Tag Archives: Nature

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/

Our Harvest Picnic

Sunday we invited friends and family to the farm for a picnic. While many of those invited could not make it for various reasons everyone who came seemed to have a great time.

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My husband added some seasonal decorations to welcome our guests.

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The bees wasted no time finding the sunflowers he picked.

 

The chickens roaming around, pecking and scratching, added to the ambience.

 

As summer nears it’s end Black Eyed Susans, Hibiscus and Phlox continue to adorn the farm.

When we host guests this time of year we like to make it a harvest party that includes foods from our garden. Included in yesterdays meal was potato salad – with homegrown potatoes, celery and chives along with our farm fresh eggs; apple crisp – with apples from our trees; pickled garlic scapes  https://donteatitsoap.com/2017/06/15/a-year-in-growing-garlic-part-viii-garlic-scapes/ ; and my garlic and dill chip dip https://donteatitsoap.com/2015/08/14/simple-and-fun-recipes/ . We also had fresh lettuce leaves and sliced tomatoes to top the burgers which were made with locally raised grass fed beef.

While I took many pictures of the scenery before our guests arrived I somehow forgot to take pictures our guests and the activities they enjoyed.IMG_3200Trooper played in the pond early in the day, but later on some of our young guests enjoyed catching perch in the pond and building sand castles on the beach.

I also neglected to get photos of my brother-in-law flying his remote control airplanes. He brought two planes and was able to use the path which we keep mowed around our back field as a runway. He also brought equipment that enabled him to allow others to participate. It’s called buddy boxing. To really explain buddy boxing you probably need someone who understands technology better than I do, but since I’m the one writing I’ll tell you my simplified understanding of how it works. Two transmitters or controllers are linked together and set to operate the plane. The student’s controller is allowed to operate the plane unless the teacher feels the plane is in trouble at which point the teacher has the ability to override the student’s system and take control of the plane.

I think this is a great way to be able to teach kids, or even adults, who want to learn to fly remote controlled planes without having to worry about damaging the plane or endangering objects, people or pets on the ground. Pete was certainly a great teacher and the kids had a great time flying the planes.

Other activities included greeting everyone with hugs, catching up with friends and family, most of whom we haven’t seen in a year or more, my husband gave garden tours and showed off the huge, mammoth sunflower which came up as a volunteer this year. “If it’s not the biggest sunflower you’ve ever seen I’ll give your money back,” he told people. Maybe he should have charged because everyone agreed that it was the biggest they had ever seen.

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While it wasn’t a homegrown water melon, it was among the produce that our grandson (and future farmer) Jackson, enjoyed. He also got excited about watching the chickens eat corn on the cob.

Some guests left with garlic and some with honey and several left with regrets about having to leave so early and hopes of returning soon. It was a great day filled with friends, family, food and love and we are grateful for all those who visited.

Unfortunately we were so busy and having such a great time that we forgot to hold one of our planned events. The rock picking contest. Participants were to be given a milk crate, shown to one of two areas that have been plowed this summer and told fill their crate with as many rocks as possible.  Cash prizes were to be awarded. Oh well guess we will be picking up rocks this week. 😉

Okay, I’m just kidding about the rock picking contest, but we will be picking up rocks this week. Have a great day.

 

Mystery Solved -Thank You Lisa!

Our Mystery Plant is a Mountain Mint.

https://garden.org/plants/view/78608/Narrowleaf-Mountain-Mint-Pycnanthemum-tenuifolium/IMG_3088This plant attracted my attention when I saw our honey bees heavily foraging in it. We are in a wildflower transition period where the blossoms on the Sweet Clover and Canadian Thistle are waning and the Golden Rod is just beginning to open. It seems the bees are foraging mostly on white clover which we have much of but we were happy to find something else that they loved.

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My husband and I searched all of our plant reference books and several online data bases and were unable to identify this plant. The plant had grown up in an area where we had planted a wild flower seed mix several years ago. So I decided to go to what I assumed was the source. The wild flower seed mix we planted was from American Meadows https://www.americanmeadows.com/wildflower-seeds . We first search their website and were unable to find any plant that resembled our mystery plant. I then decided to contact the company. I used the contact form on their website and included a picture of the plant I was trying to I.D. This was on Sunday. I received an automated reply that day saying they received my message and would try to respond within 48 hours.

My husband and I continued to search online wildflower data bases to no avail and on Monday I received an email from Lisa at American Meadows. She thought the plant in the photo was Yarrow. I replied immediately. At first glance the plant may look like Yarrow, but we also have Yarrow growing on the farm and there are several differences in the two plants. The flowers are different, but more noticeable is the difference in the leaf structure and I have never seen the bees visit Yarrow.

I sent Lisa a second photo of our mystery plant which showed the leaves more clearly. Lisa replied that same day. From this picture she could now see that the plant was not Yarrow. She could not identify the plant but if I could send a close up of the flowers she would “call in the troops” to help find our answer. On Wednesday I sent a couple more photos, described the light scent of the flowers and told her we lived in South-East Michigan.

Later that day I was surprised and excited to receive Lisa’s email. It read: “Success!

The plant is Mountain Mint, probably Pycnanthemum virginianum, which is the common species in Michigan. There is a related species that is much less common, called Pycnanthemum tenuifolium. The main difference is that P. virginianum has pubescent stems, whereas the stems of P. tenuifolium are glabrous (i.e., not hairy). I can’t see the stems well enough on your photos to tell whether the stems are pubescent or not.”

Lisa said her source of this information was a botanist here in Michigan.

I did an internet search and found photos of Mountain Mint and discovered that it was indeed what we had. I at first believed it was Pycnanthemum virginianum, the more common species. On Thursday after I read Lisa’s message a second time I began to question that. I didn’t remember this plant having hairy stems. On my next trip to the farm I confirmed this. The stems of our Mountain Mint are smooth. We have the less common of the two, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium. Common names for this plant are Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint,  Common Horsemint, and Slender Mountain Mint. My husband and I could not be more thrilled than to have this mystery solved. We will encourage this plant to spread and perhaps even propagate it.

This might go without saying but in a day and age where good customer service is hard to find I have to say that we greatly appreciate the help that we received from Lisa at American Meadows. She certainly could have determined that our plant was not something that came in the seeds we received from them an left us on our own. Instead she went the extra mile to help us solve the mystery. At this time we do not have a need to purchase wild flower seed but if we ever do we will return to American Meadows and perhaps if you decided to purchase wild flower seed you will consider them as well.

 

 

Rescue Roses and Mystery Roses

Rescue Roses

When we bought our farm it was 7.6 acres of vacant land. It had been sitting untouched for many years and was overgrown with countless types of vegetation. It was so much fun exploring the property and discovering various trees, bushes, and wild flowers.

One of my great disappointments was when I realized that I was going to lose a beautiful wild rose bush when we dug our pond. “We will move it,” my husband said. We decided to plant it next to theses large rocks. Rocks that we had decided we would never move again.

We cut down the bushy part of the rose and dug up as much as the root as we could and replanted it next to the rocks.

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We have since found 4 or 5 more rose bushes which would need to be moved so we didn’t destroy them as we developed areas of the farm. All of theses rose bushes were replanted near the rocks in what has now become our rescue rose garden.

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These rose bushes thrive in their new home.

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I am always excited to see these rose bushes blossom in the spring and they have a lovely fragrance.

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It is gratifying to know that we were able to preserve this beautiful part of nature.

Mystery Roses

Another rose story I want to share is what my husband and I are calling the mystery rose. The yellow rose bush was a given to me as a Mother’s Day gift from my children several years ago. My oldest daughter had picked it out, and she selected yellow because I had told her that bees tend to like yellow and pink flowers but not red flowers. That was something I read when I was researching honey bees. We planted the rose in the center of our prayer garden.

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Yellow Rose 2015

Despite giving it lots of TLC, watering when needed, fertilizer, and protecting it from the deer, the rose bush struggled. Last year I pruned it way down because the top had died off and dried up. I was sad because whenever someone gives me a plant it is a reminder of that person. In this case it represented my 4 daughters.

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Yellow Rose Is Red In 2017

Several weeks ago my husband asked me if I’d seen my rose bush. “It has one blossom and lots of buds.” he said. A couple days later I was baffled as I checked on my rose bush. “That was a yellow rose.” I told my husband. “Now it has red blossoms.” He didn’t really remember it being yellow, but he didn’t accuse me of being crazy. To make sure I wasn’t crazy I looked back through my pictures and found the picture above.

I decided that there were one of two explanations for this change. The first one would be that someone had replaced the dead rose bush with a live one and had put in red rather than yellow. If this had happened I’m am certain I would have seen evidence of the digging and replanting.

The other thing I thought may have happened was that the yellow rose was a grafted bush and the root stock that was used was a red rose. I wasn’t sure if roses were grafted or if this scenario was possibly so I did an internet search.

This link from the MSU Extension explains that indeed my second explanation was indeed plausible. http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/why_are_my_roses_changing_color   Apparently I had pruned the rose bush down below the point where it was grafted. The root stock that was from a red rose was strong enough to survive and seems to be thriving in our garden. I do love this beautiful red rose and it will continue to remind me of my daughters.