The Farm Report: The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Autumn from about Halloween to Thanksgiving is, as the song goes, the most wonderful time of the year in Tennessee.  The days are cool and the nights are cold, which means the bugs finally go away.  I can work or play disc golf outside without worrying about chiggers or ticks trying to make a meal of me.  We can fire up the wood-burning stove and get a bit of that burning-wood aroma in the house.  My Irish skin also much prefers 60 degrees to 80 degrees.  I feel more energetic in the autumn than at any other time of the year.

But the best part of autumn in Tennessee is the scenery, which looks something like this:

The only downside is that the most wonderful time of the year announced itself this week with a ferocious wind-and-rain storm.  Chareva and the girls were still in Mexico on Halloween, so I did some work and then started watching a football game I’d recorded.  Towards midnight, the wind started howling.  Then the rain showed up, blowing sideways.  I could hear things banging around outside in the wind.

There was a tornado watch in the area, and I began wondering how the heck I could get the dogs and the cat into the basement without a gang fight breaking out.  Fortunately, it didn’t come to that.  The house lost power for awhile, so I sat reading by the light of a battery-powered lantern.

I went out the next day to survey the damage, half expecting to find our portable chicken coop blown onto its side and the chickens dead or missing.  Nope, they were fine.  Chareva built a good coop.  The umbrella for our patio table wasn’t so lucky.  The pole snapped and the wire frame was bent beyond repair.

I also found that a few trees were broken by the wind.  Oh well, more firewood.

While Chareva was out of town, moving the portable coop and feeding the chickens every day was my responsibility.  Usually it’s a pleasant enough task.  But that was before all the pears the girls didn’t collect to eat fell off the trees.

Pears?  What’s so unpleasant about pears?

Glad you asked.  Turns out the pears have attracted a swarm of bees.  Pick a pear, any pear, and it probably looks like this:

The coop is in the same field as the pears.  So each time I went out to move it, I was working in a field chock-full of bees.  There were usually a half-dozen or so bees flying around inside the coop as well.  I figured it was a foregone conclusion that I was going to get stung before the week was out.  Never happened.  Whew.

We hope the portable coop is secure enough to keep out the raccoons and other predators, and so far we haven’t lost any of the young chickens.  But I was curious to know if any critters were coming around at night to test their luck against the chicken wire, so I pointed my trail camera at the coop.

One night around 2:00 AM, the dogs started barking up a storm.  I retrieved the SD card from the camera the next day, expecting to see a raccoon or coyote sniffing around the coop.  I saw this instead.

Fortunately, deer don’t eat chickens.

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29 thoughts on “The Farm Report: The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

  1. Cindy C

    Good to heat the damage was not so bad. We survived hurricane Hugo, although with some damage. Those “bees” look like yellow jacket wasps to me. They love fruit and get into soda cans(not that you have soda cans around). When they sting, it takes a while to take effect, and it really hurts.

    I hope I don’t find out.

    Reply
    1. Allen W. McDonnell

      You are not just a kidding, I had the misfortune of swallowing one of them that was inside my can of fruit juice in…2002, it stung me in the tonsil on the way to my stomach. I threw the bugger up and then got to spend three days in the local hospital. I recommend letting them sting you on the OUTSIDE, it hurts but you don’t end up eating hospital food for three days.

      Okay, that story all by itself is enough to scare me off eating any of these pears.

      Reply
      1. Allen W. McDonnell

        The embarrassing part was the hospital helps train students in the nursing program at the local college so the first day I had every student Nurse and half the MD staff come around to see me and look down my throat to see the wound on my tonsil. I still have a tiny scar that the Doctors can see if they take a look for a sore throat exam.

        Reply
    2. Jim Butler

      This time of year, they move REAL SLOW in the mornings, when it’s a bit nippy out.
      Also same for late afternoons and evenings.

      Cold weather is YOUR friend, not theirs 😉

      Jim

      ps. those visitors would look really really good on a dinner plate. Just sayin 😉

      I’m not quite ready to clean and process a deer … yet.

      Reply
  2. Aaron

    Hmmm … chicken fed deer. Might have a better 3:6 ratio. You could be onto something here 😉

    We had a couple pear trees in our backyard growing up. Oh, fond memories of raking up that mess every year. Not.

    My plan for the next bumper crop is to learn how to make pear liquor. We can’t eat that many. Not even close.

    Reply
    1. Allen W. McDonnell

      My mother would can our extra’s in mason jars, halved, cored and peeled. The pears were covered in syrup made from boiling the peels in sugar water and the last inch of the quart jar was topped off with schnapps. Way better than anything you get from the super market in a metal can. Of course now that I know some of the hazards of Fructose I would modify the syrup to use Glucose syrup instead, but then I would have to really be careful to keep the carbs low when eating them.

      Reply
  3. JayInKett

    Tom, I don’t think those were bees on those pears. They look like yellow jackets. I’m surprised your encounter with them was benign. I’ve stumbled across a “flock” (I’m not sure what the right word is) of them a few times. They were aggressive. I didn’t get stung, but those beasties were not afraid to get in my face.

    Whatever they were, I felt lucky not to get stung.

    Reply
  4. Mick Hamblen

    Might consider getting a W-H-Y trap or two. Stands for Wasp Hornet and Yellowjacket. No poison involved and they are awesome. Available on Amazon

    At this point, I may need a hundred of them. Thanks for tip.

    Reply
  5. Drew @ Willpower Is For Fat People

    How many pear trees you dealing with? Is it possible to put tarps or nets under them when they start dropping so you can lift the corners and drag everything off at once?

    Nets or tarps would be a good idea for next year. Just three pear trees, but WOW, they produced a lot of pears.

    Reply
    1. Mary

      The deer in our area scour the grounds for apples that fall or can be reached standing on hoof-tip and practically climbing the tree if they need to. I well imagine that they’d be scarfing up pears if we had any.

      By the way, those really weren’t just ‘bees’ – they were yellow jackets. Like others wrote, very aggressive!

      Next year, why not gather the pears when half green & donate any you can’t use to the local food pantry? Pears are best picked when still slightly green and firm – they’re far easier to can & preserve and will ripen wonderfully off the tree. And – best part – no yellow jacket bait on the ground!

      Whatever it takes to avoid another yellow-jacket swarm next year.

      Reply
  6. Tami

    Tom, those are wasps and as the pears ferment, they’re going to become drunk wasps. Possibly drunk deer as well. Carberol will deal to the wasps, but its not natural sorry. Drunk deer could be funny…

    Hubby suggests digging hole and burying the pears and as many wasps as possible 🙂

    I think the wasps are already drunk. Last night I heard them singing.

    Reply
  7. eric bardos

    My experience is that the “yellow jacket” bees will not sting unless you somehow inadvertently stumble upon their nest, threaten it in some way or make lots of noise around it. When they are on food gathering or water gathering trips, they seem to not be aggressive. However, this disclaimer: very occasionally they will sting because you got in their way.

    Considering I’ve had to walk right through them to get to the coop, they don’t seem particularly aggressive. One of them landed on Chareva’s lower back yesterday while we out moving the coop, walked around on her bare skin for a bit, and flew away. (Her shirt had hiked up. We don’t do topless farm work.)

    Reply
  8. Pat

    Definitely wasps, and the pears are probably fermenting. Deer love windfall apples and pears (so do bears, hope there are none in your area) so your pears are feeding lots of wildlife.

    We also had the windstorm, but here fall is gone (leaves are long since off the trees) and winter is coming. Almost time for the winter tires (not “snow” tires, the determining factor is temperature since the tire material needs to be flexible in the cold). I envy you your longer growing season, but not the bugs, although we do grow healthy mosquitoes and black flies and a few ticks here. Chiggers – nope.

    They’re the size of bees and don’t seem particularly aggressive. If they are wasps, they’re not the flying demons I’ve encountered before.

    Reply
  9. Lori

    Those insects look like the ones that go in and out of a hole within a door on the side of my house. (They don’t get inside the house.) They’ve never bothered me.

    Maybe you can rent or borrow some geese to clean up the pears. I’ve read they like fruit.

    Reply
  10. Vir-Gena Fowlkes

    I tried the WHY traps but haven’t found the secret spot to hang it where the insect will go in and meet it’s demise. They just keep escaping. I did find a solution that I will try this next summer. http://nourishingplot.com/2013/10/11/natural-yellow-jacket-killer/?fb_source=pubv1 My brother came to ID for a visit this past summer from TN. I thought a picnic by the lake sounded like a good idea. Nope, we were swarmed by yellow-jackets and ended up eating in the vehicle. I’m glad my family were good sports about it.

    I still can’t get over the picture of someone letting one those things rest on his finger.

    Reply
  11. CeeBee

    Yellow Jackets nest in the ground and get very upset if you inadvertently run over their nest with the lawn mower, a painful lesson my husband learned the hard way.
    He dealt with the problem by waiting until dark, when they were not active, and pouring gasoline down the hole. I’m sure that is NOT the environmentally appropriate solution, but the man wanted revenge.

    Well, I wouldn’t want to pour gasoline in our fields, but waiting until sunset to go back there is a good idea.

    Reply
    1. Chuck

      I had the same problem when mowing with a push mower, suddenly out of nowhere lots of stinging on my legs. I had mowed over top of their nest in the ground, not knowing they were even there. I did a little online research and found an easy solution. It sounded too silly to work, but I tried it anyway. You take a clear glass or plastic bowl, then wait till it’s dark and place it over the nest hole in the ground (place a weight on top to keep it in place if necessary). Supposedly when it gets light out, the yellow jackets will come out of the nest and not be able to go anywhere, so they will return to the nest and eventually starve to death. I think I left it on the nest for a week or two, then just for good measure I flooded the hole with the garden hose. Never saw them again.

      Reply
  12. Galina L.

    From the time when I was interested in wasps as a teenager, I remember them getting very sluggish, non-reactive and not aggressive after a sunset. Probably, it is better for you to get into the wasps-infested area later in the day. I guess, as bees, wasps could be distracted by a smoke.

    Reply
  13. Kathy in Texas

    Thanks for the fond reminder of the pear preserves my mom made when I was a kid. They were cooked a long time, became chewy/almost candied, and were heavenly still warm on buttered toast. Thank goodness I can’t get my hands on them now. I’m sure my blood sugar just spiked!

    Reply
  14. Ulfric Douglas

    Can you rig up some kind of automatic weapon triggered by the night-vision camera?
    Venison in the mornings.

    Pear-brandy would be good too.

    I’m thinking more like pear moonshine.

    Automatic weapon, hmmm … I’d probably kill some neighbor’s wandering dog. We’ve had a couple of those show up on the property.

    Reply
  15. K2

    Good evening Tom,

    What lovely foliage! That’s how it looks in Maryland right now – tapestry colors everywhere. How nice of Nature to leave us with a beautiful, bold memory before the long, bare winter reminding us of the colors to come in spring. As you have said many times, Mother Nature isn’t stupid. 🙂

    Now something a little off-topic re this post, but I didn’t want to wait for a more appropriate one. This evening I heard on a financial show on the radio that Kelloggs is cutting seven percent of its workforce because people are eating less cereal, they need to boost profits, yada yada. I said a quiet “Victory!’ before the rest of the story. A true victory? Alas, no. Americans apparently are eating less cereal because doing so tethers us to a table or at least some surface to hold the bowl with the milk. We apparently are not only gluttons for grains, but want them immediately and on the go as well. Looks like people are shifting to breakfast bars, breakfast sandwiches, etc, rather than the old fashioned Cocoa Puffs with skim milk. What ever happened to those good ole days?

    So, less cold cereal and more other manifestations of the grain+sugar+artificial flavors+vitamins combo. Zero sum game, isn’t it? Or maybe a lose/lose for everyone involved, except for the food companies.

    Just had to share. I knew you’d understand. Please keep fighting the good fight and we’ll get there one day.

    Also, on another note….I know some folks here enjoy sweet potatoes/yams from time to time. I need them as my runs are not enjoyable without some in my diet. One delicious but unintuitive way to enjoy them is in a frittata. Typically frittatas use regular potatoes, but I use roasted chunks of sweet potato, with veggies (asparagus or zucchini or spinach usually). It is not too sweet, and the flavor and texture contrasts are really nice. Frittatas are quick, help you use up little bits of veggies/ham/cheese/other stuff to clean out the fridge and are super easy to make. They are my go-to dinner!

    Okay. I’m done. Take care and enjoy the rest of this lovely time of year!

    K2

    I like the frittata idea, especially since Chareva and the girls just harvested some sweet potatoes from our garden.

    Grains to go … ugh.

    Reply
  16. Dave, RN

    Thanks for those beautiful pictures. I lived in Tenn as a child (Manchester) for about a year. We were there in the fall and I still recall the scent of burning leaf piles…

    Reply
  17. Matt

    North Carolina last week looked just like your tree pictures.
    I got to check that off my list of states I’ve visited. Unfortunately I don’t think I get to check off Tennessee. I not only never got out of Nashville’s airport, I never even got off the plane. It was cloudy with scattered rain, so all I saw out the window while flying in was a river I didn’t see enough of to identify, and later a bunch of hotels and a K-mart; could have been anywhere. Maybe if I’d at least seen a state flag.

    Come visit the area sometime. The scenery is lovely.

    Reply

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