Archive for the ‘Apples’ Category

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.


Apple Season is Upon Us

It doesn’t feel like it should be apple season yet.  Late August does not evoke feelings of cozy mugs of steaming apple cider, frosty mornings or brightly colored leaves, but our apple trees are declaring the start of fall.

Our apples are on trellis, which means that they are tied up on a framework of wires allowing support for the apple trees, sunlight to penetrate to each apple and allow quick picking from a wall of apples.

Dave picks apples into an apple picking bag.

Note the ropes with knots holding up the bottom of the bag.

When Dave has filled the bag, he goes over to the bushel crates, lifts the knots out of the holders and allows the apples to gently tumble into the crate.

Sometimes other more precious objects find their way into Dave’s picking bag.

This particular day, Dave was picking Cortland.  Cortland is an old-fashioned apple that has a natural skin protector.  Dave rubbed the cloudiness off to show the difference between a shined apple and an apple with its natural coating.

Other varieties almost ready to pick are Mutsu and Fuji.

This rather gigantic Mutsu apple is soon ready to be picked.

Caleb and Benny are not too helpful for getting work done in the orchard.

What a little rain will do

Since my last post (a good while ago) we have gotten rain, and lots of it.

This puddle forms in front of our house every time there is a heavy rain. We haven’t seen this puddle too often this year, but we’re are glad that it’s back.

While we do have irrigation on our peaches, the recent rains have caused the peaches to swell.  Dave has been picking some gorgeous peaches this week.  Peach-picking has really ckicked into high gear.  This is the time of year when Dave is short on sleep and rich in peach fuzz coating his arms and neck.

I wish you could see this peach tree in real life. A photograph doesn’t do it justice. There’s something a little Christmas-like about these red orbs hanging on a dark green tree.

When Dave got done picking this tray and had to stop to admire it. Again, pictures just don’t do justice.

To give an idea of the size of these peaches, I picked one up to try to give a little perspective.  That peach right there is a meal.

Here is a full stack of peaches ready to be taken to the cooler and replaced with a stack of empty trays to be filled again.

The white nectarine trees are an eye-catching color explosion. I wasn’t planning on taking a picture, but as I was walking by, I just couldn’t resist.

Our apples are loving the rain, too. The honeycrisp are starting to get that before-picking blush.

Rain envy

I meant to write this post last Friday when things were looking quite parched around here.  Since Friday, we had a very welcome and celebrated two inches of rain.  My dad is a dairy farmer, and was talking about how painful it is for a farmer to drive around and look at corn fields.  As farmers, we hate to see any kind of crop suffering.

Corn, when dry, curls up to conserve water. This is a sad sight for farmers.

We irrigate peaches with drip irrigation.  Dave has it on a timer that waters the orchard in three different zones, one zone every other hour.  There is one emitter at each tree giving enough water to keep the tree and fruit healthy, but not enough to feed the weeds around it.

Drought may be terrible for field corn, but in a dry year, the peaches, though small, will be incredibly sweet and tasty.

Our first variety of white nectarines is over, but the second variety should be ready in a week or two.  If you haven’t had a white nectarine yet…you should.  Dave, the fruit farmer who gets weary of fruit from being around it so often, sneaks into the cooler often to snatch a white nectarine or three to eat over the sink while the juice drips down his elbows.

We are just getting into the heart of peach season, but some peach trees are already picked clean.  This will become a more common sight as peach season progresses.

Looking at the apples, it’s amazing how large they are already.  This is a Honeycrisp that will be picked in about a month.

The Farmer’s Dreaded “H Word”

For a farmer there’s nothing worse than laying in bed late at night, listening to a storm raging outside and to suddenly hear the dreaded “ping”, “ping” of hail against the bedroom window.  The year that Dave and I were married, we had a ten minute hail storm that damaged almost every peach and apple that we owned.  Before I married a fruit farmer, the National weather service’s radio interruption were more of an inconvenience while I waited for my favorite song to resume.  Now, that sound, during the time that peaches and apples are vulnerable on the trees, causes my stomach to lurch.  Farming is just that way.  We are at God’s mercy to bring rain, sun, and a hail-less year.

Last Friday at 4:30 in the morning we were awoken by a storm that contained hail.  We are very thankful that we had virtually no damage.  Other areas had it worse.  My brother-in-law’s fruit farm had very large hail stones, though they were few.  We brought some of their fruit over to our farm and I Dave found some hail-damaged fruit for me to take pictures of.

This shows the different degrees of hail damage at my brother-in-law’s orchard. The upper left peach barely has any hail damage at all, while the lower right peach shows evidence of a large and rather forceful hailstone.

Dave continues to pick peaches this week.  Next up, Sentry and Desiree.  So far it’s been a dry year, so the peaches are scrumdiliumtious.

Birds are a pest in the orchard.  We try to keep them out with our bird alarm.  This alarm consists of four or five speakers throughout the orchard that do a loop of sounds of various birds in distress and the calls of birds of prey.  Basically we are trying to say “it may look delicious, but listen, do you really want to risk it?”  The alarm works well for a couple weeks, but the birds get somewhat immune to it.

Birds love peaches too.

Benny is a double threat in the orchard. He often carries a bat and he thinks he can just waltz in there and pick any old peach of the tree. Nope. Benny’s not ready for the big time peach picking job yet.

This week Dave and his dad are also working on thinning apples and fastening them to the trellis.

Dave has this machine called a Brownie that he procured from a going-out-of-business orchard sale.  He bought it sight unseen.  It may not look like the prettiest thing, but it works.  And it was cheap.  Win!  This Brownie has foot pedals and hand levers that allow Dave to raise and lower himself and also make the Brownie go forward or backward, all from the comfort of his bucket.  It looks a little dangerous, and honestly I think it is a little dangerous if one is not careful and overextends the bucket.

This is the clip Dave uses to fasten the tree trunk to the trellis.

Our first apple variety of the season!  Dave picked about five bushel of Early Gold today, so you should be seeing them at market very soon.

Peach season…so close we can almost smell it

The peaches…they are a-coming.  Dave was excited to show me the Rich May peaches which are looking like they are almost ready to be plucked from the trees.

We went for a leisurely walk through the orchard on Sunday to see the progress. It’s amazing how this orchard changes from day to day. The dogs, of course, were delighted that we decided to take a walk.

This is one the Rich May peaches. Dave was originally predicting that we would be picking them this week, but the weather is predicted to be fairly cool. That will slow their ripening.

A Rich May tree

Of course, not all the peaches look like the Rich May.  I went to a tree directly across the row from the Rich May and took a picture of a green fuzzy orb patiently waiting for the dead of summer .  Its time will come.  Just not yet.

Here is a little glimpse at the Honeycrisp.

This is a cluster of Honeycrisp.  You can see their little pink cheeks.

Earlier this week, Dave ordered a whole truckload of bark mulch for the blueberry bushes.  He considered putting down plastic like at our other farm, but he was concerned that the voles would find the warm plastic a little too homey and would destroy the blueberry bushes by chewing off all their bark.  This mulch is great for acid-loving plants like blueberries and we hope isn’t as inviting for voles.

Caleb and Benny had a great time playing in the mulch. They dug in it, slid down it, and got terrifically dirty.

Dave commanded the boys to temporarily stand against the greenhouse so they wouldn’t be traipsing through the mulch making a mess while he finished.

There are a few precious blueberries on these young plants. They won’t be coming to market, though. The farthest distance they’ll travel is from the bush directly into our watering mouths.

One last thing…Dave wanted to post a picture of a tomato plant in the greenhouse for those of you confused by the last post.  Each plant is supported by a string.  It is clipped onto that string at approximately 12 inch intervals the whole way up.  This is the string that is lowered and moved, taking the plant with it.

Bloomin’ Apples and BLTs

April 19, 2012

Things are moving along here in Lancaster.  The peaches are totally out of  bloom and are starting to grow.  Soon we will start thinning the peaches.  We’ll leave one peach about every three or four inches.  If we didn’t do this the tree would grow a whole bunch of tiny, tasteless peaches.

This is what our peaches look like right now. If you look to the left of my fingers, that particular peach and most of the peaches in the orchard still have what remains of the blossom called the shuck. And can't eat it yet. Micro-herbs are totally different from micro-peaches.

The apples are just finishing up their bloom.  I was a bit lazy and didn’t get out to the orchard to take pictures until today.

Did you know that bees can be rented? Yup. It's true. We rent bees for the period of time that the apples are in bloom so that they will be sufficiently pollinated. Peaches are self-pollinating, but apples need a little help. The beekeeper will come pick them up in a week or so.

The other exciting news is that we are coming to Rittenhouse Square this week with tomatoes.  These babies are red, juicy and delicious.  I just had my first BLT of the season for lunch.  It was summer on a plate…and it’s only April.

These guys are making the trek to Rittenhouse Square this Saturday. They are very excited.