this because Tina and Kara and I had taken (granddaughter) Addy to pick blueberries.
Not only did Addy enjoy picking the berries she enjoyed eating them as well. The cutest part was that each time Addy, who is learning to talk, picked a berry she would say appo (apple). The first time she said it we thought it was so cute we laughed before telling her “berry”. So after that each time she picked a berry she would say “appo” and laugh then when we told her berry she would say “ber-ry”. Her laugh was so contagious that we were all laughing each time she said “appo”.
In August my husband and I went plant shopping. Normally I don’t like shopping. The exceptions are going to a greenhouse or nursey and shopping for yarn or other craft supplies. Each spring we usually go to a local green house and pick up a least a few plants for the year but it’s quite easy for me to get carried away and buy way more plants than I need.
You may remember from this post that my husband was working at a greenhouse this spring and was able to bring home many plants that would have otherwise ended up in the dumpster. With all the free flowers we had there was no need to go plant shopping…until August. While working the landscaping job that he started in July my husband had to make a trip to a nursery where they purchased anise hyssop plants that would be planted at one of the jobsites. “They had pretty purple flowers and the bees were all over them,” he said as he told me about the plants. I knew this herb had some medicinal properties and if the bees like it then we should definitely plants some.
I did a little homework and found that anise hyssop is generally a plant the deer avoid because of it’s strong fragrance. This sounded like the perfect addition to our prayer garden.
We purchased two large plants that were in full bloom and two smaller (less expensive) plants that should continue to grow each year until they are about a foot wide. I understand that these plants also drop seeds each year that will readily sprout into new plants. These plants are still blooming more than a month after we planted them and I saw bees foraging in them yesterday. 🙂
As we were walking through the green house I noticed a table full of flowers that I was not familiar with. They had bright orange and yellow flowers. They were marked $5 each. After asking an employee if the deer would eat them and being assured that it was not likely, I picked out two yellow and one orange. (There I go getting carried away.) The plant is called lantana. It wasn’t until we got them home that we realized that they are an annual so will not be coming back next year. 😦
We took a Sunday off in August to visit the Armada Fair and watch the tractor pulls.
My husband and I wore our matching tractor pull t-shirts so my daughter snapped a photo of us. We were joined by daughters Kara and Lindell and Lindell’s boyfriend Brysen. We arrived early enough to walk through the animal barns and view the exhibits before the tractor pulls began. I’m not sure which is cuter baby goats or baby cows. I love seeing them both.
We also filled up on lots of expensive fair food. I wonder which was higher the calorie count or the price.
For those of you who, like Brysen, have never seen a tractor pull, let me sum it up. Basically tractor pulling is a competition to see who’s tractor can pull a weighted sled the farthest. If you would like a little more information see this article.
This tractor, named Cruel Intentions, is owned by the Capozzo family. They also own and operate the excavating company that dug our pond. This is the tractor we were rooting for that day and they did take first place in their class.
After the tractors were finished they brought in a couple of semi’s that did an exhibition pull.
In the photo below I was trying to get a shot of the score board that electronically records each tractor’s speed and the distance they pull but my aim was a little high.
After viewing this photo I did spot something I hadn’t noticed before. The street signs to the right of the score board mark the intersection that leads to the adult beverage tent. If you can’t make out the signs they say “Good RD” and ” Beers LN”. That made me chuckle.
The beverage tent was the other place we visited at the fair and while I mostly stuck with non alcoholic beverages that day I did end up drinking a glass of hard cider when Lindell ended up with an extra one.
Even though autumn has arrived, and the temperatures have been slowly cooling, we are forecast to have at least one more of summer-like day today and I will happily take all that we can get.