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/

Buying Our Garlic

We are excited to announce that Neiman’s Family Market in Saint Clair is now carrying our Michigan grown garlic. If you are not familiar with Neiman’s you can find them here. http://www.neimansfamilymarket.com/neimans/stclair.jsp

You can also purchase our garlic at:

Nino Salvaggio’s  Saint Clair Shores, Michigan location

Water To Go in Richmond, Michigan

Pure Michigan Country Market on 10th Street in Port Huron, Michigan

If you shop at any of these retailers please be sure to thank them for supporting local farmers while bringing you quality products. Your words will be appreciated.

 

 

A Year In Growing Garlic Part X

We are wrapping up 2016-2017 garlic season and at the same time preparing for the next planting so this will be my final post in this series. I’ll start where I left off. We began harvesting garlic in mid July and although we had stopped watering the garlic two weeks prior to that, as is recommended, the soil was saturated from the rains that finally came.

Though larger garlic producers may have other methods, harvesting garlic for us means digging each individual bulb by hand. My favorite tool for digging garlic is this shovel with a narrow blade, a short shaft and a D-grip. It is a comfortable height for digging the garlic and the long but narrow blade can get close to each bulb and dig deep enough to loosen the soil under the roots. We bought a second, similar shovel this spring so my husband, who did most of the digging, would have one as well.

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My husband and I started together digging the garlic but before we got our first hundred bulbs out of the ground I needed to shift gears. I began laying the garlic  on racks so that the bulbs were exposed to the air in order for the dirt to dry, while he continued digging.

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When we ran out of room on the racks my husband began tying the garlic in bundles and hanging them from the fence posts. They still had good air exposure this way.

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and when we needed even more room he set up this system on the trailer hooked to the tractor which he could then park in the shade until we could get to them to brush and bundle them.

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The garlic coming out of the ground this year was very wet as the rains came just when we didn’t want them too. Once the dirt on the bulbs had dried it was time to remove it.

I have discovered that the easiest way to remove the dried dirt clumps from the roots and bulbs by hand is to wear garden gloves and just rub it off the bulb and roots. In the past years I would where cotton gloves and usually ended going through a several pair of them, ending up with hole in the right glove and a left glove that was still intact. (Yes I am right handed.) This year we used leather garden gloves and they held up much better.

After we rubbed off all of the dirt that was loose enough to come off we used twine to tie them into bundles of 10-25 bulbs so they could dry or cure. The garlic needs to cure in a dry, area with good air flow and out of direct sunlight for the next three weeks or so. The large bundles were hung from rafters to dry and smaller bundles were dried of shelves.

Since many factors contribute to how quickly the garlic will cure I would check different varieties, when I needed garlic for a meal, to see how they were coming along. To check them I would snip a bulb from its stem, clip the roots and peel it. When the bulb is cured all of the layers of peel inside should be completely dry and papery.

It was about three and a half weeks after we first began digging the garlic that some of the garlic was cured and I started the final cleaning. The finale cleaning prepares the garlic to be sold or stored. It involves clipping the dried leaves and stems as well as the roots. It also involves removing any dirt that still remains.

If you are growing garlic just for personal use there is really no hurry to do this. In fact leaving the stems and roots intact and even a little dirt on the bulbs, right up to the time you want to use it, will probably prolong the life of the garlic.

These are the tools I prefer to use for clipping and cleaning.

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On our first day of clipping and cleaning I was blessed to have my sister Jamie, and cousin Abby here to help. Abby is a farmer too and is always eager to help out if I say I need a hand, and while Jamie may not claim the title of farmer, she has done her share of farming related activities. Things such as growing her own vegetables and fruits, raising her own chickens and now she can add cleaning garlic to the list.

Working as a team seems much more efficient than each person doing their own pile of bulbs, so I clipped while Jamie and Abby cleaned. We all gabbed and the time flew by. I was even more grateful when they offered to come back to help one day the following week.

When I refer to clipping I am talking about removing both the leaf end of the garlic and the root end from the bulb. At the leaf end I usually cut 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the top of the bulb being carful not to clip the tips of any of the cloves. On the root end I clip as close to the bulb as possible but some of the roots still remain. It is my understanding that any garlic that is imported into the United States must have the entire root plate removed but garlic that is grown in the US can be sold with roots still attached. I am not sure why this is but since it is easier to just clip the roots down that is what we do.

As for the final cleaning we start by brushing each bulb with the scrub brush. Sometimes this is sufficient to remove the dirt and make the bulb look presentable. Sometimes the outer wrapper is dirt stained and one layer needs to be removed. Our goal is to get the bulb as clean as possible while keeping much of the outer wrapper in tact.

While cleaning the bulb I also give them a quick inspection for quality and sort them by size. To inspect the bulb I feel for firmness. Each outer clove should be firm. I also look for bulbs that may have been accidently sliced or dented while being dug and bulbs that do not have the outer wrapper in tact. Any bulb that does not pass inspection is set aside along with the very small bulbs. These will be used in my kitchen or dehydrated for powder. For sorting by size I am first looking for next years seed. Approximately the largest 15% of this years crop will be saved to replant in October.

Since we don’t punch a time clock I really don’t know how many hours my husband and I put into clipping and cleaning the 5000+ bulbs we grew this year, but I can say it was a long and monotonous process and I am thrilled that it is done.

I hope you have enjoyed following us through this year in growing garlic and if you haven’t been following along but would like to find out what you have missed you can find the whole series here https://donteatitsoap.com/a-year-in-growing-garlic/ . If you have any garlic related questions or comments be sure to leave them in the comments section below and I will be happy to respond.

I will conclude this post by responding to some of the things people have said or asked about growing garlic.

Comment: “Garlic is easy to grow.”

My Response: We have had much success in growing garlic but since I have had many people tell me that they tried growing it without success I am not sure that it is so easy. I do agree that given the right planting time, the right weather and soil conditions and the proper TLC garlic is easy to grow, but this seems as if it could apply to most crops.

I do find that people who make this statement are growing garlic only for personal use, and as a garlic farmer I need to add that while each step in the garlic growing process is easy enough that it could be performed by a 10 or 12 year old, growing 1000’s of garlic bulbs becomes both time and labor intensive.

Comment: I didn’t know that there were different kinds of garlic.

Response: I’ve read that there are as many as 600 different varieties.

Comment: I like the ones with the red coloring.

Response: There are many different varieties that have red or purple coloring on the skin. My varieties may be different then ones you have had before.

Question: “Does garlic really keep vampires away?”

My Response: – “I assume that it does since our farm and home are completely vampire free,” or if garlic is present at the time of questioning I say, “look around, do you see any vampires?”

Additional Statement: “No vampires  were harmed in the growing of this garlic.” I guess I just needed to satisfy any potential readers who belong to Vampire Rights Coalitions and such.

Thanks for reading. 🙂

Coming Soon…

This is a busy time of year for us. We are wrapping up our garlic season https://donteatitsoap.com/a-year-in-growing-garlic/ and I will be putting up the final post in that series soon. I have created this page that links to all the posts in that series and added it to the menu at the top of my home page so you can read through them at your leisure.

It is also harvest season and along with harvesting food comes preserving it, so I will be writing several pieces on what we are harvesting and how we are preserving it. Check out the pictures below for a sneak peak at what’s coming up.

I will share how we will enjoy this years apple crop.

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Some different methods for making tomato sauce,

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What I am doing with our beautiful grapes this year,

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And a write about wildlife on the farm – friend or foe.

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To make sure you don’t miss out on these or any future posts you can sign up at the bottom of this page to follow along via email and if you like what you read don’t forget to share it with your friends.

Grandparents Day

While surfing the web this morning I saw something with the words Grandparents Day, and being a new grandparent it got my attention. I suppose I have heard of Grandparents Day, but it was never something we celebrated in our family. I decided to do an internet search to see what I was missing. This link is just one of several that I came across, and after reading it I wasn’t too ashamed that I was clueless about this national holiday as the author who writes for “Grandparents.com” apparently just learned of it as well.

http://www.grandparents.com/grandkids/grandparents-day/when-is-grandparents-day

I won’t be spending the day with my grandson today but was blessed to do that last weekend. It was quite by chance that I posted my grandson’s pictures yesterday, just in time for Grandparents Day but there was one thing I omitted in yesterday’s post. It may have be apparent when viewing the last picture that Jackson has a sibling on the way. His little sister is due to arrive in early December. Since this is a high risk pregnancy my daughter, Tina, is under the care of specialists and is receiving special treatments in order to help her carry the baby to full term. We pray that she is able to do so.

I did spend much time today in remembrance of my grandmothers. I don’t have any memories of my grandfathers since my mom’s father died before I was born and we lost my dad’s dad when I was about two. Though my only memories of my paternal grandmother come from when I was young, they are very special. Grandma was a story teller.  She had been crippled by rheumatoid arthritis for many years and required total care from family members. Her bed was in the living room. It was low to the ground and there was a throw rug on the floor beside her bed. She would have my sisters and I sit on the “magic carpet” next to her bed and she would tell us stories for what seemed like hours. I think I was 7 years old when grandma died, but 45 years later I can still remember a few of the sweet stories she told us.

My memories of my maternal grandmother span several decades. As a young child spending the night a grandma’s house meant waking up to the smell of rolls baking or fresh baked chocolate chip cookies. I didn’t know if she ever went to bed because she was always up long before anyone else. There was a cellar full of jars of food that she had canned and the jelly always had a layer of wax on top. She had an attic full of treasures. I remember jars full of buttons that we could use string into necklaces. I remember what seemed like mountains of fabric scraps many of which were cut into squares for quilts. I remember the doll that stood nearly as tall as I was and a stuffed monkey. The Barbie dolls also lived in her attic until we were allowed to bring them out to play with them.

Grandma worked as a dispatcher at the local police station, she volunteered to work the polls at the local elections and she was active in her church, helping with dinners and the annual bazaar.  She was a very busy lady.

As we all grew older, I remember she liked to get together for family lunches, maybe at a local restaurant or at someone’s house. These gatherings often included grandma and her sister-in-law (Aunt Louise), my mom, my aunt, my sisters, myself and our children – 4 generations.  I remember grandma’s favorite sandwich was a bacon, lettuce and tomato.

Grandma was a very crafty person and I have stored away some of the beautiful crocheted items she made.

I think it was her 80th birthday that the family chipped in and got her a hot air balloon ride as a gift. It was a dream come true for her.

It her last years she came to a point where she was no longer able to live on her own and for a while she lived with my daughters and I. We had come full circle. I was now caring for her as she did for me when I was young.  I was honored to be able to help her.

She’s been gone for about 15 years now and today as I remember my grandparents I wonder what I things I missed out on. What are the things that I could have learned from my grandparents. Things like family history, how they provided for themselves or how they lived before modern conveniences. Things that really didn’t seem relevant at the time but seem important to know now.

I am really not sure that there is a need to have a day designated as National Grandparents Day, but I am certain that everyone should make time to spend with and learn from their Grandparents.