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Hot, hot summer


  01:30:18 pm, by Karen   , 1243 words  
Categories: Journal

Hot, hot summer

As everyone is no doubt aware, this was a very hot summer. Up here, where we usually see only a few 90 degree days, we saw a great many. I wilt in the heat, so getting things done was difficult. We did however have a very good garden this year. Unlike the past two years, which were too rainy and too cool, we certainly didn't suffer for lack of warmth, and the garden responded well. Fortunately, we had probably just enough rain to get by. The southern part of NH had a mini-drought but we caught enough passing showers so that I did not have to water plants that were in the ground.

The good thing about drier weather is that the late blight seems to have missed us, and the tomatoes are doing very well. I had enough space for six Early Girl and two cherry tomato plants, one Sweet Million, and one called a "raisin tomato" because it's supposed to be good for drying. It is a very sweet small cherry tomato. All the tomatoes are doing tremendously, especially the cherries. I think I'll be overrun with them, but I'm not complaining.

I also put in 6 cabbage plants and have already harvested them and made 15 lbs of sauerkraut (still in progress in a crock in the cellar). That's not a lot of sauerkraut but I'm the only one who eats it around here, so it's enough. I left the cabbage plants in the ground and just removed the heads, and the cabbages are now producing lots of small cabbages around where the main head used to be. I'll harvest those and use them fresh. They should make good single serving portions (I'm also the only one who eats cabbage).

The basil has flowered and the bees are loving it. You walk out to the garden and all you hear is "bzzzzzzzz... bzzz.... bzzzzzzzzzzzzz". I've already made some pesto and will make some more.

We had two "volunteer" sunflowers come up amongst the aforementioned cabbages. Actually a whole bunch came up in a small area no bigger than 2 inches in diameter, planted there by some critter. I pulled out all but two. They have flowered and have big happy sunny yellow faces. I've always wanted to grow sunflowers but never made space for them, so this was a nice surprise.

The garlic was harvested in July and has been hanging in the woodshed drying since then. It's probably about time to cut them down and store them until planting time in October. The chickens got into the garden this spring and were digging around in the nice soft fluffy raised beds looking for bugs and worms, and managed to decimate some of the garlic crop, so hopefully I'll have enough large cloves to plant the same amount again this year.

The only thing that hasn't done well are the peppers. They were supposed to be Early Bell, but although they are big and green and healthy, there is a serious lack of fruit on the plants. This morning I saw one small green pepper and a few more very tiny ones starting, but nothing else. Not sure what the problem was there.

In non-garden news, Ken has been doing a phenomenal job of clearing the slash from the logging last summer/fall. He couldn't start on it until mid-summer really because of a spring back injury, but he's made a huge amount of progress. I admit to looking at the mess and feeling pretty hopeless, but he picked a spot and waded in and started pulling out all the good firewood and piling the rest into piles for burning later. He said he felt sort of hopeless too, but his motivation came from knowing there was good firewood in there. As a result we have a woodshed more than half full. It would hold about 8 cords if it was completely full, and we only use about 2 cords per winter.

The other way to clear it would be to hire someone with a dozer to come in and push it all up into a long pile, but that would mean losing the firewood, having a big ugly pile, and probably losing a good amount of topsoil. This way, we save the soil, and have smaller piles that we can burn easily. It's much slower this way, but sometimes doing things faster isn't always the best.

I just realized that I haven't given a lamb report for this spring! We had 6 ewes bred, but only 4 caught. One that didn't was a ewe that rejected one of her lambs last year, and then spent the winter bullying the other ewes, so she is being culled this fall. The other ewe that didn't lamb I think was just in too poor a condition last fall, and there was something else going on with her as well. I wormed her and gave her a tonic drench and extra Selenium-Vitamin E and she came through the winter OK. She was never really "sick", but I think her poor condition after lactation last year, probably combined with worms contributed to her lack of lambing this year. She looks great now of course and I expect will have no trouble getting pregnant this fall!

She spent half the summer stealing supplement rations from the lactating ewes and was then moved over to pasture where she has continued to thrive. I think that last year when I had all the lactating ewes and their lambs on pasture (thinking that would be the best thing for them) that they all got too thin due to the quality of the pasture available and for some reason it affected her the most. It's not the best pasture but is fine for maintaining non-lactating animals, and last year's too much rain/too little warmth didn't help the pasture grow well either. So this year I kept all the ewes with lambs here and they have been on hay and a ration of mixed soybean meal/alfalfa pellets/beet pulp pellets/Shepherd 16 and what little grass we have available, and they've all done much better.

Anyway, of the four ewes that did lamb, three had singles, and one had twins for a total of 5 lambs. Two are white, one is black, and we have one black mouflon and one black grey for a nice variety of color. All are horned. No moorit though, which is my favorite. I think we may be keeping the black ram lamb as a replacement ram, and the rest of the lambs are ewes and will probably all end up as freezer lambs if they aren't sold for breeding stock.

We are trying to cut our ewe flock back a bit so I have put some up for sale. We "should" have our newly cleared area fenced by next spring and we've been working hard to get grass growing in the new field. We even spread manure by hand, scooping it into the tractor's loader, driving it up to the field, and forking it out of the loader bucket and spreading it around. The soil isn't bad for NH, but every little bit of extra organic matter helps. We would like to be able to keep all of our sheep here, instead of having to put some of them on the borrowed pasture a few miles away, so having a slightly smaller ewe flock will help with being able to do that.

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Sharing ideas from our small farm in NH, where we raise Icelandic sheep and assorted poultry. We are members of ISBONA (Icelandic Sheep Breeders of North America) and the CLRC (Canadian Livestock Records Corporation). We also participate in the Voluntary Scrapie Flock Certification Program (NH54). Contact us at karen [at] birchtreefarm [dot] com. Please also visit the farm website at Birchtree Farm.
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