With over 5 inches of rain this month and darkness creeping back into the night, August washes summer away.
It’s been a bountiful month of harvesting the garden and animals and also squeezing in a bit of fun here and there. Our harvested crops included the thyme, sage, peas, beans, and onions, with the remainder waiting until September. We also put away our first batch of broiler chickens and spent an afternoon collecting about a half gallon of wild blueberries from the mountains. The young carrots in the garden make sweet, crisp treats too.
The overall cool and damp summer did not relent during August. With overnight temperatures in the low 50°s and occasionally the mid 40°s all summer, the garden did not produce like it had in the past couple years. Part of the learning process for us has been seeing the variability in the climate from season to season and being set up to consistently produce a predictable crop no matter what mother nature throws at us. The new grow tunnel we put up in the spring did a nice job, but since the ends of the tunnel are still open, the cool nighttime temperatures caused things to grow slowly. Things like peppers, unfortunately, did not produce any fruits at all. By comparison, potted plants we left in our first greenhouse, which is completely enclosed, are covered in fruits even though they were started nearly a month later. These are all just part of the challenge of growing things so far north. It’s starting to make sense why most of the produce here is imported from the lower 48, but that’s no reason to quit; just a reason to think harder!
There have also been challenges in raising our poultry livestock. The breed of broiler chickens we’ve been raising, Cornish Cross, have given us trouble the past couple years. Upon doing some research, we’ve found they are not recommended for raising at high altitudes because they grow very fast (which is great!) but their lungs do not grow in proportion to the rest of their bodies. So at high altitudes they are not able to oxygenate enough blood and it causes issues with their hearts. We are basically at sea-level, so we did not think that would apply to us, but we have found that cold temperatures like what we’ve been seeing at night for most of this summer can also cause the same problem. One solution would be to raise them in one of our greenhouses, but that would mean not being able to grow crops in there at the same time. Maybe some day we will have an extra greenhouse where we could rotate the chickens through, but our plan for next year is to just try a different breed which grows slower. It will mean taking care of them for 12 weeks instead of only 8, but if we have a better success rate it will probably be worth it. We did not have any issues with them at all in 2021, but that was a much warmer summer than this year and goes to show how much the climate can vary here from year to year. Just like the garden, we need to figure out how to succeed no matter what type of summer we get. I’m excited to try a new breed next year.
The pigs, on the other hand, are very hearty and much more resilient to the cool temperatures. They have been doing great and seem to love the new home we’ve built them this summer. Though they have managed to break out of their pen a couple of times. The portable solar powered electric fence we use is great because we are able to keep them rotated onto fresh pasture all season, but part of what makes it portable is also what allows them to escape on occasion. The posts for the fence only have 4” metal tines on the bottom which make it quick and easy for one person to set up and take down, but on soft ground it doesn’t take much for the pigs to root around at the bottom of the post and knock it over. We fixed this easily enough by ordering some large 14” plastic stakes which use to pin the fence to the ground at and between the posts. We’ve also found it useful to train the pigs to come to our voice when we call so that when they do escape they come back on their own accord. We do this by calling them every day and dropping some treats like fruits or vegetables in their feed trough. This is great because even if they’ve gotten out, once they hear us calling they want to run back to their pen to see what sort of goodies are waiting for them. They are quite smart, kind of like dogs, and can be trained in a similar manner. We are raising a heritage breed called a Tamworth and they are much more energetic than most commercial breeds. Therefore, they do not like to be confined to a small space and the portable electric fence lets them spend all day running around and digging up fresh ground. We’ve also noticed they eat much less of the feed we provide them when they are able to eat the fresh grass, leaves and roots they dig up.
Wild North Design has been staying busy as well working on a steady stream of custom orders and also gearing up for fall and the holiday season. We’ve started exploring a new software for designing programs for our CNC machine which will allow us to do large and much more detailed engravings and other designs. We’re excited to dig into this new software and start learning and experimenting now that the summer projects are winding down and we’ll have more time in front of a comptuer.
We hope your summer was fruitful and enjoy the nice "wind-down" of summer as we change into cozy fall.
Hello, I am Melissa, owner of Wild North Design. Recently, my husband and I decided to pick up and move to Alaska. This dream has been a couple years in the making and we are enjoying the journey so far. We love to learn and make all kinds of things. From wood craft, to painting, to vehicles, landscaping, building, exploring...we love it all! We are finding out that Alaska is a great fit for our restless minds and bodies! Excited for what the future holds for our expanding family!
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