bean, blackEach year, during harvest we get into a seed-saving mode. I set aside the first and best of everything that we grow to save seeds. Taking the first and best helps make my chances at having a good viable supply of garden seed for next year.

bean Black Eye 01We have tables with seeds laid out on them to dry. Above are some black beans, which we dry and store for use all year long in soups. Before putting them in the pantry, we take enough seed out to plant again next year.


Seed to Seed, Ashworth

How did I learn about seed-saving? I got a good book (Goodwill) entitled, “Seed to Seed, Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners” by Suzanne Ashworth. It is a reference that I use over and over. Her detailed explanations and pictures taught me what I needed to know. I realize, not everyone wants to use a paper book with pages. So, look online for a reference that you would like to use. After a quick search, here is one from the University of Minnesota.

Here are some chokecherry berries drying after being cleaned. They need a cheesecloth stretched over them to keep the birds out of them. No seed saving is required this year. After, the berries dry, I place them in plastic bags to freeze. They make wonderful jam all winter long.

corn 034Most people know how corn is processed. I shuck it, and lay it out to dry on a table out of the sun. Rubbing the seeds off finishes the process. We save dried corn for soup and put some seeds in the box for next year.

Hope you are able to get a good reference book for yourself to learn these techniques. Saving your own seeds is really worth the effort.


Making Apple Juice

apple Juice 01Apple juice! With 60 gallons of apples harvested, we set up to process all of them into juice using an antique apple press Juice 09 The tractor pallet that Peter built is used to wash the apples on the tractor outside. Larry brings clean bucketfuls to the chopping/sorting table for Linda and me.

Preparing the Apples

apple Juice 11We are chopping them in half, removing bruises, and bad spots then putting them in a bucket for the guys on press next.

All of us are looking for unwanted residents like this little guy. Now, I have to look him up and see what we need to do differently next year to keep our orchard trees healthy and make him unwelcome.

Apple Press Trial 08
Apples after crushing.

One guy picks up a bucket of chopped apples and pours them into the hopper for the grinder while the other guy cranks the wheel on the side. When the grinder finishes crushing the apples into the catch bin, it is slid over to the press side.

Apple Press Trial 10
Folding mesh over the top.

The filter mesh is folded over the top of the mash, then 2 wooden covers are placed on top, and the press is set.

Pressing starts with turning the green wheel on top by hand until it is tight. Then switch to using a “stick” for leverage to squeeze all the juice out. It is lots, and lots of muscle-building exercises, believe me!

apple Juice 12We prepared for the juice storage by purchasing distilled water 1-gallon jugs and emptying the water out. Washed milk cartons work well too. There are a lot of rules about the proper way to store fresh juices, so please be careful. This day resulted in XX gallons of apple juice.

  • fresh not pasteurized (lasts about 5 days in the fridge)
  • frozen (lasts 6 months – only fill 3/4 full)
  • canned pasteurized quart jars (lasts 1 year)

All of us went to bed early instead of staying up to play cards together. Harvest is such a lovely time of the year!

Apple Harvest

apple Juice 08Apple Harvest! The apples have started to fall to the ground by themselves so, we called friends and family to help harvest all of them. Our dear friends, Larry and Linda Pointer answered our call for help.

apple Juice 01All of us picked apples in the morning resulting in 60 gallons of apples harvested this year. There is a half-water barrel and 9 buckets full of apples to put on the tractor. apple Juice 02You can see what that many apples look like with Larry, Pete, and Max just outside of the garden.

apple Juice 08Our trial run with Rachel and her boys (grandkids) last week showed us that the trough underneath the press created a leak at the spout. A modification was needed so the juice would not creep back underneath the spout missing the bucket set under it. You can see more about what I am talking about and the makeshift repair (tin foil) that we used in this previous post.

Hopefully, we are all set up and ready to get to work. Pete has made the modification it needed, then checked, and lubed it all up. So, here we go!

Can’t wait to taste the best fresh juice on the planet from our apple harvest 2022.

Apple Press

apple press

I was very lucky to find an apple press at an estate sale this summer. It is a refurbished antique 1872 Whitman’s Americus. The price made me groan a little, but, we are very anxious to make cider now. We scheduled a small get-together at our house to pick apples and try out the “new-to-us” press. On Saturday our daughter & grandkids and friends helped pick 12 gallons of apples (2 five-gallon buckets of Macintosh & 2 gallons of Honeycrisp). 12 gallons of apples made 3 gallons of delicious cider.

We have to wash the apples and at least cut them in half or quarters. Everything has to be clean.

The catch bucket is lined with mesh to keep seeds and apple chunks inside and out of the juice. Then a bucket full of apples is poured into the hopper as another person starts to turn the gear that mashes them. By the way, turning this is a great form of aerobic exercise.

Apple Press Trial 08
Apples after grinding.

Next, we move the bucket of mashed apples to sit under the press mechanism. The mesh has to be folded over and a board cover is put on top. Then another piece of wood is placed between the descending press metal and the cover over the pulp.

Apple Press Trial 10
Folding mesh over the top.

Pressing starts with turning the wheel by hand till it gets hard to do. Then there is a piece of wood that looks kind of like a baseball bat, to help leverage it down tight in the end. This is another great form of aerobics.

The juice is absolutely delicious! There were three gallons of cider to split between us and what little pulp is left was dry and will be great in our compost. Actually, we put it on the ground and found many, many deer eating in the middle of the night when the dog was barking. By morning, the pile was gone. Totally gone, without a trace.

Apples Are Ready

apple Macintosh 003The apples are ready on our three apple trees. The biggest is a mature “Macintosh”, which has a bumper crop this year. The branches are loaded and touching the ground, so picking needs to be done soon. There is a young “King” tree bearing for the first time this year. We also have a maturing “Honeycrisp” that has borne fruit for a couple of years, but this year it is loaded with fruit that is larger than your hand. Orchards are truly a test of a gardener’s patience. But, the fruit is so delicious that the wait and the work is totally worth it.

Onward We Go!

glean 05Onward we go! On Friday morning three people and two trucks met in Ritzville at 9 am.  Going south on 395 just beyond the Coyote Ridge Correctional Facility we turned and proceeded to the Eltopia Post Office to meet a farmland owner that Terri knows.

glean 01

We drive to a nearby field that had just been harvested and stop at a big pile of sweet corn sitting on the side of the field. He asked what else we could use. We told him about the potato shortage at the food bank, and you could see the gears in his mind start to turn. Saying, “Take as much as you can use, of this corn,” he turned to Terri saying, “Come see where the other fields are”.  So, Pete and I got busy filling 8-grain bags with corn (90 lbs each approx) by the time she returned.

glean 02

Our next stop was at a potato field that had just finished being harvested. The crew was waiting for us by their Spudnik Potato Harvester. Wow! I want to drive a Spudnik someday. Look at the size of that machine!

glean 04They motioned for us to pull up beside them, saying they would load our pickup till we say stop. It took about 2 seconds to fill the bed completely up with potatoes.

We drive very carefully on some dirt roads to where the onion field is next. We get to pick from the field before they harvest it this afternoon. Before we can start to pick, we must bag up 4 bags of potatoes out of our truck and transfer them to Terri’s truck. Otherwise, we don’t have enough room to haul any onions and corn.

glean 06

You can see how the onion is planted about 4 across in a 12-16 inch row. They have let the tops dry and the picking is very easy. We quickly add 6 more bags of onions (75 lbs each) to the harvest today.
Picking Onions

2,411 Pounds

glean 08Thanks to the generosity of the farm landowner and the farmers that lease his land, we just unloaded 2,411 lbs of beautiful fresh produce at the Food Pantry this morning.

glean 07This is only what we brought back home, Terri had a full truckload that she took to her church.

292 pounds of corn
1,815 pounds of potatoes
304 pounds of onion

The three of us who volunteered, had a blast doing this. It was a beautiful drive and the whole day was full of smiles and laughter for us all. It feels good to respond to the opportunities presented to us. GIG! Hopefully, others will see what a joy it is to participate in this kind of activity making the next opportunity even more fun.


gleaningGleaning was the solution that came to mind for me (the Book of Ruth). The food bank that we volunteer for, by working in their garden, is the North County Pantry Food Pantry . It has not had any donations of POTATOES for months.

I asked my friend upstairs about that before I went to sleep that night. A couple of days later, I got a call from my friend at our previous church. At On Fire Ministries. there was a lady organizing a gleaning trip just south of Ritzville. She worked with farms there. We called her and told her of this need, so we were included in her Gleaning Trip on Friday morning.

Our initial plan was to recruit others and meet at 8 am FRIDAY morning at their church and then have all of us drive 2 hours and pick the potatoes in the field all day. We hoped to fill pick-up trucks and bring them back to their church school and our food pantry.


I started asking everyone I know if they would like to join us on this adventure without getting a single volunteer at the garden or church to reply with a yes. I turned to my Facebook page, which succeeded in generating 5 likes and zero volunteers. Finally, it was posted in our community  “Elk/Deer Park/Chattaroy – Neighbors Helping Neighbors Page“. This private group has 6,100 members in it and is quite active on a day-to-day basis.  But, the request for help produced 4 likes and 2 comments and absolutely no volunteers. Terri was as unsuccessful as we were in getting volunteers to step up to the plate.

That didn’t stop us though. Regardless of how many did not volunteer, we were excited about this opportunity.


Red Haven Peaches

Peach Red Haven 036These are the Red Haven Peaches picked today, leaving about a gallon more on the tree to continue ripening. I plan to freeze half for cobblers throughout the year and the other half will be made into jam. This tree is only in it’s 3rd year here but it is a hard worker, producing all that it’s little branches can hold. Last year, Pete built it a permanent post frame to assist it in not breaking it’s branches.

Here is how the fruit on the Red Haven peach tree looks from beginning to end of the season. Quite a transformation isn’t it? They first appear as little fuzzy gray bulbs tat are absolutely rock hard. They gradually expand into golf ball size green globes that are still really hard, and the branches begin to bend with their weight. When they are ready to fall, or be picked, they are fuzzy palm-size orbs of gold with a beautiful blush that  have softened into the most delicious fruit. It is amazing to see how miraculous the gardening process is.

I processed the first bucket of peaches today. It made 24 cups of frozen fruit. Setting a pot on the stove for boiling water, I use the steamer basket to put a layer of peaches into the water for about 25-30 seconds. Then remove and immediately pour them into a sink full of cold water. This makes it easy to peel the skins off, remove the seed and, quarter the meat of the fruit. Repeat over and over until done.

I just don’t have enough hands to hold open a Ziplock bag as I am pouring the fruit into it. If you have similar problems, try this colander trick that Pete’s Mom taught him.

Lost 2 Fruit Trees

Bacterial Canker 01We lost 2 fruit trees due to bacterial canker disease this year. I had never seen this before so I did not act soon enough to be able to save them. Both the Pie Cherry tree and Anjou Pear tree were young but had produced fruit for a couple of years already for us.


But, this year there was no fruit on either of the trees.  Odd. When the weather got hot and dry, it looked like we had a drought-stress problem with these two. So, I changed our method of watering to a soaker hose, but, more water did not solve the problem.

Bacterial Canker 02The cherry tree branches began to dry up and die. Death spread to more and more of the tree pretty rapidly. As I pruned the bad limbs on the cherry tree I saw a really bad-looking opening in the bark at the base of the trunk. Uh Oh! Something is drastically wrong here.

Bacterial Canker 03I continued to prune and after inspecting it all over I saw that there was bark peeling and sap dripping all over. Dripping from cracks in the bark, and from every branch joint of the tree. Big blobs of amber-colored sap like below.Bacterial Canker 04 Taking pictures of what I found I then proceeded to the house to try and figure out what the heck was wrong.

Bacterial Canker 05Googling, “cherry tree diseases” I was surprised to see pictures just like the ones I had just taken in the orchard. “Bacterial Canker” disease is it. Something I have never seen before. The most helpful information about how to deal with this was found in an article by Orchard People entitled, “How to Beat Bacterial Cancer in Cherry Trees“.

We checked all the fruit trees in the garden. Then we pulled out the two trees, and their roots and burned them. We had to carefully disinfect all our tools because this disease is quite contagious. Hope this helps you to save your fruit trees from a similar fate.