Monday, July 10, 2006
I got home at a reasonable hour, for once, but was too tired, even so, to take a run at yard work. So I went to bed, read myself to sleep with a book about making soba noodles, and woke up half an hour later ready to look about me.
We have been mowing the grassy parts of the acre with a gasoline-powered push mower, which is kind of against our principles, but we both work, we're between batches of farm animals, so what can you do?
But it does have a bagger.
This grass has been mowed without a bagger for many years, and for my twelve of those, the mowers have been kept at the highest setting, so the grass stays green late in the summer, as its soil is both shady and mulched. We have never used weed-and-feed and such. This has encouraged the worms and a great many other critters, and so things are a bit lush -- suitable for taking off some of the nutrition and concentrating it elsewhere.
I have been spreading the clippings in the garden and around the shrubbery and the trunks of many of our trees. They form a nice, earth-colored mat of interlocking fibers; lets water in but keeps weeds down.
Unfortunately, Julia, Beloved's pet banty, loves to scratch up the mat to inspect its undersides.
I have issues with that, but I know better than to chase her around -- most of the time.
I've hit upon the notion of surrounding the tree trunks with much coarser material -- as in grape prunings, fruit tree prunings, bolted lettuces, and even Douglas fir prunings. These I cut short enough to go round the base of the tree, using a pair of limb loppers, then I go mow until the bag is full, bring the heavy thing over and empty it on top of the other stuff. The mulch looks just as it should, but the branches and such, just beneath, prevent the scratch artist from doing her thing.
You couldn't get away with this in the Northeast; the whole arrangement would make perfect mouse houses and then the mice would chew away the bark all winter. But here, this practice seems fine.
It was while I was putzing about at this job that I began to despair of one of my apple trees.
I don't know the variety; something Granny Smith I suppose, but this tree has a habit of dropping all its fruit well before it ripens, so that you never get to pick the tree. And the other trees won't be ripening their fruit until over a month from now.
Suddenly I had an idea.
I have been playing with the microwave oven -- another gizmo that's supposed to be against our principles -- softening and resurrecting dried-out bread, or moisturizing underhydrated vegetables.
Would it cook young apples in such a way as to, in effect, "ripen" them?
I gathered a double handful of the lightly bruised groundlings and brought them into the kitchen. With a paring knife, I made enough thin slices to fill a small bowl, then spritzed them with a bit of water and posted them to the zapper, setting it on 99 seconds. A couple of minutes later, I collected the bowl and a fork, and made my way out onto the patio.
Under Julia's critical gaze, I conducted the taste test.
Success. Early apples!