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A City Boy Making His Way in the Country
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Cider Season

It’s cider season – and this year, I’ve attempted to make my own. Below are some hard-learned lessons about home cider production.

1) To make more than a thimble full of cider, you need a lot of apples. A lot.

2) You have to core (and if you feel like it, peel) all those apples.

3) Again, to make more than a cup of cider, you need a lot of apples. Like a lot.

4) You need to strain your apple mush through cheesecloth (or strainer should you choose). That’s work. And energy.

5) A gallon of cider in the store is about $4.

6) To make more than a gallon of cider, you’ll need a massive amount of apples. Like an orchard or something.

7) Our cider will become hard cider – you need yeast for that. And someone that knows what they’re doing.

My intention is not to scare you away from making your own cider. More importantly, I just want to make sure you have enough apples; and know what you’re getting yourself involved with. There’s a lot of peeling, pulsing, squeezing and straining. In the end, maybe you should just grab that gallon jug at the store and spend your time carving pumpkins and celebrating the season with friends and family.

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It’s Tree Planting (and planning) Season

It’s that time of year again, time get some new trees in the ground. Not too hot, not too cold, the air, soil and environment are just right for planting. At Orchard House, we try and plant 4 or 5 new trees a year. Not only is it good for the environment, but it helps to reclaim a little of this farmland back for Mother Nature.

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This year we put in some poplars (that were destroyed by the mowing company – 1 remains), replaced an apple tree, put in a crabapple and a redbud (one of my favorites) and today planted 2 more. The real difficulty, as I’m not a great planner, is to think longterm with these trees – how tall will the grow, what’s their width, what do I want to do in the area around them? So I’ve tried as best I can.

But even the best planned intentions can run amok. Last year I planted some wonderful heirloom apple trees, and a few weeks ago one of the goats escaped, tried to reach the leaves growing on one, and snapped it in half. Destroyed. Hateful. Re-planted something new. My gardening mantra: If at first you don’t succeed, Lowes is just down the street.

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Nothing is unique.

Nothing is unique. Here I thought I had a vintage, pretty animal trailer and then…Facebook. It tells me there is another. Living happily on the east coast. It warms my heart though, to know that a twin exists outside of my realm. In a world were it’s hauling livestock and doing good for a farm. And uniqueness is over-rated. (Thanks to our lovely friend Sally Hamidi for sharing the photo with us.)

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Expect the Unexpected.

Farm life is full of the unexpected. You need a farrier? (The poor donkey’s and their hooves were over-grown.) Give him a call at 10 a.m. and he can be there at 3. The same day. It’s not like the city, where when you call someone, they could maybe make it in 2 weeks. It’s fast action out here. Like they’re sitting and waiting for your call. ¬†After almost 3 years in the country, it’s still unexpected.

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The other day, after returning from vacation, I discovered a lamb had scour – it’s a pretty word for massive diarrhea. Treatment begins with clipping away the collection of semi-solid poo that has collected in his fleece. A wiggly one, he moved, I grabbed some fleece to clip, and whoops, cut some of his skin off. To be graphic – right below his anus. It could have been horribly worse. But the day suddenly changed. A call to the vet. A stop to buy some medication. Some application time, and voila, a planned day is spent with the unexpected.

Another time, an event. The need for China and flatware. An unexpected need. So it’s gathered. And placed. Mind you, not an inconvenience, just unexpected. The next planned hour? Postponed.

While life is unexpected, it can be exciting. And troubling. And invigorating. A learning experience. A puzzle. But with 70+ animals, and minimal experience caring for them, I wouldn’t expect anything less.

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H.R.H. Warrior

A Warrior has arrived on the farm. Although I’ve only known him for a few days, I don’t think he has evil intentions. In fact, he seems quite peaceful. He’s about 3 feet tall and welcomes treats laced with molasses. He’s gray, with spots, and has a luxurious mane. His feet are a little rough, though. And doesn’t speak much – unless, of course, he’s responding to an ornery alpaca call every now and again.

526433_533755270012693_2017302344_nOh, and he loves his hay. He is, after all, a mini-horse. What do we, at Orchard House, know about keeping horses – no matter how small? Not much. Don once had a pony. And it ran away to a neighboring farm the first chance it got. And, to be honest, I’m afraid of horses. Recently at the State Fair, Don stood next to a horse that was twice his height. Who takes care of a beast like that? He could eat me. His shoe size was bigger than mine!

Horses are unpredictable. I expect mini-horses to be no different – maybe just a little less unpredictable. If they kick, it won’t be as hard. There’s something very magical about having a kind-of real life My Little Pony prancing through the fields. We’ve got a lot to learn however, and the journey forward will be an interesting one.

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