Always Getting Ready on the Homestead

| 11/29/2013 11:36:00 AM

"Always Getting Ready" is the title of a book I was given after working with the Yup'ik Eskimo people in Southwest Alaska. Their work and lives are depicted in wonderful black-and-white photographs where they are seen with such chores as drying herring, picking salmon-berries and skinning a seal. I am humbled by what it takes to wrest out a subsistence living on frozen tundra and you'd think that would keep me from drawing comparisons to my homesteading chores--but I'm going to make the comparison anyway!

lettuce row coverLate autumn is a time that I look forward to when juggling too many tasks in the heat of summer. I run short of both time and energy in July and August when handling all the produce and milk as well as the young poultry and calves. Oh yes, I can imagine myself sitting by the wood stove in November reading a good book.

But then November comes and I learn anew that the projects don't really end, they just change. I admit that a large family reunion at our home got me side-tracked for a couple autumn weeks during which garden projects were put off until later. "Putting the garden to bed" each autumn varies according to which philosophy I'm currently following: I agree that "bare ground is starving soil," and I don't want to lose top soil to wind and rain. However, dead crops can also harbor disease, and so we haul them to the compost pile. To cover the soil, we plant a few more cover crops each year that will grow enough to hold soil before their growth is arrested by the cold. When we were done harvesting some crops in late summer, we planted Johnny's Seeds "manure mix, fall green." In other places I put left-over kale and "plow-down" clover seeds as well as oats. I used whatever I had to hold the topsoil and nurture the soil's microbes; I figured the green can also serve as mulch for vegetables next spring.

The garden also continues to feed us during the winter. There is lettuce under a row-cover, and lettuce row cover straw covering both carrots, which have been sweetened by frosts, and next year's garlic. The rhubarb and asparagus are not evident now, but I trust them to be some of our earliest crops next springtime.

We had a good harvest from our orchard this year. We're proud that the hazelnut bushes finally gave us some nuts, and the blackberries were generous from June until the first frost. The apple, peach and pear trees did well; we attribute that mainly to the holistic sprays and increased mulching they receive. This past week we gave them one last holistic spray for this year which consisted of microbes, need oil, soap and liquid fish. I now look forward to windless winter days where I truly enjoy pruning the apples trees.Cistern

I've read that the Ohio bee population is not expected to do well through this winter because the summer being both "wetter and cooler." We're sending each of our ten hives into winter with a super of honey in addition to what they have below in their hives. This week we will wrap felt-paper around each hive with hopes their clusters of bees can warm and expand on sunny winter days and therefore better reach their honey reserves. We don't peek at bees during the winter, but if things go well, the queen will begin laying eggs in February so that there will be plenty of foragers in early spring.

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