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Autumn Yawning

"Autumn. . . the year's last, loveliest smile" ~William Cullen Bryant~

Black Swallowtail caterpillar in our parsley patch
The signs of autumn are beginning to appear. Slowly, without urgency, the trees are beginning to lose their summer green to the more pronounced pageantry of fall. It began as a slow trickle with only a leaf or two showing any signs of moving toward the season of harvest and now the transformation is widespread and apparent. Before we know it the hills with be alive with crimson, gold and maroon foliage.
Though there is certainly some time left in the garden for things such as harvesting herbs and peppers the weather is changing and with it another season begins to show signs of slumber.

It was a peculiar year. I hesitate to complain due to the massive droughts being experienced out west but this was one of the wettest years I remember. I am shocked that it has not resulted in any flooding as it has in the past. I mention the moisture not to point out that I literally only had to water my garden twice this year but as an obstacle. Mold was a devastating side effect this year. I lost a number of crops that are normally very hardy to the relentless rain. In turn it became a haven for insects and other critters that enjoyed munching on my crops.

I also learned the hard way how critical ones health is on their homestead. I have experienced some growing pains this year which at times made it very difficult to keep up with my responsibilities for weeks on end. This of course effected the crops as well.

With that said on some level it may have been one of the more successful years we have experienced. We added new items such as grape vines and apple trees. We were able to see the results of all the rabbit manure in the plots. The chickens provided us with ample entertainment and food. Our berry patches, in particular the blackberries and raspberries, were wildly productive. Even our old apple tree decided to fruit this year!

There were lessons learned, as is the case every year. It would seem that for the most part cherry tomatoes are far more disease resistant and better producers on our homestead. I need to stay extra active during rainy weather to make sure the chicken run does not smell bad. I also need to establish a better flower bed closer to the main crops that produces flowers all throughout the gardens life. It seems that the crops flower as the flowers are growing and then by the time the bulk of the flowers appear most of the produce has run its course.

Our famous Titan sunflowers 
In regards to the positive, the stone beds that we created over the last year or two made it far easier to weed and stay on top of responsibilities when my focus was on their maintenance.

At this point we are keeping an eye on the late season crops such as pumpkins and ground cherries. We are doing this while we close down sections of the garden that will now be heavily composted with rabbit and chicken manure until next spring.

I am hoping to get together with a friend in a month or two and extend the chicken run a few extra feet for the birds. Maybe this will allow us to have a couple of broilers in a separate space next spring. We have some shuffling to do with the rabbits now that we have been given another prize buck. I am also researching quail. I would really like to have a few on the Whitaker homestead.

As autumn quietly stretches in the shadows of summer I try to take the time to listen to the crickets serenade as they crown the evenings with song. It has been a tough year. But I learned a lot and it will only make me a better person and in regards to this blog a better homesteader.

Tobias Whitaker blogs for Mother Earth News and Grit Magazine. Click on the Mother Earth News logo at the bottom of the page for all of his post. You can also find him on Facebook at Seed To Harvest: Bossy Hen Homestead which is a central location for his homesteading blogs and his homeschooling blog, A Mile In Her Shoes: Tales Of A Stay-At Home Dad found here 


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