Category Archives: Grapes

Sweet Summer Time

I can’t believe July is nearly over. I certainly have been enjoying the summer weather we have had this past week, but I fear that summer will to be gone before I know it. I am trying to make a conscious effort to take at least a little time each day just appreciating what the season has to offer. Sometimes that involves taking a dip in the pond or kicking off my shoes and going barefoot in the lush green grass. Other times it involves observing nature in all of it’s glory. Last week it also involved a homemade blueberry pie. ☺

Below are some of my observations from the past week.

 That’s Just Ducky!

One day last week, when I was working in the prayer garden, I noticed we had a visitor in the pond.

In the past when we have had ducks visit they have not stayed long. This one doesn’t want to leave.

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I can’t say that I blame her as it is a very lovely environment. I am not sure what kind of duck she is so if you know please leave me a comment at the end of this post.

We don’t want ducks or other water foul living in our pond so we have made many attempts at letting her know she needs to leave.IMG_5415

At first I thought it would be as easy as letting Trooper chase her off, but as he entered the pond she swam quickly to the other end of the pond. Trooper lost sight of her and interest. As I walked around the outside of the pond to the area where she was swimming she again just swam to a different spot. My husband attempts at throwing small stones in the water near her didn’t seem to deter her either. She certainly is persistent!

Finally on Friday when I had family over for a picnic lunch I told my niece, as she and my cousin set out in the paddle boat, that their job was to chase the duck away. A while later my niece announced that the duck had flow away. Good Job Ashley and Abbey! It was maybe a couple of hours later, after we had finished our pond activities, that we saw her land in the pond again. Good Grief!!!

I do think that she has since gotten the message that we don’t want her there because now when she sees my husband or I approaching the pond she flies away – only to return when we are not around. Perhaps she figures “what we don’t know won’t hurt us – or her”.

Unapproved Housing!

So far this year I have written about robins building a nest in a flat of pansies and the sparrow who was raising her young in the middle of our strawberry patch but this is the oddest nest yet.

This past winter my husband noticed that what we assume was a confused woodpecker had made a hole in our U.S. Coast Guard approved floatation devise that our township requires be kept near the pond. It is not made out of wood!

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Last week he told me that he looked in that hole and saw what he thought was a sparrow inside.

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I decided to try to get a photo. As I approached a small bird flew out. It was similar in size and color to a sparrow but I noticed that it had a long pointy beak. After doing a little research I have decided it is probably a house wren. While it seems to have found a cozy home I am not sure that the U.S. Coast Guard would approve.

Birdseye View

Hawks soaring high above our farm is not an unusual sight; it’s just one that I have difficulty photographing. It does get concerning when their search area comes close the area where our chickens are foraging as we have had several chickens fall prey to hawks in the past. Such is the nature of allowing chickens to free range.

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As I watch the hawk gracefully circling I envy its view from above.

A Berry Good Year

While our garlic crop was disappointing this year, all of our berries performed beyond our expectations. As I have mentioned in previous posts it has been a wonderful year for strawberries, currants, cherries, and blueberries. Grapes seem to be following suit.

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One day last week I noticed that the grape vines were sagging. Upon further inspection we discovered that the top wire that supports the grape vines had broken.

 

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The vines are so heavy laden with fruit that the wire could not support their weight. My husband was able to place a couple of wooden stakes under the vines to keep them off the ground, but repairing the wire will have to wait until after the harvest.

If A Tree Falls and Nobody Is Around To Hear It Does It Really Make A Sound?

As of this writing that question will go unanswered.

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My husband was standing in the garden, perhaps 100 feet from this tree last Sunday when the storm came through. He estimated the wind gust at about sixty miles per hour. As he felt the gust, he heard a loud crack and watched the tree fall.

The dead ash tree has been standing dead in the wood line for several years and we have been waiting for the right winds to come along and bring it down. We can now cut it up to use for firewood this winter.

The Garden Was Busy This Morning

Perhaps I should say buzzy. The squash and pumpkins are blossoming heavily right now,

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and bees and other pollinators love squash blossoms.

 

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It is not unusual to see two or more pollinators in the same flower.

 

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The bees were also foraging in the buckwheat.  They moved quickly from flower to flower and I was not able to capture a photo of one.

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We don’t harvest buckwheat but it does serve a dual purpose. It acts as a cover crop, enriching the soil in areas where we are not growing food. It also helps feed the bees.

Thanks for spending a little time with me. What are you doing to make the most of summer?

 

It’s Been A Grape Year

In general I can’t say it was a great year for growing food. Some crops like squash failed to produce, and most, including strawberries, asparagus, tomatoes, corn and melons yielded only a fraction of what we expected.  Despite the late spring frost that killed off all of the newly unfurling leaves, our grapes were one of the exceptions. So I can say it was a grape year.

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Our grape arbor was started in 2012. We put up the three posts and then transplanted some grape vines, that were growing in our back yard, in between the posts. We had purchased the hardware and the wire that we intended to use to support the vines, but with so many projects on our to-do list finishing the grape arbor did not become top priority until last spring. Each year as the vines grew we would stake them and/or fence them in attempts to keep them growing upward and prevent the deer from annihilating them. (notice the grape vine tied to a stake in the picture below) Each year we have harvested modest crops, some years better than others.

Last spring after purchasing a couple more grape vines to plant in the grape arbor we decided it was time to finish this project. We wanted to give the grapes two wires to climb on. To hold the wire we used eye bolts. The eye bolts were screwed into each of the three posts at the same level. The wire was twisted around the eye bolt on one end, then ran through the eye bolt on the center post for support, then twisted around the eye bolt on the other end post. In theory if the wire starts to sag the eye bolt on either end can be tightened to provide added support.

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As with all of our crops this year the grapes did require watering, but the fact that they escaped the fate of the deer can only be counted as a gift from God. Our first harvest weighed in at about 20 lbs. I decided to turn this into juice.

IMG_3290In the past I have made grape juice according to these instructions from the National Center for Home Food Preservation http://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_02/grape_juice.html and while the juice has good flavor I always feel guilty about wasting the pulp, skin and seeds. Last year I canned the juice without allowing the sediment to settle out and found that the juice was thick and delicious. This year I decided to have even less waste. Here is what I did.

Wash grapes and remove them from the stem. I make a point to wash and inspect each individual grape because little spiders like to make their homes amongst these grapes and I sometimes find spider nests attached to them. These must go!

Put the grapes in a pan and mash them with a potato masher.

Add enough water to cover the grapes.

Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes.

IMG_3267 I then ran the grapes through this food mill. I used the medium blade which filtered out seeds but turned the pulp and skin into juice. Pretty much the only thing that was not turned into juice were the seeds and judging from the crackling sound of grinding grape seed small particles of seed may have ended up as juice as well. I am ok with this. No, actually, I am very happy about this. You see the grape skin and seeds are said to be the healthiest part of the grape. https://www.livescience.com/54581-grapes-nutrition.html  After juicing the grapes in the food mill I proceeded to can the juice according to the NCHFP link above. I did not add any sweetener to the juice as my husband prefers the tartness of the natural juice and to sweeten my juice I add a bit of our raw honey before I drink it. This 20 pounds of grapes yielded 7 3/4 quarts of delicious, thick and healthy grape juice.

After harvesting the first 20 pounds of grapes there were still some grapes left on the vines. I wanted to experiment with making a wine without adding yeast and decided that using grapes was the way to go. I did an internet search and came across this recipe http://www.roughdraftfarmstead.com/2012/05/24/easy-homemade-wine-recipe/ .

I harvested the remaining grapes and while the recipe calls for “preferably unwashed fruit” I had to make sure there were no spiders or spider webs left behind and rinsing them under running water seems the best way to do this. After I rinsed the grapes and removed them from the stems I had about 5 lbs. of grapes. I decided to let them sit for a few hours in hopes of reclaiming some of the yeast that I had rinsed off.

The mashed fruit did not nearly fill up my two gallon crock so I decided to add enough water to just cover the fruit. I also added about 1 1/2 cups of our raw honey. I stirred the mixture and covered it with plastic wrap. I didn’t stir the mixture nearly as often as is recommended in the recipe but at least once a day. In a few days I could tell that fermentation was underway. The bubbling was not as apparent as when I have added yeast to make wine, but when I stirred the mixture the bubbles were there and it had the smell of alcohol. I also tasted the wine as it fermented by sipping whatever drops remained on the spoon after I stirred it. The grapes fermented in the crock for approximately two weeks before I had time to siphon the wine into a one-gallon bottle. I placed a balloon over the top of the bottle but after a couple days of the balloon not rising and no apparent bubbles I decided the fermentation was done. I could have transferred the wine into bottles and corked them but the wine seems to be disappearing (not evaporating) quickly enough that this would be a waste of time.

Personally I am not much of a wine drinker, and when I do imbibe I prefer a sweeter wine, so I am not the best person to judge this wine, but if you want my opinion I would say it is a “good” wine. It’s definitely not a “fine wine”  and in my opinion it is not nearly as delicious as the grape juice. My husband, who likes dry wine, is  enjoying it, and I have been drinking a glass now and then for it’s health benefits.   https://www.prevention.com/health/healthy-living/health-benefits-of-red-wine/slide/9

I consider this experiment a success. I can indeed make wine without added yeast and I plan to experiment more with this process more in the future.