Archive for the ‘Orchard’ Category

Apple Lady Recipe

January 4, 2018

Apple Lady2

This is everything I like about apple pie(s), and none of the things I don’t enjoy. Because you are making a portion of it almost as a “sauce”, the remainder of the apples don’t need to be cooked.  You don’t need (nor should) to pre-bake either of these crusts. Since you are using multiple apple varieties with different aspects of tartness, sweetness, and toothiness, you get a more complex dish – because you aren’t cooking them first you don’t get mushiness everywhere.

Apple Lady

6-8 lbs of apples; use 4 or more varieties

3 sticks of unsalted butter

2 cups of dark brown sugar

1 pear, preferably very ripe

1 bottle of J.K. Scrumpy’s hard cider

Cinnamon, mace, ground ginger, allspice, clove to taste

1 lb walker’s shortbread (3 5oz packages are fine)

Springback pan, large (10″)

First, a word on the apples.  I use multiple apple varieties to get more complex texture and taste, rather like using more varieties of chilis when making a good chili. This last time I used Honeycrisp, Granny smith, Gala, and Fuji apples. I’ve also used Macintosh and Staymans, and others.  Do not use any red or yellow delicious apples, ever.

  • Cooking Mixture:

Combine the butter, brown sugar, half-bottle of hard cider, spices, the pear (chopped), and 2 apples (chopped) in a pot to bring to a boil, simmer for about 10-15 minutes.

If you do not use scrumpy’s or another very apple-y-tasting cider, then add a cup or two of fresh squeezed / juiced apple juice or fresh cider.

  • Main apples:

Core and either half-peel (vertical stripes) or wholly peel the apples.

Slice thin and evenly. I like to use the mandolin, and do ripple cuts, like potato chips, but thicker. The ripples increase adhesion of the slices.

  • “Crust”:

Pound the shortbread into crumb in a mixing bowl with something heavy, I use a meat tenderizer.  Then press 10 ounces or so of the shortbread into the bottom of the pan as a crust – you can come up the side of the pan just enough to make a ridge, but not like a real pie.


Look up a recipe for a sour cream pie crust and make that.  I’ve done it both ways. I made the sour cream pie crust this time.

  • Assembly:

Start layering the thin slices of apples around the bottom, as flat and overlapping as much as possible. Come up about halfway.

Add half the mixture from the pot, then layer in the rest of the apples. At the top, pour over the rest of the mixture, then press the rest of the shortbread crumb around the perimeter of the pan, but not in the middle.  (Or like this time, I made 2 different lid crusts, one latticed, one disk, for the 2 I made).

Bake at 325 degrees for one hour.  Let cool, and then preferably refrigerate before serving with fresh whipped cream.




Weekly Garden Update: 4/10

April 10, 2011

Weekly Garden Update:  4/10





It was the week of bolting.  The over-wintered cabbage and Brussels sprouts plants bolted along with the mizuna and mache.  The cabbage and brussels sprouts were disappointing because the plants looked so healthy.  We ended up just cutting the leaves, a nibble of which proved pretty tasty, so we’ll use them in Suan la Chow Show (a Chinese dumpling dish with cabbage and pork) later this week (N.B.:  If anyone has Mary Chung’s recipe for either the dumplings or her sauce, please please email us.  I can make some pretty good imitations, because I have a recipe imitation back from when it was made at Colleens, but I can’t match her).


Help meeee, I'm boltinggggg



Some internet research revealed that these two plants aren’t good candidates for over-wintering in our region as they tend to bolt once warm temperatures arrive if they’ve been exposed to sub-freezing temperatures for a length of time.  Live and learn.  Of course, when we planted them last Fall, we had hoped they would produce by the time really cold temps arrived.  But Fall 2010 was short – summer lasted forever and snow came in early December (somewhat early for us).  True Spring and Fall crops tend to be hit and miss around here.



And more....

And more harvest


We harvested the rest of the mizuna and mache and some more of the various lettuces this week.  We also harvested the rest of the over-wintered Lacinato kale, some of the over-wintered mustard, and some of the over-wintered Red Russian kale (which is also bolting some).  We have more of these plants growing, which we direct sowed in mid-February, but the seedlings probably need another month before they’re harvestable (if they don’t succumb to potentially too-high temps by then).




The potatoes are leaping up to worship the sun god!  It’s amazing how much they’ve grown in the past week from little nubbins barely poking up to actual plants.


This weekend we also potted up some of the peppers and tomatoes growing in the basement.  We also started to harden off the celery which we intend to plant out next weekend.  We hope that low temperatures will be forecast to be high enough soon so we can transplant out the summer squash seedlings.  They are now at the size at which we intended to plant them out but there are still some lows forecast in the upper 40s this week so we want to wait until lows are always in the 50s.


Peas Peas!

Broccoli & Cauliflower




Peas, garlic, and the other brassica are motoring along.


New Asparagus Bed with 31 Planted Crowns


Lastly, we finished the asparagus bed and planted the asparagus.  Hopefully we’ll be in asparagus for years to come!



Apple Trees

Blueberry Bells


How is your garden growing?


9/5 Weekly Garden Update

September 5, 2010

Green beans

We are now clearly into late season garden phases here.  No rain for at least the past couple weeks (Earl notwithstanding) and there is none forecast for the next 10 days either.

Garden 1

Garden 2

The cursed deer ate my 6 apples on the other apple tree that was producing this year.  I would curse them less had I had a chance to have eaten just one from it.  They also stripped the tips of several limbs of leaves.

Garden 3

Garden 4

We have begun ripping out a few tomato vines, all the blue lake bush beans, and we plan to continue as items stop producing.

Garden 5

However we’re still getting harvests of cucumbers, tomatoes, Dutch half-runner green beans, field peas, butter beans, and all kinds of peppers.  I have enough picked anchos now to dry, and they should make the base of a nice chili powder.

Anchos, etc.

Melons, etc.


We got 2 charentais melons, and 1 moon & stars watermelon.  We have more ripening of both.  The butternut squash is now putting more of its efforts into making little squashes, if it continues at this rate and we are able to harvest all of them we might get as many as 20 to store in the basement and eat throughout the winter.

Field peas & Eggplant

We’re still putting up green beans.  The last time I canned them, I had a rare occurrence, i.e., a jar that didn’t seal.  We warmed them up in the microwave and they were really really good, clearly the next best thing ever to having them fresh from being picked.  They beat the dickens out of the blanched and frozen ones we did last year.

Bucket o' Harvest

One day's pickins'

Voles are seeking to make inroads.  I keep trying to poison them as fast as they show new tunnels.  Sammie Squirrels are stealing tomatoes and running off to the woods with them, little orang- red blobs in their mouths.  Deer are starting to nibble on our green bean vines.  I seriously contemplate building a deer blind on my porch so that I can have some nice venison tenderloins, squirrel stew & barbecued squirrel.



Mustard and kale seedlings are doing well!  Cabbages, broccoli and other brassicas are coming along.  The lettuce and carrots could not stand the heat and the desiccation we are currently having and will have to be replanted.


Seedlings 2

We put up another cover on a box.  This morning it was 67 degrees outside, fall is peeking over the horizon of Labor Day.

Irrepressible Basil

Squash & Melon plants


Lettuce in a Box

Well that’s all for now!

Weekly Garden Update: August 22

August 22, 2010

Well we’ve had an eventful week.

The dog discovered 3 small rabbits living in amongst the butter beans.  She got one, thankfully killed it quickly.  One ran across the yard into the woods, and one hid successfully (except from us) in the box.  Three days later I was mowing by a large oak stump, and one of the two remaining small rabbits leaped out from under an oak sucker and then froze in a patch of tall grass.  I picked it up, and carried out into the woods past the invisible fence, and let it go in the brushpile hedgerow I’ve been building since we moved in, telling it “This is where you can live, if you are smart.  Learn to avoid the dog, and don’t dig in my boxes and you’ll be just fine.”


BIG squash

Lettuce, broccoli raab, broccoli, cauliflower, the kale, brussels sprouts, mustards, swiss chard, and beets are all coming up and doing well.  We’ve decided we want to cover at least 2 more boxes for the fall / winter.

The tomatoes have begun the “losing leaves” process a bit more stringently.  We’re still getting a decent harvest, but it is clear now that the peak has come and gone.


Box 1

Box 2

Box 3

The melons and the butternut continue their mad plan to “cover the earth”.  I’ve named them Pinky and Brain.

Melons & Butternut

We had a delicious eggplant this week, and we have another one to harvest tomorrow or the next day for another meal, and yet another one that will be ready the next week.  We’ve decided that one eggplant a week production is ideal.


More Harvest!

We have harvested green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, 1/2 a melon, field peas, butter beans, and all sorts of peppers.

Pimientos, Anchos, Cucumber, Serranos

Peas and a few Butter Beans

Did ya see how I slipped in that “1/2 a melon”?  Yeah, that’s right.  We came down the morning we were going to harvest the charentais melon, and some critter had removed it from the vine, moved it, and carefully carefully eaten one-half of it, leaving a nice little pile of seeds next to it.  I just have to figure it was a raccoon.  I took pictures of in “in-situ”, brought it in and washed it, cleaned out the seeds and pulp, and got 5 nice little slices out of it.  I can only imagine the joy of the critter that got to eat the other half.

Half a charentais

In canning news, I pickled oodles of Jalapenos this week, as well as tomato sauce, and green beans.

And last, but not least THE APPLE

The Apple

This is the first apple ever from this particular tree.  Being so, it occupies a unique position in my wee brain, rather like having the first sip of water from a well.  I put it on some porcelain and took pictures of it, and we plan to eat it with great ceremony.   Ok, fine, so I’m a romantic.

Marconi 1

Another Marconi






Cayenne & Serrano

Cayenne, Serrano, Jalapeno


Little House on the Piedmont

June 27, 2010

On the vine

We’re feeling like we live in Little House on the Prairie this week, as we bought canning supplies, wide-mouth canning jars, and a small (16-qt) Presto Pressure Canner.

New Canner

Canned Green Beans!

Our first experiment today was 3 pints of haricot vert, and we’re surprisingly excited.  We are already developing a list of things to can, and gathering treasured recipes (like Peach Pickles!) from family.  Watermelon rind pickles, cucumber pickles, radish pickles, HOT pepper jelly, etc.  Next thing you know I’m going to seriously need a pickling crock and grape leaves.

The voles have been absent – no losses on our part, no vole sign or dead voles in traps.  Is this just a cease-fire, or have we won ….until next time?

Tomatoes 1

Tomatoes 3

Tomatoes 6

We are harvesting tomatoes and cucumbers and haricot vert and yellow summer squash daily.  I just haven’t been able to get myself worked up about weighing any of it so far, though I think about it sometimes.  There are really only two of us, and we measure our success more by what we end up buying (or the lack of) than what we are producing, since she keeps excellent records on what we buy as part of the budget process.

Ready to Eat

Little onions


New Potatoes

From now on we can harvest celery whenever we please, until we run out or the frost comes.

Celery box

Eggplants are blossoming, as are the Blue Lake green beans.  Dutch half-runners and butter beans are putting out tendrils.

Eggplant blossom

Blue Lakes

The sage, tarragon, and rosemary have completely restored themselves since the last harvesting, and the dill is out-growing my efforts to use it.  Basil is setting up nicely, and we have 2 different mints that I just mow back whenever we have to mow.



Potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers are still growing.  I am topping and suckering each tomato plant as it reaches 8’.  We got some new potatoes this week, and plan to harvest the rest of the box most affected by the voles, then replant organic russets, like we already replanted the organic Yukon golds, which are growing nicely.



Recent Yukon Golds

We have some really large cayenne peppers growing, as well as pimento, Serrano, anaheims (harvested 2 more this week), anchos, jalapenos (harvested 3 for another round of the muffins)…well we have a lot of peppers.


The Japanese beetle season is here, and it is open season on them.  We have beetle bag traps up, and they’re filling nicely.  No significant damage from them yet except for a few apple trees leaves, so far.

Happy Cucumber

We had to pull up a box of cucumbers and zucchini, which is always frustrating and disappointing.  We replanted in another open box, and the plants are already leaping up.  We’re not sure, but we *think* they were hit hard by an unidentified (so far) brown bug that were all over them.  We squished them, and have been squishing any signs of them, and no replication of the problem yet.  If anyone had a clue about this vague problem, we’d be pleased to consider any theories.


Weekly Garden Update: 6/13

June 13, 2010

Our first actual squash rotted at the end, oh what a disappointment.  We have several more on the way, but another smaller one rotted as well.  Current theory is that it rotted because it was in contact with the ground, but we aren’t sure that it isn’t something else.   We only lost 1 celery plant to voles since the last vole war update.  Are we winning?  Who could say…


We harvested tomatoes this week (see the previous post, sonnet to the tomato).  The bloody butchers, which were listed as 60 day tomatoes, were the first to come off the vine.  We put them in the ground 3 days before the last frost date, only a slight gamble due to the weather report at the time, so these are really on the ball.


We have tomatillos firming up, I can’t wait until I can make some hot tomatillos sauce and carnitas.

Haricot Vert, i.e., Snap Beans

Haricot vert!  Harvested this morning!  We eagerly embrace these green beans:  frozen ones from last year are fine, but they do not retain the fresh snappy green goodness of vine to table in less than 24 hours.

Haricot Vert on the Vine

The field peas (cow peas) we planted last Saturday all came up on Wednesday.  And now the lima beans and the dutch half-runners are as well – both came bursting up out of the ground on Thursday and Friday as though they were late for an appointment with the sun.


Here is a photo of apples on one of the trees, and we have figs on the Brown turkey.  The black mission fig and the black jack fig are growing very well this year, but I don’t expect to see figs on them until next year or the even the next.  People have told me that they won’t grow here, but I have grown them before and when I lived in my grandmother’s house I planted a black mission fig that is now over 24 feet high and provides enough figs for multiple families.

Black Jack & Black Mission

Flowers are food for the spirit:

Day Lily


Balloon Flower (Platycodon grandiflorus)

Day Lily

And here are some good photos of the garden as a whole:

"New Row"

"New Row"

"Middle Row"

"First Row"


Side View

Side Boxes

Wormfarm & Boxes

From the top, "First Row"

From the top, "Middle row"

From the top, "New Row"

Weekly Garden Update 5/9

May 9, 2010

Attack of the Varmints:

One day this past week we saw:  rabbits, hummingbirds, deer, bluejays, a hawk, squirrels, and cardinals all in the space of about 15 minutes.  That was a lot of fun.

What is not so fun is the very large rabbit who has decided that he wants to be clever.  He has patiently nibbled his way through the plastic green fencing in at least 2 boxes so that he can just hop through into them.  After we thwarted this effort, we saw him this morning jump over the 2 foot fence into a box with carrots, not realizing that we had a thin black plastic chickenwire netting on the top.  It freaked him out a bit, but not enough, and by the time I got downstairs and out the door he was sitting happily amongst the carrot greens.  I yelled, “get outta here, you pernicious thieving little sneak!” and he ran away, but only to the edge of the yard, where he sat arrogantly.  When the dog ran outside, he went further, but I suspect we are going to have to take more severe action against him.  Maybe I can do a post on my braised rabbit dish.

The real problem however is the voles.  They have just ruined one 4’ section of beets, and are starting to steal our celery plants, like eating one every other day or so.  Now they are attacking our sugar snap pea roots as well.  We are trying some organic repellants that don’t seem to be working, and have placed some mouse traps out that they aren’t going for.  We knew that putting mulch around the boxes had the potential to be a two-edged sword, but the pros seemed to outweigh the cons.  Something has to be done, and advice is welcome.

The two most recommended things to do are things we probably can’t:  get rid of the mulch, and buy a cat.  Our dog doesn’t play nice with cats, alas.  There are a lot of products out there that claim to help take care of the problem, from high-pitched rodent sound repellers to in-ground traps to poisons, etc.  I hesitate to leap from one idea to another unless I know that someone else has actually had success.  We don’t really want to put down poison unless we can find one that doesn’t have significant risk of secondary poisonings for pets and hawks, and we have no idea if the sound things work or if they would drive the dog crazy as well as the voles.

Other things in the garden are going well, though we had the driest April on record (120 years of record).

In the orchard parts, we have blueberries on the bush and apples in the tree.



The potatoes are growing so tall I’m starting to worry about their ability to support themselves; two blew over in the wind the other day.

Potato Box

Potatoes 2

We planted our eggplants under a hoop cover.  I made the hoops out of pex piping, held them to the box by using nail-on pex clips, and secured the cover with the same clips.  We have 8 eggplants and 2 thai peppers under the cover.  Flea beetles are death on eggplants in this area, all but one of ours was eaten last year they were so bad.  So this year we’re growing them under cover, hoping the additional heat will also help their growth.  We’ll be doing more of these covers over time, particularly for wintering various species that need just a bit more warmth.

New Hoop Cover

End View

We planted charentais melons and moon & stars watermelons.  They have germinated and are growing nicely, almost ready to put out.

Happy pepper


Haricot Verts

Snow Pea Blossoms

A tomato

Box 'o Tomatoes


Even more potatoes

It’s May! It’s May!

May 1, 2010

Tra la! It’s May!

The lusty month of May!


That lovely month when ev’ryone goes

Blissfully astray.

(end singing now)

Lettuce in Harvest Basket

Och Aye, It’s May.  Today we shopped at Carrboro Farmer’s Market and the South Estes Farmer’s Market, buying beets and carrots and biodynamic strawberries that taste like Vanessa Redgrave’s voice sounds.


This afternoon we spent in the Garden.  We harvested green garlic, which makes great garlic bread, and oodles of radishes and enough lettuces to satisfy the entire Efrafa warren.  We harvested young spinach, and the last of the wintered cauliflower.

Trellised Peppers

Then we transplanted peppers to a box, only 21 of the ones we have ready to go.  We harvested lettuces and thinned the rest out by transplanting them so they had more room.

Pepper Seedlings

We have Sugar Snap Peas!  Not many, but enough have come in for a dish.  And we have blueberries growing!


And lit-tle ty-ny apples.  We have half a dozen tomato plants blossoming, plus both our tomatillos.  The snow peas have lovely purple and pink blossoms.

Tomato Blossom

We transplanted winter squash that we set to germinate last week into a box, and the summer squash are starting to unfurl from beneath the top layer of dirt.  The haricot vert are germinating as well as the cucumbers.

Squash Seedlings

Below are photos of many of our herbs we have growing in railing boxes and by windows and in large containers outside scattered amongst the Garden.

We’ve been growing mung bean sprouts from beans purchased at our local Co-Op, and have gotten nicely efficient at having them on hand most of the time.  Mostly they go into the salads.

Sometimes I feel redundant; shooting what seems to me to be similar pictures over and over.  Then I remind myself that a year from now it will be nice to have a visual record of the weeks passing in the garden.

More cilantro


More tomatillo blossoms

Tomatillo blossom







Tomato Blossom




April Garden Update

April 27, 2010


More Lettuce!

Spinach & Lettuce

We have harvestable baby spinach, along with the ubercrop of lettuce and radishes.  The potatoes have been mounded yet again, the boxes are all full (we started with a 4” deep soil base, and have been adding to them since).

Bed o' Taters


Our broccoli and cauliflower are doing much better than the ones we did last year.  The seed onions needed thinning, and the set onions are way ahead of them in size.  All the garlic now has 5-7 leaves, a few of the stalks are nearly 4’ high.

We planted 30 tomato plants this past weekend, including green zebra, bloody butcher, brandywine, beefsteak, early girl, better boy, and san marzanos.  We also planted 2 tomatillos, 1 box of haricot vert (2 rows each 12’), and 6 summer squash:  yellow and zucchini.  We planted 3 varieties of cucumbers.  Winter squash seeds were set to germinate inside, both acorn and butternut.



The pepper seedlings are in their final stages of hardening off, and we hope to plant them either this coming weekend or the next at the latest.

In the flower parts of the lot, we have azaleas and irises in bloom now, the daffodils and the tulips have faded away for the spring.  We have dahlia, oriental lily, day lily, and calla lily bulbs that will be coming along.  The moonflower vine almost looks like it is biding its time, though its growth is thick near the ground.



The apple trees have what look to be tiny apple pods on them.  Given their young age, we are most pleased!  The figs and the blueberries are puttering right along, doing nicely.  My lime mint hasn’t come back up so far this year, not sure why.  If it doesn’t, I’ll try to plant it again in a different location.

We gave away celery and tomato seedlings that had prospered, but that we had no room for, we hope that they will do well in their new homes.

After we planted everything last weekend, we went back in and put up the trellising for the year.

Black Jack Fig


Boxes View

New boxes


Grow, my pretties, Grow!

April 17, 2010

We saw our first hummingbird of the year in the garden yesterday!  Last year we had one feeder up, and one hummingbird was a bit of a bully, trying to guard it as much as possible.  She received a Christmas present of another one this year.  We put up both earlier this week, and have been rewarded with their presence already.

Mounded potatoes

Mounded Potatoes

Celery Seedlings

We mounded the potatoes twice this week, that’s just how fast they are growing.  We transplanted 45 of our celery seedlings to the garden.  All the other seedlings we have needed to be repotted *again*, so we’ve been doing that.  We found a lot of seedling pots at the local recycling center, because we’d run out.

We’re busy researching how to cure garlic, including asking local farmers for tips.  And we’re researching how to keep our garlic the longest, because frankly it looks like our harvest is going to be more than we could eat in a year, which would be exciting.



Broccoli raab

We continue to harvest record quantities of lettuce with even more coming along, and also this week harvested radishes and broccoli raab, as well as some pea shoots.



In two weeks, we’ll be putting our tomato plants out, along with all our pepper plants.

Since we put out the castor oil granules, I haven’t seen any new vole digging in the boxes.  We’re crossing our fingers.  I gave some of my moonflower seeds to a couple we’re friends with, they had moved this winter and are restarting their farm all from scratch, and didn’t have a moonflower plant in the new location.



One of our cauliflowers is heading up!  Now it is a race for how big can it grow before we can’t stand it anymore and just take it to be eaten.  I’m favoring just simply steaming it, served with a bit of butter and some pepper.