April 26, 2005

Apple Blossoms

It seems that I have been writing about everything except Apples lately. Ducks, Critters, Tanks, Presses, etc…

That is because it has been Winter and Spring is now breaking.

We live close to the Canadian border and between two large mountains aligned North to South. The plus side is that the mountains serve to moderate our weather quite a bit — we do not have the intense winds and storms that people 30 miles away from us have (including a small tornado two years ago). The downside is that our season starts later.

Things have been pushing in the last month but we finally have a good set of blossoms starting to form on our apple trees. Here are a few photos:

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This is one of the trees that were originally on the property — over ten old and no maintenance had been done. Jen went in with a vengeance and pruned earlier this spring. The crop from these trees will be a lot less this year but they will come back healthier next year. This particular one (a Stayman) is really tasty so we will be grafting buds from this tree onto new rootstock.

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Here is one of our one-year old trees. It is a Dabinett (a Cider Variety) on Bud 9 rootstock. We are trying a number of different varieties on different rootstocks to see what grows the best in our area.

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Finally, this is what a fully producing Apple Orchard looks like.
This is what our place will look like in a few years!

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April 23, 2005

A note on the Photography on this site.

I purposely reduce the resolution and compress the images used on this site so that people using dial-up internet don't spend five minutes downloading one photograph.

These photographs were all taken with a high-end digital camera and much higher resolution images are available.

If you would like to get a high-resolution copy of one of our photographs for non-commercial use only, please drop me an email using the 'Contact us' link at the top right of the main page.

Please note that this would be for non-commercial use only and that every photograph on this page is Copyright 2004 and 2005 by Dave Halliday. If you want to use a photograph commercially, please contact me and we can work out something reasonable.

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Our Ducks get a new home

Another entry from the Maple Falls Institute for the Study of Advanced Cuteness.

Ducks grow very fast and they outgrew the bathtub about a week ago. We moved them into a large (5' * 2') carton in our garage storage room until such time as I got the duck house built. They moved in yesterday afternoon. Here are some photos:

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This is their new house. I have finished the inside but still need to put roofing (need to get some flashing) and some boards on the corners — these keep out rainwater and help the structure to last for a while. The interior floor has two coats of heavy glossy enamel to aid in cleaning. Jen calls it the Duck-Mahal and thinks that the Lapus Lazuli tiled Jacuzzi and the Swarovski chandeliers are a bit of overkill. I keep telling her that the Ducks specifically asked for these features.

Their home is in our Garden — the ducks job is bug patrol. We are fencing the garden in May and they will be allowed free roam during the day. We will use portable fencing to protect low-lying crops such as lettuce but everything else if fair game. There will also be an electric fence on the outside of the wire fence to keep predators out.

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Here I am with one of our Indian Runner Ducks — he is the smallest one and also the one with the most personality. A few weeks ago, I was rounding them up to take them outside to enjoy some sun and this little character was impossible to catch — he was bouncing off the walls of the brooder so he got the name of Ping-Pong. We believe he is a Drake (male) as his voice is changing. He is fearless.

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The went for a swim today. The temperatures have been steadily getting higher and higher — today it got to 74 degrees F. Ducks have this great little smile to their beaks — as though they were enjoying a subtle joke.

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Anyone who has watched animals grow up (humans included) knows that some parts of the body will spurt ahead and others will play catch-up.
These wings are playing a serious game of catch-up. This is a White Pekin (we have them and Indian Runners). The White Pekins are dinner, the Runners are for cute.

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The ducklings are not producing the oils that adult ducks use to waterproof themselves. This is why the pool wasn't filled all the way (they can stand up if they want) and the lack of oil limited the time they felt comfortable in the water. Even though it was in the 70's, after 45 minutes, they had enough. Jen thought that a ramp would be a good idea. It was and Ping-Pong was the first to give it a try.

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Oooo — that is a long first step.

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Made it!

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All of the ducks except for one made it out over the ramp — this was a success and I'll build a permanent one in the next few days. They spent about 15 minutes grooming themselves, fluffing up their feathers and sunning themselves.

They went back into their new house and took a mid-afternoon siesta. They were rumbling around in their outside pen a few hours later.

At night, we herd them into the house and close and lock the trap door so they are safe from night-time predators.

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April 17, 2005

Jen tends her flock

We had a break in the weather this morning (it's been raining a good bit lately) so Jen and I took our little yellow dictators out for a perambulation around the yard. They aren't so yellow any more — they are molting and their “adult” plumage is starting to come in.

Here is Jen “preaching to the flock”

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Note the rapt attention the flock is giving her…

Actually, she is herding them around, getting them used to being moved from place to place so that we can manage them as adults.

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April 15, 2005

Groggy Doggy

The Dog featured at the top of our website is Ptarmigan — she is a German Short-Hair Pointer, about two years old. That breed is known for a long puppyhood, generally not settling down until three or four years of age. Sweet love of a dog but sometimes she gets into her own brand of trouble. Like today.

She likes to chew on soft things that smell like us. Usually this is clothing (especially shoes) but today was different.

It was raining today, Jen was working in the Orchard planting some more trees (we got a shipment of new trees from Cummins Nursery (great trees, great people to deal with)), I was working in the studio on some final tax stuff so they were inside the house. I had kegged the batches of Cider, Mead , Melomel and Cyser that I wrote about here and the Sweet Mead was sitting in the garage to keep at British Cellar Temperature and under slight carbonation. I had a dispensing tap on it.

Ptarmigan found the tap, decided that it tasted nice and sweet and also smelled like us so she tucked in for a nice chew. As she started chewing, Sweet Mead started flowing (I found a good sized puddle on the floor and we lost a couple pints all told). She had a snoot-full of stuff that was about 10% Alcohol. Jen found her upstairs in the bedroom curled up and shivering (she was also outside in 40 degree rain for a bit and had gotten very wet). Jen moved her over to her dog bed and bundled her up in a blanket.

Ptarmigan slept for a couple hours, came downstairs, barfed and said hi to us while we had dinner. She is back asleep again.

The incriminating evidence that the puddle on the floor was not just a leaky tap:

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April 11, 2005

The Press comes home

Finally, our new (to us) Apple Press arrives in Maple Falls. Here are some photos of the unloading:

Here is the conveyor system — the hopper on the left will take a full 40 pound bushel box of Apples and deliver them at a steady pace to the grinder at the top of the press.

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Our foreman for this job is Sascha. Here she is checking my rigging as I start to pull the press from the trailer.

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The press is almost out of the trailer. I will jack up the left end with two floor jacks and then drive the trailer out from under.

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Here is the press supported by the floor jacks.

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Now I lower the left end and come around with the tractor to support the right end. The right end is by far the heavier since it has the hydraulic system at the bottom (just visible). I will lift from that end to move it.

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Guiding the forks under the right end. Have to be careful since the hydraulic reservoir and pump are there (plus the wiring and the plumbing).

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A carefully placed chain and up we go. Physics at work…

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Off to the barn for six months or so.

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I want to rebuild some parts of the press. Normal cleaning solutions got into some of the wiring and caused corrosion. The boxes are plash-proof but not OK for direct pressure washing. These will be rewired and replaced. I also want to add a couple “kill” buttons around the unit since Jen and I will be operating this by ourselves.

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The Trip to Fresno

Here are a few photos from my drive down to Fresno.

First up — I blew out my clutch coming over the Siskiyou Pass and was able to limp into Woodland, CA where an excellent Dodge Dealership was found. Having two days to spend, I rented a car and checked out two local museums. The first one is in Woodland and is the result of two people's personal collections — The Heidrick Ag History Center and The Hays Antique Truck Museum — these two collections are housed in one building and represent a world-class collection of beautifully restored machinery. I took a few photos of some things that caught my eye:

You can get an idea of the quality of restoration with this truck.

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An early snowmobile — this was used to deliver mail for a long time.

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Notice the hooks on the wheel rim — these are for tire chains. You would carry short lengths of chain and clip one on each hook for traction in snow. Very clever idea!

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And finally, two photos of a classic woody…

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The second day I drove down to Sacramento's Old Town and visited the California Rail Museum. I didn't have a tripod with me and my flash was not able to fill the huge interior but if you are into rail and ever in the area, this is a must-see. A building filled with all kinds of locomotives and rail cars.

Finally I arrived in Fresno (I was staying at Jen's parents nearby) and on Sunday, we went out and loaded the press. I was expecting to rent an open trailer but U-Haul would only rent closed trailers one-way. Improvisation was the order of the day. All that could be unbolted was and we managed to get the press into the trailer by using a torch to cut off two pieces. One of them is not needed and the other one is easily welded back on with no loss of strength. Here are some photos of the move:

Here is my crew for the day — going from right to left, we have Jen's Father, Scott who originally bought the press and was running a sweet cider business and then Scott's Father.

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Here is Chester wielding the torch and cutting off the last impediment to getting the press loaded onto the trailer. We had to unbolt and drain the hydraulic cylinder, and cut off the top support for the conveyor plus two unneeded protrusions on the top of the hydraulic cylinder. We were tempted just to nip out a couple inches on the roof of the trailer but I didn't think that would sit well with u-Haul…

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Finally, the Trip Faeries felt that I got off too easy with my mini-vacation in Beautiful Woodland, California so they gave me a nice flat tire in Eugene, OR. I was heading back onto the freeway and picked up this bit of metal in the tire:

Great place for a flat:

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Just a small leak — a pinhole really…

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That tire is going to be hung in the barn for the Goats to play with.

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More Critters

While I was down in Fresno picking up the cider press (photos of that trip will be posted later today), Jen walked into our local Feed Store and ten ducklings followed her home.

Our downstairs bathroom has been turned into the Maple Falls Institute for the Study of Advanced Cuteness…

Here they are in their brooder:

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Here is an overview of their brooder showing the heat lamp. During the first few weeks, they need to be kept at around 90 degrees Fahrenheit or they will chill and become sick.

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And of course, they outgrew the brooder after a few days. Fortunately, we have two full bathrooms in the house so they took up residency in the lower bath tub.

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After a week, Jen took them outside for their first walk. We had them out again today and they loved the fresh grass and all the bugs.

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This week will be spent building an outdoor pen for them. It will be a six by eight foot house with a four by eight outside run enclosed in chicken wire. This will be built on skids so that it can be moved from place to place in our garden. Death to bugs!!!

We get more birds in a few weeks — Chickens and Guinea Foul (these will roost in the orchard and catch flying insects there)

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April 05, 2005

Back in town

Whew — what a long strange trip it's been…

With emphasis on long — I was planning to visit some suppliers in Portland today but the call of home was just too strong and I just bailed. A week is just too long to be away from this place…

I am going to catch up on some email and will have some stories of the trip starting tomorrow.

The cider press is awesome — the person who had it before me was getting 500 gallons of juice per day from it.
Tomorrow, Jen and I get to unload it from the trailer.

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April 02, 2005

In Fresno!!!

Arrived last night (Friday) around 9:00 — should have been here Thursday morning but that's how it goes — what would a road trip be without an adventure or two.
Just wish this one didn't have to cost $1,800. OUCH!

I'll be calling the opriginal owner of the press to schedule a pickup later this morning and will stay another night here leaving fresh Sunday morning. Fun trip but I miss Jen and the farm.

UPDATE: Turns out the owner had to work at his day job today.
We are meeting up tomorrow morning for the load-out and I'll head north after that. Aiming to be back in Maple Falls by Wednesday or Thursday (need to keep the truck at 55 or so because of the trailer).

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