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Thursday, November 24, 2016

In a bit of a squeeze

I can't believe that it's been seven years since I moved from Oregon to Austin, Texas. The time has vanished, and as I look out over my yard it feels like I just got started. Of course I haven't. The front and back lawn with just a few yuccas are gone. In their place is native plants, fruit and vegetables.

What an adventure that was to make the decision to move, pack everything up, then start over fresh in a state and climate that was totally foreign. I immediately dove into the nurseries, web sites, and local blogs that could teach me what to do. I was so excited that I could grow citrus in the ground, maybe avocados, miles of sweet potatoes, okra, black eyed peas, and a favorite flower - winecup, that hated the cool Oregon summers.

In this yard, I was determined more than ever to dedicate a larger percent of space to food production. Austin, I discovered, does not have much agriculture surrounding it. Most things at the grocer are trucked from California, Florida, or the Rio Grande valley. And the farmers market?  Tiny! The first time I went I thought I went to the wrong place.  Where was the two-block market that I was used to? Back in Oregon apparently.

But I have survived, thrived even, in this bit of earth being scorched by the death star. My friends here are some of the closest I've ever had, and I've had jobs and bosses that I absolutely love - all which have let me run full tilt into any challenge I wish.

However. I've had to give up some things (besides being able to sleep with the window open in the summer.) The hardest has been apples.

The combination of low chill hours and my stinginess with water has rendered the apples and pear completely barren. They won't even flower. I've cut two of them down and will probably take out the remaining two this winter. It's a shame because I've spent a lot of time training and pruning them, but I don't need ornamental trees, I want fruit! Most disappointing of all is that I don't have a crop of apples to make cider from.

A month before I lost my job in Oregon, I purchased a Correll cider press. They are absolutely top of the line and beautifully made by a gentlemen very near where I lived. My trees were poised to produce enough apples for me to press, plus there were a few abandoned trees in the fields near my home where I could glean even more. Undaunted, I packed that press and put it on the truck for Texas.  I knew it would take 5 to 7 years before I produced my own apples again, but I could wait.

And then my apples didn't grow.

The press has been living on the deck and then later in the house ever since. It really is gorgeous and a conversation starter for people who've never seen one.  However, it was never going to see an apple here in Austin. Reluctantly I put it on Craig's list.

Funny enough, no one here in the south is looking for a cider press. The apples are at least a thousand miles away and they'd be withered and juiceless by the time they arrived in Austin. I got only one inquiry and that was someone from Washington state.

Okay. Now what? Due to the mild winter, I've had a huge crop of fruit this year. Apples? Nope. Oranges and pomegranates. Wait for it - I can use my cider press!

So that's what I did. I hauled the press back onto the deck and on a warm afternoon I made orange juice. It was perfect. Unlike apples I had to peel the oranges. They are so fresh that the orange oil drips off them. I didn't want all that oil in the juice so took the time to relieve them of their rinds. For good measure I also threw in the pomegranates that were also ready.

And it worked!  I got almost a gallon of juice and was able to marvel at how well the press worked. It's slanted perfectly, the press fits into the basket easily, and with not much effort the crank lowers the press onto the fruit. Beautiful juice streamed out of the basket and into the waiting receptacle. The remaining pulp was devoid of juice and went into the compost. Finally!

What's that saying? When life gives you lemons...??

I am happy to report that the press is back in the living room in it's place of honor, cleaned up and smelling slightly of oranges. The listing on craigslist has expired and I don't intend to repost. Now I'm scheming about juicing loquats and figs - with the resulting pulp being used in some sort of chutney or quick bread.

Hey!  Keep your hands off my press! Get your own!

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