October Odds and Ends

My tent stands in a garden

Of aster and golden-rod,

Tilled by the rain and the sunshine,

And sown by the hand of God,-

An old New England pasture

Abandoned to peace and time,

And by the magic of beauty

Reclaimed to the sublime.

The odorous wild grape clambers

Over the tumbling wall,

And through the autumnal quiet

The chestnuts open and fall.

Sharing time's freshness and fragrance,

Part of the earth's great soul,

Here man's spirit may ripen

To wisdom serene and whole.

 

from An Autumn Garden by Bliss Carmen

 

The time of harvest is upon us, and the fairs and festivals are abundant. What better way to enjoy the fall season than to head for one of the local fairs and partake of cider, apples, garlic, and so much more. I recently spent three days in PA at the Mother Earth News Fair, and what a great event! Too much to see and do, as there were at least five speakers each hour to choose from, as well as numerous vendors and demonstrations. I was able to fit in a lecture on mushroom growing, live chicken processing, and an in-depth lecture on biochar. There were lots of alternative energy options, animals to see, and products to choose from, from tart cherry juice to fermented veggies to the ever present kettle corn (made with maple syrup, though!). I picked up a tool I had been wanting for some time called the Nut Wizard. It is a long handled device, a type of cage, which is rolled over the ground to pick up nuts, fruits, etc. My back has been getting a workout picking all the apple and pear drops, so I am eager to have a different option. I also snagged a new version of a favorite appliance - the Victorio Strainer. I have been spending lots of time in the kitchen using this to process my tomatoes. It separates the seeds and skin from the juice and meat of the tomato. The new one has several plastic parts, and is actually better at retrieving more of the good stuff from the tomato - less waste. I hope to be a vendor next year at this fair, but the good news is Mother Earth News is planning on expanding and having a fair in NE in the near future. I'll be first in line!

The fifth of October will find me at the Hey Day, a local fair in Princeton at the Audubon sanctuary. I attended this fair as a child - so they have been holding this for a long time. I plan to have a booth, selling a few plants, gently used garden and herb books, and some of my herbal products. This fair was my first exposure to organic gardening, back in the 60's. Of course, that's basically what my parents did, but I had never realized there was such a movement or that it had a name. So it was a defining moment for me, and helped shape my gardening direction. I'm looking forward to returning to this fair after such a long hiatus. And they have a wonderful chicken barbecue, to boot!

October is the time to plant your garlic, too. The tomatoes are winding down, and I'll be planting some of the garlic from this year's harvest. I had a very good crop, and I am eager to plant both hard and soft neck varieties so I'll have a good crop next year. And Sunday, the sixth, I'll be attending the Garlic and Arts Festival in Orange, MA, just for fun. They call it the Festival that Stinks, and you can find every imaginable use for garlic. They are open both Saturday and Sunday, and it is always a wonderful experience.

My wood pellets are in the barn, the last of the tomatoes are waiting to be plucked off the vine, the shell beans need to be harvested, along with the bottle gourds and the last of the peppers. I have lots of Ghost Pepper, if anyone wants some. They are 1,000,000 scoville units (extremely hot!) and I have a great crop - just don't know what to do with so many. Just one (without seeds) will make your chili really hot, so I am at a loss as to what to do with all of them. My basil is still going strong; I planted them in a cold frame to get a head start, and left them there all summer. It seems to have worked well, they are growing more vigorously then ever. I suppose it is a little sheltered, and retains more heat.

I've also been scouring the woods for mushrooms - it's been a little dry and the pickings are slim. But I enjoy just getting out there and watching the changes in the forest, the leaves are starting to turn and the air smells like fall. No frost yet, but I'm sure it will happen soon. Take some time and get outside, it will do you a world of good. Too soon we will be housebound, with the snow swirling around. Take advantage, and experience autumn!

Karen