The Oregon Master Gardeners are coming to our homestead on Thursday evening. It is a fund-raiser for the Sustainability Collation, requested by the gardeners, who come to Corvallis every year for a grand three-day pow-wow of workshops, discussions, and info sharing. I agreed to the tour back in June, when everything was lovely and lush…and now, in the last week, the grass went dormant and beige and the potatoes turned yellow, dropped down, and began dying back for the season. AND I cleared out the comfrey, lemon balm, and other wild herbs from under the hazelnut tree so that the fence could be rebuilt. Now there’s bare dirt, looking like concrete, in what should be the bee yard. All of this would be fine—except that the Master Gardeners are coming on Thursday. That, as a friend said, puts a little pressure on. So, I took a survey:
· Dormant grass.
· Potato beds (this is mixed. I believe it’s a good crop under there…).
· Large gaps in the beds, especially where we ate that 10 inch broccoli a few weeks ago.
· Bare earth in the back, giving chickens a bad name.
· Out of control compost piles. Yes, there are several.
· Blue bed flowers have gone by.
· Sidewalk flower bed is dry.
· Tools of the trade are everywhere!
· We seriously need to recycle a pile of junk.
· Buckwheat mulch never came up in the garlic bed. The space has been taken over by amaranth, which is a vibrant deep red and quite stunning.
· The new fence is gorgeous.
· Nice tomatoes!
· Huge collards. And the Coeur de Beof Cabbage is quite striking.
· Boston Marrow is very cool.
· There are berries and apples everywhere.
· The design of the beds and trellis is quite nice.
· Quality mulch.
· The shed is tidy.
· There are fall crops in one bed.
· We’ve begun putting food by for the season.
· The round brick bed out front looks good for the first time in years.
I think we’re about even. So, I’ll rake the dormant grass, put away the hoses for the evening, and talk about the changing seasons, how, after Lammastide, the Earth shifts toward Harvest and away from growth. And, maybe, Mark can get the compost area under control for the night.
Rapid Applesauce, with food mill
Usually, when I am processing apples, they sort into three piles—fresh eaters, sliced for drying, and applesauce. Applesauce apples are the bruised and slightly insect eaten fruit, the ones that need to be seriously trimmed and cubed before they are edible. I work through then three piles at once on the outdoor table, slicing some for the dryer while tossing chunks of others into the big pot. The food mill makes a huge difference in this process; I no longer peel and core the apples before cooking!
Start with a large pot of apples, just cut into chunks. Don’t peal or core. Add an inch or so of water and cook down into a bubbly mush. Cool. Push through the food mill using the largest sieve and return to the pot. Add sugar and spices—I usually add about ¾ cup of sugar for five to six pints of sauce, as well as a tablespoon on cinnamon and maybe a bit of allspice—and cook for another ten minutes or so. Ladle hot applesauce into pint jars, leaving half inch of space at the top and process in steam canner for thirty minutes.
The combination of food mill and steam canner has turned an all afternoon task into something that can be easily completed in an hour.