Archive for June, 2012

Wine, part II

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might remember a couple of years ago we were writing about making our first wine. It was a banner year for cherries, and we had so many left over after our usual freezing and jam making that wine was the only option.

We got advice on the internet and from the guy at a wine and beer making shop. We bought the packets, pitted the cherries (yes, thy all had to be pitted!) did the initial ferment, racked it up and let it sit for a while.

What we ended up with was–well, a little sweet. Syrupy sweet, as a matter of fact. Really, really sweet.

But we drank it. And we vowed that there would be a next time, and we would prevail.

Last year was a low cherry year, so we had to wait.  This year, despite the lack of a good cold winter, was better. It was time to redeem ourselves.

So we pitted the cherries again, found a better recipe (and verified it with several other recipes, just to make sure) and now it’s sitting in the basement developing an alcohol content. We tasted a bit, and it seems promising.

Next we started in on the peaches.

Yes, peaches. And no, we did not plant  a peach tree. The peaches came about because we noticed some trees in the neighborhood loaded with fruit that apparently wasn’t being picked. In some cities, if the fruit is hanging out over the sidewalk, people go right ahead and pick it. But we always like to ask. And, as we guessed, the owners of the tree were happy to have someone clean it off before they all fell to the ground and rotted.

I made a pie and some jam, at my daughter’s request. And then we started cutting and pitting the peaches, which is a lot easier than pitting cherries by the hundreds. The recipe we used suggested we put in some raisins for body, which we did.

And so far so good. We tasted it the other day just after the second addition of sugar and it tastes good–and not too sweet.

That’s the great thing about fruit trees. With really a minimum of effort, you get a bounty of food, in good years anyway. And when you stop needing so much fruit, they serve the social function of bringing you together with your neighbors, who want to make wine or cherry pie or whatever. We’ve never hesitated to ask people if we can pick. Before we had any trees, we used to pick cherries at a neighbor lady’s house. It was a good relationship. We wanted the fruit and she didn’t like the mess.

This just seems like an obviously good thing. So I was a little surprised when I stumbled across this piece of advice while looking up organic spray solutions for cherry leaf spot. Normally, county extension offices are great places for planting advice, but I have to think they screwed the pooch on this one. Here, among the remedies for aphids and apple maggots, is what the Chelan County Extension in Washington State thinks you should do about the problem of having more fruit than you can use:

“Too much fruit to handle – Cut down tree and purchase quality fruit for use. Help commercial orchards by maintaining good care and pest management practices for your desired fruit trees!!!”

Good try, commercial growers. But no dice. I’ve got my eye on another neighborhood peach tree–at a vacant house this time–to make one last batch of that jam.

Posted by: Roxie


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We got into gardening for purely selfish reasons. We wanted wholesome, fresh and unsprayed food and we wanted it cheap. The bit about reducing our carbon footprint and saving the planet is good for massaging our egos, but really, we were basically selfish.

But there are gardeners out there for whom growing things is a cause, and they are out in force this year in the Kansas City area.

They are the folks at Food Not Lawns–the driving force behind the Sweet Potato Project. They’re teaming up with the Society of St. Andrew this year to plant 20,000 pounds of sweet potatoes, with half going to feed the hungry at various food pantries.SOSA is generally a gleaning operation, meaning they look for leftover produce that is okay to eat but that would be thrown out for one reason or another, and bring it to Harvesters and other food pantries. But in this case they’ll be getting potatoes that have been grown especially for them.

The Sweet Potato Project has been around four years, but this year it has hit a kind of tipping point. Organizers, led by no-till garden guru Steve Mann, have got Kansas City council members behind them. They’ve gotten the city to proclaim June as Sweet Potato planting month. And they’ve got the city parks department to let them use bits of park land and street sides for sweet potatoes. (The city cut back on its budget this year for the annual flowers and plants that would have gone along the streets)

One eerie coincidence: the Society of St. Andrew had its own sweet potato emergency this month, when a North Carolina grower donated six million pounds of the tubers because he didn’t like the going market price. So while volunteers were planting slips, SOSA workers were looking for ways to unload the truckloads that made it into the Kansas City area.

Twenty thousand pounds is a tall order, but they just might to it. As of last week, they’d sold out of almost all the slips. You can still donate money, though. Or labor for tending and later harvesting.

On the home front: Our own sweet potatoes are just beginning to take off. We inter-planted them with spinach, knowing that the spinach would be done before long. (Ain’t that the truth! Spinach did hardly anything this year.) Other veggies are all looking pretty good with the exception of broccoli and cauliflower, which are very much behind. Blame it on the dry weather or the leaf-eating pest that is chewing away at them. Broccoli and cauliflower always like a little moister, milder spring than we’ve had. But the tomatoes and other veggies are all okay, and will be even better once we get some more water on them.

Is it ever going to rain?

Posted by: Roxie

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