Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Highlights of a Harvest Day

My sister, who has been up here visiting for the month, recently declared the Facebook app "Farmville" a "sham."

When she first got here she was, while lounging on the couch, harvesting crops, planting new ones, and clicking away to agricultural prosperity. After working her first cherry harvest, she decided the virtual reality was laughable and hasn't the heart, any longer, to press a button to "harvest."

Here are just a few highlights of the cherry harvesting process (without going into any great detail, nor the rest of the annual toil of spraying, pruning, mowing, pulling brush, watering, replanting, payroll, etc.).

Before harvest begins, the orchard must be prepared for the pickers' arrivals.

Flags are put out numbering every row of the orchard.

Ladders are spread throughout the first picking areas.

Portalets and water coolers are carefully placed.

Empty fruit bins are strategically scattered throughout the orchard.

 Lots of extra equipment is rented.

For weeks beforehand men and women line up to be hired for picking.

Finally the first day of harvest dawns... 4:30am-ish.

After each picker clocks in and is given an orchard ID card, they are assigned to a row of trees by a crew boss.

Then they begin picking, careful not to pull the fruit off the stem (milking), or pull bark with the stems (spurring). It's a lot harder than you'd think.

But these guys are good, and many return year after year to pick for us.

It takes a lot of work to fill a bin!

After their bins are full, they are given a receipt for the bin by a checker.

Filled and checked bins are forked by little tractors out of the orchard onto a main road.

When four full bins are lined up, they are picked up by a blueline driver.

Sometimes it gets a little crowded on the main roads.

The blueliner brings them down to a weigh shack.

The weigh shack pulls the ticket out of the bin (to be given to the data entry gal -- a whole 'nother process!), weighs the fruit, and sends it down the motorized chain to get water.

Here's the fruit going from the motorized chain (from blueline through shack scale) to the rollers for water.

The fruit is then watered to cool it down (hot fruit gets mushy fast) and prepare it for shipping.

Sorry... water is fun to photograph.

From the waterer it is picked up by a fork lift, usually stacked five bins high, and is loaded onto a refrigerated semi truck.

From there it goes to a packing shed where it will be sorted (culled), graded, packaged and shipped to grocery stores.

Some, of course, are oblivious to the buzz of activity all around.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Life Would've Been So Different

Tasty Tuesday will return next week.

Here's a teaser photo for a full post later this week.

I'm so glad I didn't marry a rutabaga farmer!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Back from the Dead

Right Now:  8:45pm. I'm still full from the lunch I made/had with my husband and sister (homemade hoagies, sauteed mushrooms and green peppers, Italian sausages and whole seed mustard). I also just woke up from an obscenely long nap.

This Past Weekend: is kind of a blur. I hadn't taken an obscenely long nap before today!

On Saturday I made a chocolate cream pie and a sweet potato pie for Sunday's "Harvest Party." Sunday, after Mass, was spent writing a "harvest song," compiling a slideshow and making employee awards. The party itself was great; a cookout with volleyball, a fiddler, and great company (best employees ever this year!).

Some Plans for the Week: We scored some free wicker chairs (with a sign "free") off the side of the road. I want to give them a fresh coat of paint and either buy or make some deep cushions for them. I also want to (finally) try my hand at making bagels, and start job hunting in earnest.

If I Can Find Time for Myself, I Want To: Exercise. Even if I can't find time, I should make it. I've been too sedentary too long.

Special Prayer Intentions: In thanksgiving for a friend from college who was ordained a priest this weekend, and for all of my old seminarian friends. In sincere thanksgiving for an unexpectedly successful cherry harvest -- we'll live to farm another year. And in gratitude for my husband; the most amazing man alive.

Something That Makes Me Smile: The many stages of an exquisite sunrise over the river during a cherry harvest morning. Getting up at 3:30am does, occasionally, have its advantages.

Monday Morning Musings are hosted by Patch o' Dirt Farm.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sleep? What's That?

It started Sunday.

3:15am alarm clocks. Subconscious slapping of the snooze button. 3:30 alarm. Subconscious slap. 3:45 alarm, dart out of bed, unshowered, unbreakfasted, "HOW COULD I SLEEP IN!? We've got to GO!"

Welcome to cherry harvest.

(Posting hiatus until it's over... end of this week? Remind me to bring my camera to the orchard.)

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Yay Me


1. This is big. Really big. In fact, it shouldn't even qualify as a "small" success. But considering I don't do "Huge Success Friday" I have nowhere else to post this. So here it goes. After two agonizing years of verbal abuse, I quit one of my jobs. There. I said it. I did it. I actually did it. Will I be able to pay my student loans? Who knows. Is the daily sense of dread gone? Heck yes.

2. I've had baby chicks for five days and none of them are dead! Okay, my fears of being an irresponsible owner are validated... I've let their water run dry twice and forgot to lower the heat lamp one night. But they're still alive, and apparently healthy!! They're so much more forgiving than geraniums!

3. I've made three better-than-store-quality (with no high fructose corn syrup, modified corn starch, modified whey protein, xantham gum, carrageenan, guar gum, and whatever other dubious substrates are always in there) batches of ice cream! Epic diet fail, but huge culinary success! And my husband is thrilled (he's an ice cream fiend).

They're not actually hosting Small Successes at Faith & Family this week, but I had to post this anyway.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Maybe They Were Working

I'm reading Persuasion, by Jane Austen.

I've never liked any of the film versions, mostly because they all cast unattractive actors (shallow, I know, but difficult for me to get past), but also because I couldn't stand Captain Wentworth's character. He was so cold, rash, flirtatious and unworthy, and remained so to the end... nothing like Mr. Darcy or Mr. Knightly or Colonel Brandon.  But in movies you aren't typically given a glimpse inside a character's mind to know their motives as you are privy to in books, and I hoped reading the novel would restore my faith in Austen's cohort of strong, honorable, virtuous male leads.

Anyway, the book is wonderful but I was distracted from pages 45-58 by a strong desire for asparagus, diverted in pages 59-77 by an urge for cauliflower, and totally unable to concentrate on pages 78-90 for a broccoli craving. I like vegetables as much as the next person (perhaps a little more), but I never crave them! So, realizing I'd better put the book down before I heard the call of the brussels sprouts, I indulged the odd impulse (with some blue cheese dressing).

A little investigation showed that asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower are all very high in folic acid and vitamin C; the two supplements I quit taking a few weeks ago (despite doctor recommendations) because, I thought, "these aren't doing anything."

I'll take two vitamins tonight and pray the cauliflower doesn't call me in the morning.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Golden Granola

Tasty Tuesday
Grab the button here and come join us, or just link to another site with a recipe you're going to try... or post a recipe in the comments!

There are a few foods for which everyone claims to have the "absolute best" recipe. Homemade pizza crust, lasagna, chocolate chip cookies, and tacos are a few. Any search for those recipes will turn up results such as: "absolute best," "best EVER," "world's best." Well, when looking for a good homemade granola recipe, I ran into dozens of recipes claiming to be "the world's best" and they are all comprised of about the same ingredients in different proportions.

At long last, I just went with a recipe and now I've stuck with it (adapting it each time and liking all the variations equally well). This recipe came by way of my sister-in-law's mom. I'm not claiming this is the best recipe on earth, but I will claim that my husband and I really like it. My preferred way of consuming this delight is as a cereal with blueberries and/or bananas and milk. But it also goes wonderfully on yogurt, on ice cream, or just straight and dry as a snack.

Golden Granola
Adapted from: Ann Sutton
  • 4 c. oatmeal (uncooked)
  • 1 c. coarsely chopped nuts
  • 1 c. coconut
  • 1/2 cup wheat bran (optional, it adds fiber)
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 1/4 c. melted butter
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 c. raisins
Combine all ingredients except raisins in a bowl and mix well. Spread evenly on an ungreased large rimmed cookie sheet. Bake in a preheated oven (350°) 15 minutes, stir, and bake 10 minutes more. Stir in raisins, cool thoroughly, and store in a tightly covered container in a cool dry place.

What are you cooking?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Monday Morning Musings Vol. V

Right now... it's almost noon. I'm mulling over whether I should fight for my job at the parish or resign quietly.

This past weekend... was interesting. On Saturday I was called and informed that my husband was in the emergency room from a "farming accident." How's that to make your knees go weak and your heart completely stop? As it turned out, he'd caught his little finger on the baler and nicked the end of the bone, requiring stitches and a splint. By the time I got to the hospital (mind you, they waited 45 minutes to call me!) he had already been discharged. I knew it was a "minor injury," but we both joked later that our hopes of a distraught-adoring-wife-racing-into-the-hospital-and-ignoring-the-nurse's-cries-that-no-visitors-are-allowed-so-she-could-race-to-his-side-and-wipe-his-brow scene were dashed by the quick turnover time.

My poor darling. He's such an example to me. An injury like that would've sidelined me for a month; I've got such a low pain tolerance and high sympathy garnering needs. He hasn't muttered so much as an "ouch" and besides requesting BBQ and homemade ice cream, he hasn't hammed this up at all! It's expected that he will have a full recovery.

On Sunday we went to the park at the river, got snowballs, and um... OH YEAH, THE EAGLE HAS LANDED!  Our baby chicks have arrived!

Some plans for this week:  Keep the chicks alive. Cherry harvest (starts tomorrow or Wednesday) and all the prep-work that entails.

If I can find some time for myself, I want to... there won't be any time for myself this week.

Special prayer intentions: For a smooth cherry harvest (and in thanksgiving for the miraculous cessation of rain). For the meeting on Wednesday at the church. For my husband's finger, and for my friend in the Holy Land to continue there in safety.

Something that makes me smile: Howard, the baby dark brown chick (below) with the fuzzy head.

This post is graciously hosted by Patch O' Dirt Farm.

Friday, June 11, 2010

All the Difference in the World

"Behold the heart that has loved men so much, and is loved so little in return."

As we near another milestone in our marriage, I invariably become a little downcast about our as yet unfulfilled dream of little hands and feet around the dinner table. Chubby cheeks, dimpled fingers, toddler speak and the like.

But God has the dearest way of sending love notes. Yesterday there was, again, a full double rainbow at the farm.

A dear priest I know used to say, "People have always had crosses. But the difference of Christianity is that now Christ is on that cross with you, stretching out his arms to embrace you and sustain you. And that makes all the difference."

And you know what? It does.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Small Successes this Week


1. Have started playing the piano a lot more. An 88 year old man in the area who can no longer play gave me his entire stash of piano music... mostly Broadway tunes and country music from the 40's and 50's (some of my favorite stuff). It's really fun, and my husband really enjoys it when I play.

2. Have gone to daily Mass more this week than I did all of last month combined (ouch... and it's only Thursday). The possibility of having your cherry crop wiped out by the weather brings you to your knees pretty quickly. We just have another 12 days or so to make it. Please please pray for us!

3. Have started cooking again since I realized I don't have to make a new recipe every night... I can reuse old ones. (Don't scoff. I was on a kick for a long time of having to outdo myself with each dinner. Sometimes, though, dinner needn't be an event or production and doesn't have to have a "wow factor," it can just be good ol' sustenance).

Check out others' small successes this week at Faith & Family Live.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Garden Update

I grew this from a seed! ME!! Growing basil!

I grew this from a seed, too. I planted 32 radish seeds and 3 came up. Yay for my abundant crop!

My beans are positively thriving, though!

We have pea plants!!

Fresh salad, anyone?

This is the first tomato plant I haven't murdered.

Parsley and more basil are doing splendidly. But you know what makes me so upset?

Last week, when I was sunning and shading and watering and weeding and babying these stupid plants, they were dying. (Don't you love cilantro?)

I haven't looked at the garden in a week, and I wake up this morning to see it looking like this.

Maybe I should leave my garden alone and move.