Sunday, August 31, 2008


Saturday morning I called in to work sick (tee hee) and locked myself in the house so I could clean in peace. I don't think the 'higher-ups' suspected that I was really playing hookie from work. I'm pretty clever that way. Her Royal Highness was a little suspicious and stayed behind. I coughed a couple of times to make sure I would appear legitimately ill.

After washing dishes, I swept the kitchen floor. After sweeping up the pile (what a mess!! I need to complain to my union rep about the working conditions I have to deal with) I turned around and guess where I found 'Her Majesty?'

Attorney Receives Distinguished Honors

The Attorney received several awards prior to the Arrow of Light ceremony. Along with arrow points, he received several belt loops and the Leave No Trace and Conservation awards. (The Apple Farmer is presenting the awards).

Human Resources Receives Award

Human Resources received his Arrow of Light Saturday night. He worked hard for this and was so excited! He received his award along with his associate Angus. Following the Arrow of Light ceremony, an Eagle Court of Honor was held for Taylor (center), Angus' brother. Taylor presented both boys their scouting neckerchiefs and Boy Scout books as they crossed the bridge from Cub Scouts to Boy Scouts. Human Resources is very anxious to begin his journey to obtain his Eagle. (Neckercheifs are undone because they were used as blind folds while their mother's led them on the 'path' of cub scouting).

Friday's Produce Auction

Friday's produce auction was a flop. But I did manage to get this fun picture of the crew.
I think this would be considered an executive meeting. I was not privy to the information discussed as they went into closed session just as soon as they sat down. My guess is they discussed personel issues such as lack of kitchen staff- for some crazy reason they think they have more important things to be doing than filling in the vacant positions in the kitchen. There is also the nagging paper work that us farmers manage to create for them. The paperwork was sky high with mathmatics and writing and research. The Attorney and the President both feel that there are better things they could be spending their valuable time doing... like arguing.. Human Resources didn't seem to mind too terribly. I hope their meeting was productive!

My Steam Juicer Tutorial - Crabby Butter

If you haven't ever used a Steam Juicer , sometimes called Mehu-Maija or Mehu-Liisa, you are missing out on a fabulous canning tool! This is my all time favorite tool and I've used it for making grape juice, pear juice, peach juice, etc. I've also used it very recently to make crabapple jellies and crabapple butter. Here is the process:

This picture shows the base of the Steam Juicer. It is filled 3/4 full of water and put on the burner. It has a wonderfully thick bottom and is great for roasting or cooking down salsas, etc., but for the steam juicing purposes, all it does is hold the water that will be heated to steam.
Next, the reservoir is placed on top of the water pot. This will collect the juice from the fruit. You can see a hose coming out of the side of the reservoir. This works as a siphon and when your juice is ready you simply squeeze the clamp open and juice will pour into the jar.In case you were wondering what the inside of the reservoir looked like, here it is.
Next, send out the boys to fill the 3rd level of the Steam Juicer. It is called a basket. It is full of holes in the sides. Rinse your fruit (stems and all) and place basket on top of the reservoir.
Place the Lid on top of the steam juicer and, on high heat, set your time for 1 hour. After the timer goes off, pull off burner for 15 minutes or so to allow juices to finish flowing. Fill your sterilized jars to almost 1/8 inch head space and seal with sterilized lids. Because this juice has been steamed, and steam is hotter than boiling water, there is not a need to hot bath your juice. Let the jars cool and then label. If you are making grape juice, mix 1 quart of water to 1 quart of grape juice. Add sugar to taste. Pretty simple! Now, in the case of my crabs, I use the juice to make jellies, crabapple pepper jelly and pancake syrup. The crabapple juice can be boiled to gelling point with sugar (no pectin necessary) to make wonderful jellies.
I hate waste, and this is what I'm left with after the fruit has been juiced. Seeds, skins and stems. Then one day, I realized that the strainer I have for my kitchen aid that I use to remove seeds from my blackberries, can also remove seeds, skins and stems if I were making apple sauce. (How sad it has taken me this long to figure it out)! Sooooo, I stuck my crabs through my strainer!
Here is my strainer, hard at work. The boys really get into this part because this process makes lots of weird gastro-type noises. Everything gets put through the strainer and all of the stems, seeds and skins exit the strainer into the bowl. In the pot I add brown sugar and spices to taste. The butter is already THICK (and I didn't have to stand there and stir it all day long). The butter is stirred to boiling (you must keep stirring, it is so thick that it will scorch quickly) and then ladled into sterile jars and hot bathed to seal. From one batch I average 6 pints of crabapple juice and 6-7 pints of crabby butter!
(Notice Gummy Bears - Great for keeping Her Royal Higness occupied).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

To market, to market to buy a fat...APPLE!

Here are the photos of the finished Apple Market.
I will try my hardest to describe what you are seeing so that you don't get lost on our tour!
This is the view as you walk in the entrance. Notice the big mess out on the packing floor. That gets cleaned up tomorrow. The green machine in the back ground is our washer/sorter machine. Do you see the fan in the opening out to the packing area? We are going to go stand by the fan and look in the market area from that perspective.
These are our produce tables. The smallest one is probably going out on the packing floor somewhere. I like the wheel barrow with the bushel baskets in it and around it better. The back wall is where I am going to hang my old red orchard ladder. The wall is the yummy chocolate color that Her Royal Highness painted herself with. Although the color was chosen for a rustic feel, I can't help but think of Hershey's when I see it. Hmmm, maybe I am sending the wrong subliminal messages!

This is the sales counter. Our 100 pound old fashioned cash register isn't up on the counter yet because we need to reinforce the counter to be able to hold its weight. Can you see the antique scale? The wooden contraption to the left is a single barrel apple cider press. The produce tables are on our left. I really LOVE the barnwood look! I love the green that I chose for the floor, but under this lighting I'm not quite so sure. The color card says Apple, but I think Sinus Infection when I see it. Hmmm, not the right message again...

Here are the close ups of the art work. I think maybe these might send a little stronger APPLE message! I am very excited that they turned out as they did. I haven't painted since around 1992. When I began painting these pictures on Thursday late afternoon I was completely overwhelmed with what I needed to accomplish in such little time. The paint brush and paints felt so foreign to me. Despite the race against time, I delayed so that I could ask for divine help and then I began to paint. I know that I received the help I asked for. Both of these paintings were completed in a matter of about 8 hours.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Chocolate Dipped...

My little helper!

The Story of the Apple Market

Here's a story -- of an apple market,
That started off as one big piggy barn...

(Just Kidding - no Brady Bunch music, I will just explain)!

Here is the hog barn that we disassembled. The Apple Farmer has mostly been out of town, so the boys and I took it upon ourselves two weeks ago to begin the demo project because we knew we were in desparate need of establishing a retail area in our apple packing shed. The boys loved tearing the building apart, especially climbing up on the roof (OK - I know its a Mother's worst nightmare to have her sons climbing around on a tin roof - but I was thrilled that they were begging me to go out and WORK)!

Human Resources is proudly standing upon the skeleton of the old building.

Hey - its me working on one of the paintings on the wall. It is supposed to be an apple pie a la mode!

We hired Jonas, one of our Amish neighbors, to do the carpentry work. I assisted him. He had a great time teasing me about being better at driving a vehicle than I was at driving nails. He does fabulous work! This picture shows a lot of a big mess, but the tin from the hog barn roof is on the bottom half of this wall, and above the tin is some of the barn wood. The two paintings are my feeble attempt to send subliminal messages to my customers that they need to BUY MORE APPLES! The pipes and electrical will eventually get covered up, it is just too late now since we begin harvesting apples on Tuesday.

Human Resources is sampling a Honey Crisp (YUM YUM) and Her Royal Highness is savoring a Gala. Doesn't that Gala look beautiful?!

Her Royal Highness is still savoring her apple!

So today, we finished the Apple Market, just in time for next week's harvest. Unfortunately, I do not have a picture of the finished deal! I forgot to take one before I drug my sad tired old body into the house to make dinner. Please check back soon to see!!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Friday's Produce Auction

Friday morning I took some crabapples to the produce auction, along with a neighbor and his sweetcorn. He had 100 dozen ears of sweet corn and got between $2.00 to $2.25 per dozen. Our crabapples did better this time. We got $10.00 per half bushel box and $5.00 per peck box. We are going to try another load Monday morning.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

August Fog Blooms Winter's Snow

The Amish often share "old sayings" and this morning was one of those moments. I love hearing them and as of yet, I have not heard one that hasn't proven itself to be true. John Zook was over this morning about peaches when he said, "There's an old saying that August fog blooms winter's snow." Human Resources was quite excited to hear that, since we won a bid on two pairs of cross country skis at a neighbor's auction Saturday morning. I'm just thrilled for the cool, calm and misty morning. It will be nice for getting our demolition and building projects completed.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Catching Up!

I finally have a moment to sit down and update my blog! The last few months have been a whirlwind! The only reason I am sitting here at the computer is because I'm too tired and sore to do anything else!

The following is a quick overview of life in our neck of the woods. The ducks are gone - we launched them on the pond and they refused to come in at dark. We haven't seen them since. The chickens are dead. A coon broke into the chicken house and killed them all. I survived girl's camp. We took a trip to Utah for our little family reunion with my siblings. Had fun. Got home and the garden was overcome by weeds. Still haven't caught up with them. Got a pig - named him Porky - he will be a delicious Christmas ham. Cleaning up the commercial kitchen and disaster from when the pipes broke and the ceiling fell in the winter before last. Currently tearing down the hog barn and recycling the wood and metal roofing to build a retail floor in our apple packing shed (my reason for being so sore). Trying to get school all in order so we will be ready to go on Aug. 18. Apple harvest is late and looking like it will begin at the end of August. Canned peaches and made blackberry jam. Oh - I almost forgot, the Apple Farmer was just called to serve as the branch president at church two weeks ago. He is pretty anxious but I know he will be great. One of the older sisters at church came up to me and congratulated me on becoming the mother of the branch - that kinda freaked me out, especially when she smiled at me and said, "Mommy!"