Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Arrival of Autumn

Autumn has surely arrived, and trees have started their transition. Along with the arrival of autumn has come the standard "The school year has started" sickness. When you live around colleges that sickness blows through the community whether you are directly involved in the academic life or not. I am not, but got a light dose of what ever has been leveling everyone in the area. For that reason, today's post will be a bit off I suspect.

The litter currently on the ground is growing well, but we haven't taken any weight measurements since they were about seven weeks old. This is contrary to what we want to do but is geared towards their health and well being. This litter is skittish, and in fact, scared of people. I handled them to as close to exactly as much as I handled the earlier litters, I petted them, tried to make sure they stayed calm, and weighed them just like before.

Unlike before, they are scared. Scared of everything, but especially people. Not just me, anyone. Where as Dawn's previous litter would come up and try to mug you for food, these five run, try to hide, and cower. So to not panic them I have been feeding them, watering them, and leaving them alone. No need to make their lives have a fear spike every day. I figured out what is causing this behavior, and it stems from one of the babies not pictured in this picture. That one baby panics and being communal animals, all of them respond to that one. We have been considering butchering that one early due to the fear it is causing the rest, but given that it is only a couple weeks to butchering date we aren't sure.
We have also been hitting the farmers markets a lot lately to try to stock up on a variety of staples for winter. We have been trying to learn how to properly store vegetables for the winter so we can minimize our purchases of non local foods even during the lean season. Mostly we have been getting potatoes, beets, turnips, and the like. The Lady of the House spotted the treasure trove to the Right and pointed it out to me. I being the spice hound I am snapped up a hand full of fresh peppers and gleefully brought them home. Now, the Lady of the House being a good and rational person doesn't chow down on Habaneros like I do, nor does she even like particularly spicy food. She does enjoy the flavor in moderation, and a bit of kick though. I decided instead of trying to use these chilies while they were still fresh, that I would try to preserve them and use them for stews and the like mid winter. So, I looked up how to oven dry them, and tried it out. This seems like a perfect time of year to do so, because oven drying heats your house up. So in the end it had a double benefit, well, triple I guess.

1: Dry peppers that we can have later on in the year.
2: A warmer house without turning the heat on making the Lady of the House much happier.
3: It helped clear my sinuses during the drying process which I think helped me kick this cold faster.

Oven drying is simple for peppers, put them on a cookie sheet either whole or cut into sections. Turn the oven to about 150 on bake, open the door just a hair and let them sit. Every so often come back and turn them to make sure nothing is getting burned. As you can see this would be a terrible plan in the summer.

Oh! The tomatoes are doing quite well. They are producing more and more tomatoes every day, not that any of them are ripe yet. Thanks to some great comments and suggestions we know now that we can bring not quite ripe tomatoes inside and let them ripen on their own off the vine. Alternatively we can cook them while still green if we want. Things that I definitely need to do for next year is make a better way to stake tomatoes. They are all over the place, and it seems like every day I come outside and need to drive a new stake, or tie up more plant that has sprouted and spread. I am thinking about using a hand axe to make some hardwood stakes out of the various downed trees out back. So far the 6' stakes made of downed branches just stuck into the ground have worked best for us. Next year for those I will probably run heavy twine or wire between the stakes to encourage growing out for the bushier plants. The other interesting option is using 4" or 5" concrete reinforcing wire to make large cages and doing cage tomatoes. It probably isn't one I will do any time soon due to cost and difficulty of transport due to our small car.

And if you are wondering why I refuse to turn the heat on when the Lady of the House is cold, well, it is still not dropping below 60 in the house at night, and I see no reason to turn the heat on until it is a concern that the house will drop below 50 while we sleep. If the house ever hits 40 I do have the heat set to go on then to not freeze the pipes. While it isn't as comfortable as keeping the house nice and toasty if we are going to try to reduce our foot print and live as sustainably as possible decreasing our heating usage is an important part of that.


  1. On the subject of tomatoes (though again prefaced that all my experience with successful tomatoes is from the Mid-Atlantic region) I would offer two suggestions. 1)You might try cages rather than single stakes. Ours were purpose-bought wire cages (re-useable) and they tend to give more support when the tomato decides to grow in all possible directions, rather than sticking to a single stake. Second, I noticed that you don't seem to be picking off the "suckers", the stems that grow out of a fork between the main stalk and the "branches". My mom always picks those off to encourage the plant to put more energy into the fruit and less energy into the plant (which you can't eat). Just a thought!

    1. We've considered cages, but the mass produced normal wire cages cost more than we have to spend, and the varieties we produce from what we have heard will bend and destroy those due to their weight. Especially since 6' tall is fairly normal for size of the heritage breeds we are growing. As for suckers, that's great to know. I've seen it mentioned before but hadn't really thought about doing that with our plants. Do you basically just pick off anything that isn't a main stalk or a main branch?

  2. FWIW, I don't prune for suckers, though I know others do. It's a matter of preference. AFAIK, a sucker is a sprout that comes up in the vee between two branches. Left be, it will eventually produce fruit. Pruned, it's meant to redirect the plant's energy toward other fruit. YMMV.