Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Cherry Pickin': The Farm Report 07-01-2021

 Cherry Pickin'

The Farm Report

Time for some good news! It is cherry picking time, and this year in spite of -28F last winter, late frosts, cold spring, flash burn to 103F and no rain for what seemed like forever - TADA! I have a boat load of cherries. HOOOORAAAYYY!

Oceans and oceans of 'em this year. I got them sprayed at just the right time - which is right after the petals fall off from the blossoms. The bees have lost all interest by then so they aren't harmed - and the moths and flies and other creepie crawlies haven't had a chance to do much damage yet. Meaning: this year's cherries are clean and wonderful - and plentiful.

I love trying to be self-sufficient. I know I'm not really but it is a game I like playing. I like my own food, too. I was involved in manufacturing paint and paint removing chemicals and all kinds of glues and stains and lacquers when I had a real job. I know what manufacturing is; I'd prefer to produce my own food whenever I can, thank you. "What are you going to do with them?" We will figure that out later. Now, we're just harvesting!

The cherries are smallish this year. And I'm busy, and I'm good - really good - at making up excuses for not doing things I don't want to do. Like pitting cherries. Now not to be mistaken; I have two or three machines to take the pits out. It isn't really that big a chore when you've got equipment. Still, my heart just wasn't into pitting cherries this year - and I've still got bags full of pitted cherries safely laying in their beds of suspended animation in the deep freezers. So, I decided to dig out Joyce's steamer and just nuke 'em into juice.

Each steamer pan held about 15 pounds of cherries. These are Balaton's. I also have North Star and my new favorite - Danube. Danube has been with me for 7 or 8 years now. This is the first year she has decided to cough up any bounty.

 Danube is a hybrid cross between a Balaton sour cherry Prunus cerasus and a sweet cherry Prunus avium. (These were found in Hungary by Amy Lezzoni. Dr. Lezzoni is a researcher and plant breeder at Michigan State Univ.) In Hungary, Balaton is named, Újfehértói Fürtös. Lake Balaton isn't far away from where the tree was found, and we can say, 'Balaton' easier than Újfehértói Fürtös, so the North American name is Balaton. Now you know. Dr. Lezzoni is also responsible for bringing us the Danube cherry. In Hungary, it's name is, Erdi Bötermö. I like Danube better, and the Danube river runs through Hungary. All dots connected. Well as they say, 'A rose by any other name....' 

All three of my cherries have dark juice, dark flesh, and even though they are actually tart pie cherries, they are nearly sweet enough to eat without any honey or sugar added. Homemade black walnut and cherry ice cream may be in my future!

So here is my setup back in the Official Shop Canning Kitchen. Anybody can set up a canning kitchen - and you should. All you need is a source of water ( a hose? ) and some heat. My clunky old hand-me-down kitchen range ain't pretty, but she does the job. Water goes in the bottom container, the middle section is a fancy piece of sheet metal work that resembles an angle food cake pan on the inside. There is a stainless steel chimney that directs the steam up to the colander pan which is the pan on top holding the cherries. When you pour the cobs to this contraption, the steam goes up, the cell walls of the cherries pop and the juice runs down through the colander into the middle pan and collects there. The hose on the side is to drain off the 'pure quill' juice as my Grand Dad would have called it. 

The steam does not dilute the juice. In fact, the steam has nothing to do with the process except exploding the cherry cell walls. After about an hour or an hour and a half of boiling, I'll have about a gallon and a half of juice. The stainless kettle on the left is to collect the juice from the steamer.

Or not.... Here is another reason to have a summer canning kitchen. Cripes! The first batch was perfect. "No Brainer!" said I. Then I got to fooling around in the garden and working with one of my new inventions for Henry Ford - and I'm an old guy - and I forgot to check progress on the juicer. Poop! The middle pan holds about a gallon. I already knew I needed to drain off some juice midway through. Obviously, knowledge was not trumped by wisdom this time. 

In the canning kitchen, we clean up with a power washer and floor dry. "Meh" and we go on. In the house, this would have been a nuclear disaster. Oh well.....

These are my grandkids, Miles and Evie. This is a farm report, and I don't usually put people pics in here. But hey, I'm Grandpa, and I don't get to see my kids too often. Humor me. They live a long way away, and with COVID-19 it has been 2 years since we've been able to be face-to-face together. I'm a big guy. Miles is a really big guy! Evie is my sweetheart.

Speaking of sweethearts, Annie has found her new BFF. Evie and Annie were pretty much inseperable for their whole visit. That's Evie's mom, my daughter in law, Tracy, sitting next to her. She is an RN. 

I'm going to put in a plug for Tracy and all the nurses and doctors who have spent the last year watching people get sick and sometimes die from COVID-19: She has been on the front line in the hospital for the last year and a half, exposing herself and possibly her family (and me, which is why we haven't been together for so long) to this virus. So, whatever your position, I think we owe all the docs and nurses more than an extended political middle finger when it comes to getting vaccinated and protecting ourselves - and others like her! I'll stop preaching now, but please get vaccinated.

Evie loved driving the Ranger around the farm. Around and around and around the farm! She did fine, but of course she needed some Grandpa coaching before leaving port.

Her Dad, my son Jon, also coached her for awhile. She smiled and let it happen. Annie never lets the Ranger out of her site, so Annie rode every trip with Evie, every trip with Evie, every trip with Evie. Around and around and around the farm. You can't see it in this pic, but Annie has her own rear view mirror she's looking into. She actually uses it! Amazing.

Tell me that ain't cute, and tell me which one in this pic is having more fun.

I'll let this one speak for itself mostly. I've never seen Annie so exhausted in my life. This is Annie after a long fun day Ranger Riding with Evie. She's had a swim in the pond and ready for some restful laying under my bench. I think she might have been hiding - but let that Ranger fire off, and guess where Annie would be!

Inside, Annie was still in love with Evie. Like her Ranger, Annie never let Evie out of her site.

Outside, Miles and I made smoked St. Louis style ribs. I'm explaining the fine points - Miles is just hoping I'll stop talking and get the meat into the smoker! Miles and I wear the same shoe size.

A shared family secret for smoking pork. A shared fun family time smoking pork, too.

Cherry picking season also means Japanese Beetle and other bug problems too. We farm with tractors in the air out here now. I think it would be really fun if they would paint this bright yellow crop duster airplane (piloted by a guy who has an obvious death wish!) with some John Deere green on it somewhere. Wouldn't that be fun to imagine seeing a yellow and green John Deere crop duster tractor-plane in the sky?

Part of my insect control program is in that little nest box down there in the distance. 

I love barn swallows, and I've decided to put little nest boxes around for them. I have a family in the making in this one already.

Another insect control specialist at Oakdale Farm is this little guy. Tree frogs are fun. They change colors depending on their backgrounds. This little guy just about made me wet my pants the other day.

I didn't know he was around when I grabbed my office door knob to go to work. OOOOOH, that squishy cold feeling in my hand was not nice. Fortunately, this guy was not hurt, but I watch for him carefully now.

So here's what it comes down to: The kids are all home safe and dry. I've spent the better part of the last week picking cherries - and cleaning up my messes. O.J. doesn't like heat, and apparently seems to have lost his sense of smell. He spends most evenings with me like this while I watch the news. He doesn't care about the news at all. Full food dish, fresh cool drinks, and a safe warm dry place to nap away the hours and he's good to go. Me too. All is well at Oakdale Farm. Have a safe and happy 4th of July. Don't forget to check on your juicer from time to time. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Odor in the Court: The Farm Report 06-15-2021

 Odor in the Court 

 The Farm Report  


Odor in the Court? Let's just say that is my clever way to blow off a little steam. I was selected to sit on a jury two weeks ago. It wasn't fun. In fact, it was so disgusting that I went home each night and just wanted to A. Scream, B. Choke somebody who needed it, C. Kick some butts up between their respective shoulder blades, and/or D. Go even deeper into my hermitage and ignore 'society' all the more. I went back each day to do my civic duty though. The trial took all week long.

The case was a civil case between two brothers who have apparently hated each other's guts from day one. The court case is open and public record, so I don't have to mask my comments. Like Ron White, the comedian says though, although I have the right to remain quiet, I might not have the ability. I'll try not to say too much. EXCEPT THIS: When your parents have gifted you with quite a lot already, and you're doing fine with what they gave you, PLEASE do not drag me into court to waste my time sitting on a jury tasked with deciding which of you two pinheads might get just a little bit more of your dead mother's estate than the other one. And since both of you two knot heads had obviously decided you would rather give more of what was left to the entire panel of expert witnesses and lawyers (who all appeared more than willing and ready to accommodate and soak up everything they could) than to each other, it seems a colossal and disrespectful waste of my time - and everybody else's too. So there. What a travesty. And my butt still hurts from 5 days of sitting on antique courtroom benches for hours on end. I'm sore in more ways than one. 

So to make a little lemonade from the lemons, here is another complaint. Due to COVID-19, we were not allowed to use the more comfortable juror's chairs. We were sat on the narrow Civil War era narrow observer's benches in the back. Appropriately spaced of course. Some of you probably know that my 'real' job was working as a furniture conservator and restorer. Can you imagine my chagrin seeing the Official Yellow Sticky Tape stuck directly onto the seating to isolate us? Oh well - permanent employment for restoration people I guess.

This doesn't mark the spot where the treasure is - unless your treasure comes from fixing the finish where this tape tore it off. Yes, I did mention it. All I got was a shrug. The court really only cared about whether Momma had sufficient mental capacity to know the kind and extent of her bequests at the time she signed off; and whether somebody had diddled with her to entice her to go to the new lawyer or not and make yet another in a long list her many of wills. I'm going to be bent about this waste of my time for a long time - so if you see me out in the garden mumbling to myself, you might want to just drive on by that day. Just sayin.....

The Cardinal Red Weigela has been just gorgeous.

Like most flowering shrubs, it is in bloom for just a short season each year. Then it reverts to one more of the woody bushes around the farm. But oh my! Those two weeks or so of bloom make it worth while. The time had been just perfect to take cuttings and root this bush - while I was cooling my jets sitting in court. I'll still try. This bush came from a bouquet brought to my wife Joyce, by our neighbor, Chris J. one summer. We enjoyed the flowers, then stuck the stem into a rooting bed and Hey Presto! Now we have a plant to propagate from. It is not only fun to propagate your own shrubs; it is also great to have the 'where it came from' stories to tell.

Now is the time for everything to propagate. The annual cereal rye we plant as a cover crop is seeding.

Each little kernel has it's own flower. The yellow part is the blossom which will become the grain.

Up in the greenhouse we have success. I've been enjoying fresh zucchini from the Dutch Buckets. Soon, it will be just too darned hot inside my greenhouse even with the doors wide open. I'll move the Dutch Buckets outside for the rest of the summer.

Speaking of too darned hot - I had not yet cooled off under my collar when I heard a very unusual, very suspicious BZZZZZZZZZ sound coming from the downstairs window AC unit the morning after I was set free from court duty. According to Youtube, and everybody else I could talk to, this part - a running dual capacitor - is 95% of the time the trouble child. It is a cheap part - if you can get one.

Remember where I live - way out in the middle of the country in one of Iowa's least populated counties. Nobody had the part. So, Amazon to the rescue. Two days later - and for the record that would also include two hot nights as well - a fine upstanding young man in a brown shirt handed Annie Oakley a doggie treat, and handed me a package with the new part in it.

Of course, as it turns out, that part was not the problem. I'm on a roll. Another day of blue cloudy skies filled with vile language and ill wishes beseeching the Great Spirit to condemn this thing and any surviving male dogs and/or their mothers around Oakdale Manor, and a flying trip to Omaha, and I now have a totally new super duper AC unit chilling me with panache. I think I'll get my winter coat back out of the closet.


Annie looks nice. That blue thing is her favorite INDOOR toy. If she looks a little 'guilty' in this pic it is because she knows she should not have Blue Bone outside. But she does, and she wants to be sure I see her with it. 'Hey, Big Shot! Look what I've got.  Why don't you try coming out here and taking it away from me? You're so old and slow I could be half way to the Timber before you get up any steam.' She's like that. I also know she will lose interest and be disappointed if I don't even try - then after she moves on I'll pick it up. We do this game a lot.

But if you look over Annie's head way down there in the background you'll see this. While I was off to town last Friday, we had one of our famous 'sudden blasts' of super wind. And yep! just to top off all the rest of the events so far this month, my Hale Haven peach tree snapped off. We had -28F actual temperatures one night last winter, so there weren't going to be any peaches this year anyway. Darn it though. Now there won't be any peaches from that tree at all. Ever. How has your summer been going? 

Other than that, my summer so far is like just about all my summers; I'm not a summer fan, and I'll leave it at that. Cheers from Oakdale Farm.