Category Archives: Apples

October 2018 Highlights

It seems that October just flew by. There are several things that I intended to write about but just didn’t get the posts finished, so I decided condense them into this not-so-short but sweet post.

Little by little my blog is acquiring new readers, so I want to start by welcoming newcomers to my blog. Feel free to look around and explore previous posts. Please leave me a comment if you find something you like or just to let me know you were here. I always enjoy hearing from readers.

October 2018 Highlights

The Garlic Is Planted!

October is the month for planting garlic in Michigan. The objective is to plant the garlic 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes in order to give the garlic time to establish roots. If you would like to more about our garlic planting process you can check out these two posts from our 2016-2017 growing season.

https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/10/13/a-year-in-growing-garlic-part-ii/

https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/10/18/a-year-in-growing-garlic-part-iii/

This year our wet weather and mostly below normal temperatures in October made for less than ideal planting conditions.  We watched the weather forecasts for our best opportunity and the week beginning October 21st, with several dry days predicted, seemed to be it.

Early that week my husband began preparing the garlic for planting (separating the bulbs into cloves). We, but mostly he, worked on this on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday while we gave the ground time to dry out. By Thursday we could wait no longer – the garlic had to be planted because there was rain in the forecast beginning late Friday.

Despite the ground not being as dry as we hoped, Thursday morning my husband got an early start and planted garlic until nearly dark. For several reason we decided to use a divide and conquer approach so while I attended to other projects my husband worked diligently in the garlic field. Friday morning he again got an early start. When I took the boys (dogs) to the farm for their midday walk he asked if I had checked the radar. Not having done so I couldn’t offer him any idea how long it would be before the rains came. It was late afternoon when he called me. “I just got the last clove planted he said – then the first raindrop fell.” “God is good!” we agreed.

Coincidently, or perhaps by God’s design, we ended up planting during the full moon. We have talked about experimenting with planting by the phases of the moon in past years, but weather and soil conditions have always been more of a priority.

We did scale back on our garlic planting this year. We still planted enough to meet the demands of the markets we currently supply and have seed for the following year. We hope in scaling back on garlic we can put more time and effort into areas where we have not been able to meet demands, namely honey and strawberries.

An Apple A Day

This year we had our best apple crop thus far. While not all of our eight trees produced well, two trees produced more than their fair share. The branches on these young trees were so heavily laden with apples that my husband built posts to brace the branches so they did not break due to their heavy load.

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We harvested 4 milk crates nearly full (we didn’t weigh them). Here’s what I’ve done with them –

Apple Sauce – I’ve canned 22 pints of apple sauce.

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Apple Peeler

When I told my sister I was making apple sauce she asked if I had an apple peeler/corer/ slicer. I laughed and said “Yep, it’s called a paring knife.” LOL. Then as I started peeling all those apples I remembered this antique that I had tucked away on a shelf and had never used. I decided why not give it a try.

One of the problems I have with this and some similar kitchen tools that I have is that they are designed to clamp onto a counter. My kitchen counters were not designed for such uses as they have about a two inch lip that the clamp will not fit over. To accommodate these tools I use a stand alone shelf, but since I don’t often use these tools that shelf is also used to store things. I first had to clear off the shelf and move it to an accessible area. I rinsed the dust off the old apple peeler then clamped it to the shelf. I placed an apple on the prongs of the peeler and began turning the crank. As I turned the crank the blade removed a thin layer of peel from the nice round apple. When it got to the end the apple was pushed off the prongs and popped into the pan I had placed on the shelf to catch the peels. The second apple I tried was not perfectly round and the blade did not touch the flatter areas, so it left strips of peel behind. Considering this, and that I still had to use the paring knife to core and slice the apples, I cleaned up this antique and put it back and the shelf. Lesson learned: My paring knife seemed the better way to go.

Apple Chips – Last year, when we had our first decent apple crop, was the first time I made apple chips (dehydrated apples). We discovered that apple chips make a wonderful snack.

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This year I have filled up my 9 tray dehydrator twice. Each tray holds 3-4 apples and it takes about 20 hours to dehydrate them. When they are finished I store them in small sealable bags usually putting one tray (about three or four servings) per bag. When eating apple chips it is important to consider portion size because they are so good it would be easy to eat too many. It is also important to drink lots of water because they still contain lots of fiber.

Apple Vinegar – This is something I have been reading about and wanting to try for a while. I have seen recipes posted on several blogs and had bookmarked Home and Harrow to return to when I was ready.  My vinegar is still fermenting so I’ll let you know how it turns out in a future post.

Apple Pie – Yesterday I made our third apple pie from this crop. There is just nothing better than homemade apple pie, except maybe homemade pumpkin pie, or homemade blueberry pie or homemade  cherry… well you get the point. It is just so good. I also froze enough pie filling to make six more pies.

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Coffee Cake –  Even with all of that I was still looking for ways to use apples so when I made this coffee cake, which is a recipe that we really enjoy, I decided to add apples. I peeled, cored, and diced three apples and added a layer of apples on top of the streusel in the cake. It turned out fabulous.

I think we are now down to our last 7 or 8 pounds of apples and our plan for those in the next few days is to start a batch of apple wine. Cheers!

Making Soap – You may remember from this post that I consider this time of year soap making season. I haven’t yet come up with any new recipes but I did upgrade a couple of recipes that I have previously made. Perhaps I should add “version 2.0” to their names. :)Let me tell you what I did.

Cocoa Soap – My cocoa soap is made with olive oil and coconut oil as the base oils and coco powder, powdered milk and sugar as additives (just like a cup of hot cocoa might be made). When I first decided to make cocoa soap it was really just for fun. I mean how many of you would love to just bathe yourselves in chocolate? or maybe have dreamt about swimming in the chocolate river on Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? Fun eh? According to this article cocoa may actually have some benefits for the skin, but when it is made into soap I am skeptical as to whether any of those benefits remain. It does however make the soap a deep brown color. The milk adds a creaminess and sugar makes for an extra bubbly lather. What more could you want right?

Actually there was one other ingredient that I use in another soap recipe that just needed to go into this soap, because what goes better in a cup of hot cocoa than ——————————marshmallow. In case you are thinking that I have totally lost my mind – no, I don’t use those sweet little sugary puffs that we all know as marshmallows. What I use is marshmallow root from the marshmallow plants that we grow.

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If you would like to learn more about the heath benefits of marshmallow you can check out this link. https://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-marshmallow.html .

I have been using this herb in my hair care soap for several years now. The marshmallow root is said to add conditioning properties. For the past four years I have exclusively used my homemade soaps (usually hair care or coffee) when washing my hair and in all honesty my hair is healthier than it has ever been.  Don’t Eat It! Cocoa Soap (2.0 🙂 ) should be finished curing around November 23rd, so we will have to wait to find out how it turns out.

Coconut Soap – Like my Cocoa Soap the base oils used in this soap are olive oil and coconut oil.  The additive in this case, however, is shredded coconut. The coconut, while gentle on the skin, adds a little extra scrubbing power. It really is a nice soap, but I decided to make it even nicer this time around by adding yogurt. In the past year I have discovered that adding yogurt to soap gives it a super rich creamy lather and who doesn’t love that?

Incidentally, I once had a lady ask me “Doesn’t the coconut clog up the drain?” and you might be wondering the same thing. The answer is No – nor do the coffee grounds in the coffee soap or the oatmeal in the breakfast bar soap. What does clogs up the drain is hair.  Being the mother of 4 daughters, and all of us having long hair at various times in our lives, I can attest to the fact that hair is what clogs drains.

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Coconut Soap and Cocoa Soap

I also decided to stamp all the bars of these two batches. What do you think?

Thanks for reading. 🙂

 

 

 

As Summer Comes To A Close

We are (too) quickly approaching the Fall equinox and it seems that Summer and Fall have been duking it out. Some days we have had cooler fall-like temperatures but on other days have been hot, reminding us that it is still summer.

I thought I would share some of my observations from my morning walks at the farm on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Tuesday morning was warm and humid. As I arrived at the farm a bunny, who was sitting in the driveway, scampered away. When I exited my van two deer, who were near the pond, made a quick exit into the woods as well. As the sun rose, burning off bits of fog, the dew was still heavy and glistened on blades of grass and clover leaves. My rubber boots were soaked but my feet were dry as I walked the path around the back field.

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While most of the sunflowers have gone to seed, we still have one patch that are smiling brightly with their faces turned toward the rising sun.

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We had planted sunflower patches several times throughout the spring and summer and this last patch is now being enjoyed by our bees and many other pollinators.

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Apple picking is not far off. We have tasted a few apples but have decided they needed a bit more time to ripen.

 

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I saw and heard many birds this morning, but this one seemed to be posing for me.

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The wild flowers in the field are in transition. Thistle and Queen Anne’s Lace have all gone to seed and Golden Rod is fading, but Asters are now blossoming. The bees will forage the Asters into the fall while they continue to build their stores for winter.

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The Maple trees are beginning to change color, ushering in the new season, yet the Hibiscus continue to bloom, holding tight to these last days of summer.

Wednesday morning was cooler. The sun was shielded by a thick blanket of clouds. I did not spot any rabbits or deer which is somewhat unusual. Although I wore my rubber boots, the ground was not wet and my farm shoes probably would have kept my just feet dry.

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The sunflowers seemed to be searching for the sun, their heads turned in various directions.

The air was still as I walked the path around the back field, but I was amused seeing the  weeds wiggled as grass hoppers jumped on them or hit them on their way by.

I didn’t hear the song birds like the previous morning instead I heard crows and then turkeys. I heard the turkeys several times as I walked the path across the field but I did not spot them until I reached the wood line.

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There was a flock of them in the neighbors yard – I would have liked to get a better shot but they seemed disturbed and had I gone any closer they would have scattered.

It seems that Summer has passed way to fast this year, and as she travels south for the winter I bid her farewell.

We’ll welcome fall with hopes of many pleasant days, as there is still much work to do before winter arrives.

How about you? Has summer seemed short to you? Are you looking forward to the change of seasons? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Thanks for visiting. 🙂

 

Our First Apple Crop

This has truly been a wacky year for food production at the farm. Some things that normally grow in abundance have floundered and some things that have never produced before have done well. Apples were among the crops that did relatively well this year.

We have seven young apple trees of various varieties that we have planted in the past six years, three of which we planted in April of 2011 before we even closed on the property. Each year the apple trees have had had at least some blossoms in the spring but they never developed into more than a few apples. Last fall, as an experiment, I put a small amount of wood ash around the base of three of the trees. This spring nearly all of the trees blossomed heavily so I am not certain how much effect the wood ash had.

In May, when the apple trees were in full bloom, we had several mornings of heavy frost. Since the frost damaged asparagus, rhubarb and grape leaves, I am still stumped that our apple trees were unaffected.

Our honey bees were more that happy to do their part in our apple production, flying from blossom to blossom and tree to tree collecting pollen from one blossom and redistributing a portion of it on the next blossom while they collected their pollen from that one.

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Honey bee – too busy to pose for a picture

Being our first apple crop we didn’t know what to expect and it seems that our apples fell victim to bugs, worms and disease.  Then to add insult to injury the crows  decided to make our apples part of their diet.

A couple weeks ago when my husband was tired of watching our apples being destroyed he decided to pick what might still be good before the crows got anymore. He first brought home a bag of red apples and since I was busy that day, probably cleaning garlic, I put them in the refrigerator and half forgot about them. A couple days later he brought home these golden delicious.

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He had been talking about dehydrating apples or making apple chips for a few weeks so I decided to use the useable part of these apple to make chips.

When I peeled the apples I was pleasantly surprised to see that the blemishes, which I have not positively identified but might be apple scab, were only skin deep. Once I removed the peel there was no evidence of disease.

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I peeled, cored and sliced the apples. I placed the slices in a single layer on my dehydrator trays. Each tray held about four apples.

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I filled up all nine trays and realized I had peeled way too many apples. So I needed to come up with a semi-quick or easy way to use the other half of those apples. Since fruit pies are a favorite dessert here and pie filling freezes well I decided to make apple pie filling.

I know that golden delicious apples are not necessarily a cooking apple so I was happy to find a recipe for pie filling that just called for apples instead of “cooking apples” or a specific variety of apples. Not that it would have mattered because I often change up recipes, substituting what I have on hand for what is called for in the recipe. Sometimes it turns out really well and sometimes not so good. The apple pie filling is in the freezer for now but I am certain that we will enjoy the apple pie that it makes.

The apple chips on the other hand are disappearing quickly. They make a nice snack.

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When I took them out of the dehydrator, after about 18 hours, I packaged each tray of apple chips in a sealable plastic sandwich bag. This way I know that the package contains about four apples or four servings. Then I put the bags in jars for storage. It is important to know an approximate serving size because these apple chips are so good that it could be easy to get carried away and eat way too many. I warned my husband that eating a whole bag at one time was not a good idea, and that you need to make sure you drink enough water when eating dried fruit. He told me that this was a lesson he learned as a kid – the hard way.

A few days ago when I was looking for a side dish to go with the stuffed green peppers I made for dinner, I came across the “half forgotten” bag of apples in the refrigerator.

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Stuffed Peppers

I decided to cook up some apple sauce. I didn’t need a recipe for this because I have cooked and canned apple sauce many times in the past. Although many of these apples had bites taken out of them (crows) and a few had worms in them, I was able to cut away enough of the bad parts and cook up a wonderful dish of apple sauce. To make apple sauce, after I peeled, cored and cut away any bad parts, I put the apples in a pan with a small amount of water. I brought it to a boil then turned it to low and let it simmer until the apples were very soft. I then mashed the apples with a potato masher. I then continue to let is simmer and thicken up a little. There was no need to add sweetener. I put it in a bowl and chilled it before dinner and it made the perfect side dish.

Over the next few months we will be researching natural options for controlling disease and insects on the apple trees with hopes of growing even better crops in the future, and who knows we might even build a scarecrow or two. https://www.todayshomeowner.com/scarecrows-in-the-garden/