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Sow The Seed follows the ups and downs of me, Helen and my husband, Simon - a couple trying to live a simpler life in south-west Wales.

I hope this blog will not only be a good reference and diary for us over the coming years, but will give helpful advice and tips for people trying to do the same thing, or dreaming of doing the same thing.

Find out more on how we got here.

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Tasks: Sowing; pruning; weeding; pottering

Harvesting: Cucumber, lettuce, radishes, strawberries, broad beans, potatoes

Eggs this year: 394 (hens) 317 (ducks)

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Posts Tagged ‘apples’

Cider making underway

Well it’s been a while since I posted anything on Sow the Seed, despite lots going on. Summer has been and gone, with all the growing and harvesting that the summer season entails, and we’re now well into autumn and the harvesting continues, with apples taking centre stage. Our fruit trees are now in full production, with most of the trees producing well. One aspect of having plenty of apples is that we can make apple juice and cider, and today was ear marked as cider making day.

This year we have got our first big crop of apples from our cider tree – “Yarlington Mill”. In retrospect we might not have planted this variety, which can only really be used for cider making. Other varieties have multiple uses – the variety “Tom Putt”, which we also planted, can be used for juicing, cider making or cooking. Never mind though, it’s a good excuse to try making some farmhouse cider. You are meant to only use the juice from cider apples for a proportion of the cider, so we juiced Tom Putt and Golden Delicious alongside the Yarlington Mill to give us a cider that will hopefully be tasty, and not too dry.

The whole process is a bit time consuming. The apples have to picked and washed, and then cut up, crushed and pressed. All the demijohns and equipment have to be sterilised, and the kitchen starts to look like a chemistry lab! It’s a good job for a wet weekend, which we seem to be having plenty of.

The cider is now undergoing its initial ferment, and once that has finished there is the process of racking off for a second ferment and then bottling. It’s best to keep it bottled for a few months before consuming, so it’s really not a quick process. The problem then is that if it really tastes awful at the end of it all, you’ve had to wait so long and invest a lot of time before finding out.

Roll on next year when we get to try it!

Apple canker has taken hold

Apple canker has taken hold

We’ve had to dig up and dispose of one of our new apple trees – (Discovery M26). It hadn’t been looking well for a year or so, with the bark peeling away on the main stem. However, it continued to blossom and leaf up each year, although now thinking about it, it didn’t put on as much growth as the other trees planted at the same time. This winter though, it looked really bad, and after some investigation and an email to the nursery we bought it from, we concluded that it had got apple canker. This is a disease caused by a fungus, and apples are particularly susceptible. Given the extent of the damage, we were advised to dig up and burn the tree. Come the autumn we will have to spray the other trees with a copper-containing mixture (such as Bordeaux mixture) to try and prevent any further disease. Read the rest of this entry »

Vigo apple press

Vigo apple press

It’s been a good year for apples, and despite a visit by the bullfinch earlier in the year, our eating apple bore lots of fruit. Last weekend we dusted down the apple-picker and stripped the branches almost bare (leaving a few for the birds to enjoy over the winter). The apples were of varying sizes and quality, and while in previous years a lot would have gone on the compost heap, this year we had the opportunity to turn these unwanted ones into apple juice.

My parents bought an Vigo apple press a number of years ago to make more use of the apples they grew, and  now they live a lot closer to us we’ve been able to make use of this handy resource. So yesterday morning I washed (and in many cases scrubbed) all the apples that we wanted to press, and then turned up on their doorstep in the afternoon with our harvest. Given their reaction, it was clearly a lot more apples than they had envisaged, and would take quite a while to get through. It’s not just a simple case of putting the whole apples in the press and watching the juice stream out, the apples need to be crushed first to enable them to more easily release their juices. You can buy manual and motorised machines to do this part of the job, but they are pretty expensive for something you may only use once or twice a year, so instead it was all hands to the pump. Read the rest of this entry »

The annual outing for the apple picker!

It seems to come around quicker each year, but in fact this year we have left the apple harvest until a few weeks later than previously. We’ve got a few eating apples on the tree, but like many people, our harvest was very small this year compared to last year. The weather is partly to blame, but we’re also placing some of the blame on four bullfinches, which stripped the blossom from the tree in spring. On the plus side the apples that we did harvest are a reasonable size. Read the rest of this entry »

Why are the best ones always furthest away?

The end of October is usually the time for us to harvest the apples from our one dessert apple tree. In fact this was one of the first things we did when we moved here almost three years ago, surprised to see the apples still hanging into November. We don’t know what variety the tree is (the previous owners told us their son had planted it from an apple pip), but it tastes okay and importantly they store very well. My records show we were still eating them in May! Read the rest of this entry »

Preparing for next year

Things are definitely quietening down in the garden at the moment, although there always seems to be something to do. We’ve got quite a large pile of compost that has been rotting down over the summer, and to allow the worms to start incorporating it into the soil over winter, I thought I would spread it on the garden. We’ve still got an unused area of our new vegetable garden that has been under black plastic for nearly two years. I want to use this for potatoes next year, so a good dose of compost will help those along the way.

I was slightly wary of pulling pack the black plastic, because when we pulled some of it back in the summer we found a large grass snake underneath. I know they’re not poisonous, but it’s still a bit scary being confronted with a snake. Luckily all I saw this time was a bit of its shed skin and a small mouse that ran out and under the shed… mice I can cope with! Read the rest of this entry »

This recipe came from a neighbour as a way of using up marrows (and cooking apples). It can be eaten straight after making, rather than waiting a few months to mature – although the longer its left the better the taste. It makes about 3lb of chutney. Enjoy! Read the rest of this entry »

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