We're at another small turning point this week with the first of the fall greens ready to harvest. Despite the first taste of fall crops, we haven't really had much fall weather yet, certainly not if you look at the daytime high temperatures. That's making for a slow start for fall crops that germinate and grow better in more moderate temperatures. If the hard winter weather holds off long enough, there's still time for a lot of the fall crops to make, but we surely won't have as much as early as we would in a more average year. There are still several of the summer crops that are maturing meanwhile. We started enjoying this year's crop of popcorn this week. Our first batch of creamed honey was ready last week. Some of the earlier maturing sweet potatoes are sizing up already, but we're still looking forward to some of our favorite baking varieties. (We think some of these early varieties make great sweet potato chips, though.) The peanuts are looking pretty good, and we plan to harvest those sometime next month. The growing season is definitely nearing its end, though.
The last two and a half weeks have made for the longest dry stretch we've had all year. For now, we're holding off on planting strawberries until we can see a break in that pattern coming. All in all, we've had more regular rainfall through this growing season than we can remember in any of the last few years, though.
Last year we started talking about the years as the year of the beans and bell peppers (2008), the year of the tomatoes and sweet potatoes (2009), etc. This year will have to be the year of the strawberries and the Mexican bean beetles. (Not a good bean year!) We probably had more strawberries and more bean beetles than we had in all the previous years (since we started selling in 2004) combined. Besides the strawberries, we were also well pleased with the garden peas and lettuces this spring. The onions -- which we're about to the end of -- also held out to produce a surprisingly nice crop this year. Although only a minor crop for us, the pumpkins and winter squash did quite well this year. We need to find more ways to use these pumpkins than just desserts and soup! We're excited about all the different varieties of winter squash there are to grow and want to grow more next year.
Although our number of bee hives was a little down this spring, things went very well in the bee yard, and we had what was probably our best per hive average yet. The honey flow was early, short, and intense, but fortunately we were able to build last year's nucleus colonies up in time to make an excellent crop. There wasn't any summer crop to speak of this year, but the bees seem to have held their own through the summer pretty well, and we feel pretty good about the way things look heading into winter, even though we never much know what to expect: there are just so many variables when it comes to bees.
If you've asked for eggs the last few weeks, you know that our supply of eggs has been very limited lately. That's mainly due to the normal seasonal cycle. We actually reduced the size of our laying flock this spring, because we were having trouble selling all our eggs, and now it's quite the opposite. It will probably be January or February before we see egg surpluses again, but we hope you'll remember our eggs then.
We're continuing to learn and improve on our management of the pasture and our cattle and dairy goats. One of our Jersey cows is bred to a Jersey bull and due to calve Thanksgiving Day. The other is maybe too old to successfully breed again, but we hope she'll keep milking for a long time anyway and maybe provide an opportunity for some more veal early next year. Our little herd of Saanen dairy goats is up to four now, although just one of those kidded and is in milk this year. We're slowly trying to increase there.
We're increasingly optimistic about the prospects for selling a full variety of local, organic fruit. We were able to pick most of our blueberries off our own bushes this year, and the bushes are still just getting going. Our little orchard that we planted in the fall of 2007 when we first moved to Iredell has already yielded its first apples and pears. We've especially been enjoying figs and Asian pears lately, and we found our first ripe persimmon (from a delicious wild tree) this week.