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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Fresh kale and mulled cider

Apple season has begun, and Risa has climbed down from the roof-sealing chore long enough to pick, grind, "press" and can.

Two wheelbarrow loads made thirty quarts of apple juice. There are easily enough apples out there to do another thirty quarts. The drying, saucing, and freezing are done -- and experiments with "keeping" haven't turned out well lately -- the cold room isn't cold enough to keep worms dormant (unsprayed apples).

So that means juicing.

Thirty quarts is not so very much from this many apples, but the budget has not yet admitted a fruit press into our stable of tools. With so many young apple and pear trees, plus grape vines, coming on, that's certainly on the wish list, but it's as far as it has gotten -- other expenses come first. [ed. -- several readers have shown me kludged presses of just the sort I would make, myself -- the problem with these is if anyone sees me using one, they won't drink the cider. It's a public relations problem.]

This year's procedure is the same as last year's. Chop each apple into about four chunks, throw it into the electric shredder (dedicated for this purpose), throw the buckets of pulp into a suspended cloth bag, and let gravity (mostly) strain the pulp into a clean tub. Risa did tie up the bag with several loops of baling twine, slip sticks through the loops and twist, but a lot of the juice stayed with the pulp. That's okay -- the chickens get the pulp, and they don't waste the juice that's in it.

Primitive procedures of this kind are an instance of resiliency -- not letting the lack of an expensive gadget keep you from doing a thing. Labor will often get you what you want, within reasonable tolerances, in the absence of money to do it more efficiently. And there's a hidden inefficiency in gadget-buying:
I have learned that the swiftest traveller is he that goes afoot. I say to my friend, Suppose we try who will get there first. The distance is thirty miles; the fare ninety cents. That is almost a day's wages. I remember when wages were sixty cents a day for laborers on this very road. Well, I start now on foot, and get there before night; I have travelled at that rate by the week together. You will in the meanwhile have earned your fare, and arrive there some time tomorrow, or possibly this evening, if you are lucky enough to get a job in season. Instead of going to Fitchburg, you will be working here the greater part of the day (H.D. Thoreau).
The next few days are going to be our big heat wave of the year -- upper nineties. More than a hundred thousand acres are burning just over the hills, and even the very grasshoppers look parched. But our mornings are dropping into the forties, the orb-weaver spiders are staking out the best blackberries, and geese are flying low over the roofing job. Soon it will be time to cover the greenhouse.

What's in there, mostly, is kale, onions, cabbage, beets, chard, and peas, planted in late July. Everything has matured faster than anticipated, and we can't really use much of it. The chickens are helping as best they can, by craning their necks through the poultry netting to peck away all the kale they can reach. This saves cutting it to bring to them, so Risa will put off covering as long as she can.

As this "greenhouse" is only a failed poultry pen (the raccoons were gnawing through the netting), it will need some redesigning. the poles that stretch the netting will be dismounted, then the plastic spread on and made fast, then the poles will be re-installed to tighten the skin from within. Right now the netting is taller than the barn, and rain water from the barn roof would have nowhere to go.

There are a few summer things in this garden as well, planted out simply because they were in the last flats. The squash turned out to be crookneck, not much favored by anyone but Risa. There is a little room in the freezer, so she'll harvest these, dice them, spice them, lightly oil them, zap them, bag them, and tuck them away for January, to be consumed with a little fresh kale and mulled cider, when no one else is at home.


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