Garden pumpkins, pureed and ready for the freezer

Garden pumpkins, pureed and ready for the freezer

Another fine autumn day today, 60F/15C and sunny, sunny, sunny. We actually got down to freezing last night, just barely and not for long enough that it killed everything. Oh it killed some things, the marigolds are toast and the scarlet runner beans are looking not quite dead but definitely on their way out. But the calendula are still sunny yellow and orange and the fava beans and tiny surprise carrot sprouts are looking business as usual. The really long term forecast says we might have snow around Thanksgiving in a week and half, not a real snow, more like a sugar coating. If that happens though everything will be dead at last and I will be finally able to stop taking my allergy medication for a few months. For the week ahead, however, no freezing nights in the forecast.

Now that all the leaves are off the trees, Bookman cleaned out the gutters today. I dug up some more sunchokes, wow are there a lot of them and I just dug in a small area where they were starting to encroach on the bush cherry. So more yumminess to look forward to. We had planned to mash the first batch last week but ended up roasting them with beets and then having them along with the beets in a spinach and dandelion greens salad. Oh it was so yummy!

We haven’t had rain in weeks and our rain barrels are full and need to be emptied for the winter which, though it doesn’t seem like it will ever come, will arrive eventually. So I started work on emptying one of them by watering the apple trees, cherry tree, the fruit shrubs, the rose bush and the grapevine.

The grapevine! I haven’t mentioned it all summer. I’ve tried growing a grape before at the back of the garden along a trellis fence and it died, didn’t flourish and then winter killed it. So the next year I tried a different variety of grape in the same location with the same result. I thought about trying again but decided I just couldn’t grow grapes. Years passed. Two years ago I was looking at all the grapes in the plant sale catalog Bookman and I attend every year and I thought, I’m going to try grapes again! But all the varieties they had were wine grapes with only one that said it made good jam. While I am interested in making jam, I also want to be able to eat fresh grapes so I passed on getting a vine. Earlier this year the sale grapes were still lacking in choice so I took a chance and mail ordered a red table grape that was bred in Wisconsin and hardy in my area.

Instead of planting it in the previous grape graveyard, I planted it in a sunny spot right against the south side of the house where it gets hot in summer and has protection in winter. Bookman used some of the extra hardware cloth we had bought for the chicken run, fixed it up the side of the house for the grape to climb up, and then we pretty much left the grape to its own devices. It is thriving! It has vined up the wire about five feet/ 1.5 m! I mulched its feet with leaves and gave it a good watering today. Fingers crossed it survives the winter. I am hopeful that it will since it is going in strong and healthy.

With the time change and the shortening days, the poor Dashwoods don’t get to roam the garden as much anymore. I used to let them out of the run for a couple hours when I got home from work. For a few days after we turned the clock back an hour they’d get about 45 minutes of light and now it is sunset when I get home so I go out and say hi for a few minutes but they are already starting to think about bedding down. They got to be out in the garden all day yesterday and today and were so very happy about that.

Dashwoods enjoying some okara

Dashwoods enjoying some okara

Friday when I went out to visit them after work I took them a treat of lettuce leaves. When the leaves were gone, Marianne jumped up on my back. Then Elinor walked up the ladder and stood there looking at Marianne and to my surprise joined her on my back! So there I was, bent over in the run with two chickens on my back. Margaret was at my feet making her strange Margaret squeals and Mrs. Dashwood was on the ladder almost eye-to-eye with me chattering away. Marianne and Elinor were happy as can be on my back, carefully moving around and changing positions so they could get a good survey of their domain. At one point Elinor’s butt was on my head and I am bent over saying “please don’t poop, please don’t poop.” She didn’t, thankfully.

Marianne had her fun and jumped down, but being on my back was all new for Elinor and she was not about to leave now that she had it all to herself. So I let her hang out for a few minutes and then told her it was time to get down. I stood next to the ladder and began to slowly move upright, but Elinor started complaining and clawing and scuttled up onto my shoulder. She thought that was great! The other three are now all around my feet looking up at Elinor on my shoulder and all of them are excitedly clucking.

I squatted down and for a moment it seemed Elinor was going to jump off my shoulder but she changed her mind. I now had chickens around my feet and right behind my head on the ladder, and all of them were worked up into a chicken frenzy. Elinor, I said, you have to get down now. I stood up and bent over again so she had to move from my shoulder and I tried standing upright again only faster so she would slide off and not have time to scramble to my shoulder. Dear Elinor gave it a good effort though. As she began to slide off, she tried to grab me and my shirt with her claws and started flapping her wings, but it was no use. She landed on the ladder, a little ruffled, and immediately began scolding me.

By this time it was almost dark and Mrs. Dashwood and Marianne were already in the coop. I thought of shoving Elinor in and giving Margaret, who was slowly on her way up the ladder, a helping hand. But I figured that would just add one more insult and I didn’t want to suffer the wrath of Elinor (she is a very stubborn chicken!) so I let them be. I closed the run door and went back out half an hour later when it was full dark. They were all bedded down in the coop making sleepy chicken noises. I wished them goodnight and closed the coop door, locked the run door and retired to the house.

I didn’t really know what it would be like to have chickens, but I can say I never imagined that it would be like this!