Tag Archives: apples

late summer icons

peaches mullet and watermelon watermelon apple eating apple goldenrod summer sun

Nothing says late summer in the mountains of NC like baskets of peaches, watermelon, the first apples, and goldenrod.

I have canned some peaches, and will likely can one more batch.  Then, I’ll freeze the rest, peeled and sliced, for smoothies all winter.

The watermelon came from our garden.  The first watermelons I’ve ever grown – and they were delicious!  I think I liked them the best though.  The children are used to seedless watermelons and William says he is not a big fan of watermelon, but I enjoyed them.  I cooked mullet one night, rubbed in salt and rinsed.  Coastal NC tradition says to eat fresh salted mullet with watermelon.  It really was a good combination.  I like the flavor of mullet, but . . . my, they are bony.

The meadow is full of goldenrod, cardinal flower, ironweed, and Joe Pye Weed.  It is beautiful, and so iconic of fall here.

The first apples are ready and I have a bushel sitting in my kitchen.  I really do need to make sauce because the apples have a lot of bitter rot and won’t last long.

Nights have been cooler recently and it is less humid than normal Augusts.  One thing I notice about nights in August, though, is that they are loud.  Cicadas, katydids, crickets are all making the most of the last warm-ish nights and sing all night long.  It is a chorus, or a racket – depending on your opinion – but I am always surprised at the noise level in the middle of the night from outside.

 

 

apple saucing

With the apple harvest coming in, I have been making apple sauce every few days. It is a staple all year in our house–for breakfast, as a snack, with lunch, a side at supper, and often as dessert. So, I can as much apple sauce as I can stand (was that a pun?). Here’s my technique.

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I cut around each side of the core. This is a little more wasteful than quartering and coring, but a heck of a lot faster. I know I could use the core to make jelly but I just have not been able to get around to it. These cores (and rotten spots and rotten wholes) all go into our compost which feeds our garden. All good apple pieces go in a large pot with some water or cider and I cook on low until the apples are all soft. Our apples are unsprayed so they have a lot of spots, but I don’t worry about spots, just worms and rotten places.

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Then, I . . . well, actually, Hythe . . . grinds them through this counter stand food mill. I love this food mill because I can put a whole gallon of cooked apples in and Hythe cranks them through with no problems. Hythe is my major apple sauce cranker and I would hate to do it without him.

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As Hythe cranks, I get the canner, lids, and jars ready and start filling. I cook in the canner for about 30 minutes. While the apple sauce boils away in the canner, I clean up all spilled and dripped apple sauce and all the equipment because I learned years ago that warm apple sauce acts like a natural cementing glue if not wiped up right away.

Then, they are done! Well worth the effort.

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And now, I’ve got another bushel to get through this week!

apple picking, siblings, and stings

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Yesterday evening we went out to pick apples in the orchard by our house. One variety is ready and we picked nearly all of them. The trees here are unsprayed–a bit of an abandoned orchard, though it is not old (only about 15 years). It is severely deficient in phosphorus, and the trees are on dwarf stock so they are very short and easy to pick. There are about 10 varieties in the orchard, all planted by William’s aunt.

Anyway, halfway through supper, I suggested we go pick the rest of the Winter Bananas, the first apples to ripen. As with so many expeditions with children, it took a bit longer to get out the door with the bushel basket and into the orchard. Anne went upstairs to put on pants and found one of Evva’s small stuffed animals under her bed and so claimed it for herself. This caused a small kerfuffle. Evva did not want Anne to have the stuffed dolphin and Anne basically said “you have more stuffed animals than I do, so since this one was on the floor, it is only fair that I take it and keep it”. I told Anne that was not how life worked–you couldn’t take peoples’ things just because they had more than you.
Hythe then started counting how many stuffed animals each girl had and stated what the difference was.
Anne: Wow, Hythe, you just did mathematics!
Hythe (face full of wonder and excitement): Mom! I just did magic!
Me: Oh, buddy, she said you did mathematics, not magic. Still, it is almost the same!

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So, somehow, Steven ended up with the dolphin, Anne ended up in tears, but we finally all ended up in the orchard mostly with smiles. William taught Hythe how to pick apples properly. Everybody picked an apple to gnaw on–sweet, juicy, crisp, tart. It was really enjoyable. We picked nearly a bushel when all of a sudden, Evva, who is usually so quiet and controlled, started screaming hysterically. She pointed at a yellow jacket on her dress. I brushed it off and it landed on her chest. William ran up, picked her up, and ran home with her. At that moment I noticed how many yellow jackets were flying around. I told the other three kiddos to stand very still, and I looked for a nest. Very quickly I found it–a very small hole in the ground 12 inches behind Anne. I don’t know why or how, but no one else got stung and we ran home too. Evva, of course, had been stung twice.

Pictures before the stings:

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in the garden, early August

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The garden is really producing right now, but it is also the time of plant death as insects and disease is our warm and wet climate overwhelm the garden plants. I am an “organic” gardener, in that I use organic fertilizers, cover crops, mulches and not pesticides or herbicides. I don’t do much for insect pest control other than squish the offenders. I don’t do anything for disease control other than try to time my plantings to hopefully be nearly at the end of their production before disease pressure builds up too much. This year has been pretty average, but August is usually the time of death for my garden. My tomatoes have are completely dead, within a week, from late blight. I harvested enough to make a few batches of sauce to freeze, lots of tomato sandwiches and salads. There are a few more that I will harvest tomorrow, but that will probably all. I pulled the rest of the beans up today because while there were still blossoms on the plants, the bean leaf beetles had completely taken them over. They were struggling so hard to produce only a few beans per plant that they did not care about keeping allowing any new beans to grow. It reminded me of the smart mothers who have only one child, realizing that more than this would sap all their energy and they would not be able to live (a decent life). In my first garden at my grandparents house, my grandfather insisted beans could not be grown without Sevin dust. I did not want pesticides, but when I was not looking, he would scoop up a handful of Sevin and sprinkle my beans. Today, I understand the thought!

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The potatoes are dead or dying and I’ve harvested just over a bushel–with at least half left to go. We are eating them at every meal. Same with the onions–not nearly as many, but I’ve gotten about half of them out.

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Powdery mildew has started on my beautiful winter squash and pumpkins. This bed has been such a pleasure for me to witness–the very insistent growth, the large green leaves filling the garden, the amazingly bright blossoms that are open in the morning. They will not last much longer, but there are lots of acorn squash, butternuts, and green pumpkins coming on. I think (hope) they will be able to finish ripening. Those large, bright blossoms always made me want to pick, stuff, and fry them, but I’ve looked in them and each one has at least 2 bees. I’d rather not evict them.

In September, the garden seems to come back to life again, and I hope the same to be true this year. I’ve just planted turnips, carrots, radishes, lettuce, and beets where the beans and potatoes were. Garlic will go in then, too, and perhaps some cover crops.

Apple season is starting as well, with the Winter Banana (at least that is what we think they are) ripening. I picked a bushel with the boys this week. They are perfect (and unsprayed, so I don’t mean they look perfect)–sweet, tart, crisp. I am not sure what I will do with them all, because they don’t store that well. We will probably eat as many as we can, give some away, and make a little applesauce. It is not quite cider making time, yet.

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in the garden

lettuce

peas

onions

onions

I’ve been planting vegetables in our little garden beds and in our new bigger garden space. Carrots and lettuce direct seeded in the little garden. Though I forgot to plant the beets, will get to it this week. Last week, I set out onions and cauliflower that I started in a greenhouse. The peas are coming along nicely. As are the garlic and walking onions. I love the walking onions, which I planted a year and a half ago (a gift after a friend’s wedding). They are almost a year-round crop — you can pick them as green onions or as larger (but still small) harder onions. They do not keep, but that is not a problem since they are nearly always yielding. They reproduce small onion sets at the top of a stalk. The stalk falls over and “plants” the new sets. The only chore is to keep the patch weeded and sometimes space the little onion sets more uniformly.

We made a pizza the other night with onions and garlic from the garden, Italian sausage from the farm, and cheese from the local creamery. Delicious!

This week, it is getting colder. I am a little worried about the fruits that have started to blossom, or are currently flowering. It may get cold enough to kill some or all of them. We’ll have to see. But, we will be planting potatoes and beans this week, when it warms up a little. We also need to clean out one or two garden beds for future crops. I am excited to be getting back into the garden!

The mountains get a little greener every day as trees start to leaf out. Dogwoods are just starting to bloom and at least one variety of apple is in full bloom in the orchard — others are, what is called, in the pink.

Enjoying the spring!

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full pink

full bloom