Friday, September 23, 2011

Apple Cider Day

When a family has so many apples that every container is full, it is time for Apple Cider Day!

We spend the first half of the day picking apples.  My husband climbed the trees or used the tall ladder.  I used the smaller ladder and an antique extension pole apple-picker my father gave me. The boys ran apples from us to the containers inside the house, where we were keeping the picked apples away from the wasps.

We spent some time giving all of our equipment a good scrub with soapy water and then sanitized everything with a horrific sulfuric mixture my husband seems to love.  The scent grows on a person, I guess.
Below you'll see an antique press my father gave us.  Built to last!
You may be able to notice that only one of the sides is up.  The press is made of a center pole screw, wooden slatted sides that come off, and a metal base with a spout.  Once the apples are pressed, the sides are removed and the dried cake of pressed apples is removed.  Amazingly, the buckets and tubs full of apples all eventually fit into this press as the moisture is removed.  What remains gets thrown to the chickens.

Making apple cider is a great lesson in teamwork.  While my husband endured the tiring job of turning the crusher, the boys fed apples from a wheelbarrow into the top of the crusher. I refilled the wheelbarrow with apples from the tubs in the house. 

 Our garage was transformed into our workshop for the day and given a good hose-down afterwards. Things got very sticky!

Crushed apples --stems, seeds, and all-- drop into a clean bucket.

The crushed apples are then dumped into the press.  We put clean wooden boards on top of the apples and feed a metal turner onto the pole.  My older son (who we lovingly referred to as our 'work ox' all day) turned the press by hand until it was too difficult to move.  Then he put a long metal pole into the turner and pressed the apples even further.  (This was a great opportunity to discuss the concepts of 'simple machines' with the kids.)

As he pressed, juice poured from the bottom into bowls.  We then strained the liquid into larger containers.  I filled several freezer containers with cider that we'll drink throughout the fall and winter. My husband started about ten gallons of the cider fermenting for wine and another five gallons for hard cider. 

Delicious, right from the press, the cider needs no sugar added...and as you can see below, some people just couldn't wait to try it. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mini Gardens

Who doesn't need more thyme? More 'thyme' for gardening, that is.

This summer at Camp Gramp, the kids made mini container gardens.  First, they each picked a container from Grandmom's potting shed.  She has such a terrific assortment of yard sale finds in there.
Next, they scoured Grandmom's house for tiny treasures with which to make a garden scened. 
Finally, the kids filled the containers with gravel, potting soil, and their treasures.  We planted thyme in the containers because thyme has tiny leaves to fit perfectly 'to scale' with their scenes.