09/13/2006: "Orchard harvest time"
The turn from summer into fall has brought a bounty of fruit: luscious plums, tart apples, and sweet pears. Join us as we celebrate our first harvest.
The apples shown above came from a small dwarf tree, one that we did a really good job of thinning on back in early June. So that paid off; we weren't so lucky on two of the older mature trees. Despite extensive thinning, the tree went into production overdrive and we lost two large limbs.
There are three pear trees on the farm. One is an early pear, so early that its fruit ripened and dropped before anyone noticed. These later pears, pictured above, are a lovely green with pink blush.
I don't have a photo of the Italian plum tree, but it was an over-achiever: we picked about half the fruit on the tree, and that amounted to over 100 pounds. We dried some of those, but we gave away 80 pounds of plums at church (the Psalm for the day was "Taste and see the goodness of the Lord"!).
We had picked two large boxes of apples the week before our harvest visit, and we stashed them in the cellar to sweat. Sweating softens the apples slightly, and brings out more sugar, so that when press them in the cider press they produce better juice. On Labor Day we brought them out and set up the cider press from Happy Valley Ranch.
I received the press kit about 10 days before harvest... those were busy days in the garage, sanding and sealing the wood. There are 26 wood pieces in each of the wood pressing tubs, and I put two coats on each of them! I finished up on the Friday before Labor Day, and let the sealer harden until Sunday evening, when the press got its first workout at the local neighborhood block party. I was so busy figuring things out at that event that I never even got a photo taken! However, I did manage to get about three and half gallons of cider, one gallon of which is bubbling away in a carboy down in the basement now.
When we set up the press down at The Farm, we had two young and very willing helpers. Our younger daughter was busy washing apples, while the older daughter struggled with the grinder. My friend Dorothy had also come down from the Yamhill county area to help pick and press.
We had more apples to press down at the farm than I did at the block party, and we were able to obtain about six gallons of cider. You can see the two girls filling the big 5 gallon carboy in this photo.
Overall, we have been very happy with the orchard harvest: we got quite a bit of fruit, not too badly diseased (considering that we never got as far as spraying this past spring). Next year: a little pruning, some judicious spraying, and then we'll REALLY see some orchard production!