Thursday, October 31, 2013

Apple Cider Time

Kevin's Paddlefish!
The first thing I would like to share is a picture that my friend Kevin Aiona sent me this week.  When I first saw the picture he texted to me I wasn't quite sure what the heck it was.  Closer examination revealed a prehistoric looking fish he had caught below the dam in Alma, a paddlefish weighing at least 40 pounds.  More common in the middle areas of the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers, I can never remember anybody catching one of these fish even though I have heard they are found this far north.  Calling Kevin to get the scoop he explained that while fishing walleyes below the dam in Alma he hooked into something large.  Often large catfish will hit a jig and minnow, he simply assumed it was a big Flathead.  After a prolonged battle it finally came to the boat and to his surprise it was a paddlefish.  Alone in the boat his net wasn't large enough to land the fish and with both being somewhat exhausted he was able to grab it under the gills and bring it in the boat.  Hooked in the mouth, it must have been swimming by just as he lifted his jig as paddlefish are plankton feeders and generally will not hit a lure of any kind.  In fact they are usually caught by snagging them during a special season or by accident.  Either way I am sure Kevin was surprised as he released the fish back into the river.  Along with the once in a lifetime catch, he went home with a nice limit of walleyes as they move towards the dam to spend the winter.  Nice catch Kev!

Cider Production Line
So Saturday was the day the Brasel's and I planned to start up the cider press.  Without an apple crop last year it had been 2 years since the last time we squeezed cider.  This year included a new, larger press and the integration of my apple grinder that fit right on top of the press.  Its actually a pretty slick deal, grind the apples directly into the cider press hopper till full, swing away the grinder an press away.  Prior to pressing Lory had made me 4 wooden half circles to put underneath the main press plate.  When we set up the press a few months ago it was noted that the main press mechanism did not go far enough, in my opinion, to adequately press a less than full load of ground apples.   We were right as these wooden spacers really helped the cause.  With about 40 - 50 bushels of apples from the harvest we averaged around 1 gallon of cider per bushel.  2 years ago we ground the apples in my meat grinder first, which really worked great for extracting as much juice as you can yet it's a slower process.  With the new grinder on the top, the apples are not ground as fine and therefore don't yield as much juice but with so many apples, it just seemed a waste of time and really, what I don't use will eventually get thrown away, so why work harder.  One advantage we have is I have 6 varieties of apples.  From super sweet to tart, and everything in between, apple cider is always better when it is blended as it adds balance to the flavor.  By the time you have read this we have pressed over 28 gallons of delicious apple cider, some are given as a reward for their help, Lory has already started this year's vintage apple wine, and it's just plain fantastic to drink.  We might try to use up more apples and make more this weekend, we'll see.

It's on Fire!
As you know our Minnesota fishing opener was completely froze out this year with the ice leaving almost 3 weeks later than a normal year.  The weather has carried on this fall as of October 28th, most of the leaves are still on the trees.  Normally by now the trees are showing their naked winter form but not this year.  The dry period we had in July and August was hard on the ash trees and they dropped their leaves early.  I have a catalpa tree, the one with the huge leaves and long beans, which really doesn't like the cold and a hard frost will make it drop it's leaves in less than 24 hours.  In the meantime the oaks, birch, maples and most of the other trees continue the 2-3 week delay that the late spring gave us.  The wait has it's advantages as the maples in my yard are simply on fire.  This picture is my Silver Queen Maple, a cross between a silver maple and a hard maple.  It grows like a weed, typical of silver maples, but has the color of a hard maple with brilliant reds, orange, and yellow colors.  Of course the real problem is when they all fall off and I have to clean them up.  I can never remember the leaves staying on the trees so long, but of course I've never seen ice still on a lake in the middle of May either.  Mother nature is interesting for sure as this year we went right from summer to late fall.  It seems as though the days are screwed up this year and there just doesn't seem time to do anything as scheduled.  I suppose it's never as bad as it was on Halloween, 1991 when we had over 31 inches of snow by the end of the next day, November 1st.  This storm was part of the scenario which occurred when a hurricane moving north along the Atlantic coast and another low pressure system developed into the Perfect Storm.  Thank God it's suppose to be in the 50's this weekend, Indian Summer at last!  I plan on setting up my tree stand on Saturday, preparing for the 2013 Minnesota deer hunting season that starts on November 9th.  Maybe I'll get lucky and get that once in a lifetime monster buck, but don't hold your breath. The first of the ice fishing expositions starts Friday, a sign that hard water is not too far away.  I got the oil changed on my 115 Suzuki outboard and was amazed at how clean it was, maybe a sad reminder of how little it really ran this year as opener was a bust and both times in Canada were with other boats.  I hate putting the boat away but it's time.

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