Monday, June 24, 2013

Blueberries and Muffins

It's Blueberry Picking Time!!! 

Even though our bushes are not fully mature, we are picking about a quart of berries each evening.  That is certainly enough to snack on and make muffins:

Blueberry Streusel Muffins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Streusel Topping:
  • 2 tablespoons cold butter
  • 1/4 cup of flour
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Cut the butter into remaining ingredients until coarse crumbs are formed.  I use one of those small, pulsing food processors, which really speeds this process up.

Muffin Batter:
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
Beat the above ingredient in a large bowl with hand-mixer, until well mixed.  In a separate bowl, combine the following ingredients:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
Using a fork, stir the above mixed dry ingredients into the mixed liquid, just until the flour is moistened.  DO NOT OVERMIX!
  • carefully fold in 1 cup of fresh or frozen blueberries
Divide batter into 12 greased, paper-lined muffin pan.  Sprinkle with streusel topping.  Bake for 22-24 minutes.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Bottling More Wine

We spent a good part of this weekend (the hottest parts of both days) bottling wine:
  • Strawberry
  • Oaked Chambourcin
  • Oaked Blackberry
  • Blackberry "Delight"
This was the first time we used our automatic bottle filler, which worked great.

Also sorted more of the empty, washed bottles by color and style.  These were then packed into tubs and stored in the barn shelf.

Hoping that this will make some space in the garage - which is really Jeff's workshop.  Organizing all the tools is one of those dream projects for a rainy day....

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Grapevines and Birdnests

We are still working with the grape vines every day - right now, our mature Chambourcin grapes need to be thinned out (again).  Apparently, the late frost we had in May caused all the cordons to sprout new shoots and now we have way too much vegetation, too little sunlight and not enough airflow going on.  While we've been thinning and tying away, we discovered several bird nests:

Nest with 5 eggs inside a
flower pot in the tractor shed
This nest actually had an
outside ring of grapevine
branches for camouflage

Tiniest nest ever, with a very
small egg - just one!

Monday, June 17, 2013

"Mulch" Hay for Vegetables

We are trying something different this season - mostly due to the fact that we got a whole load of "mulch" hay, courtesy of Caleb, who donated it for our vegetable garden.   Mulch hay is hay that got wet and started rotting, so it is no longer good for animal food or even bedding.  Hay, unlike straw, contains a lot of grass and weed seeds, but we are using it anyhow.  We'll see if it does more good than bad later this fall.

Today, after weeding the tomatoes and peppers, we spread over a dozen bales of old hay around the plants, ensuring that the irrigation lines are still close to the stem of the plant before covering them up.   Much of the hay was rather matted together, so it made  a pretty solid cover.  We carefully spread the loose hay around the plants, making sure that all the leaves were above the hay.

The amount of hay we used barely made a dent in our large pile, but then again, we only covered 2 rows of vegetables in the garden so far.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Building More Trellis

Jens, Jeff and Lars worked all day Saturday installing the  trellis system end posts for the grapes we planted this spring.  They used 4x4 posts and concreted those in - the smaller posts in the grape rows were already installed.  On Sunday, after the concrete had a chance to set and harden, Jeff and Lars attached the wires and tensioners.  They got the bottom wire installed in all six rows.  (By the way, each row of grapes is exactly .1 mile, at least according to the GPS on Tina's running app).

By Sunday evening, we were ready to start tying up the young grapes to the wires.  We selected the strongest shoot from the vine (cut all others off), and then tied a piece of baler twine to one of the cut-off stems, carefully wrapped the twine around the grape vine and then attached the twine to the wire. We finished two rows before it got too dark to see - hopefully we can get them all done this week, if the weather cooperates.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Produce Stand Opens at the Farm

Sam and Caleb officially opened their Produce Stand today. They worked late into the night on Friday putting the finishing touches on their stand.  Jeff built two sign posts, and Caleb fastened the interchangeable signs, which Sammy had painted, with hooks and chains.

Their current offering includes hanging baskets, flats of flowers, beets, asparagus, strawberries, peas, beans and even some early potatoes out of our garden.  They had a steady stream of customers throughout the day, and nearly sold out of strawberries.  Most people who stopped asked about the grapes and if there will be wine for sale in the future :)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Chambourcin Grapes in June

Our 3 year old Chambourcin grapes are growing up:  by mid June, most shoots have reached the second wire and grape clusters are filling out.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Blackberries in Full Blossom

We came home from our vacation and were stunned to see the drastic changes that took place at the farm in just one week.  Everything had grown so much (including the weeds).  But the most amazing sight was an acre of blackberry bushes in full blossom: 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Tying up Grapes

We spent most of this afternoon working in the "vineyard", tying those grape vines that are long (and strong) enough to the next level wire.  We used different tools and materials to do this.  Jeff prefers a  traditional tying tool, which has a hook that twirls wire around the vine and trellis. The spool of wire attaches to his wrist, and Jeff  can tie a lot faster
than his two helpers.  Tina has been using a  "twisty tie"  type material and just cuts lengths of this to use on the grapes.  Both of these wires will deteriorate after a few months and naturally fall off the trellis, making the next pruning season easier.  Lars uses "zip ties" for the tricky branches that need more support - those ties need to be cut off in the fall.