Changing clocks a sign of the season at Horsefeathers Farm

OlympianNovember 5, 2013 

Welcome to Horsefeathers Farm in East Olympia where most of the leaves are raked, and most of the garden has been put to bed as the daylight hours fade away in the approaching winter solstice darkness.

The gusty winds last Saturday knocked the remaining leaves out of the big-leaf maple trees, turning on the green light for the second and final round of leaf-blowing and raking on Sunday. I always like to get to the ones around the house before the next rainfall turns them soggy and hard to maneuver. The others in the outer pastures go untouched.

The maple leaves have been joined in the garden with blueberry, pear, lilac and choke cherry leaves to form an insulating blanket that will slowly break down and nourish the soil.

Some of the leaves, mixed with compost, will be heaped over the top of the soon-to-be chopped down dahlia plants, which still stand blackened by last week’s first frost. I did pick four final bouquets Oct. 27, so we definitely had a nice run of dahlias this year. We leave the dahlia tubers in the ground, then dig them up and separate them for replanting in the spring. We’ve had as much luck with this in-situ storage method as we did when we used to dig them up and store them in sand or sawdust or peat moss in containers in the garage or barn.

The huge western red cedars on the north side of the house are just about done flagging. That’s the die-off and drop of older cedar twigs and boughs, especially after dry summers followed by a wet period. It can be unsightly and messy, but it’s usually nothing to worry about. I blow the tree litter that falls on the driveway into piles, scoop them up and place them in a compost pile of small woody debris.

The garden is not quite winterized, and continues to produce beets, brussels sprouts, salad greens and carrots. The potatoes are all dug up and stored for the winter. I need to get some garlic cloves in the ground pronto, if a I want a fresh crop next July.

I have some renegade raspberry plants to dig up and move back into the rows, filling in some gaps where the canes have died. Pruning chores directed at the pear and apple trees and blueberry plants are right around the corner.

It’s time to winterize the rider mower and relinquish the horseless pasture to the moles, which are on a rampage. My old black Lab, 12 years old and starting to run out of steam, hasn’t caught a mole since the warm days of summer.

It’s also time to break out the file and linseed oil to sharpen and oil the garden tools.
There are still a few ornamental perennial plants in pots and planter boxes on the back deck, including two or three geraniums we’re going to stow away in the barn and see if they survive the winter.

he loss of daylight savings time Sunday means we’re getting up in the dark and will soon be coming home from work in the dark. It won’t be long before the outside chores will have to wait for weekends. This is the hardest time of year for me, but I’m going to put it to use, reading and writing.

We also have an intermittent guest in our wooded back pasture, a black-and-white billy goat that belongs to the neighbors, but has found the browsing better on the other side of the fence, which he can hop over with ease from a standstill.

So far, he’s doing more good than harm, but at some point I may have to install a temporary fence and hot wire in hopes of keeping him from browsing on our more desirable landscaping.

While on the subject of goats: Did you know a group of goats is called a trip? My uninvited visitor belongs to a trip, but he’s the only one jumping the fence so far.

More fun facts on goats provided at the Edelweiss Acres home page: Wild ones were depicted in Paleolithic art and domesticated about 7000 B.C. Today they’re found worldwide, including in the back pasture at Horsefeathers Farm.
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Add my voice to those bemoaning the sudden closure of Apollo’s Pizza and Pasta on Olympia’s west side. I sure will miss their one-of-a-kind African peanut soup.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444

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