Phenology is the study of the cycles of life in animals and plants – new leaves in spring, leaves falling in the fall, animals shedding winter coats, etc. We have similar cycles around here, but they might not be the sort of thing you would normally think of when it comes to phenology.
- We feed corn screenings – what’s left after the grain is ground — to our cows, horses, pigs and chickens. In mid-September and late spring, the honey bees swarm the screenings bag. I have to make sure I get the grain scooped out the minute I get up in the morning, because as soon as it warms up, there will be hundreds of bees in or hovering over the screenings bag. They aren’t aggressive at all – probably because they’re blissed-out on corn sugars. They eat the little bits of grain and bran voraciously, literally shoveling food into their mouths. I leave a hole about 18 inches deep when I fill the animal’s feed buckets; by that evening the bees will have filled and leveled the hole from the action of their feet and wings.
- No matter how many times I wash my hands, scrub my nails or do the dishes (which I do by hand) by the end of the summer, I have ground-in dirt I simply cannot get rid of. It usually takes until Christmas for my hands to look clean again.
- The butcher can’t come to do our animals because his cool room is too full of end-of-season fair animals and bucks from archery season.
- The bears get into the apple trees and break off branches trying to get at the ripest apples at the top of the trees.
- 4H meetings start up again.
- We’re doing everything at once – starting fall plants, harvesting summer plants, watering gardens, irrigating pastures, milking, hauling hay, feeding hay, prepping gardens for fall and winter, cutting firewood, butchering, hunting deer, processing and canning foods.(All of this is why I missed getting this post up for the fall equinox, which was my original intent!)
- We start getting a food scrap bucket again every day from the local school.
- The Rent-A-Bull goes home, having — hopefully – accomplished his task so we will have calves next year.
- We clean out the pen by the milking shed and the sheep pens, adding the material to the compost piles or sometimes directly on gardens and plants.
And of course, we have all the other phenological signs: leaves turning colors, geese flying south, longer nights and shade that is truly cool instead of just a not-quite-so-hot-spot.