Happy fall to everyone! It has been so busy around here, I feel as though I've been neglecting my blog. So here is my attempt to get you caught up with our goings-on!
I've meant to mention that Finnbar has gone home to Muirstead Farm. He was the Dexter bull we had on loan for the summer. He is a beautiful example of the Dexter breed; well muscled, docile and compact. Although I was nervous about having a bull here, as they can be dangerous animals, we had a wonderful experience with him. I'm always grateful to breeders who value not just production, but temperament as well, and the Muirstead Dexters are joys to work around. Having Finnbar around for a few months also gave me the confidence that if Dan and I ever expand our little Dexter herd enough to warrant keeping a bull around all year, that with proper care and handling it would be no more stressful than having the other intact males here, like Rambo the sheep or Wilbur the hog. And speaking of expanding our Dexter herd, we did do just that. In addition to the calf we'll expect from Finni early next summer, we purchased another cow. Lil came on loan with Finnbar, so we could have a chance to milk a Dexter this year. We liked her so much that we chose to purchase her. She is a former show ring champ and has had quite a few beautiful Dexter babies. The Muirs have enough of her lineage in the breeding herd they maintain, so they agreed to let us purchase her. She'll also be due with a calf in late spring or early summer, so we are so very excited!
Today is the first day of fall. The official first days of summer and winter always seem to arrive a bit after the season starts in my opinion, but fall is right on time. The leaves are starting to change and the garden is transitioning as well. Our tomatoes finally succumbed to the blight, but we had a wonderfully productive year anyway. While we won't have fresh ones at the stand again this year, I have lots of packaged sun-dried tomatoes available and I'm working today on making some more Bruschetta in a Jar with the last of the Romas. But as I say good-bye to the tomatoes of summer, I'm saying hello to our fall crops. We've been digging onions and potatoes and last week were able to start picking some winter squash as well. This week we'll be able to offer acorn, buttercup, butternut and sweet dumpling squash, plus a few pumpkins and a blue hubbard or two. Later, I'll have some really neat looking gourds (a frost will really bring out their colors) as well as kabocha and giant pink banana squash. We also tried planting a bit of Bloody Butcher corn, an heirloom deep red corn, this year, so once it dried I'll be excited to try grinding it for cornmeal and see what color we end up with.
As the season goes on, I have more and more neat things I've dried or processed. Something new we'll have this week is dried sage from the herb garden. I'm also finishing up processing some peaches into a recipe called zesty peach barbecue sauce. It's more like a hot peach salsa, so I'm thinking about what name to put on the labels as the jars are bubbling away in the canner. Either way, it's a favorite here at home, Dan especially loves it with ham so I think ham steaks are going to be dinner tonight! (it's great on chicken or pork chops too.) Then it's on to making the Bruschetta and possibly, if the rain lets off, I'll be digging some horseradish to prepare and sell. I might make some horseradish mustard before the week is up too!
I'll also be cleaning up the brooder pen in anticipation of our layer chicks which are due to arrive Friday. As the seasons change, I'm always realizing how farming truly is a year-round occupation. While most of the produce arrives within a fairly small window of time, we're always planning and preparing. In addition to the hens, we're also deciding what kind of garlic to plant now and what we need to do to keep our fields, buildings and livestock in good shape over the upcoming winter. It's always a busy time here!