It’s Cherry Season!

One of my favorite times of years is when the cherries are ripe on the tree and ready for picking. We have two trees, but we can only get to one of them due to overgrown ivy (can I just say that seeing ripe cherries on a tree is torture when you can’t actually reach them?)

cherry blossoms4_smaller

Flowers on the cherry tree in February

Our first year in the house, friends who were visiting pointed them out and we spent an hour shaking them from the tree and collecting them in buckets. We repeated the drill again last year and a couple weeks ago. While my 3 year old was excited to help, the baby wasn’t as excited and cried the entire time.

cherries and blackberriesedited

Blackberries and cherries

What can you do with 60 pounds of cherries?

The first year, I made cherry jam and marmalade. It was my first time using pectin and I was not prepared for how quickly it gelled. Usually I use green apples, which seem to be more forgiving. While I still have to stand at the stove and stir, if I have to step away for a minute or two, I can without ruining a whole pot of jam. Needless to say, my first venture into pectin didn’t work out at all. I can’t even get it out of the jar. If someone tries to attack me, the cherry jam could be a useful weapon.

Last year, we dried all of the cherries. My husband soaked them in brandy first. We still have some, even after a year.

This year, we’re venturing into cherry wine. I love wine; after all, I drink enough of it. We fermented a good share of our plums into wine and we’ll do the same with the cherries. Currently we have 10 gallons of cherry wine fermenting, along with a blend of cherries, plums and the first round of blackberries we’ve picked. After I pull out the nylon bags with fruit bit and transfer the solution into a secondary fermentor, I’ll add oak chips and maybe cinnamon sticks to give it a bit of a kick.

Cherry wine fermentingedited

Cherries fermenting in the primary fermentor

Since I haven’t made wine at this scale before, I’m nervous as to how it’ll turn out. Hopefully fine, but we’ll see. It could be awesome or absolutely terrible.

Next year we plan to plant a couple more cherry trees, maybe a different variety. Variety is the spice of life right?

 

 

If you want more garden tips, be sure to sign up for my gardening class on Skillshare.

Wine: Because What Else Would You Do With Fruit Trees?

I saw a t-shirt once that said, “Wine is proof that God loves us,” and while I’m not a believer, I did get quite a chuckle. When we moved to our property, we were excited to have fruit trees, specifically apple trees to make cider. Unfortunately, since the trees hadn’t been pruned in a decade, we didn’t get much fruit from the trees.

plums in buckets

Not deterred, we pruned our apple and plum trees at the end of the season and waited for the next year. As a result, our harvest increased last year and we made delicious plum wine, plum cider and apple cider.

So far this year, we’ve had a bumper crop of plums, so we’ve started the process of making plum wine. We’ve pressed 60 pound of plums and have keep some of the pulp. We plan to put it in mesh bags and let it steep with the plum juice, water, sugar, tannins, yeasts and other ingredients to create plum wine.

But, why stop there? We have blackberries that are ripening in bushes around our property. I looked up a great recipe for blackberry wine last night. Even our Rainier cherries are ripening and will be ready to pick in the next month—they might make a delicious wine as well.

This year, I added black currants, a pomegranate tree and goji berries to my garden. They would all make excellent wine on their own or mixed with other fruit. At this rate, we’ll have to build a wine cellar.

Plums!

Growing up I’d eat plums, but I wasn’t the biggest fan of them. The skin was always a bit bitter, the insides were a bit sour and they had a strange film on them (this was the 1980s before organic produce was in every grocery store). As I got older and tasted plum wine for the first time, I decided to give plums another try.

plums for canning

Every June, our plum trees burst with plums. Well, I should back up. The first year we were in our home, we picked about 10 pounds of plums from one tree alone (as in, it was the only tree that produced fruit). Our second tree produced 3 plums—not 3 pounds of plums; just 3 plums. We gave both trees a massive pruning at the end of the season and were rewarded with about 30 pounds of plums last year. This year, we’ve picked a whopping 64 pounds of plums and there’s still more on the tree!

Last year, we made plum wine and plum cider, as well as plum butter. This year, I made plum jam and we’re making plum wine. Since it was going to be a few days until we were going to make the plum wine, I took the plums that were very ripe or overripe and turned them into a plum jam.

 

I used this jam recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, which uses Granny Smith apples and lemon in lieu of packaged pectin. I’ve found using Granny Smiths is a lot more forgiving than using packaged pectin, as you don’t have to keep your eyes on it all the time while stirring. You still have to stir with apples, but if you have to turn the stove down and deal with a crying baby or tend to a toddler, it’s not a big deal.

Make Your Own Essential Oil Bubble Bath

My kids love baths, so much so that it becomes a battle to get them out as they enjoy “swimming” so much. While my husband takes them to the pool to swim property, my oldest likes to practice in the tub. To each his own, right?

It’s been a struggle to find bubble bath that didn’t leave its mark on their sensitive skin. We tried kid-centric bubble bath, plain “adult” bubble bath and even the fancy stuff with French-sounding names. They all seemed to cause irritation. So, I decided to make some myself. Why not? I had already tried everything else.

Here’s the recipe I use. I found the inspiration for it online and then altered it to fit my needs. It doesn’t stay as bubbly as long as store-bought versions, but it also doesn’t cause my kiddos any skin irritation.

 bubblebath_ingredientsEasy Bubble Bath (Makes about 14 fluid ounces)

1/2 cup vegetable glycerin

1 cup castile soap

¼ cup rose hydrosol

¼ cup calendula hydrosol

1 Tbsp argan oil

Water to fill

7 or so drops of your choice of essential oils, such as lavender, mint or lemon. I like using the Simply Citrus blend from Edens Garden.

bubblebath_finished

Mix all of the ingredients, except the water, together in a 14 ounce container. I reuse the glass bottle that my kombucha came in (I stick it in the dishwasher to clean it), but you can use any container you wish. Once these ingredients are in the container, fill the bottle the rest of the way with water, screw on the cap and you’re done.