fall on the farmIt’s safe to say fall is here.  We’ve been busy beavers.  The boys have been thinning the sparrow population.  These nuisance birds flock together in the fall–one sure sign winter is on its way.  About this time of year they begin to prefer the barn to Nature’s cover.  50 sparrows can make a lot of mess.  Therefore, the boys’ job as flock thinners.

I’ve got the garden mostly cleaned out.  There’s Indian corn still drying on the stalks.  I’m hoping to have it dry, then shell it and grind it.  I think it’ll make pretty cornmeal.  The brussell sprouts are ready now that they’ve been frosted a couple of times.   Potatoes and carrots still have to be dug, but they’re OK for a while as long as they’re covered up.  We only had three squashes this year: buttercup, spaghetti, and one other kind I can’t remember the name of.  They’re stashed away now, like so many nuts against winter hunger.

chickensThe chickens have been restarted.  They are very comfortable in the clear span building, and are growing well.  We have changed some things in our growing system over the summer.  One of those things is that we do batches in one month cycles instead of weekly.  That helps with several management issues.  Unfortunately, pasturing at this time of year isn’t so effective.  Northern Michigan is prepping for winter, which means it has frosted a couple of times.  This helps the perennial grasses die off so they conserve their resources in the roots for survival.  It means for us that the grass/alfalfa/clover/etc. on top has sharply decreasing food value, though the animals can still fill their bellies on it.  We can finish birds on pasture this time of year, but we won’t put the new chicks out.  A bag of alfalfa meal now stands with the feed sacks and helps to replace some of the fresh green.  

The kids wear shoes more often now, which is a sure sign of fall.  Rachel was running around in her stockings one day because she did not want to wear shoes but had discovered that bare feet get COLD!  We went for a “nature walk” this weekend.  Keith went in his bare feet, though everyone else was more prudent.  Due to tough soles and sheer stubbornness, he declared that his feet didn’t get cold at all: they were numb, but not cold.  We saw a few white raindrops on the last 1/2 mile leg home, but he maintained he was fine.    He got mighty close to the woodstove when we got home, though. 

woodMark circled some wire to make bins for the wood blocks we burn.  The kids have been kept busy unloading the big truck into them and moving the old piles so the wood’s available this winter.  It’s good to be warm!  In the photo, Sam’s discovering the meaning of the saying, “He who chops his own wood is twice warmed.”

The acorn harvest is going well.  We have almost enough to finish the larger hogs on them.  Mark did some reading about the food values in acorns.  They are incredibly high in protein and fat.  One site gave anecdotal reports of hogs finishing almost 1/3 heavier after masting on acorns compared to standard raised hogs fed out at the same time.   We have fun going “foraging” to pick up the little nuts.  Well fertilized lawns have the most productive oak trees and the most appreciative owners, experience has shown us.