Monday, September 27, 2010

Equinox is here. Clean up the garden.

The autumnal equinox -- the day the sun crosses the equator on its way south -- came and went. (Yes, I know. The Earth revolves around the sun. But if you have only two bodies, it doesn't much matter who revolves around whom. Much of the literature has the sun revolving around the earth!) The sun crosses the equator on Sept 21 -- by tradition, but it is somewhere between 21-22 March. However, the next day it froze. Not much a frost, to be sure, -0.5C. But Uh-oh, time to finish up in the garden. So we went out with the scythe and got the oats.
With Maximilian the scythe in good form, it took less than ten minutes to get it all cut. Then we raked it up and put it in a container:
It was a pound of oat seeds, "naked oats" (or avens nuda to latinists) to begin with. It is not commonly grown in Alaska, which surprisingly is a good place to grow oats. But you don't have to hull it, and I have no machinery, so it appealed to me. We will see. I haven't flailed it yet, but I think we will barely break even. I am following Gene Logsdon's Small Scale Grain Raising book (google!). Next year we may do a better variety for Alaska. I will then be faced with the problem of hulling my oats. In the old days, oat-hullers could be bought quite cheaply; nowadays they are really hard to come by. Nowadays, they are still built, but for astounding prices, like $1000 a copy. Grrr.

In Italy, there are a great number of small-scale farms. So appropriately scaled machinery is still made. Just google "walk-behind tractor" and you will see what I mean: all Italian. But by the time you import it into this country it is prohibitively expensive. So stuff you could buy reasonably from a 1905 Sears Roebuck catalog is deader than a dodo. Dear me, I suppose I am ranting. So be it. It's my blog. But just try to find, for example, a hand-operated shredder (leaves, kitchen scraps, and garden wastes). It pays to shred before you dump it on the compost heap. But a chipper-shredder with YAICE (Yet Another Internal Combustion Engine) is upwards of $1500. Far too much. And too many Internal Combustion Engines at Chalupy anyway.

There is hope, however. There is a wonderful magazine called Backwoods Home
In one of their issues, an ingenious gentleman by the name of Rev. J.D. Hooker takes a lawnmower and converts it into a shredder. You frequently find inoperative lawnmowers at yard sales really cheap. Usually a spark plug replacement is all they need. So next year...

And my daughter came out and helped me with a great number of chores that require more than two hands, and sometimes more than two brains. So we pulled some of the leeks and all the parsnips:
The leeks should be left to overwinter (covered, of course). But we pulled some anyway, and they were great. We put them into the by-now-traditional fall borscht. Borscht could well be called "harvest stew" -- wonderful stuff, especially with sour cream.

And the minimum temperature next day was -4C. This harvest was what the computerniks call JIT (Just in Time).

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