Sunday, September 20, 2015

Autumn work

With the autumnal equinox less than a week away, the wildflowers of autumn are in full bloom. I took these photos in various parts of our yard so that I can share their beauty with you.
The yellow flower in the middle is showy goldenrod, and it lives up to its name!
These are woodland asters. The delicate, small blue flowers are among my favorites.
This is yet another member of the aster family, as are the two previous flowers.

Planting is done now except for cover crops, due to be sown as I clear off beds over the next few weeks, and garlic and potato onions, which will be planted around the end of October or early November. I enjoy the slower pace of garden work in early autumn. This week I harvested nine good-sized butternut squash, the first-planted of the four beds of popcorn, and, for the second time, the dry pods of blackeyed peas. I also harvested about two pounds of arugula, with a good deal more remaining to be harvested. At least I can grow one good salad crop during autumn! Even better, arugula will remain usable into December, possibly January if winter is warmer than usual.

Speaking of winter, it isn’t all that far off, only about two months away. With that in mind, I began making the glassed-in front porch ready to receive the container plants that spend the warm months on our patio. I have already moved a few plants to it and have seedlings of calendula in process for flowers during the winter. I expect to move most of the rest of the patio plants to the front porch over the next week or so. Although our first frost is probably still a few weeks off, I’d rather not have to move all the plants in a hurry, perhaps during bad weather.

Meanwhile, Mike has begun to frame-in the woodshed that will provide wood for the wood stove we bought and had installed late last autumn. Rather than chuck any old piece of wood into the stove, we intend to burn dry, properly seasoned wood. By doing so, we minimize the risk of creosote formation in the chimney as well as minimize the pollutants produced when wood is burned in a careless way. Thus, the woodshed will be roofed over to keep the rain off and have open walls to allow air to pass through to dry the wood. We have some wood stacked up elsewhere in the yard under a tarp, waiting for the woodshed to be finished. Most of it is from the silver maple tree that we had removed in 2012, where the garden shed now stands. The rest of it is from large shrubs and small trees I’ve removed and limbs that have fallen on our yard or on the lot to our west, where no one currently lives. As my shrubs and trees grow larger, some of the prunings are large enough to burn, as kindling if nothing else. Later on, I intend to try coppicing some of the larger trees in our back yard. Our goal is to minimize the use of purchased firewood. Mike will process all the wood with human-powered tools, including a hydraulic human-powered wood splitter that works well! I’ll talk more about the wood stove later on, after we have more experience with it.

In the meantime, I am writing the first of a short series of posts on keeping warm in a minimally-heated residence. I don’t know yet if these will be the weekly post for the next few weeks or if I will put them up in between these a-week-in-the-life-of posts. While I work on that series, I wish all of you in the northern hemisphere an enjoyable autumn equinox, and an enjoyable spring equinox to those of you in the southern hemisphere!


  1. Hi Claire,

    I hope that you had a lovely autumnal equinox. The weather has been delightful down here - if not very cold over night.

    Your glassed in porch is an outstanding idea.

    Good luck with the wood heater and shed too. An old timer down here was telling me that dry seasoned firewood also reduces the damage to the steel in the combustion chamber too so what you are aiming for is a very worthwhile goal. Your winters would scare me, sorry to say.

    Firewood is like every other system and you learn a bit more about it with every year. Believe it or not, the editor and I were planning the harvest and storage of firewood three to five years in advance tonight over coffee and a biscuit sitting on the porch watching the sun go down.

    Cheers. Chris

    1. Hi Chris,

      I had a fine autumn equinox and I hope you had a fine spring equinox! Today I put the tender plants, including the citrus and olive trees, on the glassed-in porch, as part of my autumn equinox activities. While it could be a month or more before the first frost, I'd rather not have to scramble in unpleasant weather to rush them onto the porch.

      I'm not a bit surprised that you and the editor were planning firewood harvest and storage three to five years in advance. Mike's making the woodshed big enough to hold three cords of wood or a bit more, so I am starting to think how we might acquire enough wood to keep the woodshed stocked up. The first thing we'll want to learn is about how much wood we might use during heating season, so I'll keep track of how much we use this winter.

      If there is a break in the clouds, I hope to see the total lunar eclipse tonight. At the moment, however, it doesn't look promising.