apples, apples ( and a homemade cider press)

we went to farm school last Saturday, early evening.  it was cold and windy.  we came with buckets and a ladder and a borrowed apple picker, there to glean apples for cider and some for snacking and such as well.  (dried apples, chutney, rosemary-apple jam... we aren't huge on applesauce, really)

we left with four five gallon buckets, a bushel basket, a quarter bushel basket, and two plastic grocery bags full of the delicious red orbs.

as we left, the turkeys were flying up to roost atop one of the hoop houses.  they are such curious and interesting birds, these turkeys.

(especially the three-headed ones)

back at home, a day or two later, it was cider time.  Mike had fashioned a cider press essentially by building a frame and bolting a car jack to it.  there was a milk crate that we filled with a couple layers of boards and then strainer bags filled with pre-chopped apples, more boards, and so on.  a multi-layer chopped apple sandwich, if you will.  that sat on top of an upside-down rubbermaid bin lid with a hole drilled into it for the cider to flow through.

two/thirds of our team in action~

to be sure, there was much tasting.  very much.

and the pressed pulp was a hearty and sweet treat for the chickens.

five gallons of cider was heated lightly and mixed with yeast in the fermenting bucket, and is now on it's way (fingers crossed) to being delicious hard cider.  there was another three gallons bottled for the fridge.  thinking we'll pop some of that into the freezer.

as one would hope for it to be while one is doing something such as making homemade apple cider, it was a glorious fall day.   I looked up, and this:

I looked down, and this:

without a doubt, one of the sweetest of days.


weekending :: getting out in it

this weekend was one of those crisp, clear, cold-in-the-morning-hot-in-the-afternoon, brilliantly blue fall weekends that remind you you've gotta get out in it now because soon it'll be cold, cold, cold.  and get out in it we did, filling it up with goodness way beyond our typical mostly-stay-at-home kind of weekends.  (which I quite love)

while she was in ballet class Saturday morning, papa and I walked over to the library book sale and picked up a few things.  afterwards, the market.  our last of the year as we'll be gone to the beach camping next weekend when the market season closes.  we had our pastries from the wood-fired bread guy, bought a big bag of onions since we've got approximately one or two left of our own, a box of the season's last tomatoes (we need to make more of Heather's amazing salsa because we're going through it fast), and a pork belly that papa plans to turn into bacon with his homemade cold-smoker.  we also came away with a bag full of 4T/5T sized dress-up clothes that the kind Molly thought Claire might enjoy. (yes, the answer is YES)

Claire and I took a quick ride on the bike to visit some friends for a little while so we mamas could chat and the girls could play and watch the Curious George halloween special about a headless scarecrow.  they love it.  while we were gone papa went into the back bee hive to close it up for the year.  we didn't have a second honey extraction like we thought we might this year, but they are looking good and we've got fingers and toes crossed the winter will be good to them.  and then we were back home to help bottle the pumpkin ale.  one of us in our new dress-up, of course.  we've worked out a nice assembly line for bottling, we three.

a late afternoon birthday party for a little buddy turning six.  Claire joined in and made a light saber out of a thick wooden dowel and colorful duct tape.  most of her tape faces out so it's quite sticky but it's pretty cute and probably still just as good at harnessing the force and all.  there was popcorn and roasted veggies to munch on, beer to drink, and good people to catch up with.  and cake.

and then, later afternoon, we headed up and over the mountain to farm school to glean apples for cider and for eating however we see fit.  we came away with lots of apples.  LOTS.  papa is working on rigging up a homemade press right now (it involves a car jack, a frame, a big box...) and we're going to see about refilling that 5 gallon carboy with some cider.  dried apples, a pie or six...... yumyumyum.

as we gathered apples in the cold wind that night (as it does this time of year, it turned from late afternoon to evening rather quickly) I thought how very well-suited we are for one another.  much as we drive each other nuts sometimes, I'm sure there are a lot of folks out there for whom gleaning dirty apples for a couple hours in the cold raw wind would not be their first choice for how to spend a saturday night.  but it made us giddy.

and then Sunday we spent the day at LEAF (the Lake Eden Arts Festival).  our kids at art class were performing again so we found ourselves with free day passes, just like this Spring.  if some of the photos look familiar, that's probably because the herb conference takes place at the same location.  there was again kettle corn and delicious food, bouncing on the big bungee bouncer thing (she flipped this time! fearless!), a run through the hamster ball thing, a gorgeous lake reflecting fall leaves, dancing.  general fun and merriment.  we got to see Robert Randolph and Bela Fleck play.  so, so good.  we listened to them both a lot in college (and still) and went to see them each a couple times in college.  we did leave about a half hour into Bela Fleck's set so we could get over to the farmer-owned meat shop (where papa worked briefly) for their anniversary block party- I enjoyed Bela's music a lot but the addition of his (I'm sure very lovely) wife and musical partner tweaked the sound a bit into something I felt I could leave after a half hour, whereas were he with the Flecktones I'd have to have been dragged away.

and so on to the meat shop, for lots of good food (mostly variations of meat on crackers, also amazing french fries and local cheeses), a local brewery's Butcher Babe Smoked Porter to taste, a local distillery's whisky to sample (they let me take their empties for maple syrup bottles!), and more good folks to chat with.

and then, finally, home.  where I collapsed on the couch while they read stories and then promptly fell asleep with the little one because holy cow, what a weekend!

*weekending with Karen


into fall :: the garden

last week I picked the majority of the peppers left out there.  maybe there are about a dozen small ones hanging on.  most of the tomatoes were all long since pulled, with the exception of a few volunteers.  things are definitely a lot calmer and quieter out in the garden beds these days.  we've got kale, chard, collards, lettuce, leeks, parsnips, beets, carrots, and a smattering of herbs still growing.  oh, and radishes.  which I must admit I sowed more for the instant gratification than for any real love of radishes.  because, really?  they're not my favorite.  not even close.  we're hoping the greens go well into the winter with the added protection of plastic covering over the hoops, which we'll add soon.  there are also still some tomatillo and okra plants, but it's cool enough that they can't really do much.  though we'll likely be able to make one more small batch of tomatillo salsa.

we are quite literally scraping the bottom of the barrel (basket) of the onions.  we started harvesting and eating them in late July and haven't had to buy any since then, but it looks like they'll be on the next grocery list.  I'm pleased to have grown roughly three months worth of onions, but thinking next year we'll double (or more) the amount we plant in hopes that we'll get further into the year on what we grew ourselves.

we didn't grow the corn in the picture up there~ bought it at the market from a kid in art class who grew a bunch of gourds and corn.  I think I'd like to grow popcorn next year though.

acorns.  wow.  there are four huge white oaks in the front of our house and the house next door and it doesn't take nearly as long as one might suspect to gather this many of the poky little orbs.  and the pigs at farm school were quite pleased with the treat.

a little list in the garden journal of things preserved and such this year.  it could be a lot longer, but it could be a lot shorter as well.  there was also a small batch of tomatoes from a friend's farm canned whole - maybe 6 or 7 quarts.  above is the list of stuff made just from our own garden (with the exception of the blueberry jam made from our blueberry picking venture, which also yielded some quart bags for the freezer).  well, and the sugar maples in our neighborhood.

the garlic will go in any day now, and we'll keep tidying things up and adding mulch and compost to the beds for the winter as we can.