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May 31, 2008

The Orchard

The first fall that we lived here, we planted a small dwarf fruit tree orchard. By that I mean a small orchard of dwarf trees. ~smile~ There are four varieties of apples and three varieties of plums. I'd have to look in my notebook to see which is which and what the names of the varieties are; all I remember is that one is an Arkansas Black apple and another is a Santa Rosa plum. We also planted two cherry trees but they did not survive that first winter, which might be a good thing since wilted cherry leaves are toxic to goats.

Above is one of the apple trees. Three of the four have fruit this year. We had so many late freezes that I feel fortunate to have baby fruit on them at all.

This is the plum tree that fruits heavily every year. It was the first of all of the trees to bear fruit, and is the largest tree as well.

And this is a view of the orchard in front of the house. There's another apple tree to the left that doesn't show in this photo.

We also planted two different varieties of dwarf peaches last year, both of which bore fruit. One didn't survive the hard winter though, and the remaining tree only has three small peaches on it. However I'm thankful that it has fruit, since the other tree (which we planted as a polinator) died. Even the wild peach tree down the road that I usually glean from died this winter.

I haven't checked on the sand plum thickets yet. We have a small one out by the horse shed, and another large one along the road. Someone sent me a recipe for sweet and sour plum sauce that I can't wait to try. The elderberries should be blooming soon as well; we don't have any bushes on our place but I want to try transplanting some. Last year we had a flash flood in the nearby creek and it washed away the bush that I used to harvest berries from, so I have to locate a new patch.

The blackberries are in bloom and I am really looking forward to those. As well as eating them fresh and in cobblers and jam and yogurt and smoothies and sometimes even ice cream, I make blackberry lemonade concentrate and can it to use later in the year. It was originally a recipe for strawberry lemonade, but our strawberry plants didn't survive the drought and it's just as good with blackberries.

Blackberry Lemonade
NOTE - I prefer to mix the sugar and lemon juice together, then add to the jar.

To each pint jar add 1 cup of sliced berries, 1 cup lemon juice, 3/4 cup sugar, and fill the remaining space in the jars with water if necessary. Put on lids and rings; tighten, process in a water bath canner:
pints - under 1000' altitude - 5 minutes
over 1000' - 10 minutes

To serve - pour through strainer into pitcher, dilute to taste.
(Start with 3 pints water to 1 pint concentrate.)

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