Living Homegrown

- The Blog -

Live farm fresh

without the farm®

Preserve Like a Pro: Get my top sources for canning tools & supplies. (It’s free!)

Farmstead Restoration Update

Farmstead Restoration - Livinghomegrown.com

The past 2 weeks have been a blur for me as I traveled to Northern California to work on our 1892 Farmstead project and then to Atlanta to finish filming the 5th  season of Growing A Greener World TV on PBS.

Due to my traveling, I don’t have a recipe or canning lesson this week. Instead, I thought I would give you a quick update on the Farmstead Project. We have gotten so much done in just the last 6 months!

Background:

My family is restoring an 1892 Farmstead in Northern CA. I’m in charge of the heirloom orchard and garden renovation. Other family members are in charge of restoring the farmhouse and outbuildings. You can read more about the overall farmstead project here.

The Trees:

Unpruned Apple Tree - LivingHomegrown.com

When we got this property two and half years ago, we were sad to discover that many of the heirloom fruit trees in the main orchard had been topped several times over many years. They were a mess and filled with tons of waterspout growth.

The fruit was delicious, but we had lots of bug problems and the overgrowth was not producing much fruit.

I knew the trees would take at least 3-4 years of careful restoration pruning to get back to a decent shape.

Well, here we have had two seasons of pruning and many of the trees are already in full swing! This year, we had some of our best crops of apples, plums and pears.

Farmstead Restoration Project - LivingHomegrown.com

Fruit Flavors:

Farmstead Restoration - LivingHomegrown.com

From day one, I have kept careful notes on each tree and this year there has been a definite shift in apple flavors.

As the apple trees have been opened up and more light has hit the fruit, the flavors of the apples have become more complex. We have less bug problems and the fruit is ripening better on the tree.

It is very exciting to see the payoff after all this hard work.

We still have more work to go and I will write more about some of the things we have tried after I see which actions get the best results.

Bears – Oh My!

Farmstead Restoration - LivingHomegrown.com

We had one bump in the road a few months ago when a local bear was spotted in the neighborhood. Bears are not a daily occurrence around here, but the California drought is bringing them closer into town.

This bear started visiting our orchard and pulling down branches to sample the fruit. Unfortunately, he destroyed several branches in the process. The good news is that he did not completely destroy any one tree, as it was all minor damage. Luckily for us, he has moved on.

Discoveries:

We are still finding fruit trees in the woods and as we pull back brambles, we are finding other fun things!

There was an overgrown patch of wild blackberries next to the orchard. As we started pulling them away, we discovered an old irrigation system, trellising and a row of old grape plants with a lot of character.

Found_Grapes_Before

Surprisingly, the grapes were in pretty good shape despite being covered up and unpruned. We even managed to get some incredible green and red (seedless) grapes from several of these old beauties this year.

Discovered Grapes

The Canner’s Kitchen:

When we bought this property, the kitchen was tiny, cramped and dated. It was our first item of business in the farmhouse renovation. We have done all the work ourselves and tried to use reclaimed items where we could to keep our costs down.

Farmhouse Restoration - LivingHomegrown.com

The kitchen as we found it on day one.

With all the fruit trees on this property, canning will naturally be an important part of the new kitchen. So our goal was to create a “Canner’s Kitchen” layout with lots of space for prepping and putting up the harvest.

We opened up the wall to add the footage of the small office behind the kitchen.

Farmhouse Restoration - LivingHomegrown.com

We kept all the original cabinets and gave them a facelift with new paint. Then, we covered the counters with zinc. As it ages, it will give an old weathered look to the kitchen.

Farmhouse Restoration

We found a used kitchen island at the local Habitat for Humanity store that just needed some TLC and a few repairs. We had to take it apart to get it through the kitchen door. But once in place, it fit perfectly and gave us a large area for all our future fruit prep.

Farmhouse Restoration - LivingHomegrown.com

We are currently working on the large pantry and the well room, which will be used for canning supply storage. Both of those areas will be so important to our future canning operations.

I hope you enjoyed the mini-tour. I will keep you posted on our progress!

Enjoy this post?

Sign up for updates & receive my free Canning Resource Guide

Preserve Like a Pro: Get my top sources for canning tools & supplies. (It’s free!)

About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy® and is the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two teenage boys and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.