Fleeting Fall

The leaves seem to already be falling to the ground, and I feel like I’ve barely had the chance to enjoy them shifting from green to yellow to orange to red on the trees. What’s the deal, fall?

We’ve been in the throes of fall cleanup around here. A few weekends ago, the chickens got their coop and run deep clean. Last weekend, I dug the sweet potatoes and put more of the garden to rest.

There’s always so much excitement to see what’s buried under the soil on sweet potato digging day:
20141004. Sweet potato digging day!

And then? Sometimes, this happens. Yup. That is the entirety of our sweet potato “crop” this year.
20141004. Sweet potatoes... And this is all we got, folks.

Sad trombone.
20141004. A rather lackluster sweet potato year.

Still left to do: planting the garlic, cutting back the perennials in the back, and cutting back our newer/smaller perennials up front. Then the snow can fly.
20141004. Putting the garden to bed for the winter.

This weekend? This weekend, I took care of most of the older perennials in the front yard. We usually leave the coneflower all winter for the birds and other little critters, but we were a little distracted this summer and didn’t do much in the way of staking them as they grew. The end result was a bunch of beautiful, wild, crazy flowers laying across the lawn and each other. So… they had to go.

I feel like we should be doing “fall stuff” with Willem – taking him on hay rides and to pumpkin patches and little kid costume parades. But really? At this point, those things would be more for us than him, and he’s just not terribly keen on big crowds. He had such a great time playing on his blanket in the sun this morning, watching me hack away at the bushes of false blue indigo, butterfly weed, and coneflower. So instead of pictures of Willem with pumpkins, we’ll have pictures of Willem on my Grandma Farm’s colorful quilt in the front yard.

20141012. Fall cleaning of the front yard and play time.

20141012. Fall cleaning of the front yard and play time.

20141012. Fall cleaning of the front yard and play time.

Can you also tell our latest exciting development? Willem now has two bottom teeth coming in! His gummy smile is a thing of the past. Sniff…
20141012. Fall cleaning of the front yard and play time.

I must say, though, I can’t wait until he’s old enough to snuggle up on the couch with us and watch a movie or go play at Conner Prairie or the Children’s Museum or really have a blast watching the Christmas train display at the Eiteljorg Museum. Don’t grow up too fast, kid… but when you do, we’ll have some awesome stuff to do.

20141012. Fall cleaning of the front yard and play time.

Farm-to-Fork? More Like Farm-to-Face

Willem is eating FOOD, guys! I’m not sure why I’m so excited about this, but I am. I mean, it was inevitable that the kid would eat food at some point, right? He’s not going to survive on breast milk forever.

Part of it is that, oh, holy crap, he’s already eating food. At this rate, he’ll be learning to drive before we know it.
20140724. I'm ready.

The other part is that so far, his first foods were lovingly made by ME last fall. With every messy bite, I’m brought back to that time, when I was so full of excitement and big dreams for this little creature I was anxiously waiting to meet. And now? Now he is here, and he gets to eat that excitement and those big dreams with every spoonful. How cool is that?

Sweet potatoes (or were those yams?) from the garden last fall…
20131102. Sweet potatoes (or did I plant yams?).

And straight into the gullet. The kid, he likes his sweet potatoes.
20140724. Sweet potatoes are GOOD.

Our annual trip to Anderson Orchard last September:
20130914. Anderson Orchard.

20130914. Annual Anderson Orchard visit.

Apple sauce making:
20130914. Old school is new school again.

Apple sauce eating. Verdict: apple sauce is GOOOOOD.
Apple sauce!

I honestly don’t see us ever buying baby food from the store. This is one-ingredient goodness right here, and it doesn’t get much closer to home.

No Tuber Left Behind

So hey… we just got back from our honeymoon in Jamaica! I was very good about not shouting it from the rooftops (or, more accurately, my computer keypad) that we would be out of town. You know, that whole thing about it being bad to tell the whole world you’re not at home. I can’t tell you how difficult that was, given that I can’t keep a secret to save my life AND I was way overly excited about this particular vacation.

20131028. Amazing storm clouds.

So there you have it: last Sunday, we left for a resort just west of Ocho Rios, spent the week lying on the beach and floating in the ocean, and returned late last night. JAMAICA!

20131028. Chris and his thematic reading matter.

20131028. Virgin pina colada and a good book.

20131028. Crab friend.

20131029. Ocean floating.

20131031. Bob Marley's home when he was a wee babe.

On Thursday, we took a trip into the mountains and countryside to see Bob Marley’s first home and final resting place, and on the way there, we were surprised to learn that 90 percent of the residents of that particular area are farmers.

20131031. 90 percent of the residents in this area are farmers.

The landscape on the way up to Nine Miles.

Additionally, the area’s sole water source is rainfall. This means everyone had not just a rain barrel, but a rain cistern outside the house (along with some very creative guttering systems to get the water from the corrugated metal roofs of some of the houses to the cisterns). There were also large open limestone rock catchment systems scattered throughout the area.

20131031. Limestone rainwater catchment system.

The limestone rainwater catchment system at Mt. Zion.

Being interested in that whole farming thing, my eyes immediately keyed into the fields scattered on hillsides or lower in the valleys. I began seeing squash vines trailing across the red soil, banana trees (I think), cabbage heads cropping up on stonier slopes… and these strange rows upon rows of tall poles, growing thick with what looked like sweet potato vines.

I asked our guide, Ros-shacka, and he confirmed: they were YAMS! He seemed shocked that we could grow sweet potatoes in Indiana, and we chatted for a moment about growing seasons.

20131031. The view from Mt. Zion.

Farms and gardens were tucked in everywhere on these hills.

This was also the swift kick in the behind I needed to get our own yams out of the ground upon our return. November in Indiana also means garlic cloves need to get into the soil. So as our northern diffused November sun slowly warmed the changing leaves above me this morning and with my trusty knit cap snug over my ears, I began the special chore of gently working through soft dirt for those bright red, gem-like tubers.

20131102. Sweet potatoes (or did I plant yams?).

Assembling the only tools needed for the task of digging sweet potatoes (not pictured: hands).

20131102. Sweet potatoes (or did I plant yams?).

This year, I started growing our slips early – like, JANUARY.

20130113. Starting the sweet potato slips.

In January…

201305117. Remember that time I worried the sweet potatoes wouldn't grow?

By May, we had amazing growth. Ready for the ground!

Last year was our first year growing sweet potatoes, and so we planted the slips in June, much later than we really should have. So our haul this year is at least double what it was last October. I love the mystery of underground crops, digging through the soil, not really knowing what you’re going to find. Treasures!

20131102. Sweet potatoes (or did I plant yams?).

Dinner tonight is definitely going to feature roasted, mashed sweet potatoes! Or were they yams? No matter.

Honorary Titles: Best Stay-at-Home Whatever?

I’ve decided that, if given the opportunity, I really could be… THE GREATEST STAY-AT-HOME WHATEVER TO EVER STAY AT HOME. It’s unfortunate that work gets in the way of all my amazing activities, keeping me from actualizing my true potential to stay at home, being whatever, and making and doing all day long.

But it’s okay. The work part probably keeps me (sort of, mostly, kind of) sane.

Here’s my recent resume of what I’ve been making and doing lately, which I think clearly puts me at least in the running to be greatest stay-at-home whatever: We brewed our first batch of beer last Sunday, and now our front closet smells delectably of beer…

20130410. Our hall closet smells like beer.

To be fair, I was more the helper. Chris is the real brewmaster in training.

Ever since, I’ve been feeding the spent grains to both the chickens and to Birdie (in the form of these amazingly easy dog biscuits):

20130410. Birdie's spent grain biscuits - before and after.

I think she approves.

The sweet potatoes continue to grow:
20130410. Sweet potatoes continue to grow.

And the barley fodder tray has begun to green up. Soon, the chickens will be munching on delicious barley greens (and in a few weeks, they’ll have free rein over the yard again).
20130410. Growing barley for the chickens.

I was also terribly impressed with myself: I SUCCESSFULLY made Neufchatel cheese with dried rosemary and lavender from last year’s garden (and with the prompting and encouragement of a fellow blogger, Chris Kafer, whose blog is one of the few I make a point of checking in on regularly!). This turned out better than I could have hoped and is amazing on bagels.

20130410. Homemade Neufchatel with rosemary and lavender.

NEUF. CHA. TEL! NEUF. CHA. TEL!

So wouldn’t you agree? I would totally be the best stay-at-home whatever that stayed at home doing whatever. EVER.

Did They Tell You You Should Grow Up When You Wanted to Dream?

I’ve been daydreaming about growing things this weekend – so much so that I finally cracked open the various seed catalogs I’ve received so far this winter and carefully avoided. If you have never seen a seed catalog, they are essentially page after page of crack for the garden dreamer. Plant porn.

Purple and orange cauliflower; eight different kinds of kale; chard stems that scream color to rival the most vibrant sunset. You can guess what happened next, right?

I proceeded to add seed packet after seed packet to my shopping cart, using my holiday bonus from work upon checkout. Greater self-sufficiency seems like a good thing to spend one’s work bonus on. Chard, squash, artichoke, kale, nasturtium, cauliflower, and some sunflowers to round it out. This is on top of the peas, beans, turnips, beets, tomatoes, chives, and a whole bunch of other seeds I still have from last year.

Next up will be picking up seed starter from Worm’s Way, which is the only stuff I’ll buy after last year’s seed starting debacle with the organic mix from Lowe’s. Someday I’ll make my own seed starter mix, but I just don’t have it in me this year.

I bit the bullet today and followed actual directions for how to start sweet potato slips for planting. Last year was my first stab at growing sweet potatoes, and I’m excited to get them in the ground much earlier this year. I cut some of the vines from last year’s batch and plunked them into water, thinking they would root. And, well, they haven’t. Not really.

20121004. Sweet potato slips for next spring!

So, like I said, I bit the bullet, bought two sweet potatoes from the grocery store, cut ’em up, and threw them into a few jars. Each potato should produce many slips, which, in theory, will each become their own plant with oodles of sweet potatoes growing off of it underground. Sweet potatoes are kind of magical, right?

20130113. Starting the sweet potato slips.A rainy weekend spent daydreaming of sunshine and cool breezes, the smell of dirt, tiny seedlings turning to giants to fill my pantry and my belly, and converting more of our yard into useable, edible space? In case you were wondering, it has been lovely.

Did they tell you you should grow up when you wanted to dream? Did they warn you, better shape up if you want to succeed? I don’t about you, who are they talking to? They’re not talking to me.