Picking, Canning, and the County Fair

It is now high season for apples around here, and it’s become obvious that we will never get to them all.  We have now pressed 25 gallons of cider and canned 10 quarts of apple sauce, and we have barely scratched the surface.  The apple trees remain stubbornly full.  But we sure have fun picking!

We are giving away cider as fast as we can, plan on making a lot more apple sauce, and are even making 3 gallons of hard apple cider (more on that below) with plans for 3 more gallons soon, but we are going to call it quits sometime.  We have the phone number of a nice guy who wants to pick apples for making hard cider, and we know of at least one apple juice company down the street who will pay us (a pittance) if we bring them our apples.  But it’s even worse with the three pear trees.  All three pear trees are hopelessly entangled in poison oak vines and are too tall to boot.  We ordered an orchard ladder but it hasn’t come in.  We tried canning some not-yet-ripe pears in cider, but they didn’t turn out that well.

But when we let the pears ripen, they become mealy.  Of the few we have managed to collect, that is.  Maybe we’ll tackle the pears next year, when the poison oak has been dealt with and the trees have been pruned to a more reasonable height.

The three plum trees produced barely a handful of fruit this year and, frankly, I’m counting my blessings on that one.  We’ve got our hands full.

Regarding the hard apple cider, it will have to be a serial tale.  Apparently it takes something like two months to ferment, although some resources say two weeks, confusingly.  We bought a book, read about it online, bought lots of things at the brewery store and asked questions, and still have no clue what we’re doing.  Jason and I setting up the 3 gallons to ferment was like something out of “I Love Lucy.”  You can’t tell from the photo, but there’s an extra cork floating around inside the bottle.  I’m not going to say who did it – let’s just say “mistakes were made.”

This photo was taken the day after it was set up, and it’s bubbling away nicely.  It is now three days later and the cider is an unsettling bright yellow color and is bubbling out a nasty sulfur smell.  Maybe we shouldn’t have set it up by the dining room…  Anyway, we’ll keep you posted as it progresses.

We all had a wonderful time at the Santa Cruz County Fair two weekends ago, which should be re-named the Santa Cruz COUNTRY Fair.  The rows upon rows of farm animals took up nearly half the fair, and highlights included a parade of old tractors

and Sarah getting to pet a 3-day-old calf

I was thrilled to see the spinning demonstration – no, not the stationary bicycle exercise class.  It was neat to see several women adeptly spinning wool into yarn with old-fashioned-looking spinning wheels that, it turns out, were fairly new and are still being made.  Who knew?  We also learned that our area was the biggest exporter of apples in the USA around 1910-1920.  The most popular varieties at the time were Newton Pippin, Bellflower and Red Delicious.  Guess which kinds we have?  Yup.  And several of our trees are 100 years old.  Now it all makes sense.

Well, that’s about it for today’s update.  I’ll end with a couple of photos from a hike on our own land.  We went to the “upper pasture” where, for some reason, I was pointing to the left

and we even ventured into the woods at the back of the property to the top of the ridge.  We followed a deer trail and found a beautiful stand of mature oak trees at the top – sorry no photo of that.  But the most fun was had by Sarah who found a delightful patch of mud.  Our spring-fed water tank has a crack in the top and there’s so much water that the excess escapes out the crack, cascades down the tank like a waterfall and pools in one muddy spot in the upper pasture.  Sarah had a blast!

We’ve got to fix that leak.  But meanwhile we’re working like dogs trying to clear brush/trees in the chicken yard area (which is huge) before the fence is put up around it, which would make dragging dozens of small trees out of there much more difficult.  We are in a race against the contractor whom we hired to put up the fence, and we’ll let you know who wins.  It’s going to be a squeaker: one side of the rectangle-shaped yard was fenced in today, and we have about three quarters of the yard cleared.  Wish us luck!

– Lizzy


3 thoughts on “Picking, Canning, and the County Fair

  1. Wow, the land you have sounds AMAZING!!! Like something out of a storybook.

    Mom (Lois) and I made and canned our own grape jelly last weekend. I have TONS of grapes still. We made about 18 8oz jars…and may make some more this weekend. I wish we could trade some products! I want to try applesauce this weekend as we go through a lot of that in my house as well.

    Good luck with everything!!


  2. love yer blog. cant wait to visit!!
    yo . don’t drink that fermented cider, girlfriend. Dave ( graduate of brewing school in Germany, and had made fermented cider several times) said it should NOT have a NASTY sulfur smell and bright yellow is wrong. a tiny bit of sulfur smell is ok, but not nasty. He’s guessing it’s the cork in the liquid is contaminating… be careful . botulism sux.

    1. Well, the “cork” is actually a rubber, fully-sanitized stopper, and the smell isn’t THAT bad – kinda like beer/yeastiness. The one thing we think it could be is that when the stopper popped in, I quickly tried to fish it out for a second with an unsanitized (but clean) metal skewer…could that be it? Maybe we should call your Dave….

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