Going to Have to Chop Down the Apple Tree

The part hanging down used to be above head level.  Now it is almost touching the ground.

The part hanging down used to be above head level. Now it is almost touching the ground.

I got home today to a nasty surprise: the apple tree had been crippled by a recent storm. So much of the tree is destroyed, in fact, that I will be cutting it down entirely after I harvest the few apples that are not the part that broke off.  The silver lining to this is that there is another apple tree growing right at the base of this one that should take off next year because this one will not be taking up as many nutrients or sunlight.

There is a somewhat pressing problem now.  There are a bunch or small, unripe apples on the tree that are going to die.  I would prefer to do something useful with them rather than just throw them on the ground and hope that some seeds matured enough to sprout.  I know that pectin can be extracted from slightly unripe apples, but I have never done it before and don’t know how much under ripe an apple can be and still work.

Pea Sprouts and Flowering Cherries

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A honey bee on a cherry blossom. When I took this picture, the whole tree was buzzing with insects.

The last chance of frost is quickly approaching.  Already, one late frost hit the peach tree pretty hard and almost all of the blossoms died before starting to set fruit.  Compared to last year, only about one in ten or twenty flowers is setting fruit.  I hope the tree will compensate by making larger fruit, but even if it doesn’t, I’ll be happy with whatever fruit I do get.  I still have several jars of canned peaches in the pantry to use.  The cherry trees and the apple tree missed that freeze and are in the process of blooming, and hopefully the soft freeze forecasted for next week does not affect fruit set.  At least this year, I know which tree is which.  Last year, I mistakenly though the cherry tree was actually an apple.

One of the first five peas that have sprouted.

One of the first five peas that have sprouted.

About a week and a half ago, I started direct planting peas and beans in the garden. So far, the results have been rather mixed.  I have had five pea plants sprout and several of the beans also sprouted.  However, the beans don’t seem to be surviving the cold night temperatures, so it is just as well that the majority of the beans to sprout yet.  I have plans to plant the beans close enough that they basically form a blanket over the garden bed.

The grape vine is starting to put on leaves.

The grape vine is starting to put on leaves.

The grape vines are just starting to put leaves on.  Last year, the grape vines had this happen almost a month earlier.  In general, this growing season seems to be taking its time to get going.  Not that I mind too much.  I just am anxious to start seeing the results of my work.  Last year, was not able to do very much with the grapes I harvested, and almost all of them went into the freezer. Because they are seeded grapes, they are not really useful for eating straight, so grape juice and wine are really the only uses for them and only the grape juice is really an option for me because I refuse to drink alcohol of any form.  The only way I could get juice out was to cook the grapes and then strain them thru cloth.  The resulting juice had oxidized and was not very good.

The steam juicer I used to make fruit juice.  This is the same style of juicer that my wife's grandmother used.

The steam juicer I used to make fruit juice. This is the same style of juicer that my wife’s grandmother used.

About a week ago, I got a steam juicer in and was able to easily turn the grapes into very good tasting grape juice, along with the peach peals and apple peelings and cores.  The juices will probably need to be mixed to get a good final product, particularly with the peach as it is quite tart, but overall, they taste quite good.  The grapes in particular were quite good because the juicer keeps the grapes from oxidizing and giving the juice an off taste.

A Break in the Heat for the Start of the Apple Harvest

The heat in Oklahoma appears to have broken.  I’m glad this has happen as all the plants in my garden have stopped fruiting.  No beans.  No tomatoes.  Now that we are back down into the high 90s, the tomatoes are starting to flower again.  We even got a quarter inch of rain yesterday.

Half a bucket of apples. Like just about everything else that came with the house, don’t know variety. McIntosh, perhaps?

Also, this week, the apples are ripening, which means harvest time and a scramble to preserve as much as I can for when the harvest is over.  I’ve been a bit confused as to when the apples are ready, mainly because this is the first time I’ve dealt with apples that I’ve picked off a tree and partly because I don’t know what they are supposed to look like when they are ready to pick.  I am already starting to preserve some of the apples by drying them into apple chips.  I also intend to try making apple sauce and apple butter.  I’m also saving the peals and cores to attempt extracting pectin so that I don’t have to buy pre-packaged pectin when making jellies.

Plants in the Ground

Peas, tomatoes, and strawberry plants

Today was a big milestone for me: I finally put plants I raised from seed into the ground.  The peas have gotten so tall that they have been needing support for a while now.  Putting them in the ground allows me to have a support system to prop up the plants.

Also, I took this opportunity to plant all of the first round of plant starts.  I know it is still before the last average frost date here, but I think it is close enough to the date that I can probably get away with it.  It also helps that it has been unseasonably warm this year.  All told, I got Alaskan peas, zucchini, tomatoes, strawberries and cabbage in the ground today.

Close up of the tomatoes

Close up of strawberries

We got rain today, which has made working in the garden a very muddy affair.  One big upside to that, however, is that it made dealing with the heavy clay soil much easier.  I had been tilling the soil to help with the weeds that have been coming up in the garden plot for a few weeks now, but the soil has been drying out horribly in the process.  The rain has made it workable again.  I hope to have a few days where it remains that way.  I will probably end up spending a great deal of time and effort over the nxt few years amending the soil with compost to make it easier to work with and more fertile.

Peach fruit set

All of the flowers on the peach tree have finished their bloom and the fruit is setting very nicely.  I don’t know how long it will be before I need to thin the fruits so that I get nice sized peaches at harvest time.  Also, the apple and cherry trees and the grape vines have all started to set fruit as well.

In the greenhouse, I have another set of cabbage and tomato seedlings in reserve in case the ones I’ve planted don’t make it.  Also, I have started some pinto beans I got from a local whole foods store.  Supposedly, I have some mint and thyme started as well, but they are taking their sweet time to germinate.

Pinto beans sprang up over the past two days.

One thing I have realized is that the larger the seed, the bigger the seedling.  I suppose that makes sense, as larger seeds would have a bigger energy supply to pull from when germinating, but it caught me off guard.

I still have a few more plants that I haven’t started yet.  I have some lavender and chamomile seeds I need to start fairly soon and I will be able to now that I have several plastic pots to use from the seedlings I just transplanted into the garden.  I have a bit of mostly dry soil stashed away in the greenhouse that I can use to fill the pots, but I will probably end up waiting a while for the ground to dry out a bit so that I can get more soil from the garden plot.