Tag Archives: apples

Like Work, but More Fun

We had a busy day today – the phone kept ringing, people kept visiting (with and without appointments) and though we only had two orders on eBay overnight, we had six more come in during the day. We also managed to load three lots onto eBay.

It’s just like being at work, but more fun.

When I returned home my first impression was of lemon-scented hygiene. Julia had clearly been cleaning.

She had also been cooking. We had two apple crumbles and a plum tart. The plums are from our own tree, which has been very prolific this year. The apples are from the Mencap garden and the garden of one of the neighbours. It’s always satisfying to use the garden produce. It’s just a shame that it’s over so soon. We really ought to plan the garden better, but we never quite get round to it. We’ve had plenty of courgettes this year and the baskets of tumbling tomatoes are doing well.

She also managed to cook an excellent meal of marinaded chicken, rice with fruit and nuts and green salad with tomatoes from the garden.

Whilst doing that she caught the knife block with her elbow and was momentarily the middle of a cloud of flying knives. Not quite The House of Flying Daggers, but as close as we are likely to get.

Fortunately she survived unperforated.

1997 Silver Dollar

1997 Silver Dollar

I took photos of a group 1921 pennies for eBay, a silver dollar and a papal visit medallion. While I was photographing the medallion I decided it would look good on my collection.

It doesn’t really fit in to my collection, but collectors can always find an excuse. It is an exceptionally nice medallion. with good portraits and excellent relief. And yes, now you come to ask, Newman really did, according to all his portraits, have a nose that size.

The 1921 pennies will come into their own next year – people always seem to like centenaries for souvenirs or party favours. The things that people buy are an interesting subject.

Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI

Cardinal Newman

Cardinal Newman

 

In the Garden Again

Dropped Julia off at work this morning and took the opportunity to take a few photos. They have, as you can see, picked a variety of produce, including sloes. It’s probably a bit early to pick sloes, as the flavour is traditionally said to be better after the first frost. However, you can remedy this by putting them in the freezer. If you pour the gin or vodka on them when they are still frozen it’s supposed to burst the skins, which means you don’t need to prick them either.

I can’t vouch for the flavour part as I’ve never done any competitive testing. Nor can I guarantee that the skins split. What I can say is that we use this method and it produces a lovely smooth liqueur in time for Christmas. Using the freezer instead of waiting for nature to take its course gives you an extra couple of months to steep the fruit instead of waiting for the frost, and this is bound to help.

There are plenty of apples and pears waiting to be picked, plus, of course, the medlars.

The door is now repainted after the attempt at breaking and entering, and is looking good.

Finally, Julia has obtained five waste bins that were going to be thrown away. They are going to have a new life as planters. There were more available, but as Julia said, where are you going to get that much soil from?

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They were bins but now they are planters.

Hope and Plums

In all the wedding cake, hope is the sweetest of the plums.

Douglas Jerrold

Despite the temperature and wind, a lone Peacock toughed it out in the garden this morning. I’m sure there would have been more if we’d had more time, but we could only manage a flying visit. Julia was taking a group for someone else at the main building and we had to be there for nine.

While Julia had a word with the school caretaker I took the chance to take some photos. These include the fruit and some of the beds. I took the fruit because it’s a nice thing to photograph (and some of it is just starting to ripen). The beds are quite good too, with some of the grasses now starting to show well.

I’m taking them as reference shots to help Julia with her garden planning. Now the mint has been cleared by one of the volunteers (too soon in my opinion) they are looking a bit bare, and devoid of pollinators. Apart from that I’m doing nothing – Julia can work out what happens next.

It’s going to be very interesting as the seasons come round, as we need to see what bulbs are planted.

In truth nothing much needs doing as it’s a well established garden with plenty of provision for wildlife, but there’s always something needing to be done. They look white and green from the photos but there is lavender in there and a few remaining orange lilies with scattered evening primrose.

Soon we will be picking fruit and collecting manure for the rhubarb beds. The rhubarb has been a bit week this year, a sure sign it needs feeding as it’s always known as a “hungry crop” by ancient gardeners leaning on spades.

When we fed the rhubarb on the farm we ended up with a rhubarb jungle, so watch this space for further news.

 

The Day gets Better

I’ve just been adding photographs to the post about the attempted break in. As you can see from them, we had a CSI van and beautiful blue skies. I don’t usually go to the garden when people are there but I thought Julia could do with a hand this afternoon. She normally has to travel through town on the bus with two bags of kit as she travels from one job to the next but I thought after the trials of the day she deserved a lift.

I am such a gent. I am also currently unemployed so it seemed the least I could do.

While I was there in the morning I forgot to tell you that Julia had spotted a beautifully marked Green-veined White. I could only get a distant photo with my phone, so I have nothing to show. It’s a common butterfly, but it’s a new one for the garden list and that’s always good.

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Willow arch

Yesterday we had a good few hours, with Bill from Men in Sheds bringing his battery powered saw to help cut up pallets. We now have all the bits cut to make three new benches.

He also  brought four nest boxes in kit form so the group can put them together and paint them. Even better, he’s going to do another 20 for us. This will let us upgrade the existing boxes and leave some to sell towards funds.

Despite the break in it’s been a good week, and the fruit is looking good. All we need to do is stop people stealing it.

 

I would have taken more photos, but the batteries ran out. (These were all taken on Wednesday morning, though the post is written on Thursday.)

We were also given a perfectly usable set of 5-a-side goals the school was throwing out, or fruit cage frame, as we now call it.

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The new fruit cage

 

 

 

Apple Juice Time

The group came and the group went. They fed the chickens and  said goodbye to the ones that are going to market tomorrow. They did some tree measuring for the Woodland Trust monitoring project and some tidying too, but I hardly noticed them because I was juicing apples.

It can be a drawn out job at the best of times, but when the people who put it away last year put it away (a) dirty and (b) at random it can be a trial. I still haven’t found the siphon tube or the filter for the funnel, so we improvised. We used a kitchen sieve for a filter and when we had to transfer the contents of one barrel to another we used that old male stand-by known as brute force and ignorance. It worked.

We also suffered delays whilst I found the powdered Vitamin C – if you don’t add it you end up with brown juice. It’s still good, and it’s all natural but the oxidation makes it look unattractive. Three teaspoons in thirty litres of juice (or 52 pints if you still use them) reverses the oxidation and turns it back to a nice golden colour

We now have 40 bottles of juice and another barrel that needs bottling tomorrow.

Things would have gone better if I’d remembered how to use the steriliser, but the temperature control dial is a bit misleading – an embossed black mark on a black dial, which isn’t great for a short-sighted man in a dimly lit shed. Yes, I used the wrong end of the pointer and set the temperature far too low. By the time we’d found that out we had to wait an extra half hour to sterilise the juice in the bottle.

Of course, you can get by without sterilising the juice, as long as you either freeze it or drink it within 3-5 days. After that the natural yeast on the apples builds up enough gas to blow tops off and cause all sorts of problems. A few years ago we had a customer who had his juice put into a 10 litre bags and then went on holiday. I didn’t do the sterilising in those days. The juice fermented, blew the bag up until it started to leak and came back to find his kitchen floor covered with juice and a fine selection of insect life.

That’s why I got the sterilising job.

Towards the end we had bottle cap roulette, which is a game played with a variety of hot recycled bottles containing hot juice. Not boiling, but 80 degrees C isn’t very comfortable. The game consists of heating up the bottles and juice then finding a cap that fits, lifting the bottle out, tightening the top and laying it on its side.

It’s always a relief when you finish that bit with no spills, burns or seepage.

Oh yes, I love the apple harvest. 😉

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The one on the left has had Vitamin C added

 

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Bottles in steriliser – steaming

 

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Ready to drink!

The Green Cathedral

We visited an orchard yesterday with Men in Sheds and Byron the farm apprentice.

I’d been told that we would be visiting a Permaculture project but, once more, I discovered that the farmer isn’t quite clear on what Permaculture is.  There were no ponds, no zones and no ducks. There were, however,  bees, bullfinches and a feeling of peace so it was still well worth a visit. This was particulalrly true of the more mature, less intensive end of the field, where arching trees and unmown wild flower meadow provided an experience like being in a green cathedral.

It may not be permaculture, and it’s not even organic, but it is run with a feeling for nature. Despite some clear ill-feeling on the matter of Bullfinches the owner was still able to tell us he had seen a group of them using the bird baths he provides. There’s one variety of pear tree, and I’m afraid I’ve forgotten which one, where the bullfinches don’t just eat the fruit buds but actually cripple the tree by taking the leaf buds too.

I forgot most of what I was told about the number of varieties he grows – though I did manage to photograph a list of 33 gooseberries. (He actually claims to have around 60 varieties of gooseberry in all) There are 17 varieties of cherry. He also has blackcurrants, redcurrants, white currants and pink currants, plus apples, pears, fourteen sorts of fig and a medlar. That’s just the stuff I can remember.

This is a picture of a plum tree with Plum Pox Virus (or Sharka virus if you want a more interesting name for it). I hadn’t heard of it until the visit. Treatment is to take the tree out and destroy it.

 

Agroforestry

I’ve been asked for more detail on the agroforestry project we’re running. If you aren’t interested in agroforestry/permaculture the next few minutes could be quite boring. If you are interested, you may find the next few minutes lacking in detail; as with so many things, I have a wide but shallow knowledge of the subject.

If I say it’s also known as alley cropping it may help you envisage what I’m trying to describe. The video here gives a good explanation, though it’s American so the crops differ.

The idea is that although we give up some land to the trees they will have financial benefits when we crop the apples and other less quantifiable benefits, including shelter, micro-climate, biodiversity and  organic matter.

The organic matter will come from the leaves in autumn and the smaller prunings, which will be left to rot.

Biodiversity will result from the trees giving homes to a range of birds and insects. Hopefully this will result in some form of biological pest control, though I’m not sure that it won’t also offer a have to pests. I must look that up.

The final benefits are shelter and better micro-climate. That’s what we are trying to measure. Common sense tells you that the trees will act as wind breaks and that it should be warmer in the alleys (if the wind is coming from the side). As with  a lot of common sense, nobody has any figures to back it up. There are figures on the internet about the wind breaking power of trees, and their capacity to form warm micro-climates but it seems there isn’t much evidence to back it up.

At the moment we measure the wind speed and temperature at various points in the alleys every month. The Woodland Trust has provided the equipment and training for this and we send them the results each time we measure. We also measure the trees once a year, though it’s not very difficult at the moment with them being shorter than I am. The test will come in a year or two when we see if we’ve been able to remember how to use the inclinometers.

This measuring will be done for the next 20 or 25 years (I forget exactly, as I won’t be here by then) and will, we hope, be very useful in calculating the benefits of this sort of planting.

 

You asked for cute…

Second post of the day and it’s only lunchtime!

First we did the measurements for the Woodland Trust, despite the low temperatures. Looks like they need a bit of pruning but short arms and long pockets seem to be in charge at the moment.

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Then we took pictures of the new lambs. We have five now and, despite the dangers of stress we have moved them inside. It’s a trade off, but they’re soft lowland sheep and the snow could be a problem. So far they are all doing well.

 

Vinegar, ginger and flies

You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar, according to the old saying.

I’ve never actually noticed a cloud of flies hanging round my breakfast honey, but I’ll go along with it, as it makes sense that you’ll get better results by being nice to people. In theory, anyway.

In practice you can also get pretty good results by scaring the hell out of people. History has plenty of examples of dictators who ruled with an iron fist but not many who used a troop of comedians as enforcers. When the Romans spoke of “bread and circuses” they weren’t talking about clowns – although a dictator backed up by a gang of clowns could be quite scary.

However, I digress.

I have just been looking at the cider vinegar jars.

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As you can probably see, all the liquid is looking pretty much the same and, although you can’t tell, they are all smelling pretty much the same. They also have a fine selection of flies floating on top.

So, to summarise, cider vinegar production seems to be going well, but next time I want something to cover jars I will use something with a smaller mesh. I used some bandage from an old first aid kit, which seemed like a good idea at the time, and cheaper than muslin, but it hasn’t really worked.

I’ve also been testing the ginger.

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Two weeks ago it was more fibrous than the shop-bought variety, and tasted a little earthy. At the time I thought I’d probably boil the ginger more and change the water, as recommended in some of the recipes. However, two weeks later the earthiness has disappeared. It’s still a bit fibrous, but I’m not bothered about that. It tastes good, it’s got a good degree of heat to it and the syrup has taken on a good colour.

I think we’ll call this one a success, though there is one problem remaining – I made it to give away at Christmas, but now I want it all for myself.

Apples and apple matters

We’ve been drying apples ready for the weekend. The intention was to bag them up and sell them but we’ve just hit a snag (apart from the one where we eat loads of them) – they just don’t weigh much!

At the current rate, which includes using the group and the Applemaster, we will have about £6- £8 worth of apple rings by the weekend.

It’s not going to make much of a dent in the funds. On the other hand it will be easier to store than the apple juice, which is beginning to make the shelves bend under the weight of bottles.

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I’m still thinking about storage for the next lot – which is going to include 50 small bottles of Lord Derby as single variety.

We have a plan to sell Apple Punch kits at Christmas in an attempt to reduce stocks. We’ve mastered the art of producing apple juice, we just need to sell more than the four to six bottles we get through every Saturday. As they always used to say when I attended sales conferences – Nothing happens until somebody sells something.