Summer is coming to a close in New England, although sometimes days are still so hot that you would be inclined to think otherwise.
Our garden is slowing – there are a few final tomatoes and an eggplant left, along with some bell peppers, hot peppers, winter squash and gourds. The green beans we decided not to pull up and replant, instead allowing the pods to dry on the plants, so we can harvest and save the seeds for next year. Our fall snap peas and carrots are doing well, although the fall beets have a truly weak showing.
We certainly picked a winner when it came to our strawberry plants, which I put in last fall. They have continued to surprise us, and currently are bearing their THIRD crop of strawberries, with a fourth flowering under way! Strawberries in September?! It’s wonderful. They have improved in size as well, our first harvest consisted of sweet, but very small, berries. This third harvest has nice, large berries with a consistently beautiful taste.
Our roosters are crowing and the hens are squawking. They’re around 15-16 weeks now, so we will begin processing our meat birds, just in time for me to do a large fall cleanup before the colder temperatures settle in for good. We ended with (4) roosters and (8) hens. Four of the hens are our layers, and we have decided to keep one rooster, although who that will be remains undetermined for now.
This past weekend we hosted our first annual Woodford Harvest Festival. Family and friend joined us on the homestead with homemade dishes. We asked that everyone try to incorporate an ingredient – vegetable, fruit, meat or herb – that they had raised or harvested themselves. All of the meals were delicious and everyone did a great job in sticking to the theme. We hope the dinner has inspired everyone to garden, fish or hunt more in 2017, and indeed, we a heard a few people excitedly talking about ideas for next year’s festival.
Since our family features so many little ones, we did a tractor ride (filling the john Deere trailer full of straw), and filled a small sandbox that my husband made with feed corn for them to play in. We wanted to paint some of the mini pumpkins that we harvested too, but the kids were having too much fun to pull them away from the corn box!
My husband and I had saved a lot of food for our harvest festival, and were able to create meals and cocktails featuring our own tomatoes, eggplant, garlic, acorn bitters, garden herbs, homemade breadcrumbs, and maple syrup, as well as our first harvested chicken. We also served homemade Cabernet Sauvignon, hard cider and rhubarb wine. Guests brought dishes featuring their own tomatoes, basil, rhubarb, zucchini, venison, salmon, and their own wines and infused spirits.
This year’s festival was so wondeful, and I am really looking forward to next year. It is such a great reason to bring everyone together, and share in the delights or our gardening and hunting efforts!
Speaking of efforts, I am still happily looking at a full pantry. We have recently used a lot of our tomato sauce and diced tomatoes, but we still have plenty of pints and quarts of each left for the winter. We also have green beans, dilly beans, pickles, beets, blueberry jam, blueberry syrup, maple syrup, acorn bitters and a few quarts of a blend of onions, sweet and hot peppers and tomatoes that we have been using for chilis and pot roasts. We also have an assortment of herbs and hot peppers drying out, and of course all of our garlic is curing.
I have some butternut left to can, and we picked up some apples from a local orchard that I want to put up as well. Acorns are beginning to fall, so we will be able to harvest those shortly for fresh batches of bitters.
Archery hunting season for deer opened last week, and I am excited to get out into the woods and restock our freezer with meat. We have very little meat left from our 2015 season, so I am glad it is that time of year once again. I spent a few hours out in the woods on Sunday morning, and while it was a beautiful, perfect morning, the woods were quiet and the deer must have slept in!
We’re still working on the usual chores, and starting the final cleanups for the year. I’ve been busy with fall cleaning, organizing and a little decorating, as well as working on inventory for our shop as the holidays approach. I have a few more helpful posts lined up for final canning, motivation and tips, so keep tuned! Then we’ll delve into the usual seasonal switch, focusing on home projects and renovations, as well as recipes and craft tutorials.