We are energized! I finished all the wiring, did all the plugs and light boxes and fixtures, wired all the circuits into the pony panel, and powered it up. It all worked! This was a major feat for me, considering how I objected to the prospect of having to do the wiring myself.
There were two 3way lights, and they worked(!) and all the plugs worked, and there were no awful popping sounds or smoke. Just one light fixture in a series wouldn’t turn off with its mate at the switch, but when I studied the diagram more deeply I saw that it was drawn for one light on a switch and one with continuous power (who would want that?), which is exactly what I got. I managed to fix it, anyways so both are switched
I’m very pleased with myself. I just worked through it all slowly and methodically with the code book in my hand, assiduously following the wiring diagrams. Electrical still makes my brain wobble, but I got ‘er done! Yay! It’s like a real barn now.
A new threat to the chickens: raccoons. We’ve been getting relaxed about shutting the chicken hatch at night, and that was a bad idea. Came home one night and there were three little pairs of beady eyes, one raccoon just trundling out of the henhouse; last night HW busted one in the henhouse again. Clearly that’s who upset the food trough the other day. Luckily they seem to prefer chicken food to chicken for food at this point.
I canned this year’s batch of pumpkin. That’s 20 future pies, and as you can see, there’s another batch to do up.
Apparently you’re not supposed to can pumpkin in puree form because it’s too dense, and the bugs can hide in it and not get cooked out. You’re supposed to can it in cubes, and puree it later, when it’s pie time. I just learned that. Stuff would never get made into pies though if I had to do that. It takes forever to cook ’em all down, and it’s more convenient to only get the stove splattered up like that once.
I’ve been doing it for years and I’m going to keep doing so, but do not can pumpkin puree. It’s dain-ger-ous!
Yay! Windows are all done. In the nick of time, too. I finished the housewrap around the last in the dark as the snow was starting again.
The windows took considerably longer than I had expected (Oh, about a day’s work – famous last words). One was an opener, one was huge and double paned, and one needed the wall framed to fit it, so it was a sizable job, I was just in denial.
The opener is my biggest accomplishment. I’ve never built an opener before, and I was figuring out the hardware from scratch with no guidance (Google doesn’t always come through, fyi). But it was a total success, operating perfectly smoothly and closing tight.
Yay! It’s a major threshold to have the barn really sealed up. In the same days, HW built the two missing doors and hung them, so we are officially cozy now. It’s also much less embarrassing, to not be enclosed by double layers of poly (hey, I was busy last winter). Let the snow fly!
The garden is all in now. Just like last year, I was gone for a lot of the summer, but I can still pronounce Garden 2011 a roaring success. Only two growing seasons from an arid, hard-packed clay bed, and now there’s deep, soft, dark-brown-if-not-quite-black-yet soil, and millions of worms. You can’t even scratch your fingers in the mulch without disrupting worms, and plunging a shovel in feels like mass murder.
The tomatoes produced virulently; the evidence was all over the ground, too late to benefit from when we came back post-frost. Similar for the hot peppers, but most (dozens) of the squash and sugar pumpkins survived to be picked. The kale did very well this year in its new location, and we got several pounds of beets and root onions. The scarlet runners and peapods were dry on the vine, and I picked and shucked all of those and dried them for an impressive amount of dried beans for eating or planting next year. Scarlet runners are so attractively purple.
I’m happy to have at least made micro movements towards seed-saving. The two skills I really need to improve on are seed-saving and seed-starting- the two shoulder season activities.
My favorite bounty of this year was the kale seeds! Some kale went to seed and dried outside, and we cut it all to save the seeds. Look at the mound of them- it’s more than a pound of seeds, which feels like incredible wealth, considering how much a little packet of kale seeds goes for these days, when you can find any. They also feel really cool, a bowlful of tiny black ball bearings. I’m sure they’ll be viable, because that kale has already been known to self-propagate. The pods were all grey and dry, almost uncurling and dropping their payloads at touch, and I threshed them all out by rubbing them between my hands. Great success.
Oh, and I put in a bed of garlic: at the appropriate depth, and at the right time of year for once. The chickens made a stab at rearranging my rows, but the garlic should still come in droves next year.
Had a spontaneous good time with a flock of ducks at the park in town yesterday.
They were having a good time too, until HW started catching them.
When we sat down to have a snack we were immediately surrounded by the little flock of ducks (and one seagull), that was clearly conditioned to the sound of bag rustling. They worked up pretty quickly to eating rice cake crumbs out of our hands; a couple of females were the boldest.
Some of them found the whole eating out of the hand thing too challenging, yanking on our fingers or the fold of skin at the ball of the hand and wondering why they weren’t getting anything, while the food is right there on the palm. One shy mallard tugged repeatedly on my fingertip and then gave up, as though he didn’t understand how it was working for all the others.
After HW got bit enthusiastically once, he grabbed the offender: “That’s it, I’m catching you!” He held her like a chicken, as she silently stretched out her neck and paddled her dangling feet a bit. Passersby noticed. After he snatched up the second girl duck, the rest of the flock got considerably more reluctant to eat out of our hands.
Ducks are very soft, and a little bit oily, to pet. Their feathers are round, like fish scales. Very beautiful, especially the mallards, whose heads look indigo when they’re walking away from you and green when they’re approaching.
Turns out they fight by biting each other in the chest, and holding on as long as they can. One pair treated us to a good duckfight show over some prime crumbs, the female coming from behind for a big win, and the mallard trucking off with his tail…not quite between his legs.
The henhouse got a fall cleaning/ “henhouse makeover” in fall colours. The abundant maple leaves provided a big new spongy carbon layer, piled in over top of the dung and old grass that has been piling up. It’s like lasagna gardening, only lasagna composting. It makes the henhouse smell really good again too. Now when I open their hatch, I hear crunching inside as they start walking towards the door.
I love the chickens! They’re all grown up, and there are far fewer, because most of the roosters got eaten, but the little flock is so mischievous and amusing and … lively. It’s just nice to have animals roaming around being animals, murmuring to each other and sneaking around, popping around the corner of the barn, and scratching in the hay with their butts in the air like little schooners. They hover around when we’re working or raking leaves, waiting to reverse our work or dig for uncovered treats.
They can fly quite well, too, as I discovered when I was dumping leaves in the henhouse. I guess it scared the willies out of them, and they went flying out the door over my head in a panic.
They vanish completely for hours every day though. I was wondering where they were hiding, and it turns out they DO roam around in the woods. There were sightings of them back in the woods. That’s so awesome. Wild chickens! Like the wild chickens of Hawaii.
HW recognized an annoying spiky bush as a rosehip bush, and we harvested almost all the fruit off of it to dry it, although the bush fought back.
I was skeptical about the value of rosehips until he reduced a bunch of them down and made this amazing syrup. Now I’m a big fan of rosehips. I notice them unpicked in other people’s yards and also that they are almost unaffected by the freezing temperatures.
Rosehip syrup: Boil equal parts water and rosehips for an hour, then reduce heat, mashing fruit occasionally. Sieve out seeds and skins and discard. Add honey (1:8 parts) and simmer down to desired consistency. Add pectin to make jam.
The fence is down, everything has been dug up or cut down, the sprinkler’s out, and everything is heavily mulched with the dead vines and stalks and hay.
There was some excellent kale, flourishing in the cold weather that we expected to be able to enjoy for some time longer, but once the fence was down the horse came in and enjoyed it first. No more kale.
We put in a couple more sections of terrace (more than this picture shows), to accommodate most of the fall leaves and manure, and piled the terraces to overflowing with biomass, expecting great settling over the winter.