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Cider Press Complete

February 20, 2012 Leave a comment
Adonica Standing with the Press

Adonica Standing with the Press

For the past two days, I’ve had one item which has topped my agenda: Finishing and testing out the cider press I’ve been working on. A good friend, Adonica in the picture above, heard about my project and … [ Continue Reading at: http://itfarmersblog.com/?p=2502 ]

A Good Year for Apples

October 13, 2011 Leave a comment
Various Apples

Various Apples

It’s been a great year for apples in Northwest Pennsylvania. Above is a selection of apples from a co-workers orchard. He’s got a real apple problem on his hands at the moment, with the potential to fill many, many 50 pound bags full. Chad brought in a selection of the apples he has growing, and I thought I’d take a picture, and share it on my blog. You can read more about his apple problem here: Ella and Family Stuff

Not How to Pick Apples

Not How to Pick Apples

Back on the farm we have quite a few apple trees of our own filled with very well grown apples. Davie and Rob took some time out of their weekend to pick apples using the John Deere, in place of a ladder. The trees shown are in the area that I’ve been cleaning up near my Herb Garden. I had pruned the tree in the spring not realizing that it was an edible apple tree. I was hoping to grow crab apples which could have been used as treats for my sisters horses.

Cart Full of Apples

Cart Full of Apples

A single pickings harvest is shown in the cart, but many more have already been processed into apple-sauce.

Recently Planted Apple Tree

Recently Planted Apple Tree.

It’s also the best time of the year to plant trees, and after I found a few on sale for $25 each, I loaded up my little car, and brought three to my mother’s house where we planted them in her front yard.

Fantasia Red Nectarine

Fantasia Red Nectarine

I couldn’t help to purchase a Nectarine tree as well, and I planted it near the area I’ve been cleaning up with the Back-blade on the tractor. I’m hoping to plant many more cherries, berries and trees in the area, and while I had rob and the John Deere digging holes, we also moved a Service Berry plant. I’m beginning to think I should put together and post a map of the farm with each plant and it’s variety marked.

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Celery and Peppers

October 4, 2011 Leave a comment
Celery after Harvest

Celery after Harvest

After a long summer of hot days, the clouds spread out their reach and allowed the cold air to descend. The weather man predicted frost, which is a last call of sorts for any gardener. The name of the game this time of year is pick it or forget about it.

Picking peppers and celery isn’t that hard, unless the temperature is barely above freezing like it was when we began our harvest. We filled our bags till the weather chased us indoors, which is were the real work began.

Celery After Processing

Celery After Processing

After cleaning each of the stalks of celery and removing the leaves, we used a food processor to chop the stalks into small pieces. These will be useful in soups or as an additive to tuna fish.

Peppers

Peppers

After plowing through the celery, we moved onto the peppers which require a bit more attention.

Pepper Processing

Pepper Processing

First the tops are removed, then the pepper is sliced down the center vertically. Next all of the seeds are removed.  At this point, the pepper halves are feed into the food processor which spits out evenly chopped slices. Slicing these peppers by hand would have taken far too much time, but with the chopper things moved along pretty quickly.

Chopped Peppers

Chopped Peppers

The food processor has a good assortment of blades, but one in particular worked very well on the peppers, leaving the perfect size chunks for soups, salads, or fried peppers.

Celery Packed - Ready for the Freezer

Celery Packed - Ready for the Freezer

When we all got sick of processing veggies we cleaned up our mess, and packed the celery and peppers in boxes. These will help greatly to organize a freezer that is about full 0f veggies from the garden.

Peppers Packed

Peppers Packed

We finished up Saturday, and before calling it a day, we weighted the processed peppers and celery. I was pretty surprised to find we had 34 pounds of veggies ! The next day we finished off the remaining peppers filling an additional box.

This bounty was provided with 36 celery plants and about 100 pepper plants. Next years garden will probably contain fewer celery plants, but about the same number of peppers, perhaps a few more.

Now we just need to survive picking and processing apples and it will be time for some cool weather veggies.

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Life Beyond Tomatoes

September 16, 2011 Leave a comment
Cart Full of Tomatoes - Photo by Sandra Macpherson

Cart Full of Tomatoes - Photo by Sandra Macpherson

The valley is awash in a sea of ripening tomatoes. At one time it was acceptable to pick tomatoes every week or every 4 days, but that time has come and past. It’s become one of those occasions when all hands are required on deck, to pick, and pack this win-fall of healthy food. I try to help as much as possible, but the work continues even when I’m at work. My Mother, Sisters and Davie have been picking and washing off the tomatoes the last few days, and the cart above is full of tomatoes thanks to their effort.

I was told that if I would have stopped by while everyone else was helping, they were planning to pelt me with mushy red projectiles as I headed towards the front door. I’m reasonably sure the statement was in jest, but I’m glad I didn’t get to find out first-hand.

Jessica Looking at a Lot of Tomatoes

Jessica Looking at a Lot of Tomatoes

I was showing my niece, Jessica, and my nephew, the little gardener, just how much food we had produced in our garden. I’m sure both of them were just as amazed as I was to see sooooo many tomatoes.

Some of these tomatoes still need to ripen, while others have already been packed away in jars. The boxes on the floor to the right contain mostly canned tomatoes, some spaghetti, and a few boxes of other things.

The blue box labeled “Light” contains Pennsylvania home grown plums. They were a gift from a neighbor, and I hope to start a bunch of little trees from the pits.

Peppers

Peppers

There is life beyond tomatoes however, and it starts with my other big crop for the season: Peppers. The ones shown are still a bit young, but I picked them anyway. There was a tiny chance that a frost was coming our way, and I didn’t want to loose out.  While picking, I may have found a pepper plant that rivals Chablis Hybrid peppers in production. I don’t know what the name of these peppers are, but I planted them at least two weeks after the rest, and they are producing comparable amounts of peppers. I’ll be saving the seeds from these long green peppers and replanting them next year.

Saving Seeds

Saving Seeds

I’ve also been busing saving even more seeds. The peas that died a month or so ago left lots of seeds behind in dry, blackened pods. The trick to saving them for next year is simple. Take them out of the pod and keep them dry. I’ve been doing the same thing with my Ying-Yang Beans and Brown Crowder Beans. The Ying-Yang beans have been more of a pain to shell and so, I haven’t yet freed them from their pods.

"Dwarf" Bananas

"Dwarf" Bananas

My “Dwarf” Bananas are still growing very well, but with no sign of edible bananas. One of the plants is about four feet tall, and the other is at least five feet. They collect more light in my kitchens bay window they they let past, and I’m wondering what I’ll do in a few years when they have grown to the ceiling ? I guess I’ll have to add on a new tall sun room.

Opportunity Salad September Edition

Opportunity Salad September Edition

The best part of a garden is the hope it gives you in the spring, and the reward it provides you in the fall. I wanted to eat something good the other day, but I’m about sick of lettuce, so I decided to make a salad without lettuce. Instead, I added some Swiss Chard, colorful tomatoes, cucumber, celery and onions. Add to that a touch of Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and you’ve got yourself a snack that would make any gardener smile. I was quite proud to notice that only the olive oil was from the store; I planted the seeds that grew the rest.

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September Peppers

September 7, 2011 Leave a comment
Jenny Holding a Large Pepper

Jenny Holding a Large Pepper

I set out to pick more tomatoes the other day, and I soon found a few helpers. While they were looking for tomatoes, I decided to have a look at my pepper plants. I’ve only gotten a few early surprises so far this year, but this time it was different. I found about twenty peppers that were large enough to pick, and quite a few that were just starting to grow. If I remember correctly, the pepper plants were growing well into October last year, so I should be getting lots more green and red surprises in the next few weeks.

Assorted Peppers

Assorted Peppers

Chablis hybrid peppers have stole the show again this year, with a flexnum hybrid peppers coming in a close second. I’ll plant both of these types next year, but I hope to place a lot of effort trying to develop a new variety.

I planted quite a few pepper seeds directly into the soil as one of my many experiments. Several of these plants have grown large enough for peppers, and one has already succeeded in passing on it’s genes. I’ll take good care of the seeds till next year, and encourage them to grow directly from seed once again. The long term goal is to develop a pepper plant that grows faster, and is more compatible to the growing season this far north.

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes…

September 1, 2011 Leave a comment
Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Ever since I built my greenhouse, I’ve been growing a large number of tomato plants. Now, after two years of terrible returns things have gotten a lot brighter,  well more of a red then bright, but much more colorful then past tomato harvests. You see I’ve been hit with Blight the last two years, and it ruined the whole patch, killing hundreds of plants. This year I have resorted to using three types of blight prevention: Deconil Fungicide and Dragoon Dust as well as a good spraying of Epsom Salt and Miracle Grow mix. The result ? A lot of tomatoes !

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

I started picking the tomatoes green as soon as they were large enough. I would then set them in my window sills till they ripened, at which time I would take them to my mothers home from processing. Mom has been working with the rest of the family to covert all of the bounty into spaghetti sauce, and so far they have kept up with the harvest.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

I tried to narrow my focus with the types of plants grown this year, and I do not remember planting yellow tomatoes, but they have found there way to the table anyway.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

I also had to share this very humorous photo I got just in the nick of time. Sandy told me to look at how fast the tomatoes were flying off the table. The bowl that was holding the cherry tomatoes was half empty. That’s when I decided to ask little Rob if he had anything to do with it. He replied by showing me his shirt full of cherry tomatoes.

 

Playing in a Big Sand Box

August 30, 2011 Leave a comment
New Tubes

New Tubes

I  awoke Saturday morning, and one of the first thoughts to cross my mind was “What am I going to do today ?”, which was soon followed with “Especially since I don’t have a tractor to play on”. I decided to get out of bed first, and plan my day later, so I began my morning routine, getting dressed and then feeding my parakeets and fish. Not long after I got done, but before I managed to comb my hair, I heard a thud outside, and had a look. Their was a delivery truck outside, and he was bringing me a box. Sweet!

The box contained two tire tubes for the tractor.Later in the day, I asked rob to show me how to tear apart the tire and replace the tube. It sounds like an easy task, but if you don’t have a tire machine, you better have some tricks up your sleeve.My sister Maurice had the winning idea that separated the tire from the rim using a truck and a board. The board is placed on the rubber portion of the wheel, and the weight of the truck driving on the board separates the rubber from the rim. I wouldn’t suggest you try this, it’s always better to use the right tool for the job.

By the way, I was very happy with the company that sold and shipped me the tire tubes: Stevens Ag Parts – 1-800-333-9194. They sell all kinds of parts for older tractors.

Rob Digging up the Dirt - Photo by Jessica M.

Rob Digging up the Dirt - Photo by Jessica M.

I was using the back blade on the tractor to try and level a large pile of dirt near the rock garden, but I found it wasn’t very effective. Things got a whole lot easier when Rob loosened up the dirt first.

Me Leveling the Dirt with the Back Blade - Photo by Jessica M.

Me Leveling the Dirt with the Back Blade - Photo by Jessica M.

Once the dirt was loose, the back blade became a whole lot more effective. The blade is good at pulling dirt along behind the tractor to be dumped later. I’ve found it’s not very good at leveling dirt when you drive forward, but it works very well when the tractor is in reverse. I dragged the soil to the approximate location where I wanted to spread it in forward, and then switched gears to level it.

Two Tractors Working Well Together - Photo by Jessica M.

Two Tractors Working Well Together - Photo by Jessica M.

The arrangement worked very well. Rob could dig the soil up faster then I could drag it away, but I had a whole lot of fun trying to keep up with him.

Found a Rear End Axle Assembly - Photo by Jessica M.

Found a Rear End Axle Assembly - Photo by Jessica M.

At the bottom of the pile of dirt we found an old rear end. I’m guessing it’s from a very old truck since it has leaf springs.

Maurice Showing the Pile of Metal we Dug Up - Photo by Jessica M.

Maurice Showing the Pile of Metal we Dug Up - Photo by Jessica M.

Now that the second pile of dirt is leveled, I don’t have much left to do:

1. Clean up the metal and piles of wood.

2. Level the dirt where the piles were.

3. Spread grass seed and hay.

Then I can begin working on Phase II: Planting Trees, starting with pears, plums, peaches or any other fruit tree I can get to grow from seed. If that doesn’t work I guess I’ll have to save up to purchase some more fruit trees. I’ll also be planting some native trees in the area right next to the crick.