Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Black Hay

There's nothing better than smelling fresh cut hay and imagining a barn full of it. There is nothing worse than days of rain falling on fresh cut hay and turning it black with mold. It's enough to make you cry. Your neighbor too. She could smell that hay all the way up at her barn. I think I hear her crying now.

We've only tried for a second cutting of hay once before and, while it was hard to dry with the heavy dew of autumn, we got it in and were in love with our hay well into the winter. This year seemed auspicious. The year was late for hay but all the forecasters promised a late, dry fall, because we were owed a late, dry fall. What did they know?

Farmer Jones spent the summer irrigating day in and day out. When he couldn't do it he trained our buffed up high school neighbor to move the pipe and set the valves. The hay looked good but not that high when our farmer neighbor with the haying equipment stopped by. Did we want to cut yet? Was he going to? No, he wanted to wait a little for a taller grass. So did we. The forecasters had said it was going to be a late, dry fall.

Okay, so it wasn't. The first cut of hay is now all we have going into winter. I look at it this way. The horses and sheep don't know what they are missing because nothing was ever brought in. I hope that the wonderful hay sitting on the ground re-seeds the soil and we get another chance at two cuts next summer. Of course, it means more irrigation and no promises.

Next summer we won't be greedy. We will cut when the sky is still blue and the days are lengthening but not stormy. Unless, of course, the forecasters tell us it will be a late,dry fall. And we forget what we learned. And we smell that wonderful green hay and imagine what it would be like if it were just a few inches taller.

Photo: Irrigating the hay field one 20' pipe at a time. There are 16 to reach across the entire 8 acres. Farmer Jones moves them once a day.

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2010 Scottie Jones

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Monday, September 13, 2010

Tomatoes 1 Grapes 0

Every farmer I know is complaining about their gardens and fields this year. The long, cool, wet summer has stunted the growth of many plants, marked others with brown spots, and left the rest unripened. I understand the good year - bad year cycle but I am going into the second year with few apples and plums and absolutely no pears.

If you like green beans, this is your year. Every cool veggie is happy. It's way past time for grapes but they still hang green on the vine. It's time for tomatoes but they hang green even in the greenhouse. The ripening is so delayed that school has started and the canning has barely begun. This means everything is going to happen at once, I just know it!

I suppose it sounds like whining, but we have coined a phrase out here. It's called the 'burden of abundance'. I know it sounds absolutely horrible to feel overwhelmed with too much food, but there are times when I can't even see my counter space because it is loaded with perishable time bombs. Too many cucumbers all at once either mean hours canning or the chickens get the rotten ones. It's the same for the tomatoes when they finally ripen. Ah, but there is nothing better than a red, ripe tomato with a little olive oil and fresh basil. Okay, I can't wait for it, but I also know the canning process takes time and care.

In the end, because of the vagaries of the weather this summer, we will spend a winter eating green beans, some peas, chiles, and tomato sauce. How bad can that be? My freezer also has 2 lambs since we are still trying to decide if ram lambs taste any different from ewe lambs. I think they may be tougher but that's about it. The beef is all but gone, as is the pork. I think I spied some elk burgers and maybe a fish fillet or two. We have lots of potatoes as long as we can keep them from freezing this winter. Our onions are a bit problematic since I don't think we have totally figured out how to store them. The kiwis will be large, but not plentiful. Except, how many kiwis can you eat anyway. The figs have been made into jam.

Okay, so I guess the harvest hasn't been and won't be a total loss. With the grapes ripening late, I doubt the yellow jackets will be too bad. I wonder what the deer and bear will do without their fall fruit. Well, I know the deer are eating my flowers all around the house and grazing on the lawn at night, so that's their answer. Haven't seen any bears close by (or at all), so I won't worry there.

Tomato sauce will go well for the winter months and who likes picking the stems out of all those grapes for raisins anyway?

Photos: (top) greenhouse tomatoes on their way to ripening; (bottom) a one-day harvest, not counting what is sitting in the buckets all around the butcher block!

All Rights Reserved. Copyright 2010 Scottie Jones

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