Quiet Moment

Quiet Moment, week 4 of the Dogwood Photography Photo Challenge. 

I briefly entertained the idea of taking a photo of a quiet moment in my house.

There was a dog sleeping peacefully in a sunbeam.  So I snuck up with my camera to capture it. But the beep of the camera caused the dog to leap up, other dogs to run to me from all directions, and a few cats to get stepped on in the process.  The kids yelled to see what I was doing, pigeons flew in all directions, a duck got trampled in the commotion while the geese honked, the smoke detector sounded off, the radio blared and the chickens flew in circles.

Or something like that…

In reality this photo, captured outside, wasn’t that quite either, but I think it looks like it might have been, don’t you?


Pressing Cider

This year we are trying something new.apple on tree

Using a small cider press,cider pressing and lots of help from the children, cider pressingwe are pressing each of our individual varieties of apples separately. cider pressing

As the trees have ripened each variety has been pressed, bottled in half gallon jugs, labeled them appropriately and stored in the freezer. Now, with just a bit more planning and spreadsheet making to do, we’ll be ready to offer them for sale.baskets of apples

Heirloom apple juice, ready to drink or blend into unique mixes for home cider brewing!



Chicken vs Apple

Hint: The chicken wins.

chicken eating apple

And those apple pests she eats, they lose too.

As soon as we mow the grass short around the trees, the chickens are happy to help us clean up any windfalls, bugs and all, that they find lying on the ground.

Happy chickens, happy trees, happy me!

A Tricky Subject

Yesterday was another beautiful winter day. So while the girls and the dogs played, I took pictures until my bare fingers had all the dexterity of frozen fish sticks. (Which took all of ten minutes.) The camera battery and I persevered in the cold because, not only was it was a gorgeous day, but it has come to my attention that I share very few pictures of Trip.  It’s not that I don’t love my dog. Quite the opposite, I’d love to plaster pictures of him all over this blog and then wait expectantly while you tell me how wonderful and handsome he is.  But, taking pictures of Trip is a bit tricky…

Mostly they look like this:Trip running out of frame

Sometimes they look like this:Trip running in snow

Occasionally I’ll get something like this:Trip running on snowy driveway

But more often they turn out crazy like this:Trip running with devil ears

My dog – he likes to run!  And if Trip thinks running is good, then running when you have something someone else wants is great.

This is Storm.Storm standing in the snow

The thing Storm loves most in the world is balls (and sticks). Storm obsesses over balls to the extent that I worry that our girls will forever be inept at any sport requiring one because we don’t ever let Storm play with balls, or see balls or, heaven forbid, fetch balls. Ever.

No balls.

Trip, in addition to loving to run, is (and I am, of course, totally biased here) a very intelligent dog.

Once Trip has discovered that he is still confined to a mere handful of acres and not allowed to go check out what’s happening three miles down the road, he eventually settles down (relatively speaking) and decides to torment Storm instead.

Since there are no balls – anywhere- he goes for the next best thing. Apples. Where you ask, does a dog find apples in the middle of winter with a foot of snow?

On the tree of course. Trip getting apple out of treeAnd if the last apples are out of reach, you just have to jump:Trip jumping for apple

(In addition to his grand intelligence, my dog has an excellent vertical jump!)Trip with apple in snowBall like object found he proceeds to torment Storm by showing it off (as in above picture) and then racing around out her reach. This causes Storm to bark incessantly, and then get yelled at for barking.

This crazy behavior was not a one time event. Trip has been tormenting Storm with apples all winter.

My dog is a brat.

A smart, high jumping, brat.

Eventually, when Trip is done with the running and the jumping and the teasing, he can be found taking a nap in a sunbeam.Trip sleeping

Which is when I can finally get my picture.

The Tour – Part 3

Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry! I can’t believe you are still sitting on that bench! Life just got the best of me for a bit, we took some trips out of town and John was gone and we all got sick and… well you know how it is-  just life.

But please, please, get up. Let’s go for a walk, stretch your legs, we’ve got more to see!

We’ll head out the back gate here into the woods. Watch out for the dogs though. Well you can’t see them yet because they have already sprinted up ahead and do their best to catch chipmunks, but they’ll be flying back past us any moment.  Storm usually has a giant — stick! Is your leg OK? LOOK OUT!  I’m so sorry! The girls think they are being careful while waving big sticks around but obviously they aren’t!  But if you can keep your footing with the dogs about and protect your eyes from the sticks, this trail is really rather nice. We’ll just follow it here as it winds about a bit to the far end of the property.girls on trail Alright, I can see that just looking at all that buckthorn and multiflora rose is making your blood pressure rise. Please try to look up a little higher and check out the oak, maple and pines instead and before you know it, we’ll be in the orchard.

Here we are! Jane and chickens under apple treeCareful! Don’t walk there! You’ve got to watch your step, there are downed apples everywhere and it’s such a nice day that the yellow jackets are out it swarms! Our orchard is small compared to the one you drove by when you came up the driveway. We only have about 30 trees. (Well 32 and one pear to be precise.) Of course you can have an apple! Try as many as you like – well not that one! You gotta watch for worms! Here try this one instead, it’s a Baldwin it’s John’s current favorite. Or over here you can try an Erwin Baur, I love that one. Clara’s favorite is the Yellow Delicious, Jane eats them all we just try to keep her from picking them off the ground. Go ahead and pick her one of those Golden Russets there, they look brown and weird but they are tasty. Ivy – no Ivy scorns all our apples for the neighbors – 32 varieties and we still can’t please everyone.

As you can see we are swimming in apples, we can’t even pick them fast enough this year.

But the chickens are loving the windfalls.chickens under apple tree

And so are the ducks who are living in the coop we moved. Didn’t I tell you about that? Well…. (The Tale of The Perfect Little Chicken Coop)Ancona Ducks

We’ve been making apple cider and apple pies, sauce, butter… And that reminds me, have I told you about John? Here we are drowning in apples and he BOUGHT ten pounds of apples! Yes, bought them and brought them home because he thought it would be “a good project” for him and Clara to turn them into dried apples.


applesWhat do you mean “What’s that”?

That is a bag for you.  You can’t leave without a bag of apples!  I’ll help you pick – Not on that! That ladder is a safety hazard, only John is crazy enough to use that one! picking apples Here, use this one.

You know, on second thought, let’s get you back to the house.  I’ve got lots of apples all ready picked there and you finish the tour with the inside of the house. Just follow Jane and try not to get hurt anymore…

Jane in apples

“Come on!”

So… have you always been this accident prone, or is this a new thing?

(continued in The Tour -Part 4)

The Tour – Part 1

The Tour – Part 2

Have You Tasted Fall?

Have you spent a day making apple cider?crates of apples

Have you watched the apples tumble through a washer?The apple washer

Have you seen them fall to the waiting boxes below as they reach the other side?Washed apples falling into waiting crates.

Have your children giggled as apples flew up an elevator?Sending the apples up the elevator to the grinder.

Have you heard the terrific noise of a grinder as the apples are ground to a pulp?Elevator drops the apples in the top of the grinder.

Have you witnessed the mashed apples shooting out onto the press?Filling the press.

Have you watched as knowledge was passed from person to person?A cloth is folded over each layer of apple before the next is added.

Have you seen the belts and wheels of a hundred year old cider press jump into action?The press starts running.

Have you listened to the noise of the engine change as it starts to apply pressure to the apples?The press lifts the trays of apples to squeeze them.

Have you smelled the tang of apples as the juice starts running out?Juice flows out of the layers of apple pulp.

Have you watched your husband explain it all to your children?The liquid is pumped through a hose under the press to a large holding tank in the background.

Have you listened to the gurgle of the amber liquid as it fills a jug?Filling the jugs.

Have you tasted fall?Glass of apple cider.

Animal Update

Moving to the new house has been an adjustment for everyone, animals included.

While the chickens walked out of their coop into the middle of the apple trees, took in the fallen apples and bugs and were convinced they had gone to chicken heaven, the other animals have been a bit more reserved in their feelings.

Louie (the under-appreciated dove) was the next to recover. Happy to be out in the living room and no longer stuck behind piles of boxes (you can see his cage in the background here) he’s happily cooing and taking in the activity around him.

Fiona had been spending her days hiding in the bed but some kitty drugs have worked wonders and now she’s out, about and nearly back to normal.

Trip spent the first day wondering why we got so mad when he ran under the gate in the backyard to explore his new home turf and then frustrated by the fact that he now has a normal large sized yard to run in instead of a five acre field.

Then he discovered chipmunks.

Now he’s practicing his digging and climbing skills. Since I routinely warn people about his holes and have recently found him on top of a round bale I figure it’s only a matter of time before he excavates the entire yard, climbs the willow tree or both.

Storm was a little longer settling in. Chipmunks weren’t doing it for her. She was busy doing her best attempt at becoming John’s shadow when she discovered the apple trees.Storm and apple tree

More specifically she discovered the apples.

Now, think of an apple, how it feels when you hold it in the palm of your hand. Smooth, roundish, firm. Some apples are shaped to fit the hand so perfectly that if you were to sample it and find it not to your liking you might just throw it off into the bushes and find a new one.  Yes, what I’m saying is that apples are like balls and sometimes, without thinking about it, we throw them.Storm near apple

If the horror of this situation has not yet occurred to you go read my post on Storm’s Sticks. Substitute the word “ball” every time you see “stick,” realize that Jane is now old enough to throw apples and you will understand why Storm is a very happy dog…Storm stareing at apple …and I am wondering what on earth we were thinking moving to a place with a small orchard!