Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

This is the sad sight that greeted us when we drove up on our yard after having been gone for almost four weeks. This elm tree stands next to the driveway, just east of the garage, and is in a particularly windy spot. There's no protection here, and elms are more vulnerable than some other trees, because of the acute angle of the branches from the trunk. This tree has lost limbs before, twice at least. So the next day Jim got out the saw and removed the downed limb. A week or so later we had another heavy wind, and the limb just above the broken limb snapped off in the same way. I didn't bother taking a picture of the second limb, because it was so similar.

Another tree that suffered similar damage was the pear tree that I showed you in blossom this spring. One branch in particular was very heavily loaded with pears, and it also broke during the windstorm while we were away. That branch we left as it was, and last week, when we knew we were in for about 10 degrees of frost overnight, we picked all the pears. They had somehow managed to ripen, even though the limb was partially severed from the tree. Then Jim went back later and removed that dead limb. It's just one of those things that happens here in windy Alberta.

A large elm in front of the garage suffered similar damage. This tree has been there for 12 years now. It's very slow growing, but was doing well, and beginning to provide shade to the garage and our bedroom on hot, sunny summer afternoons and evenings. Do you see the white area about 1/3 of the way from the top? That where the branch broke, and it's hanging down toward you, actually touching the ground. It's so sad when limbs are lost that way, and there's not much you can do here to protect the trees from the heavy winds that we often get. We just don't plant or sell elms anymore, because they are particularly vulnerable to damage.

On a happier note, there wasn't a terrible amount of damage overall. There's a little apple tree in a well protected spot, near the #1 greenhouse. The area to the west of it has lots of trees and shrubs, in particular a tall row of Tower Poplar that provide a lot of protection.
We aren't sure anymore what kind of apple tree this is. From the looks of the apples, I'm guessing it's a Kerr, which is an apple/crab. We have another Kerr in the middle of our backyard deck. That tree produces gallons and gallons of apples, but only every other year. This is an off year for that Kerr, but happens to be the first year that this tree by the #1 greenhouse has produced a crop. I sampled one and found it had such a good flavour that I decided to pick and process all of them. The tree is not very tall; I had to use a step ladder for only the highest branches. The apples came off the branches easily, and filled a large bucket.

The next step was to wash them all, since apples actually become quite dirty. They have a natural wax that seems to make the dirt stick, so I put them in warm soapy water and tumble them around well. Then a few rinses, and they're ready to cut in half, take out the stem and the blossom end and put them on the stove to cook.

I use a French style mill. Once the apples
are soft enough, I scoop them into this mill and take a few turns. The sauce falls into the container, and the pits and skins are left behind. These apples made such nice sauce that I didn't need to add any sugar to sweeten it. When it was all finished, I had seven quarts of applesauce in the freezer.

That's one thing I do love about this fall season, the feeling of bounty stored to provide good eating through the coming winters.
Please excuse the funny things happening with the type, different colors, etc. My computer is misbehaving today. Better luck tomorrow.

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