Every year, I write a post on the lessons we learned on the homestead.
Every year we make mistakes.
Every year catastrophes beyond our control occur.
But, every year we come away from the season with many triumphs and a slew of lessons learned.
I’m pleased with the when and how we started seeds this year. I started the first round in the basement under the grow lights.
Then, my neighbor graciously offered space in his new greenhouse for me to start the rest.
We had some seedlings that didn’t make it far, but were happy with the overall result. I’m determined to have brussel sprouts and cauliflower one of these years.
I’m still miffed at the damage the Japanese Beetles did to the apple tree, kiwi, cherry trees and seaberries this year.
Last year, the prairie grasses and borage kept them far away from all of our trees and hedge.
Perhaps they grew wise to our traps.
Next year, we’ll have to try using a product like Grub Guard early in the season to prevent them from hatching.
We tried to stay ahead of the squash bugs by squishing eggs before they had a chance to hatch. It was a morning ritual for the boys and me to don gloves and hunt for eggs on the underside of the leaves.
As the summer stretched out, they became more aggressive and we became lazier. When I saw that they were crawling all over the pumpkins, I decided enough was enough and harvested all that were ready, taking the rest out to the chickens.
We learned quite a bit this year about the temperament of chickens. Never a very friendly brood, they turned even nastier when new hens were introduced.
Trying to integrate nine new birds into the existing flock was challenging, frustrating and at times brutal. They originals fought, bullied and intimidated the youngsters to no end.
When the new hens were fully grown the brutality increased. Now, every hen save one, is scarred with feathers missing.
Our plan is to keep 6 birds through the winter and butcher the rest. We’ll start our new chicks in February and, once they start laying, butcher the last of the old hens.
We lost a few ladies this year, and unfortunately they were two of the new ones.
We are still not sure what happened, but we went from 15 to 13 birds in the span of a day.
I still think the other hens had something to do with the killings, but we will never really know.
I love volunteers. They are some of the strongest plants, and they produce some of the best and largest tomatoes.
That being said, I’ll have to pay a little more attention and work a little harder to transplant and pull them out next year. They took over the kitchen garden and choked out the peppers and carrots.
I love tomatoes, but a few more peppers and more than three carrots would have been nice.
I will be the first to admit that I was sceptical when Ray started to dig the pond, but once it filled with rainwater, I saw all of the benefits of having a new ecosystem on our property and another spot to collect rainwater.
By adding this feature, we are adding more biodiversity to our property. We’re letting Nature do what she’s meant to do.
Next year, we will dig it out a little bit more and start to line it with rock so it can hold water for more than just a month or so.
The seed scattering we did this year finally paid off, albeit late in the season.
We scattered seeds in the wake of the chicken tractor on the freshly fertilized and scratched up ground.
We threw seeds on the berm of the pond and peppered the swales with the mix.
We spread the mix where ever there was bare dirt.
And recently, we saw the results.
We lost two, maybe three, autumn olives this year. It was a particularly sad and puzzling loss as these are supposed to be so hardy and invasive.
To make up for this betrayal, the two that are still standing produced bright red berries for the first time.
We had so much fun harvesting them and eating them.
We also harvested grapes for the first time this year. I don’t think we would have had enough for wine or even to juice, but we sure did enjoy picking them and eating them out of hand.
The boys especially.
We had many other small losses and wins, but overall we had a great season.
Time passes swiftly
Boys get older and stronger
Nature gets her way
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Did you let the chickens take on the squash bugs or do they not like to eat them?
In the beginning, we picked them off and dropped them in warm water and let the chickens pick them out of the dish. A tasty snack! Then, when the invasion got away from us, we let them in the squash bed and they had a blast feasting on them.