OK – so we got a great deal on some blueberry plants – at $2 each on closeout, we bought all 32 remaining plants and thus quadrupled the size of our blueberry patch. Totally crazy…
First we made the patch a lot larger (with the tractor), dug holes with a spade :), planted and then ran irrigation lines. Luckily we still had some line left over, plus enough emitters to make this work. We’ve been irrigating every day since we planted..
Also found time to do some serious flower and herb garden weeding (sometimes I think I grow composting materials as my main crop), here is my “kitchen garden” by the front entrance door:
Things have been hectic the last couple of weeks – too much going on at work, plus we helped Rachel, Zach and Toben move to Ohio this weekend. They have a beautiful house and barn outside Mt. Vernon, about half way between Columbus and Cleveland.
But we still found time to work on our farm, mostly we spent the last couple of weekends cleaning up around the pond. We cut down the remaining willow trees and pulled out their roots as best as we could. Since we have had such a terrible long dry spell, the water level was at a record low – which allowed us better access to weeds around the banks. We weed-whipped around the pond, push-mowed and removed all weeds, including the wild roses and poison ivy! We also pulled out the old boat dock, which jutted out into the pond – but it was rickety and not too safe. Taking advantage of the low water level, we cut off the decking portion, hooked it with chains and ropes to the high- lift of the tractor and lifted it off – after some creative sawing, the former dock became a front porch on Lars’s playhouse in the woods. The pillars from the dock (old telephone poles) were pulled out with the tractor, and we will re-use them for trellises for either the grapes or blackberries.
Jeff cut down both corn fields, and plowed the lower one under – this will be a section of the 2011 blackberry patch. We still need to finish plowing the remainder of the field. Tina weeded and hoed the blueberry bushes – we lost two of them (too many weeds and not enough irrigation we think). Will need to replenish those.
Also started doing serious research into current cover crop recommendations to get the 3 acre field ready for grapes. Found a lot of very useful articles online, also got a number of articles on winery equipment and overall setup. During the last few weeks we also worked on the online course offered by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) called the Wine Industry Compliance Seminar.
Don’t think we’ll need to make sauerkraut again for a very long time – we put away 28 heads of cabbage (at about 5 lbs each) for regular sauerkraut, the kind that is just made with 3 tablespoons of salt per 5 lbs of shredded cabbage. That made about 15 gallons – which is sitting in the kitchen happily fermenting. We weighed the top of it down with gallon sized freezer bags filled with salty water (in case one of the bags breaks it won’t mess up the salt brine that the cabbage is fermenting in). We also put away another 30 lbs of cabbage for German style “Delicatessen” sauerkraut. In between each 5lbs layer of shredded, salted cabbage, we added about 5 juniper berries, one grape leave, about 1 dozen green grapes, 1 cup shredded sour apple, 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds, and about 1 dozen peppercorns.
It was a little challenge finding juniper berries in the local grocery stores. In one of the stores, the lady I asked about juniper berries first asked me to repeat the word 3 times, then asked me what I needed them for. When I told her it was for making sauerkraut, she looked at me, in a pitying sort of way, and told me, honey – we don’t do it that way here. (luckily there is Wegmans)
We also picked potatoes – Jeff used the single plow to dig up the rows, and the potatoes were literally just rolling out of the ground. We picked up 24 buckets
of potatoes, which ended up being about 17 bushel. They are spread out on the middle bay of the upper barn to dry a little. We’ll have to pick through them and sort out the damaged and cut ones, and then store the rest in crates in the bottom of the barn where it is cool and dark.
We used some of the left over cabbage to make “Freezer Slaw”, about 12 quart sized bags, have to see how this turns out.
We finished off the Labor Day canning marathon with another 20 quarts of spaghetti sauce and 16 quarts of the best applesauce ever! (also squeezed in a 3.5 mile quick run at the park)
We are on the way to break our canning record for total jars – and varieties of food – canned in one weekend. Granted, we had a lot of help, as Anja & Duff and Zach & Rachel were around all weekend, and Jens and Grace stopped by on Saturday.
We started off on Saturday morning picking tomatoes and then picking through (and cleaning) a pick-up load of apples, which we ran through our apple press. It was a beautiful morning, not too hot and windy enough to keep flies away (had a lot of bees buzzing around us though). We ended up with about 40 gallons of apple cider.
While the cider was being made, Rachel – and Toben – worked on cleaning the tomatoes for the first batch of sauce for the weekend.
Jens and Grace stopped by and brought along half a bucket (5 gallon sized) of assorted hot peppers from their garden and a 50 pound bag of onions from Sams Club. In the afternoon, Duff came up with his first batch of original salsa – which we called “Duff’s Smokin Salsa” (it contained chipotle and ancho peppers and we roasted the onions before adding them). Today (Sunday) we canned some of the cider,canned some peaches, started a batch of apple wine, made another batch of salsa (this one was a milder variety), made apple sauce and nectarine sauce (some we mixed 50:50), and canned all of this, and cooked enough tomatoes for another batch of sauce.
We used the burners on our kitchen stove, the side burner on the gas grill and the turkey fryer outside, as we just ran out of space in the kitchen during all this processing. In the middle of all this, we all went to Chambersburg to watch Lars and the Big Spring Midget Football varsity team win their first game of the season. Go Bulldogs!
Here is what we ended up with by Sunday night:
- 20 gallons of apple wine (30 pounds of sugar added)
- 38 quarts of canned apple cider
- 10 gallons of cider in gallon jugs in refrigerator
- 18 half pints of “Smokin Salsa”
- 15 half pints of “Mild Salsa”
- 20 quarts of Spaghetti Sauce
- 31 pints of apple/nectarine sauce
- 6 quarts of plain apple sauce
- 7 quarts of peaches