Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Last Call: The Farm Report 11-25-2023

                    Last Call

                                       The Farm Report

Horseradish! So....I hope this is the last call for this stuff. If you'll remember, I planted some in my garden on purpose last year. Then I dug it all out (I thought....). It came up from little bitty pieces of root that got lost when I plowed the garden last fall. It came up this spring in one of my sweet corn rows and killed out the sweet corn! So, here we go again. This is horseradish root from one year, started from little pencil sized inch-long pieces of root I couldn't rake out. Talk about a plant with attitude!

Waste not, want not, of course. The pan on the left is for my fridge and sandwiches this year. The pan on the right is intentional starters for a new horseradish bed - FAR FAR AWAY from my garden.

Far away like out on the edge of a field WAY far away from the garden.

Our radical hot/wet/dry summer did a number on my carrots this year. I got some but they're nothing to write home about.

I like to wait until the last possible day to dig my Irish potatoes. I think they store through the winter better when I do it this way. Annie Oakley supervises, of course.

This year, neighbor Ron rounded up a pickup load of his grand kids and they all came over to help pick up spuds. I think they had as much fun seeing how far out into the field they could throw a rotten potato as we did watching them have fun at it. Great kids, great help, fun had by all.

Of course, if anybody is digging in the dirt, then Annie thinks she's got the 'go ahead' to dig in the dirt, too.

She doesn't really know what she's digging in the dirt for, but hey, it's just as much fun one way as the other. 

No potato famine here at Oakdale Farm this year! This was the best potato crop I've ever raised. Like tomatoes from the vine, potatoes from 'your own good dirt,' as my mother in law used to say, just taste the best.


Of course, you can't have fun on the farm without some kind of dead carcass to fool around with! Some unlucky motorist smacked this steer-sized deer out on the road. The DNR guys gave the official Okie Dokie, and it showed up behind the truckload of 'tater pickers.' That's my shop and garden WAY off back in the background. Far far away! Why? A year or two ago, we did this same thing. It was so much fun watching the Bald Eagles doing their dinner time thing we wanted to do it again. We have lots of eagles here now. They follow the ducks and geese as they migrate, and some even stay here year around. Well....At 6 O'clock when I went in for the evening, an eagle was already on the carcass. Two days later EVERYTHING was gone except for the rib cage bones. Coyotes we think.

Last call for the Dahlias, too. They've been great all season long, but they don't like freezing. 

After the tops killed off with the cold, it's time to dig the tubers if you want to try saving them over the winter. I do. I'm a label guy, so I put the mini-blind labels right on the tubers with zip ties so I'll know what I've got next spring when it is time to restart them. I gave 'em a shower too.

Then, into this plastic garden tub for the winter in cold (not freezing) storage. The tub has holes in the bottom so no water can stand and rot the tubers.

SCORE! I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, so I got a whole load of power company wood chips. I'll pack the dahlia tubers with these chips for the winter. Otherwise, I usually use peat or straw.

Garden plowed and coming along. I really really like to have everything cleaned off and made ready for spring before I quit for the winter. 

After plowing I drag a harrow or landscape rake over it to smooth things up and drag off any remaining sticks and weed stalks. (My garden is the only spot on the whole farm where we do this. Everything else in the fields is totally no-till.)

Last year, smugly he said, I thought I could just leave my roses in grow bags out for the winter. Wrong! They made it through the winter OK, but when March came along and the bags started thawing out every day and re-freezing every night, the roots couldn't take it - and they died. The half-barrel pans are how I 'sub-irrigated' the bags this year. Definitely the way to go. Roses in full bloom take a LOT of water. In the fabric grow bags, they never get soggy. They love it.

Grow bags are portable. So, after a brutal 'Marine Boot camp' style pruning haircut, it was into the Ranger for a ride to the cold storage area inside. Fingers crossed for a better outcome next spring. I'm optimistic!

While I was cleaning up the rose garden I noticed trouble in 
River City on the greenhouse.

Not only is the 5-year plastic into it's 6th year, the wooden battens I used to hold it on were rotting out, too.

I switched to a new 'Wiggle Wire Channel' system. When I first put up the greenhouse frame, this channel system was so expensive I just couldn't justify it. At the time, the channel and wiggle wires that go with it would have cost as much as the entire greenhouse project. It has become WAY cheaper now. It is the only way to go.

To install it, you just screw the channel tracking down where you want it. Then put new plastic over the top of it, and when you 'wiggle' in the bent spring wire fasteners, the job is done. Easy!!!

That is not a new sidewalk. This is the new plastic sheeting to go over the greenhouse. I decided there was no good reason to take off the old layer, so we just topped it with a second skin. Maybe - just maybe - next spring I'll rig up a blower so I can have an insulating bubble over my greenhouse to help hold in the heat. Maybe....

Step A. Pick a beautiful WIND FREE day and go to work. Finding a wind free day out here is/was the challenge. We did it though. The next day had 25 mph winds.

After the wiggle wires are in, then a good sharp knife or scissors and the trimming makes it look great.

Fall is for smoking meat. Annie says it all. "When can we taste some, Tim?"

This is 'Buckboard Bacon' if you're wondering. It is a cut taken off the end of a pork roast. Then it is cured with a secret recipe of spices and curing salts for a couple of weeks in the fridge. When the big day arrives, into the smoker it goes for most of the day.

Then, after it reaches the 'fully cooked' temperature, I vacuum bag it and seal it up for a few more days in the fridge to let all the smokey goodness penetrate and equalize.

After that, we slice it so it is ready for sandwiches or frying. I cook it in the smoker, so it is good to eat like sandwich meat or ham. It IS good to eat, too.

Vac bag in small quantities; some for the fridge, some for friends, some for the freezer.

SOME for the skillet and my breakfast, too. It is fantastic. Not like ordinary belly bacon, and not like ham, it's in between and delicious. Why haven't I done this before?

More blossoms from the sweet potato slips I saved from the garden a few weeks ago before the 'last call' for the sweet taties before frost. This is fun!

And so it goes. It's about time for 'last call' here at the farm before winter sets in, too. Annie thinks she's a lap dog (well, I guess she is a lap dog, but it's all my lap will tolerate!). We're settled and ready for a slow down. Winter has its place. Annie and I are well. Miss Kitty has company in the shop from 'Ermine' the feral white tomcat with the black tip on his tail. And all is well at Oakdale Farm.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Trick-or-TREAT! The Farm Report 10-30-2023

The Farm Report

Well here we are at the end of another month. Time for a Fall Farm Report. We're pretty much at the end of the gardening season. Irish spuds are yet to be dug, and the turnip crop is mostly still out there. My Dad had a little rhyme that said you should 'plant turnips on the 15th of July, wet or dry; and dig them at the end of October - drunk or sober!' Either way, this is the last of the fall roses for ought 23.

Annie has been on guard watching for mice trying to find a way into a warmer quarters for winter. They don't make it past her if she has it her way. I'm not making this up. She goes out around the house like she's on patrol. Heelers need jobs to do!

We had a hard freeze last night, with another even more brutal one tonight and then into the teens later on next week. Dahlia season is over! After I lick my wounds a little while, I'll get out there and cut off the tops before I dig up the tubers for winter storage.

Just for a reminder how pretty they were this year, here's a little sample of the fun.

Subtle differences, but WOW! what blooms.

This one was stubborn all summer, but it came through in the end.

Trick or treat! Apparently my Head Polisher and Officer in Charge of Organization here at Oakdale Farm thought maybe I needed a little reminder that I have a habit of kicking off my shoes whenever I get the urge. She collected them for me and made a 'set decoration' in the living room as a message. OK, I'll try to do better. I promise! Thanks for keeping me ship shape though!!!

The zinnias have just outdone themselves. They are definitely on the 'to plant again' list for next year. These got shoulder high to me and bloomed themselves silly. I'm thinking a band of them all the way around the field garden next year would be fun. At least it would give the herbicide applicator guys something to look at. Ahem....

Late season gardens get pretty leggy looking, as my Grandmother used to say. See those high weeds over to the left. That is my irish potato row(s). We'll see what grew pretty soon. I know at least one row made it. I leave them in the ground as long as I can every year. I have learned that the weeds keep the ground cool and moist during the awful hottest part of the late summer. So, at least they are serving some purpose. I'll mow 'em off and then hook up Henry Ford with a potato plow and go after the spuds soon. The grass is growling up out of the horse radish crop. Yes, that horse radish crop! The one that came back to volunteer to taunt me. The one that is not supposed to even be there. Next year!

Here's a treat: Fall radishes. They are just delicious. Big, firm crisp and not too hot. Why haven't I been growing fall radishes before now?

Henry Ford to the Rescue. This is the 'AFTER' picture of what I was showing you before. Annie helped a little. She's looking for voles right now in this shot. Voles seem to love sweet potatoes; Annie likes them, too.

Henry Ford and a middle buster plow and we're ready to pick up sweet taters.

Annie really does like them. She's been going out to the garden and digging some for herself in the evenings. And yes, she does eat them.

Bragging rights. This ONE tater weighed in at 15 pounds. That is not a misprint; FIFTEEN POUNDS for one tater. Wow! It is a Georgia Jet for anybody who wants to know.

"Tim, be sure to tell 'em I helped pull the vines off for you." Yep! Annie will actually work beside me pulling the tater vines away from the hills. It sounds like a whole pack of vicious dogs attacking a helpless prey when she does it. She growls and snarls and jumps and hops and shakes and pulls, but we have a great time at it. I capitalized on her instincts when she was a pup. I thought, 'What the heck. If she want to grab and pull, then let's train her to do it in a good way.' All I need to do is say, "Annie. Get it out of here for me." and she's on the job in full throttle. We finished up with 117 pound of George the Tator Man's finest. Half (or so) were Vardaman, and the rest were Georgia Jets. All good.

"You can't fool me, buddy. That is a turnip - and I don't want nuthin to do with no turnips." I've never grown them before either. I do find that I actually like them. I diced some up a few nights ago and added them to a potato/onion/bacon/shrimp chowder. It was delicious.

Trick or treat! The hydroponic strawberries in the tubes are STILL producing strawberries. It has been an interesting year for them. I usually just toss the plants at the end of the season and start fresh in the spring. But...I'm thinking maybe I'll try wintering the plants over and see if they can make it.

Peppers are in the bottom tubes. Peppers really like the hydroponic system I use.

I've been stringing up my extra peppers for drying. Gives me something to do....

Outside, the battens holding the greenhouse plastic in place have rotted out. The greenhouse plastic has also shown me it is time to replace with new. 

I'm switching over from wood to this nifty 'wiggle wire channel' for the new plastic.

You pull the new plastic over the top of this channel and then a 'wiggle wire' snaps in there to hold the plastic in place. More later. Watch this space....

Having teased my boyhood friend and professional painter into painting the front porch floor out here at the Manor, we kept going and just couldn't seem to find a place to stop. Before you knew it, he had painted the entire outside of the old barn. Thank you Randy!!!

If you look carefully, that is Annie on mouse patrol again.

Oakdale Manor is a huge old place, and Randy did the entire thing with one man and his ladder! Well done.

There he is on a slick new metal roof painting away. It made me feel old and feeble - because Randy and I started kindergarten together - and there is no way I could get up there and do that. All done with a ladder (or two) and a heck of a lotta work!

'Tis the season, as they say. The day after Randy was finished, the Asian Beetles came out of the fields in droves. This pic doesn't do it justice. The whole side of the house was covered with them.

Thirty pounds of cabbage in; thirty pounds of homemade sauerkraut out! This year, I decided to vacuum seal it into 2 pound bags and store it in the fridge for later. Isn't that what a 'shop fridge' is for?

Timmy Scientist at work. Inquiring minds want to know, as they say. The pH of my kraut turned out to be 3.0 which is pretty strongly acid. No wonder kraut keeps forever.

Just for a comparison, my favorite seasoned rice wine vinegar came in at 2.5 - a little more acid, but not that far off. The fermentation bacteria in the process of the kraut making actually made its own 'vinegar' for preservation. It's actually lactic acid, but let's not get too technical here. It's kraut.

These peppers are from plants I gave neighbor Ron; he gave 'em back. I have planted these as a 'Giveaway Joke' since the middle 1980's when H.W. Alfrey started selling these from his home in Knoxville, Tennessee by mail order. I put a plant or two into every box of pepper plants I give away. Without telling, of course; and then I wait to see if I get a reaction from anybody. Alfrey's magazine ad just said, 'Peter Peppers. Realistic,' and asked for money and a return envelope. So, of course I sent money and got the seeds!

You already know I'm in Permanent Fifth Grade, so I think this is hilarious. Yep! There they are: H.W. Alfrey's Peter Peppers. Realistic! TRICK OR TREAT!

Happy Halloween. All is well - but silly - here at the farm. \