The Great Pumpkin Hunt: Jubilee Farm

by Beth Shepherd
( October 23rd, 2014 )

Pumpkin

Our search for the Great Pumpkin of 2014 took place at Jubilee Farm in Carnation. Ponies, pumpkins and SUNSHINE…what’s not to like about that? Last year our Halloween pumpkin search took place in the rain, but this past Sunday couldn’t have been more glorious.

Jubilee Farm is a real working farm, which is one of the reasons it’s my chosen spot to get our annual pumpkin. This bio-dynamic farm, located in scenic Snoqualmie Valley, has grown fresh fruits, vegetables, and offered meat, free from pesticides and herbicides, for nearly 20 years.  They also participate in the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) subscription program, where members of the public support the farm by committing to purchase shares of its produce for a season.

ubilee Farm in Carnation, WA

Our first stop was the pony ride. Five bucks got you a horse, and a person to walk you around for a few minutes. ‘Spice’ was our trusty steed. She was a little blonde Shetland pony and Little Bird was in heaven as the two of them (mama and the horse helper) sauntered in the sunshine.

Ponies at Jubilee Farm

Next up: hayride in a REAL tractor to…the pumpkin patch. You can tell a certain little someone was pretty excited about this part of our adventure. They were packing ‘em tight on the ride but we found a spot on a bale of hay and took a short ride to our reason for being here—picking our Halloween pumpkin!

Tractor ride

Excited about pumpkins

If you plant them, they will come. Fields of orange pumpkins glowed in the sunlight. How would we ever decide which pumpkin to take home?

Pumpkin patch

We searched and searched, clippers in hand, taking breaks for a snack here and a trip to the  ‘nature toilet’ there (as a guide we had in Tibet once called it), until we found THE ONE. Then it was back on the wagon to the barn, where we could wash, weigh and buy our pumpkin.

Dad and daughter hunt for pumpkins

But wait, what was that object we saw, flying through the sky? A pumpkin. Part of the daily routine at Jubilee during pumpkin season is the launching of  pumpkins from their home built trebuchet (catapult). Definitely an audience favorite!

Trebuchet or pumpkin catapult

In addition to ponies and pumpkins, guests can enjoy lunch and snacks (including cider and gelato!), try to find their way through the hay maze, check out the farm animals (I love the running ducks and sometimes there are BIG pigs), stroll around 30 beautiful acres of cropland. And best of all…it’s free (no entrance fee or charge for the hayrides).

Running ducks

There is still time to head on over to Carnation, get a pumpkin or three, and check out Jubilee Farm. The farm is open Saturdays and Sundays through October from 10-5. And the farm is about a whole lot more than pumpkins. Jubilee offers farm talks, harvest tours and more!

Take the road less traveled, Beth

Boots

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Photos from Gyumri

by Beth Shepherd
( October 17th, 2014 )

Photos from Gyumri, Armenia show her old world beauty. Not beautiful in the way one might describe Paris or Prague, but with her breathtaking metal downspouts, luminous tuff buildings, and plentiful sculptures, Gyumri has a beauty all her own. Even with the destruction wrought by the earthquake that devastated the region in 1988, fragments tell a story of what once was. Three years ago, I stood amidst it all. And one day I will see her again.

Wood door

Beautiful downspout

Bird on downspout

Gold doorknob

Gyumri downspout

Gyumri foggy morning

Gyumri fountain

Gyumri home museum

Gyumri laundry

Gyumri old wood home

Gyumri ornate door

pink doors green bench

Gyumri puddle relection

Gyumri remnants of an old building

remnants

Gyumri sculpture violin player

Gyumri sculpture woman and dove

sculpture woman

Gyumri wall mural

Heron on downspout

pigeons

 

Stone wall

Tree and tuff stone in Gyumri

Take the road less traveled, Beth

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Cider and the City

by Beth Shepherd
( October 15th, 2014 )

Give me your tired, your poorly shaped, your pock-marked, your huddled masses of unused apples, yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse from your teeming trees. And, with them, make apple cider!

This past weekend, I did just that when I attended ‘Cider and Apple Juice Basics,’ a free class at my favorite neighborhood garden store, City People’s. The class covered which apples to use, the basics of pressing juice, making apple juice and then moving on to hard cider. Among other facts, we learned it takes between 14 to 16 pounds of apples (about 36 apples, depending on size) to make one gallon of cider.

Although everyone has an opinion about which apples make the tastiest cider, in general, a blend is best. Just like other beverages (wine and beer come to mind) you want to find a balance of four key qualities: sugar, acid, tannin and flavor. A typical “recipe” includes 30-60% sweet, 10-40% tart/acidic, 5-20% bitter/tannic, and 10-20% aromatic. A few examples of sweet apples: Cortland, Golden Delicious, Rome Beauty; tart apples: Granny Smith, Gravenstein, Pippin; tannic apples: Liberty, Northern Spy, crabapples; and, aromatic apples: McIntosh, Red Delicious. Together, they make beautiful music in the form of apple juice and cider!

Apple cider

After the class, we headed out to the nursery where City Fruit was hosting a Cider Press Event. They had a cider press set up, and volunteers to help cut, grind, and press the apples into juice. I brought a bag of not-so-perfect apples from our espaliered apple trees (purchased, by the way, at City People’s a few years ago) to donate to the cause. City Fruit helps urban folk understand that fruit trees in our midst are a valuable resource. Sadly, most urban fruit falls to the ground and is wasted. People don’t really know how (or have the time) to pick their trees, they’re not so keen on eating fruit that’s blemished or housing a pest or two. So City Fruit has taken up the mantle of harvesting, preserving and promoting the sharing of fruit, along with working to protect urban fruit trees.

City Fruit cider press

Acquiring apples is the first step in juice or cider making. We had those thanks to generous donations and the hard work of City Fruit volunteers who help with residential harvests and Urban Orchard Stewards who harvest fruit from Seattle Parks. More than 30 Seattle parks have fruit trees, often the remnants of heritage orchards, and several parks and pea patches have planted mini-orchards as part of a community garden.

City Fruit apple cutting

Step 2 is cleaning and cutting the apples for grinding. At the Cider Press Event, lots of hands (and knives) were used to cut out the bad spots and slice the apples into sections. Next, for Step 3, the apples were run through a fruit grinder. The end result looked like this: apple mash.

Ground apples for cider

Then the apples are put inside a mesh bag and—Step 4—placed inside the press. I took my turn cranking the hand jack to press the apples through the mesh. It’s pretty easy at first and then puts up more of a fight.

City Fruit cider pressing

And look! There it is, literally cold off the press. Delicious!

City Fruit cider


When you take a few (pounds) of less-than-pretty apples, and turn them into cider…


One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch, girl.


~Osmonds


If you’re a cider aficionado, check out  City Fruit’s upcoming events, such as the 4th Annual Cider Fest, the Seattle Tree Fruit Society 2014 Fall Fruit Show, or the 3rd Annual Cider Press and Food Drive.


And if you want to learn more about gardening, City People’s offers some awesome free workshops.


Take the road less traveled, Beth

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