Archive for back yard orchard

Our Little Orchard

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My goal is for our family to be capable of feeding ourselves – completely independent from grocery stores for anything other than toilet paper. (Well, maybe coffee, too). Some days that goal seems insurmountable.

Today however, we are surrounded by abundance. We have a super tiny orchard- just under a dozen dwarf apple, four pear and two cherry trees. We picked up *buckets* of windfall apples earlier this summer and made apple sauce and apple cider vinegar. Then the tree branches were so full they were bending to perilous angles and we picked *buckets* of unripe fruit to keep our trees from being damaged.

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As the real harvest approaches, I am overwhelmed with the blessing of the bounty! Apple pie filling for the freezer, cider, sauce and fruit leather for school lunch boxes, dehydrated apple pieces for oatmeal and granola… And to think I wanted to plant more trees!

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Magical Elixer: Elderberry

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After we gathered the elderberries, we popped them in the freezer right on the stalks inside plastic grocery bags. Once we had enough, we began by gently pulling the berries off the stems and picking out the tiny stems that occasionally fell in anyways. Then we covered the berries with water in a heavy bottomed pan and simmered them with healthy amounts of clove and cinnamon and stirred and mashed them for about 30 minutes. It’s important to cook elderberries as they contain a not nice ingredient. “Wicked Plants” by Amy Stewart, says the raw juice and seeds contain cyanide that can only be removed by heating. According to folklore, if you sleep under a blooming elderberry bush, you would have fantastical dreams filled with fairies and elves and all things magical. Since elderberries usually grow very near streams,bogs, fens and swampy areas, I will pass on camping under one.

Once your berries are well cooked and cooled enough to handle, stir in an equal amount of raw honey. It will not taste pleasant at all without the honey. A quality, raw honey will provide enzymes and added immune boost to your syrup. Now pour the whole mess into a tea towel lined strainer over top of a big bowl and squeeze every last bit of juice out.

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You now have a pile of mush to add to your compost.

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The syrup should be bottled in sterilized jars and stored in the refrigerator. Take at the first sign of a cold – 1/2-1 teaspoon for children, 1/2-1 tablespoon for adults every few hours. Great for soothing coughs and especially croup. You could also pour it over vanilla ice cream or add it to sparkling water for an impressive treat. Slainte!

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Hornet removal

We have been watching a hornets nest grow all summer. The grey orb of paper was in the maple tree right beside our deck. In the spring, we grilled on the deck and ate
several meals on the picnic table without incident. Last weekend however, LeadBoy got stung and refused to mow the yard again until it was removed. DearHubby and I suited up as soon as the sun went down. With full bee gear on, we approached the tree with my milking stool, a garbage bag and hedge shears. It came down quickly and after the hive was tied inside the garbage bag it was deposited in the freezer in our garage. The Internet search shows these to be White Faced Hornets. They chew wood and spread the mush to build their masterpiece. They are more aggressive than most hornets. When the inhabitants are frozen, it is easier to appreciate their creation.

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Set fruit!

After last years late frost killed most of our fruit tree blossoms and ten the drought, we picked less than a dozen apples from our tiny orchard. THIS is a sight for sore eyes!!!!

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Spring Honeybees, Summer Fruit Trees

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A handful of our honeybees congregated on the lid of their hive as we were racing the sunset to finish our work. DearHusband had split some of our hives to prevent them from swarming and we were “re-queening” at dusk. The newly split hive hadn’t had time to rear a new queen, and we were providing them a darling in a box. She arrives in a tiny screened box, 1/4 the size of an Altoids box, with a couple caretaker bees. This new queen is held captive in her tiny windowed room by a plug of bee food that will be eaten away in the two or three days necessary for the hive to accept her. Once she has begun laying eggs, we will breath a sigh of relief and begin to enjoy the view of our tiny orchard being pollinated.

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