The Farm Report: Garden Bounty

      36 Comments on The Farm Report: Garden Bounty

I hope y’all missed me. As I explained in my quick check-in post last week, I was on a full-throttle, pedal-to-the-metal coding jag that lasted nearly three weeks. An idea for solving a big problem at work got ahold of me and refused to let go, so I had to deal with it.

I’m prone to occasional insomnia anyway, and inspiration only makes it worse. I go to bed, try to sleep, but can’t stop my brain from zooming ahead to the next idea. So I accept the reality of the situation, get out bed and continue working. At one point last week, I wrote code nearly non-stop for 26 hours, finally slept for five hours, then popped awake with another idea and started another marathon session. Probably doesn’t do my cortisol levels any good, but it is what it is.

The coding marathon is over (because the BIG IDEA worked), and I’m finally back on a sane, normal schedule. I took Chareva and the girls out for a relaxing dinner on Friday night, then spent much of the weekend just cooling my heels and catching up on some TV shows I follow. During the coding marathon, I hired a crew to cut those back hilly areas I normally prefer to cut myself, so I didn’t have that task waiting for me.

While I was face-down in a pile of C# code, the farm carried on … meaning, of course, Chareva kept busy out there with no help from me. The chickens are still producing plenty of eggs:

Unfortunately, the flock is smaller by one — again. Some predator got in and killed a hen last week. Normally I’d set a trap for the critter. Trouble is, we have another critter out there we don’t want to trap. Namely, a skunk.

Chareva noticed the skunk some weeks ago. We think he may have taken up residence under one of the coops during the winter. Well, why not? The coops had heating bulbs. No point freezing your skunky tail off at night when you can wander into a cozy coop and curl up in some warm hay. The skunk also helps himself to an occasional egg for an easy meal.

Surprisingly, none of this seems to bother the chickens. Chareva once saw the skunk waddling around inside the coop, and the rooster (who was still with us at the time) was nearby and apparently unconcerned. So I’m guessing skunks don’t attack chickens, and chickens know as much.

Our dilemma now is: what if we set a trap for the raccoon or whatever’s killing chickens, but trap the skunk instead? Chareva kind of likes the little feller (from a safe distance) and would rather I not kill it. Even if she had no objection, killing it might just raise a big stink.

A co-worker told me he once shot a skunk he’d unintentionally trapped, and for its last act on earth, the dying skunk sprayed its scent over a good-sized chunk of the county.  We don’t want the chickens and gardens perfumed by Pepe Le Pew.  And I’m sure as @#$% not going to walk up to a trap with a live skunk inside and open the trap door. I still have memories of that episode of The Partridge Family where everyone had to take a bath in tomato juice.

So for now, we’re not going to set a trap. I’ll have to put on my (non-coding) thinking cap and see if I can come up with another way to get rid of the chicken-killing predator.

Meanwhile, Chareva’s gardens have been producing food faster than we can eat it.

That’s especially true for the okra, which has become the new zucchini. I’ve even had to alter my “Bubba from Forrest Gump” description of Chareva’s meals: Fried okra, roasted okra, boiled okra, okra stew, okra gumbo, okra salad … The girls have both requested that no more okra appear on their plates.  Chareva has taken to harvesting and dehydrating the excess so she can annoy the girls with okra well into the winter months.

Chareva tells me okra should be harvested when it’s the size of a thumb.  She missed the window on this one:

But there’s more to the garden than okra. Back when we covered the chicken moats with cattle-panel arches and nets, Chareva had a vision of walking beneath those arches and plucking beans. I don’t know why the overhead-bean-plucking vision was so important to her, but it was. Well, I’m happy to say she’s now living the dream.

She’s also been harvesting green peppers and chili peppers.

The eggplants aren’t big enough to eat yet, but they’re getting there.

This is buckwheat. It’s a cover crop, but people also grind the seeds it into a gluten-free flour. (Despite the name, buckwheat isn’t a grain.) I don’t know yet if we’ll try that or not.

These are sweet-potato vines. We’ve already harvested quite a few red potatoes, which are delicious when they’re farm-fresh. The sweet potatoes won’t be ready for harvesting until later in the autumn.

During my coding marathon, I stopped for dinner one night and took a moment to appreciate what was on my plate. The roasted okra came from our garden. The sautéed green beans came from our garden. The roasted red potatoes came from our garden. The meatloaf was beef, pork and eggs – and the pork came from the hogs we raised last year. Some of the herbs in the meatloaf also came from our garden. Everything was nutritious, and everything was a delicious treat … even the okra, despite the girls’ protests.

That’s why I love living on a mini-farm – and it’s why I’m glad Chareva is happy to handle all the farm chores when I’m up to my ears in programming work.


36 thoughts on “The Farm Report: Garden Bounty

  1. Wayne Gage

    A skunk was caught in my trap I had set to catch an unknown critter. I approached the trap with a large towel and draped it over the trap and took the draped trap to an area where deer roamed. When I opened the trap still draped, the skunk quickly exited and ran for the woods. No shots fired.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      So the question is: were you lucky, or would that work for any ol’ skunk? I really don’t want to get sprayed.

      1. Don in Arkansas

        I have done the same thing only I used a big black plastic bag. Also, did you know that the leaves on those sweet potato vines are edible? Cook them up like greens with some bacon fat.

          1. Dianne

            Well, I’ll be durned. I always figured that since sweet potato leaves are toxic to cats and dogs they’d be toxic to me, too. Turns out the sweet potato, unlike the white potato, is not a member of the nightshade family. If I keep reading this blog long enough, I’m going to wind up downright edjicated.

      2. Bob Niland

        When skunks are a possibility, tie a rope to the live trap, leading to a spot where the trap can be dragged and the critter disposed of. Release may be unwise for reasons other than risk of intense mercaptan exposure.

        Investigate rabies prevalence in skunks for your area. In our area, an estimated 40% of skunks are positive for rabies.

        Rabid skunks get highly unpredictable in the final stages of the disease. Your pets may have rabies shots, but your kids probably don’t.

          1. Firebird

            I just watched an episode of a short lived CBS series called “A Gifted Man” that runs on Hulu. Part of the storyline was a patient who came in for one illness that showed neurological symptoms that turned out to be rabies, which she eventually died from. They caught it too late.

            1. Elenor

              Wired magazine had an article last year or so about rabies, which, still today, is essentially 100% FATAL if you don’t start the shots quickly enough. (The horrible excruciating shots into the stomach!) We think of rabies as just this thing that bats and foxes get, big deal, who cares — but it used to be a hellish killer — and still is; just folks much more rarely run across rabid animals!

              The point of the article (and the reason it was in a techie mag, I guess?) is that some doc has actually managed to save the lives of several infected humans! He sinks them into a coma (with drugs and maybe cold?) for, (I dimly remember) something like a MONTH or more — while the … parasite/whateveritis … chews its way through the brain and body. (!) Seemingly keeping the person ‘under’ prevents the nasty little thing from advancing, driving mad, and killing!

              But *I* never knew rabies was such a dreadful murderous thing!

            2. Bob Niland

              Rabies travels in nerves, so it might also be cured by amputating the affected limb above the site of the bite.

              Aggressive and oddly behaving or emaciated small mammals, all skunks, and probably all bats, need to be treated as extremely dangerous.

      3. Scott

        I don’t think it was luck. A neighbor of mine who’s also in the landscaping business related what he said was the definitive method for live capturing and transporting skunks.

        He enclosed the trap in a ventilated, but dark box. Then, without ever opening it, he took the skunk to a remote area and opened the box and trap, keeping well back.

        He told me that as long as the skunk can’t see, it won’t spray.

        And, as long as it didn’t feel threatened as it was leaving, it also didn’t spray.

        I’ve never tried it myself, but I’ve also not had to handle anything but a raiding fox, and I will get that chicken slaughterer eventually.

      4. Daci

        Skunk tip. If the skunk cannot raise it’s tail,it will not spray,since they don’t want to get it on themselves.
        Would you?
        Check out Is That Skunk on Nature,

  2. Janknitz

    There are skunk traps. They are long solid tubes rather than cages. . We have lots of skunks in our area, but I wouldn’t know what to do with one if I caught one.

    Btw, peroxide and dawn dish soap if sprayed. Then lots of baking soda. We keep it on hand now.

      1. Kerstin

        Agree – having dog who seems to be sprayed every few years, our solution is hydrogen peroxide and baking soda with several drops of Dawn dishwashing detergent – scrub it into the depth of the skin, rinse and repeat. Our dog does still slightly smell of skunk if absolutely soaked – but I figure he is also much hairier than we are, so it should get rid of the smell beautifully.

  3. Dianne

    Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh — Tom is back to blogging, and life returns to normal. Or what passes for normal. Congratulations on finishing the big job and turning your inspiration into reality. I hope it also turns into a big fat bonus!

    As always, I loved the Farm Report. Do y’all like okra pickles? I’m crazy about them, especially the Talk O’ Texas crisp and mild ones, but there are oodles of okra pickle recipes on the internet. For some reason, okra loses its slime when properly pickled, so your girls might find them acceptable.

    Wayne Gage’s idea for freeing a trapped skunk sounds like it should work pretty well. The large towel would act as a shield when you were approaching the trap (actually, I might use a blanket or even a tarp), and if the skunk fired off a volley hopefully the fabric would absorb most of it. I sort of picture Mr. Gage leaning around to open the trap from behind, and then running like sixty in one direction while Mr. Skunk exited in the opposite one. If nothing else, it would make a good post for your blog.

    1. Tom Naughton Post author

      I’ll probably give the blanket method a try. If Mr. Gage is wrong, he will owe me an apology and a cold beer.

    2. Kathy in Texas

      Talk O’ Texas okra pickles are my favorite – and you’re right, no slime. I like the way the seeds “pop” when you bite into them. I know nothing about pickling, so Chareva might not like it if I suggest she pickle her own. She seems to have plenty to do already.

  4. Brandon Lambert

    Try grilling the okra. Toss it in salt pepper, garlic powder and olive oil. Then grill it. I like to get some black spots on it. Tastes a whole lot like fried okra. Even my kids like it and they are some picky little guys.

  5. Lori Miller

    I am trying to keep some kind of rodent from eating my tomatoes. They eat the beefsteak tomatoes, but not the little ones. I’m going to see whether netting works.

  6. Erica

    Lots of work having a mini-farm, but I think I would love eating all that goodness every day. I’d settle for a house with a large yard at this point, so I could have a garden.

    I love reading your farm reports!

  7. Underground

    The bigger okra can be good if you grill/saute it. The skillets with the holes in them are great for that.

    Great channel with 18th century cooking techniques, this one on historical egg preservation techniques is particularly good. Want to keep raw eggs fresh for a year without refrigeration?


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