Art of Proprietation

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Annual MVM Harvest Festival

Things are getting cold.

A week and a half ago we got our first hard frosts. Three or four in a row. We had been having glorious late fall warm days up until then. A week ago Friday there was ice in the buckets, first of the year.

The cool weather coincided with our annual harvest party dinner. Every Year, as long as I have owned the house, we have hosted a Harvest Festival Potluck dinner. Fall is my favorite time of year, the best time for parties. It's always inviting to go into a house on a cool fall evening that smells of roast turkey and other season favorites. A lot of the food was local, but we failed in our quest for a local turkey. The closest we came was someone an hour away who could order us a "local" turkey that has been frozen since last thanksgiving. We'd be meeting the delivery truck there, less than three days before the party. And it would be a big turkey. It was going to be dicey as to whether it would thaw in time, and I didn't like the idea of all that driving around for a "local" bird. So, we went to fancy coop (not our regular coop) and got what we could get. That's the one downfall of our timing, it's not close enough to get in on the turkey mania.

It's gotten cold enough that we have recovered the greenhouse. My wife has been growing peppers and other warm crops in the green house all summer. We opened up the ends for ventilation and pollination but kept the body of it on to control the soil moisture and elevate the temperature. It worked out well, giving us the best crop of Anaheim and Jalapeno peppers yet. But with the hard frost we needed to close it in and get the winter layer of plastic on. We still have almost two months of greens to go for this year. Then the greenhouse will serve as a place to winter over cold hardy plants until early next spring. The greenhouse will warm up a month before the surrounding garden, giving us a leg up.

Since that frost we have had heavy rains. The leaves are down. We raked the neighbors lawn yesterday and filled our leaf bins. It's really fall now, no more swimming down by the river.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Evil Weed

Have you seen this viney plant growing at the edges of mowed areas or sprouting in disturbed areas?


That's black swallow wart, an alien invasive from Spain / Italy that has taken root in the eastern United States over the last ten years.

This plant spreads by both rhizome and seed. It grows vigorously when in full sun, climbing and smothering other plants. And here and in the North East, it has no natural predator.

Black Swallow Wart is very difficult to destroy because of its vigor, ability to smother other plants and develop from cut roots.

Black Swallow Wart is in the same family as Milkweed, and has a similar toxin that discourages browsing animals from controlling it. Worse, it attracts native insects that do eat milkweed mistake it for milkweed and lay there eggs there, but the larva cannot survive eating Black Swallow Wart.

BSW has small dark flowers in July and develops seed pods in August. If those pods are allowed to mature, they will spread on the wind by the thousands.
Mowing the plants in late July helps to prevent the spread by seed, but it does not control the plant. It will spread by rhizome.
We are trying to control ours through weeding, smothering and cutting. We have not been at it long enough to know if we are having any success. I suspect that given the pervasiveness of this plant on our land, it will always be a problem for us that takes continual maintenance. But hopefully we can gain some control over it and recover some productivity of our land.

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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Bringing in the hay

We finally got the word from the farm we buy alfalfa hay from that it was ready. It has not been a great year for hay and there was some doubt if we would get any alfalfa this year. During the dark months of winter, this alfalfa will help us keep our does in good condition.

And that new trailer has already come in handy, pulling home 52 bales. The best I had done in the van was 24 bales. I got so much on the trailer that I hardly had to load the van.

Getting the hay into the barn was a chore last year. We brought it in through the hay door in the back of the barn. That meant we had to unload the truck, cart the hay around to the back of the barn, carry it into the shed and then pull it up into the second floor without the benefit of an overhead pulley. This year I built a gantry that pokes out through a second story window and we can back the van or trailer under it to load the bales directly into the loft. What took a half a day before we now do in an hour or so.

We're not ready for winter yet, but we do have enough hay to carry us through the next twelve months. The hay is dry, under cover and easy for us to get out to our animals. It feels good to have that out of our way and ready to move on to new things.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Joads or Two trailers for the price of one

Does this look like something you would stake your life on? I suppose if you were driving behind me you were if you knew it or not. I borrowed a friends trailer a while ago and dragged it through three states. Lucky for both of us, I dragged it empty. I didn't a load in it until I got home and then it was behind the van.

It's a little embarrassing, but I just assumed it was Honda original equipment and I trusted that idea. Now that I have looked at it more than cursorily, I have come to realize it is just bolted through the tow loop. A rusty tow loop. An originally flimsy, now rusty tow loop that has driven for more 200 thousand miles and close to two decades. And by the looks of my fenders, this car spent most of its life on salty roads in the north east. Lets all just feel better that I didn't try to pull my new trailer full of trailer home through three states. It might have gone fine. Or it might have ended in a blaze of fire, twisted steel and broken glass. One or the other.

This is my new trailer. Full of trailer It came with a very nice pile of compost. And some started seedlings. The seller did me a great favor allowing me to purchase it. I am not kidding.

That's a second trailer upside down on the trailer. A friend, upon seeing my new trailer on the way home, realized immediately that his father's old Studebaker pickup bed trailer would look perfect pitched on top. I forgot to load the kiddy pool and child's bike he also offered.

I did not try to pull that load behind the Honda. My new trailer is well built. That's a polite way of saying it's heavy set. Husky. When speaking of a trailer, though it doesn't have the negative connotation it might otherwise.

The new trailer came with stake rack sides. The we swollen and a bear to get out of their sockets to load the second trailer. But they will be really helpful to bring bulky loads like compost home with. It also came with that dancer XS that is hanging from the ceiling of the van. The XS is a smaller version of Perception Kayaks popular dancer white water kayak. It will be a great boat to use when my son is ready to get out on the water. Vans are a great vehicle for the right application.

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