End of the Line

Last night temperatures here dropped into the low 20s overnight — and for many hours. That’s officially the end of the growing season, as you can see by the state of this butternut squash vine:

It was quite a cold morning, and the frost stayed on everything well after the sun came up. It was quite pretty, too:

We had already picked our tender fruits last week in response to an (unwarranted) frost warning, so all we had to do last night was put up a few last tunnels over some of our greens:

We tossed an old army blanket over the beets and cut a last harvest of Swiss chard. I left the celery alone, and it doesn’t seem much worse for wear this morning — it’s pretty tough. Still, we should probably bring it in by tomorrow, since the cold looks to be getting worse before it will get better. 
After a very warm fall, it looks like fall is here to stay.

Last Harvest

Earlier this week we had a frost advisory. I didn’t think we’d actually have a frost — and I was right — but it’s still a good idea to bring in the last of the tender crops just in case.

This meant bringing in several ripe eggplants, along with the remaining bell peppers, jalapeños, and anchos. We also ended up pulling out the last broccoli and cauliflower plants this week, since they are completely spent and have succumbed to aphids (ditto on our Brussels sprouts, which is total bummer — we didn’t get any).

We also brought in what was left of our tomatoes, which are in varying stages of ripening. We may just wait for them to turn red, or we could make a green tomato pie. It seems a little silly to bake anything with 20 pounds of a trick-or-treat candy haul lying around, but you never know. 
We also covered over our green for winter though those tunnels are open again now. It was actually quite warm for the rest of the week, and we had a pretty visitor:

Our chrysanthemums do well eve…

"Both Sides of My Skin" Pre-Order Available!

When I was still teaching, I was faced with getting an obligatory master’s degree. All public school teachers in Massachusetts have to do this eventually to keep their licensure up to date, but it’s an awful lot of work to go back to school while still teaching school.

And for an English teacher (which I was for eight years), it’s kind of a nightmare. No one works harder than a high school English teacher. It’s a never-ending cavalcade of shit in the form of a bottomless stack of (terrible) papers to grade. When you layer additional coursework and research papers on top of that, you might as well kiss your sanity goodbye.

So I thought that choosing the Creative Writing concentration of an English M.A. would at least make it more fun and provide a layer of personal fulfillment to the mix. As long as I had to shell out thousands of dollars and hours for an advanced degree, I might as well enjoy it, right?

So that’s what I did. It was still a shit-ton of work, but when it was over I had…

Autumn Apple Cake

We’ve had a bumper crop of small but serviceable Gala apples this year, but this is not a variety that stores for very long. That means we have to make a whole lot of applesauce and find other ways to eat them up before they become a fruit fly infested mess.

Enter the apple cake:

Last weekend Kirk made this cake courtesy of his friend Tressa’s recipe, and it is delicious. It’s like a nice, dense pound cake with layers of lightly spiced apples throughout:

The photo above is of my breakfast leftover portion, but the original was also served with some vanilla custard poured over the top. It’s the perfect fall treat! 
Tressa’s Apple Cake
Ingredients: 2 tsp. cinnamon5 Tbsp. sugar3 cups flour1 3/4 cups sugar3/4 cup vegetable oil3 large eggs2 1/2 tsp. vanilla3 tsp. baking powder1/2 cup orange juice4-5 large apples, peeled, cored and sliced Directions: Stir together cinnamon and 5 Tbsp. sugar. Sprinkle mixture over sliced apples and toss together in a large bowl.In a large mixing bowl, stir tog…

And Now for Something Completely Different...

In non-gardening news, I wrote a book. And it has a cover:

This book has nothing to do with gardening. Instead it’s a collections of short stories that I actually wrote quite a while ago as part of my master’s thesis. It’s due out from Annorlunda Books in December. 
I’ll keep you posted on where you can pre-order (should you be so inclined) starting in November!

A Tale of Two Beehives

Back in August, our bees swarmed and broke themselves into a new hive. I caught the swarm and Kirk built a new top bar hive to house them. Since then, we’ve had two side-by-side hives. 
We helped the new hive get started by feeding them some simple syrup so they’d have extra energy to build all the new honey comb they need. I’m not sure they needed our help, though. They built comb super-fast, and they now have 11 or 12 bars completely drawn in the space of just five weeks.
It’s pretty clear that when the original hive swarmed, they sent out their best and brightest: all workers, and lots of them. We were worried about the new group having enough time to get their house in order for the winter, but they’re doing really well:

This is just one of many combs that is heavily laden with honey. Capped honey (the white part at the top) is ready to go for their winter reserves. The center (where most of the bees are) is full of nectar that is ripening and should be capped soon. The bottom pa…

Goodbye, Lizzie

On Tuesday Kirk went out to look for eggs and found Lizzie lying on the ground underneath the ramp to the henhouse. So he had to go out in the rain and bury her back on the hill. Though the other hens left her body alone, it’s not really the kind of thing that can wait for a sunny day.
You may recall that Lizzie was a very troublesome bird. She had a bad habit of pecking at her own feathers, to the point that her back and butt were totally bare. Painting Blu-Kote on her skin to protect it was always an adventure. Note the gloves in the photo below:

She hated me and tried to attack me every chance she got. I don’t think the other chickens liked her much, but they seemed to mostly ignore her. She wasn’t a great layer, either.
Still, we’re surprised she’s gone, because I sort of figured she’d live forever just to spite me. On Monday we noticed that her comb was droopy, but we figured she was just molting. By Tuesday she was dead, and we don’t know why. She could have had an infection fr…