Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, not for the commercialized, gorey/slasher/horror movie fiasco it has become, but for it’s agrarian roots with the Celtic tribes marking the end of harvest and the beginning of the dark season, winter. Their name for it was Samhain, which means Summer’s end. It was a time to stock up, to hunt, to slaughter livestock to feed families all winter. It was also a time when it was believed the door to the “otherworld” opened enough to let dead souls pass through into the world again, and some of these were harmful. The tradition of wearing costumes for Halloween may have started with this, as people tried to disguise themselves from these harmful spirits. When my kids were little we did all the modern traditional Halloween things, costumes, trick or treating, etc. But now that they’re grown and gone, I will be celebrating Halloween as the end of summer, end of the harvest, a time to celebrate the bounty of my garden, the eggs and meat my chickens give me, the rich, sweet milk from my goats, my freezer full of grass fed beef and pastured pork. I am ready for winter. Life is good!
Pumpkins are in abundance at the farmer’s markets this time of year and since my losing battle with squash bugs prevents me from growing my own, I buy lots to roast, puree and freeze for delicious recipes all winter long. Making your own pumpkin puree is ridiculously easy and tastes so much better! Here’s one of my favorite pumpkin bread recipes, using part whole wheat flour and wheat germ.
1-1/2 cups flour
1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup wheat germ
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon each ground ginger, nutmeg and cloves
2-1/2 cups pumpkin or winter squash puree
1/2 cup oil
1/2 cup nuts
1 cup raisins
Mix dry ingredients together in a large bowl and make a well. Add rest of ingredients into the well and mix just til moistened. Pour batter into 2 greased 9×5 loaf pans. Bake at 350F until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 50 minutes.
We’re working on getting our garden beds ready for next spring’s planting, and many of them are in bad shape with not enough soil, soil that isn’t good, weeds, etc.
The first thing I did was clean out the goat pen and add that to the bed we worked on today. Goat manure is excellent for improving your soil.
Yesterday we had a load of topsoil delivered and we added a layer of that to the bed.
This bed was big enough to remove a railroad tie and drive right in, so the tractor did all the work of hauling and leveling the dirt. There was a time not too long ago where we would’ve done all this by hand with a wheelbarrow, shovels and rakes. I love our tractor!!
When the bed was ready we planted strawberries. I was late in getting them ordered so my choices of varieties was limited. I ended up with Cabot, which produce huge size berries. I will add more in the spring of a different variety, and on the other end of the bed we’ll put two blackberries.
Lastly, we raked leaves from our yard (again using the tractor) and spread a thick layer over the top to suppress weeds and keep the soil moist. In the spring I will simply remove the leaves, plant, and put the leaves back to continue to use as mulch.
Every Wednesday finds my daughter and I at the arena with our horses. It’s a 7 minute drive from our house and we pay a monthly fee to use it. Arena work is so important to building suppleness, flexion and discipline in your horse. We work on lateral and vertical flexion, sidepassing, moving the hindquarters and forehand, etc., etc., etc. Training resources we use are various but usually include the book 101 Arena Exercises for Your Horse and 101 Horsemanship Patterns. We also use Clinton Anderson’s training DVDs and a reining book by Bob Loomis. Being a very detail oriented person with a lot of patience, I do really enjoy arena work. My horse is very much a rail horse, just put her on the rail and she goes into auto pilot, so the excercises we do are challenging for her mentally. She’s made a lot of progress in the last couple years.
All three does are hopefully bred. The buck’s visit was brief (a good thing as he was quite fragrant). He came in and got the job done quick, fast and in a hurry. I was slacking at the time and didn’t get a picture of him to post, but he was a handsome Oberhasli buck. All three girls appear to have been bred at about the same time, which means they’ll be kidding all at once in early March. Not ideal timing, but when you pen breed you don’t really call the shots. I’ll have purebred Oberhaslis and Oberhasli/Alpine cross kids for sale in the spring.
We processed our second batch of chickens for this year last weekend. There were 26 mixed heavy breed roosters, and they dressed out at about 3-1/2 pounds average. One thing I learned from this batch is that I don’t want to raise black feathered chickens for meat again. After dressing the skin looks like it was sprinkled with pepper from the black pigment of their feathers, which to me isn’t very appetizing.
I planted 50 cloves of Red Toch garlic, along with some winter greens, lettuce, radishes, spinach, kale and chard in my fall garden. Herbs still going strong are oregano, sage, thyme, comfrey, mint, lavender, anise hysop and lemon balm. The basil is done, always the first thing to go. The snow peas are coming on and we had some in an herbal chicken soup tonight. Peppers are still producing, and surprisingly my eggplant is doing better now than it did all summer.
Anybody know what this is? It’s growing in my compost pile, a volunteer, but I didn’t grow or buy anything like it this year. It’s about a foot long, a hard squash, and has ribs like an acorn.
This is how the chickens greet me every morning–they want out! I shut them in every night because we have a lot of fox in our woods, although I do think a truce of sorts has been reached with the fox. Let me explain. I have known there are fox in our woods since moving here. I see their dens, I hear them yipping from time to time, and I am quite sure there’s a female who raises kits every year judging by the types of yips and the activity I observe. A couple years ago when I first got chickens, I was afraid to let them out at all. But, gradually I lightened up and let them free range during the day. One day, just by pure happenstance, I was looking out on my back yard in the middle of the afternoon and saw a fox rush in and grab a chicken and hightail it back to the woods. I ran outside yelling for my dog, Sheila, and she was there in a flash, ran down the hill after the fox, and believe it or not, herded that chicken back to safety. It’s a story I wouldn’t have believed unless I saw it myself. She’s an awesome dog! Of course after that I kept my chickens penned up again for a short time before letting them free range during the day, but it’s been almost 2 years and I haven’t seen any signs of fox since then. A truce between dog and fox?