Sunday, October 30, 2011

At the Market

Yesterday morning we visited the Farmer's Market in the park blocks at Portland State (my school). The weather was decent, the trees were beautiful, and the market was vibrant as usual, with the added fun of half the people there in Halloween costume!

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We spent $37 on an assortment of hamburger, bacon and sausages from Deck Family Farm, and for $15 we came away with a massive Queensland Blue pumpkin, a few smaller winter squashes, big bunches of Russian kale and curly kale, a couple cucumbers, several bell peppers, some green onions, and a few other goodies I can't remember!

We've managed to be very productive this weekend, which is helping me feel a lot better about the amount of stuff I have to get done during the week! We got the garlic in the ground yesterday afternoon, baked a batch of bread, I whacked back the huge and out-of-control butterfly bushes in our front yard, finished up some sewing, and have been getting lots of this week's readings for school out of the way. Don't worry, I'm still fitting in some relaxation time! Now I'm going to get outside for a few minutes before it gets dark, and catch up on a few little chores around the garden. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

I was on my way home on the bus last night when I received a phone call from Matt. He had beaten me home, and with pizza on the menu plan and the fridge devoid of any of our usual pizza fixings (whoops), he posed this question: "Can I put baked squash on pizza?" It turns out that the answer is, very definitively, Yes. Matt pre-baked the acorn squash, carmelized some onions, and with some homemade passata sauce from the freezer and lots of garlic and cheese, we ended up with one of the best homemade pizzas I can remember (and we made two, so there are lots of leftovers).

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We are most definitely making this again. I'm thinking that chunks of pineapple would be an excellent addition to the sweetness of the squash and the onions. Maybe we'll even be able to manage a homemade crust next time.

After a long and busy week, I'm very happy to be home today to rest and catch up on being home, after several days in which I was away for 12-14 hours, never even managing to see the chickens or the garden (add to that both Matt and I having colds). Right now I'm taking a break (to eat leftover pizza :) in the middle of a day of seeing to some chores that have been put off a bit longer than I'd like. This morning, between finishing some work for my internship and trying to get ahead on some readings for my environmental health class, I gave the chicken coop a good deep clean and sent a load of dishes through the dishwasher (which is being used a lot more frequently these days). I'm planning to spend the afternoon changing out the bed linens (time for flannel sheets!), doing some weeding in the garden, doing some general cleaning around the house, and making a batch of granola. Veggie soup is on the menu for tonight, so I've got some veggie stock thawing and I'm thinking of potatoes and leftover squash, with coconut milk and some ginger thrown in for flavor. The days are getting colder and soup sounds good!

Matt is working today but we'll both be home all weekend, which will be really nice- it feels like we've hardly seen each other all week, with him out the door just after seven and me not home until as late as 8 or 10 PM some nights. We're hoping to get some yard work done, develop an organization system for our bills, and hit a farmers market to get some hamburger and sausages, which we've been out of for over a month now. Oh! and I just remembered I need to plant the garlic this weekend! We're continuing to try and plan ahead food-wise, but I clearly still have some learning to do: I often need to pack both lunch and dinner to take with me, but tend to underestimate how much food I'll need. We both had the same brainwave earlier this week: on the weekend, roast up two whole chickens, to provide leftovers to be used in lunches, as sandwich meat, and to make an extra-big batch of stock. The pastured chickens we eat are so small that the leftovers from one don't go very far.

Tomatoes ripening in the front window.

It's definitely feeling like fall around here. Typical Portland: the forecast for the next week is highs in the mid-fifties with a chance of rain every day. We had some really lovely (but cold) weather the last couple days, but now it's back into the clouds. It's getting dark around 6 PM now and the nights are getting colder. We're pretty pleased to be holding out till November to turn our heat on- any savings in expenses and natural resources feels good.

I've been meaning to take some pictures of the gorgeous fall colors in the park blocks at PSU, but I've always got so much stuff to schlep around that I leave the camera at home. For now, here's what the dogwood in our front yard is doing:

You can see some nice red maples across the street too.

That's all from me for now. Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Jobs, Income and New Routines!

Our routines are changing once again (and I'm sure they'll continue to, as we settle in and figure out how best to work our schedules), because both Matt and I landed income-producing gigs in the last week or so! Matt has just started his second week at a semi-permanent farm internship that has a minimal, but regular, income attached to it, and tomorrow I start a stipended internship with Ecotrust's Food and Farms Program, working primarily on the Edible Portland magazine! Matt's not making much, and my stipend will be $1,500 per quarter (about $500 per month), which will basically cover rent, but it's still something, and we're feeling particularly blessed that we both have found work in exactly the areas we wanted to work in. Matt is working with livestock on a farm that produces lamb and poultry meat, as well as wool and eggs, and I am getting my start in public health, working on a publication that focuses on the local and sustainable food movement. I'll continue to look for additional part-time work, as the internship is only 10-15 hours per week and will only last through the school year, ending in June. I have yet to sort out my schedule, but Matt works usually till dark, Monday through Thursday, not getting home until 6:30 or 7 PM (the farm is about 45 minutes from our house, about as close as it could be!)

Last week was a bit crazy, with Matt not home till later in the evening, thoroughly exhausted, and me in class till late two nights, and we ran short on ready-to-go dinner food, not having time to fit in making bread or cooking up a large batch of anything. I think our next investment will be a good crockpot! We were out of town all weekend, but today I was home and, between nursing a bit of a cold that I picked up over the weekend and working on homework, I somehow managed to bake two loaves of bread and a batch of banana bread, cook up a big pot of kidney beans, do a load of laundry, and run a few errands. I'm feeling much better about how this week will go, with lots of frozen veggies in the freezer and bread and snacks made for our lunches. Also, Matt gets sent home with free cuts of lamb and whole frozen chickens once a week or so, so we will be seeing a bit more meat in our diet, and we now have a good source of eggs until our own flock starts laying (which we're beginning to suspect won't be till spring, but that's another story).

I'm now commuting by bus, which is very convenient and affordable, and works out better for me now that my schedule will be a bit more complicated, and I'm not a big fan of biking through downtown. With the addition of my internship, my one-way commute would be around 7 miles, which is too much for me. So I'm settling into busing downtown, which is easy due to a route that goes from 7 blocks from home, straight through campus. The Portland Streetcar runs directly through campus and across downtown to where my internship will be. Because I'm now getting less exercise without the biking, I'm going to make a concerted effort to make use of the rec center on campus, which is free to students and has all kinds of options for working out, and, most appealing to me, regular yoga classes.

In other news, Heather and Joel at Not a Real Blog (longtime friends from my hometown) just welcomed a daughter on Friday! Many congratulations heading their way! And now I can show you the baby gifts I posted off to them last month:

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Inspired by Laurel, I sewed up two square flannel delivery blankets and three flannel burp clothes. I also finally got back into crocheting and made the wee hat, from a soft wool/acrylic blend. We knew in advance that the baby was a girl, but I don't like to give gendered gifts, so I thought these fabrics and colors were good for any new baby.

It's time for me to get back to my reading for class- I do apologize for the sporadic nature of my posts now. I keep hoping that I will get into a better routine and fit blogging in more regularly, but I guess I can't make any guarantees! I do want to share some of the things I am learning about public health issues, though, and that will be another post of its own.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In the Shed: Rabbits!

I haven't really ventured into our shed yet on this blog, probably because it has been a disaster zone (in a major way) up until now. We've made marginal progress on the organizing, but more importantly, the shed is now home to our rabbits!

The shed is actually a carport/garage attached to the west side of our house. It is not a permanent structure, with gaps under the eaves, a gravel floor and a couple good leaks in the ceiling. However, it is spacious and relatively secure, and we're very glad to have the extra space. We still are up in the air about what to call it- Matt refers to it as the shed, and I usually call it the garage, but I think shed is winning out.
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 Matt suspended the rabbit cages from the ceiling, and we'll add on a second tier when we start getting litters. At the bottom of the garage door you can see our heap of straw, bag of pine shavings, and a bag of alfalfa hay for the rabbits. I want a better place to store these, but right now this is the only spot available, clear of all the drips that come through the roof when it rains!

 Looking toward the back end of the shed, where Matt has organized our variety of scrap lumber (mostly picked up for free!), plus apple branches we're saving for smoking meat. You can see the makeshift workbenches, the two galvanized pails where the rabbit feed and chicken feed are kept, and hanging from the ceiling, Matt's skin-on-frame kayak. 

The rabbits arrived last week, the beginning of our venture into raising our own rabbit meat. This is mostly Matt's field, but I am determined to get involved with most aspects of it, knowing that I need to get used to dispatching and butchering the meat I eat- as much as I shy away from it, I know I need to experience the reality of how meat comes to the table. Luckily, these first four rabbits are our breeding stock, so we can safely get attached to them, as they are not going to be eaten. Matt managed to find these four American rabbits, which are actually a critically endangered heritage breed. I don't know much about their pedigrees, but I have learned that it is in fact completely normal for bunnies to breed incestuously. There is far less genetic variation in rabbits than there is among humans (they only have 12 genes or something like that) so inbreeding does not actually result in major mutations of any kind. Also, these are meat rabbits, so we're primarily focusing on the quality of their meat, not how they look. 

The two bucks are white, the does "blue" (gray).

 The smaller doe is the daughter of the bigger one. She is also cute as all get-out.

Matt raked back the gravel and we spread straw under the cages to absorb the urine (another fun fact: rabbits can pee a huge volume and distance, for their size. We found this out when Matt got his foot peed on, standing two feet back from the cages!) We were worried about the smell, because rabbits typically have very ammonia-scented urine, but so far the straw and the open soil seem to be doing a good job of absorbing any scent. 

Elsewhere in the shed:
 The disaster area where I dumped all my garden pots when we moved in-- they haven't been touched since. You can see two bright green shelves on the floor- Matt found them on the curb a month or two ago. When I have the chance, I'm going to mount them on the wall and store most of the pots and flats up off the ground.

 We don't have much of a system for storing our tools; this winter I'd like to put in some nails to hang some up and organize a space so they're not so crammed in and cluttered looking. Also I'd like to move all the window screens (which we just took off for winter) down to the basement.

Matt built a rack on the wall for all of our surfboards. Our bikes live here by the door, and that seems to work well. Very slowly, we're getting things organized!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Tucking the Garden In for Winter

Yesterday afternoon, on a perfect crisp fall day, I headed to the garden clad in jeans, work gloves and gumboots, toting the turning fork, hoe, rake and a bag of seeds. I got straight into that wonderful groove of physical labor and the ultimate feeling of satisfaction that I get from working in the dirt and encouraging things to grow.

This is what the garden looked like a few days ago:

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This is what it looks like today:

Having gleaned the last of the summer's vegetables from the plants, I pulled out all the vines and stems, leaving a few scraps in the beds to till into the soil. The rest went in the compost, with the bigger, woodier things heading for the yard debris bin. Then I turned my attentions to making our soil happy and healthy for the next round of crops. In places where everything had grown well this summer, I tilled in organic fertilizer and planted fall and winter crops (kale, spinach, radishes). In those areas that didn't fare so well this summer, I tilled in eggshells, compost and organic fertilizer and then planted cover crops. We'll let these grow for a couple months, then cut them and till them in and let them fertilize the soil that second way. This is the first year we've ever used cover crops, and we're starting off with field peas and fava beans, good nitrogen fixers that will also loosen up the soil with their roots and provide lots of foliage to act as green manure. Also, we can eat the fava beans once they are mature!

 Everything in this bed didn't grow particularly well, and all of the tomatoes planted here got blossom end rot. So this entire bed is now a mix of cover crops, with lots of extra nutrients mixed in.

 These are fava beans coming up in one of the rocky beds at the side of the house.

 Another bed at the side of the house, which was previously full of lovage. We pulled that all out and are growing field peas over the winter, hoping to make this into more vegetable space for next summer.

 This is where we'll be planting garlic. I spent a long time on this bed yesterday, working it with the turning fork and pulling out heaps of rocks and gravel. I'm really excited about how quickly the condition of the soil here is improving. Now that it's been tilled, we'll let it rest for two weeks, then turn it again and plant our seed garlic.

The leeks I planted a month ago, struggling in a patch of very compacted, rocky soil. 

Investing in our garden soil is very important to us---without good soil, you cannot grow good crops. As Joel Salatin says, "How dare you treat your soil like dirt!?" The soil we have here was compacted and rocky when we moved in, but slowly we are working to make it soft and aerated and rock-free and full of good nutrients. When we first planted our garden in late June, we didn't find any earthworms in the beds (never a good sign), but I'm really pleased to say that yesterday I found lots of worms in almost every bed. If the worms are happy, we're happy! 

I also inspected the compost heap yesterday, which is sitting and doing its thing for the winter, to be used in the garden beds in the spring. Happily, it is doing wonderfully (all that chicken litter!) and breaking down beautifully- it's going to be in great shape come spring.

Although I don't have photos of it yet, we're also creating new growing space around the front lawn. We tilled up the compacted soil border a month or so ago, and now every time I clean out the chicken coop, most of the litter and straw goes to mulch that border (with the rest going to the compost). I planted a few fava beans under the straw as a test, and they're growing very strongly, so I think I'll sow cover crops all around in that border as well to help break up the dense soil. In the spring, we'll till in the broken down mulch and plant potatoes all around our front yard! 

What are your tricks to preparing your garden for winter? Do you grow winter crops? Any favorites?

Friday, October 14, 2011

A Hectic Week

As you can probably tell from my most-of-a-week absence, it's been a little bit of a wild week. It's all been good, just busy busy busy. Our new housemate Lisa moved in on Sunday afternoon with her cat, Maggie. They have settled in and Maggie has let it be known that she is an incredibly sweet and friendly feline. She is an affectionate lapcat who enjoys sitting on the pillows of Matt's and my bed during the day, chicken-watching out the back windows. It's so nice to have a cat around; it makes this house feel even more like home.

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I feel a bit bad that Lisa moved in just as we launched into a busy week with houseguests all week and me down on campus every day- definitely not what things usually look like around here, but Lisa has been a real sport about it. It's been wonderful to have our friends Provo and Jeremy here all week, but no matter how awesome your guests, having extra people around makes things feel a little chaotic. Add to that the two new chickens (which have mostly made their peace with the old flock), four new rabbits and a big gathering of friends last night (which started before I got home from class), and my head is spinning! Not to mention school and studying, all of which is going great but definitely takes up a lot of my time. Oy.

I'm so grateful for Matt; he has been a great homekeeper in my daily absences, keeping the house in order, managing our growing menagerie and making delicious dinners (in the absence of a menu plan, which we abandoned with so much going on this week- must write up a new one today). He even went to a networking event this week sponsored by Friends of Family Farmers and has already gotten a handful of leads in the local farming world, including the woman we bought the rabbits from. On top of all that, he's been turning in job applications and looking up various internships, with some exciting leads.

Outdoors, things are getting colder and much more Octobery. I had some free time a couple mornings ago and picked the last of the tomatoes, including all the green ones that had reached full size, cut the remaining cabbages (which were small but probably not going to grow anymore) and picked the runner beans and brought in all the other last gleanings from the garden. I had enough time to plant in some cover crops and I'll do the rest today.

I'm looking forward to a nice day off from everything school-related today, taking the time to just settle back into home, catch up on gardening and baking and relaxing. I've been moving so quickly all week and been away so much that I feel a little out of touch with home, so today will be all about getting back in touch with things around here.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Growing Flock

There is currently a poultry turf war going on in our backyard; last night we added two new chickens to our flock. We found out recently that a friend of a friend sells pullets and layers at a good price ($15 each), and we had been thinking for awhile that we wanted to get a couple more and potentially get a small business going to sell eggs, so we decided to go for it. Meet Mimi, a Blue Laced Red Wyandotte:
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 We think she is just slightly younger than our original four.

And Vivian, a 2-year-old Ameraucana, giver of lovely blue-green eggs:

She'll be off the lay for a little while after this transition, but we'll be getting eggs sooner than we thought! Isn't she gorgeous? They are both beautiful, and round out the color palette of our flock very nicely!

The transition has been, well, interesting. There's always a certain amount of beatdown that happens as a pecking order is established, and we weren't sure how well our flock would deal with the change. Matt brought the newbies home at dusk last night, and we stuck them straight into the henhouse after dark while the others were already roosting. Chickens are immobilized by the dark, so none of them could really do anything and we figured it was the least traumatic way to introduce them to each other. We were awoken this morning by BWOK BWOK BWOK BWOK Bwooooooooooooook! As the original gang discovered intruders in their midst, and the new duo realized that they were surrounded by unknown chickens and in an unknown place.

When we went out to see how things were going, the original four chickens were happily clucking around the coop, and Mimi and Vivian had barricaded themselves safely in the henhouse, blocking up the door with straw:
Oh dear. 

Looking into the henhouse, we couldn't see Mimi at first, and finally discovered that she had buried herself in the straw, maybe the chicken version of a security blanket? Vivian was fairly calm, but it looked as though little Mimi had taken a bit of abuse from the others. We let Lady M, Esther, Penny and Goldie out into the yard and then kicked Mimi and Vivian out into the coop to get used to the space. Vivian was very sedate and immediately found the food and started gobbling it down, while Mimi freaked out, racing back and forth against the wire, sticking her head through and trying to escape. She was clearly distressed, and I was very distressed for her, so we let her out (I was afraid she would break her neck, wrenching it against the wire). Once she was out and about, she completely calmed down, tried to follow the others, got several tail feathers pecked out by the others, then found a quiet corner of the yard and began to scratch around. Whenever she came near the old gang, she got chased or pecked, so I think it's slowly being established that she is at the bottom of the heap. 

Vivian, at two years old, can actually fly, and with relatively low fences around our yard and a number of ways in which a flying bird can escape from it, we had to clip one of her wings before we could let her out to free range:

It makes me sad, but it doesn't hurt her and it will help keep her safe, especially from the dogs next door. 

While Mimi is now apparently the runt of the flock, Vivian is bigger and older and apparently has some form of chicken street cred that the original four don't question at all; they never once tried to boss her around; she is just sedate and calm and walks right among them without being challenged. And of course Mimi and Vivian are used to each other, so at least the wee one has an ally. 
With six chickens out and about, we decided to try a trick we heard for protecting our garden from marauding poultry. Matt had read that if you string up VHS tape, the flickering light and noise it gives off scare away birds. Videos are about 25 cents at a thrift store, so we brought one home and Matt strung it along the fence between the backyard and the garden; now we'll have to see if it works, as our chickens are testing out their wings more and more every day.
What movie have we "decorated" our garden with? Twister.

When I put all the chickens back in the coop this evening, Mimi got freaked out again and tried sticking her head through the wire like she did this morning, and got jumped by Penny and Esther a few times, but that actually seems to have helped; as they make their peace with each other and learn their respective places on the chicken totem pole, they'll adjust and hopefully soon be a cohesive flock again. It's definitely trying, and hard to watch our beloved birds rumble in our once peaceable backyard, but they'll figure it out.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Changing Habits for Fall and Winter

Now that it's truly fall here, and we're spending a lot more time inside and wearing warmer clothing, a few things are changing in our habits and around the house. First of all, we are welcoming a new housemate, Lisa, who is moving in this weekend with her cat, Maggie! We're all looking forward to living together, and think it will be a really nice fit. I'm also excited to have a kitty around the house!

Since I've been inside the house a lot more these last couple of weeks, I've been feeling like it has gotten a little bit cluttered up, and I want to do something about it. Somehow we managed to accumulate a lot of stuff since moving in (most of it for free), but we don't have anywhere out of sight to store it. I really wish we had some nice built-ins with drawers and cabinets in the living room, but no such luck. Instead, we have these two shelves, which are great, but which quickly fill up and look messy:
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Beyond just organizing these shelves to make them tidier, I might start keeping an eye out on craigslist for a cheap or free little chest of drawers or a small trunk or something that would be nice to look at and useful to have in the living room, and that we could hide away some of this stuff in, out of sight! It's all stuff we use on a regular basis, but I'm tired of looking at it!

I also want to see what I can do about this area by our front door:

It feels messy and crowded, and I want to make room for Lisa to be able to store coats, purse and shoes here too. The basket is full of shoes, maybe some of them can be moved into our closet.

With the transition to cooler weather, I went through my closet and dresser drawers a few days ago, and swapped out my summer clothes for the winter ones that had been packed away down in the basement. With our relatively small closet and the fact that Matt and I are sharing 5 dresser drawers, space is at a premium, so it makes sense to keep only what I am currently using in the bedroom, and put the rest in storage. I also took the opportunity to pull out the clothes I haven't worn in the last few months or ones I am tired of, and set them aside. My girlfriends and I are having a clothing swap  ("Naked Lady Party") next week, where we will all bring the clothes we don't wear, and come away with "new" ones for free! Through this method, I regularly get clothes that are new to me. I think that in the last three years or so, I've actually paid for maybe 10 items of clothing, apart from shoes, socks and underwear.

Now that we have entered the permacloud that is Portland between October and April, we are no longer able to hang our laundry outside to dry on a regular basis. This means transitioning to hanging our clothes on lines and racks in the basement.

Clothes definitely take a bit longer to dry here, but we'd still rather air-dry them than use the dryer. We usually turn on the fan to give them some airflow for the first couple of hours, when they are extra-damp.

We're beginning to adapt to my school schedule, and to some of the unanticipated challenges that came with my studenthood. For example, we have been sharing my laptop from when we left for New Zealand, which has worked out pretty well, especially since Matt's dad gave him an iPad as a gift this summer. However, now that I am in school and have a lot of writing to do, as well as a lot of reading of online articles, and Matt is constantly job searching and working on job applications, we have to carefully plan and juggle for use of the computer. The iPad is fine for job searching, checking email, and I can use it for some of my online readings, but of course it doesn't have any word processing programs and it can't open PDF files, so I need the computer reading PDF articles and for typing papers, and Matt needs it for completing job applications. On days when I need to take the computer with me to school, Matt has to anticipate what he needs finish and get it done before I leave.

I am developing a schedule that works for me, usually being on campus all day on the days when I have class, and usually one other day besides. I can bike or bus downtown in the mornings, spend the day in the library reading and researching, then go to class in the evenings and be able to come home straightaway when class is finished. One night a week I don't get home until 10 PM, and the other I get home around 7:30 PM. It's working out well so far, when I can get most of my work done at school, and Matt makes a dinner that produces leftovers, or starts making dinner so we can eat right when I get home on my early nights.

It's all an adjustment, but I am so happy to be where I am, and am so encouraged by how many people feel, like me, that our nation (and the world) needs a major systemic overhaul that makes good health and lifestyle choices easier than poor ones.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Octobery Things

It's my favorite month! I've always loved October- the falling leaves, the pumpkins, the coziness, and the nostalgic feeling that I always get with the change of seasons. This year I'm even happier to see it. Last October was spring in New Zealand! It was grand, but I missed the "real" thing.

Things are taking on a distinctly autumny feel around here. It hasn't gotten cold enough for most trees to turn color yet, but the autumn rains have set in for real, ushering in blustery bike rides to school and an increasingly cozy feeling inside the house (helped along by wool sweaters and socks, and multiple layers of clothing- we're going to hold out as long as we can to turn on the heat; that $6/month gas bill will be hard to give up!). 

Now that the heat of summer is past, it's time for fall food! We've been eating lots of bean soup, roasted potatoes, and other wonderfully heavy things that don't appeal in summer. Last night Matt made this delicious molasses oat bread, delightful for breakfast on a gray morning:

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In the garden, things are winding down a bit, but happily many things are still producing. I'm not sure how long the tomatoes will keep ripening, although there are seemingly hundreds of green ones on the vines. We're still getting a few cucumbers, and I just picked the last of the Hungarian Wax peppers and the Corni di Toro sweet peppers and pulled up those plants. We still have a pimento that is ripening, and some Golden California Wonder bell peppers on the vines. Also, in a distinctly un-autumny move, the Jalapeno has decided to start flowering again, with half a dozen blossoms all over the plant!

This plant happens to be in a big terra cotta pot, so I think I'll give it another week or so outside, then move it up to the south-facing window in the garret, and see if we can't keep harvesting jalapenos for another couple months!

I dug up the two strongest basil plants this afternoon and potted them, and they are now living on the table by the east windows in the living room, where they will get lots of sun exposure. I kept these plants producing for the last three months by regularly pinching off the end clusters of leaves, so hopefully they'll keep it up inside for awhile too.

We still have another four or five basil plants out in the garden. What we don't use fresh I'll make into pesto for freezing or just chop and freeze the fresh leaves in ice cube trays. I've been doing this with both basil and cilantro (which I also kept growing all summer by the same method), and now we have a big ziploc bag of each in the freezer.

With the basil plants up and two more cabbages harvested, the big bed at the side of the house was mostly empty, and the chickens are hard at work there today, tilling and fertilizing it for us.

Matt built this wire cage in about fifteen minutes, and it serves as a mini chicken tractor so we can put the chickens on various beds in the garden without them going venturing out of bounds.

We will have the chickens till this section today and tomorrow, and then let it sit for the next month before tilling again, adding compost, and planting garlic there. Another fall tradition- my seed garlic from Hood River Garlic arrived today!

This is the same organic Chesnok Red that I grew two years ago. I had a great harvest of it that time, but wasn't able to keep any because I harvested about a month before we left for New Zealand. I'm so excited to grow it again and actually keep some this time!

We're going to replant about half the garden with fall and winter crops like kale, spinach and fava beans. The other half, where things didn't do so well this year, we'll let the chickens till and then we'll plant cover crops. Matt bought some field pea seed this week, and we'll also till in egg shells and compost. We're planning to use the green manure method where once the cover crops have grown, we'll cut them and till them in where they grew, then let them sit and compost in until spring.

With that, I'd better get moving onto the next fall activity; all the apples are off the trees as of yesterday, and it's time to make another apple pie!