The middle of November already! Where has the time gone? I guess we were so busy harvesting and trying to get everything done before the weather got cold, by the time we sat back and looked around the leaves were gone along with the birds and winter is quickly approaching. Although it's been a great fall, warm and pleasant, we'll be plunged into cold and wind before we're ready as usual. Time is upon us to get what we need to get done before the cold weather moves in. The darkness comes so early now it's near impossible to get anything done after work and everything gets put off to the weekends.
The field work here is wrapping up with the plastic being pulled out of the fields. That'll be our next to last activity in the field for the 2010 growing season. Our last task will be chisel plowing along the contours of the field to prevent winter erosion. It's too late to plant any cover crops now so we'll rough up the surface to catch the water and prevent erosion. It's wet right now and an inch of rain is in the forecast, but once that dries up we'll get out there one more time.
The winter rye we planted the week of October 17th is up and growing but slowly. Mid October is pushing the "best planting window" and growth is marginal through the late fall. Winter rye will technically grow down to 32 degrees but it's very slow. The brassicas we planted are doing much better; they really enjoy the cooler weather and frequent rains of fall in Maine. The warm fall weather has helped our cover crops grow but, alas, all good things must come to an end.
Fall activities, besides wrapping up the field work, include banking of the older buildings, recovering greenhouse No. 3 and storing everything we can under cover or out of the way of the snow plowing crew. All the tractors get a thorough going over and the a good pressure washing. Then, after drying, they'll go into storage until next season. Same with the equipment.
Now is a good time to look for holes around buildings where critters will try to get in before winter. Newer buildings aren't as prone to critters as the older ones and the greenhouses. An unused or "closed for the winter" greenhouse is an excellent spot for a rat to spend the winter. One of the best ways to keep them from settling in is to deny them a food source; not easy if you have animals or like to feed the birds. Here we clean the greenhouses prior to closing them down for the winter and at home I keep feed and seed in steel garbage cans. Still they get in, and more than once I've switched the lights on to see them scurry around.
A rat is a very smart creature; smart like a coyote. As much as they have been trapped and poisoned they thrive. They live in and under buildings, in compost piles and thrive on our throw away materials. I've seen them under our bird feeders, scavenging seed and chasing away the squirrels, I've seen them in my workshop keeping warm next to the hot water pipes and I've seen many of them in the greenhouses during the winter and early spring. Wanting to get into my birdseed bin they chewed a hole in the plastic cover, and I would have never known, but one popped out when I went to fill it up.
A couple of years ago we started seeing colored rats; multicolored rats, mostly brown and white but sometimes black and white or just black or white. My neighbor has been seeing them too, so it's not just me. I'd speculate someone released some domestic ones nearby and they bred with the wild ones but that's only speculation. They don't seem to be as wary nor as wild as the regular rats. It does add some variety to just trapping old fashioned brown rats. Yes, things can get pretty slow at times. Catch one rat and the others learn real quick that a trap means death, and they'll avoid it. Like I said; they're smart.
I'm off next week so there won't be my usual column. Time to get some stuff done before winter sets in. I think what little bit of garden I had this year needs to be cleaned up; I guess I can mulch the blueberries now. The Brussels sprouts will be ripe for harvesting and everything else can get pulled up. I didn't get a cover crop planted so will leave the weeds there to protect the soil. There's a little more work to do on the woodpile and that'll be done. And there's lots of chicken manure to take out of the buildings and apply to the garden, well anyways, I think I can find enough projects to keep me busy.
See you in December, Brian