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State of the Farm, November 2022

  John Gardner, in his novel, October Light, referred to this period as “locking time.”

One of these days I will go over some John Gardner books here but that is not this entry.

“Locking time” is the time after the flush of autumn when the light condenses and one is finally convinced of the coming winter. There are deeper and deeper nightly freezes with less and less recovery in the daylight until, the snow lands on the hard frozen ground.

That’s where we are. Tonight is the first deep freeze of the coming winter: 21 F. There is ice in the coves and the hollows of the ponds and ice where water caught on the edges of barrels. Snow has fallen hard to the west of us. It’s a time to contemplate what we are doing over the next few months until spring.

It’s also the last time we can actually accomplish anything before falling temperatures turn the soil to concrete. It’s now too late to dig up the garden. We’ll be seeing the ghost sticks of corn until spring. Sometimes we get a reprieve Thanksgiving week and the ground thaws just enough to get a little bit more done but that can never be counted upon.

Regardless, it’s now time to get ready for winter.

We have set up two more Birdies raised beds. We had set up two of them already. One, we raised potatoes in quite successfully and one we filled up with my mint crop. Next year looks promising.

Remember the vole and mice problem we had over the summer? Turns out they like transforming Birdie beds into warrens. We’re investigating how to handle that. At the moment, we put some more soil in the holes to keep the cold air from damaging exposed roots and planted daffodils all around them. Next year, we’ll plant onions and garlic along with the target crop.

In the new beds, we dropped eighteen bags of drainage rock to cover up the floor to the edge. Let them dig through that. Now, we’ll fill it with base material, chips, and, finally soil. Not sure yet what we’ll be planting in them.

Often, fall involves wood because we use a wood stove to supplement our heating. Someday, we’ll wean ourselves from natural gas to a heat pump but that is not this day. At least, CO2 from wood isn’t fossil CO2. It’s CO2 drawn down from the air and bound to the earth, now released from its confinement. Free at last!

Wait a minute… That doesn’t sound… right.

Anyway, we’ve planted four new quinces and some other fruit trees this year. They will have to be trimmed and set over the winter. Sometime in February, we’ll need to do the winter trim. And we’re planning a garden expansion in the spring.

This year we lost both a very large hickory and a relatively small one. At the same time, I helped a friend fell a collection of sumac trees. Who knew sumac grew into actual trees? These were forty feet tall and eighteen inches in diameter. I am in the process of turning this wood into usable product as well as firewood. Much chain sawing and splitting.

We, sadly, lost our old peach when we took down the smaller hickory. Peach trees typically last only a little over a decade but we’ve been nursing this one along for nearly thirty years. But it’s been ailing and having a major branch knocked off is a big trauma. So we bit the bullet and took it down. It turns out that fungus had ravaged much of the trunk so it would have likely died this winter, anyway. I salvaged what wood I could—fruit tree wood is lovely.

I already know hickory wood pretty well. This is not the first hickory we’ve had to handle. I’ve found it to be far harder than most other hard woods. I have enough that I can make a modest amount of actual lumber. At least, planks. I cut some slabs out of a log a couple of days ago and it is nice material.

Sumac I am not familiar with. It’s much softer than most hardwoods—more like a pine without the resin. I have read that it has an alternating green/white grain which I saw in some of the thicker pieces. I’m interested in trying to make something of it.

Thus, I now have enough wood to both keep us warm through the winter and make pretty things at the same time.

Which brings me to my next winter project: the shop expansion.

For a long time, we had two cars: a Honda Fit and Scion xA. Both of these were tiny and fit in the two bays of the garage. But we turned in the Scion to get a Jeep Patriot in order to have full access to the cabin up in Vermont. Also, to haul things.

The Jeep does not fit in the garage. This means that the left bay, adjacent to my wood shop, is now open to my use and I am extending the shop into it. This is an ongoing project but I expect to have fun with it. I certainly have enough wood to work with.

For years, I have been gradually acquiring equipment that I haven’t really had the space to use. I’ve been hauling the table saw out to the driveway, do the sawing, and bring it back into storage. Now, I’ll have the space to use it. A sanding station. Maybe a space where I can do some welding and other metal work. A tiny forge? All things are possible.

That’s it for now.




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