Wednesday, November 18, 2015

November - A Quality Month

One should never underestimate November.  November is full of all kinds of good things.  For example, someone I like very much was born in November.  We'll let you make your guesses as to who that is. 

But, if you don't give November its due, it might do something like have a storm with multiple tornadoes and lots of wind and stuff like that.  Apparently this year, we underestimated November.

Blue Gate Farm had an unwanted surprise in November
We are grateful that we did not have to deal with much more than some inconvenient rain and wind at our farm.  The normal stuff happened.  You know... a few things moved from where they were supposed to be to somewhere else on the farm.  Several other things fell over.  A this or that needed a small repair.  But, really, nothing broken and no real harm down.  But, some of our friends had to deal with some real damage from the recent storms.  Blue Gate Farm found one of their two high tunnel buildings destroyed when they got up in the morning.  We feel bad because we'd talked on the phone about the weather with them the night before.  I suspect we'll avoid saying "I'm sure everything will be fine" the next time Jill tells us she is worried about the wind.  I'm sure the following 48 hours added insult to injury with the continuous howling winds.  I know I wasn't amused as I tried to do some work outside.  I think I spent most of that time chasing my hat.

Marina di Chioggia winter squash
Personal Squash Plants?
One of the things Tammy and I associate with November is our first meals with winter squash. 

Rob's favorite winter squash is Marina di Chioggia.  We equate it with a very large buttercup-type squash.  The vines usually don't produce all that many fruit, but we're willing to grow them anyway.  The flesh is usually dry and flaky, like most buttercups, and the taste is rich, making it an excellent comfort food.

Sadly, Marina has been an inconsistent grower for us over the years, so we usually don't have any to share.  In fact, it has been a couple of years since we've had one ourselves.  But, as you can see, we got a few this year - and no - we aren't sharing.  Farmers' prerogative.  Of course, we planted a limited number of these this year.  So, you might consider them our personal squash plants and leave it at that.

Root For Me!
Misato Rose watermelon radish
November is a great time for us to bring in the root crops.  We admit that we aren't always that big on root crops on our farm due to the heavier soils and the issues we have with timing.  The best time to plant some of these things is when we simply don't have many moments that we can string together in order to prep a bed and plant the seeds.  The other issue for us is storage space.  It's something we have plans to address.  But, only so many things can happen at a time.

This year, we managed to hit the timing pretty well with turnips, watermelon radish and daikon radish.  The Fall beet crop had the right timing, but so did the deer.  I guess we'll take 3 of 4 and call it a win.

Purple Top White Globe turnip
The watermelon radish have been around for a while, but they might qualify as a 'fad' vegetable since I've been reading about them for the past couple of years as an item "alot of growers" are putting on their production list.  I don't usually like to follow 'everyone' else, but when I do, I seem to do it obliquely.

Now, that's a word I think has alot going for it - "obliquely."  But, I probably shouldn't talk about it directly - it might be offended.

A crop that we've grown for many years, but usually as a Spring/early Summer crop would be turnips.  In fact, there have been relatively few seasons where the Purple Top White Globe turnips haven't made an appearance at some point or another in our CSA shares.  Only one such season comes to mind - and the more I think about, the more I doubt that we went that whole year without any turnips.  After last year's experiment with Fall turnips, we decided we like the results for Purple Top.  They certainly do fine early in the year too.  But, there is something about the quality and beauty of the roots in the Fall that far exceed the Spring/Summer crop.  We also think they taste better in the Fall.  But, that might simply be because we are ready for turnips in November.  In June, our taste buds are all about peas.

Aren't You Sweet?
Golden Treasure (yellow) and Jimmy Nardello's (red)
Many of the peppers we grow are sweet peppers, but they aren't bell peppers.  We have to admit that Jimmy Nardello's Frying Pepper does look a bit like a big cayenne, so we don't blame people if they ask.  But, Golden Treasure, Chervena Chushka and Marconi Red are all great sweet peppers with excellent taste and we don't think they look all that much like a hot pepper. 

We've found that Golden Treasure, in particular, tends to take its time to ripen its fruit.  Often, we get our first Golden Treasure from the field in September. 

Well, we have this second high tunnel and we planted some peppers in late June this year.  The result?  Sweet peppers in November.  Granted, we shouldn't get used to this because we have had very mild weather.  But still, how neat is it to get a fresh Golden Treasure off the plant on November 10?

And, the flock reductions continue...
As the days get colder and the daylight ours are reduced, our poultry chores become more of a... well... chore.  Colder weather forces us to work around frozen water issues.  The hose that once could be pulled to the waterers is no longer available and sometimes the water in buckets if frozen just enough to make pouring an issue.  We are also interested in protecting the birds from the elements.  And, the pastures are no longer growing quickly, so we have to protect them from overuse. 

Muscovey ducks on the farm
Happily, part of the overall plan each year is for us to continue to complete the cycle with all but the laying hen flock and a few ducks.  Our last batch of broiler chickens went in last week (we have many still available - come and get them!).  This week, we take our second batch of ducks and our stewing hens in.  That will leave us with the laying flock and our small flock of ducks that will over-winter with us.

It's at this point that I fully begin to realize exactly how much effort goes into handling all of these animals each season.  At one point this season, we had to feed and water six different flocks of birds.  Two is going to feel a bit like a vacation - until that first day I can't open a waterer because the heater got unplugged by one of our laying hens. 

For an animal without an opposable thumb, it is amazing how many times they can manage to catch the cord "just so" in order to unplug the heater we use to keep the water free for them to drink.  I'm glad I remember this so I can go get the back up waterer and bring it inside the house now.  Why?  Well, what do you do when one waterer is frozen shut?  You bring it into the house to thaw.  But, you need a waterer with unfrozen waterer for the birds.  That's why you keep one in the house. 

And now you know!  Have a good November.

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