Sunday, September 11, 2016

Last of the t-shirt weather

The last week was a real nice one.
A lot of sun, temperatures up and over 20C; it'll be the last of the t-shirt weather I suppose. The nights are getting pretty cold occasionally already. The 5C barrier has already been breached, but there's still a lot of warmth in the air left. We had a very windy day the other day, but even the wind was warm.
The swallows have all left a few days ago, but in their place flights of small birds, mostly finches, have taken their place and the looms.... they have the lakes all to themselves practically. It is getting quite. Next to no bird calls anymore. All the more noticeable was a group of red crossbills (Loxia curvirostra) that landed in the pine tree in front of our house.

September is blessing us with some serious after summer weather and that is good news for our "crops" too! And bad news as well.... We still harvest what modest, limited yields we can find in the garden, but one thing we have no lack of are caterpillars!!! Hundreds of 'em on all our cabbages... Brussels sprouts are practically gone, white and red cabbage look like they were on a firing range as the recipients of buckshot rounds and we were forced to harvest the kale, before that would be gone too. The only thing seemingly unaffected up till now is the savoy kale. They appeared within 48 hours or so.... Plus there are plenty of slugs too.
But our garden still is full of pleasant surprises too. We haven't actually paid any attention to our little greenhouse with peppers and tomatoes. Watering those was very cumbersome, the yield minimal and all the peppers succumbed to holeboring beetles. So we pretty much abandoned that project. However..... the tomatoes are going strong, despite not having received water in weeks!! I guess the copious amounts of rain, when it came, was sufficient to water the tomatoes from the underside. The greenhouse is located in a place where I know water gathers in spring, so I am guessing that enough moisture seeps under or comes up under the greenhouse to keep them alive and growing. We're having some fresh tomatoes after all. And 1 chilipepper. Yup. 1.
I also noted that there is a major difference in the plant beds. One was covered with old horse manure, containing a lot of woodchips. The other I created by layering cardboard and storebought plant soil. The manure has decayed away and has left a layer of woodchips, suffocating the underlaying seeds and weeds. The bed with the plant soil is overgrown and the tomatoes in that bed show some form of sickness. A bit of google-fu revealed that those apparently are ghost spots.

"White circular (halo) spots appear on the fruit and have been termed "ghost spots." These spots will persist and can appear on green, breaker, and mature fruit. As fruit ripens, the color of the halos changes from white to yellow. The "ghost-spot" symptom results from spore germination and penetration of the fruit, which is only susceptible to attack up to cherry size. As soon as the surface of the fruit is shiny, it is no longer susceptible. Penetration of the mycelium of Botrytis into the fruit produces a host reaction preventing any further growth of the mycelium and results in localization of the pathogen. The halo forms around the point of entry."

Another pleasant surprise was finding 2 plumbs!! Yes, one of the trees we planted last year bore 2 completely ripened fruits! And they were delicious! And gone before we could show them to anyone. My wife and I were in the garden looking around, making plans, when I spotted and picked them and they were gone, before the mrs. got the chance of stopping me, eating the very last bit of one of them. At least now we know the the fruit on those will ripen in time around here. The next pleasant surprise is the appletree we salvaged and planted this year. It had quite some fruit when we planted it, but I greatly reduced the numbers, only keeping a handful, so we could determine the sort. It appears to be a "rödluvan", a fresh, sour-sweet species with good taste and consistency, but not good for keeping. That means harvesting, eating or processing at once. Despite the dry summer the tree is looking good, as is the recently planted elderberry. I have to admit that my way of handling newly planted trees and shrubs goes against the usual recommendations of watering often and a lot. I do not. I water in the beginning, so the soil will settle around the roots, but that's it! I keep an eye of the plant to make sure it does not wilt and die, but I will only water when really needed and then I drench the spot, so the water goes down deep. My philosophy is that it is no good growing lazy plants. I force them to create roots, looking for water, not hand it out on a silver platter. That way the plants creates a firm root system, going deep, giving the tree or shrub a firm footing and more possibility of finding water deeper down in times of drought. It might not be as I think, but no tree or shrub has failed me yet.

I am hoping that the corn will ripen in time, but I am dubious on the poquito-beans. These are flowering right now, and although the bees are still out in force, I doubt the beans will be pollinated or even ripen, before the frosts come. And speaking of bees; planting the tagetes was a good thing! There hardly are any flowering plants around, but the tagetes is still all bloom and the bees are all over them. So for beekeepers that could mean an additional source of nectar in autumn, instead of heath and aphids. That might also be a reason why the bees are not so much into the feeding of sugar water. It takes a while for them to empty the 1.5l containers and I see many of them heading off in and coming back from different directions. So there still is food to be found elsewhere too.
And speaking of food we found elsewhere; I was planning on buying some Rosa rugosa plants, because they give many large rosehips, perfect for jams and drying, when suddenly my wife told me we have them in our garden? Turns out she came across some bushes, when strolling through the garden, after we had talked about the changing of the sewage system. They are hidden in the back of a forgotten corner of the garden..... not 10 meters from the house!! They are standing under a row of aspen, hidden behind a patch of wild raspberries and a rocky outcrop. They are not looking like they are thriving, but relocating them is no option. They have firmly rooted between roots and rocks. So I will prune them and clear som room over them. I also found 3 others on the very edge of our garden. Two of those were relocated to our foodgarden, to create a bit more diversity there and I added/relocated rhubarb and strawberries as well.
Because quite some digging will be done here shortly I started relocating decorative plants to the front of the house. All this means that there will be a concentration of decorative plants, of which a good deal is also usable as herb, tea or otherwise. Whilst digging up a white paeony, it fell apart into 3 separate clumps. The root system had been eaten by something, yet they were still ok. So now we have 3 white paeonies, which suits me just fine. I love those oldfashioned farmyard plants!

Harvesting is all fun and games, but it turns out we are not good in the following up on that, meaning processing the harvest. We regularly end up throwing fresh food away, because it takes too long for us to do anything with it. Now the reason for that, partially, is that the yield is very little or stretched out over a period, meaning it doesn't make sense to do each little batch by itself. Pickles for instance. Before we have gathered enough to make starting the canning process sensible, a lot of it has spoiled already. Our fridge is too small and our food cellar far to warm!
And truth be told we also lack discipline. The sense of necessity hasn't really sunken in yet and there are too many distractions elsewhere too. This homesteading-thing is being viewed upon as a nice hobby, instead of a chosen lifestyle...... And related to that there might be some very tough and far reaching decisions that will have to be made in the near future.... Winter is coming and it might be a long and dark one.

We attended a smallscale event on sustainability. Unfortunately is was too small scale. Little did we learn or find inspiration for. However we did have a nice chat with a local beekeeper, found out about a seemingly good alternative to conventional banks and their loanings ystem, which we really are going to look into and got to talk to Johan from and author from the olja för blåbär book. He made a stylish entree in a Tesla Model S! An electrical car and a kind of neat one too. Coming from a non-car-lover.....
I must admit there were tons of neat little gimmicks that are well thought through, like a huge led-display in the centre console and retracting handgrips, which reduce drag and thus fuel consumption, but on the other side to me it was a typical high class car; flashy, overly luxurious, maybe even a tad pompous and superfluous.... For me cars like these do NOT stand for sustainability. Cars and sustainability are contradictio in terminis to me to begin with. The development and production of such a car, not even to mention the development, construction and maintenance of the infrastructure to keep them going or even sell them, consume such vast amounts of resources and energy, that the reduced emission when driving one, can never, ever match it. Let alone outperform it. If you want a car AND (some form of) sustainability, keep the old ones going. Yes, they will emit far more noxious fumes per km, but they do not require huge amounts of raw materials to build, do not produce huge amounts of waste, while building AND will not create huge amounts of waste, when discarded for a new fancy, flashy one. Better still keep the old ones going that are still easily fixed by people themselves at home WITHOUT all that hightech gizmology, which only breaks down and can be fixed by specialists, keeping an entire, non-essential industry going and we all know who benefits from that....
However..... this little event did have some consequences for us. It cost us! Of course there were second hand sellers and we are always suckers for a good deal. One of those deals were 2 very fine real wool blankets. And some books.... on how to sow and grow from seed. How to harvest, keep and regrow. And a book on root cellaring and everything related. A book on framer's life in past centuries, so we can learn about their ways and culture. Our homesteading library is steadily growing and I am amazed, impressed and quite a bit daunted by the sheer amount of knowledge. How did people back in the day learn and know all this????? Perhaps specialisation within the family or even community?

For now I am very much  looking forward to the weekends of 24-25 september and 30 september to 3 october. The first will be the first national meeting of the bushcraft Sverige association and the other will be a visit to my buddy Odd in Norway. For both some interesting things appear to be planned.....

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