Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Cider, Leaves, Firewood

 Fall has come!
Last night as I walked down to the yurt I noticed how much I appreciated the cold mud beneath my feet, and how it was stiff enough that I didn't sink in- like cold play dough, before you warm it up in your hands.  
 Many projects have been going on here over the last couple of weeks.  Kathy made her pine cone wreaths for the holiday sale...
 Jon and Dick dug potatoes...  about half of them had rotten spots from sitting in the puddles left by the many days of rain we got recently.  Still, we have a ton for the winter.  This little wheel barrow is only just one tiny sampling.
 Jon harvested in the rain (we were worried more would rot!), and I have never seen anyone so covered in mud.  We literally had to hose him off from tip to tail before he went inside in his rain gear!
 We had a very lovely meal at Bresca, thanks to Merry and Stephen.  They've been coaching us on the importance of dates, and supplied us with this gift certificate to their favorite date spot in Portland- so sweet, and so delicious!  If you can, you should go too!  We'd highly recommend it!
 We carved many pumpkins!  As you can see, some were more happy about that than others.
 Mer, Isla, and I went back to Vermont last weekend to harvest apples for cider and applesauce.  It was just passing peak foliage there, and the colors were amazing!
Mom knit this sweater for Isla, complete with sparkly green buttons!  It was perfect for walks through the orchard on chilly days.
Not surprisingly, like her mama, Isla loves apples.
 So does Paco, the donkey that lives at the bottom of our driveway!
 The goats prefer cuddles...
 but they're willing to sniff the apples and eat grasses if we pick them something special!
 We decided to use a new method of picking this year: shaking the trees!  We found that it made for quick collection, and we soon had plenty for our cider adventure.
 Every year we make a big batch of hard cider with Julian, our childhood best friend and brother equivalent.  This is him, pouring the first few pressings into the 5-gallon bucket they'll be hanging out in as they ferment over the next few months.
 Here's the process if you're not familiar: collect apples
turn the crank, which turns the grinding wheel...
Feed your apples into the grinder,  
and watch them come out the chute into the mesh bag!
 Once it is full, pull the edges of the bag together, and put the wooden plug in the top.
Turn the press screw (using a lever toward the end), filter the cider that is squeezed out... and voila!  That's it!
 Repeat with friends!
We boiled some cider down into cider jelly.  To do this, just let it bubble away on the stovetop until it has reduced to 1/8 of its original volume (so 1 gallon of cider makes 1 pint of jelly).  It gets thick, and dark and molasses-y, and I bet it will be lovely this winter stirred into hot water as a tangy fall-like beverage.  It's also delicious used in cooking, much like pomegranate molasses.
So here we are now, back in Maine.  Things on the farm are plugging away as usual.  Lots of crafts are being finished for the holiday fair, and firewood is being cut.  We're firing up our wood stove in the driveway before putting it into the yurt (to burn of any nasty paint chemicals that may be lurking). Pumpkins have all been harvested and sold, and leaves are falling off the trees.  And I knit myself a new winter hat using Jared Flood's Koolhaas hat pattern (I left my other one on a bus in Argentina).  It's nice and warm, and thank heavens for that- it's 40 degrees outside today!
Next I'm going to knit myself another pair of wristers...  

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Circle Game

 I have been trying to figure out what happened to this past week.  I can tell you for sure that we've been distracted!  It was Jon's birthday, and rather than doing yurty projects I put all of my energy into making him a present.
It took me three and a half full days, but here it is, all done!
Jon spent his 'spare' time delicately handcrafting the wooden frame for our hearth pad.  I wish I had pictures to show you, but I was... distractedly trying to work on his present between his frequent visits to the kitchen where I was camped out.  It took a few tries and some troubleshooting with the various table saws in the basement, but he finally made a beautiful beveled frame out of a raw piece of ash that has been hanging out above the shingle mill for quite some time.  With the frame in place, I wasted no time in grouting, and only half a day's work produced this:
Grouting itself doesn't take that long, but the repeated wiping with the sponge was what took the majority of my time.  The goal: getting a smooth grouted space between each tile, and a relatively clean surface before I let it dry for a day or three.

Our little Argentine potatoes got hit by the last frost (even though we had them covered), but they're still hanging on!  I was contemplating digging them today before we get a few days of rain, but Kathy said we might as well let them grow more and dig them once they die back.  So here they are, still boogying:
 It's really starting to feel like fall here now that the weather is cooling down and the leaves are changing.  Jake doesn't seem to mind.  I found him here under the apple trees, ready for a cuddle...
This weekend we went on a birthday trip to Attean Pond in Jackman (about 3 1/2 hours North of here).  Oh. My. Goodness.  It was so beautiful!  And peaceful.  And we had the place to ourselves to boot, which really made the trip seem special.
 We canoed across the lake from where we put in, and found a lovely camp site on a natural sand beach at the foot of Sally Mountain.  We hadn't planned on it, but we ended up staying there both nights because it was so lovely.
 We hiked Sally Mt., relaxed on the beach, made some wonderful campfires, and some stellar food too!
The colors of the changing leaves were phenomenal!
And there were so many interesting natural world tidbits to appreciate and wonder at...
 On the mountain top Jon saw what he believed to be a fisher, eating berries off the Mountain Ash tree.

This fellow with a rather long bottom came by to say hello...
 And we sat for 15 or 20 minutes watching a red squirrel try to untangle a small rope he had found from a tree.  He worked hard shoving the rope into his cheeks and then pulling with all his might in every direction.
He seemed to be getting himself quite worked up, so eventually Jon snuck over there and cut the rope off the tree for him.  The squirrel came right back and shoved his cheeks full of rope and ran off to some undisclosed location.  Hopefully that rope will keep him snuggly and warm this winter!