Rudy wore pants for the first time two days ago. Trae and I both thought they looked adorable/hilarious. That night, I paced around our room holding her to my chest and she fell asleep in my arms again. I wanted to halt time. Can she stay this tiny forever? It's going by so fast.
This week we've had a slew of days in the 70s, those early September days when you can feel the first tinge of fall on the breeze and you hold your breath hoping summer doesn't come roaring back. The old apple trees in our back yard were loaded, and on Saturday a neighbor with an apple press called asking us if we wanted to make cider with her family. We harvested all we could, which turned out to be about two bushels.
We still don't know what varieties our apples are. One tree has streaky red apples that are slightly tannic and honey-sweet. One has greener apples with not as much red, and its fruit is more tart. We know so many people who love apples, so hopefully we can get some help figuring them out.
Two winters ago Trae and I grafted about 75 trees on dwarfing and semi-dwarfing rootstock and planted them on our farm. We chose several old southern varieties -- many good for cider -- though will be a few more years before we can harvest their fruit.
I'd never made cider before, but the whole process was pretty straightforward. First you sanitize the apples (we did this in our neighbors' outdoor bathtub) and cut out the bad spots, then toss them into the feeder (the red part) which funnels them through a grinder. The pulp falls onto a mesh fabric laid over a wooden frame. When the frame is full, you cover up the pulp with the fabric, then transfer it to the other side of the press where the actual pressing foot is. A large crank we turned with an old wheelbarrow handle lowers the press onto the pulp and forces the juice out and into whatever container you have to catch it below.
We spent a few hours there, washing, grinding and pressing until well after dark. The kids grabbed handfuls of apples and tossed them above their heads into the press, some bouncing off and rolling into the grass. Trae and some others stood over the bathtub filled to the brim with mottled green apples, cutting out the rotten spots and filling up Coke crates with clean fruit, replenishing the buckets for the kids. The press would run until it got jammed or until they'd filled up a frame with pulp and it was time to add a new frame to the stack. Someone would grab the wheelbarrow handle and crank the press down. The juice trickled out the bottom into a metal catching tray and we dipped mason jars into the juice and drank it fresh.
This might be my new favorite way to welcome the fall.