O, Huntertown!

If you’re from around here [1] you’ve at least heard about Huntertown and their quixotic battle to create their very own sewage plant [2].

To honor the Huntertown Town Council in perhaps one of the most bizarre wastes of the taxpayer money entrusted to public officials ever, I’ve created the following:

Sung to the tune of O Canada

O Huntertown!
Our home and crazy land!
True sewage love in all thy sons demand.

With churning bowels we see it rise,
The Sewage Plant strong and free

To spite the Fort
O Huntertown, we flood the Eel for thee.

IDEM keep our town glorious and free!

O Huntertown, we flood the Eel for thee.

O Huntertown, we flood the Eel for thee.


1. 41.210688,-85.3754639

2. For a less musical but more factual take on this, see The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Hard Cider

With harvest done I have time to catch up on important tasks, like racking my hard cider.

Racking

Racking

Tom and I crushed apples on October 14th, and the cider has been fermenting away ever since. The solids settle out of the cider over time, and you siphon it off into clean containers, a process called racking. Do this a few times and the cider gets nice and clear.

Of course, you have to taste it as you rack it, to make sure it’s ok.

A Taste

A Taste

Nice color, and it’s starting to clear. It smelled great and tasted even better. It tastes fresh and apple-y.

And of course, you have confirm the taste from every carboy.

Another Taste

Another Taste

It was as good as the first. Down the hatch!

Done!

Lana, Tom, and I finished harvest today.

Idle Combine

Nothing More To Do

It was an amazing harvest season, almost entirely free of mechanical troubles. We had a few breakdowns of the combine, tractors, and corn dryer, but none of stopped us for more than a couple of hours. The combine, which has a lot of moving parts, is 10 years old, and can be troublesome, ran from October 26 through November 12 without a single glitch. Amazing.

An entire year’s work comes down to a harvest season. And when you’re done, and the barn is full, and the family and farm are safe for another year, it’s a feeling that defies expression.

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.