They're done!!!!!!!!!! Lots of sweat and sore shoulders & wrists but the two high tunnels are finished! Only one gets the plastic before winter as I wanna see how they manage the snow before going all in but the fully covered one will be all ready for early, early spring plantings of many things that are too tall for the little tunnels. (think LOTS more flowers for much longer :) )
Also, work has begun on a carport/lean-to addition to the barn (by professionals, not me). There is never enough space for storage so this will be a great help. Since it will have a concrete slab, it will also be a super awesome place to construct more chicken huts & runs and any other projects that benefit from having a perfectly level surface to work on that is out of the snow in winter and the sun in summer.
The chickens continue their long slowdown of laying while molting, so eggs will be much thinner than normal for the next few weeks. The cold doesn't help either and if the forecast for lows below freezing most nights and into the low 20's holds, I will be running many extension cords to power their heat lamps through the nights to help keep their bare toushies toasty warm until all their feathers return.
That same forecast means the end is nearly here for the fresh flower season. I am heavy harvesting before the potential snow comes this weekend and many plants won't mind a bit of a chill under their little tunnels but the exposed sunflowers and delicate dahlias & nasturtiums will succumb to its icy grip. A few wreaths, made from flowers dried in summer, have already made appearances at the markets and I will have more this week and those hereafter so that a little bit of a reminder of the summer sun can shine all winter long.
And don't forget that this Friday is the Apple Festival at Troy and the market starts early! From 2-630pm there will be lots of great stuff to see and do, and live music too!
Since they don't have doors at the ends like normal high tunnels, access to the inside is via the sides, the same way they are vented during sunny days. The plastic is ruched up and held at whatever height I like by some nifty movable clips. The final step for the fall is to return the tarps to their locations to ensure a weed-free, wonderful planting surface come next spring!
The base for the carport's slab has been prepped and hopefully getting some concrete later today! It is the full length (40') of the barn and 20' wide. The butterflies enjoy sipping some moisture from the warm gravel base, while the chickens are left to look on with jealousy as this was the former site of their compost pile (which was moved for future sifting and applying to beds) and they have to remain locked up until it is finished since they would immediately run over and disturb the lovely, level gravel.
Hella decided to enjoy the relative warmth of the Dragon Dome high atop the leaning ladder (which she then proceeded to chase her tail under). She was promptly removed by use of a smaller ladder since the likely outcome was either her crashing it into the tomato vines or her landing onto the junk atop the seed starting table below. Neither eventuality did I look forward to. Mischief managed.
What's available this weekend?
Work on the two high tunnels is moving forward with the next big step the setup of all the bows and assembly of the purlins and other supports that help keep it up through wind and snow. The goal is to get the two frames up and at least one covered in its plastic before the end of September and my help returns to warmer climes.
The hens are enjoying their outings in the afternoon sunshine as they continue their molting. It will take up to three months for all of them to finish as they kinda do it on their own time and in their own way. Some drastically drop chunks of feathers and get it over in a flash, while others take the long game approach. During this time I switch part of their feed over to chick starter/grower feed instead of layer. The extra protein helps them grow strong, healthy feathers with less stress on their little bodies. I'll also give them some yummy dried grub treats that pack a big punch of protein, vitamins, and minerals! They are $$ but the investment now ensures the hens stay warm, dry, and comfortable through the long winter and cool all next summer.
The last variety of Lily, Rio Negro, will be available this week in bouquets! The fresh flower season is quickly approaching its end, but I am also busy making wreaths and other goodies from dried flowers that were saved this summer and will have floral beauties on hand through the end of market season!
As hunting season is upon us and it is the very busiest time of year on my road, safety comes first with making Hella, the black and gray tabby, AKA Shadow Kitty, bear the indignity of some bright, reflective collars so she can be seen by all motorists. Orange seemed like an appropriate one to start with and as she tends to lose one every other day, she will be glad to know that I got a pack of 10 and only need a flashlight to help me find them in the woods and weeds.
What's available this weekend?
The three 'T's of weed control, tillers, tarps, & time. They work wonders, especially on grass. I know because last year I tested it and covered a few rows with solid, black silage tarp. All the farmer blogs, books, videos say it works but sometimes you gotta see for yourself that it works in your context. Those few rows stayed over 95% weed & grass free for the whole season with only a few unnecessary plants popping up that blew in or jumped over from neighboring rows. Thus, any unplanted or fallow ground will be tarped for the winter and together with other methods I should have a very weed free next season.
Each week now sees more tasks and items on the to do list that have to do with prepping the farm for winter, as well as next season, as the cool weather slows down more and more crops and foretells the impending hard frosts and freezes to come that truly mean the end. It is an introspective time for making notes of what worked and what didn't, what hopes there are for next year and what needs to be avoided.
But the farm isn't totally done yet as the potatoes are being dug and the flowers keep pushing hard to finish blooming amid the cool mists of morn and evening and midday as the need to raise their little tunnels up becomes less and less so that they stay cozy and dry all day and night.
This week I'll be at the Kootenai Harvest Festival on Saturday at the Riverfront Park. It's a great event with music, food, kids activities, and many local vendors or all kinds of goodies! I hope to see you there!
What's available this weekend?
As the nights get longer and colder, the harvesting gets more urgent and I start to look at the little buds and leaves that are still growing and give them little peps talks to hurry up! In the coming weeks, I will be putting most of the planting beds to rest for the season. A few will be planted in some biennial/perennial seedlings that were started from seed in mid-summer and others will be cover cropped or planted with cold-tolerant veg and flowers to test what can survive.
The tufts of feathers that appear in the and around the coops have begun. It always makes my heart race for a moment thinking that some predator must have gotten in during the night, but a quick head count (and a reminder that this happens every year) assuages my anxiety since it is just the chickens dropping their old and worn out feathers as new ones come in. It doesn't hurt to be cautious though as excess feathers around is also a main sign of predator attacks.
Fall is also when the hawks make a renewed attempt to snatch up a tasty bird, but so far no sign of them, but their cousin, a Great Horned Owl, did stop by a few times one night and chose to perch on top of the guinea fowl run which they informed me about very urgently, so I ran out into the dark, prepared for battle with an unknown foe. Only to run about the barnyard flapping my arms about until the owl left. It was most likely after the many rodents that I reluctantly share the field and farm with but they don't discriminate between tiny prey (rats) and not as tiny prey (chicken) and it is hard to ignore the very urgent cries of a guinea fowl at 2am even if I know they are all locked away safe in their huts and runs for the night. I tried asking it nicely to perch elsewhere in the field, as then the guineas probably wouldn't raise a fuss, but I don't think it understood.
It may look like Iris the Golden Girl has fallen down and can't get up, instead she is 'sunning' where a chicken lists over to one side and stretches out her leg (sometimes her wing as well). They often do this in the first warmth of the morning sun but also while dust bathing as a measure of using the sun to help keep their feathers clean of icky bugs and parasites.
What's available this weekend?
I'm Farmer Megan with a life full of cackles, clucks, quacks, weeds, crazy kitten, and one tiny, senior, blind dog.