Finally done!

I put together a video of the work I did yesterday. No audio, so I wanted to add music to it today.

I spent so much time trying to find public domain music that fit the mood I wanted. Then my daughter came in and helped me pick music that was already in the software I’m using, in a matter of minutes.

She’s now interested in making videos. I have no doubt she would do a better job than me! So at some point, you might start seeing better quality videos getting posted.

For now, this is what I got done yesterday.

We settled on this location for the new Liberty apple tree for several reasons. The main one is, it is a zone 4 tree, which means it will need more protection in the winter. Where I was thinking of planting it originally is far more exposed, and will remain so until the silver buffalo berry reaches maturity.

Here, it will get full sun, but also be sheltered from the north by the lilacs. It also needs another variety of apple tree for pollination. While I took down the one crab apple tree, there are the ornamental crab apples in the old kitchen garden, plus another crab apple tree, though we’ll see how well that one does. It will likely be taken down, eventually.

The little plum trees were also removed; we’ll see how the larger ones do this year. These are not edible plums, though my father did use them for wine making sometimes. They have almost no flesh around their pits.

If all goes well, we’ll start having apples to harvest in a few years. The new apple tree can reach a mature height of 18-20, so if we do plant any other fruit trees here, we will need to keep that in mind. If we do end up taking out the one crab apple, and possibly the remaining inedible plums, I figure we have room for one more fruit tree here.

My parents planted so many things in this little area over the years; I remember there being mountain ash (there are none left at all now), a pear tree, other crab apple trees, plus I thinned out caragana and lilac. Oh, and there’s the big linden tree at one end, now. It’s one of the few things that is doing well! I’m sure there were other things that came and went in the 30 or so years I’ve been away.

Now that I’ve cleared as much as I have, the lilacs will hopefully grow better. When I first cleared the area of dead stuff back in 2018, I found most of the lilacs had stretched to very unusual heights. They had leaves pretty much only at the top, as they struggled to get sunlight. They are recovering, but still a lot lankier than lilacs normally would be.

The main thing, though, is that the new apple tree and the tulips have that barrier around them. It’s small enough that I hope no deer will consider it worth trying to jump it. Over time, we will add things to the wire to blow, flash and make noise in the wind.

One thing I noticed only after watching the time lapse video I took.

I had a LOT of cats running around while I worked!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden and food forest: order is in!

This morning I headed into town to refill our big water jugs and pick up a few things at the grocery store. By the time I headed back, our post office was open. I’d checked the tracking last night and knew our Veseys order would be in today, but when I got there, she still hadn’t had a chance to finish processing all the parcels that came in. She found them for me, though – among several other boxes from Veseys that I could see! They are a popular company, with good reason.

For the potatoes, we got a total of 4 pounds each of Red Thumb fingerling and Purple Peruvian fingerling. We really liked the Purple Peruvian when we grew them a couple of years ago, and I’m hoping we’ll have enough to save seed potatoes for next year.

There is also a 3 pound back of Irish Cobbler.

Two of the above images are from the Veseys website. The Purple Peruvian are some of our own harvest.

I can see that the potatoes have already started to sprout. We’ll need to lay those out for air circulation as much as for chitting. I’ll have to go through the old feed bags we have and see how many are left, since we’ve stopped buying deer feed and bird seed. We have too many slugs and not enough garter snakes or toads, to try growing them in the ground again.

Then there was the box with our trees.

Would you look at those mulberry trees!!

I knew they would be small, but I didn’t think they would be THAT small! Normally, there would have been a single, larger, 2 yr old sapling, but they had a shortage of that size. Instead, they sent out two 1 yr old saplings for the same price.

The above pictures are from Veseys. Hopefully, in a few years, we’ll have apples and berries to harvest!

Right now, I’ve got them out of their plastic bags and set up in the living room, safe from the cats. I find myself seriously considering leaving them to grow indoors for a year but… well… I don’t know that their chances for survival would be any better indoors than out! We will have to make sure to put a cloche over them when they are planted, to protect them. The funny thing is going to be transplanting these tiny little things with their fully grown size in mind. They can grow 15-20 ft high. This variety is supposed to be hardy to our zone, but winter protection is still something we’ll want to ensure. At least for the first couple of winters.

The apple tree is quite a bit larger! It started raining as I got home, so it might be a little while before we plant it, so I opened the plastic bag and set it up next to the mulberries. I didn’t take it out, since it’s packed in sawdust.

The planting instructions for the mulberry state:

Unless you have heavy clay soil, there isn’t much to do in terms of soil preparation. You can add amendments such as compost or peat moss to the soil and/or a layer of mulch over the root area after planting will help retain moisture, especially during the first year. While it may be tempting to add fertilizer or manure to your freshly dug hole before planting your new tree, PLEASE resist! Fertilizer or manure in close contact with the root system could chemically burn the roots and potentially kill the tree.

Mulberry trees can grow quite large, up to 15-20 feet tall. Avoid planting near walkways and driveways as the fruit will drop and create stains. Mulberries are self-fertile and require full sunlight.

Where we will be planting them, the soil is very rocky and hard packed, and a whole lot of sun, so we’ll be giving them some garden soil to grow in, and plenty of wood chip mulch around them.

It’ll be different for the apple tree. The planting instructions are:

Plant apple trees 5-6 meters (15-18 feet) apart in the spring in a full sun location with good air circulation and drainage. For best results, two varieties should be planted to ensure successful pollination and fruit production.  Dig a hole large enough to accommodate all of the roots without bending (approx. 18 inches). Place the tree in the hole with the graft union about three inches above the soil surface. You should be able to see the soil mark on the trunk where the tree has been taken out of the ground, it should be planted no deeper than this. Mix compost with the soil to fill back in the hole once the tree is set in place, and lightly firm to ensure good soil root contact. Water surrounding the tree to ensure good root establishment. Water every two to three days if your season is dry.

It will be planted closer to the crab apple trees for cross pollination, but far enough away to hopefully protect it from the fungal disease that is killing them off. This variety is also a zone 4 tree, which means it will need shelter for the winter.

Hhhmm… I’m rethinking where to plant the apple tree. There are some dead and dying trees in the west yard that need to be cleared out. Better shelter, full sun, and close enough to the ornamental apple trees in the old kitchen garden for cross pollination.

We’ll figure it out. That’s now our job for the day!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: Royalty Raspberries are in!

It has just reached noon as I begin writing this and apparently we’re at only 14C/57F out there. That can’t possibly be right, because it felt so much hotter while we worked outside!

Today, we made our newest addition to what will be our food forest area.

I picked up our Royalty raspberries from Veseys at the post office this morning. They’re even showing leaves already! Getting these in the ground became our top priority.

This is where I decided to start planting raspberries (we will be adding more, as we are able). You can see the remains of the row where we’ve been planting peas for the past two years.

Because there is a phone line buried nearby, we are keeping an area open that’s large enough to drive through on the north side, where I am standing to take this picture.. With that in mind, these first raspberries were lined up with the cranberries that mark the ends of the berry bush rows we planted last year. That sawhorse on the left is over one of the cranberries.

Of course, I was hitting a lot of rocks while I dug the holes! One of them had more roots than rocks. After this, I watered the holes a bit, then went and got some of the soil in the garden we sifted free of weeds and roots last fall. This is soil we’ve been working on and amending for a couple of years now. It’s been covered by black tarp since then, so I knew it was still clear.

My daughter, meanwhile, brought over the raspberry transplants – and a lopper to cut those roots out!

The canes were planted into new, root-free, soil, then given a bit of a watering. Each of them got a tomato cage to protect from the deer.

Last of all, a deep mulch of wood chips was placed around them, then a final watering. The sod that was removed got broken up and spread out, while the rocks from the holes, plus rocks that had been left at the ends of other rows we’d grown in last year, were collected. Thse all got dumped into the new groundhog hole we found next to the house when the snow melted. It still doesn’t look like it’s being used, nor does the original one beside the dining room door steps, just a few feet away. For now, we’re just going to block off the one. The other one is behind a mock orange bush, so I’ll want to fill that one with soil, first, if it keeps looking unused.

My daughter is quite happy with the raspberries. The ones we planted before, that I got her for her birthday, were eaten by deer and hit with drought in their first year, and never really recovered. It’s too early to tell for sure, but I don’t know if they survived this past winter. If they did, we’ll probably transplant them near these ones, in the fall. As we add more, the rows will extend to the south, with more rows added to the west, were we’d been planting beans and peas.

This is why we’ve been planting vegetables so far from the house for the past couple of years. To give the food trees we’ll be planting here a better chance of survival!

Oh, and while I was digging holes, my darling daughter fixed the sun room outer door that wouldn’t close. It turned out to be the latch plate was coming loose. The door does still stick at the top, but it at least closes now. It seems the wood is rotting, and that’s why it came loose. The main thing is that we can use the outer door for now, and leave the inner door open, for air circulation. When my daughter came out through the sun room, she noticed the windows were starting to steam up!

She’s so handy! 😊💛

The Re-Farmer.

The status of things

Today may be cooler, but we’re still staying above freezing, and the kitties are just loving it!

I only counted about 16, this morning. As things melt clear and my morning rounds are extending further out, I’m seeing the cats all over the place. The long haired tuxedo followed me all over the place, much like Pointy Baby did – just without actively trying to get me to pick him up and carry him!

I miss Pointy Baby.

The berry bushes we planted last year are almost completely uncovered. That old saw horse with the sticks is over the highbush cranberry the deer kept eating. I checked the other one and can almost, sorta, see leaf buds starting to form!

The main garden area is still mostly covered with snow. If all goes to plan, the area in front of where I’m standing will have at least a couple of trellis tunnels built.

The garlic bed isn’t quite clear, yet!

The standing water has receded more, so I was able to get to the storage warehouse (which I would really love to reclaim as a work shop again!!) and look around. With not being able to get to the dump as often in the winter, we’ve been storing our garbage bags in the old kitchen, where it could freeze. It’s getting too warm for that, now. We need to build a garbage bin outside that is cat and racoon proof to store the bags until we can make our dump runs. There are pieces of plywood and other random boards in the warehouse. With all my parents’ stuff jammed into there, none of it is accessible. Some of the stacks of boxes need to be moved around, anyhow, as they are starting to collapse and tip. That’s as good an excuse as any to move things around. Some of the plywood sheets, however, are behind a couch, and there are all sorts of boxes and bins that predate us on and in front of it. No matter. We’ll figure out how to get to them. I’d love to get rid of all the bags of clothes in there. They’re not even suitable for donating after all this time, but my mother still insists we don’t throw anything out! *sigh* She’s still all worried that someone might come in and steal her old underwear or something. 🤨

While in the shed, I noticed an old broiler pan that will work as a kibble tray. I don’t know why we’ve been finding broiler pans all over the place – no one ever used them for what they were made for – but they make great kibble trays, so I grabbed it. With a bit of readjusting of things, I was able to reclaim two of the baking sheets I got for carrying transplants around that were being used as kibble trays over the winter. There is still one more, just inside the cat house entry, but I will leave that for now. With the two trays I reclaimed, I’ll be able to pot up the Indigo Blue Chocolate tomatoes now.

After I was done my rounds, I made a quick trip to the post office to see if a parcel had arrived. With so much snow gone, once I was back, I actually went to close the gate! I’m seeing our vandal walking by with his dog on the trail cam more often, so I wanted to have it at least closed. This makes it the first time that gate has been closed since the snow got too deep to keep clear, several months ago.

Well, now.

When my brother and I put the repaired gate back up, the two sides were even. That sliding bar holds the two sides closed, and I could put a pin through the pair of holes at the corner, which made sure the wind or whatever didn’t vibrate the bar off the end of the gate. Before winter, it was noticeably shifted, but we could still lift one side of the gate while pushing down on the bar and get the pin through. Now, it’s just too far off! We’ll have to come out with a level and see which gate post has shifted the most. I was thinking the north post was tipping away, but my daughters think the south post is tipping inwards. It could well be both. The gate posts were installed in such a way that they can be adjusted by adding washers to the bolts at the base. My brother had done that when he installed the new hinges that replaced the ones our vandal broke. I’d hoped it would be a few years longer before it had to be done again. It’s been about 3 1/2 years since these were repaired and replaced, so I guess that’s not too bad.

The main thing is, the gate is now closed! Without being able to put the pin in the sliding bar, the chain is extra necessary to make sure they don’t swing open on their own. We’ll also have to touch up the paint a bit. I think I still have a spray can of it around. I’ll have to think about what I can put around where the chain and bar is damaging the paint so quickly.

Things are going to stay colder over the next 10 days or so, with daytime highs just above freezing and overnight lows dipping several degrees below freezing. We’re also getting smatterings of rain. I’d say it’s a good thing we didn’t plant those carrots, even if we did have the plastic to cover them until they germinated. I don’t mind, though. It means things will continue to melt and be absorbed by the ground slowly. I rather like not having to wade through giant muddy puddles to get to the garage. It will give us time to work on other preparations.

I’m just thrilled to be able to get outside and get working again, even if it’s just a tiny bit at a time!

The Re-Farmer

We have access!

Not quite to everything, but pretty close.

But first, check out this adorableness.

Collin is a hungry boy!

Also, I caught a tongue blehp in the background!

As I write this, we are currently at our expected high of 8C/46F. Things will cool down more over the next while, and we might start getting rain today and tomorrow.

We have standing water in all the usual places, like this low spot by the trail cam stand. I really want to dig a trench along that fence line to collect the water more, so it doesn’t spread out like this. All in good time.

The areas around the garage do still have standing water, but it has receded even as the snow melts, which means the ground is actually absorbing it.

After doing my rounds, I headed into town to refill our water jugs for drinking water and pick up a few fresh groceries. I filled the gas tank on my mom’s car, too. When I was last in the city, gas prices were around 160.9 cents per liter. The Esso station in town I had been going to was at 159.9 0 but the Husky station next to the grocery store was at 148.9! Ever since they reopened after getting some work done, they’ve somehow managed to keep their prices a lot lower than everywhere else.

When I got home, I was actually able to drive into the yard and back the car up to the house to unload! First time this year. Much better than trying to drag a wagon filled with heavy water bottles through mud and water.

We can’t quite get to everything yet, though. The outer yard in front of the barn is all snow, still, except for a “river” opened up by water draining from the moat near the garage. The storage warehouse has a lake in front of it, but I could access the pump shack and the old chicken coop. I was even able go get through some less water filled areas and check on the Korean pine.

It’s still too early to tell if they actually survived their first winter. With two of them, their protective cages were smushed to one side, but the saplings themselves were still protected, and I was able to straighten out the wire. One sapling was still completely covered with snow, but I could see its green needles through the snow.

With things cooling down for the next while, we decided to hold off on planting the carrots we made seed tape with. The plastic covering the bed they will go into is still on place – since it’s just held with duct tape, and the yard cats have a habit of jumping onto our garden protection, there is always some doubt! We will leave it to keep acting as a little greenhouse over that bed as we continue to prepare others over the next while. In particular, I want to get the bed along the chain link fence ready to do our first sowing of peas. The high raised bed in the main garden area no longer has snow on it, but the ground around it is still covered in snow, including the bed the garlic is planted in, so there’s nothing we can do there quite yet. We do need to start gathering the materials to make the permanent trellis tunnels and portable trellises, though, so once the ground is ready, we can get those started right away.

With the ground in the spruce grove now mostly free of snow, this would be a good time to start cutting down some of the dead trees, too, along with the ones I’ve singled out for the permanent trellis tunnel. I should probably get our electric chain saw checked over for service and maintenance first, though.

The to-do list is long! The challenge is prioritizing what needs to be done first, rather than what’s easiest or fastest to start.

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: Veseys order placed – potatoes and more

Yes, I have gardening on my mind!

Among the things we were talking about ordering that will be delivered in the spring were potatoes and, potentially, raspberries.

It seems we weren’t the only ones that had a bad growing year in 2022, because the potatoes I was looking for were simply not available. However, Veseys has potatoes again, and so I placed another order with them.

Among the items we have ordered before, we are getting the Purple Peruvian Fingerlings again. We were really happy with them, in their grow bags, two years ago. They come in 2 lb packages, so we ordered two of them.

I am also ordering a couple of seed mixes from them that we ordered before (and using the coupon code from Maritime Gardening saved me the shipping costs!). I ordered two each of the Alternative Lawn Mix, and the Western Mix Wildflowers. The areas we had planted them, in the fall of 2021, got flooded in the spring, and nothing came of them. With so many wood piles chipped, we now have areas of bare ground that I would like to seed before they get taken over the invasive weeds again! Two of those areas will get the alternative lawn mix. The third does get accumulated snowmelt nearby in the spring, but should be fine to plant in. That area is next to our budding food forest, and will be good for attracting pollinators.

The seed packs will be sent right away, but the rest will be sent in time for planting in our zone 3.

Here are the new varieties we are going to be getting. All images belong to Veseys.

These are Red Thumb fingerling potatoes. They are noted for their delicious flavour. Unfortunately, there isn’t any information about how well they store over winter. These come in 2 lb packages, so we ordered two of them.

These are Irish Cobbler potatoes, an early variety also noted for their exceptional flavour. They come in a 3 lb pack, and we ordered just one of them.

These last ones are for our food forest. Royalty Raspberries. They come in packages of three, and we ordered just one package to try them. They are a late maturing variety, hardy to zone 2. So far, everything we’ve tried that’s purple has done really well for us, even in poor growing conditions, so I’m hoping the trend continues! These will produce fruit in their second year, so as long as we can keep them alive this year, we should have purple berries to try, next year.

There are still other things we will want to order for spring delivery, such as replacement sea buckthorn. We’ll just have to be careful to set aside the budget for them as we place the spring delivery orders, because we’ll be charged for them all at once, when they’re shipped!

This year, I’m happy to have several items, with different maturing rates, added to our food forest. The raspberries for production next year, apples that should start producing in 4 or 5 years, and the zone 3 mulberry trees that should take a few more years before they begin producing berries, as we will be getting 2 smaller, younger seedlings, instead of the 1 larger, older seedling they normally would have shipped, but are not available.

Little by little, we’re getting to where we want to be!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2023 garden: first order in, with Veseys

We haven’t even done a thorough assessment of our 2022 garden, nor fully decided what we plan to grow next year, but I’ve gone ahead and made our first order for next year’s garden, today.

The main reason is, there are things I wanted to order before they have a chance to be out of stock. Particularly with trees for the food forest we are slowly developing. These will be shipped in the spring, and we won’t be billed until they are shipped. I ordered seeds as well, because I used a sponsor promo code from Maritime Gardening, which gives free shipping if there is at least one package of seeds in the order.

This is what I ordered today. All images belong to Veseys, and links will open in new tabs, so you don’t lose your place. 😊

The new Trader Everbearing Mulberry is the main reason I wanted to place an order right away. We tried a different variety before, that promptly got killed by an unusually cold night shortly after it was planted. Cold enough that even if we had this variety, it likely would not have survived, so soon after being planted.

Here is the description from the site (in case you’re reading this years later, and the link is dead).

Morus alba x rubra. There are so many things to love about ‘Trader’ Everbearing Mulberry! First, the tree itself is absolutely beautiful and can be grown as a single trunk or multi-stemmed shrub. Big, glossy black fruit are present throughout the summer and are an irresistible blend of sweet and tart. Even the leaves are starting to be considered a super-food and can be made into a powerfully healing tea. ‘Trader’ is winter hardy (Zone 3-4), vigorous, long-lived and disease and pest resistant.  We ship 8-12″ non-grafted tree.

Please note: Due to a crop shortage, we are not able to supply the Mulberry in a 3.5″ pot. We can supply in a 2.5″ pot. Since these are smaller, we will send 2 of the smaller size for spring 2023.

That last bit about pot sizes is another reason we wanted to order the mulberry right away. They may be smaller, but we’ll be getting two trees for the price of one. Which means chances are better for at least one of them to survive!

The other tree we ordered was Liberty Apple. From the website:

Malus. Superlative variety resistant to a host of diseases. This apple has outstanding flavour and is aromatic and juicy. The conical red fruit is among the very best and as an added bonus is excellent for cider. Crispy, juicy apples right in your back yard. Good Scab resistance, making them much easier to look after. For best results, two varieties should be planted. We are offering 1 yr. whips. approximately 18-24″ in height which have been grafted onto hardy rootstock. They should mature to about 15-18 ft. Hardy to zone 4.

Yes, it says zone 4 and we are zone 3, but we will just have to take extra care in where it’s planted, and to protect it while it’s small. We have crab apple trees, but no regular apples. One apple tree should be enough to provide for our needs, and the crab apples will be the second variety pollinator.

Then there are the seeds.

While we didn’t have much to show for peppers this past summer, that had more to do with our horrible growing year in general. My pepper loving daughter had thought we would be ordering several varieties for this past year, but I’d only ordered the one type. I think we learned enough about growing them to order more varieties, so I ordered a sweet bell pepper combo.

This is Vesey’s Sweet Pepper collection, and here is their description:

A few of our favourite sweet peppers! This collection contains 3 pkgs, 1 each of Early SunsationEarly Summer and Dragonfly sweet peppers.

Early Sunsation: Bright yellow and big. Very heavy yielding with thick, juicy walls. This variety stays nice and crisp even when fully yellow. 3 lobed fruit. Resistant to Bacterial Leaf Spot races 1-3. 65 days to green; 80 days to yellow from transplanting.

Early Summer: Elite, early and extra large! Early summer is an early maturing, yellow bell pepper. The fruit are large at 5″ and an elite disease resistance package gives Early Summer a winning combination.

Dragonfly: Sweet and colourful. Dragonfly’s early production was a standout for our trial staff. Fruit emerges green and turns deep purple when mature. Dragonfly continues to produce fruit into the fall even after temperatures have dropped.

The Early Summer is new to Veseys for the 2023 growing season.

There was another new for 2023 item I just had to order.

The Caveman’s Club Gourd! This is definitely something for the “just for fun” list. 😁

Truly different! This 12-16″ gourd produces a dark green, ridged, alien-like, bulbous fruit that are not like anything we have seen before! Growing them on a trellis ensures a straight neck. Plant early for best results. Matures in 120 days. Approx. 15 seeds/pkg.

I just couldn’t resist. This will be an ideal thing to try growing on the new trellis tunnels we will be building in the spring.

After we’ve taken the time to assess things from our 2022 garden, then gone through what seeds we still have, we’ll start making final decisions about what else we want to order for the 2023 growing season. One thing we will almost certainly be ordering are different raspberry bushes, that mature at different times. Any raspberries we order won’t start producing until their second year, so what we order to plant in 2023 will be to have raspberries in 2024. As we add to our perennial food producers, while still staying in budget, it’s a balancing act between ordering things that will take years before they start producing, like the apple and mulberry trees, and things that will start producing more quickly, like the raspberries.

Little by little, though, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer

Some evening clean up

My original plan for the day had been to go into the city for our second stock up trip, but that just didn’t happen. Not only was I very tired from being up so late making and canning the tomato paste, I was in a load of pain. Arthritis sucks at the best of times, but everything else was hurting, too!

By the afternoon, I was feeling a bit better, so I went outside to do some clean up. I figured I would give the water bowl shelter a quick scrub down, and tomorrow we could start painting it.


That worked out well enough until I went to flip it upside down to scrub the bottom.

The first time I flipped it on its roof, two floor boards fell off.

Most of the boards are nailed in place, but this salvaged wood is pretty warped and starting to dry rot, so they don’t hold well. I did have 1 3/4 inch screws in a few of them, and those ones held, so I flipped it back again, nailed the boards that fell off back in place, then added some screws.

Then I flipped it upside down, and a different board fell off. And that one did have screws already!

I fixed that and added more screws, flipped it back and…

That board has several screws in it, and it still fell off. It’s basically too warped for the screws to hold. I need longer screws, but the next size up I’ve got are 3 inch screws, and those are just too long. Especially since I’m doing this by hand.

So tomorrow, I’ll pick up some 2 inch wood screws and get those back on. It only has to hold long enough for us to paint it. After that, it won’t matter.

I let the girls know the status of things, including that I was unable to scrub the inside back wall, because I couldn’t reach it, then moved on to something else.

I did some chop and drop around the haskap berries, now that my mother’s flowers are past their prime. I’ve never bothered to do this before, leaving the stems to clean up in the spring, but this year they got SO tall, the completely covered the haskap berries. So now they will be a mulch, and the haskap are finally getting some sunlight.

I had lots of company while I worked.

I like this baby. He spends most of his time just hanging out nearby.

We had haskap

We had no berries at all this year. The male plant bloomed, but I never saw flowers on the females. Hopefully, next year will be better, but I think I just need to move these to a better location.

While I was working on that, one of my daughters came out and worked on the water bowl shelter.

She tacked the floorboard back on, crawled in and got that back wall scrubbed.

If we’d had the paint earlier, we would have scrubbed and painted all the parts and pieces first. That would have made things much easier!

Ah, well. We’ll manage.

That tuxedo really likes the water bowl shelter. He’s always hanging around in or under it!

Once the shelter is dry, it’s going to need another brush down to get the stuff currently stuck in place because it’s damp. With the condition of the wood, we don’t want to use a hose on it any more than we absolutely have to. It’ll be good to finally have it painted and set up in its spot by the kibble house and cat shelter. We’ll be creating a sort of U shape with them, which should help reduce drifting, too.

Little by little, it’s getting done!

The Re-Farmer

Crab apple harvest

This afternoon, I headed out to see what I could get from the one crab apple tree that has tasty apples. Most of the apples were well out of reach, but after trying a couple of things, I found I could use the hook at the end of the extended pole pruning saw, at its longest, to grab branches and give them a shake.

Then ducking, so I wouldn’t get beaned in the head. Those things are hard!

Then it was just a matter of gathering them off the ground. The damaged ones got tossed towards the spruce grove, so I wouldn’t have to pick through them again when I had to shake the tree again. With so many apples, I could afford to be picky.

The deer and any other apple eating critters will be in for a treat, tonight!

I got somewhere between 15-20 gallons of apples, and I only shook the tree twice. There are still lots on the tree, but I was out of buckets.

With so many apples, I scrubbed out the wheelbarrow, then used it to give the apples a cursory wash with the hose. The amount in the photo is from the two smaller buckets.

I had to prep a third bin to hold them all.

I love these bins! They interlock to hold together, and even when stacked one on top of the other. They are still just corrugated plastic, though, and can only hold so much before they start bending under the weight while being carried.

For now, the bins are sitting in the dark and relatively cool of the old kitchen. I’ll set aside a bucket for my mother. When she was last here, she insisted in picking apples into her walker, but they were nowhere near ready for picking. They are in their prime right now, and taste so much better. We do have crab apples on some of the other remaining trees, and I do try them every now and then (except the one tree with apples so small, it’s basically an ornamental tree). They don’t taste very good when ripe. When not quite ripe yet, they’re pretty awful. There was one tree that tasted pretty bad right up until the ripened, when they suddenly became tasty and sweet, but that part of the tree died over the winter, leaving only the suckers that had been allowed to grow, so only the not-tasty parts of that tree are still alive. 😕

Tomorrow, I will start de-stemming the apples and cutting them up, and will be using the fermentation bucket from our wine making kit to make a large batch of apple cider vinegar. There will be apples left over, even after taking some out for my mother. We haven’t decided what to do with them. In the past, we’ve made apple jelly, but our Bernardin canning book with the recipes we used is still missing.

I wonder if I lent it out to someone? I can’t remember. I do remember offering to lend it to my SIL, but she just took photos of the recipe she wanted and left the book. I do have other cookbooks with canning recipes, but I’m less sure of their safety.

I suppose I could just go look at their website, but having the book is really handy.

Anyhow, we’ll figure out what to do with the surplus. Then also decide if we want to harvest more, or leave the rest for the birds.

The Re-Farmer

Starting hard crab apple cider: a long night!

Last night, my daughters and I got some hard crab apple cider going, with some minor changes from when we made it before.

I started on the apples while my daughter’s sanitized the 5 gallon carboy and set up the juicer. Each apple got cut in half, the stem removed, and any damaged bits cut off. We were able to get to the apples faster than when we made it before, so they had noticeably less bits to cut off this time around. The cut pieces went into a giant bowl with water and lemon juice while waiting to be juiced. We had a small colander set up over a bowl that we would scoop batches of pieces into, that could be kept close to the machine while I continued cutting apples

My younger daughter did the juicing again. We knew we would have more juice this time, so she set up the sanitized carboy with a funnel on a chair under the juicer nozzle; fresh, raw juice went straight into the carboy, instead of first into a pitcher, then into the gallon glass carboy.

The juicing took such a long time.

The machine could only handle getting a couple of pieces put in at a time; far less than when juicing other fruit. These are small apples that don’t have a lot of juice in them, so we didn’t get a lot for the work. After a short while, the sound of the juicer would change, and my daughter would have to stop it, open it up and peel off the shoe-leather strip of accumulated pulp that did not go into the collector, like it was supposed to.

It was past 2am by the time we were done. Which was fine for my daughters, since they are still up at night and sleeping during the day.

This is what the more than 5 gallons of apples got us.

We got about two and a half gallons of juice. We calculated roughly 5 cups of sugar for the amount of juice we had (the ratio is 1-1 1/2 pounds of sugar per gallon of juice). The handy thing about it being only half full is that, once the sugar was added, it was easy to just pick it up and shake it to dissolve the sugar. A half packet of yeast was hydrated, then added and it got another shake before being set up with the airlock.

I didn’t bother taking a hydrometer reading.

This is how it looked this morning, after having roughly 9 hours to settle.

The airlock was bubbling about every 23 seconds when I checked it, and the temperature of the liquid is 20-21C/68-70F. We’re supposed to reach 28C/82F today, so it’s definitely going to get warmer.

I’d hoped to have more juice, but it’s still more than we had last time. We do still have lots of apples on the tree to pick, if we want. We don’t have another large carboy, but we do have the 1 gallon ones, if we want to make more hard cider. I think I’d rather make more cider vinegar, but we don’t have more of the large, wide mouth jars right now. For the amount of apples we’d have, I wouldn’t want to use smaller jars. It would be a waste of jars and space. There are other things we could do with the apples, too.

Now that it looks like making hard crab apple cider is a thing we will continue to do, we want to acquire a cider press. The juicer is great for other fruit, but does very poorly with these little crab apples. There are table top versions that are reasonably priced. Building one is another option. It’s something we wouldn’t for another year, so we have time to figure it out.

I’ve been asking my mother about how my dad made fruit wine. I remember him using the same crock my mother used to make sauerkraut. I remember watching him one year, as he layered sugar, then raspberries, in the crock until it was full, then … I can’t remember. Most likely, he weighted it down then covered it with a cloth, but did he add water to it? And how much sugar to fruit did he use?

I described what I remember to my mother, and she just brushed it off. They just combined fruit with sugar, covered it and let it sit, she told me. They didn’t add water. That’s how she’s got the cherries she picked while here set up, right now. She didn’t have a lot of cherries, so it would be just a small jar. She couldn’t tell me how much sugar they used; apparently, they just winged it.

Well, whatever my dad did, his raspberry wine in particular got rave reviews. I remember picking pin cherries (those trees are now gone) that he used to make wine, as well as the hard little plums that are more stone than fruit, that we still have in the yard (though the trees seem to be dying). My parents had no wine making equipment. They used no commercial yeast (yeast for brewing was not something that would have been easily found back then). I wish I could ask my dad what he did. I don’t think my mother paid too much attention to it, and what she’s doing now is not what I remember seeing him doing. Maybe one of my siblings remembers more than I do. I should ask them. 😊

For now, though, I’m content to make hard cider with our crab apples. I prefer that over wine, anyhow. 😁

The Re-Farmer