Apple Harvest Day

We bumped the wagon haphazardly over the irrigation ditches to get to the next row of apple trees. Many were long picked over but there were still a few varietals heavy with fruit. Old to ancient apple trees lined many acres in perfect rows.

We are in the planning stages of our new farm. Where do we want to put the fruit trees? We will set up a separate area for them instead of just throwing them into the yard. In past houses, if they survived, they were in the middle of garden beds and mowing paths.

Ayla tried to take a bite of apple and smiled that huge, jack o’lantern grin. She opted for a stick instead. Maryjane picked out a white, Lumina pumpkin (our family favorite), and helped me harvest apples as Emily snapped photos.

My granddaughters are so beautiful!

Third Street Apples is a real treat. Pick all the apples you wish and then pay per pound less than sale priced grocery store apples shipped in from Venezuela (or wherever). Support local farms and have a ball doing it! Maryjane sat in the grass watching a ladybug crawl around the top of her apple.

I filled my apron with apples, so Maryjane gathered her shirt and did the same. That child is efficient, for when she poured her apples into the basket, it overflowed! I have a lot of apples to process now. I am not very good at making pies, I am afraid. A farmgirl skill I need to perfect, but I can make one, or maybe a tart. I will can apple sauce (see my recipe here), but I am the only one who likes apple sauce so maybe I will juice some as well. Oh! I can make apple wine, or freeze some apples. I will decide what to do soon, but in the meantime, I had a lovely day at a local farm with my granddaughters and my daughter making memories.

And in a few years, the children will be harvesting from our own family orchard. What is your favorite thing to do with apples?

Célébration de L’Automne en Famille (celebration of fall with family)

Creating La Belle Vie

It is the beginning of autumn harvest season! This is our family’s favorite time of year. Our farm is aptly named Pumpkin Hollow Farm (we will have this new place looking like a farm in no time). So, when our children came for the weekend we wanted to do something really fun. We looked up local attractions but ended up at two nearby farms to pick apples, blackberries, and choose early pumpkins. Everyone had a wonderful time and it was the highlight of our weekend together.

Doug and I went around our village the night before the children arrived to scout out which farms we should go to. We ended up talking to one of the farmers for quite some time. The couple retired, they bought land here with apple trees on it, and a U-Pick farm was born.

The first farm we all ventured to looks to be a…

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Pumpkin Hollow Farm (a possible beginning?)

Our children are coming for the weekend and Doug and I zoomed around in our convertible looking to see what farms near us would be open that we could take them to.  Our kids and grand-kids love farms and who doesn’t love a good apple fresh off the tree and a bumpy hay ride?

We moved to the country.  To land of our own- not rented- that is zoned for agriculture.  We are surrounded by the friendliest folks you can imagine and surrounded by majestic views.  Walking through the farms, we laughed at the chickens, talked weather and crops with the farmers, and found ourselves at home here.  We live in a place now where we will be able to grow pumpkins really well.  We live in a place where tourists arrive from all over the state to pick and purchase produce.  Wineries, farm stands, and orchards abound.

After nearly seven years of pursuing farming (and often feeling like a failure), I think we are finally at the farm we dreamed of!  Blank slate for sure, but here we are.  We can see the baby goats playing with our dog in our minds, the chickens free ranging near the garden, the apple trees in bloom, the kids picking out their own pumpkins, the homesteading classes in my kitchen, women with wine glasses laughing while making cheese.  By god, we might be sitting on our dream. We are not done yet.  Looks like Pumpkin Hollow Farm (and Farmgirl School) are just beginning.

Cocktail Hour and the Thanksgiving Drink

20171114_174503‘Tis the season for a warming drink as the cool nights descend.  My husband stoked the fire in the wood stove.  The night was ink black with the stars glistening like twinkly lights and the smell of wood smoke and fallen leaves remind us that Thanksgiving is near.

I poured us each a cocktail.  We don’t often do that but we should.  We both go-go-go from before dawn until this moment where I am scurrying to get dinner made and the puppy is running around with the remote in his mouth.  When the day doesn’t slow down fast enough, our own cocktail hour is really grand!

I am more of a craft beer and snobby wine girl and I don’t like most hard liquors.  I wanted to try whiskey though.  I’m Scottish after all and I have had a few swigs from men in kilts’ flasks at the Celtic Festival.  What I made (oh, it probably isn’t new at all but it was new to me) was a delicious autumn drink.  The apples played off the essence of the barrel in the whiskey.  And the cinnamon added seasonal cheer.

20171114_175049We picked up one of those single servings of Makers Mark to see if I’d like it. (I did.)

I had some apples that were in need of being juiced.  Freshly juiced apples make this recipe.

Fill a high ball glass half way with ice.  Add whiskey.  Add four ounces of fresh apple juice.  Add a sprinkling of cinnamon.  Sit down!  It’s been a long day.  Dinner can wait five minutes and the puppy can go outside for a second.

This would be a delicious drink with roasted turkey and all the fixings next week!

What is YOUR favorite cocktail?

The Apple Harvest (and the sweetness of family)

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Aunt Donna invited us over to pick up firewood and to pick apples.  She could have invited a hundred people over for apples.  Her tree was so heavy laden with gloriously delicious apples that I rather fear a good many up high will go to waste.  After biting into the scrumptious orb I realized that the wonderful three boxes gifted to us from friends almost two months ago were not ripe.  I spent hours and hours in the kitchen prepping and canning and making apple sauce all to realize that they came out rather sour.  Healthy and still good, but I should have been patient.  Apples are to be picked in the latter part of September and into October.

Emily, Maryjane, Grandma, Me, and Grandma's sister, Donna last year at the grape harvest.

Emily, Maryjane, Grandma, Me, and Grandma’s sister, Donna last year at the grape harvest.

You have been to Aunt Donna’s with me before.  We went last year to join in the harvest of her bountiful grapes which we made jugs of delicious juice from. This year the vines hold little and the little apple tree that was average last year has outdone itself with bounty.  Next year we shouldn’t expect apples.  There is an ebb and flow to everything, I realize.  Droughts, rains, snows….heat, cool….last year the tomatoes were plentiful, this year the cold crops did exceptionally well.  It is a good representation of life.  Our lives are a constant ebb and flow of births, deaths, good times, sad times, memories, and moments.  Each day precious.  And what a glorious day to be at my beautiful aunt’s house, the one who helped inspire my farming and has answered questions over the years.

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Maryjane is an excellent harvester.  She at times surprises me with how intelligent she is.  She is so tiny but if you give her instructions she will follow them.  She is also the cutest forager I have ever seen!  Her mother is pretty cute too.

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Emily and I split a box of apples.  She was turning hers into caramel apples.  I may try to store mine.  We feel blessed to have access to fresh, nutritious food that didn’t cost us anything and for generations of fabulous men and women to teach and love us.  Such a sweet life.

apple picking

Making and Canning Juice (and moving box fun)

We were gifted three boxes of apples, a windfall from our friends’ tree.  After putting up eight jars of sliced apples, nine jars of applesauce, and drying a load of apples, I still had a box and a half.  Doug and I go through a fair amount of juice and organic juice is not cheap y’all.  Here’s how to make delicious juices from windfalls, purchased boxes of fruit, and/or frozen fruit to keep all winter.  It’s ridiculously easy.

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Load up a large pot 2/3 full of fruit.  I sliced apples in half (I did not even bother to core them, I just made sure they didn’t have bugs in them!) and did one batch of just apple.  The second batch I threw in the contents of the partial bags of frozen fruit in the freezer.  Cranberries, raspberries, and a few strawberries joined the mix, adding their own festive color.  A couple of cinnamon sticks and a cup of brown sugar for fun went in as well.  Fill the pot to a few inches from the top with water and boil lightly for two hours.  Pour into clean quart jars, wipe the rims off, replace the lids and place in a large pot with water covering the jars.  Boil for 10 minutes.  Add 1 minute per 1000 feet above sea level.  I boiled for 17 minutes.

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Once the lids seal, mark them and place them in the pantry.  They are good for at least two years and you didn’t waste a single fruit!

On another note, we are busy packing and getting ready to move to our new homestead.  I had to share a few pictures Doug snapped of the moving box fun going on at our house.  There is either a baby or a cat or both in various boxes.  I guess they want to make sure we take them!

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