Apples from Lesser Farms!

This past Saturday we dropped by Lesser Farms to get apples.  If you live in this area, I highly recommend Lessers.  The family has been in the Chelsea area for a number of generations; I saw in the paper that old Mr. Lesser recently passed away in his late 80s and had farmed in this area his whole life.  His sons and grandkids farm around here now, and one of the Lesser farms is within walking distance of our house.imageimage

It’s not a fancy place; it’s a real, working farm, diversified as small family farms tend to be, with a little bit of this and that, but of course a whole lot of corn, too.image

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One of our daughters paying for the Cortlands and Honeycrips we bought.

Fruit sales happen on the back porch:

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Fresh eggs and their own honey are always available on the side porch of the house.  It’s help yourself and self-pay on the honor system.  Our daughters discovered the joy of eating honeycomb last fall thanks to the Lessers.

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Lessers grow their apples conventionally, which means they are sprayed several times during the growing season.  During one of the aerial sprayings this summer, my husband and one of our daughters walked over and hung out with the Lessers to watch their new crop duster guy, who was some kind of winged madman.  My husband said one of the Mr. Lessers was just shaking his head in amusement as the little crop plane whizzed back and forth at a ridiculously high speed.  Everyone was amazed he didn’t crash.  Our daughter amused herself by trying to catch one of the barn kittens, which Mr. Lesser said she could keep if she could catch.

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Yesterday I cooked a traditional Sunday dinner and invited my mother-in-law to join us for a big pork roast with maple syrup glaze (made with syrup from Jane Kelly’s farm in Dexter), mashed potatoes, and butternut squash from our garden, and I made two big apple pies for dessert from the Cortland apples we’d bought.  Cortlands are my favorite pie apple by a mile:

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Here is my favorite pie crust recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 2/3 cups lard
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  1. In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, and salt.
  2. Add 1 2/3 c lard.
  3. Cut in lard until mixture resembles coarse meal.
  4. In a small bowl, mix together water, egg, and vinegar.
  5. Pour into lard mixture and stir until dough is thoroughly moistened and forms a ball. Divide into 4 portions (if you like a thicker crust, I recommend only dividing the dough into three portions instead of four) and wrap tightly until used.

Here is the pie filling recipe I used:

  • Enough Cortland apples to fill 9-inch pie plate (heaping)
  • ¾ c sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • dash of salt
  • 2 T flour
  • 2 T butter sliced over the apples
  • Mix one egg with 2 T Half n’ Half and brush over top crust. Sprinkle with sugar and bake at 350° for one hour or until crust is golden brown and apples are tender.

Of course, if you are going to go to all the trouble of making a homemade pie, I recommend making two.  A slice of bacon, a sliver of leftover apple pie, and coffee with cream makes an awfully nice breakfast on an oh-no-it’s-the-start-of-another-hectic-week Monday morning.

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Autumn doings

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With temperatures around 40 at night and barely 60 during the day, you can definitely tell it’s autumn around here.

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View from the driveway

Which is fine with me because autumn is my favorite season.

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We’re even having our first fire of the year in the fireplace this evening.  The puppies, who are nearly six months old, were intrigued.
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Awhile back I was discussing the various edible wild plants I had found growing on our property, and I was wishing for a sassafras tree; they were so common when I was a child but I hardly ever see them now.  Well,  I never could find one around here until a few days ago when Philip and I were cutting back some scrub that was growing into the turn-around half way down our driveway.  After cutting back a huge, thorny shrub, I found this:

image I recognized the distinctive sassafras leaves immediately.  I was thrilled!  There will be hot sassafras tea this winter after all.  Philip marked it with some blue tape so that it wouldn’t get cut down by accident.  I want to give it plenty of room to spread under those big oaks behind it.

We’ve been very, very busy working around here after both of us putting in long hours at work.  First: I’ve been tree-planting.  I wait all year for the trees and fruit bushes to go on sale at Lowe’s and such places; they are always clearanced out at the end of September, usually at least 50% off, and I always spend several hundred dollars on new trees.

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I’m filling in any bare spots in our woods that I can find.  The reason I’m trying to have our property as natural and tree-covered as possible (except for the big garden and a small front lawn for the children to play on) is because it encourages wild animals to live here.  I like knowing there are deer, rabbits, squirrel, wild turkeys, and other birds living just outside my door.  Hunting season will simply involve walking down the driveway a bit to the hunting blind we now have set up.  For an interesting post about tree-planting to encourage wildlife, see It Only Took 20 Years by Mr. Pioneer Preppy.

This year I had green beans, yellow beans, and sugar snap peas growing up old pallets I’d set up haphazardly in the garden, but what I really wanted was a bean-and-pea teepee.  My husband salvaged some old skis from his mother’s garage, bolted them together at the top, and made this:

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Next year I’ll string twine around this, leaving one side open, and plant my beans and peas around it.  The kids can then have it as an edible hideout.

He also salvaged some tires because I wanted them for turning into potato towers:

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What you do is stack up two tires, fill it with dirt and compost, and plant your seed potatoes.  As the plants grow, you add tires one at a time, filling in with dirt and compost.  The finished product looks like this:

Harvesting potatoes out of the tires is much easier than digging them out of ice-cold dirt in late fall, which is what I spent many hours doing as a resentful teenager. 🙂

I’m also beginning to lay out my logs for the hugelkultur beds I’ve discussed:

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I have GOT to find time to harvest and set herbs to drying.  I cannot believe this is only one year’s growth on these herbs.  They really, really liked the location I used for my new herb bed. Here you can see cilantro, lemongrass, sage, some basil still hanging on, some rosemary, and a few raspberry plants:

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Remember all the weird zucchini recipes I canned this summer?  Well, I finally cut down the vines, except I missed one, and the zucchini are STILL growing on it!  Look at the size of this one next to my foot:

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I’m just going to chuck these into one of the composters.  Some nice red hot peppers are ready to pick and dry:

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And I’m still getting good watermelons, believe it or not.  We picked and ate one just a couple of days ago, but it just doesn’t taste quite right to eat watermelon in the fall.  I’ll probably compost the rest of these, too, or bring them in to work and put them in the staff lounge for anyone who wants them.

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I ran out of time for canning, but I’ve been picking, baking, mashing, and freezing butternut squash every chance I get.  We love butternut squash, so I want to preserve as much of it as possible.

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Do you ever have something that you swear you didn’t plant sprout up in your garden?  I don’t even know exactly what this is…some kind of pumpkin or gourd thing.  I have no memory of planting this:

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I’ll probably pick it and set it out on the front porch with some pumpkins and straw bales for a fall decoration.

The blueberry bushes should be thriving along the edge of the pond, but they’re only doing so-so – I’m not sure why:

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There is so much work to do and never enough time to do it around here.  This past Friday was homecoming, but instead of getting to go to the parade and football game, I was home sick in bed, no doubt the result of trying to burn the candle at both ends.  I’m still kind of low energy even today and had to drag myself out of bed to drive to church by promising myself a trip to the Dexter Cider Mill afterward:

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Crates full of apples waiting to be run through the cider press.

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The place was packed with people waiting for the cider and doughnuts, both of which are made on site.

Behind the mill is an area where you can sit at picnic tables and look down at the Huron River while you drink your cider and eat your doughnuts:

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One of our daughters climbed down the steep bank to drink her apple cider slushy by the side of the river:

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Hope you’re enjoying this Autumn wherever you are!