Category Archives: Garden

Grandpa’s Garden

So, I told you in a previous post that you HAD to see my Grandpa’s tomatoes, but this post will show you how pathetic my garden really has been this year, because you are about to see some of the rewards and results of a true gardening MASTER.

This is my Grandpa. He’s approximately 6 feet tall. The plants that he’s standing next to are Super Fantastic Tomato plants. Yes, they are gigantic, and gorgeous, and loaded with tomatoes.

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He builds large round cages out of wire fencing to hold these babies up, and as you can see, UP is exactly where they have gone!  (You can see one of the cages on the left (below), as well as part of grandpa’s carrot bed, and small corners of his melon patch vines and blackberry bushes.)

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Grandpa plants them in his “Black Gold”, which I’ve been told is mostly composted leaves (A.K.A. leaf mold) from his deciduous trees that he collects and piles up each fall. He usually starts his tomatoes from seed early in the season, eventually moves them to his handmade cold frame (which is beautiful and should be the subject of another post), and then finally they make it into the garden when it’s warm enough. He plants them in wide, deep holes that he FILLS with “Black Gold”. He said that this year, he mulched with a little bit of horse manure on top around the holes. As you can see, his methods are working.

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You will also notice that Grandpa had to make his fence a bit higher with baling twine to keep the resident deer out.  They were after his tomatoes! Grandpa’s onions are beauties, too. He grows these from seed each year.

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He gave me some seed heads for my garden next season! And can I just draw attention to the absence of weeds in his garden!?

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Aren’t the seed heads pretty! Grandpa makes great fresh salsa out of these onions and tomatoes!

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Grandpa told me that to plant his carrot bed, he crushes the seed heads in his hand and then broadcasts them in the area he wants them. He then puts some “Black Gold” on top. I think he does the same thing with his onions.

Thanks Grandpa for letting me show off some of your awesome gardening skills! I wan’t to be like you when I grow up!!

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Berry Envy

So a few days ago, my Mom and I took Baby Boy on a walk. We walked over to Grandpa and Grandma’s house, but on our way there we saw this:

Big, red raspberries, loaded on canes!

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And we saw THIS:

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This neighbor’s garden usually looks tempting, but when the red currants look like that…just dripping off the branches…it’s hard walk by without staring! Truth be told, I’ve never tasted a red currant. My understanding is that they should mainly be used for jellies and so on, as they are tart. But imagine the jelly those glowing, red jewels would make! I REALLY want to plant some currant bushes, but I’ve held off because I’m not sure that we’ll live in our home long enough to see the results. Should I do it anyway? Is there anything your neighbors have planted in their yard that you wish you had in yours too?

 

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Summer Garden August 2014

The garden is doing well this year, though half of it got started a bit late. We have been enjoying the addition of truly fresh food to our diets. Bryce has a garden bed at the office this year as well, so we’ve been getting good stuff from both places. Beet greens and swiss chard have made appearances on our plates, and zucchini has been eaten with gusto in a dish that’s new to us. (I’ll share the recipe soon….it was SOOO good).

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Baby Boy loves eating the peas…hence there are few pea pods left on the plants to photograph right now, but there will be more in a week.

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Lots of green tomatoes, only a couple red ones so far. I swore last year I wouldn’t use the same wimpy tomato cages, but I didn’t follow through. Unfortunately, not all of my tomatoes are even caged at this point. I did find, however, that the “large” puny cages do alright when doubled up. They support the tomatoes much better doubled than when they are used singly.

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This year I planted the tomatoes closest to the fence in holes filled with compost, and the other 3 are just planted in our regular soil. The 3 closest to the fence do seem to be doing better, but they were also planted a little earlier if I remember correctly. And they are different varieties. So, not a true test of the difference compost makes, but I still believe the compost is the way to go. You should see my grandpas tomato plants. He plants in large deep holes, filled with just leaf mold/compost and his plants are MASSIVE and loaded with tomatoes. I mean, we are talkin’ 5 foot tall, lush, thick dark green plants covered in beautiful tomatoes. I’ll have to take a photo and show you sometime, it’s amazing!

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The gooseberry plants gave us a great harvest this year, and they are so much bigger than they were last year! The dill and basil have struggled. You can barely see them poking up between the brassicas and the gooseberries. I planted them late in the season as transplants and they’ve been too thirsty at times. Even so, the basil has been used a lot in my cooking.

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My ARP rosemary is doing well. It is supposed to be a variety that has a better chance of surviving our cold winters, so crossing my fingers. When you just brush your hand across a rosemary plant and breath that scent, oh my stars. I love it.

And look at those gorgeous chives and green onions! They both overwintered from last year, and I started the green onions from the left overs of a store bought bunch! After chopping the green tops for a recipe, I planted the bottoms. They’ve done really well, and even went to seed this year.

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I think a neighbor must have sprayed weed killer earlier this summer, and it must have gone airborne (volatilized) and hit some of my jerusalem artichokes. That’s the most likely explanation as to why there is a completely dead patch right in the middle of the bed. I’ll have to replant the spot this fall when I harvest the tubers.

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I planted green beans around Baby Boy’s saguaro cactus rib teepee fairly late in the season. I thought it would be a fun “house” for him, and if we get beans, great! He helped me plant them. *smile*

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Kale got in late, but is doing well. And I imagine with the cooler temps we’ve been having lately, they are going to take off soon. Aren’t they lovely!

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Broccoli is flowering! Not necessarily great for edibility, but look how pretty it is! Looks like broccoli will be on the menu today.

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I’ve got at least two little watermelon forming. They seem to be growing pretty quickly, which is fun for impatient gardeners…not that I know any.

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Yes, there are obviously some weeds in my garden. Morning glory is a major pest in my yard and garden. We put a lot of black plastic down this year to help control some of the weeds and to retain moisture. This has worked well over all. It definitely has made weed control easier…although there ARE weeds in my garden, they aren’t as HUGE or quite taking over….so that nice.

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Lessons I’ve learned (or have been reminded of) so far this year are:

That I need to plant stuff earlier to give it a better chance of producing a respectable harvest.

Use a good compost, and dig your holes wide and deep.

Control the weeds early in the season, and mulch to keep them down, and keep the garden looking nice. Don’t let them go to seed! Next year I plan to mulch the perimeter of the garden with straw to keep it looking clean and to help smother weeds.

Any gardening lessons you’ve learned that you’d care to share? Let’s hear it!

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Cherry Tomato Tasting 2014

It’s well known that store bought tomatoes just can’t compete with the rich, sweet, complex flavor of home grown. I find this holds true with cherry tomatoes too.

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These beauties are Sun Sugar, Black Cherry, and the red ones, I’m fairly positive, are Super Sweet 100s. This particular batch grew in Bryce’s “office” raised bed garden.

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Sun Sugar and Black Cherry won the taste contest for me, with Sun Sugar in first place. They are sweeter than the reds, especially the Sun Sugars, and I love the bright gold and subdued purplish colors. However, everyone seems to have their own idea as to what makes a great cherry tomato.  My father in law prefers the more classic, less sweet tomato flavor of the Super Sweet 100s.

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Do you have a favorite cherry or grape tomato? I’d love to try some new varieties next year! And last but not least, anyone have a great recipe that highlights cherry tomatoes? Suggestions please and thank you!

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Peaches!

Our peaches are SO beautiful this year. Our tree has only been in for about 2 years, but after thinning it earlier this summer, it produced these plump, sweet, fragrant beauties.

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If you don’t thin your fruit, you will get more peaches, but they wont be as big, and the weight of all those little peaches can be a strain on your tree’s bending branches.  Just “unscrew” the fruit from the branch by twisting it until it pops loose. Don’t just pull it off, as it can pull strips of the branch off with it! Also, You want to wait to for the fruit to set, as not all the tiny peaches that form early in the season will actually stay on the tree (this is often referred to as the “June-drop”). I thin mine to about 1 peach every 4-6″ sometime around July. Thinning relieves the tree (especially a young one like ours) from the weight of excess fruit, and it makes the fruit you do pick larger and of a higher quality. I highly recommend it!

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Ours is of the Elberta variety. It seems to ripen around mid-season, and we’ve been picking them for a week or so. Fresh, ripe peaches are glorious right off the tree, in baked goods, or in a simple but ever delicious bowl of peaches and cream.

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*Sigh* There are just few things that can compare…

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First Gooseberry Harvest!

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I planted two ‘Poorman’ gooseberries 2-3 years ago in our garden. Didn’t get any berries last year, but this year we actually got a harvest!

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Aren’t they beauties! They turned from pale green to this rosy color as they ripened.

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I will warn those of you that might be interested in planting your own gooseberry bushes that they are thorny, and you kind of have to reach into the plant to retrieve the berries. But it’s worth it!

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Gooseberries are often used in jams and preserves, as they apparently can be pretty sour. But these are plenty sweet enough for me to eat them right off the bush, even when they are still a little green! Even Baby Boy ate a few today, and he’s a much more picky eater than I am. *smile* Tart and sweet, with a flavor similar in taste and texture to cranberry sauce.

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The plants have done pretty well I’d say, and though our harvest wasn’t huge this year, it’s a lot more than last years! It’s always exciting to reap the first fruits of your labor!

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The Seeds Are Here!

Look what came in the mail for me yesterday! Oh it’s like Christmas!

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I am one of those strange people that devour seed catalogues. The different plant varieties and their growth habits enchant me, and I daydream of harvesting produce as diverse and colorful as the plants that fill those pages. I have scavenged the catalogues for years, but this is the first order I’ve placed. EVER.

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These were my top picks this year, although I may place another order. These are all heirloom varieties, so the plants will come back true from seed saved each year (as long as they don’t get near another variety that can cross-pollinate). I ordered from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Seed Savers Exchange.

Baker Creek:

Ananas Noire Tomato This tomato’s flavor profile sounds intriguing. It also has interesting coloring and is supposed to be a good producer.

Golden Beet I love beets, golden and otherwise. Big bonus, the gold ones aren’t nearly as likely to stain your clothes or anything else!

Petit Gris de Rennes Melon In the catalogue, this is claimed to be the favorite melon of a famous melon expert. I figure if it’s a “melon expert’s” fave, it’s gotta be good.

Zuchinno Rampicante Squash Love that this squash can be used as a summer squash or as a winter/storage type.

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Seed Savers Exchange:

Potimarron Squash It’s French name describes it’s supposed chestnut-like flavor, it’s a good keeper, and just look at that gorgeous red/orange skin! I also like that the squash isn’t a HUGE winter squash. It’s a manageable size at about 3-4 pounds, just big enough for a few people, or to be turned into a pot of soup.

Black Krim Tomato This tomato looks amazing, super dark, and the flavor is supposedly one of the best. I can’t wait to try this one!

Sweet Pea Currant Tomato These are itsy-bitsy tomatoes perfect to garnish…whatever you garnish tomatoes with. Honestly I’m hoping the flavor is good too, because I don’t know how many excuses I can come up with to grow adorably minuscule tomatoes if the main purpose is not to eat them. But I couldn’t resist trying them at least once.

I cannot wait to see how these babies do this year! Are you growing any new varieties this year that you’re excited about? Any tried and true that you would recommend?

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Growing Citrus In Cold Places

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My lemon tree started blooming, so I thought I’d share the beautiful gems with all of you. Unfortunately, I can’t share the gorgeous smell! I love the scent of citrus blossoms.

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Not too long ago, the little buds were just tiny, like this:

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They grew until the plant was covered in white buds like this:

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Even before the buds opened they started to smell AMAZING, and over the last few days they have opened into these sweet, waxy blooms.

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Some of the blossoms from last year turned into this year’s fruit. This is a lemon, and the next shot is a blood orange.

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If you have an indoor space that gets a fair amount of sun in the winter, I would highly recommend growing one of these beauties. The foliage is gorgeous, the flowers are lovely (as is the scent), and they are pretty forgiving plants. My dad gave me these trees a few years back. A few of the trees were bare-root, and some of them he had been growing in pots. My dad was a lot better at regularly fertilizing and watering than I have been, but I am improving. You’ll notice that in the following photo, there are not a lot of large leaves, but there is a TON of new growth and small flower buds.

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Even though I brought them inside for the winter, they lost a lot of leaves. There are probably a few reasons for this:

-The seasonal drop in temperature for one.

-The shock of being moved abruptly (without being whatever-the-oppsite-of-hardened-off-is) may have had something to do with it.

-New temperatures

-Less light

-Maybe even the difference of humidity from outside and the mudroom could have done it. I’ve read somewhere that misting your trees can help, or putting them over a tray of pebbles and water, so that the evaporating water can help keep the humidity higher.

-Cold. Our mudroom is very cold in the winter, due to drafts, the tile floor, and the heater vent that was closed until just recently (for some reason), so it may have just been too cold in there.

-And finally, it could have also been a lack of water, since the tree that lost the most leaves was the one that I think was most neglected when it came to watering.

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Whatever the reason, I am just glad that the trees seem to be forgiving me, and I hope to make it up to them this year.

This morning I noticed that the lemon tree had shiny dried spots on it. To get an idea of what I’m talking about, imagine that someone flicked sugary syrup-water onto the leaves and then it dried. And that’basically what happened. The culprits were fairly easy to spot once I knew to look for them. Aphids. They drink the sap from the tender buds and leaves and excrete a sweet sticky substance called “honeydew”.  I also found a solitary “scale”. I killed the majority of the aphids, and removed the scale. I squished them by lightly brushing my fingers over the areas where the infestation was the worst. Kind of gross when you think it through but hey, it works. I need to mix up a spray for the rest of them. We’ll try using some soapy water first, and then go from there.

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Baby Boy enjoys smelling the flowers too, but I have to keep a close eye. He likes to pluck the flower buds!

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So give it a try if you have the inclination! My next citrus attempt…kaffir lime! I’ll keep you updated on how my trees do this year. Any favorite citrus memories and recipes out there?

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Our Garden 2013

“Neglected” has to be the word that would best describe my garden this year, but that being said; we had some successes, some failures, and the results of some experiments to share.

I hadn’t grown broccoli before, and I made the mistake of waiting too long to cut the little heads off in the summer. When I finally got around to it, they had flowered. Hoping to see if we would get any usable side shoots, I cut the heads off and let them start over. I am so glad that I did, because we were rewarded with some small-medium sized heads this fall. They probably would have done even better had I watered them more, as they were in a raised bed. The cauliflower was no good, but I’ll probably try again next year. *UPDATE* The heads turned into LARGE heads of broccoli by the end of the season!

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I got the potatoes planted quite late in the season. I think if I had planted in EARLY spring, and waited until the tops had died before digging, I would have had a larger crop of bigger potatoes. As it was though, I am just happy we got anything! I planted Yukon Golds, Purple Vikings and Norland Reds(I think).

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Kale was a superstar in our garden this year! I planted in the spring, and it survived the summer. By fall it looked glorious! Dark blue-green with lovely crinkled leaves. And it was delicious in our Zuppa Toscana soup!

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Look how pretty the Brassica beds look! Just ignore the weeds please.

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And while we are on the subject of Brassica, the brussel sprouts were a little bit of a disappointment I’m afraid.  I planted them in late spring with kale, broccoli, cauliflower. The leaves are large and lovely to look at, but the buds…They seemed to go straight from small and tight, to small, loose, and leafy. I didn’t find any of the hard, tightly packed balls that I expected. This was my first attempt at growing them, and I’ll definitely do more research and try them again because we love brussel sprouts! They weren’t a complete waste anyway, because the large leathery leaves are apparently a favorite of our chickens, and the loose sprouts were still delicious steamed with other vegetables and served over brown rice. I read online that you can eat the leaves in various ways as well, so we’ll try that next year!

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The tomatoes did not do well this year, and there are a handful of reasons why I think that was the case. I should have dug wider, deeper holes, with a small embankment around the hole to keep water in. And I should have filled the holes with compost with just a little bit of our native soil mixed in, instead of the opposite. I think because our soil needs some work (It seems pretty clay-ey), the water just couldn’t penetrate deep enough. And I didn’t water often enough. To make matters worse, many of the tomatoes had to be dug up and replanted so that we could have a tractor come in to prep the backyard for sod. So all that being said, of the few tomatoes that we did grow, I’ll plant Superfantastics, Cherokee Purple and the Sun Sugar cherry tomatoes again next year, along with a few new varieties.

Oh, and I will NOT be using the weak tomato and peony cages for my tomatoes again next year. As pathetically small as my tomatoes were, they STILL managed to weigh the cages down to the point of leaning over. My Dad and Grandpa both use heavy duty wire fencing that they wire together into large, round, sturdy cages. I hope to build some of my own next year.

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The jerusalem artichokes = SUCCESS!  Planted these late last fall and have already harvested some of the lovely tubers (In fact, I have some in my crockpot with a beef roast as I type). I’ll go into more detail in another post, because I think more people should be growing these. They are a great source of food, and they give another boon of flowers!

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If you happen to notice the way the jerusalem artichoke patch slants…I tried an experiment, and that is the result. If I remember correctly, I only planted the very small round tubers on the right side, and medium-large tubers on the left side. As you can tell, the size of the starting tuber does seem to make a difference in the size of the plant. I wonder if seed potatoes work the same way?

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My two Poorman gooseberry bushes had blossoms, but no fruit. I may not have watered them enough, and perhaps that is the reason they didn’t produce, but I have high hopes for next year. They were planted in the last last year or so, so they may just be getting settled.

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Our garden wasn’t great this year, but we tried some experiments and learned a few things. More time weeding couldn’t hurt. *smile* Our soil is less than perfect, and would benefit from a lot of organic matter. We added some horse manure last year, and a little bit of grass clippings and compost in some areas, but not nearly enough. So this fall I hope to till in all of our sycamore leaves and more grass clippings. Our vegetable garden is partially located over what used to be gravel RV parking…so, yeah. Buried gravel. Thankfully, last fall we put in a few raised beds using cedar fence slats. So I’ll add some compost to the beds as well as work on sifting out more of the gravel. I’m already excited to start planning next years garden! Hopefully we’ll have even more success, and fewer failures!

 

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Fresh Apple Juice

Bryce’s friend Bevan built a heavy duty juicer/press using a garbage disposal to crush the apples, and a car jack to press out the juice. Pretty ingenious, I would say. We have great intentions of building one or two apple presses of our own in the near future, but Bevan was kind enough to let us borrow his in the meantime. The night these photos were taken, we were at Spencer and Shanille’s house. Baby Boy wasn’t quite sure what to think of the puppies, but they sure seemed to like him!

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I was loving the sunset light, and the effect it was having on his fly-away hair. (He still hasn’t had a first haircut!)

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Watching the action happening up in the apple tree!

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In the tree, shaking and throwing apples down to the “gatherers”.

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Now for a game of “Where’s Baby Boy?!”

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There he is!

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Considering how much time his parents spent in the trees as children, I guess he comes by his interest in climbing honestly.

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Since the apples were unsprayed, they had a few worm holes. We cut out the bad parts of the apples, and used an apple slicer to cut them into smaller pieces so that the disposal could be more efficient.

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This cutie stopped gathering long enough to give me a smile!

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Observing…something.

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Baby Boy helping to gather apples.

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Enjoying the sunset…and the homing pigeons.

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A quick trampoline break!

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Feeding apples into the disposal! Our process went something like: Collect the apples, cut/core/deworm-hole the apples, put apple slices into BYU bucket, fill the bucket with water and rinse the slices, drain water out of bucket, feed apple slices into the disposal, collect apple mash in a mesh lining, press the juice out using a carjack with a round wooden piece attached, collect juice in the bottom tray and finally dispense juice into the clean buckets.

Ta dah! Apple juice!

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Bryce hauling the apple cores out to the animals.

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Overseeing the apple press.

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The outcome of our labor! Fresh apple juice! Hooray!

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I didn’t get photos of the buckets filled, but we divided the apple juice into BYU creamery icecream buckets. The buckets are large, 3-5 gallons I think, but it’s possible to fit at least one into our refrigerator. Since we intended to drink the juice fairly quicky, we didn’t bottle or freeze any. That will be an experiment for some other time.

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