Safety is Job One

At Zumbrun Farms we take safety seriously as evidenced by the photo below.

Safety First!

Safety First!

In case you can’t tell what that is, it’s a board I cut to hold the clutch down on the tractor we use to run the auger to unload corn. You have to press the clutch down to start the tractor, so you don’t start it in gear and run somebody over.

So when we start the tractor to unload corn, as we’ll do about 100 times this fall, you have to climb up into the tractor, stomp on the clutch and start it.

If my arms were about an inch longer I’d be able to stand on the ground and hold the clutch with one hand and turn the key with the other. But they’re not, so doing that involves a painful stretch.

After a week of this, I finally just cut a board tonight to wedge the clutch down so I can start the tractor from the ground without having to climb up in it.

What could possibly go wrong? Well, the tractor could accidentally get put in gear. Then as I start it the board could kick out, and the tractor would lurch forward, running me over while dragging the auger behind it and then careening across the road where it would hit a schoolbus full of children.

That’s why I carefully wrote “Safety First!” on the board.

Picking Corn

Picking corn today.

Combining

Combining

These rows are a half mile long. Around here that’s a long row!

Long Rows

Long Rows

Unloading back at home into the corn dryer.

Unloading

Unloading

We want the corn to be 15% to 15.5% moisture coming out of the dryer.

Moisture Tester

Moisture Tester

This is a little wet at 16.5%, I increased the dryer cycle time to take out a little more moisture.

The dryer will work most of the night, drying the corn we picked today. And tomorrow we’ll do it all again.

If it doesn’t rain.

The Whopper

I found this radish today while wandering around in the corn field.

The Whopper

The Whopper

It weighs in at 9 pounds, and it broke off at the ground (Lana drove the combine over it) so there’s even more of it still in the ground.

We had radishes in this field last year for a cover crop, and this one is a volunteer that came up from last year’s crop.

Tom took this picture, I’m not sure how he managed it. I haven’t applied any special effects to it, this is how it came off the camera.

Twirling

Twirling

Usually when these radishes get this big they’re not good to eat, they get woody and bitter and hot. But this one is tender and mild and quite tasty.

Cider

After last year’s apple bonanza apples are scare here this year. My trees had hardly any. A nearby orchard where I’ve gotten apples didn’t have any for cider. I looked on Craigslist though and found an orchard about 20 miles away that had plenty of seconds for cider.

10 Bushels

10 Bushels

After getting an inch and a half of rain in the last two days we’re out of the soybean fields for a while, so Tom and I crushed apples today.

Ready!

Ready!

The old cider press, cleaned up, sanitized, and ready to press!

Pressing

Pressing

With two baskets it really goes fast. One of us would be throwing apples in the grinder and filling a basket while the other was cranking down the screw, pressing out the cider.

We ended up with about 25 gallons of cider. I’ve got around 17 of those gallons in carboys, ready to become hard cider. We’re cooking down some for apple syrup, and the rest is for drinking fresh.

Becoming Syrup

Becoming Syrup

And we have a big pile of pressed apples to feed to the cows and horses and chickens.

Apple Pomace

Apple Pomace

Driverless Car…

zumbrun.net is a happy place, but sometimes happenings are so egregious I can’t let them pass.

When will the idiots[1] at gmail realize that one false positive renders a spam filter totally useless?

If you have to constantly look at your spam folder to catch the emails that aren’t spam, the spam folder is useless.

It ain’t rocket science.


1. These are the same idiots who are bringing you a driverless car. Hence the post title. Keep your hands firmly on the wheel.

Seeding Rye

(In nature) The soil is always protected from the direct action of sun, rain, and wind. In this care of soil strict economy is the watchword: nothing is lost.

Sir Albert Howard in An Agricultural Testament

We had cereal rye seeded on our cornfields this week as a cover crop. The corn is starting to die and that lets sunlight reach the ground between the rows, so the rye we spread on the ground will begin to grow.

Rye is a winter annual, it will grow this fall until it freezes, then it goes dormant through the winter and resumes growing in the spring. We’ll let it grow until we’re ready to plant soybeans, then kill it.

The rye provides the benefit Sir Albert Howard mentions above in the quote; it protects the soil from washing away in the rain or blowing away in the wind.

As the rye grows it is working beneath the soil, increasing the biological life in the soil and turning water, sunlight, and the nutrients in the soil into organic matter that will feed next year’s crop.

We have Andy Ambriole use his sprayer with an air seeder on it to apply the rye. The sprayer is tall enough it can drive through the corn without doing much damage.

Gray Morning

Gray Morning

Filling Up

Filling Up

Filling the sprayer with rye seed in the gray foggy mornings we’ve been having. The long white tubes go between the corn rows, ensuring the seed gets to the ground and doesn’t get caught in the corn leaves. The tubing all runs back to a seed hopper with a blower on it that blows the seed out through the tubing. Andy said he has 1500 feet of tubing on the sprayer. It’s 90 feet wide when unfolded.

Far Away

Far Away

From a distance you can just see the roof of the sprayer over the corn.

Closer

Closer

Even Closer

Even Closer

And up close you can’t see much more than that!

Andy’s using the rye seed that we just harvested that I wrote about here.

More Rye

Harvesting Rye

By next spring we hope the field looks like this:

Coming Through the Rye

Killing Rye in the Spring

And once we kill it and plant soybeans in it, like this:

Soybeans and Rye

Soybeans Coming Up Through Rye

Now we just wait for the rye to do its work until next spring.

And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we’re asleep.

Wendell Berry, X

Grape Pie

My Grandma Zumbrun used to make grape pie, so in a fit of nostalgia and grapes I made one yesterday.

Our grapevine, despite having been savaged by rabbits last produced grapes like crazy this year.

Grapevine

Grapevine

I didn’t expect to get any grapes this year because of the rabbit damage. So I didn’t prune the vines or thin the grapes. We ended up with lots and lots of little grapes.

Bowl of Little Grapes

Bowl of Little Grapes

Debbie glanced at that bowl and asked, “what are you doing with blueberries?” That’s about the size they are.

To make a grape pie you start removing the skins from the grapes. Yes, every one of this little grapes I picked up, pinched it on the end away from the stem, and if everything was right the plup and seed would pop right out.

Peeled Grapes

Peeled Grapes

This made me really wish I’d thinned the grapes so I would have had fewer big plump grapes to skin. It took me about a half hour to skin 4 cups of grapes and by the time I was done there were skins and pulp everywhere and I looked like I’d dispatched a large and very bloody creature with my bare hands.

You cook the pulp briefly and run it through a food mill to remove the seeds. Then you recombine the pulp and the skins. The skins give you the deep purple color and a lot of flavor. Your reward, I guess, for going to the work of skinning all those grapes.

Filled Pie

Filled Pie

Covered Pie

Covered Pie

Into the oven it goes and about 45 minutes later…

Baked Pie

Baked Pie

And after cooling, the splendid result.

Sliced Pie

Sliced Pie

It tastes just like you’d expect, like grape jam. It’s a lot of work, but it makes an unusual and tasty pie for a different sort of treat.

Grape Pie
For 1 8″ pie

Ingredients

About 4 cups of red grapes
Sugar
Cornstarch or flour or tapioca
Salt
Butter
Pie crust

Procedure

Prepare your favorite 2 crust recipe
Peel the grapes by pinching them at the end opposite the stem, put the seeds and pulp in one bowl and the skins in another
Bring the seeds and pulp to boil and simmer for 5 minutes
Allow to cool and then run through a food mill or colander to remove the seeds
Combine the skins and pulp (they can sit for several hours and continue to pick up flavor and color)
Heat your oven to 450
Add sugar to taste to the grapes. My grapes are very tart and I used about a cup of sugar. If your grapes are sweet you may want to add some lemon juice for tartness.
Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt
Add 1 to 4 tablespoons of cornstarch (or whatever thickener you like). I used about 3 tablespoons as my grapes were very juicy.
Pour grape mixture into bottom pie crust
Top with dabs of butter if you like
Cover with top crust, seal and crimp and make cuts for venting
Bake 10 minutes at 450 and then turn oven down to 350
Bake another 30 minutes or until bubbling and the crust is golden
Allow to cool several hours at least before slicing.

Tomatoes!

Tom and I went to the Clearspring Produce Auction on Thursday and in a marvel of restraint came home with only 4 1/2 bushels of tomatoes. There was a group of 5 pecks of Romas I really wanted, and a lot of 5 pecks of really nice jalapenos, and I almost bought Debbie a pallet of 60 ornamental gourds and pumpkins.

But we were good and only came home with canning tomatoes.

Canning Tomatoes

Canning Tomatoes

All that restraint went out the window when I went to the Columbia City Farmer’s Market on Saturday.

Farmer's Market Goodies

Farmer’s Market Goodies

I came home with about 4 quarts of hot peppers for hot sauce, an 8 pound head of cabbage for sauerkraut, two baby ginger roots, a loaf of Italian style bread, and two beautiful eggplants.

Today we started canning tomatoes.

The Calm Before the Storm

The Calm Before the Storm

Everything started out neat and tidy. But pretty soon we had every burner covered.

Cooking  5 Gallons of Tomatoes

Cooking 5 Gallons of Tomatoes

Two Canners and Three Pans of Tomatoes

Two Canners and Three Pans of Tomatoes

Lana threatened us with bodily harm if we cooked tomatoes in her water bath canner, so we took a picture to prove we were being good.

Proper Usage

Proper Usage

Not surprisingly, things got out of hand.

A Big Mess

A Big Mess

And at one point a cork trivet stuck to the bottom of a pan, and I put it back on the stove.

Oops

Oops

Tom and I looked at one another for bit, “what is on the bottom of that pan that’s making it smoke so?” We soon answered our own question, and in a Gordon-esque move, hurled the smoking trivet out the back door.

But by mid-afternoon most everything was done – because we ran out of jars. We still have 25 quarts of juice to process, and haven’t touched the hot peppers yet.

Bounty

Bounty

But we’re mostly done, and it sure looks pretty all cleaned up and the tomatoes in nice rows.

Pop!

Is there anything more satisfying than hearing a canning jar seal?

Pop!

Pop!

Our tomatoes have been going gangbusters this year and today I canned 16 pints of crushed tomatoes and 5 quarts of juice from just 3 vines.

The jars come out of the canner bubbling furiously. The heat is a tangible and vicious[1] thing, even the briefest touch will raise blisters on your skin. And then as the jars cool the canning lids snap down with a sharp pop.

There’s no more satisfying sound in the world. It’s not that those 16 pints of tomatoes stand between us and starvation, but it represents that. No matter what happens, when the wind blows and the snow flies this winter, we’ll be able to open a jar of tomatoes and eat.

And it represents work well done. The planning of growing food, planting the seeds, tending to them, fending off the pests, harvesting, preparing and preserving, all culminates in that “pop!” as the canning jar seals.

There’s a bit of the dilettante in this. I don’t have to do this. I won’t go hungry if I don’t do it. But I don’t let that dilute my pleasure in hearing the “pop!”


1. I kept typing “viscous” and I knew that wasn’t right but the spelling checker wasn’t any help, so I finally had to ask Debbie, “how the heck do you spell vicious?” She spelled it for me [2] and then asked, “why are you typing ‘vicious’?” I replied that I was blogging about canning, but she didn’t find that explanation helpful.

2. She’s my hero. I wish I could spell.

Catching the Rye

We grow a little of cereal rye for cover crop seed. It’s kind of like winter wheat, you plant it in the fall at the same time you’re planting wheat. But it comes ripe about 3 weeks after the winter wheat.

We harvested the rye last week.

Cutting Rye

Cutting Rye

It looks like wheat in this picture. It’s actually about 2 feet taller than wheat and has a bigger head with bigger grains.

More Rye

More Rye

Rye going into the combine.

This year we tried a couple of ‘high-management’ test strips in the rye. We use high-management practices on wheat; we spray for weeds as needed, spoon feed it nitrogen 3 or 4 or 5 different times, and apply fungicides at the precise times diseases are a threat.

It’s a lot a messing around, often when we’re trying to get other things done, but it’s the difference between 60 bushels per acre and 100 bushels per acre in wheat for us.

So we thought we’d try those same practices in rye this year. The main part of the rye field, where we just hit it with one pass of fertilizer and fungicide went 55 bushels to the acre. The high management part…

High management rye

High management rye

… went as high as 110 bushels to the acre and averaged about 95 bushels to the acre.

Like so many things, attention to the details matters.