Septemer blew by in a haze of activity – there is never enough time for much writing so I end up with massive epistles to try to catch up…sorry.
We started the month with a trip to our friends’ old orchard…the apples aren’t beautful but they are not sprayed and plentiful. Great for applesauce. After picking 6-8 bushels, we went on to their camp site at Canadohta Lake for a boat ride and awesome time of food and fellowship.
During the week I picked, shelled and processed 47 pints of pinto beans. We also started picking peas…such crazy weather we have had this year that peas were JUST beginning to produce. Tomatoes were also in full swing. Always something to pick, clean or process.
We declared the first weekend of the month, AppleMess and had an all-day apple processing extravaganza. KC and I made 121 jars fo applesauce and 9 pints of apple butter in about 8 hours.
KC traveled for work the following week while I stayed home to continue the harvest..more tomatoes and peas.
On Frdiay we left for our annual get away to the Mother Earth News Fair in Seven Springs…always a fun time seeing new products and listening to many great speakers. We always learn something new at the Fair. This year we had the added blessing of having some friends to hang out with for dinner and fellowship.
Our third weekend was equally busy with a nine hour pistol course on Saturday and our Farm Co-op meeting on Sunday.
During the month we were also working hard to complete the renovations on The Bowman House. We had our first guests the fourth weekend. We also squeezed in a dinner with Harry, Amelia and Nia on Friday evening. Plus a raised bed seminar AFTER the Tea Party Patriots monthly meeting on Saturday. We escaped to Geneva Marsh on Sunday for a bit of a break and a gorgeous Fall kayak ride.
KC traveled another week and spent a night/day in Pittsburgh with his brother who was having a cornea transplant.
Add in taking the truck to the garage, an eye appointment, a couple of family dinners, an overnight visit from Nia and a couple of funerals 🙁 …it was a crazy month!!
Just a sample of this year’s produce at Big Oak Ridge.
Every year some things do well, some not so well it seems. This year we got almost no fruit due to a late frost and cold, wet spring; but the root crops are doing well, and last year we got a good fruit harvest so we have enough to carry us through.
So, we went to the Geneva Marsh with the kayaks last weekend – probably our last kayak outing this year. Definitely different than anything else we’ve done with the kayaks. [hover over each image to read the caption.]
We entered the marsh based on some internet directions we reviewed – directions clearly meant to let you “view” the marsh, rather than launch a kayak into it! We had to make our way through a small hole in the vegetation to launch our kayaks, then paddle about 20 yards before we actually reached open water.
Once on the water we passed under a very low bridge, then made our way to the I-79 bridges. I probably ruined some young kid’s plans… when we paddled under the I-79 bridges we realized there was a nice boat launch there. I paddled up to the launch just as an old pickup approached. I walked up to the truck to ask how he got down in there; in the truck were a teenage boy and girl. It didn’t take much to figure out why they were there, and it was kind of funny because the kid “couldn’t tell me” how he got there.
After we got off the marsh we went for a little drive and figured out the route to the boat launch. We wrote down directions, which I offer here for anyone interested (adults, not necessarily amorous teenagers):
SR 322 to Cochranton.
SR 173 toward Meadville.
Right onto PA 285.
Right onto 19 North.
Right onto Rung Road.
Right onto Shaffer Road.
Boat Launch will be on your right. There is a sign, but you have to watch for it. We had great difficulty finding any directions to this launch on the web, so hopefully this will help someone else!
Today was “apple mess” day at Big Oak Ridge. We processed 8 bushels of apples into 121 jars of applesauce and a roaster full of apple butter. Good Day’s Work!
Paula and I worked from 8:00 to 6:30 on this little project. Fortunately we like working together and it was actually pretty rewarding to spend an entire day together.
Paula was able to get this large project organized into “stations” which worked very well. I’ll try to get a video put together soon.
When the day was done I went out to gather eggs and saw this:
Beautiful ending to an enjoyable day!
The Kitchen at Big Oak Ridge takes a lot of abuse, as you can well imagine. Here is a “before” picture on a typical day:
Paula does an amazing job of keeping house, and she’s pretty efficient at it. This is what the kitchen looked like a couple hours later:
I’m thankful that my wife is a bit of a neat freak 🙂
One of the first things we had to do at The Bowman House was add a deck. This has needed done for some time, and getting the guest house ready was a good excuse to finally take action.
We hired an Amish crew – a dad and his two sons – to do the work. What a difference compared to some of the other contracting work we’ve had done! I went and picked them up to bring them to “work”, but that was a small price to pay. They built the deck, replaced the kitchen counter, repaired and painted a wall, all in two days, and the labor was very reasonable.
The results speak for themselves.
Today Paula canned tomato juice,and on three of the jars the Tattler lids popped off the jars in the canner. Bummer. She is experimenting with the reusable lids; We are learning there is a little more to using them than just slapping them on the jars.
Yesterday was Sunday, but we are eager to get the guest house done, so we worked on that most of the day.
The grass is ready to mow, the beans are going to seed, and I want to bring in our Coleas this year and try to “overwinter” them.
In a couple months baby goats will start arriving, so I have to get the barn ready. I have 3-6 gates to install, and a new garden to build.
I love this life, but it’s not easy!
This is the time of year where chickens are producing eggs in abundance and the beets are ready for harvest. When I get inundated in both categories, I make a gallon of pickled eggs and beets…here are a few helpful tips for the process and my favorite recipe.
Eggs: I usually let mine age for a week or so because fresh eggs don’t peel nicely. I always used my beat up eggs with beets and my “good” eggs for deviled eggs. A friend mentioned that she heard that you should not use broken or cracked eggs as pickled eggs…I was pondering this and realized that I often have an egg break in the beet juice and it makes a nasty sludge in my beets. Probably why you shouldn’t use the beat up ones…maybe a contamination issue and definitely not pretty.
Beets: My recipe is scaled to use a 15 ounce can of store bought beets. I don’t normally buy canned beets but have found that the scale works well by using a pint of my canned beets or fresh beets. If you have never cooked fresh beets, here’s how to start. Choose beets of similar size so that they will all get done about the same time. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Small beets take about ½ an hour and larger beets longer. Test for readiness by fishing one out after ½ an hour. The skin should slide EASILY off the beet with no real effort on your part…if it doesn’t, give them a few more minutes. Sometimes when they are close, I just turn the fire off and let them sit in the boiling water for an extra ½ hour. When you are ready to peel them, just pour off the hot water and put them in a sink full of cold water and slide the skins off. It’s actually kind of fun. 🙂
My Recipe: I usually quadruple and make a gallon at a time
For each pint or 15 ounce can (save the liquid)
½ cup white vinegar
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp allspice
¼ tsp salt
(note some folks use a cinnamon stick…we have allergy issues and don’t use cinnamon)
After you heat the ingredients to boiling, carefully add the beets and bring back to a boil. Place eggs in a clean jar and spoon beets over top (or layer if you don’t want to fish to the bottom for the eggs). Pour the hot liquid over the beets/eggs…if they are not covered, add a bit of the reserved beet juice. If you are using fresh beets and come up a bit short, just swish some vinegar in the hot pan (to get any stray spices) and top of your jar with that. They will keep in the fridge for weeks.
Zucchini- the very word conjures up visions of a massive war club with tough skin, pithy flesh and a seedy middle. There are zucchini jokes and some bizarre recipes as people desperately try to figure out what to do with the influx of the enormous green summer squash. People have been victims “drive-by” zucchini drop offs while others make sure to lock their car doors on Sunday mornings to make sure they don’t end up with a seat full of zucchini while they attend services. We are often asked, “What do you do with zucchini?”
This is the Big Oak take on zucchini:
1. Three plants is plenty!! In fact, two well producing plants is plenty. Our theory is to plant three seeds and hope for two surviving plants. Limit your zucchini crop-unless you plan on being a zucchini outlet. I knew someone who planted an entire row each year and then was inundated by the amount of zucchini that grew-it’s okay if your row is not full. 🙂
2. Pick small. No one likes the huge seedy zucchini, one or two a season for stuffing is plenty. In fact, don’t even try to grow a big one, you’ll eventually miss a small one and find the monster the next day. Usually, 10-12 inches is a very nice size for grilling, slicing into lasagna “noodles” and using in casseroles; the seeds are small and the skin is tender. If your plants get too crazy, pick “baby” zucchini for stir fry. Keep a close eye on zucchini…they can double in size overnight.
3. Zucchini spaghetti!! Our favorite thing is a gizmo that we got as a gift last year. It makes zucchini spaghetti…it’s the perfect way to eat zucchini and save calories. In fact, I ended up BUYING zucchini this year because I couldn’t wait for mine to produce. If you’re tired of trying to figure out what to do with extra zucchini, you should try some vegetable pasta.