Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Our chickens love tomatoes, too!

Dave wanted to show you how much fun it is for our boys to feed the chickens.  It is truly the highlight of the day for them!

 

Strangers in the Greenhouse

For the first time ever, we have cucumbers growing in our greenhouse.  Dave didn’t actually plan on growing cucumbers.  He opened the seed packet to plant tomatoes and discovered five over-sized seeds that definitely didn’t belong.  He planted them to see what would grow, and behold…our first greenhouse cucumber crop.

close up of cukes

Dave has since been researching cucumbers, and realized that they are very fast growers.  I submit for evidence this picture taken on March 1st, 13 days ago.  Notice the little baby green cucumber above the black clip.

March 1 cuke

This is that same cucumber today.

right before picking

Benny went out to help Dave harvest the two cucumbers that are ready.

Benny and the CukeIt  goes without saying that we will not be coming to market with two cucumbers on Saturday.  Next year Dave is already thinking about planting some cucumbers a few months after the tomatoes to get the timing down so that both cukes and tomatoes get ready at the same time.

Speaking of tomatoes, this is what they look like right now.

tomatoes as of March 13

They are coming along slowly but surely, and before we know it, it’ll be time to start coming to market again.  Spring is coming!

Icy on the outside, green on the inside

Well, this has certainly been a winter to remember, hasn’t it?  While the bitter winds howl, the snow falls, and the forecasters scramble to predict the next big storm, the tomato plants in our greenhouse merrily push out new growth with dreams of red tomatoes dancing in their heads.  Below is a picture of our greenhouse yesterday.

greenhouse outside

The contents of  the greenhouse…

tomatos in greenhouse

It’s amazing how fast plants grow.  Just a month ago, they looked like this.

tomato starts

Dave keeps things heated with a woodstove that sets about 25 feet away from the greenhouse.

heating the greenhouse

     Dave has been desperate to go out to prune the apple and peach trees, but with the low temperatures and the snow, it just isn’t good for the trees.

dog in peaches

Jack standing amongst the very dormant peach trees.

apples

And here are the apple trees.

frosty apple

Stay warm and cozy in this weather.  And know this…the tomatoes cometh….as will the spring.  Let’s go spring!

Crazy times

peach closeup

This is the time of year when fruit farming kicks into high gear.  Peaches are coming fast and furious and apples are waiting impatiently in the wings for their turn to take the spotlight.  It’s the time of year when Dave wishes we would have gotten married and had our sons right out of high school so they would be productive peach pickers by now.  Alas…as you can see, a five year old boy in the orchard just isn’t very helpful quite yet.

five year old boys in the orchard

Currently, Dave is spending most of his time picking peaches, but the peaches are all getting ready very quickly, so we are actually seeing a light at the end of the peach-fuzz tunnel.

skid of peaches

Peaches haven’t been as bountiful as they have been in previous years, but you would never know it from this stack of peaches.

I made my first lattice peach pie today and am hopeful that next year we’ll bring some to market.  It was pretty delicious.  Be very jealous.

peach pie

What we’re really excited about these days is apples.

DSC_0078

You know those chilly August days that felt more like fall than the dead of summer?  Well, those chilly nights paired with a boat-load of rain led to some of the best apples we’ve ever grown.

gala

gala row

It’s always exciting to pick beautiful fruit, and this year’s apples are liable to have Dave grinning to himself as he plucks each one from the tree to the safety of his picking bag.  We hope that seeing our apples affects you in the same way.

DSC_0091

Cider Pressing

Dave was excited to start pressing apple cider at our new farm this year.  We wanted to walk you all through what it takes to make apple cider (which by the way should always be 100% smooshed apple)

 

The first step of the process is that Dave dumps the apples into this elevator which transports the apples into the cider room and to their final destiny.

 

The elevator dumps the apples into the bin of this menacing looking machine.  Its job is to simply chop the apples finely so that they can be easily pressed into cider.

This is what the apples look like after a trip through the grinder.

And now…behold…the Squeezebox SX200.

She’s a beauty, is she not?  So, this is how the cidermaking happens…  Dave has a foot pedal that engages the pump on the tank that holds the chopped apple.  He fills each bag with the apple, being careful to fill each bag equally so as not to put strain on the machine.

As the apple fills the bags, the cider is already starting to drip out of the bags.  The pan of the cidermaking machine is covered with a cheesecloth to keep any errant chunks of apple out.

Now, this is the beauty of this machine.  You notice that Dave filled the right side of the Squeezebox.  The left side was compressed.  Dave pushes a button and the right side starts to squeeze while the left side, which Dave had filled earlier with the chopped apple, begins to expand.

And now, the exciting part.  All Dave has to to is push yet another button and the whole left side starts to lift.

 

And…wham!  Apple pulp emptied!

This is all that remains of the apple.  You can see little bits of apple skin, but it really doesn’t taste good at all.  All of the apply goodness has been extracted.

And that is how our cider is made.  After the cider is squeezed, it is run through a silver box that treats our cider with a UV light.   The cider temperature is only raised by a few degrees, so the cider still tastes fresh and cool, but is void of any bacteria which keeps the FDA and our customers happy.

The cider then runs into a big plastic holding tank when then gets bottled into containers.  I don’t have a picture of this since I took pictures at the beginning of the day and bottling happens at the end.

For Dave, this is the perfect cidermaking operation for him.  The only problem is it takes a long time to set up and a long time to clean up.  The quick part is actually making the cider.

If you have any questions about the cider or the cidermaking process or would like to see more detailed pictures, just let me know.

Peaches are here.

It’s hard to  believe, but it’s peach season already.  It’s not middle of peach season yet, but the tell-tales signs of Dave coming in and needing a shower to rid himself from pesky peach fuzz before sitting down for a meal are upon us.    Dave and his dad picked a goodly amount of peaches this afternoon to make the trip to Philly, and Rittenhouse Square and Clark Park will once again carry the sweet, heady aroma of peaches ripened in season.

Dave and his dad check every peach for ripeness. If it isn’t soft at all, it stays on the tree to wait for the next time that Dave picks.  Usually the peaches start to ripen at the top or bottom of the peach, so this is where he checks.  Dave will go over the same tree a number of times in the span of a week or two until all of the peaches have ripened.

 

The peaches are then placed in a bread tray lined with bubble wrap and paper.  The single-layer approach, though not as romantic as old crates, keeps the peaches from bruising.

Dave wanted me to take a picture of his cart. Ladies and gentlemen, this cart can not be bought in a store. Dave, his brother and dad all built one of these carts, specially made to carry the peach trays

 

Once the tray is full, it is stacked on top of the other peaches.  The metal dolly on which the peaches are stacked has wheels so the peaches can be wheeled onto the truck and off the truck at market.  The metal dollies were welded by a local company to specially fit the peach trays.

In other news, we also have some sour cherries that we are bringing to market this week.  Really, the trees are pretty young, so they gave a pretty puny crop this year.  Next year should be much better.

Here Dave is showcasing all of the cherries that he picked last Friday. This week’s picking was three times this amount. (Still not anything to write home about, though obviously exciting enough to write on a blog.)

I haven’t shown the Asian pears yet. We only have about half a row of them, but you can definitely expect them to make the journey to market this fall.

The Honeycrisp are continuing their all-important quest to get nice and big so they can be sold at market and consumed.  What a great goal.

 

Blueberry Planting

We are thankful that things are a little cooler this week so that the apples and peaches can slow their progress down from a sprint to a nice, leisurely jog.  We were grateful to wake up Tuesday morning to a low of 30 degrees instead of the 27 degrees forecasted.  At that temperature, we shouldn’t have lost any peaches or apples.

I posted my peach  bloom post a little prematurely.  This is the view of the peach orchard last Friday, the 23rd.  Absolutely gorgeous.

With this warm weather, Dave planted the blueberry bushes.  Unfortunately for you, these blueberry bushes won’t be yielding anything for market until next year.  Fortunately for you, there are blueberries in your future.

Dave had planted these bushes last year in pots to give them a head start.

This was a job that Caleb and Benny could help with.  They weren’t “helpful” per se, but they did like to play in the dirt.  Caleb gathered all the pots at the end.

 

It may not look like much more than two rows of anemic sticks, but these sticks hold the promise of years and years of delicious orbs of blueberry goodness. If you look closely, you can see the tomato plants through the sides of the greenhouse. I'll show you some pictures soon. Some of the unripe tomatoes are larger than a fist.