Monday, September 28, 2015

In-between times

The Cowboy kindly escorted me on a fourth journey to the place of my parents' ashes, which is near this stone. I placed an offering of leaves from nearby shrubbery on the stone and bowed three times, then cried a little.

It was much more difficult to get up there than previous years. The hikes I had done to prepare me for this were insufficient. On the other hand, we had all day, and my kind companion had made five good sandwiches.

I am pulling tomato vines and hanging them up to see about ripening stragglers. At the base of one of them, in a large pot by the door, I had planted a basil, to wrap cherry tomatoes in basil leaves for snacks as I stepped out. This I brought in and hung in the mudroom, something that always cheers me. When the leaves are dry I will crumble them and add them to the seasoning jar.

I'm done with apple rings for family and friends for the year, but there are still apples so I'm making a batch of apple wedges for my own use. These are for hiking. Also there were some Stupice tomatoes left over and there is a tray of those as well, cut in quarters, for soups and such in the winter.

I am gathering sticks left over from the summer's firewooding and cutting them with long-handled pruners into firewood lengths. These can be used to extend the fall sunshine, so to speak, warming the house a little without dipping into the real winter wood.

It feels like vacation, almost, after such a strenuous summer. It is like that with in-between times.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Another batch of apple butter

Things are not as they should be, and if we are honest with ourselves we know this. 2015 will clearly be the hottest year in the record (meaning since 1880) for Stony Run, for Oregon, for the Northwest, and for the world.

More about that here, here, and, in a way, here.

Stony Run runs on a well in a shallow water table above a substrate of impermeable basalt. The well is driven in hard clay and round stones, of basalt and andesite. We are absolutely dependent on rain, and so far this year we've had twelve and a half of our forty inches. The well cannot support the farm with a few more years like this.

Also, I'm sixty-six and Beloved is right behind me. We had hoped to avoid more decrepitude than we actually have, and walk like the fragile old eggs that we are. Even with a return of the rains and delay of the anticipated chaos, we cannot maintain Stony Run as the kind of project it has been for the last twenty-two years. We were never really able to provide for all our needs, and were dependent upon first work (we both found jobs that met our criteria for Right Livelihood) and then pensions to pull off our partial dream. "Helen and Helen" Nearing we were not! :)

The idea was to be able to supply a provisioned haven in case of disaster, but the young people have been able to make other and preferred arrangements. So what we have been doing here, while perhaps exemplary to some, is rapidly becoming (other things being equal) superfluous.

We realize it would be unfair to the children for us to try to keep on forever here. They've committed to our care (wow!) but indicated we should live near them, rather than any of them here. This move may be a ways off yet -- we hope so -- but we should begin our preparations soon, if not sooner. We're not city girls by breeding or inclination but we will know how to behave ...

So, enjoy the video. In it you can see that a garden can subsist on less than half the water it's used to, at least for the first year (the drought actually reached us in 2014). We broadforked, mulched, composted, mulched, and mulched again. We germinated all the seeds in the potting shed/greenhouse and hardened them off before transplanting. We utilized shade. We soaker-hosed and spot watered.

We, and the plants, endured a record number of days above 90F, some above 100F, and the lowest humidity we had ever seen. We packed the truck, with its shell on, with everything we might need in order to evacuate quickly -- a fire would have spread rapidly, as we saw throughout the region.

Harvests were reduced, but they were lovely. All the more so, as we detect the signs that we will plant fewer things next year, and fewer the year after that. After all, what one does when one's vitality begins to fade is not so very different day to day -- where one did a hundred things in a week, now one does ninety-five.

Ninety five things is all good. A blessing. __()__

I'm boiling down another batch of apple butter as I write.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

A job which it does very well

Our hops vines grow along the west side of the house, with the intent that they add shade during the hot summer. The west side is the creek side, so the foundation is at its tallest here, adding sufficient height to lean fourteen foot poles and train the vines on them.

When it's time to harvest the blossoms, I cut off the vines about thigh high, pull the poles away from the house, harvest the flowers from the poles, unwind the cleaned vines from the poles, cut them up, and return them to the ground along the foundation to assist in feeding the hungry hops roots in future.

I tie the poles up in a bundle and stack them where the other poles are stacked, then carry the blossoms to the dehydrator. The dried flowers can be packed in jars as they are or dry blended so they will pack tighter.

We have been known to make decent beer but other people are better at it and we don't drink a lot of it, so mostly this will be for making a bedtime tea, a job which it does very well.

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

September in the kitchen

This is about apple rings.   

I use a Victorio corer-peeler. Left to myself I would leave the peels on, but others have expressed interest in doing without them. These are fairly large Honeycrisp apples, from our next to last tree. Any of them will do for rings. Ours progress through the season thus: Gravenstein, Egremont Russet, MacIntosh, Honeycrisp, Jonagold, Granny Smith. The Gravensteins make the best apple butter and we like the Honeycrisp for rings. We usually run out of steam by the time the Grannies roll around, and end up calling friends to come pick them.

I inspect each spiraled apple for browned wormholes and such (they are unsprayed, so we expect casualties) and cut these out. One slice down through the apple on one side separates the rings.

I dip the spiraled apple in water with salt, cinnamon, veggie leaf powder, and ginger. It takes about 36 to 40 Honeycrisps to fill a nine-tray dehydrator.

Each tray goes straight to the Excaliber Economy, which is turned on as soon as the first tray is in, to forestall exposure browning.

They say to cut out all bruises, but I've yet to spot a problem with our apples, which are a bit sweeter if allowed to drop. YMMV. Next year I hope to rig up a tarp to catch them and roll them into a basket, for more even results.

The dryer is in the potting shed. No need to be heating up the kitchen with it as we approach 90F outside today. (!!) The house is buttoned up with night air in it and the curtains are drawn. In cooler weather I will bring the dryer in and let it help warm the house.

We often store our rings in oven canned half gallon mason jars. We serve them from a repurposed Adams peanut butter jar. These are some Granny Smiths from last year. I think. You can see that they shrivel a bit and are brown and chewy compared to sulfured dried apples, but they work just fine as snacks or in baked goods. You can quite easily make far more dried apples than you are likely to use. We do it anyway, as they are decent prepper rations. Any holdovers that are over two years old may be a bit of a Spartan exercise to enjoy, so we give them to the compost.

The leftover peels and cores may be regarded as a kind of pomace. They make pretty good vinegar, but we have lots of that. So these are headed out to the chicken moat, where they will attract bugs that will be snapped up by the hens, who will then eat the cores and peels later for dessert.

After this job, I'll head out to round up the winter squash, which need to season a bit before being stashed near the wood stove. A couple of them have been chewed by gophers, so I'll steam those this week and stuff them with some rice, tofu, beet greens and tomatoes.