Saturday, August 09, 2014

Yellow Transparents are ripe!

I picked two half- bushel baskets. Yellow trasparents are the best apples for pies, in my opinion.  Plus they always remind me of my childhood, climbing the apple tree in my grandmother's yard.  Not sure if I will have time to bake an apple pie tomorrow.  Tonight we are going to watch The Hundred- foot Journey.  Maybe I will be inspired.

Well, maybe they are a little bit overripe.  Good thing I talked Ed into coming up to now the lawn! I just wish someone could explain why the biggest and nicest fruits are always at the top of the tree beyond the reach of my picking pole.

When we arrived last night this little guy was stuck to the picture window, I guess he was catching flies attracted to the light.  I rarely get an opportunity to observe frogs so closely!

Sunday, July 13, 2014



We have an orchard. It was a long journey, and I am still on the road.  We have an orchard and yet, I do not manage the orchard. I am 57 years old, and it is still an orchard dream.

  I dreamed of having an orchard when I lived in Johnny Appleseed country in Richland County, Ohio.   Unfortunately for me, like Johnny Appleseed, once I planted an orchard, I moved on.  

I lived in an apartment, just out of college, and with a good job.  No room for a garden, only pots on the fire escape in a downtown apartment.   I lived there a few years, until there was a murder outside my window.  I scraped together my assets and moved on. 

I had enough money for a down payment on a mobile home (almost).  I borrowed the rest from my grandmother.  My grandmother had a lot of money in the bank, the result of having been parsimonious during the Great Depression and afterwards.  She lent me the money I lacked, and I paid her the going interest rate of 4%, knowing that she and my grandfather had worked at jobs for $.25 an hour or less to earn that money. I made sure I paid her on time and with the full amount of interest that she might have earned in her savings account. It was proud day for me when that debt was paid off in full.

I lived in the mobile home for a few years.  I paid my “mortgage”, and I paid my grandmother, and I paid the lot rent, and I paid the utilities. Unfortunately, I learned about the “rule of 78”.  That means that you pay all the interest up front, and when you are halfway done paying off the mortgage, you still owe the original amount of the mortgage, in principal.  My naivety.  Their profit.   My kids came along.  I paid my husband’s credit card bills, my naivety. His profit.  I paid the grocery store.  All the time I longed for a patch of land to call my own, where I could have an orchard.

My new husband and I bought a house on 2 acres.  I rented the mobile home to a coworker.  She was a great renter, paid on time every month.  The new house was next door to a home with established apple trees, and had 2 young trees already planted. I was really looking forward to my orchard.  The neighbors were great, they were friendly, and the property backed up to a private park, with ATV trails to the lake.  We got a membership at the lake club and life was good for me and my kids.  Maybe not so good for my husband and his girlfriend.  They went through a lot to convince me that I should not be married to him anymore.  OK.  So it is. I get the house (and the apple trees) and he gets a reduced amount of child support.  My renter moves on to a new job, and I sell the mobile home.

A job change means I get to move to Michigan. No fruit from the apple trees in Ohio yet.  OK.  I will move, because I need the job to survive with my kids.  We move.  Michigan is different.  Way different. We are in a “metropolitan area” instead of a small town.  The neighborhoods are measured by “Mile Roads” and the further north of 8-Mile, the better the neighborhood.

My back yard is really small.  It backs up to the middle-school track, and is just around the corner from the park, so the kids learn to live in a metropolitan area.  My oldest daughter was in elementary-middle school and the youngest was just starting kindergarten. There is no room for an apple tree, but a family of skunks make its home under our porch.

 A job opens up back in my hometown (same company.) With only a small hesitation, I take it.
We move back home.  Thomas Wolfe said “you can’t go home again” and I fear he was correct. My friends from high school and previous school activities had moved on.   I planted three trees, one Liberty, one Enterprise, and one Freedom.  All three are disease-resistant varieties. 

I start dating again, and fall completely in love with the love of my life.  Unfortunately for the apple trees in my back yard.  They were just starting to bear fruit, and I had to move again. 

 But, as it turned out, he owns an orchard in Michigan!  There are Northern Spys, Grimes Golden, MacIntosh, Steel Red, Yellow Delicious, Red Delicious, Greening, Yellow Transparent, Jonathon, one Wagner, and one Red Astriken. There are also pear trees and a single Damson plum tree.  The trees are old, and haven't been properly pruned for many years. 

His back yard in Ohio had a MacIntosh apple tree.  For some reason, it did not bear well.  He said it is because MacIntosh is a variety that has a heavy crop one year and a light one the next.  We never got the heavy crop. 

Fast forward, the factory closed.  We move to Michigan.  There are two Cortland apple trees in the backyard.  I did not even realize they were real fruit trees until 2013, when I harvested a bushel of apples from each tree!   It was the first time I got a real harvest from an apple tree that I owned!
I am looking forward to learning more about how to manage the orchard.  There is poison ivy everywhere, and I am wondering if goats would be advisable.  

Monday, May 19, 2014

A little Logging

May 16 - Trespassers on the farm found about a pound of morels.  The neighbor kept them talking until Ed arrived.  The nice young men apologized and said that their uncle "Brian McCarthy" had told them it would be OK since he knew the owners and the owners lived in Indiana. Ed confiscated the morels.

I do not know that Brian McCarthy, but his nephews are good morel hunters.  We enjoyed them. 

May 17 - spent the morning looking for my own morels.  I found a few more.  It was interesting, I noticed May Apples near where they were found, but I also noticed Purple Deadnettles very close to most of them.  CLICK HERE for a photo.  Saw a pickup truck high-tailing it off the property when I got close to him. 

I found morels along the edges between woods and fields for the most part.  Limited ingredients on hand at the farm, I cooked spaghetti, asparagus (from my garden in metro Detroit), cream sauce made with cornstarch and milk, and some mushrooms

May 18 - spent the morning tromping around the woods again.  Found NOTHING.  The weather was a little warmer, in the 70's. A couple drove into the driveway and asked Ed for permission to hunt mushrooms.  Nope!  Came home.  Ed mowed the lawn.  He found a morel in the front yard.  Menu for dinner: fried mushrooms (a little flour/breadcrumb, dip in egg/milk, dip again in the flour/breadcrumb mixture, fry in butter, turning frequently) as an appetizer, chicken thighs in gravy and broccoli.   Watered neglected tomato seedlings which look dessicated.  Spent some time reviewing morel-hunting procedures in Michael Kuo's excellent book.

May 19 - After eating at a pricy restaurant, came home and picked about 10 stalks of asparagus here.  Looks like maybe I could pick a cup or two of rhubarb later this week.  Tomato seedlings have recovered some, but some will not revive.  Checked on the elderberry plants from 2 years ago, cannot find them.  Checked on last years blueberries, they are growing.  Put a couple of stakes near them so that Ed does not mow over them.  Weeded flower garden a little, pulling those persistent sow thistles or whatever they are and some bindweed.  Realized that pulling stinging nettles without gloves was not a good idea.  Retreated to the house!

Monday, April 28, 2014

Expecting rain

We are expecting rain today, it has been quite windy all day.  On the way back from the post office I drove by a gold mine of compost material- three bags finely chopped and stacked by the curb.  I scooped up two of them since that is what would fit in my car.  When I got home I drove back to the compost pile and emptied them, some of the loose material blew away to enrich my neighbor's fields. Even something is better than nothing, though. 

 After returning the car to the garage, I found one of my cole plant trays had caught the wind and was scattered across the front yard.  Once again, I scooped up the tiny little plants, put them back in the trays, gave them a watering, and put that tray back in the garage.  I left the other three trays outside, they seemed to have a little more water weighing them down.  When the rain comes it will keep them from blowing away.

We had a power bump a little while ago,  the TV came on upstairs all by itself, the wireless printer made some noises, and the light in the living room came on.  Gave me quite a creepy feeling to go upstairs and find out what the noises were.

On another note, I have been enjoying the Canada geese who seem to be making a nesting area in my pond.  They take turns with the heron who comes and fishes from time to time. 

Sunday, April 27, 2014


The cole crops are up in their seed trays and I have been taking them outside most days for hardening off.  Unfortunately earlier this week, I had an unfortunate accident.  I was trying to hurry and place the four trays outside to catch some sun before I left for work, when I made a wrong move and dumped all four trays at once on the ground. 

I was able to pick about two-thirds of them up and scoop the tiny little plants back into the trays.  Unfortunately they all look the same, so I may have mixed up the cauliflower and the Brussels sprouts and the Bok Choi.  It will just be a surprise!  From now on they are staying on the ground, I am not toting them around any more. 

We had a light frost this morning, temperature was 28 degrees, and I did not cover them.  It looks like they are going to be OK anyway.

Last weekend I started four trays of pepper and tomato plants.  The circuit breaker in the garage tripped some time a couple of days ago and the lights and heating mats did not come on.  I noticed the temperature inside my plant stand apparatus was in the 45-degree range.  I won't get much germination at that temperature.  Dear hubby reset the circuit breaker and the timer on the lights, so hopefully everything was caught in time.  Today the temperature is showing 65 degrees.  A few of the seeds had already germinated, but still waiting on most of them.

Today I planted herbs - Sage, basil, oregano and coriander. Have not planted any trays of flowers yet.  Maybe later tonight, maybe next weekend.  

I should really go out and plant some radishes, peas and potatoes. The temperatures are supposed to be in the 50's or higher all week this week.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Epic Fail on old seed

Spring is coming, we've had daytime temperatures above freezing for almost a week now. The spring peepers are peeping in the marshy field next door, and the killdeer have returned and are practicing their decoy flights away from their nests.

 I turned on the lamps and heating pads in the seed starting rack of the unheated garage, and am getting a temp of over 60 degrees, so I am going to start some more seeds.

 Of the 72 cells planted with Liberty Garden cauliflower seed from 2006 and Ferry-Morse Barbados Hybrid broccoli from 2008, I had 2 seedlings germinate.  Not sure if it was because they were intermittently soaked/dried out in the dry forced-air environment of the living room, or if it was just old non-viable seed.

Replanted the same tray with new seed from this year, packed for 2014.
  •  Ferry Morse Early Snowball X Cauliflower
  •  Burpee Sun King Hybrid broccoli. 
Also planted 3 additional trays as follows:
  • Livingston Seeds Pak Choi (2014)
  • Burpee All Seasons cabbage (2014),
  • Livingston seed Dwarf Blue Scotch Curled Kale (2014)
  • New Dimension Seed Green Queen Kohlrabi (2009)
  • Burpee Brussels Sprouts (Brawny) 2014. 
  • Cook's Garden Romanesco Broccoli 2013
  • Lake Valley Seed Broccoli Waltham 29 (2012)
  • Burpree Cabbage Earliana ( 2014)
The package of Brussels Sprouts just planted 24 cells with about 4 seeds left over.  They should be higher quality since there were fewer seeds in the package! 180 mg vs. 6 g of seeds for the Kale. 

My farmgirl friend participating in the seed exchange sent me a nice selection of unusual seeds, purple-pod green beans,  watermelon radish (white on outside and red on inside), birdhouse gourds, Cherokee purple tomato.  I'll have to wait to start those till we can get out and till the garden.

I walked past the compost pile this weekend, since the snow has finally melted.  The two-year-old pile has some very black dirt.  I am anxious to spread it on the garden.  The garden itself has a lot of dried weed straw.  I am wondering if I will be able to burn the weeds/weed seeds with the propane torch before we try to till it.  The ground is very wet right now from the melting snow.  Too soon to till.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Got a shipment from Burpee today:

Canteloupe: Sweet N Early
Tomato: Bloody Butcher Heirloom
Pepper: Hot Mixture
Cucumber: Supremo Hybrid
Herb: Fennel (Florence)
Tomato: Ensalada Hybrid
Radish: Black Spanish Round Heirloom
Tomato: Stupice Heirloom

In the meantime, the snow is dripping and melting, the temp is finally above freezing.  Yesterday it was in the 40's and today it is 38.

Just a few mornings ago it looked this this:
but today there are a few patches of greenish brown showing on the  high places on the lawn.  The birds have been decimating the seeds in the bird feeder, yesterday I saw a red-headed finch playing in a puddle as if it were a bird feeder. 

I will be so glad to get outside and plant some seeds! March 17,  St. Patrick's day is just around the corner, my Irish-ancestry mother always tried to get potatoes and peas planted on or near St. Paddy's. I have to remember that she grew up in Florida - here in Michigan perhaps I can have a little leeway.

Sunday, March 09, 2014

Seed starting - garden log

Two weeks ago I could no longer wait to see something green so I started a tray of Mesclun. 

It was Burpee "Gourmet Salad Blend" consisting of four varieties of lettuce and two other salad herbs, the seed was packed for 2014:
  •  Black Seeded Simpson
  • Red Salad Bowl
  • Lollo Rossa
  • Royal Oak Leaf
  • Rocket (Arugula)
  • Raddichio Red Verona
The seed germinated nicely, but is get a little leggy looking out my south living room window.  It is still too cold to put it under lights in the garage, with nighttime temperatures well below freezing here.

Today I started another tray of veggies with two varieties.  One was Ferry-Morse Barbados Hybrid Broccoli (packed for 2009) which filled up 30 spots in my 72-cell tray, and the other was Page's Liberty Garden Early Snowball Cauliflower.  This filled the other 40 cells, and I spilled some of the seed 3 or 4 per cell.  This seed was packed for 2006.  So the dollar store brand of seeds had more seeds in the package than the home improvement store package.  It will be interesting to see what kind of germination rate I get.

Friday, March 07, 2014

By request, posting the family pierogi recipe.

This recipe was originally published in the Farmgirl Connection cookbook by a group of Mary Jane's Farmgirls in 2006.  "My mother-in-law's family was Ukrainian and for that side of the family, it isn't Christmas until we've had our Pierogis.  My husband and his brother always tell the story of carefully choosing the pierogi when they ate at their grandmother's house - sauerkraut [filling] was the best, cheese or mashed potatoes were acceptable, but they absolutely hated the prune pierogis - if they took one they had to eat it!  Now we just make plain sauerkraut ones.  Goes well well with Polish sausage and cooked wheat with honey."

2 eggs
2 cups flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp salt

Mound dough on kneading board and make hole in center.  Drop eggs into hole and cut into flour with a knife.  Add salt and water, and knead until firm.  Let rest for 10 minutes, covered, in bowl in a warm place. 

Divide dough in halves and roll thin.  Cut circles with a large biscuit cutter for half-circles, or just cut in 3-inch squares for triangular pierogis.  Place a small mound of filling a little to one side on each piece of dough.  Moisten edge with a little water, fold over and press edges firmly together.  Be sure they are well-sealed to prevent the filling from running out.  Drop the pierogi into salted boiling water in a large kettle (чайник). Don't crowd.  Cook gently for 3-5 minutes.  They will float when ready.  Lift out of water carefully with perforated spoon.

Notes:  The dough has a tendency to dry out while you are working.  A dry dough will not seal completely.  Never crowd or pile pierogi.  The uncooked will stick, and the cooked will lose shape and lightness.  Pierogi can be frozen after boiling and they keep well. 

Serving:  After boiling, we serve hot, tossed with onions that have been sautéed in butter and seasoned with salt and pepper, with a dollop of sour cream on the top.  Some people fry in hot oil, but not us. 


Cheese:  1 cup dry cottage cheese, 1 dash salt, 1 tsp. lemon juice, 1 tbsp. sugar, 1 egg, 1 egg yolk.  Mix ingredients thoroughly. Fill Pierogi

Cabbage and Mushroom:  1 small head cabbage, 2 cups mushrooms, 2 tbsp. sour cream, 1 small onion chopped fine, butter, salt and pepper.  Quarter cabbage and cook in salted water for 15 minutes.  Drain, cool and chop fine.  Saute onion in butter, add chopped mushrooms and fry 5 minutes.  Add chopped cabbage and continue to fry until flavors meld.  Add sour cream and cool.  Fill Pierogi.

Sauerkraut and Mushroom:  2 cups sauerkraut may be substituted for cabbage in above filling.  Rinse and chop sauerkraut.  Proceed as above. Onions, mushrooms and sour cream are optional.

Potato: use leftover mashed potatoes.  Can add cheddar cheese if desired.

Cheese: cheddar cheese

Prunes: 1 cup cooked prunes, 1 tsp. lemon juice, 1 tsp. sugar.  Soak prunes overnight.  Cook with sugar and lemon juice.  When cool, remove pits (stones) and fill pierogi.  Serve pierogis with bread crumbs browned in butter.

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