The garden was later than usual this year but quite productive. We had days in the 80s into mid-October, so the harvest kept coming. I picked an ear of corn a day for dinner for about two months. Heather made lots of pasta/pizza sauce and salsa with the tomatoes and peppers, and salsa verde with the green tomatoes when the frost came. Heather planned a second crop of potatoes after harvesting the first, and she got a great second harvest.
Grant’s garden in the pasture was a huge success. He just covered the issue head with lots of wood chips during the winter, then planted in late spring. He had lots of corn and zinnias, and he was harvesting melons into early November.
The deer finally discovered our garden a few weeks ago. They’ve decimated some of the greens that we would like to harvest through the winter. I guess we’ll have to come up with some defenses.
Heather has planned a bunch of garlic, boy in the garden and next to the pasture. We’re going is not concerned by gophers again next year.
It looks like the commercial hazelnut harvest was good this year. They harvested the orchard behind us at the end of September and made a second round in mid-October just as the rain was coming.
We started using our woodstove in mid-October when weather abruptly turned from hot to rainy. (Then the rain went away again, but the cold stayed.) We have less than we would like for this winter, but it is enough to make a difference. Plus, when we get insulation installed upstairs in mid-December, we hope that will help a lot. We bought a catalyst for the woodstove, and we’re gradually learning how to use the stove efficiently. We should have plenty of wood for next year, though. A lot of it is pine, and I wish we had more hardwoods, but it’s all free, so we’ll take it. We have probably split and stacked about two cords so far, and we still have those big chunks of pine to cut and split.
Speaking of splitting: I’ll probably have to split the tractor again. The clutch is slipping, and I’m guessing one of the springs on the clutch may have broken.
Today was pruning day. This is the first year that I haven’t done major renovations on the plum tree. The pear tree also got a light pruning as well as the young fruit trees. The grapes got the usual treatment.
After a record-breaking hot and dry summer, this winter has been really wet. We had a week or so below freezing between Christmas and New Year, so hopefully that was sufficient for the plants that need it. Otherwise, temperatures have been pretty normal. January has been pretty mild.
Heather moved the herbs from row 1 of the garden to the south side of the house.
Good news from the beehive: so far, the bees have survived the winter! On warm sunny days such as today, they venture out of the hive.
I finally got around to addressing the coolant leak in the tractor last week. I decided to try the easy option first and pour a bottle of Bar’s head gasket sealant into the radiator. I’ve cycled the tractor through warm-up/cool down a few times, and the amount of steam coming out of the exhaust seems to be diminishing. I also changed out the milky engine oil. If this fix doesn’t work, I’ll have to take the engine apart and install a new head gasket.
The John Deere riding mower died last fall. It would barely idle, nothing more. We replaced the carburetor, but it didn’t help. It turns out the intake valve wasn’t opening enough. So I took apart the crankcase and checked things out. The camshaft lobe that drives the intake valve was worn down to nearly nothing. The hydraulic lifter was also stuck. So I ordered a new camshaft and lifters for $40. Today I put everything back together, and it runs great!
In the meantime, our neighbor Jon found a two-cylinder Craftsman mower for us. It ran but not well. I ordered a tune-up kit and Isaac helped replace the carburetor, filters (air, fuel, oil), and oil. It’s up and running now as well.
So now we have two riding mowers, a garden tractor, a tow-behind field mower, and of course, the Case tractor. The clutch has gone out on the Case, so we’re clearing space in the barn to bring it in, split it, and fix it.
Yesterday, our friend help us get the town-behind lawn mower that our neighbor gave us running. A kit with a carburetor, spark plug, fuel filter, and air filter was $20. Next I need to buy new wheel bearings for it and for the small tractor trailer.
We changed the oil and spark plug in the Sears tractor.
The Case tractor is not doing so well. The past few weeks, it has been hard to start, which was not a problem before. I replaced the spark plugs today. Most of them were black with carbon. I also topped off fluids. It took about 3 quarts of fluid in the torque tube and a gallon of oil in the transmission. The 3-gallon cooling system took a gallon of coolant. I replaced the engine oil, and there was coolant in the oil. That probably means it has a bad head gasket. Also, yesterday the clutch started to fail. Today I had to use the hand clutch, and even then, I had to turn off the tractor to change gears. One of the back wheels still has a slow leak, too.
I re-routed the temporary pasture fencing on the north side of the barn so that I can access the tractor parking area again. The sheep will probably have that extra pasture area finished off in the next two weeks or so.
A few months ago, we got to use a hydraulic log splitter to split a bunch of wood we had gotten from arborists. Today, we stacked it along the west side of the barn, probably about 1.5 cords. We don’t have a woodstove, though.
We also reapplied wood chips around the young fruit trees after adding some landscaping fabric.
The sheep have mowed the entire pasture down to stubble, due to our not implementing paddocks. Heather has installed some temporary fencing allowing them to graze the area north of the barn.
We haven’t gotten any chicken eggs for months. But they don’t have a proper chicken coop in which to lay eggs, nor are we giving them any feed beyond table scraps and what they find in the pasture.
Something happened to the carburetor on the John Deere mower and it will barely idle at full throttle. I fiddled with it a bit, then ordered a new carburetor. At about $15 to buy new, they’re hardly worth trying to troubleshoot.
The Case tractor has a rear left tire that loses air over the course of about a week. I need to see if I can remove the wheel so I can take it to a tire store for repair. Otherwise, it’s probably about $100 for a field service call.
We’re still getting some kale from the garden, but the chickens have been escaping the pasture now that we extended it for the sheep, so the kale isn’t going to last much longer.