Brother Jim the monk

Wow, today was gorgeous. I celebrated by spending the entire day in the garden, by myself, listening to the birds and working in nature.  I often feel like I’m a monk on days like today, eschewing personal contact to be closer to the divine through meditation, contemplation, and work. I think it’s one of the best parts about this entire farming venture.

I pulled the last of the pumpkins today. Pretty exciting news: we grew 276 pounds of pumpkins this year in 200 square feet of earth. I also harvested some butternut squash, as well as tomatoes. The tomatoes were a big surprise! Emily employed a secret technique she learned at Ginger’s farm, and she cut off all the leaves last week. This forced the plants to throw everything they had left into fruit, and ta-daah! some turned red. Who knew? Of course, for this technique to work, they have to already be close, and the only variety that worked in this climate without a greenhouse was Chadwick’s Cherry Tomato. We’re for sure doing that one again next year. The other three varieties bombed, but we’re going to try all of them again next year if we realize our dream of getting a greenhouse, to give them a fair shake.

Indoors, I moved to the final stage of my hard cider process and bottled the brew. It’s been almost 10 years since the last time I made cider, but when two bushels of apples fell off of Ryan’s feral apple tree, I couldn’t resist the temptation to put that to good use. The process is pretty easy, so I only needed a little reminding from the trusty Internet, and since I was using two different carboys I did an experiment. In one, I fermented the cider as-is with added champagn yeast (the yeast of choice for this type of brewing). In the other, I did the same but pasteurized the cider first, to kill off any natural yeasts as well as other biologicals that might make it more likely to go bad in the fermentation process. As you can see, the end product was very different, with the pasteurized cider coming out clear, and the other one cloudy. I was worried that the cloudy one was skunked, but surprisingly enough, both were quite drinkable. The un-pasteurized one has a more complex, apple-y taste; but the clear one is definitely more visually appealing. I primed the bottles (to allow them to self-carbonate) then moved them into the root cellar for a few months of rest before final tasting. Maybe that’s how I will ring in the new year?

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