Fall in Wisconsin

I’m back in action! In case you hadn’t heard, we went on a two-week road trip and I’ve been busy catching up on the photos and stories over at my other blog. Check those out, if you’re interested.

The garden has pretty much wound down for the year; I still have some cilantro hanging on, and the cover crop of barley that I planted is looking great.

We had so many leaves in our yard when we came back last week! It was really a beautiful sight. I’ve enjoyed being able to watch the seasons change in our new home.

This weekend, if the weather allows it, I’m going to be turning under the soil in the main raised bed, dig up some future plots for potatoes and asparagus, plant some spinach for an early crop next spring, and run the mower over our leaves so that they can be bagged and spread on all of the garden spaces. Leaves make really, really good compost – plus, they’re free if you’re willing to rake them! I’ve even heard of people piling leaves on new beds and planting root crops like potatoes and onions directly into the leaves when they break down a little. I think I may go this route with the future potato garden because we have such heavy clay soil.

My mother in law lent me her soil test kit, and I was able to test the PH of my soil the other night. I discovered we basically have a neutral PH, which I think is good? If anything, it means that adjusting particular soils for more acid or alkaline loving plants is easier. For example, strawberries prefer acidic soil, and hence I’d have a harder time adjusting soil that was very alkaline if I wanted them to grow well. I also have test kits for nitrogen, potash, and phosphorus levels. They require a little more time for the testing so that’s another thing I may try over the weekend.

It’s funny, most people assume that when it gets cold and your annual plants start to die off, your work in the yard is done. Not so! Fall is a great time to begin prepping new growing areas for the following year with cover crops or compost. Also, many of your perennials and shrubs should be getting a good round of watering before the ground freezes. It will help them to spring back when the new growing season begins. I have a rain barrel full of water that needs to be emptied before it freezes; who thinks I’ll be able to use it up before winter?

Fall is also a good time to plant future trees. It gives them a chance to establish roots before the ground freezes without having to worry about them succumbing to a possible early heat wave in the spring. Along those lines, I’m excited to announce that we have the first two additions of our future orchard on their way! I ordered a Reliance peach tree and an Ozark plum. Being that those are two of my absolute favorite fruits, I’m giddy with excitement. I mean, I know they’ll show up as tiny little twigs and they’ll take a good three years to produce (if they even make it), but still. It’s nice to think of the day I eat my first homegrown peach from my own backyard.

I have a half-dozen other outdoor chores that I would like to accomplish; we need to set up some sort of composting system, my curly willow needs to go in the ground, the hose needs to be disconnected and stored for the winter, and I would like to clean up our garage lean-to and figure out some purpose for it. I was originally thinking it would be my seed starting area next spring, but I realized I would have to provide heat mats and additional lighting, plus I wasn’t sure about getting water out there. For now, I think the basement is where the magic will happen, at least until it warms up. I’ll have easy access to water, and I won’t need to provide heating mats in addition to lighting. It would be nice to have a warm weather potting area out there, though. Maybe I’ll use it for that?

In the future, fall will also be a time for me to sow crops in a cold frame (when we get one built!). Instead of buying the slimy bunches of spinach at the store, I would really love to be able to harvest it throughout the winter, along with lettuce, chard, and carrots. Hopefully next year!

Not everything has to be about chores, though. I’d like to sneak away to the farmers market this weekend and pick up some pumpkins and Indian corn to decorate our porch. I’m pretty certain we have trick-or-treating in our neighborhood, and I want to have a welcoming porch for the kiddos.

Of course, after our fall chores are finished, I’m excited to continue the process of creating a comfortable home. There are a few more walls we’d like to paint. Our couch and loveseat need covers and pretty, colorful pillows. I recently printed off a load of photos from the past couple years, and I’m trying to come up with creative ways to display them. Like this and this.

Boo is excited to set up a woodworking shop in the basement and start building bookshelves. We have a LOT of books, and right now they’re tucked away in the attic until we have a dedicated space to let them shine in all of their page-bound glory.

I never have really liked winter, and I’m still not a fan of the cold. But this year, more than any other year, I’m looking forward to hunkering down and creating a permanent home. I realized on our trip that, having been so busy moving in and gardening and everything else, the little house and awesome neighborhood doesn’t quite feel like “home”…yet. I’m still having a hard time grasping that, come January, I CAN start seeds and plan the garden and depend on the fact that I will be here for the harvest. Do you know, this is the first time in my adult life I’ve been able to experience this?

I think the thing that excites most is the idea of having more time to start building relationships with my neighbors. Before we left on vacation, Jason was able to connect with the two teenagers living behind us, and we’re planning on having them come over with their dad some night for supper. They are such amazing kids to have in our backyard. We seriously couldn’t ask for better neighbors.

I’m also planning on spending a day or two a month volunteering at a local community organization. My goal is to eventually transition out of working in Wauwatosa to serving in the community, in some form. The particular organization I’m interested in is the same one that installed rain barrels in ours and the surrounding neighborhood, and I was able to talk to the Neighborhood Services Coordinator when she was at our house. She said that they haven’t established a really strong relationship with our neighborhood yet, but it’s something they want to pursue. It would kind of be a dream come true to be a part of that, or something similar.

I know this post is pretty long and rambling, but I hadn’t written for awhile and wanted to bring you all up to speed. I am still planning on finishing up our house tour, and blogging about some of the organic gardening methods I used this past summer.

What are you looking forward to this fall/winter?

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