Saturday, January 24, 2015

The beginning of spring

Well, not according to the calendar.

Or the weather.

But for us, spring has started.

The first harbinger is the ordering of chicks.  Which I did last week.  At the end of February we will make the hour plus drive to pick up a dozen or so (heavy on the or so) peeping bundle of feathers.

And today I planted onion and leek seeds to go under grow lights.

Let the growing season begin.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New Coffee

What makes this morning different than all my other mornings?  The coffee in the two small jars and in my cup were roasted by Chris yesterday.  He used an air popper we found on freecycle for one batch, an old fashioned stove top crank popper for the other.  It is perfect?  Not at all, I had to add maple syrup to combat its acridness, and it is a little bitter, but who cares?  I've purchased coffee that was less enjoyable than this.

We have had the green beans around for at least a year.  Shelf life of unroasted coffee is long.  It is also a lot cheaper per pound.  (If you buy in bulk)  But I would not mind adding a large bag of green coffee beans to our pantry.

Friday, January 2, 2015


Before Chris and I married we spent extended amounts of time at Carkeek Park in North Seattle.  It is a large green space with an amazing range of ecosystems.   Beach, swamp land, forest, a creek that served as an annual salmon run all surrounding a center of traditional city park with playgrounds and picnic areas.

We spent most of our time in the forested area.  The creek ran through it and occasionally we would see a salmon trying to make it back up to the place of its birth.  There was an understory of giant ferns and rhoderdendrons, their trumpet like flowers standing out in the shade of vine maples and giant evergreens.  There were also blackberries.  They were huge, thick thorny canes seeming to reach ten feet and higher to reach the elusive rays of sunshine.  in the late summer we spent time picking, our arms and hands scraped and bloody from the sharp thorns.  After a few times we brought clippers and cut the older fruitless canes to get at the juicy purple fruit. 

Later tired and hot we relaxed in a grassy orchard in the center of the forest.

The sign pronounced it to be Pipers orchard, established 1889.  We had no idea what kind of apples they were.  We just called the small hard fruits cooking apples.  They became applesauce, rose hip jelly (the hips also picked from the wild roses in the park)  mixed with the blackberries they became bumbleberry jam.  Hand pies of apples or blackberries sets in our lunch boxes at work.
It was a beautiful place.  We got married in the orchard.  Picnic blankets covering the grass, or guests eating in the warm sunshine.

During this time there were only 7 kinds of apples that I knew of.  Red delicious, Golden delicious, Granny Smith, Breaburn, Gala, Fuji and cooking apples.  Then I started reading about farming in general and tree fruit in particular.  I discovered there were thousands of kinds of apples - Cox's Orange Pippin (1830 England), Winter Banana (1876 Indiana), Northern Spy (1800 New York) and Gravenstein.  

Where were all these apples?  Books claimed many were extinct, even more in danger of becoming so.  In its quest for perfect and consistently sized fruit, the agribusinesses of the early 20th century had nearly wiped out any type of fruit and vegetable that did not meet its specific criteria. 
In the late nineties, an article in Organic Gardening magazine led me to a catalog - Trees of Antiquity.  Here I learned that the russet enjoyed by the fictional Anne Shirley was an apple with a natural brown netlike covering on the skin, not a potato like I had assumed in my youth.  Here were nearly 200 apples I'd never heard of.  Most intriguing was the Pink Pearl (1944 California), these apples were to have green skin and pink flesh, but $50 for a tree was more than I was willing to spend.

I forgot about apple varieties for a number of years after that until 2 yr old bareroot trees showed up nearly 10 years later at Costco.  There was the typical varieties, Honeycrisps (1991 Minnesota) and McIntosh (1811 Canada)  But also Wolf River (1875 Wisconsin) and Wealthy (1868 Minnesota).  
Then this last few years I found the Cox's Orange Pippin (1830 England) and Arkansas Black (mid 1800's Arkansas) at the local natural food market.

Then there was today.
I found Cortland apples at the local grocery chain (1898 New York) but also the long elusive Pink Pearl.  I never thought I would see this apple commercially.  Not with so many new patented trees (Jazz, SweeTango, Zestar) 

This speaks to me.  It says that if apple (or melon, or carrot)  that has been carefully curated for generations there is a reason.  And a decidedly better reason than uniform and perfect looking fruit.  Those of us who realize this, that understand that a new variety is not necessarily a better variety and put our money where or mouth is have made a difference.

And the old apple orchard where we got married?  Turns out these cooking apples once given the care fruit trees need have names.  Names like Wealthy, Golden Russet (early 1800's New York) Tolman sweet (1700's Massachusetts).  Maybe I will see these soon in my local grocery store. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014

Urban foraging

For the past four years I have been riding by this tree on my way to and from work along the South Platte River Trail.  This is the first year I have seen apples.  I saw it yesterday, covered with red fruit - well the bottom was picked clean to about 6 feet up - but Chris and I went Friday morning and filled a wagon full.  The next day, while I made pickles, he took Rhiannon.  Between our fruit picker and Rhiannon in the tree they filled another wagon.  They gave fruit to everyone that passes and Chris was interviewed by a man doing an article on urban foraging.  They came home for lunch and then the 3 off us went back out with a sign saying "Free Apples" to lean up against the wagon as we filled it.  Most people let their kids have one, but did not take any themselves.  A few people just looked at us funny, but 2 women were thrilled.  They filled their t-shirts and their empty Starbucks coffee cups and posted their excitement on Facebook.

And in the end we have yet another bathtub of  apples.