Yesterday at sunset as I was bringing the goats up from the lower field, I was shocked to notice the maple leaves are starting to yellow. It seems like summer just started but it will be the first day of autumn in just a few weeks. It is hard to watch summer end but I am looking forward to the fall. It is one of my favorite seasons and after a rush of canning and preserving, it marks the start of a slower time for us. We won't need to be weeding or watering, and we will do less harvesting especially when the Saturday market ends. Egg and milk production will also slow down as we lose light.
We harvested our first pumpkin but as we planted late, our main crop should be ready by Halloween. For some reason Brian really loves pumpkins, so he is really excited to see them growing. Our Roma tomatoes are weighing down our plants, and I have been canning tomato sauce made with our garlic, onions, oregano and basil. I am hoping to can enough for the whole year.
We picked boxes and boxes of apples, pears and asian pears this week. Brian made a solar food dryer following directions from this book. I can dry apples in about 12 hours on a sunny day. I use a hand crank apple peeler/slicer/corer so it goes fast. I have also been drying pears and asian pears. Dried asian pears are my favorite. I love asian pears fresh, but they are kind of watery and insipid. When dried, all the sugars crystalize and it gets all chewy, almost like candy.
This week we will also try to can applesauce, apple butter, pear butter, and apple jelly. Also we will be getting out our cider press and making apple cider; sweet and fresh for the kids, and start fermenting hard cider for us. Last year I made some nice pear and crab apple hard cider, but Brian accidentally dropped the 5 gallon carboy (glass jug used in beer and winer making) so we lost most of it. This year I am determined to get a good amount.
Our concord grapes are ripening up; several times a day I see the kids grazing on the fat, purple grapes. What they leave behind I am making into grape jelly. We also picked some for the market booth. The blackberries are getting big and sweet. We have a good patch by our gate and every time we open or close it we take a minute to eat some. Even the dog has been snacking as we go on our evening walk! Our "Autumn Bliss" and "Fall Gold" raspberries are also coming on nicely, although with three kids constantly in the raspberry patch, I don't know if we will have enough for jam. I think we need to expand the raspberries because the are a big favorite.
Brian has been hard at work mucking out the goat house. It is strenuous work but oddly satisfying. It is fun to watch the huge pile of manure and straw get bigger and steam in the mornings as in composts down. When it is finished breaking down we will have amazing compost for our gardens and fields.
Our pigs are ready for pick-up so look for a post and photos this week!
A few nights ago our dog alerted us to sounds coming from the chicken coop. We ran out to find carnage; 5 chickens dead or mortally wounded, and several ducks and ducklings dead or missing, including the mama of a clutch of new ducklings. We think several raccoons got in and killed them in just a few minutes. It was about 2 am so we rounded up the living and locked them in, and decided to deal with clean up when it got light. At some point the raccoons came back and grabbed a few of the dead poultry, but left most of the carcasses behind. The swiftness, waste and brutality of it was pretty shocking, and Brian took it as a personal attack. He tracked the raccoons through the woods following feathers and scat, but we havn't actually seen them. This was the first real predator problem we have encountered. So now we are serious about locking down tight at night, rounding up all the straggling duck we can find, and running outside whenever the dog starts barking in the middle of the night, but I am guessing the raccoons have enough meat to last a while so they probably won't be back too soon. I hope.