November is here. It's very much a turning point in the year for us. It always feels like the month where fall leaves us and winter moves in, even though the calendar says winter won't officially arrive until well into December. At this point, the garden has had a killing frost and we've seen snow on the ground, so all the vegetable picking is over, with a few exceptions, like the Swiss chard and the beets. Saturday mornings have become much less hectic. I can enjoy a cup of coffee without worrying that I'll run out of time before I get all the vegetables picked, washed and displayed before we open at 10 AM. Although when the frost does come, it's always a bit sad to see the basil turn black and the pepper plants shrivel, the truth is that after six months of planting, weeding, hoeing and picking, the break is welcome. In a few months I'll be busy selecting the seeds that we'll purchase for the 2012 garden, but for now, I'm just fine with taking a bit of a break.
November is the last month that our farm stand is open as well. Although it's got walls, a roof & concrete floor, it isn't heated and some of the Saturdays lately have been more than just a bit chilly. I love visiting with everyone who stops by the stand, but the chilly mornings won't be missed when we close for the year. And, truth be told, having worked every Saturday since May 28, I'm ready to sleep in just once!
Meats are coming to a close for now as well. Hirsch's trailer has picked up the last of the beef & lamb for the year. We'll do a bit more pork, a few more chickens and the Thanksgiving turkeys. After that, all the critters will be with us for the long winter. Although I am proud of what we produce, and feel that our meat animals have the highest quality of life possible, it will be nice to take a break from butchering. I think having that break allows you to avoid being too hardened about the process. It will also be nice to be able to accept an invitation to go out to dinner with friends on a Thursday or Friday evening without having to say “I'll try to make it, depends on what time we get done plucking chickens/grinding sausage/etc.”
Canning isn't as frenzied either. No overwhelming amounts of peppers to can, tomatoes to turn into salsa or cucumbers waiting to be pickled. I get to be a bit more creative right now, instead of just trying not to waste anything. Lately I've had fun making vinegar candy (similar to hardtack), apple butter, and an Oktoberfest mustard. I've made a number of git baskets featuring our processed items as well. I have a few more things I hope to try, either before the end of the stand season, or possibly over the winter. It's never a bad thing to prep some inventory before the season begins again!
And while it is a slower time of the year, there's never a time when we're not busy. Lately we've been working on some temporary fencing. We hope to get the critters out into the hayfield near the garden when the grass runs low in the usual pastures. Stockpiling this grazing will allow us to go longer into the winter before we need to start feeding hay. That means the hay we put up will feed more animals, and we are hoping to increase our beef herd over the winter months, as well as purchase more pigs. Demand for our meats has increased incredibly, so we're already planning on how to have more available for our customers next year!
Winter is a time we look forward to because we can get indoor projects done during those long evenings. We have a room we're remodeling into a library, and I look forward to progressing on that. Dan wants to do more blacksmithing, and working over a hot coal fire just isn't fun in the summer. And I have lots of projects, too, from trying to get back into oil painting to becoming a better baker to keeping this blog updated a bit more frequently. I'm in contact with the Farm to Table folks in Pittsburgh, and it's looking likely that I'll be prepping another presentation for them, to be given in late March. End of year records will need finishing, and it's never too early to begin planning for the next season!