Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Starting the apple harvest early

If anyone knows how to access photos taken by an iPad mini through the blogger using the same mini, please let me know in the comments. I select 'from your phone' as it is the closest, but only a strange, seemingly random selection of my photos is available to post. Sorry, I have other pics for this topic today, but only a couple were accessible - and not the version I cropped!

We have two apple trees that in a somewhat normal year are very productive. Since they started to bear, we've only had one year with a failed crop. In the past, we've gorged and gifted our bounty. Most of the 'bummer' apples are used quickly for pies and apple crisp until we can't stand the sight of them. This year, I have a dehydrator and have already begun to dry the slightly green but somewhat sweet apples. FYI, the dehydrator has a fan and timer. These features are absolutely worth the extra cost. Everything dries more evenly and quickly, and you can leave it unattended without coming back to cardboard food.

We have gusty winds, hungry birds and minor thinning affecting the trees now. Daily checks yield fresh fruit on the ground, new areas that are crowded and newly pecked fruit. All these 'bummers' now go to the early harvest. Well, almost all. I leave some bird-pecked fruit as a tithe to my lovely songbirds. The fruit with just a new peck or two can be sliced and dried with little waste. The waste goes outside the fence for the deer as we wait for summer rains that are almost a month late. Poor hungry deer!

When preparing the fruit, I first mix fruit fresh (essentially pure vitamin C), a little sugar and water to 'dunk' the sliced fruit. This does not completely stop browning, but reduces it by 80 to 90 percent. If the apples are later used in baking, the asthetic difference is meaningful.  The first slice is a thin one to remove some skin, which doesn't dehydrate well. I taste this. If it is still astringent to taste, the apple goes in the deer bucket. The remaining apple gets sliced about about 3/16th inch wide. Eyeball-wise, that's less than a quarter but more than an eighth. This eventually makes a chip that can be used for cooking or eating as-is. Core goes in the deer bucket.

Depending on the humidity, a 9-tray load takes 6 to 8 hours to dry. The fruit should still be flexible but not have any mushy spots. I set the dehydrator out on the covered porch so that it doesn't heat up the house. When ready, I bring the trays inside to cool for about an hour. After a few samples, the chips go in an glass hermetically sealed jar. Those are the ones I raved about previously that have the rubber ring. No special process is needed to open and reclose the jars. You can use the dried fruit as needed.

By the time we get to the ripe apple harvest in a few weeks, I should have all the 'bummer' apples salvaged and in jars. What a great way to keep a taste of summer with us all winter!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

More homestead security

We've adopted the 'small town in the middle of nowhere' philosophy, for those of you who know what I mean. We bought the place long before the current era of preparedness, but it meets some basic criteria. Over the years we've renovated the house and planted fruit trees, etc. to make it a more sustainable home for our retirement. The original layout of the property puts a gate off the main drag about 12 feet from our future former front door. I've hated that.

Sorry that there will be no photos,  as there's not a practical way to do that without showing more than I prefer. I'll describe what's happening today and tomorrow. Since I began planting the garden, I've envisioned moving the front gate to a spot that is much farther from a different door. I've left a nicely mulched path to get to the new front porch, leading from a blank piece of fence. The porch  faces 90 degrees from the road and isn't obvious in passing. The door closest to the main street will be blocked securely while still allowing emergency exit. Shrubs will be planted to obscure the old porch.

Right now, the fence is being moved to remove the current gate to open a spot for the new gate. It will be about 60 feet away from the current spot and at least that far from the old and 'new' front door. The new spot provides visibility from the main living space of the house. You may think that this isn't much of a move, but there's more to it than a few feet, though that's a huge plus.

The extra distance, and posible confusion as to how to enter the house, translates into time. For a more common local emergency, it also means that if some moron opens our gate during a flood event, the rush of  water will hurt the garden, not the house. Yes, we had that happen once ("just wanted you to know there's a flood" DUH! Lucky he didn't win a Darwin Award)  and instantly had 2 FEET of water rushing into the yard. When that happens, you can't shut the gate again due to the force of  rushing water.  We were lucky, as the water stopped rising soon after. It came within 2 INCHES of coming into the house.

It will be nice to have the two-fer finished. One more long-desired improvement can be checked off the list and our little cabin will be a smidge more secure.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Why I love metal mesh security doors

Normally called 'burglar' doors, these have so many benefits beyond security! First, let's talk cost. If you buy the installation tool, you or someone you know can install these. That brings the cost down to the cost of the door and lock. Some can be special-ordered with the lock. Costs start just under $200 per door.  If you want a fancy pattern or color, the price goes up.

We first installed these because our dog had a habit of crashing through screen doors. After a while, we decided on a more dog-proof door. Problem solved with the metal mesh security door.  It gave me a dog-resistant way to ventilate without a houseful of bugs and critters.

Yes,they strain out lots of bugs for late night and early morning ventilation. If you live in drier climates, a wet sheet can turn them into evaporative coolers when the power goes out.

Oh, and they are a bit more resistant to a pocket knife if someone wants to get to your door locks and handles.

So, if you are looking to replace a screen door, or don't have one, consider a metal mesh security door or 2 in the mix.