Tuesday, September 30, 2008

And now it's October

It was spring. Now it's fall. Things at Leatherwood Vinegary go just that quickly! We planted. We reaped. We're making wine and vinegar.

If it only were really that simple! Yes, we planted but it wasn't a good growing season. Too cool and wet in the spring. Then hot and dry. Now as frost is nearing, we have plenty of moisture and great growing conditions, but time is running out.

In a normal growing season the cherries, plums and apples blossom in succession. The rhubarb comes next, then the grapes blossom. All of that happened except the grapes were really late in leafing out. Because of the cold wet weather when the plums and cherries were blossoming, they didn't set on well. In fact, we had no cherries and only enough plums for fresh eating. Some of the apple trees are heavy with fruit while others only have one or two. This isn't a problem since off years help break the moth cycle and give the trees a rest. Last year's grape crop was glorious. This year we had four, yes four, clusters.

When our crop is poor we're especially appreciative of those who have and share a bountiful harvest. Conditions vary throughout the area and the crop isn't consistently good or bad. We're using the abundant rhubarb and apples that we have along with plums and grapes from others in the area. No cherries so there'll be a dearth of cherry vinegar next year.

We've had lovely herbs so have abundant herbal vinegars. Ron bottled a generous amount of French tarragon vinegar. The garlic is infusing now as well as an experimental batch of catnip (it's stimulating for cats but calming for humans). We dug the horseradish just a couple of days ago so we'll taste the first horseradish vinegar in a couple of weeks.

Tour groups have been wonderful this summer and continue coming as we move into cooler weather. We've enjoyed sharing the vinegary and gardens with mystery tour groups, veterans' reunions, girlfriend groups, families, couples and individuals. Amity came from North Carolina to write a story for AAA Living magazine. Jeff and Inese came to celebrate their fifth anniversary. An opera singer from Australia stopped in on his trip around the world.

We cooked another vinegar themed dinner for a school fundraiser, hosted a large family gathering, and Ron has shared his wine making expertise with classes. We've also learned from our visitors and now know how to grow bigger onions (hoe the soil away from the bulb and let it sit on top of the ground), better garlic ( mulch with six inches of leaves and top with plastic to winter over), jucier tomatoes (trench between rows and fill the trenches with water, let it seep in, repeat).

Now with winter on its way, the plan is to write a book about our experiences as the first vinegar proprietors in Minnesota, and perhaps update this blog more faithfully. But first I want to transplant the strawberry bed, plant the garlic and shallots, make some beet pickles, get two bushels of tomatoes from a generous person who has an abundant crop, make tomato wine and vinegar.......and so on it goes.