Sunday, August 25, 2013

Preparing for Grape Harvest

Pre-harvest preparations started with the onset of veraison (when the grapes begin changing color) about 2 weeks ago.  We are taking periodic samples of grapes, crush them and then measure the pH, Brix and total acid content of the juice.  We are also getting all the equipment ready for harvesting and crushing.  At this point, we are thinking that next weekend may be the ideal time to pick - which would be perfect as most of our family will be visiting for labor day - and laboring they will be :)

One of our newest acquisitions is another stainless steel tank - again thanks to Zach and his connections to dairy farmers who are outgrowing their smaller milk tanks.   We had to build a small platform with  a step, so that we can easily look into the tank, clean it and later dump grapes into it.  We'll try to use it as a fermenter this year, if we get enough grapes.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Long Shot Farm: the Next Generation

Zach is showing Toben how to shoot his bow at the farm,
that would be the 3rd generation of great archers!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Sweet German Breakfast Bread

Here is another favorite bread recipe - for Easter morning, we braid it in a circle and put colored eggs in the center, for everyday, just simply shape the dough into braid and glaze after baking.  The same dough can also be used for wonderful cinnamon rolls. 

  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 1/2 cup cold milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup butter, cut into slices
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3 and 3/4 cup bread flour
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons bread machine yeast

Place ingredients into bread machine, in the order given above.  Then use the dough cycle, which takes about 1.5 hours.  When the cycle is done, and the dough has risen nicely, punch the dough down, and divide into 3 equal pieces.  With each piece of dough, form a long roll - getting rid of all air bubbles in this process.  Shape into a braid, place on cookie sheet and let rise another half hour.  Preheat oven to 375 degree F, and bake for about 25-30 minutes.
While the bread is still hot, cover with a simple icing (melted butter, some milk, vanilla flavoring and powdered sugar)

For Cinnamon Rolls:
Divide dough into half, roll each half into a rectangle, cover with melted butter and sprinkle generously with a sugar/cinnamon mixture.  Then roll up from the long side, slice into 2 inch sections, stand sections on end in a 13x9 inch pan and bake at 375 for about 20 minutes.  Spread icing generously over the rolls after baking.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Blackberry Post-Harvest Maintenance

As soon as we finished picking the last of the blackberries, we started cutting out the old fruiting canes and tying up the new canes for next year's crop. 

While the root system and crown of blackberry bushes are perennial, the canes of the plant are biennial.  During the first year of the cane's life cycle (primocane year), it grows and initiates fruit buds.  The second year (floricane year), the canes will bloom and set fruit, then die once the fruit is ripe.  Primocanes and floricanes are present at the same time in a bramble patch.   So we are currently cutting out the dead floricanes, and tying up the primocanes for next year.  It takes two people about three hours to clean up a row of 100 bushes.



Debris in the Middle
Still found some berries

Friday, August 16, 2013

Netting for Grapes

Last year, we lost of lot of our first potential harvest to a flock of migrating black birds - something we are trying to avoid at all means this year.

We had looked a different types of vineyard netting but they tended to be rather expensive, so for this year, we purchased a 7000 ft long  and 5 ft wide roll of nylon netting used for round hay bales.  Jeff build a "spool box", which we mounted on the back of the four-wheeler. Jeff also made a box full of small "S" hooks from left over fence wire (while watching a movie). 

We fastened the netting to the end post of the row, and then while Jeff slowly drove the four-wheeler, Lars and Tina unrolled the netting and fastened it with the "S" hooks to the top trellis wire.  It was easy to keep up with the slow speed of the four-wheeler.  We put the netting on both sides of each row, and it took us about 2 hours to finish all 5 rows (200 vines).    We should know in a few weeks if this method is successful - it certainly was easy to put up and not very expensive to do, and we have enough netting left to do twice as much.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Sweet Corn and Spaghetti Sauce

The blackberries are pretty much done with - we are only picking some "stragglers", enough for a pie here and there, but that's about it.  Luckily they are done, because we've been picking and freezing corn all week long.  This weekend, we picked over 150 dozen ears.  We've been selling most of it at the produce stand and via facebook (go Sam!!)  Whatever is not sold by the end of the day, we freeze - so far we have over 90 quarts.  The Silver King corn should be finished by the end of the week, at which point the "Incredible" corn should be ripe.  In between all the corn, Sam and Jeff managed to make the first batch of spaghetti sauce:

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Mid August Grapes

The Chambourcin grapes have started to turn colors - they look amazing:

Sunday, August 4, 2013

August 4 Harvest Update

All of a sudden, everything is ripening at the same time!
  • BLACKBERRIES:  Still picking and processing blackberries.  As of today, we have picked about 1700 pounds of berries.  Grammy and Koty came to visit for the whole week and helped to pick.  They took a trunk full of berries back to Bedford County. Tina made 4 batches of jam yesterday and the rest of this weekend's berry harvest was frozen.

  • POTATOES:  All our potatoes were harvested this week, we ended up with over 18 bushel.  They are spread out on the upper floor of the barn to dry, before we put them in crates and keep in a walk-in cooler for the winter.

  • CORN:  Yes, our sweet-corn batch #1 is ready.  We've been eating it all week, but the individual kernels were not really filled out yet.  But they were today.  We sold some at the produce stand and then husked and blanched 4 bushel.