Where did the last two months go? Haven’t been able to get to this much over the last few weeks due to a variety of reasons. Just plain busy, both by obligation and choice. We’ve enjoyed the beautiful weather that Southeast Minnesota has given us over the last few weeks, we celebrated our first full year at the BRB. October weather in the mid-60’s for most of the month has been much appreciated. We’ve been working on alot of the winter prep around the BRB, cleaning the basement, checking the furnace, getting pellets for the stove, dealing with MICE! Finishing up the lawn and landscaping for year, hopefully we won’t have to mow again but if it meant another couple weeks of nicer weather I’d take it.
The Family: We had my mom, sister and nieces down for a wonderful late summer afternoon a while back. We got to witness my youngest niece take her first un-assisted steps across my recently tidied lawn. Clover helped pull veggies from a productive garden. A good lunch was prepared and the girls got to run around with the dogs. I took my mom and nieces to the state park that’s near by while my sister and Liz spent the afternoon turning a bunch of ripe tomatoes into more salsa for future Football Sundays. It was good to see the little ones but sad in a way, since they visited our house I’ve seen them only once and it’s remarkable how fast they grow and change.
The Garden: Late Sept/Early Oct we got our first partial frost, fearful that it would be worse than it turned out we pulled most everything from the garden, any and all fruit that was approaching ripe was harvested. The rest was left for nature to do with as she pleased. It turned out that we lost only a handful of cucumber vines that were hanging on the ground, some of the larger leaves of the zucchini and summer squash went as well but the rest was left un-scathed. Over the next couple weeks we harvested close to another 150lbs of tomatoes, many of which were given to our friends, family, co-workers and others we care about. We’ve since pulled everything from the garden, bare bones, dirt. Everything that could be composted was, others like the tomato vines were dried and are awaiting flame in the firepit in the back of the yard. My neighbor stopped by one morning with a truck bed full of cow manure of which I was glad to help him remove. That manure along with a good thick layer of fall leaves have been turned into the soil by hand. I am dedicated to the idea that a motorized tiller will not touch the soil we’ve worked hard to make a worm haven, and a worm haven it is. I almost didn’t want to use the shovel to turn the soil after I realized how many worms were being cut in half with my blade. I suppose better a couple than the vast majority. Soon the last layer of fall leaves with be applied to “tuck” the garden in for winter.
The Department: In our absence Liz and I have been busy with a few other non-house related things. 1st on the list would be our First Responder class, required in the State of Minnesota if your going to be on a Fire/Rescue Dept that provides medical assistance. Every Tuesday and Thursday from 6-10 for the last two months was spent in a classroom learning the skills needed to assist our local department and neighbors with any medical emergencies that may arise while we are home or in our area. We passed our final exams with flying colors. We joined the Fire and Rescue department together as a way to connect ourselves with our neighbors. We both have family within a couple hours but we wanted to have a greater sense of community and this was one way of getting to know those around us. We were a bit skeptical at first if Fire/Rescue was a good fit for us but we’ve been on the department for about 8 months now and are enjoying it, we are both on the Fire and First Responder crews for our department, learning to drive new (much larger) vehicles, learning about our area, the hazards and the responsibilities that come with this kind of service. Since we’ve joined Liz and I have helped save a neighbor’s house from a car fire, put out a brush fire, dealt with a couple medical incidents at ~3am, the usual for the job I suppose. Soon we will be taking Fire 1 & 2, and if things work out right we will be trying for our EMT licence in the spring, again more night class…
The Trout: Aside from class we have spent a fair number of days in the month of October to our south doing what I love… fishing for trout. Liz and I wanted to take advantage of the nice weather and as such a bit of fall camping was in order. Recently we purchased a new fly rod and reel for Liz and now she’s got the itch. We have plans to head south yet again for a couple more days before the end of the year, perhaps maybe a bit of early winter camping will be seen. Liz is a damn quick study and has in a very short amount of time picked up the skills she used to use when she was younger with her father, the same man who motivated me to learn to fish.
Things Not Yet Finished: Got a bunch of crap to finish around here before it gets much colder, the underside of the barn is a flipping mess, garden supplies scattered everywhere, parts for this, that and the other thing lay everywhere. The recycling that I’ve been collecting for a year still sits in the bed of my truck, packed as tight as I thought I could get it without risking any loss to road travel. This must be dealt with, so it goes, hopefully to Iowa where they pay for such items (more than the local scrap yard around here) . We bartered a guitar for a ’94 Saturn that came from a good friend that still needs some TLC, despite my best efforts I have not been able to solve an overheating ailment, I am no mechanic but I could try harder. I’ve got one car that needs to be junked, sick of seeing it collect dust and pigeon crap in the barn. I won’t even get into that disappointing mess, just know that I tend to put things off until I’m properly motivated, then and only then will it will be addressed and dealt with. Needless to say I think the first snowflakes will be my motivator. The snowblower needs to be looked at as well, I think something’s wrong with the carburetor but again… I’m an angler…not a mechanic. If someone was offering that class I’d be there, in the future, if time permits Liz and I have discussed the need for such education, out here you’ve got to be your own everything… including mechanic.
The Random: We’ve been listening to alot of Muddy Waters records lately, something about my stash of vinyl hit me and I started tying trout flies, listening to the crackle and pop of the needle, something about those two things just feels so right. I picked up one of my guitars the other day and couldn’t remember how to play Blackbird by the Beatles… there was a time when I could have done this in my sleep. Sad.
The days are growing ever shorter, right now if we hurry home we are lucky to get two hours of light before the darkness comes. These days are bitter sweet for me, I love the winter, maybe more the change in seasons and not actually winter. We took a walk through the state park last night with the dogs, I guess I could be more accurate and say we meant to take a walk but try “walking” a German Shorthair pointer… basically your dragged. Need to do more of these things, simple things, scared of the winter and darkness, spending too many hours behind a screen. Need to read more, much more and they need to be words on a page, not a screen.
I’ll leave you with words I am currently listening to and have been for several days now.
You know that I care, what happens to you
and I know that you care, for me too
so I don’t feel alone, or the weight of the stone
now that I’ve found somewhere safe to bury my bone
And any fool knows a dog needs a home
a shelter, from pigs on the wing
Pink Floyd: 1977 Animals: Track 5: Pigs On The Wing (Part Two)
The Great Tomato Disaster of 2011: Then there was the wind. We’ve dealt with the effects of the Ridge Wind out here but this has to be on the top of the disappointment list, right next to losing the 50ft white spruce this last winter. We came home the evening of Aug. 24th to find the wreckage from a 30+mph wind that decided to take aim at the tomatoes. The corn had minimal damage but the poorly supported tomato plants, some of which were approaching the 6ft mark, packed with heavy fruit did not fare so well. Row after row were toppled over onto one another, green tomatoes strewn about on the ground and stems bent and broken. What was once 6ft tall lay close to 3ft. So we went about figuring out what to do regarding the problem. Stakes were procured and placed, support structures were erected and the plants re-supported. Unfortunately this process took us a handful of evenings and was mentally/physically taxing. It’s our own fault frankly, we put so many plants so close to one another and didn’t prune or train the plants much, a simple flimsy cage to get them going and we ended up with way more than those cages could handle. Personally I got frustrated several times as I untangled a plant only to have multiple branches break off, borderline mad. Mad at my ignorance, like you could just put them in the ground. Next year careful consideration will be taken when dealing with tomatoes and the wind, pruning will occur regularly and the plants will be dispersed amongst more beds rather than all contained in one or two. Significant support structures will be put in place prior to planting, learn from your mistakes.
After a couple of evenings struggling to get the tomatoes back to their former glory we had close to twenty pounds of green tomatoes and with them the first batch of ripe tomatoes on many of our plants. The bright light at the end of this tunnel? Learning. We know what went wrong and I’ll be hard pressed to see it happen again next year. Despite many broken and damaged branches the plants should come back alright and will provide us with a bounty of tomatoes. As a result of the Great Tomato Disaster we were forced to clean up and deal with many of the dead and dying branches on the plants exposing us to fruit we couldn’t see before as well as exposing that fruit to the healthy rays of sunlight that couldn’t penetrate the thick canopy.
The rest of the garden was fairly untouched by the strong winds, things are rolling along well. Our fears that a late start would result in less edible fruit has faded with the ripening of the corn and the later varieties of tomatoes. Our zucchini and summer squash continue to give up a healthy bounty daily. The cucumbers are giving us a handful of good-sized fruit each day as well as the peas. The big bright spot for the weekend: pole beans. Liz and I were hoping that we might be able to harvest enough beans to freeze a bunch for over winter, with our poor success with the bush beans we put all our stock in the pole beans which up until this last weekend had grown large and full but hadn’t shown us any signs of beans. Where there is a flower… and now we have the first of many beans growing. On the long list of things to do this week: mulch. Mulch everything, the garden paths, the tomato beds and especially the onions and carrots.
The install: Later than planned. We knew this would be a learning experience all around from start to finish something would be learned in every step. Here we learned to take advantage of cooler spring weather, do ground prep in the fall or early spring when things are cool. We did not do this. Starting late close to June 1st we broke ground, literally. A patch of grass and creeping charlie 50ftx30ft to the south of the barn became the site of our garden. This plot gets sun continually from ~5:30am til dark during the peak summer hours. I spent many hours removing sod with a sharpened shovel, loading the wheelbarrow up and toting away the top layer. Post holes were dug and a fence erected as deer are an issue out here. For the initial prep of the dirt I used a motorized tiller to work the soil 10inches down then had 3 cubic yards of pulverized black dirt delivered and added to the existing soil. Four raised beds were shaped and the center paths dug out and lined with newspaper and old straw from the loft of the barn.
Planting came later, close to June 15th and consisted of ~30 tomato plants, corn, peas, beans, onion, carrots, hot peppers, green peppers, zucchini and summer squash were all seated in loose soil. Care was taken but the first round of seeds did not germinate, we waited and waited. Finally close to the end of June we re-planted everything that was not coming up in decent numbers. The second round took well and now we have everything in the above mentioned list growing at an almost exponential rate. We built a trellis for the peas and cucumbers to climb and began weeding and mulching on an almost daily basis. The first couple weeks were slow, some plants were sun damaged due to initial over exposure but as July progressed the garden blew up. We are getting the first hand experience now to make next years garden much more productive than the current. With that said things are coming along, soon we will have more tomatoes than we can handle and will be giving them away to our friends and co-workers. Lettuce has been flying out of the garden by the bagful for close to three weeks now. Keeping up on the lettuce harvest has kept the bugs to a minimum due to the lack of rotting leaves tucked under the plants and the more leaf lettuce picked, the more produced. Most everything is now bearing fruit from the corn to the squash, daily harvesting will commence soon with canning to follow. Canning will be another learning experience…