Cider Day

In a good year a small orchard can produce fourteen million apples. We have about 25 fruit trees (I say about because a couple are questionable after being mutilated by deer) and this year was a good year for fruit.

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One of the greatest things about an orchard is making fresh cider. We make cider in the fall with a cider press. The cider press is one of the greatest inventions of all time. My handy engineer husband built the press several years ago after spending some quality time researching designs. For many weeks we received strange packages in the mail. I called my husband at work to ask him if he ordered a drive belt for a volvo. He assured me he had and that he needed it for the cider press. Eventually after much banging and welding he wheeled a cider press out of the garage.

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We pick the apples, smash the apples and press the apples to make a beautiful nectar called fresh cider. The best cider (IMHO) is made from a blend of apples and pears. We have several old pear trees (not sure of the variety) and four different types of asian pears that we mix with the apples. Some of our apples are ‘variety unknown’ but we do have gala, fuji, red and golden delicious. They all blend to make fabulous cider. This year we pressed all fourteen million apples.

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Aaaaaannnndddddd…More Stumps

Stump day. That’s what we call it when we work on stumps. Today was a big day because we got rid of 3 stumps.

My burning stump method worked great on my rotten stump. I started a fire inside of it with match light briquettes and general twigs and branches that I scavenged. This stump was pretty rotten down the middle and it was very dry because I covered it to keep the rain out.

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My fire got going pretty quickly and I got lucky when a hole burned through near the bottom of the stump (from the inside to the outside) providing good air flow to my fire. If I had been thinking I would have brought my leaf blower which would provide A LOT of oxygen. Next time.  While this sucker burned, the husband got to work on a really, really big stump.

We have a professional arborist chainsaw. It is an Echo and it works great. The only issue is that it has a 16 inch bar. This means that it is not going to cut a 3 ft diameter stump all at once. Luckily the husband likes to tackle the big jobs.

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Making a series of what seemed like a million cuts, the stump was chunked up a little at a time. Tedious? Yes.

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Eventually the stump was taken down pretty much flush to the ground. I will put a really big scoop of soil on top and feather it out. Probably in the spring I will forget it is there and break my leg trying to plant a tree.

We got rid of another smaller stump and I was able to clear around several more.

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Stump town is looking good, even with my finger in the way!

 

Stump Town part 3

We are still clearing stumps from the future orchard. I will be really glad when I can plant the first fruit tree so I can stop calling it the future orchard. I will also be glad when we don’t have any more stumps.

The hard part about dealing with these stumps is that they need to be cleared of all the debris that is clinging to them and have all the soil pulled away from the base. Some of the stumps were really quite covered with dirt, blackberries and scotch broom so this became extra difficult. I decided to try to compost a stump cluster which contained quite a bit of dirt. The stumps were close together and I figured I could try to compost the whole mess in place.

I love to compost things. I consider myself an advanced composter. Since I don’t pay for trash pick up on the farm and farms often have lots of trash I have to be very creative in my waste disposal. I compost all organic materials, every thing from the kitchen, garden, farm manure, shredded paper. I have a husband that loves to duck hunt. I compost a LOT of carcasses, I once even composted a horse placenta. You name it, I compost it.

The trick to good compost is to get the pile REALLY hot. Once the pile is hot things really get cooking. You can break down an entire compost pile in just a few weeks if it is super hot. Layering green waste with manure is one way to get things hot fast. I am fortunate to have a large garden and I always have trimmings to add to the compost, I bed my rabbit with hay and that is a great source of green waste as well.

My stump cluster had compost written all over it. I could envision tilling it in the spring, a dark crumbly thing of beauty spread in my future orchard.

The first thing I did was pile up some green material, branches, leaves, clumps of grass, followed by a few scoops of dirt and wood chips. In order to get things hot I obtained a couple of carcasses. I scored a nutria on my way to the farm one morning, he didn’t fare so well crossing the road (nutria get hit by cars frequently). He was a good source of organic material and quite heavy. I tossed him on the compost pile. He was joined by a raccoon. I buried them with a good scoop of soil and made sure the stumps were covered with several inches of organic material. I covered the entire mess with a tarp and weighted it down with rocks and large pieces of wood. Keeping it covered is important to keep the rain from washing everything away and also helps keep in the heat.

 

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These guys got nicely buried. Don’t worry I said a few kind words and hey…I am recycling!

I suspect that I will need to add some manure to this pile to get it really cooking if I want to have compost by the spring. I’m not sure how long it will take to break down a stump, so some of this is still an experiment.

One of the stumps that I uncovered while clearing had been partially buried in a slash pile. When I cleared all of the slash and dirt away the stump looked like this:

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You can see that it has really rotted down, the center hole reaches to the level of the surrounding dirt. I cleared out as much of the center as I could and cleared around the stump. This stump seems like a great candidate for starting a fire inside, the outer walls of the stump will probably burn easily once the inside heats up. I covered this stump with a large plastic bin to keep it dry (we are having torrential rain) and will try the fire method this week.

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You can see the outside of the stump is not quite as rotten. Being buried really helped the break down process but it still has a ways to go. Hopefully a little ‘fire in the hole’ will do the trick and we will be rid of it. Only 20 or so more stumps to go!