Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Fruits of Our Labors

It sure is HOT!!!  The fruits of our labors are ripening a little faster than we would have liked.  The apples, for example, are quickly becoming wind, but no rain.  It's difficult to make certain everything gets a fair share of water.  So, the deer are getting a few of the apples that fall, but I'm catching up with them, getting out in the evening and early morning to gather whatever has fallen overnight.

Using the Handy Dandy (my name for it) fruit picker, I am able to reach quite high into the tree, as the handle is about 12 feet long.  The basket, with its curved tines, catches each apple (we hope!) as I tug gently, then lower it to the basket.  At least that's the way it should go...but often doesn't!  These are Gravensteins.  They're a little smaller than we'd like, but we'll take anything.  They'll go into apple crisp or applesauce.

The grapes are ripening, but have a ways to go...

The blackberries are fabulous this year.  Big, juicy and sweet....and THORNLESS!  Wow!  What a pleasure to pick them without wading my way through stiggery vines!  I have put the netting over them until they are ripe and it not only keeps the birds out, but the June Bugs are too large for the net, as well.  The blackberries are the size of half a ping-pong ball!

The photo is less than scintillating, but it does show the density of the netting.  It's small, probably 3/4 of an inch, and it does a great job of keeping the birds out.  It's a bit of a tangle when it's time to remove it from the berries, but it's very strong, and therefore takes some abuse without tearing.  It's a great way to protect the fruits of your labors!

A quick segment for Milk 101..

I'm thrilled so many of you are enjoying it.  Thanks so much for comments!

A word about making butter:  If you're partial to the old-fashioned dasher or even electric churn, what I am about to say might be heresy!  I own a treasured Daizy Churn I've had for years.  I've successfully churned a goodly bit of butter...but the process was, at times, unsuccessful...or at least, interminable! 

It was a gamble as to whether or when the butter would break.  Through the kindness of the head of the Dutch-Belted Assn., Winifred Hoffman, I learned to make predictably successful (in a short period of time) butter. 

Here's what you do:  take COLD cream from fridge.  Do not warm it.  Put it into your food processor; put the lid on; process until it breaks. (You'll see it separate in the bowl.)  Depending upon how much cream you put in, it should take about 3 minutes.  Pour off the "buttermilk" using a colander, then put it into a bowl or pan and pat it out until there is no cloudiness and the rinse water runs clear.  Add salt if you like (1/4 tsp. per 1/4 lb is the suggested amount. Put it into a mold and then in the fridge.   Less salt (or none) if you are watching your salt intake. Just pat it out and then put the butter into some kind of mold and put it in the fridge.  

Your color will vary from intense yellow in the spring, to pale yellow, if not almost white, during the summer.  I make as much butter as I can during the time we are milking so that when we must dry the cow up in preparation for her calving, we still have butter.  I simply freeze it.  Just like I do with eggs during the laying season, so I have eggs during molts and during the chickens' non-laying season.  I freeze eggs in ice cube trays, one egg per slot.



  1. Interesting approach to butter! I look forward to trying it. We always let the cream ripen in the churn, helped on by the addition of some buttermilk, Sometimes the butter came quickly -- other times, not.

  2. Elora -- my question is -- do you make enough butter to last through a year? Might be a silly question but I am completely out of the loop on all this fascinating stuff. I am totally fascinated with what you and your husband manage to produce on your farm! -- barbara

  3. Barbara,
    Good question! As I go through the year with the cow, at various times I have increases in cream or decreases, depending upon her heat cycles, etc.(until she's bred, of course; then it's the weather, other concerns...whatever. When I can make more butter than we need, I stash it in the freezer. By the time we dried the last cow up, I had made about 20 pounds, each pound wrapped into four separate quarters. I still have some of that butter in the freezer, and it does get used on a FIFO basis. Make sense? Except....right now, I have been using Marigold's cream and have finally gotten her milk (with some additional grain) to have more "body." I've been sampling her butter as it has been improving in butterfat. Now, I have it where I want it and will use the last of the other butter right away, and save Marigold's in the freezer. I hope this makes sense.

    We do grow lots of differnt things on our farm and some are experiments that may or may not work out. Vicki mentioned her fig. We have two fig trees and they are not doing real well at the moment. We've tried them several times and often a hard frost gets them, no matter our having wrapped it in leaves, etc. to protect it.

    Thank you for you lovely comments and I will have a moment tomorrow a.m. to browse leisurely through your today's post.


  4. What a bounty you have with your fruit. In some years we don't even get enough good weather to ripen up the wild blackberries, in Sept they are still red and hard and then suddenly they're mouldy. Can you give more detials how you freeze eggs as we've got a glut at the moment. Do you just break up the egg with a fork? I have frozen eggs before but the book said to beat them a little with a fork and either some salt or sugar depending on the future use and I found them sometimes lumpy when I defrosted them.

  5. You are right, Ruta. The eggs do get a bit lumpy over time. I believe your suggestion of scrambling them before freezing in the cubes is a possible solution. Also, using the Food Processor to lightly scramble them back together when using them after thawing. I guess it's the price we have to pay for having an embarrassment of riches during the laying season! At least it's eggs and they taste like eggs, as opposed to those we get in the store.

    As for our berries, we're really fortunate. This is an especially good year for the blackberries. The raspberries went fast. We have both black and red raspberries. Both are wonderful, but, as I say, with the heat this year, the raspberries didn't do well at all. Or....perhaps another way to say that is that they did well too quickly and between the birds and the shriveling due to heat, they weren't much this time. Win some, lose some!

    Thanks much for you comment!

  6. I didn't know you could freeze eggs Elora! I can't wait to tell my sister that since she has chickens and often has too many to use. :) blessings, marlene