I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.
John Burroughs

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Preparing for autumn....

 September 20, 2022

There is a definite feeling of change in the air of late, and the days are so very noticeably shorter. Splashes of yellow leaves are showing up here and there, and the soft maples are starting to show a faint burgundy tinge. We had one very cool night last week, which prompted us to cover the tomatoes and squash. The temperature has rebounded somewhat, but more very cool nights are in the forecast, and very soon there will be frost. Yesterday, it rained off and on all day with some fairly intense thunder storms intermixed. The result in the rain gauge this morning is over an inch and a half. We have already drained two, no longer needed, water barrels in preparation for freeze up.

I've been busy harvesting and processing tomatoes as they ripen, have picked, diced and frozen the remaining peppers, and called it quits on the apple harvest, after filling a shelf with applesauce, apple butter and dried slices. Crab apple juice is in the freezer for future processing into jelly. 

All the pumpkins and squash, except for the sweet potato squash have been harvested, cleaned and stored.

Four pie pumpkin seeds, in two hills have produced 18 pumpkins! (13 were harvested earlier from the other hill.) Some of the acorn squash have been gnawed at by voles, but the pumpkin and butternut squash are unscathed. The sweet potato squash have started to turn from mottled lime green, to a sort of beige colour, and I recently measured one's circumference at just over 36 inches. 

They took quite a while to bloom and produce fruit, even though they were planted at the same time as the other squash, but once the fruit formed, they expanded daily. They are still on the vine and I'll leave them to the last possible tick.

The fall lettuce and greens bed is coming into it's own with these cooler temperatures. Broccoli is continually putting out side shoots, and turnips and carrots have yet to be pulled. They can take a bit of frost, so other chores are before them on the list.

On a recent weekend, with our son's help, we got the woodshed topped up, finishing the splitting and piling of the beech trees we'd harvested. That gives us a good two year supply, but tree harvesting will be an on-going chore, as we like to keep ahead, cutting enough to replace what we use as the winter proceeds. The chimneys are all cleaned, ready for the heating season, and we have already lit the fire a few times on these cool, damp, rainy days.

It is time to get the remaining produce under cover, and the garden beds ready for fall. It will soon be time to plant the garlic for next year.

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Bear Tales....

September 6, 2022

 Yup....That's one, a bear tail that is.....

It started with a munching sound in the night, below the bedroom window. A flashlight beam illuminated a medium sized bear, and its feet made a sort of 'ka-thud, ka-thud, ka-thud' sound as it ran away across the mown grass, so not a really small bear. It had been snacking on crab-apples on the ground around the base of the crab-apple tree across the driveway from the house. The crabs are falling now, and everyday I pick up a Gorilla wagon load of full pails. (And yes, a two year supply of crab-apple jelly is in the works.)

This is a picture of the tree from mid-May, and now all those blossoms are fruit.

So, upon seeing big bear poops under one of our favourite apple trees beside the barn, about 100 yards from the back step, we set up a trail camera there to see what was going on. It yielded these videos. The date stamp is obviously wrong, as we didn't bother setting it when we placed the camera.

Big bear does a lot of grass grazing, and also stands up on his hind legs and pulls apples off of the tree. There is now a fringe of naked twigs skirting the tree's drip line, where the fruit and leaves have been stripped off as high as he can reach. At other times he just lays down under the tree, a big black blob, his eyes two glowing orbs. 

More recently, another medium sized bear has shown up. One night video shows it laying there, munching apples contentedly, then it starts to show some concern, standing up and looking off to the right. Very soon, it exits stage left, glancing back, giving the impression it is sidling away. A big black shadow appears coming in from the right. Apparently in bear hierarchy, no one messes with Big bear.

The little guy goes right up into the tree. Perhaps he doesn't want to cross paths with the bigger bears, so got up enough nerve to do a quick raid of the tree in daylight hours.

More recently, the camera has shown a sow with one good sized cub eating apples under the tree. Just yesterday, on the daily crab-apple pick-up, there was a smallish bear poo near that tree, so we think Mamma and cub have been up beside the house as well. So, 5 bears that we know of, unlike 2018, when we had 10 in total; three sows with 6 cubs amongst them, and a yearling bear who would lay under the tree eating apples, even in daylight hours. I was making the asparagus patch that fall, and was about 70 yards away. I kept an eye on him, and he watched me, and whenever I headed his way with the wheelbarrow to access the manure pile behind the barn, he would scamper away. It was the year I called 'Gardening with Bears'. 

The big, old, nut-bearing beech trees have been decimated by the Beech Bark Fungus, so no more beechnuts; there aren't many acorns this year, so guess apples are the next choice for bears.

An apple tree closer to the house has been dropping beautiful fruit for about a week now, and I've been processing it into apple sauce, apple butter and have two big jars full of dried slices so far. Every morning there are apples that have been chewed, laying on the ground under the tree. The bruins seem to sample several apples before they settle on one and finish it, leaving a bit of oxidized core laying there. We have been picking up the damaged fruit, (why is it that the Blue Jays seem to peck holes in the biggest, most beautiful apples???) and putting it down by barn apple tree, to maybe encourage the bears to stay on the ground. The apples are not ripe enough yet, and I'd really, really like to have some fruit off of that tree, as it bears one of our favourite tasting apples. (no pun intended!) It is so sweet with a delicious tang of wild apple flavour, and makes the best applesauce.

Produce is coming in daily from the garden. The cucumbers, unlike last year, are still green and bearing. With two batches each of three different kinds of pickles, we have more pickles than we did last year. The broccoli is putting out lots of side shoots, the fall lettuce and greens patch is still quite young, but the plants are big enough to give us leaves every few days, cooler temperatures speeding up their growth rate. Tomatoes are ripening, and being canned into juice and sauce.

The Kelsae onions have been pulled, and are up in the barn, drying on screens beside the garlic and yellow onions. (yes, they grew that big from seeds planted early in May!)

The white clover is starting to really fill in the blank spaces in the garden beds.
A selection of peppers, sweet and hot, the makings of pepper jelly, 

and a smattering of different veg selected on one morning's meander around the garden beds.

A picture of the Flagpole bed, to remind me of the beauty that is buried under the knee-deep snow, when the winter wind is snapping the flag to ribbons!