Thursday, October 24, 2019

Cider Time: The Farm Report 10-25-2019

Cider Time

The Farm Report 10-25-2019

It is late October, and the apples are as sweet as they will ever be. Time to get out the little cider press and make some cider!

This little press came to me from a contact at NAFEX - North American Fruit Explorers. That is a specialty interest group I belong to. This press was abandoned behind a shed that was destined to be demolished by a bull dozer. It had trees growing up through the flywheel, and the wood was all but gone. The press screw was frozen in place with rust. My Dad and I chopped it out of the 'jungle' that had grown up around it, and hauled the remains home to the shop. We rebuilt the wood with white oak using what was left as pattern plans. The pomace tubs are original, the bottom boards are new. It has not been approved by OSHA.

Step One: Get out the ranger and go pick apples.

The red ones are Macs, Sops of Wine and Chieftains. There are a couple of 'Susie's Apples' in there too. Susie was a friend of my wife, Joyce's. Her son, Preston, was interested in learning how to graft fruit trees at the time. Susie said she didn't know what kind of apple it was, but it was a good one! It had been on her parent's farm and she had grown up with it. She was right; it is, indeed, a 'good one.' Fortunately, we got the grafts to 'take' and now we have a wonderful tree. Sadly, both Susie and Joyce are no longer with us, but we have Susie's Apple in Joyce's Windmill Orchard to remind us of both of them.

I planted Joyce's Orchard with the idea of recreating a turn-of-the-century (20th) farm homestead orchard. I have selected apple varieties accordingly, although not exclusively. These are Porter, or also known as Yellow Pearmains. They are insipid as a desert apple. They do add a lot of sweetness to the mix though.

This apple is Kidd's Orange Red Pippin. It is super - super! - tart. It makes the cider 'zippy.'

Don't 'nerd out' on me. I do like to be casual, but I also like to know what's going on. Thanks to modern technology and cheap imports, I can afford a refractometer to measure the sugar in my fruit juices. The ones we used in my chem classes way back when cost over a hundred dollars. This one cost me $17 bucks. It is plastic, but it is fine for me - and guess what. It gives you surprises. Those tart Kidd's were the sweetest by far. The tongue is sometimes fooled by the acids in fruit. Delicious with or without a meter....

Annie likes here apples, too. Which does she prefer? Of course the answer is simple: the one I have at the moment.

Out in the garden it is fall cleanup time. This is the remains of the cucumber row. Annie thought it was her job to pick up every spent cuke and drag it off to somewhere else - and bury it! It kept her busy all afternoon. Next year, we'll have cukes growing in strange places, I think.

It seems like I can't write a farm report without some bad news. This one is no exception. See those two long rows of potatoes? There is also another one you can't see. It is half as long. 'Spuds for all,' you say.

Nope. This is it. I don't think I even got my starter back. I usually expect between 200 and 300 pounds of potatoes from those rows. This year, I got just about 35 pounds. What went wrong? Japanese Beetles set in on the plants at exactly the wrong time. Next year! Next year I will be much more proactive with the Japanese Beetle Treatments. 

Over in the greenhouse, the Hydroponic Strawberry Patch system in installed and in operation. I do have a few strawberry plants in it, but the rest are cold weather salad greens. I thought it would be good to try a little shake-down on something like spinach first. The bucket on the end holds the water and fertilizer. There is a little pump in it that circulates the solution.

The pipes are connected in pairs so that the solution goes down one length then spills into the next lower one, and around and around until the water gets back to the bucket for another round. And around and around.

As an old guy with a bum back, I'm always looking for ways to get jobs done without heavy lifting. I'm adding an official Harbor Freight pickup crane to the toolbar armory for the tractor and splitter. There is a cable winch that goes on this gizmo, and a set of log tongs on the end of that. I'll show you more later. But it is time to go to the timber logging! We've had a hard freeze and the bugs and weeds are gone. Time to start getting serious about cutting and hauling wood.

The best part is that it all folds up for easy carrying and storage. It is mounted on a 2-inch receiver hitch so I can just pull a pin and take it off one tractor and put it onto another one. (Yes, you need to have more than one tractor.... That's the law in Iowa for old guys.)

Sometimes I feel like this tree; just split in the middle and folded over. This sort of tree is also known as a widow maker. I cut wood for fun and an excuse to spend the day outside in one of the most sacred shrines I can imagine. The woods are my special place. Don't worry kids, I won't be cutting on this one for awhile. I'm safety conscious about things like this - plus I'm not into pain. After all, if something bad would happen, it would be MY FOOT that log would land on. No thanks. So, think good thoughts and I'll be careful; but I'm going into the woods to play! All is well at Oakdale Farm.

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Truth About Puppies: The Farm Report 10-14-2019

The Truth About Puppies

 The Farm Report 10-14-2019

These were my 'new' shoes just 2 weeks ago! The truth about puppies is that they CHEW ON EVERYTHING!

Annie is an Aussie/Heeler and that means heels? right? Well, for Annie, it also means tongues of my shoes - which are a lot easier for her to grab. She herds EVERYTHING! I recently read someone who said that heelers make terrible guard dogs. Why? Because they will let EVERYBODY come into the house. The problem is that they won't let ANYBODY leave the house. Once you're part of her 'herd', well Buddy, you're in for the duration if she has anything to say about it - and nobody gets out!

My socks are all full of holes, too. Typical of the breeds she's from, they 'nip' at about anything that moves. Annie is constantly trying to push and control everything that moves here at Oakdale Farm; including me. So far, although she has punched my socks full of holes, she has NEVER touched my skin. I was amazed at how she could do this. Then, one sunny morning, the light rays hit her little muzzle and 'Voila!' I understood. She has a super special row of 'curb feeler' whiskers all around the front of her muzzle. She works by feel, not by sight. This picture doesn't do them justice; but let me tell you - getting her to hold still just long enough for even this picture was a challenge. I think I took about a dozen before I got one that told the story and was in focus. Annie is a mover!

Here's a little humor at her expense. you'll have to zoom up the picture to get the full effect. Annie is toothless! She is about 14 weeks old now, and she is losing her front teeth. It is hilarious to see. She looks just like a kid who wants 'her two front teeth' for Christmas. I think she would whisthel when she talkth if she could talk.

All the herding breeds, Aussies, Aussie Heelers, Heelers, Border Collies - all of 'em - are nippers. It is how they get great big ornery cows to move when they want them to. They are not biters, unless it is encouraged and (better) discouraged. They instinctively pinch. They are not for little kids. Little kids that move fast need herded - at least in these dogs' brains. My neighbor's young grand daughter Natalie can command Annie, but she is a rare special person. These young dogs are not for little kids. And while I'm at it, these dogs are not house dogs either! Annie can't stand the extra stimulation of the TV in the evenings. It makes her hyper. She needs her 'alone' time to rest. She has no ability (much like my sons when they were little - sorry boys) to put herself down for a nap. If I'm up and going, she has to be going, too - even when she's tired. She gets crabby but she keeps going. AND, like my boys, she gets herself into more and more trouble until I eventually break and put her in her kennel - out in my shop. Then she will settle down and rest. After that, we're all happier.

Oakdale Farm in October.

We have had a re-naming at Oakdale Farm. The rooster formerly known as 'The Jerk III' Mr. Rooster is now known as 'NoodleSoup'. Yep, he's started to feel his 'oats' and is attacking. No spurs yet, but plenty of attitude. It makes an ideal pass time for both of 'em though. Annie likes to annoy the rooster, and the rooster obliges. Annie will go right up to him and make eye contact.

Then look away. I've seen her do this a thousand times. 'Oh! I didn't realize you were there,' she seems to say.

When NoodleSoup starts his attack, Annie drops down to the ground as low as she can go.

Then at the very last moment, she is out of there like a shot. She is SO FAST it defies NoodleSoup and they go in for another round. It keeps her occupied sometimes for an hour or more. Just a dance, not an attack - at least on Annie's part.

Annie may not be the best compost grinder, but she is probably the happiest one you'll ever find!

AAAARRRRRGGGG! Up in the greenhouse, I found my new little White Boston Lettuce seedlings like this the other day. Almost all the leaves were eaten off - by a damned grasshopper! I started over....

The electric linemen are the saviors and heros of the day out here. He's fixing my electricity in the rain! During an electrical storm! THANK YOU!!! We had a major lightning storm the other day. Annie and I were just going out the shop door to check on the storm when lights flashed and we heard a big 'Capow!' Annie's front end was out the door when this happened. Her front end passed her back end on the way back inside when it went off. It was funny to see, but man was that a zap!

I have had absolutely beautiful fall roses from Joyce's Rose Garden. Thanks, Nancy, for the beauty and the sweetness.

Other'n that, all is well at Oakdale Farm.