Tag Archives: autumn

Celebrating

orchard walk

kicking things off with a wander through the orchard

Last-last weekend was our annual Harvest Party — the seventh one, and now a bona-fide tradition here at the Ranch! Each year, after our harvest and market season is over, we round up a bunch of friends for an afternoon of celebration (and potlucking and farm-touring and homebrew-tasting and campfiring and…) We say it every year, but this year’s party really was the best one yet!

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Left: friends Paula, Tony, and Adolfo. Right: Mikail (in his BH Ranch t-shirt!) and Phyllis 

My dear friend Antonio De Lucci  took these gorgeous photos of the festivities, and I’m so glad he did — I never manage to snap enough! He perfectly captured the afternoon, drenched in golden sunlight.

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polaroids

And look, real honest-to-goodness Polaroids! At left: the tipi presides over the gathering (with a giant woodpile at the ready for campfire time when it gets dark). Right: yes, we really did haul out the gigantic vintage punch bowl for pear-pomegranate punch, made with our own pear juice. Who says you can’t be fancy just because you’re out in the orchard?

tom

Tom, leading the tour

Punch bowls aside — the orchard, of course, is the real star of the party! Everybody finds a glass of something and heads out for a tour before dinner.  I always feel like the farm just loves having all these people wandering around, admiring the Arkansas Black apples still on the trees, tasting grapes under the arbor, and taking turns to duck into the little wine cellar.

winecellar

And then it’s time for dinner — a fabulous potluck! One of the things I love most about this party is that it’s a rare opportunity to bring together all our friends from various spheres… farmers, musicians, beekeepers, radio DJs, artists, teachers, foragers, endurance runners, and homesteaders all sit down together with homemade food and drink, and it’s such fun to see all the unexpected connections and conversations that come up!

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Somehow, no matter how many people show up, there’s always the perfect number of haybales to sit on, and the big table magically expands to fit every last delicious dish.

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 Above: our neighbour Elizabeth brought pear marmalade and pear butter that she made from our fruit!

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Clockwise from left: photographer Antonio De Lucci; heirloom-variety table grapes under the arbor; last rays of sun in the orchard.

T and J

A sweet photo of my dad and me (with an impressive array of home-brewed libations on the table — in addition to the pot-luck, there’s always a hearty brew-luck going on!)

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Come dusk, I did manage to get out my camera and snap a few photos of the campfire. Marshmallows appear, Tom produces a bundle of fresh pear twigs perfect for toasting sticks, and everyone gathers around the crackling flames as the crisp chill of a fall evening settles in.

night

It’s been another marvelous season, with great farmer’s market days, wonderful customers and friends, some of the most beautiful fruit we’ve ever grown, and yet another fantastic party to celebrate it all! Thanks to all of you for supporting our “little family farm that could” — we’re so grateful to have you as our community. Wishing you all a bright and beautiful Autumn!

Many thanks to Antonio De Lucci for the photos! Check out more of his work at antoniodelucci.com.

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Filed under around the farm, autumn, foto friday

Foto Friday: Comice Pears

These Comice pears looked so lovely, lined up on an upturned lug box, catching the golden afternoon light, that I had to go fetch my camera before the sun sank an inch further. (Then they went promptly into a batch of pear bread pudding!)

The nice thing about pears is that there are so many varieties — we begin the season with Bartletts, bright and juicy, then wait for heirlooms like the breathtakingly beautiful Conseiller de la Cour, and finally harvest the late-season varieties like Comice and Winter Nellis. According to my grandfather, the winter pears used to be carefully packed for storage in wooden crates, nestled in straw. I just might try that this year with a few of the “Nellies” we picked yesterday…

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Filed under autumn, foto friday, history, orchard

Making Things: Apple Cider

Autumn is here at last — there’s a lingering chill in the air, even on the sunniest days, and the soil is cold and damp. Time to plant fava beans and garlic, onions and cover crops, before it gets too cold for the little seeds to sprout. But first, it’s time for something that seems to be becoming a fall tradition for us: apple-cider making!

Cider-making is one of those things that are best done with company; we team up with our friends Paula and Eric, who have a beautiful little cider press. Last weekend we hauled 400 pounds of apples over to their backyard, where we spent a lovely morning chopping and crushing and pressing apples… and of course talking and cider-tasting and swapping mushroom-hunting and mead-making tips. Paula and Eric’s yard is completely entrancing, with their handmade ceramic sculptures tucked among the trees and bushes.


Pressing apple juice isn’t complicated, but it does take work! Friends Donna and Tom join us to help as well. We start by chopping the apples into quarters, so they run easily through the hand-cranked crusher. Sounds easy enough… until you calculate that there are several thousand apples sitting there in those lug boxes. And that’s just step one!

A mixture of Black Arkansas, Green Scrumptious, John’s Delicious, and Granny Smith apples gives a well-balanced juice, both sweet and tart.

Tom, Eric, and Tom run the crusher

Next, we dunk the apple chunks in a bath of citric acid and water to keep them from browning. The apple chunks then go into the hopper, where they head down the chute to the hand-cranked crusher. They’ll emerge at the bottom as a coarsely-ground mash, ready for pressing.

The crushed apples are then pressed to expel the juice. As fresh as you can get! The pressed-out apple mush piles up quickly, though the volume is far less than the apples we started with… we’ll add some to the compost, and give some to the chickens. The juice goes into clean jugs; Paula and Eric make delicious hard cider with most of theirs. We’ll make some cyser (cider mead) and freeze the rest for later.

Left: the hand-cranked crusher. Right: the leftovers.

Hard work, yes, but fun work, too — and ever so satisfying to go from this…

…to this!

When we finish, Paula conjures up a fabulous lunch, complete with  toasted homemade bread spread with homemade cheese and topped with dried cherry tomatoes. (Somehow, I neglected to take a photo of that!) We raise glasses of bubbly apple-pomegranate cider toast a good day’s work, and good friends, and all the bounty of Fall. Cheers!

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Filed under autumn, homestead how-to, making things, preserving