We peel by hand and slice into eighths, or twelfths if the apple is very big, and spread the slices on frames made to fit our big dehydrator. This one is made of plywood and holds fifteen two-foot by two-foot screens, or frames, but you can only really use about half of them at a time if you want things to dry very fast. In the bottom there are eight light bulbs and a small fan, but we cheat and make one of the bulbs a heat lamp bulb (from the chick hover, not in use this late in the summer). Still, the drying process wasn’t going to quickly at first, until investigation showed that whomever assembled the thing (we don’t know who, we got it in salvage) had never cut vent holes in the back panel for drawing in fresh air and releasing damp air. A couple of minutes with a hole saw and the situation was corrected; now apples dry in a day or so. A good thing, too; this has been an excellent year for apples.
Archive for September, 2016
Thank you to all the people who helped make the Mother Earth News Fair 2016 at Seven Springs the stupendous event it was. Great talks, great demos, and lots of interesting tools and gadgets. Especial thanks to the dragon stove people, who weren’t afraid to get wet and dirty showing us how it is done.
Couldn’t figure out why Baby kept coming up to the dairy with really loose stools in the evening, then fine at the morning milking, until we turned her out the other morning and saw how she went directly to the pasture apple trees to see what the wind had brought down in the night . . .
Buckeyes, or their near kin, horse chestnuts, what are they worth? A bowl of the shiny brown kernels is pretty on a fall table; stepping on buckeye hulls in your bare feet elicits a minor expletive. The large leaves create quite a drift for a little while in late fall. Otherwise, there doesn’t seem to be much going on.
Or so we thought, until last night, when Lewie came up the hill from the bonfire raving about our four, or is it five?, beautiful Chinese chestnuts along the creek bank. Where? we asked blankly. Oh, you mean the buckeyes? — Only it’s no good double-guessing Lewie because he’s a forester and he knows. Chinese chestnuts — and for the past twelve years we’ve been filling bowls with the glossy mahogany-colored fruits, admiring them for a season, and then throwing them — not to the pigs, of course not, buckeyes are inedible, and not on the compost pile (who needs more buckeye trees?), — but just away, off the hill, into the outer darkness. Pounds and pounds of huge, protein-packed nuts wasted.
No more, though. This fall we’ll gather them all, well, all except what the squirrels may be really dependent on.
Unless Lewie gets to them first —
Let us talk about the ‘R’ word. Yes, that’s the one: Rats.
Now, don’t misunderstand! Ours is a clean farm, if we do say it ourselves. It has not always been so; you don’t learn to manage bushels of farm-derived nutrients all in a day, or a decade. But we’re far enough along on that path that we’re fairly good at moving buildups from point of surplus to point of deficit. There are not piles of things lying around that rats would want to rummage. No spilled feed in any quantity (the poultry don’t waste much), and only so much left in the pig trough on odd days to show that we’ve fed too much that morning, or that the pigs are growing a little bored with shredded apples from the cider-making. The compost bin contains manured bedding and coffee grounds almost to the exclusion of anything else, well, maybe the corpse of a coon or possum gone to his just reward, but only once in a while. Nothing to make a passing platoon of rats take a second look and decide to set up housekeeping.
Nothing except beautiful gardens full of sweet baby beans, tender corn on the cob, juicy tomatoes — and a guard dog who is a little too slow to catch a rat, but keeps the foxes and coyotes at a more than respectful distance. A surplus of delicious food, and not enough vermin control. After twenty years of limiting ourselves to a maximum of three cats, all toms (so that after a bit there’s generally only one of them), we’re discovering why the iconic farm has multiple cats, many cats, cats on every fence post. Cats are working members of the farm community, and we don’t have enough of them.
Time to adopt a half-dozen kittens, and make sure at least two are female.