It might have been colder, but looks like we didn’t get a frost. I was the pre-dawn turkey guardian (3am, guarding against owls) and I had 3 sweaters on and was just FREEZING. Couldn’t wait to get back to the house for a hot duck egg sandwich and potent coffee. We’ve had less than 100 days in this gardening season, if it frosts soon. There were several extended periods of 45 degrees overnight low temps, along with very little rain, so no wonder the plants out in the garden are confused. Next year we have to be proactive about dealing with the crappy weather swings. All the nightshades will be planted in the hoophouse, squash and zucchini and cucumbers will be started ahead of time. Time to get chores done.
Last year was a bad apple year. But this year, somehow, with the oddest wet and late spring, and national coverage about the deaths of bees, we’ve managed to have a bumper apple crop. There are lots of honeybees here, not sure where they call home, but we are happy to have their services of pollination.
When we bought our land, it came with many, many 20-30 year old apple trees scattered about the 39 acres. I recently talked to the woman who used to live here 13 years ago, and she explained why the apple trees are randomly all over the place- they were planted by cows pastured here 20-30 years back. They are all the product of random serendipity, with an apple being eaten by a cow and a seed coming out the other end intact, sprouting and growing into a surviving tree. Many of these trees are just plain wild crabby types of apples, but a surprising number of them yield delicious and gorgeous fruit, it’s just a matter of noting which are where and when they ripen, so that the apples can be collected before they all fall off the trees. Last year nearly all the blossoms froze off, so locating the good ones was impossible. Not so this season, luckily. I’ve been loving scouting through the gorgeous brushy jungle in the back gully for the apple laden trees. The dogs always come along for an adventure. We don’t do a thing to these trees, no sprays, no coddling, no pruning and they provide all this free food for the taking! Talk about some hardy native varieties. Someday we’ll be ready to graft and propagate more trees from the superstar apples we discover.
I’ve been scampering up into the branches, collecting as many as I can for our CSA and for making my honey cinnamon applesauce, an ambrosial concoction highlighting the various intense flavors of these wild beauties!
I savor the methodical rhythm of canning, once I get the flow started. I’ve had hundreds of pounds of tomatoes to put up, even though the blight killed most of the plants, we’ve had a long dry spell and the fruits have still mostly been ripening beautifully, but it does seem to happen all at once. Tomatoes can’t wait around in their raw state, so I save the best for the following week’s CSA members, and can up the rest.
It starts with the tomatoes getting into the house, up the cramped and awkward steps to the kitchen. Wash and cut out the stems, cut in half, and toss into the 22 quart pot. I add a bit of salt to help the juices emerge. With the dryness, the tomato flavor is deliciously extra strong and intense. They start to simmer down just to heat and soften the fruits. Wash jars in hot soapy water, place upside down on a clean towel, warm the new lids in a pan of simmering water. (ps I noticed that they are BPA free! Yes!) Puree tomatoes 1 blender-full at a time, pour into jars, wipe off any dribbles from the rim, fit on the warmed lid and seal shut with the ring. Immerse jars into canning pot, put on the lid and bring to a boil, start timer and adjust heat down to maintain a gentle boil so the jars don’t clang around violently and break. Wash more tomatoes, add to pot of softened simmering ones, wash more jars, fill and can more jars. I have been tandem canning with 2 kettles going, leaving me no burner for the simmering sauce, so out comes the hotplate and I have taken over the entire kitchen suddenly. In my element, here, surrounded by the noises and actions of putting up the harvest.