Cider Time!

We finally completed most of our apple canning and preserving for the season.  We still have one bushel picked of nice, big ones that we plan to use for pie filling.  But there were still lots left hanging on the tree.  So I got out my long pole and started knocking them down to press for cider.

When making hand-pressed apple cider, you don’t worry about cuts or bruises on the fruit.  In fact, the bruises help “tenderize” the apples for chopping into mash.  So knocking them down with vigor and even violence is not a problem. (Just make sure you wear glasses or protective goggles … I learned my lesson last year with a trip to the eye doctor after getting my cornea scratched by falling fruit.  Stupid me!)

When I was done, I finished with about five bushels of apples.

Loaded in the truck and ready to go to the press.

So here is a pictorial description of the process.

My buddy, Tim, has a press that he restored.  It is a mid-1800’s antique.  I bought one for myself last year, but it still needs some restoration work, and I haven’t had time for that project yet.  So Tim is nice enough to let me use his.  Step one is to load the apples in to the hopper in small batches and crush them.  It’s labor intensive.  The apples are funneled into a steel chamber where they are crushed and shredded and fall out into the open-bottom basket below.

Apples go in the hopper, where they are chopped by turning the hand crank.

Still chopping and mashing!

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Categories: Apple Cider, Apples, Cider Press, Fruit Trees | Leave a comment

The Rooster Experiment is Over

A few months ago I purchased a couple of Easter Egger roosters … completely by accident.  I thought I was getting pullet hens, assured by the owners that they were females, but both turned out to be crowers.  I gave one of them away about a month ago, and decided to keep one.  I enjoyed his crowing throughout the day.  And he seemed to be very diligent in keeping up with all of the girls.

But over the past several weeks he has grown increasingly hostile in his mating practices.  His classic move is to catch a hen unawares, pounce, and grab a beak full of neck feathers.  He’s stripped the necks of six of my hens almost clean.  I was learning to live with it.  But he stepped over the line three days ago.

I brought home five new hens last week.  One of them is a gorgeous, sweet, social Speckled Sussex.  He accosted her within the first two days and ripped a huge gash in her neck at the base of her skull, exposing raw flesh.  It was a brutal injury, and afterward he refused to leave her alone.  She has resorted to hiding from him inside the dog fence … which presents other challenges for us when it’s time to let the Schnauzers outside.

So … he had to go.  I just can tolerate any more abuse of my ladies.  I had a friend come by and pick him up this afternoon.

So peace has returned to our hen house.  My twelve ladies explored the yard without harassment all afternoon.  It was a joy.

For sure, I liked old Mufasa (that was his name … the first one I gave away I called Simba), but he had to go.

I don’t think I’ll be having anymore roosters around here.

Categories: Chickens, Hens, Roosters | 2 Comments

Apple Time!

The apples are finally ripening.  And what a bumper crop this year.  I’ve only picked about two bushels, and have already canned fourteen quarts, frozen six quarts, and dehydrated six quarts!


Seven quarts of cooking apples, and seven quarts of dessert apples with brown sugar and cinnamon.

Next weekend the juicing begins.  I’ll pick every apple off of the tree, pick the good ones up off of the ground, and juice the whole shebang on my buddy, Tim’s, old 1800’s cider press.  I bought my own press this past year, but it still needs some work to get it fully functional.

Here’s a shot of my yummy dried apple rings and pieces.


SIx quarts of tasty dehydrated apples. It took about a week of constant dehydrator action, but it was soooo worth it! These will be a great high-energy snack during the winter.

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The Goat Whisperer …

My daughter snapped this awesome picture of me with our pygmy goat, Snowbell.


Look into my eyes!


I was, most likely, lecturing her on her bullying ways with the other two goats.  Let’s just say that this big mama runs the goat lot!  I’m afraid when the other two (they’re “mutts” – around 18 weeks) get another five or six months behind them, they’ll easily overtake her in size.

But I’ll bet that she’ll still run the lot.  😉

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Lap Chickens?!!

My girls have started something new.  Whenever they catch me out in the yard, kicking back in my lawn chair and enjoying the evening, they now like to jump up in my lap.

Seriously … all I have to do is snap my fingers and they come-a-runnin’!  They jump up on me, peck at my shirt for a while, then jump down and go about their business.

I never, in my wildest dreams, thought I would have a yard full of lap chickens!


Photographic evidence …

Categories: Chickens, Hens | Leave a comment

Ode to the Beach

This is kind of a sad week for me.  My family and I were supposed to be at the beach this week.  We enjoy vacationing on a quiet little barrier island in the Florida gulf coast.  But my daughters were both too busy with work, my wife was a bit reluctant to take the extra time of, and I was unsure who would take adequate care of all my animals.

So we elected to forego this May vacation and postpone until October.  It will be a LOT quieter and more laid back then, anyway.  Not to mention a lot cooler, as well!  And the fishing will be awesome.

So today I was looking at a few old beach pics.  And I thought I would share this one.  I’ve always loved it.


Attention! Fall in!

This is a flock of freshly fed seagulls.  I blessed them with all of the cuttings and innards from my morning catch of trout and whiting.  They really enjoy fresh fish meat.  And I make some awesome buddies for the week!

Yes, my hind-parts are in Kentucky, but my soul is on my island …

Categories: Beach, Wildlife | Leave a comment

Cherry Jam Time!

After a couple of days of picking, I finally accumulated three quarts of ripe (or almost ripe) cherries.  It takes three quarts of raw product to yield one quart of cherries for processing.  I need one quart, chopped , to make a batch of Sour Cherry Jam.

Here are a few pics of the process:


Pitting cherries while watching a little TV …

Pitting is, without doubt, the longest and most labor intensive part of the process.  It takes a couple of house to pit three quarts.  Thank goodness I discovered this handy-dandy pitting tool at Wal-mart a couple of years ago!


The cherries have been chopped in the blender, and sugar has been added.



The concoction is about to boil, and the liquid pectin is on “stand-by,” ready to go in.



Boiling is done, foam skimmed.

There was a time when I used to throw the foam into the sink and rinse it down the drain.   Then I discovered how sweet and yummy it is!  So, now I save the foam, too.  I just put it in one of those handy little single-serving containers from KFC.  The congealed foam is awesome on toast!


Into the jars!


Into the boiler!

I know what some of you are thinking … “That’s a pressure cooker!”  Actually, it is.  I have a weird stove.  The burners are designed so that they actually will not boil water in a traditional boiling water canner.  I got so frustrated years ago when I couldn’t figure it out.  But it’s actually in the stinking manual!  So, now I just use my pressure canner.  I just let it sub for a canner.  It works just fine!


The final product! Sour Cherry Jam!


I finished with nine half-pints.  It made a perfect “set,” firm, but soooo spreadable.  And the taste!  It literally tastes like a slice of cherry pie in a jar!

I picked and pitted another three quarts this weekend.  So I’ll be firing up another batch on Monday morning.  I’m trying to get about fifteen jars total to sell at our local Farmer’s Market.

The recipe is really easy.  Just cherries, sugar, and pectin.  It’s the most labor-intensive jelly product that I make.  But it is so worth it!

Categories: Cherry Trees, Fruit Trees, Jams and Jellies, Orchard | Leave a comment

Cherry Pickin’! Jam Time Has Arrived!

I started picking my sour cherries yesterday morning.  I added more to the bowl today.  I had to go ahead and start bringing some in just a bit early … the birds are already working them over.

Hopefully, over the next two days I will be able to pick enough to get three quarts pitted and chopped … enough for three batches of my extra-yummy “Sour Cherry Jam!”

Here is a pic of the red beauties:


Sour cherries … they make the most awesome jam!

Categories: Cherry Trees, Fruit Trees, Garden | 5 Comments

That Must’ve Hurt Really Bad!!

I went out at 10:30 for my usual hen house routine. First I throw some scratch in the chicken run to divert the ladies’ attention, then I clean out the nesting boxes where they spent the night before (all pooped up), and then finally I collect my eggs for the day. The girls are like clockwork … the last one always lays around 10:15. Her egg is always warm – fresh right out of the chicken!

Anyhow … when I looked through the “robbing door” I realized … “We have a jumbo!”

About once every other week I get a jumbo, double-yolked egg from my girls. I’ve been running consistently four extra-large and two large eggs every day. But today I found this monster!

It bottomed out! What a monster egg!!

She bottomed out on my “Incredible Egg Scale,” weighing in at >2.5 ounces!

Out of the six eggs today, I had four XL’s, one large, and the queen mother jumbo.  Can you pick it out of the line-up?

The Henfruit Line-Up? Can you ID the “Suspect?”


I set these big ones aside for my special gluten-free bread that my sweet wife makes for me.  Besides, they’re too cool to just put in a carton and sell.

Now I have to go and give one of my girls a little massage … she deserves it!

Categories: Eggs, Hen House, Hens | 2 Comments

It’s Almost Cherry Time!

I took a quick swing by my cherry trees when I fed the goats this morning.  It looks like we’re about 48 hours away from picking our first batch!


Just starting to turn ... we'll be making jam in a few days!


Now … if we can just keep the birds away!

Categories: Cherry Trees, Fruit Trees, Garden, Orchard | 2 Comments

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