Friday, September 9, 2011

Sunflowers and Applesauce

At the end of August after weeks without rain, the tallest of the sunflowers were canted at strange angles, some leaning into their shorter neighbors, some stalks breaking under the increasing weight
of the heavy seedheads.
The old raised bed at the south end of the garage is not an ideal place for sunflowers--not really great for any planting purpose as its width makes for difficulties in weeding and the overhang of the garage roof deflects much of any rainfall.
Still, the sunflowers, both the classic giants and the shorter many-branched hybrids have been a joyful splash of vivid colors.

A leaning forest of 'mini' sunflowers on August 27.

A week of rain finished the beauty of the sunflowers
and brought the remaining tall ones crashing.
Grandson Devin suggested we harvest them yesterday after school.
I had been tempted to leave some standing as they attract goldfinches, but 5 days of rain and mist was causing some of the seed heads to start going soggy.
We decided to deal with them before mold set in.
D. who is 6 feet 3 inches tall--without his boots--posed with this uprooted stalk to show
its grand height.

This is the classic giant sunflower with the distinctive striped grey and white seeds.
The seeds were saved by neighbors and given to me in the spring.

I stripped leaves and trimmed stalks while D. bunched and tied them with baler twine.
We quickly ran out of hooks on the porch and D. suggested we hang the remainder in the hay barn.
He loaded the stalks in his truck, drove to the barn and backed in with careful skill which would
impress his grandfather J.
I followed up the path, Willis, Sadie, and Sally scampering around my booted feet.
Pebbles paced along her fence, whinnying, hopeful that sunflower stalks would translate into horse treats.
D. scurried up the stairs into the loft, loaded down with stalks while I made a more cautious ascent.
[I enjoy being in a barn loft, but a well-remembered childhood nightmare always has me wondering if I might suddenly fling wide my arms and launch myself into space.  Choir lofts have the same effect and being of small stature I was always assigned a place to sing right at the loft rail!]
Sadie and Sally busied themselves about the barn.
Willis, who has no fear of heights, supervised each bunch of sunflowers that was tied.
He walked along the cross-beam [swaggered, actually] jabbing a tweedy paw at the dangling twine as D. tied the sunflowers to the short stretch of protective railing.

Willis supervising from the beam.

Our task finished, D. drove home to supper.
I trudged back to the house through a fine mist, turned on lights in the kitchen and prodded at the apples I had left simmering in my three largest kettles.
I bought two bushels of apples on Monday at a local 'trade day.'
Neither Gina and I are happy with the varieties available here--these were a bushel each of
Gala and Golden Delicious.
Years of living in New England has apparently spoiled us for the familiar varieties grown in the orchards of the Champlain Valley--McIntosh, Cortland, Empire, Idared, Macoun---all of them crisp with a tart-sweet flavor and the red skins which lend a rosy color to applesauce.
By contrast, these apples have a soft texture, a bland taste and take forever to cook down to something resembling proper applesauce.
I stewed and stirred, put the resulting slurry through the foley mill, added sugar and ladeled into quart jars.
I finished my canning effort at 1 a.m. and resolutely washed kettles, bowls and colanders before tumbling into bed, leaving the jars to cool in the canner until morning.
I think I will not can applesauce again!
Much as we like to have a stash of home-processed fruit and vegs I have to conceed that canning
applesauce is very time-consuming.
Making up a big batch and putting the extra into plastic tubs for the freezer is a more sensible option.

My efforts produced 11 quarts for winter eating and a pint in the fridge for the weekend.

Willis and I are tired today.
I creaked out of bed at 7, wiped down the jars of applesauce and stored them on the basement shelves.
Canners dried out and put away.
Floors swept and sticky kitchen floor mopped.
Animals tended, laundry in the washer, dry leaves swept from the porch.
Suddenly it was 10 a.m.  I hadn't had my one cup of morning coffee or breakfast--and felt over-whelmed with fatigue.
I showered, made myself sit quietly in the rocking chair with the mug of coffee and a bowl of cereal. 
I indulged in wondering what on earth I have accomplished these past few weeks to be this exhausted!
Willis doesn't bother with such thoughts!
He found a basket which fit him nicely and took a long nap!
I rocked, sipped my coffee, took an emery board to my grubby nails and decided I would likely live to work another day!


  1. A bit of scampering, some unhurried supervising and then a little sleeping. We could all learn much from Willis

  2. What do you use so much apple sauce for? ...we use it for serving with roast pork mainly although it makes a yummy pudding if used instead of jam in a Bakewell Tart. I use a cooking apple like a Bramley as it cooks down in minutes. I love fresh crisp Galas for eating and Golden Delicous when still greenish ...they are ok for pies when mixed with a Bramley or diced small for a stuffing. Interesting the different uses we have for differnt types of fruit.
    Willis ...cute and inquisative as ever.

  3. John: Willis is one of those cats who exudes personality--and nosiness. He manages to appear quite wise!
    Angie: WE put applesauce [warmed] on waffles or serve as a side dish with a meal that seems to need something added. Having lived in an apple growing region for many years we had our choice of varieties, now must take what is available. I shall have to look up Bakewll Tart.

  4. That final photo of Willis the show stealer seems to say he is pleased to be an observant cat and not one of those poor humans who have to spend long hours canning fruit........

    Our own apple trees are groaning with fruit not yet quite ripe. We have one variety for cooking - a sour one - and one sweeter variety {which I don't know} for eating - although it's very tart too so is mainly used for cooking too and this year is making lovely apple tarts as per the recipe I posted a few days ago. One of the three pear trees has been badly hit by wasps and birds after the sweet fruit but the other two are also loaded with fruit too which will be divided up with family and neighbours. These make great tarts too.

  5. I have never tried canning - or bottling as they call it over here. I really ought to, but as I only have a couple of jars which would suit, and no moolah to invest in any right now, I will still have to just cook up and freeze excess fruit.

    I love all those Sunflower heads dangling temptingly in the barn. Willis is quite a character isn't he?!

    I agree with you about the apples - I like crisp sharp eating apples, and for cooking, nothing is better than a good old English Bramley. I am currently having to shoot at the Jackdaws who are intent on stripping my tree this year.

  6. I've never canned Apples but that AS looks really delish!

  7. Love the pic of all that beautiful bounty just waiting for a winter's day! Applesauce cake is wonderful! Especially with a homemade caramel frosting...

  8. a busy productive day! well done! and Willis to supervise you once again! he is a fabulous cat! its strange isnt it, how I am so fond of a cat I have never met, lol! I guess its the same for those who love my George, we dont need to have met them!!

    Leanne x

  9. I love the picture of Willis snoopervising from the beam!

    If you are near enough to Virginia for a little excursion, there are the most wonderful apple orchards there, all kinds of varieties, especially in Nelson County. You can mix and match your bushels, too. My favorite is Honeycrisp - best apple ever!

  10. Lovely photos and writings, Sharon! Willis sure does have a personality. I love it when I get so much done in the morning and then sit to have coffee and RELAX!