Dreaming of Future Crops & Farms

Autumn is here! Autumn is my special friend. The weather is finally starting to cool a little bit and we have had some much-needed rain. The plants and I are rejoicing. I’m sure the farmers are too. It is still going to take more rain to replenish the moisture levels in the soil though. We did very well with our house water tank this summer, not even getting below halfway. That was fantastic. The garden just suffered from lack of me watering it. Hand watering by hose or watering can is not an ideal watering system. Especially if you’re pregnant. Watering systems are something I will place more importance on in the future.

We got rain!

Things have been a bit slow lately since we’ve had some sickness in the household, but I’m clawing my way back once again. It’s hard not to feel frustrated when I keep getting whacked with sickness or other things on top of sinus and hayfever issues. And there are only so many things you can take to help when you’re pregnant. At least The Little Fulla was able to test out the efficacy of my homemade elderberry syrup. I’m glad we harvested and dried all those elderberries! It served him very well and he was bouncing off the walls in no time.

You will be able to tell by the end of this post that I’ve had a lot of thinking time. When I’m not able to keep my body and mind busy doing tasks I need to find things for my mind to do. Satisfying, useful things. Otherwise I get bored and restless. Sure, I can rest, but I can’t sit around all day without putting my mind to something useful. Welcome to the rabbit hole that is my mind…

In the times when I can’t get much done physically, I am knitting and cramming my head with homesteading education. I have knitted 11 squares of the Log Cabin Rug now. There are more to do but I’m taking a wee break to do some baby knitting. I can’t help it. The urge to knit baby things has arrived. First up is a hat for someone else’s baby. Then there will be a hat for Little Seedpod. Then a baby wrap for Little Seedpod. I can see my knitting plans going out the window already.

The Log Cabin Rug is slowly turning into a rug once again. Can you spot the mistake square? I think it was the first one I did however many years ago when I started.

I have been learning all sorts of things that are useful now or will be useful to know for our future bigger property. I am aware of how much I still have to learn: A LOT. So I am doing my homework now; everything from keeping pigs to using swales to food forests to the importance of having biomass plants to make more compost to pasture management and rotational grazing. Even when I can’t think clearly enough to write well I can somehow absorb information from a video about how to butcher a pig. Yup, I really am weird. I’m getting a better idea of how many of different kinds of animals we could sustainably run on a given property size, which makes me think about what we really want to have/do and what size property to look for. It could be a while away yet, I don’t know. But I would rather learn in the present to avoid mistakes in the future.

At the same time, Justin Rhodes is teaching me to think about what I’m doing with what I’ve got now and to focus on maxing out this property while we’re here. I know I’ve maxed out in what I can do with chickens (wayyy out), but I haven’t quite maxed out with how many edibles I can grow. And I definitely haven’t maxed out on developing well-organised, efficient infrastructure, particularly in the garage. The key lies in balancing time spent focussing on dreams for the future and time spent focussing on what can be done now. And looking at all of it through the lens of what I have the capacity for, which is currently on the decrease in terms of physical tasks.

Back to doing things. The Husband and the Little Fulla dug up the rest of the potatoes, without too many casualties. The Little Fulla continues to help me harvest tomatoes, beans and ground cherries. He is also the self-appointed raspberry picker once again. At least some make it into the house. We have had a few apples from each of the young trees and now the apples on the mature, unknown tree are ripening. We are well into the pears as well. I like pipfruit season.

The Tollis Red peppers are picked when needed. The psyllids are here and wreaking havoc on some of the tomato and pepper plants now, but many of the tomato plants have finished or were starting to struggle anyway. I evidently got the tomatoes in early enough to avoid too much loss from the psyllids sucking on and spreading diseases to the tomatoes. We are still harvesting, chopping and freezing tomatoes though. The Tollis Red peppers are a bit hard hit so I’m thinking about getting fine netting to cover them in future. And some to cover the brassicas to protect them from the notorious white cabbage moths. That led to research about netting and hoops and how much we might need before I came back to the present.

I got the late batch of bush bean seedlings planted out to hopefully get a harvest before the weather gets too cold. The fast-climbing Blue Shackamaxon seeds did not germinate well in their seed tray. After looking at the packet I realised the seeds were a bit old, so I mixed the remaining ones with some seeds I had saved and planted them directly in the garden bed. Hopefully they’ll have enough time to grow.

While the summer beans are gone or on the way out, the autumn beans are going in.

I have also been thinking a lot about what to grow next season and what, if any, seeds to buy, which is an ongoing discussion with myself. It is the grounded, sensible, you’re-having-a-baby side versus the curious, visionary, over-motivated-for-my-circumstances side. There are three vegetable crops that I particularly wanted to explore more varieties of next season. However, the wisdom of lowering my expectations in the wake of having a baby is starting to kick in. Sometimes.

The first vegetable, unsurprisingly, is tomatoes. Again. More varieties, more goodness to investigate.

The second crop is beans. I’ve delved into the knowledge of heritage bean varieties and I am quite smitten by all the different colours and properties of the swathe of heritage beans that haven’t previously been available here. I am particularly interested in climbing varieties to get bigger yields while using less space. I’ve liked growing them up the wire mesh trellises but there are also other options: bamboo obelisks, up the corn stalks and even up strings like the tomato trellis system we’re using this season. It’s no wonder that sometimes when I close my eyes I can see little collections of beans in a fascinating array of colours and patterns…

The third vegetable I would like more varieties of is peppers. A few years ago I branched out from growing classic bell peppers plus one hot pepper variety to include a paprika pepper. A couple of years ago I added in Tollis Red, a heritage sweet pepper with fantastic flavour. Now there are a bunch of different peppers I want to try. And we definitely need to grow more peppers for eating and preserving for later use. Yet I have decided to shelve getting any new pepper varieties for the coming season. I will work with what I’ve got.

In terms of tomatoes and beans, well, they’re not exactly heading for the shelf. I sent away to Heritage Food Crops Research Trust to get free tomato and bean seeds, for the cost of postage back to me. The parcel of great expectancy arrived on the weekend and I was as excited as a cat with a mouse to receive five varieties of gold/orange tetra-cis-lycopene tomatoes and 10 varieties of heritage beans!

One of the tomato varieties has very high levels of tetra-cis-lycopene, the much more easily absorbed, highly beneficial form of lycopene. It has more than twice as much as King’s Gold, which we grew this season. It is called Golden Bell. The other varieties we got are: Golden Light, Olga’s Round Golden Chicken Egg, Tangella and Golden Grape. Since I want to try all of them next season I will be cutting some of this season’s varieties from the grow list.

The bean varieties we got are all climbers that I requested after trawling through their list of varieties. I wasn’t expecting to get 10 though! We have:

  • Apache Red
  • Duokoboi
  • Fat Goose
  • Flagg
  • Genuine Cornfield (Scotia / Striped Creaseback / Rattlesnake)
  • Good Mother Stallard
  • Hidatsa Shield Figure
  • Holy Climbing (Angel Bean)
  • Ojo de Cabra (Goat’s Eye)
  • Bi-colour Pean (Pea Bean / Abenaki Pean)

I’m really looking forward to growing all these beans. I just have to plan how and where to grow them all.

Some of the bean varieties we grew this season.

Also, before all this, I bought some seed garlic. Yes, I am going to try garlic again. Well, I might as well bung something slow and low-maintenance in the garden to grow while the baby is coming, right?

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