Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Tree Stump Removal

Today we had someone come with a small backhoe on a skidloader to help remove 6 large tree stumps.  We had tried to see if our tractor could make the stumps budge - but there was no chance of that.  After the stumps were removed, Jeff used his grader attachment to smooth out the holes and to grade the slope from the road.  The reason for doing all this is to get safer access from the road into our grape fields.  It will make it much easier to pull off the road before making the turn into the field.  Not just for the tractor and the four-wheeler but also for a car.  Definitely a safety improvement!  We'll get a load of gravel next to finish this off.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

More Useable Space Outside

It only took 2 hours for Jeff, Zach, Lars and the tractor to annihilate the last messy, overgrown corner of our property.  Zach thinks we gained half an acre (it is probably more like a quarter of an acre), but most of all it looks CLEAN!  This has been nagging at me for some time and I am so excited the "boys" tackled this project today.


Since the back corner is now clean, I got very motivated to improve the area around the yellow bench by the pond.   I decided to move three juniper bushes, which were growing alongside the house and had gotten way too large for that spot, and planted them behind the bench. This provided a sort of backdrop for the bench, which is bordered by a cornfield.    Now I just need to fix the missing board, give it a fresh coat of pain and then I can start planting flowers...

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Trellis Posts Are UP

Jeff and Lars worked all week making trellis post holes for the new grapes. Right now, the grape vines are still small enough that the tractor can straddle them, so it was a bit time-sensitive to get these post holes done.   Jeff also sharpened all 150 posts with his chain saw this week. Today - with Zach's help - they "pounded" the posts in, using the tractor's front bucket, which we weighed down with rocks.  It does not look that exciting yet - just a big field with fence posts in rows.  Now we have to install the end-posts and then run the wires for the trellis.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Considering Plans for a Fruit/Produce Stand

Yes, we were actually thinking about building a small fruit or produce stand - something that is somewhat temporary, not trashy looking, won't blow away on a windy day and could be stored away for the winter.
We do have lots of left-over building materials:  roofing, 2x4's, pressure treated lumber, regular lumber and even some plywood sheeting.
So we googled some images and sketched up some rough drafts - not sure yet if we are going to actually do this, but it has been fun thinking about possibilities.  (It could always be converted into a playhouse)

By the way - the Robin eggs from the pictures
of the previous post are gone!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Another Sure Sign of Spring

Every evening we check the grape vines to see if the buds are opening yet...anticipating "bud-break".  This evening we noticed a Robin's nest for the first time.  Not even hidden a little bit, but out in plain site, on our first trellis post of the first row of grapes. We were either oblivious to this nest, or we have a speed-nest-builder in the grape patch.  Regardless - Robin's are a sure sign of Spring! 

Monday, April 22, 2013

Backyard Spring Cleaning

We transformed the back porch from its winter purpose of covered fire-wood storage back to our summer sitting area - complete with flowers and mulch. That took some serious muscle, as left-over firewood had to be moved back to the wood pile and re-stacked. We scrubbed and swept until it was "back to normal" and then brought out the patio furniture.

This weekend was also perfect for cleaning the backyard flower beds and doing some serious lawn-mowing.  Though it was pretty cold:  by Sunday afternoon I needed two seatshirts and a travel mug with hot coffee to stay warm on the riding mower.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Website Improvements

It's been a while since I edited our website.  This evening I was updating the recipe section (after I finally figured out how to make the pull-down menu work).  I also found a new widget that I thought would be fun to have:  it's a countdown to a major event widget.  I assume this is geared toward wedding websites or grand openings, but we found our own use:  the website count-down is for the expected first day of blackberry harvest and it is now on our home page.  We'll change it for the grape harvest countdown in mid July.

Jeff's Perfect Scrapple (Sans Mystery Meat)

For the last few weeks, Jeff has experimented with scrapple recipes.   He tried different ratios of flours (buckwheat, wheat and cornmeal), different meat combinations and finally came up with something that even Tina will eat:

  1. Pork bones for stock
  2. Bouillon or seasoned chicken stock (enough for 1 gallon)
  3. 1 lbs of pork sausage
  4. 1 cup buckwheat flour
  5. 2 cups cornmeal

Prepare Pork Stock - about 1 gallon:
  • Boil pork bones in 1 gallon seasoned chicken broth (bouillon cubes/powder works)
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper
  • Strain the broth, making sure no small bones make it through the strainer
  • Depending on how much meat was on the bones, may want to save any pieces of meat in a separate bowl
Prepare Meat:
  • Brown 1 lb of pork sausage until crumbled and well cooked
  • Mix in any of the pork meat left over from making stock (if desired)
  • Run the meat and sausage mixture through a meat grinder (we use the KitchenAid attachment) or use a food processor to make sure the meat is very finely ground - almost smooth, otherwise the scrapple will have a very coarse texture
Making Scrapple:
  • Mix 1 cup buckwheat flour and 2 cups of cornmeal
  • Add the ground meat to the stock and bring back to a boil
  • Slowly start adding the flour mixture, stirring constantly - add a little at a time
  • When the mixture is thick enough that your spoon can stand in it, stir and boil for another 5-10 minutes  (not all the flour may have been used)
  • Pour the hot mixture into greased loaf pans (bread pans)
  • Let these cool completely
  • Remove the scrapple from the pans and let it dry out in the refrigerator overnight
  • Slice into 1/4 inch slices and fry until crisp - serve with syrup if desired, and fried eggs
Left-over scrapple can be wrapped in freezer paper and kept refrigerated for a week.  To freeze it, it is best to slice the scrapple and place freezer paper in-between each slice, then wrap everything in freezer paper and place in freezer.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

"Orchard" Doubled in Size

Just got in from planting 16 pear trees (Anjou and Bosc).  The new fruit trees border the bottom of the mixed grape field and run nearly the entire length of that field.  Basically, we ran out of space and ended up with 3 extra trees, which were planted in pots for later. 

These were young trees, with small root systems, so we could make the holes with a rototiller and shovel.  A great way to water trees/shrubs or other larger plants is to use an old 5 gallon bucket and drill 3-4 hole close to each other on one edge, then fill the bucket 1/3 to 1/2 full of water, place it close to the tree, and let the water slowly trickle out.

The new pear trees are across the street from our other "orchard", also made up mostly of pears, but in addition there are some peach and cherry trees.  Hope these will grow - they should all look spectacular when they bloom in the spring ... in 3-4 years.!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Another Tree Bites the Dust

Jeff cut down the last of the rather invasive, pond-water-sucking, twisted willow trees today.  We hope that this is the last of it and that no more little ones will sprout on the pond edge.  It took over 2 years to clean up the bank, where the trees did quite some damage.  We  actually really like willow trees - but only a safe distance away from the water.  Last year, we planted a young weeping willow, which hopefully will grow into a graceful tree.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Routine Garden Chores Started

Blackberries are sprouting leaves and Peach trees have blossoms - and we are back in the regular garden chore mode, which is complete bliss:  Got the lawnmower and walk-behind string-trimmer out and mowed most of the house side this weekend.  Also weeded all strawberries, and started to spread mulch around them.  Cleaned up the herb garden some more.  Took a quick trip to the Newville Greenhouse and bought onions plants and new rhubarb as well.  Jeff disked the last section of the garden again and we ended up planting 260 onions (yes, I counted them... I love to count my plants).   They almost filled a complete row in the vegetable garden.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Wine Bottling

We bottled our first batch of 2012 wine:  5 gallons of Apple and 8 gallons of Chambourcin.  I have to say, the wine turned out great.  We took measurements of the pH, and SO2 levels, and we were  within the perfect range - without having to do much adjusting.  Our wines underwent "natural" cold stabilization (with other words, we left all our wine in the downstairs of our unheated stone barn), and the bottom of the carboys had a solid layer of tartrate crystals.

Tartrate crystals stuck to
 bottom of carboy
A note on "Wine Diamonds" (tartrate crystals) - tartaric acid is a normal grape acid.  Grapes also contain potassium and under chilly conditions,  these two things bind together, forming little potassium bitartrate crystals, which then settle to the bottom of the bottle. They're completely harmless, and quite natural - but for those people who don't know what these crystals are, they  are seen as impurities or even bits of broken glass.   Cold stabilization means that wine is "forced" to form these crystals before it is bottled.

We ran out of colored ink for our printer, so all labels this weekend were done is stark black and white decor.  We moved some of the bottles to the barn for storage - hoping the thick stone walls will keep temparatures perfect over the summer as well.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Grading: Jeff's Hidden Talent

We've probably had the simple "graderbox" for the tractor for more than a dozen years - Jeff used to help out one of his friends by leveling his driveway every spring, moving gravel into potholes.  But at the Long Shot Farm, Jeff started to get rather creative in using the grader, smoothing out old construction sites, covering tree stumps, spreading gravel in driveways and leveling tractor ruts after the spring thaw. 

But today, he completely annihilated a steep bank along our pond. The bank that could not be mowed, not even with the weed whip.  Not sure how he did this without rolling the tractor into the water - and I wished we had taken a "before" picture.  All we have is the "after" picture.   A huge improvement not just for looks, or access to the water and fishing, but for "mow-ability"!

Sunday, April 7, 2013


All we did this weekend was work with mulch.  Except for one quick trip to Lowes, to get trellis posts, which were on sale at 50% off.  This sale only happens once or twice in the spring, so we had to take advantage of it.  Those posts are just sitting on the trailer near the grape vines for now.  Jeff will start marking off spots for the holes, and then use the post-hole auger on his tractor.  If the weather holds up, he'll get started this week!

We probably used up over half of our huge stockpile of mulch - Jeff would scoop three tractor bucket loads into the smaller trailer, which we then pulled with the Four-wheeler.  We used pitch-forks and wide shovels to move the mulch around trees and bushes.  Lars and Tina tried to keep a running count of the wagon loads, but we lost track.  Our best estimate is that we did at least 15 loads since Friday evening.

All the elderberries, fruit trees and half the blueberry bushes are done. A few of the flower beds got some "left-overs", they will need to get more later.   The weekend, as always, was way too short to get everything done.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Garden is Started!!

Rachel and Fiona came out
to help plant potatoes
Finally this weekend the weather was nice enough - and we had time - for Jeff to plow part of our garden.  We planted 4 rows of potatoes, some lettuce and spinach on Saturday.  Easter Sunday was rather cold and rainy, so we did not do anything outside, other than a quick run.  But the rain was good for the newly planted grapes as well as the garden.


Today, Jeff and Sam planted 20 lbs of peas - using the broadcast spreader on the tractor.  Jeff followed up with the disc, to help cover up the peas.   These peas take up about  "3 tractor widths", according to Jeff's measurements, and we now have nearly two thirds of our garden planted.