Farm update: October 26

Our first snowstorm arrived late last night, and with that, the 2020 growing season at Quiet Farm has officially concluded. Much of the past week has been spent preparing for this introduction to winter; though our skies will clear and temperatures will rise again later in the week, none of our annual crops will survive this cold snap. We’ve been threatened with hard freezes prior to this and have been lucky enough not to lose any plants; our season lasted far longer than expected. We’re hopeful that this early, wet storm will help the firefighters battling the numerous destructive wildfires currently raging across Colorado.

Flooding our pasture with snowmelt from the Grand Mesa.

We ran our final irrigation last week, then broke down most of our gated pipe so that we can repair any damaged gates and valves during the off-season. We have stellar water shares here at Quiet Farm, and thanks to N’s careful planning, we made our water last all season. This year was definitely a rebuilding year for our pasture, and we’re optimistic that our plans for next year’s irrigation run, which include reseeding, marking and thoughtful grazing by our herd, will yield even better results. Small farms are key to fighting climate change – if managed well, land like ours can absorb far more carbon than it emits. Establishing these “carbon sinks” across the country should be of highest priority; if this season’s devastating wildfires are any indication, the Rocky Mountain West has a tough road ahead.

Barely enough potatoes for one meal, much less an entire winter.

We are disappointed to report that our potato crop this year was not even remotely successful. We planted potatoes both in old wooden fruit crates and in wire mesh towers, and neither method produced great results. Potatoes love loose, sandy soil – which we most definitely do not have – and though we tried to create a healthy environment for potato growing, we did not succeed. We know that there was a certain amount of crop loss due to pests (harvesting half-eaten potatoes is so disappointing) but even that loss doesn’t account for our poor harvest. Like any good farmer, though, we’ll try again with a new system next year. Fresh, homegrown potatoes are absolutely worth the effort.

We’re growing our own fruit!

Though our potatoes were unsuccessful, we’re thrilled to report that we’re finally growing raspberries! Loyal readers might remember that we planted forty bare-root raspberry canes in our first farming season, and sadly experienced total crop failure. We replanted those forty this year, plus a few extra obtained from a friend’s thicket. And we’ve actually harvested raspberries! Pictured above is ‘Anne,’ a delicious yellow variety that produces fruit its first year. We’ll be cutting back the canes this winter once they’re dormant, and look forward to a bumper crop of raspberries next summer and fall.

The original Angry Bird.

One of our hens has gone broody, unfortunately, and now spends all of her time on the nest box squawking and pecking angrily at anyone who dares come close. Broodiness is beneficial if you’re raising chicks – obviously, those fragile eggs need protection – but is a trait that is intentionally bred out of most modern layers, since it means they no longer lay and become defensive and difficult. Broodiness can also be “transmitted” to other hens, which means that our egg production decreases. Ideally she’ll snap out of it once the three-week hatching period has passed, but it’s more likely that this will be a regular issue with this breed. Thankfully, we only have two of these Whiting Greens.

We grew a staggering amount of food this year!

Finally, we spent most of Saturday harvesting all of our remaining produce. We brought in over two hundred pounds just this weekend, meaning we probably grew about eight hundred pounds of food throughout the season. Our final harvest included green tomatoes, hundreds of sweet and spicy chile peppers, lots of volunteer squash from the compost pile, herbs for drying, tomatillos and more. Everything is warm and cozy in the sunroom; we’re clearly in desperate need of a root cellar because most of these vegetables should be kept cool, dark and dry for long-term storage. There is a lot of preserving to be done, but no doubt at all that we’ll eat well this winter.

And with that, we’re off to bundle up and tromp through the fresh snow to check on the animals. Wishing you a warm and safe week ahead.

6 thoughts on “Farm update: October 26

  1. Love your journey so much! Thank you for sharing it with your loyal followers! I am a HunterDouglas employee who first met you at Lunch and Learns, and I look forward to your updates and posts. This sunroom of fresh crops makes me so happy! Can’t wait to see how you preserve it and use it all winter long!

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  2. You should be so proud of all that you grew! Great job! Can you build a root cellar? Very interesting that broodiness can be transmitted….similar to humans. Keep up the great work!

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    • Thanks for your kind comment, Sara! We have an underground space that could technically be a viable root cellar…the challenge is keeping the mice away from the produce. They’re very crafty! Last year I tried storing produce in the shed and it all froze and I had to puree everything, which saved the produce but wasn’t an ideal solution. We’ll be trying some different options this winter to see what might work best.

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