Apples are the quintessential autumnal symbol, don’t you think? In our house we love apples; my son in particular has an apple a day- it’s his very favorite quiet time snack. It pairs best with a fresh book from the library I’m told.
Both of my parents grew up in apple country, on the eastern side of the state where the dry (yes, some parts of Washington’s are very dry!) climate yields some of the best apples in the world. So, I guess you could say, apples have been a staple of my life for as long as I’ve been around. I wouldn’t have it any other way and I’m happy to have my children be involved in one of the most time honored traditions in our family- apple pressing!
A few weekends ago we packed up our crew and headed to eastern Washington for a long weekend at my parents place where we cranked through a whole crate of gala apples in one afternoon which yielded about 52 gallons of fresh cider. There is nothing like the taste of that thick, sweet cider poured right from the sticky, dripping cider press. The stuff you see in the store pales in comparison! No, literally; fresh pressed cider is a dark brown, not yellow-y colored like store bought. C and A built up great anticipation for cidering this year because, “we are able to help more this time mom, because we are big now!” Help they did! Between washing apples, chopping them, and feeding them into the grinders, collectively they put in several hours worth of work. They must get that work ethic from their father, as I can confidently say that at their age I was generally focused more on the tasting portion of the job.
The eastern side of the state gets so much more sunshine than the west side. Basking in clear days was a welcome break from the torrential downpours we’ve been having here. To help remember that sunshine we’ve got several gallons of cider fermenting on the counter which are turning a lovely amber color, reminiscent of the cloud free gloaming at my parents house. The rest of our share is frozen, destined for apple cider caramels and summer time popsicles.
I’m so grateful my children will have fond memories participating in such a sacred tradition. What a gift to be able to say they pressed apples into delicious cider with their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents all at one time! My hope is that whenever they bite into a fresh apple, smell fragrant cider, or feel the wind blowing autumn leaves, that they feel the love of all of those who have kept the cidering tradition alive for them. I know I certainly do.
Though I’ve felt like our history projects have been blah lately, that dry spell was finally defeated with our pioneer natural dye project! Okay, so the term “pioneer” might need to be taken very loosely. A long ways back I read that you can make pink dye from avocado skins and pits. Wild right?! That’s where the idea started of making this a history lesson about how clothes were dyed with natural substances that folks found around them. Anyways, I’ve been hoarding all our ‘cado pits and skins for months in the freezer and finally had enough. But pink dye wouldn’t do for Handsome, so we foraged some red pine needles, which were advertised as being able to make a great green dye. After amassing dye stuffs, finally finding cute *cheap* 100% cotton clothes, and our alum mordant, we went to work. We started with C’s sweatshirt. Not gonna lie- it was an epic failure (hence the lack of pictures of the project- it got a bit hectic). The green dye didn’t set a hoot despite the alum mordant. So, after some frantic boiling of other green substances in order to bring out our green color, I gave up. Green wasn’t gonna happen. But I did know a handy spice that I had on hand that would dye just about anything in it’s path- turmeric! I brought C up to speed in the change of plans and he agreed “Golden” would be a pretty great color too. So we set to work and this time- success!
He loves it! And the dye has set fast, holding up in several washes so far. Turmeric is one powerful spice y’all.
I was most antsy to try the avocado dye. Okay, yes, we know for sure pioneers didn’t have avocados, haha. So while I felt like a bit of a cheat, I explained to the kids it was really the process that we should focus on. Z and I scrapped those pits and skins all clean and made the dye. This also didn’t turn our exactly as I wanted, despite the over night soak but it also stuck fast which was a success. The girls look amazing in the color.
I am hopefully for another foraging expedition soon that can turn up some other great natural dye options such as acorns. They make a lovely warm brown and do not need a mordant to set them. I’m still hopefully for that elusive green as well, because I’m thinking our sheets would look fabulous as soft green. When I mentioned this to Husband he gave me a rather apprehensive look. I told him I really knew what I was doing this time and not to be put off by the frantic spinach boiling of earlier. Trial and error is all part of the learning experience, am I right?!
Maybe I’m stating the obvious, but you don’t have to go far to bring history alive for your homeschool. White River Valley museum is right next to our local library and we’ve never been in all our 7 years living in the valley! Lucky for us they have waived admission for the rest of 2021 which really motivated me to put it on our field trip list. You gotta check it out, it is a local treasure.
I would show you all the amazing pictures of this place but I don’t want to spoil it for you. Some of my favorites are the old school house, the hat shop, and the replica passenger train car. C liked the old dentist chair and A was a fan of the old piano. Lil C was just excited to touch all the fun “toys”.