Thursday, September 8, 2016

It's apple season in Michigan

Michigan apple orchards are open with fresh apples and cider mills are pressing out the cider as the season kicks into gear.
Apple orchards and cider mills in Oakland County
• Ashton Orchards, 3925 Seymour Lake Road, Ortonville, 248-627-6671 - Apples, cider mill, doughnuts, pies, baked goods, seasonal produce, playground equipment. Open 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-6 p.m. Sunday, August through October, then hours vary.
• Diehl’s Orchard & Cider Mill, 1479 Ranch Road, Holly, 248-634-8981, - Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, Aug. 15 through Oct. 31. Weekends in November. Apples, cider mill, doughnuts, hayrides and corn maze. A museum wall is coming soon, commemorating more than 60 years of family ownership. Cider Fest is Sept 24-25.
• Erwin Orchards & Cider Mill, 61475 Silver Lake Road, South Lyon, 248-437-0150, - Orchard open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily Aug. 19-Oct. 31. Cider mill is open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Hours vary. Cider mill is open 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Nov. 1-6. Already picked and u-pick apples, cider mill, petting zoo, corn maze in season, seasonal produce.
• Fogler’s Orchard & Farm Market, 3979 Rochester Road, (Rochester and Gunn Road), Rochester Hills, 248-652-3614, - Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. through mid-September, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Oct. 31. Apples, corn, tomatoes, peaches, melons, u-pick raspberries, pumpkins and hay rides. Open now.
• Franklin Cider Mill, 7450 Franklin Road, Bloomfield Hills, 248-626-8261, Open 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily and 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekends from Sept. 3 to Nov. 27. Cider mill, doughnuts, pies, apples, pumpkins.
• Goodison Cider Mill, 4295 Orion Road, Rochester, 248-652-8450, - Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily Sept. 3 through November and weekends in December. Cider mill, apples, caramel apples, doughnuts, pies and Pistachio Nut Bread.
• Long Family Orchard Farm & Cider Mill, 1540 East Commerce Road, Commerce Township, 248-360-3774, - Apples, cider and fresh produce. Open noon to 6 p.m. daily through October. U-pick hours vary.
. Paint Creek Cider Mill, 4480 Orion Road, Oakland Township, 248-656-3400, - Open all year, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Cider mill, doughnuts, ice cream, cafe, by Paint Creek Trail.
• Rochester Cider Mill, 5125 N. Rochester Road, Rochester Hills, 248-651-4224, -Open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, hours vary later in the season. Cider mill, doughnuts, pie, apples, produce.
• Yates Cider Mill, 1990 E. Avon Road, Rochester Hills, 248-651-8300, - Open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., weekdays, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday and Labor Day, open through November. Cider, apples, ice cream, fudge, Dearborn brand hot dogs and Knackwurst, pony rides, petting zoo, river walk.
Apple orchards and cider mills near Oakland County
• Blake’s Big Apple Orchard, 71485 North Ave., Armada, 586-784-9710 and Blake’s Orchard and Cider Mill, 17985 Armada Center Road, Armada, 586-784-5343, Open 8 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily through Dec. 23.
• Hy’s Cider Mill, 6350 37 Mile Road, Romeo, 810-798-3611,, Open 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 12-Nov. 8, weekends only.
. Middleton Cider Mill, 46462 Dequindre Road, Utica, 586-731-6699, Open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Sept. 9 through October and 9 a.m.- 6 p.m. in November.
• Miller’s Big Red Apple Orchard, 4900 32-Mile Road, Washington Township, 586-752-7888,, upick raspberries. Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.
• Historic Parshallville Cider Mill, 8507 Parshallville Road, Fenton, 810-629-9079, Open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. daily, Sept. 3 through mid November.
• Parmenter’s Northville Cider Mill, 714 Baseline Road, Northville, 248-349-3181, - Open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, through Nov. 23. Cider mill, doughnuts, pies and other food products and wine from the Northville Winery, across the parking lot.
• Porter’s Orchard Farm Market & Cider Mill, 12060 E. Hegel Road, Goodrich, 810-636-7156, (Open Aug. 6-Dec. 24)
• Spicer Orchards, 10411 Clyde Road, Fenton, 810-632-7692, Open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, May to Dec. 31. U-pick and already picked apples, raspberries, and seasonal produce, playground equipment, winery and ice cream.
• Stony Creek Orchard and Cider Mill, 2961 W. 32 Mile Road, Romeo, 586-752-2453, open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 10- through season,
• Verellen Orchards, 63260 Van Dyke, Romeo, 586-752-2989, Open daily all year, 7 a.m.-6 p.m.
• Westview Orchards & Cider Mill, 65075 Van Dyke (M-53), at 30 Mile Road, two miles south of Romeo, 586-752-3123, open 8 a.m.-6 p.m.,

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Preserving fruits and vegetables

Whether to can, freeze or dry produce, depends on what vegetable and how much effort and time a person wants to devote. Freezing vegetables is the fastest. Canning takes longer, but is better for maintaining vegetable texture. Canning is definitely best for salsa and pickles. Drying might be the easiest, but it has limited use, such as for herbs, mushrooms and fruit.

Easy freezing
It’s easy to freeze vegetables and fruits. Some don't require cooking or blanching. For celery and rhubarb, just wash, chop, bag in serving sizes and freeze. To freeze zucchini for making bread: shred or grate and freeze without blanching. For peppers, just cut out the seeds, wash and let dry, then freeze in bags. The quality and texture is reduced after freezing, but they still have that garden fresh taste when used in cooking.

For apples wash, peel and core apples. Slice, cut into chunks or quarter. As you prepare apples, dip the cut pieces in a solution of 1 tablespoon each salt and vineqar to 2 quarts of water, to prevent darkening. Drain well, rinse and drain again. Then you can either pack plain, with sugar or with syrup. Leave a ½ inch headspace for pint containers and 1 inch for quarts. When using liquid, place a piece of crumpled paper or plastic wrap on top to keep fruit under the liquid. For syrup, mix 1/14 cup sugar and 5-1/2 cup water top yield cups. Thaw fruit in refrigerator or bowl of cool water. If cooking, thaw only enough to separate.

Blueberries can be put in the freezer with very little preparation. Remove stems and bad berries, wash in cold water, drain, pack in freezer bags. Label and freeze.

Most other vegetables and fruits require blanching, which is pretty easy. To blanch vegetables, you need:
a large porcelain or stainless steel pan with basket strainer and lid, 2/3 full of water
large bowl in the sink filled with ice water
bags or plastic containers and a permanent marker
Bring the water in the saucepan to boiling. Meanwhile, wash and trim the veggies. Place the veggies in boiling water, close lid and time. See chart below. Then remove from the pan and drain quickly. Next, place in ice water for the same amount of time as boiled. When the time is up, remove and drain well in a colander. To remove more moisture, place clean towels on the counter and lay the veggies out for a few minutes before bagging in labeled freezer bags and placing in the freezer. Here are blanching and cooling times for vegetables:

Vegetable blanching times - equal time in boiling water, then ice water, (Except for corn on the cob, most vegetables should be blanced 2 to 3 minutes).

Broccoli, 3 minutes
Cabbage, 3 minutes (cut into wedges)Corn on the cob, 6 to 10 minutes
Green beans, 3 minutes
Peas, 1 to 2 minutes
Swiss chard and other tender greens, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes (avoid matting leaves)Zucchini slice, blanch 3 minutes

Tomatoes taste better when sliced in half, and baked or roasted on a cookie sheet, (350 degrees for 30 minutes for large tomatoes). Or you can blanch them for 30 seconds.

Do not freeze too much at one time in your freezer. It could raise the interior temperature. Leave space between packages so air can circulate freely until frozen.

Can if you can
Canning takes some time. It’s more fun when you undergo the canning process with good friends or family, plus it’s less work. You will have the sweet, or sour rewards all winter long, so much better than store-bought. You will thank yourself and your canning buddies. Hot water bath canning is good for high acid foods, like tomatoes, pickles and relishes. It’s also good for sugary spreads, jams and jellies. You need to buy jars, lids and a big stockpot with wire canning rack. The pan needs to be 3-5 inches deeper than your canning jars. For other foods, like green beans, a pressure canner is needed. For further information, get the Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing & Dehydration. It is a very good, easy-to-reference guide, and it under $10. It is available at

For a good salsa recipe, see my recipe page on the right or visit

Monday, July 25, 2016

Bees are needed for some plants to bear fruit

These beans didn't need bees. 
A fellow blogger was wondering why his zucchini plants are not producing foot-long zucchini like his neighbor's plants. It turns out, something is missing: bees.
Bees are needed to pollinate squash, cucumber and melons. These plants form both male and female flowers. Humans can intervene by transferring the pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers. For more information, visit
There are vegetables that don't need bees or other insect pollinators, such as peas, okra and most beans. There are also plants that can be pollinated with help from the wind, such as tomatoes, peppers, kale and corn.
For more information, visit

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Sometimes, you gotta weed out the bad

When the inevitable time comes, the bad plants have got to go, because they've become larger than the intended vegetation and are sucking the life out of the nearby good plants.

Here are some ways to reduce weeding and ease the weeding experience.

1. Mulch to prevent weeding. You can use a number of items. I am heading out to the garden this morning to rake water weeds from the pond for mulch. Other materials you can use, to avoid buying expensive bags of mulch include wet newspapers, straw, grass clippings, leaves, aged manure and aged compost. Manure should not be fresh. Organic Gardening magazine on mulch
2. Cover it up. Place cover down where you aren't growing anything, like in walkways and borders around the garden. We laid strips of old carpet one year. Black plastic with mulch on top, is good for the walkways. Rototilling between the rows is efficient for keeping the weeds under control, but it needs to be done every three weeks. If you use want to use weed block or landscaping cloth, don't bother buying the cheap woven kind, the roots of the weeds get stuck, creating more work. There's a bonded type, if you want to spend the money.
3. Hoe hum. Hoe the little weeds, that are less than once inch and pull the larger weeds. Hoe 3 to 4 inches deep. I really don't like to hoe, so I usually wait until the weeds are big enough to pull.
4. Weeding is Zen. Weed when the soil is moist or water beforehand and wait a few hours. Remember to water after you weed. I take a tool and loosen the soil before pulling weeds. A tool like the hula hoe which looks like a hoop on a stick or the mini rake or a pronged tool can help loosen the soil. You can use a hand trowel to dig up the big weeds. I do my best thinking while weeding.
5. Garden yoga. My friend Mickey told me her trick to weeding includes the three yoga poses of weeding, (no kidding). Bend over and pull. If you do that too many times, you'll feel it for a week. Squat down on your haunches. I can only do this for a few minutes. Kneeling. This works great until you need to move.
You can add various yoga poses, like crossing your legs while stretching over to pull weeds, maybe meditate a bit too while you're down there. You can do a leg stretch in between weed pulling as well. The main thing is to change positions to prevent continuous repetitive motions.

Back exercise. Here's a quick back exercise that is like the reverse of bending over. Lean back against a flat wall, press the small of the back against it with feet flat on the ground and hold for a minute or two. Repeat a few times everyday. Here's some tips to prevent pain from gardening:

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Trim the greens and herbs for plant health, and tasty treats

Trimming herbs and greens is helpful to the plants and encourages renewed growth. Also, the young leaves make great salads.

For spinach, just pinch leaves at the base of the leaf. Leaves should be at least four inches long. Like spinach, the best way to pick parsley, and many herbs and leafy vegetables, is to snip the whole leaf and stem at the stock.
For Swiss chard, you can twist the leaf's stem and pinch off near the ground.
Basil's a little different. You should cut the stock or branch, just above leaves, yet below the leaves you want to harvest.

For Rosemary and sage, cut five inch branches and hang to air dry or chop and freeze herbs in ice cube trays or clumps in a freezer bag.

When to pick
Picking in the morning is the best time of day, especially for greens and herbs.
Pick leaves often to prevent the plants from bolting, or going to seed. Because once they go to seed, many of the plants lose their flavor or stop producing leaves.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

It's strawberry picking time in Michigan

Strawberries from Middleton Berry Farm, picked June 11, 2016.
The strawberries are ripe for picking at Middleton Berry Farm of Ortonville. The official start date for the U-Pick farm is Wednesday, June 15, with planned hours of 7:30-10:30 a.m. or until picked out, as conditions permit. Hours vary due to quantities and weather, so check before driving out. Call (248) 831-1004 or find them on Facebook, Middleton Berry Farm.
Strawberries are $1.80 per pound. It is recommended to bring your own container and have it weighed before picking, although they have boxes to purchase. 
Also, be sure to bring cash or check, because they cannot accept credit cards.

When I was out there this morning, Stacy Janiga said, "It's pretty easy picking today, there's lots of big red juicy berries." And she was right.
"When the berries are ripe, they will nearly fall off when you pick them," she said. 
She and her sister Carrie Janiga, the owners, recommend washing the berries with the stem on, this prevents water from getting inside the berries, which loses the flavor.
The sisters purchased the farm in 2014 from longtime residents Bill and Barb Middleton. The Janigas hired staff who previously worked for the Middletons.
Stacy said they are trying to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
"Our strawberries are grown using IPM (Integrated Pest Management). This means we use minimal chemicals and use organic solutions when possible, including hand weeding of all fields."

Middleton Berry Farm
Address: 4790 Oakwood Rd, Ortonville, MI 48462
Phone: (248) 831-1004
Directions: Go five miles east of Ortonville Road between M-15 and M-24. From I-75 take Exit 84 (Baldwin Road). Go north on Baldwin Road 10 miles to Oakwood Road, turn left. Farm is one mile on the left.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Plants that attract bees and butterflies

With the Colony Collapse Disorder affecting the presence of bees, it's a good idea to plant flowers that attract pollinators, to improve the success of crops and increase the local bee and butterfly population.
Common flowers that are attractive to pollinators are poppy, lupine, viola, wallflower, black-eyed Susan, Butterfly flower, Calendula, Dahlia, Amaranth, Marigold, Salvia, Sunflower, Zinnia, Portulaca, Lavender, Foxglove, Cosmos, Coneflower and Echinacea.
Anybody who has run barefoot in a yard knows that clover attracts bees. It is a great ground cover plant too.
Garden plants that are highly attractive to bees and butterflies include parsley, cilantro, thyme, dill, basil, chives, peas, squash and pumpkin. Here's a link about planting to attract beneficial insects: