Mid-Autumn on the Farm

Gardening chores are taking up a lot of my time lately. I’m cleaning up the dying vegetables and planning on rearranging the garden beds soon. I have to pay attention to the containers that held the squash plants destroyed by the squash vine borer. The dirt from those pots will need to go to the bottom of the tall beds in the hopes that the little boogers will not be able to hatch. I’m also planning on planting things that don’t need to be watered as much at the ends of the upper garden next year. The raised beds around the house are being transformed to winter/cool season vegetables. We have enjoyed some baby kale already in salad and in the juicer. Our blackberry canes are providing us with a few last berries

Pond builder has made some bio char for me. We’re going to add it to some of the raised beds and I’m experimenting with a little in the potted plants. It’s supposed to be a great organic gardening resource – we’ll see…

I’m planning for a better winter (hopefully) in the greenhouse. I am trying out mini-greenhouses in the greenhouse as one measure to keep plants warm. We’ll bring in a heater soon to regulate the evening temperature drop. I am overwintering my hazelnuts, japanese sweet potato slips, two jalapeño plants, a basil plant, and a perilla plant in the greenhouse. I think the jalapeño and basil will be iffy. I have to remember to start plants by mid January to set out in mid April. I also will need to do some successive starts for the cucurbits because I’m struggling to survive against the squash bugs and vine borers. I’ll probably try some cold weather plants in the greenhouse as well, like nappa cabbage and bok choi. My greenhouse smells like cinnamon which I applied liberally to discourage ants.

The fruit trees are showing signs they will survive the attacks of bugs and fungus this summer. By the end of summer, the fruit trees looked more like sticks and I was wondering if they were dying. The start of fall has been dry but all the trees have been putting out some new growth of leaves. No japanese beetles around to munch on them and no fungus. My apples trees had apple cedar rust on them this spring and I had to prune away affected branches, practically every branch. The trees have survived nicely and next year we’ll try to keep it under control sooner.

Fall is also the time to plant trees and seeds that need stratification (some time in really cold weather). We have been wanting to put a line of peach trees in front of the house. I asked the pond builder to take down the hackberry because in the long run I would have two layers of trees blocking the view of the west pasture. While the tree provided nice shade, it’s affected the growth of the two cedars. Another future planting task was the new milkweed patch. I have scattered a lot of milkweed seeds in my random field but I planted seeds given to me by friends in one particular spot. I moved an antique fence over to the field so that I will not accidentally mow or weedwhack the area

Wasabi!!! I usually buy my wasabi as a powder or the cute little tubes that look like miniature toothpaste. In Japan you can purchase a whole wasabi root and the freshly grated version is far better than toothpaste tube version. I asked a vendor in a Japanese market if a root taken home would grow in North Carolina. He explained that wasabi needs to grow near a cool running stream and I think a little elevation. I later read that wasabi could be a niche crop for a North Carolinian who lived in the foothills and had the right conditions. Anyways I gave up on wasabi until I recently saw an advertisement for fresh wasabi plants. Some farm in Oregon grows and sells fresh wasabi plants. Of course I ordered some plants immediately and in about 36 months I might be able to get my first harvest. I’m interested in using wasabi leaves as well. The plants seem pretty easy to grow according to Oregon Coast Wasabi – indoors, planted in well draining soil, water regularly.

Not a happy season for the chickens the last few weeks. The flock has been molting so egg production has gone way down. Sadly I have lost two of my young pullets. Saoirse, an easter egger disappeared one afternoon. She was not molting and we found a pile of feathers that look like hers. With all the leaves dropping, the canopy between the house and the chicken coop has thinned. She was most likely picked off by a hawk. The other loss was Zelda, a barnevelder. She was on the smallish side and did not seem to grow as robustly as the other pullets. I found her lifeless in a nesting box one morning. Who knows what she died of. We have decided that Tractor Supply Company $5.00 chicks are a better investment for us.

We’ve finally circled back to working on winterizing the koi pond. We put the wood up on the south wall and will be done once we stain and mount the cedar trim pieces. It’s really nice to not have to think about setting up a pool in the garage and bringing in the koi for winter. We do not have a heater for the pond and after this winter, we’ll decide if we need one. Pond builder has started on the framework that will go over the pond. We purchased some 6 mil greenhouse plastic sheeting which will be draped over the frame. This should keep the koi warm enough until spring.

There are no more koi shows until next year. All of the koi dealers are in Japan now for the first buying round of koi. I’m hoping to purchase two new koi for my pond this year. Maybe a third…. I also saw on Facebook a dealer (Demi Koi in California) who was selling a Koi ID reference booklet. It’s really nice with updated photos and all the koi seem to be good representations of the variety. Sometimes if you look up a koi on Google, you get a grainy photo and the koi looks so so. I really like some of the off beat varieties that are colorful and interesting.

Need to head outside to check on the chickens – a sudden thunderstorm with hail and wind is passing through. I hope the chickens are huddling somewhere safe.

It’s 30 minutes later, the chickens are all fine. They were huddled under a deck and happily ran back to the coop with me. Sun is out on the farm. The pond builder is planning to take down a very large, dead pine tree – he’ll need some adult supervision.