Harvest in the Fall

We’ve been waiting for the brussels sprouts to get bigger, but it seems that they’ve grown as much as they are going to.

The boys were excited to harvest them and, truth be told, so was I.


I have purchased fresh brussels sprouts, still on the stalk, at the store. Our stalks are larger and taller but our sprouts are smaller than storebought.


I worried that they were not ripe, but the leaves were starting to spread so we tasted one…or two…or three.

They were delicious and sweet, with a slight bite. Joe absolutely loved them. He could not stop eating the ‘baby cabbages’.


While harvesting these tiny wonders, we found some kale ready to pick.

I’d forgotten that I’d planted it so it was a nice surprise and, since it is soup season, will be a tasty addition to vegetable chicken soup.


There were also cherry tomatoes red and sweet on the vine and a random cucumber, but the kale and brussels sprouts were the most exciting fall harvest.


Pumped up by our discoveries, we prowled the homestead in search of more produce ready to pick.

We were rewarded. Our autumn olive had red and pink berries that were sweeter and slightly bigger than last year’s crop.


They were only on one side of the shrub though. The other side is all new growth thanks to the ice storm that split the plant in two last year. I’m just happy that it grew back instead of dying.

The boys burrowed in and refused to leave until they picked and ate all of the ‘delicious berries’.

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Next, we harvested ‘a few’ Jerusalem artichokes.

My niece and I spent an hour or so digging them up, but we barely made a dent.


There are so many still in the ground and I don’t know what I am going to do with all of them.

I froze around half of what we collected, but freezing them changes the consistency. They’ll be mushy so I’ll have to mash the frozen ones in with potatoes and puree them into soups.

They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks so I’ll be sharing them with friends and family.

I’m not too worried about how far they’ve spread. The yellow flowers are beautiful and the tall green stems lovely.

Plus, we do have several acres for them to spread and pop up and we may be able to sell some of them next year.


In all, we’ve had a successful fall harvest. Now on to planting garlic before the ground freezes.

Some kale right here
Some berries there
Artichokes are everywhere

Sprouts all around
More than a pound
I’ll roast ’em ’til they’re crisp and brown

Fall veggies grow
Until there’s snow
And bitter winds howl loud and blow

Saving Seeds…Finally

We always say we are going to save seeds.

We know it will save us money.

We know the plants grow well with our soil.

We know the saved seeds will be unique. They’ve adapted to our growing conditions and there will never be another seed quite like it.

Yet each year, time gets away from us. By the time we remember that we planned to save seeds…it’s too late. Or at least, we think it is.

But this year, we actually did save seeds.

Okra seeds.

Okra seeds, along with pea and bean seeds are some of the easiest seeds to save.

First, just let the pods dry on the plant. When they turn brown and start to split at the ridges, cut them off, open them up and shake the seeds out. Let them dry for a few days and, voila! They are ready to store.


So far, we’ve saved seeds from three large pods and filled a small medicine bottle.


Old prescription bottles are one of the best containers for seed saving. They are easy to label and easy to store in neat little rows.

Sunflowers are also good candidates for saving, although there are a few more steps involved.

Tomato seeds are a bit easier than sunflower seeds, and pepper seeds even easier…at least there are fewer steps involved.

Since we ate the three peppers that actually made it this year (slight exaggeration), and our tomatoes were devoured by the chickens, the okra seeds…and maybe marigolds…are the only ones we’ll save this year.

At least it’s a start!

What seeds do you save?

So easy to save
Okra and marigold seeds
Cut, shake, dry and save

The Bug House

Every day Joe finds a caterpillar or worm to add to the bug house.

The tiny space is almost at full capacity and soon, we will have to build on an addition to make more room.

“I have to put them in here because they won’t survive the winter.”


But, don’t they? Don’t they find some way to survive the Winter, at least as eggs or larvae, to be born again in the Spring?

Of course they do! But…how?

We were both curious, so we googled it and looked it up in our bug books.


And guess what? Bugs don’t just survive the winter as eggs or larvae.

Some, like the Monarch butterfly, migrate to avoid the cold.

Others, like the ladybug, hibernate. They stack themselves up on logs and under rocks, sharing heat and creating a buffer against the wind. How cool is that!?


Grasshoppers bury their eggs under the soil to protect them from the cold.

Still others, like Japanese beetles and water insects, survive winter as grubs or larvae, under the surface of the ground or underwater.

So this winter, the bug hunters will be active. We will look for ladybug towers and search for beehives. And in the Spring we’ll be digging up those Japanese beetle grubs and feeding them to the chickens.






Blue’s Clues

“Baaaawwwk, bawk-bawk!”

Jake jumped up from the couch and raced to the back door.

“Blue’s doing it again!”

His dad came racing. “Get the gloves!”

His mom came rushing. “Nab the nets!”


They ran out the back door into the sunlight, slipping on gloves and lifting up nets.

“Baaawwwk, bawk-bawk!”

“I think she’s over there,” Jake whispered, pointing to the tall grass behind the shed.

“I think she’s over here,” Dad said, pointing under the deck.

“No! She’s under there!” Mom shouted, pointing to the thorny rosebush.

They ran to the rose bush, but instead of Blue the Hen, all they found was a leaf.

Jake reached through the thorny roses with his gloved hand and picked it up.


“It smells like mint.”

“The first clue,” said Mom. “There’s mint in the vineyard!”

They searched through the mint that carpeted the vineyard, but all they found was a tomato.

“The second clue,” said Dad. “There are tomatoes in the garden!”

They scanned the garden, but all they found was a sunflower under the cherry tomatoes.

“The third clue,” said Jake. “There are sunflowers in the pasture!”

They scoured the pasture, but all they found was a small screwdriver.

“What could this mean?” asked Jake.

Dad shrugged his shoulders.

Mom scratched her head.

“Baaawwwk, bawk-bawk!”

They all raced toward the sound of the squawk.

“Baaawwwk, bawk-bawk!”

“It’s coming from the garage!” said Jake.

Mom, Dad and Jake all walked into the garage.

Dad groaned.

Mom gasped.

Jake giggled.

There sat Blue the Hen, right in the middle of the toolbox, surrounded by 6 fluffy, yellow chicks.

“We found where she’s been laying her eggs,” said Jake, looking at Mom.

“We certainly did,” said Mom, smiling at Dad.

“We certainly did!” said Dad, shaking his head.

“Cheep, cheep, cheep!”


The Alarm Cluck

Ray and I were sleeping soundly when the first alarm went off.


It was 5am.

On a Saturday.

The sun was nowhere in sight. The sky was dark, dark, dark.

By the time the sun finally broke the horizon, Pecky had been crowing for an hour…maybe more…every 3-5 minutes.



Yet, he doesn’t just crow at daybreak.

He crows when a car pulls in the driveway.

He crows when the Schwan’s man gets out of his truck.

He crows when we walk out with food and water, when we open the door and whenever he feels like it.

He’s territorial, protective and…maybe a little vain.

“Co-co-co-roo! Look what I can do!”

Now, apparently, he feels like crowing at 5am. On a Saturday.

Why does he do this?

Because there’s a change in the environment.

Because his internal clock is finally ticking.

Because he’s announcing to the homestead that he is here…just in case we forgot.

So when we want to get up early, we leave the door to the coop open. He’s able to strut down the ramp and wake us up.

But, when we want to sleep in, we shut the door at night.

He’s probably still crowing, but it’s muffled.

And…as soon as we open the door in the morning…he’s out and crowing his little chicken heart out.

Look what I can do!
Through the night and day
I have much to say

Look Mom!

Joe came running up to the house with a ‘surprise’ hidden behind his back.

“You are not going to believe this!”

He slowly pulled his arms around and revealed a small pumpkin. The look on his face, the light in his eyes and the excitement rolling off of him in waves was so contagious.

It was a small pumpkin, but we carved it and roasted the seeds while talking about how it got there when we didn’t plant it.


We really didn’t plant pumpkins this year. Not in the garden, not in the vineyard and definitely not in the swales.

But last year, we did throw a seed mix down behind the chickens as we moved them through the swales. And we did feed them kitchen scraps.


Joe and I went walking in the swales to see what else we could find.

We found red and yellow raspberries…ripe and ready to eat. They were hidden in the tall grass and they were oh-so-sweet and yummy!

We found lettuce and mint growing wild.

We found wild mulberry trees.

There is SO much abundance on our land!

We’ve guerilla gardened in our own backyard with seed bombs and chickens.

We’ve forgotten what we planted and transplanted.

We’ve let Nature do that thing she does so well…grow. We’ve created a food forest for our boys to explore.

“Look Mom, raspberries!”

“Look Mom, chocolate mint!”

Look Mom…joy.


Pumpkins in the swales
Foraging our own backyard
Sweet berries and mint

The New Nest

Sometimes I feel sorry
For our poor hen Blue
She wanders ’round the homestead
Looking sad and…blue

She tries to join her old flock
Those mean and brutal hens
The older ones are heartless
They chase her from their pen


But then, when I’m most saddened
By her mournful cries
We find where she’s been laying
The eggs that we most prize

Behind the fragrant roses
We see her little clutch
And if we really want them
The thorns we’ll have to touch

It’s then I’m not too sorry
For her lonely plight
She’s repaid our love and kindness
With little thorny bites



I love brussel sprouts…especially fresh.

For the past three years I’ve tried to grow them without success. The ones I started indoors never made it much past the seedling stage and the ones I direct sowed never sprouted.

But just look at them!


I didn’t do anything different this year except get a really, really good seed starting mix. One of the plants survived my winter sowing experiment, one was started indoors and one was from a nursery.

They are all almost ready to harvest!

What are our plans for these gorgeous sprouts?

We are going to roast them with garlic and olive oil, mix in a bit of bacon and then sprinkle the whole thing with parmesan.


The sprouts have grown tall
Each one large, green and gorgeous
Roast ’em and enjoy!

The Bike Ride

I learned to ride my bike today,
Please come outside and see!
My brother wants to do it too,
So he can be like me!

Watch me pedal down the lane
I can go so fast!
See this trick that I can do?
I’m having such a blast!

Can I go out in the road?
Can I show my friends?
I cannot wait to show them all
I hope this ride won’t end!

I want to ride it to the store
I want to ride it far
Look I’m riding in the grass!
I’m faster than a car!

This is so fun, this is so great
I love to ride my bike
Will you come and ride with me?
I’ll lend you my old trike!

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Swaying in the Breeze

The Jerusalem artichokes are absolutely gorgeous this year.

We harvested very few last year so it seems they’ve doubled.


They are even growing in the old compost pile and another spot about 20 ft away from the original cluster. At first I couldn’t figure out how they got there.

Then I remembered.

The first year we planted them, we harvested quite a few and set them in the basement to dry and preserve them. We left them too long and they ended up shriveling so I threw them in the compost pile.

In doing a bit of research, I found that they can also spread underground up to 60 ft away from the original planting.

Resilient little buggers!

A blur of yellow buds
Swaying gently
Tall and majestic


The whirring of leaves
Swishing softly
Bright and lovely


The soft tickle of flowers
Brushing lightly
Calm and soothing