Making Apple Cider

Apple cider and fall – is there a better drink on a cool fall evening than a cup of warm apple cider flavored with cinnamon?

My husband’s family has a long tradition of making apple cider each fall.  His aunt and uncle have apple trees.  This year, they picked 11 bushels of apples which made 20 gallons of cider deliciousness.

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This is the cider making operation.  The two on the left are my husband’s aunt and uncle AKA Extraordinaire Apple Cider Makers!

Once the apples are picked, they must be washed and any bad spots are cut out.  These side by side tubs worked great to put sweet apples on one side and tart on the other.  The water was changed out every couple of batches.

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My mother-in-law preparing the apples to be made into cider.  The sweet apples were in the tub on the left and the tart apples on the right.  We used 2 sweet apples and 1 tart apple for just the right flavor.

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Little ones are good at cleaning apples 🙂

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Any guesses on how many apples got eaten?

The mixture is two sweet apples with one tart apple – that’s it!  The tart apples are Jonathan and the sweet apples are Red and Yellow Delicious.

After being washed, the entire apple goes in to be shredded – seeds, stems, peel, and all.  Once there are enough apples, a lid is put on and the apple mash is pressed for the cider to run out.  As the liquid flows out, the mash can be pressed down further.  It takes a little time to release the juice.  We got about one gallon of cider per batch of pressed apples.

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Pressing the apple mash

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There’s a net bag inside the bucket that keeps the apple mash contained.  Once all the juices flow out, the mash was removed, and we’d start a new batch.

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The apple mash was fed to the cattle.

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Apple cider flowing

As the cider flowed from the apple mash, we would alternate pitchers to collect the cider.  Then the cider is strained through a thin fabric, such as a tea towel. The straining collects any small chucks of apple that came through the press.

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We yielded 20 gallons of cider from 11 bushels of apples.  It took 4 hours, lots of laughter and precious family time.

The cider is good for 2-3 weeks stored in the refrigerator or can be frozen to enjoy later.

This year making apple cider was bittersweet.  My hubby’s grandma always enjoyed making cider.  She passed away last winter so it was the first year without her there to strain the cider.  Our family gathered in the evening to enjoy supper together.

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2015 Soybeans

I’ve been taking pictures of the soybean crop all season and look forward to sharing the entire growing season with you soon.

Soybeans 9/3/15

There are no more blooms on the soybeans, and pods have replaced where the blooms were.

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Look at all those pods!

These soybeans are 46″ tall – which is pretty tall.  Did you know that tall soybeans don’t necessarily indicate a good yield?  Sometimes shorter beans produce better.

We’re starting to see some insect pressure.  Notice there are some holes in the leaves – that is where the insects have been munching.  The insect pressure is not bad, and we don’t anticipate needing to treat for them.

 

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Tall soybeans with some insect pressure

The soybean pods look a little bit like garden peas in their pods.  It’s typical to find 2-4 beans per pod, 3 beans in a pod is most common for our area.

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Baby soybeans

 

We would like to get another rain to help filling the soybeans out.  Without a rain soon, we have some risk that some pods may abort and the beans will be small.  Small beans mean it takes a lot more to beans to make a bushel.

Did you know that it takes 60 pounds of soybeans to make one bushel?

 

My Farmer’s Planting Notes

In farming, every year has its own set of unique challenges, but this year seems especially challenging.

Notes from my farmer’s planting book –

May 2, 2015  Corn planting is complete. It looks like nearly every seed that was planted came up. Warm and dry weather perfect for establishing a stand. Couldn’t look much better!

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On April 29th every seed seemed to have come up. The crop looked amazing!

May 3, 2015  Right on time to start planting soybeans. Chances of rain next week.  My wife says she saw a forecast for up to 5” of rain next week. Our truck driver says he’ll believe it when he sees it.

May 5, 2015  Rain. Nice break to work on equipment.

May 10, 2015  Still raining. Wife and the weatherman might have been right about 5” of rain.

May 17, 2015  A farmer friend posted on Facebook, “Rain, rain go away, come back on July 1st!”

May 21, 2015  Crazy as it sounds, we’re going to visit my wife’s family over Memorial Day Weekend. Never, ever believed that to be possible during planting.

May 25, 2015  Returned from wife’s family visit. It rained 3” while we were gone.

May 28, 2015  When was the last time I planted? The corn looks yellow. There are drowned out spots all over the fields. Only a few acres of soybeans have been planted and we’re well past the ideal time to plant soybeans.

June 1, 2015  More rain in the forecast?

June 5, 2015  The river is cresting, and will likely get out. Move equipment off fields by the river. Pull motors off pivots on the fields next to the river, otherwise, they will be ruined.

June 5, 2015 (afternoon)  10’ (yes, 10 foot) of water at the entrance of the field. Hope the river goes down quickly so the water can drain off the field soon. Guess I can go to my board meeting dinner tonight after all.

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The river got out of its banks on June 5th and flooded part of this field.

June 8, 2015  Three days of sun before a 70% chance of rain on Thursday. Start planting the sandy fields and hope for the best.

This too shall pass. It’s hard to know how this crop will turn out, but we’ll certainly work hard to get it planted and cared for. Harvest sure seems a long ways off when there are these kind of difficulties with planting!

 

 

 

 

Moms! You’re Needed – At All Stages

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how important moms are.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m approaching a tipping point in my life where I’ve been a mom for more than half of my life.  Maybe it’s because my oldest is in college and I get giddy when he “needs” me or calls for advice.  Maybe it’s the fact that my youngest will soon be off to kindergarten, and is growing up way too quickly.  I’m not sure, but the importance of moms has been on my mind lately.

I’ve always thought of children as resilient. But I’m realizing more how fragile children are and how important it is to be careful with our words and actions with our children all ages and stages.

We know how important moms are to young children.  It’s clear that bonding with our babies is so very important – even to the child’s development.  The days when they are little can be so tedious.  Then as if in the blink of an eye, they’re self-sufficient in most ways.

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In my journey of motherhood, I’m finding that parenting a young adult is more challenging than any other stage.  When children are at home, there are fairly easy consequences that you can help them understand for their actions.  As they move out and start their own journey some of the consequences cost real money or take an emotional toll.  Lessons we all have to learn, but agonizing to watch as the mom.

What I don’t see talked about often is the importance of mothers to adult children. It’s been impressed upon me recently that relationship is of great importance.

I know adults who have had their confidence shaken by the critical words of their mother.

Many farms are multigenerational, and moms are critically important to their success.  Moms do so many things that no one sees or are aware of – taking food to the field, always having water bottles, paperwork, picking up parts while running errands in town.  There are just a lot of important things that moms do that others may not be able to easily place a value on.

Most importantly, moms are usually the one that everyone goes to with their problems.  Often farm moms are the great confidante, they keep the peace between siblings and dad.  Recently, a farmer friend spoke of his mom being the glue to their farm, ‘she just did what moms do!’

As was the theme of an agriculture conference that I recently attended, moms are the “unsung heroes” of many farms.

I’m blessed to have a strong mom and mother-in-law.  Each a farm mom who cares for their kids, husband, and farms more than most can understand.

A mother’s most important crop just might be her kids!

Raising Kids, Raising Crops

And Life Goes On

I’m pretty sure I’m breaking all the blogging rules, by starting out with an apology for not blogging in the longest time.  Truth is – I’ve been doing a lot of living life and not much in recording it.

My oldest graduated high school last spring – really? Last spring?  And he’s enjoying his first year at college.  Seriously, when you’re kids go off to college, and you can vividly recall what was going on during your first year of college, even if it wasn’t too crazy, those memories are crystal clear.  Yikes!

On top of the new normal of having your first born, first kiddo love of your life move away, and creating a new normal in life, I’ve come to realize how much this kid did around here!  Geesh!  All those chores they do so you get someone else to do the crap jobs raise a responsible young adult, all of the sudden they’re back on your plate.  I do have to say, I’m looking forward to my kiddo moving back this summer – can’t wait for those everyday conversations, having his college friends visit over the summer, and even help with the daily chores :).

So, what’s going on down on the farm?  We are getting busy to start planting soon – perhaps next week if Mother Nature cooperates.  There has been a lot of field preparation the past several weeks.  My husband made his seed picks last fall, and now the seed is being delivered.  We’re doing lots of preventative maintenance on the planter getting it ready for the field.  We go through our equipment every season to hopefully minimize any downtime when the timing and conditions are right for planting.

Spring planting is an exciting time around the farm, and I’ll be sharing more about planting over the next several weeks.

So God made a Farmer

The Rest of the Story

Our Superbowl party went silent when that familiar poem was recited by the familiar voice of Paul Harvey.   Nearly to the end, I thought, who is sponsoring this spot?  Then at the very end, they revealed themselves – Dodge Ram.  Thank you to Dodge for highlighting 2013 as the Year of the Farmer.  It is reported that they have also announced that they will give up to $1 million to support FFA (formerly Future Farmers of America) and assist in local hunger and educational programs.

When the commercial was complete, I thought – these are the faces of farming that I know.  You see, I saw the rancher who runs cattle high in the Rocky Mountains and puts up the meadows for hay.  I saw the old Case cabless tractor that I ran as a teenager.  In the straightness of the rows, and see modern farming that utilizes GPS which improves efficiency and reduces inputs.

I’ve sat around a dinner table like that and given thanks.  I’ve been honored to shake many hands that are grease stained and rough.  I know the men and women who work hard on their own farms all day, come in early to clean up, and head off to town to a school board or some other committee meeting to keep their community going.

I saw the optimism that I sense for the future of agriculture in that little girl’s face.  My Professor friends who teach at Kansas State University report more students preparing to return to their family farm than they’ve seen in years.  I’d just completed reading an article from my alma mater, Colorado State University, about how CSU students won the national title in the Meat Science Quiz Bowl, and all the details that they needed to know from how meat is raised to how it is processed to cooking to how it ends up on your plate.  The food production system in the US is complex, but it takes complexity to feed 300 million people in the US affordably and to allow 98% of those people the luxury of not having to produce their own food.

Later, my sweet little Mess Maker and I watched the clip on YouTube, and when it was over he said, “Mama that’s a good one”, and I couldn’t have agreed more!

End of summer and corn harvest 2012

Ugh … I’m sure somewhere there is a Blogging 101 that says you should never start a blog post with “ugh”… but it’s probably appropriate for this post.  As I look back, I’ve been a bad blogger the past month, and I’m sorry for my hiatus.  These are the highlights (or lowlights?) of what we’ve been up to.

Harvest – unloading grain from the combine into the grain cart

  • Corn harvest (PIC)
    • This is a tough harvest.  The heat and the drought really took a toll on our crops.  It looks like we will have about 25-30% of an average crop.  Normally, we would just be starting to harvest, and we will be done harvesting corn in a few days.  It’s not a good situation for us or many other farmers.  I’ll go into this in a little more detail in the next several days, but we are so thankful for crop insurance.  Similar to one’s house or car insurance, we would rather not have to ever use our insurance, but we’re glad we have it in a disaster – and this year is most definitely a disaster.
    • Back to school.  I’m pretty sure that I am in denial that my baby is now a senior in high school.  How can this be?  It seems like just a few months ago I was taking a picture of him on his first day of kindergarten.  ((sigh))
    • I attended a social media conference.  Wowsers – the stuff that one can do in social media is amazing.  And, I’m pretty sure I came up with a legitimate reason that I really need to try Pinterest J
    • County 4-H fair.  My kid had a nice fair, and he has one project that was eligible to go to the Kansas State Fair.  The State Fair starts this weekend, and we’re anxious to see how his project does on this level.  Although it’s fun to see how each kid’s projects do, my favorite parts of 4-H are watching how the older kids help the younger ones and seeing how each kid’s skill improves over the years.
    • A quick trip back to my home state to meet my newest niece.  What a sweet little baby she is!