Archive for January, 2013

A Farmer’s Work is Never Done

While Dave no longer is going to market, this doesn’t mean that he’s sitting around twiddling his thumbs.  (Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Dave twiddling his thumbs.)

Traditionally, the day after Christmas is tomato planting day.

planting seedsDave staples some paper together to make a little sling for the seeds, then using the tip of a pencil, puts one seed in each hole.

display of seeds

These are the tomato seeds.  He said that this was a couple hundred dollars worth of seeds.

seed packetHe orders a very specific kind of seed which produces the tomatoes that you have come to know and love.  They are called Trust.

I have been a neglectful blogger, and didn’t take pictures for about a month.  I’ll try to describe what happens next.

When he is done he sprinkles a slight amount of potting soil on top and  pours water into the bottom of the tray where these brown seed plugs are.  The seeds plugs absorb the water and make a nice moist environment for the seed to germinate.  The trays are placed on a heat mat, covered with a special plastic, and placed under grow lights.  Once he sees about an inch of the plant, he will transplant it to a larger pot.

Today Dave took some pictures of the greenhouse for me.  This is what the plants look like right now.

rows of tomatoesHe has special grow lights on the tomatoes to artificially lengthen their time of daylight.

our years' supply of tomato plantsThese 6.5 tables of tomato plants will fill our greenhouse and keep you supplied with tomatoes from spring until summer.  It’s kind of hard to believe.

tomatoes like it hotTomatoes like it hot.  This leads me to the next set of pictures.

enclosure for tomatoesDave heats the greenhouse with a wood furnace.  He does most of the tree-chopping-down and likes to conserve as much heat as possible.  This little enclosure currently holds all the tomatoes and is the only part of the greenhouse being heated right now.  The black bags you see outside the enclosure have a mixture of top soil and potting soil and will eventually hold the tomato plants once they get a little bigger.

Dave spent the last few weeks putting in a curtain “ceiling” to conserve more heat once he is heating the entire greenhouse.  The greenhouse is only heated at night time.  During the day the wood furnace doesn’t need to burn wood since the sun efficiently heats the greenhouse all by its lonesome.

partially open

This curtain will ensure that at nighttime Dave will only be heating the bottom part of the greenhouse where the plants are, not the eaves of the greenhouse where the plants aren’t.  You  can see in the above picture that the curtain is halfway open (or closed…I’m an optimist).  During the daytime the curtain will be completely open to allow the sun’s heat to heat the greenhouse and at nighttime it is closed to conserve heat.

closedThis shows the curtain in its nighttime position — completely closed.

top of curtainHere you can see the curtains from above in the fully open position.  These curtains will eventually be on a timer.  Currently Dave manually opens and closes them.

Dave was so ready for this greenhouse curtain job to be done.  You may find this hard to believe, but he was positively giddy the day that the curtain was finished and he could start working outdoors pruning apples.

pruning 1This may not look like a dream job to you, but right now Dave is just loving his work.  He is pruning apple trees, cutting off any unnecessary branches to promote good apple production.  He was trying to explain his methods to me over lunch the other day.  The main jist is that you have to identify the central leader — the main trunk, and make sure that the other branches aren’t growing larger than the main trunk.  Also, pruning, counter-intuitive to what you may think, promotes growth.  A pruned tree will grow much more vigorously than an unpruned tree.

pruning 2

Dave works with a small hand pruner and a large lopper to get some of the bigger branches.  It’s cold work, but he’s loving it.

Baking Day

It has been such a long time since my last post, and I apologize.  I have a few catch-up pictures to show as well as updates on what’s going on around our farm these days.

Dave said that he promised some of your pictures of baking.  I intended to just post a few pictures of baking day, but I’m having a hard time choosing only a few, so you’re going to have to humor me while I show you all the pictures of baking.  I think I will split this post in two.  One for baking…the other for updates.

the bakers

Behold the bakers.  I am on the right side in the middle with the red shirt.  My sister Andi is in green and my sister Kate is in the back, also with a red shirt.  My sisters and I are the main bakers.  Usually one of them comes and helps me to mix up dough Thursday night and then Friday morning we all start baking.  Andi gave birth to a precious little girl at the beginning of baking season, so my mom and grandma came to help out.  Andi had a hard time staying away (we have a really great time together), so she came to bake even when she probably shouldn’t have.  We are filling apple turnovers in this picture.

I suppose I’ll show you pictures of our magnificent apple peeler  first.  This thing is amazing.  If we didn’t have the efficiency of this baby, it would literally add an hour onto our baking day.  Here my mom and grandma are peeling, coring, and slicing apples.  I’ll try to walk you through the process.

our magnificent apple peeler

It helps to have two people running this machine.  One person puts the apples on and peels while the other catches the peeled and cored apple as it rolls down the ramp, checks for any unpeeled or uncored sections and then slices.

apple on peeler

I wish I would have gotten a pictures from the others side.  The first step is to firmly push an apple onto the prongs.  To the right of the apple you can see a copper piece.  This is the piece that peels the apple.

peelingWhile it is being peeled, a second piece cores it.  The corer remains stationary while the apple spins and moves forward.  Once the apple is peeled and cored, the corer deposits it on the ramp by pivoting down , and the core which remains in the corer is discarded.

peeled apple ready to be slicedOnce the apple comes down the ramp, it is placed on this slicer which is pretty much an inverted home apple slicer.  Instead of pushing an apple slicer down onto the apple like you would at home, the apples is placed on top of the knives and the white plunger above is slammed down on the apple, pushing the slices into the waiting bus tub underneath.sliced apples

Dave did video me doing this.   We don’t have the most amazing video recorder, and I didn’t practice what I was going to say, but if you want to see it in action, here it is.

 

I am a baker by nature.  I get great satisfaction out of producing a delicious product from a few simple ingredients.  There’s something about rolling out and shaping dough that makes me happy, and for this reason, I suppose, the following pictures of pie making just thrill me.

rolling out dough  We found a marble pizza table at an auction, and it is absolutely perfect for rolling out pies.  Two of us can roll out pies at a time.  You can see the flecks of butter and lard in the dough…  It’s a beautiful thing.

before putting the top crust

ready for crimpingcrimpingMy sister Kate demonstrates her crimping skills.

unbaked pieThis is what the pie looks like right before it goes in the oven.  We bake our pies in pizza ovens.  I chose pizza ovens because it was most like my own oven at home.  It’s not quite as even as a convection oven which uses fans to circulate the heat, but I like the look of a pie baked in a pizza/deck oven.

finished pies

And here we have the finished pies.  Since we make our pies so full of apples, they do cook out a bit during baking.  My grandma loves to eat the boiled over apple on the parchment paper.  It’s almost like an apple taffy.  We line the pans with parchment paper, but it still takes a good bit of elbow grease to clean some of the pans.

glazing poptartsI failed to get any good pictures of making some of the other baked goods, but this is Andi glazing poptarts.  This is one of the last things we do before we finish.

I’m sorry if this post made you hungry for baked goods that will only appear next fall.  I hope you enjoyed a little look into what we do in the bakery.  We only bake on Fridays, and it’s a good thing too.  It’s an exhausting day!  Being moms to toddlers is one thing.  Running around all day, rolling out chilled dough, and rushing to get everything done makes for very tired mommas at the end of a day.  But one thing is for sure; we all take an immense amount of pride in our pastries and get immeasurable joy out of the tantalizing apple, cinnamon and butter smell which fills the bakery, golden pastries as they cool on the rack, and flaky goodness getting placed on trays and sent off to market.  Yes…we do love baking.