One of our smokehouse apples from the Christian Baker Farm.

One of our smokehouse apples from the Christian Baker Farm.

We’ve been living here for over two years.  This is the third autumn — and the third time we noticed the apples on the big apple tree in the upper field.  The first two years, we assumed the smallish apples — mostly green in color — were likely crab apples and not suitable for eating.  This year, they had a beautiful red sheen to them!  We had friends over who mentioned the tree as we were picking persimmons (we’ve had a bumper crop of these sweet orange nodules this year).  So, we all walked up to the upper field and sampled some apples.  They were fantastic — crisp, slightly tart, and very sweet — simply delicious!  I immediately had visions of apple tarts and apple pies and apple sauce and apple slices with pork and apple —- well an apple orchard!

This past week I ordered two fruit pickers which arrived in the mail within four days.  Today, Sunday, Abbey, Taylor, Tammi and I headed to the upper field to pick our treasure.  Tammi was to keep our ram, Coal, at bay. Abbey scaled the tree and used her picker from on high with great results.  Taylor collected what Abbey and I were able to pluck from the tree.  While more than half of the fruit was partially rotten or holed by bugs, we still retrieved a couple dozen good specimens.

“We’ll have to get to them earlier next year,” declared Tammi, while I checked out the results.  “Why are you keeping so many bad ones?”

“I’m going to extract the seeds,” I said.

Earlier in the week I had contacted the prior owner, Glen Sarvis, who told me these were smokehouse apples.  I googled the variety to discover these were apples native to Lancaster County, first identified in the 1830s.  Could these legacy apples have been brought by the Bakers when they migrated across the river to these environs from Lancaster?  I decided to make every effort to grow a number of these native Pennsylvania apples – favored by our Dunkard forebearers.




Abbey cleaning her harvest.

Daughter Abbey dropped by this Labor Day.  Taylor was not feeling well, so her younger sister came alone. Typically, the dynamic changes quite a bit when it is one-on-one. Rather than letting me watch my Phillies game (they happened to be throwing a combined no-hitter at the Braves!) — she wanted to do something outside. Given how rare it is for our children to ever want to venture outside, I was thrilled at the opportunity and leaped from my comfy sofa to oblige.

I first took her to the lower field to see the remaining mega-pumpkins, still growing in the two patches.  “Wow!  They are huge!” she exclaimed. “Dad, show me the fruit trees.”

So, we walked to the young saplings and discussed when they might bear some fruit. “Someday I want to have a house with fruit trees,” she said.

I then took her to the grape arbor to see what remained after Tammi’s picking last week.  Lo and behold, there were tons of grapes!  Abbey picked one and asked if it needed to be washed. “No,” I said, “these are natural and organic — no pesticides to wash off.” I then popped one in my mouth and discovered a most pleasant sweet taste — like grape Kool-Aid.

“Dad, can we pick a bunch?” Abbey asked. “I want to make grape juice.”

“Absolutely!” I exclaimed, and went to fetch a basket.  We then spent the next quater hour filling it with bunches of ripe purple grapes.

After it was filled, we went to the porch and commenced to mash enough of them to make several glasses of juice. Abbey made sure no seeds or husks remained. We then poured three glasses and shared it with Tammi.

“Hmmmm, this is really good!” said Abbey, “Maybe we can make some wine!”

I held that thought as we returned to the living room to watch the conclusion of baseball history.  Indeed, the last place Phillies had no-hit the Braves — Hamels for 6, then Diekman, Giles and Papelbon for an inning each. 7-0 Philadelphia!  A great day all around!

After I took Abbey home, I grabbed the container full of husks, stems and seeds and headed to the stone wall where we had smashed pumpkins and been gifted with a pumpkin patch.  I found a wide bare spot and spread the grape remains around, imagining the emergence of vines next spring.  I’ll build arbors here, I thought.

Three glasses-worth of free-squeezed grape juice

Three glasses-worth of free-squeezed grape juice


"Hmmm this is good! Maybe we can make wine!"

“Hmmm this is good! Maybe we can make wine!”

accidental bountyA few months ago, Tammi announced the rapid growth of some vines along the old stone wall where we had smashed our pumpkins and gourds last Fall.

“Must be pumpkin vines!” I declared.

The ever-creeping vines eventually took over most of the patch near the wall, encroaching on our young fruit trees.  I was worried they might engulf the saplings, looking like something out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  They were greatly helped by the large amount of sheep manure removed from the sheep stall and dumped on the patch after the smashing.  For weeks, we proudly watched the little green orbs grow and then gradually turn to orange.  When the vines started to die this week, we decided it was time to harvest!

Also found in the patch were a small number of gourds.

Meanwhile, Tammi also tended to the grape arbor and pulled off a bucket full of ripe beauties.  They are very sweet.  The summer has been somewhat cool and there has been plenty of rain!

We’ll keep you posted on the pumpkins — most likely to be decorated by the kids and placed about the wrap-around porch.



grape bucket









pumpkin bounty

These just in…

Two of the cats --Simon (the porch cat) and Momma Cat (a barn cat)

Two of the cats –Simon (the porch cat) and Momma Cat (a barn cat)


Our “fancy” chicks are growing!


Ginnie, Hermione and their mother Myrtle — nubian goats


Our sheep — Coal — the black ram and the flock of Scottish Highlands

The log walls are revealed after the brick was removed.

The log walls are revealed after the brick was removed.

Recently, the former owner of the property, Glen Sarvis, shared with us some photos of renovations to the main house back in the 1980s.  Underneath the brick on the southwestern wall of the house, a two-story log structure was discovered.  This building appears to be very similar to the Frankenberger Tavern in downtown Mechanicsburg. Research at the Cumberland Valley Historical Society revealed that a two-story log house was on the property during the 1790 census, predating the purchase of the farm by Daniel Baker in the early 1800s.  More research is necessary to ascertain an approximate date for the initial settlement on the property, but it is very likely between 1775 and 1790.  Regardless, it is fascinating to imagine how the farm looked when George Washington was president!

According to the 1810 Census:

Name: Daniel Baker
Home in 1810 (City, County, State): Allen, Cumberland, Pennsylvania
Free White Persons – Males – Under 10: 3
Free White Persons – Males – 10 thru 15: 1
Free White Persons – Males – 16 thru 25: 1
Free White Persons – Males – 45 and over: 1
Free White Persons – Females – Under 10: 3
Free White Persons – Females – 10 thru 15: 1
Free White Persons – Females – 45 and over : 1
Number of Household Members Under 16: 8
Number of Household Members Over 25: 2
Number of Household Members: 11


According to the 1820 Census:

Name: John Baker
Home in 1820 (City, County, State): Allen, Cumberland, Pennsylvania
Enumeration Date: August 7, 1820
Free White Persons – Males – Under 10: 2
Free White Persons – Males – 26 thru 44: 1
Free White Persons – Females – Under 10: 1
Free White Persons – Females – 10 thru 15: 1
Free White Persons – Females – 26 thru 44: 1
Number of Persons – Engaged in Agriculture: 1
Free White Persons – Under 16: 4
Free White Persons – Over 25: 2
Total Free White Persons: 6
Total All Persons – White, Slaves, Colored, Other: 6

According to the 1850 Census:

Name Age
Christian Baker 35
John Baker 6
Susannah Baker 4
John S Baker 60
Susan Baker 58
Mary Baker 27


Close up of the log - mortar still evident

Close up of the log – mortar still evident






According to the 1870 Census:

Name Age
Christian Baker 54
John Baker 25
Susan Baker 23
Isaac Eichelberger 23
Leah Kline 23








The post office called at 6 am — didn’t even know they were up that early!   We were informed of the arrival of our box of chicks, and to pick them up ‘around back.’ After retrieving the day-old baby birds, we went to work setting up their initial brooder:

Chicks under the heat lamp.

Chicks under the heat lamp.

(1) five foot baby pool — bright pink!

(1) bag of red cedar bedding

(1) bag of starter/grower feed

(1) water dispenser

(1) feeder

(1) heat lamp

In a matter of minutes the little ladies were dashing about and exploring their new confines.  It was only a matter of minutes until they discovered the food and water.

We had ordered 25 birds from the Hoffman Hatchery, but only received 20:

Delaware on the left, Americauna behind, Naked Neck on the right

Delaware on the left, Americauna behind, Naked Neck Turken on the right

(5) Black Australorps

(5) Naked Neck Turkens

(5) Delawares

(5) Ameraucanas

courtesy of Hoffman Hatchery

courtesy of Hoffman Hatchery

  • BLACK AUSTRALORPS — Black with greenish sheen. Excellent layer of brown eggs. Very good layer even in hot weather. Dual-purpose bird.
  • AMERICANAS — Multi-colored birds that are excellent layers of blue and green eggs. They have beards, muffs, and tailheads but not tufts.
  • DELAWARES — Docile white bird which is more decorative than solid white birds. Good layers of brown eggs.
  • NAKED NECK TURKENS — Very good layer of multi-colored eggs. No feathers on the neck and only half as many on the body.

Finally, the long cold nasty winter is over for good.  It held on well into April, with the temperature dropping into the 30s on some nights, while fighting to get into the 50s during the day.  Everything is now blooming, and the old Christian Baker Farm looks lovely.

It has been awhile since I have recounted the additions and substractions among the animals.  2012 was a difficult year, as we were getting started and learning “the ropes.” If you’ve been following the blog, you know we went from 25 leghorn chickens to zero in a relatively short time.  Most of this was by design — the rest by varmints!

Hermione and Ginnie

Hermione and Ginnie

This May 14th, we will receive, from the Hoffman Hatchery in Gratz, PA, a shipment of 25 fancy chickens.  I don’t remember all of the varieties — but there are 5 different.  When they arrive, we will track their growth with you on this blog.

Regarding the sheep, we lost the big old ram “Rambo,” who succumbed to pneumonia after some unseasonably warm weather last February (2013).  He did manage to sire a number of lambs.  Our flock grew to 7, thanks to his exploits.  It would have been 9, but two of the lambs were to weak to survive.  They were all born last spring (2013).

Not long after the birth of the lambs, we adopted a young black ram lamb named Coal.  He is thriving, taking the place of Rambo, as he grows to full size.  Thus, the flock is now at 8 — all healthy and recently sheared.

As you know, we said goodbye to the old goats, Nellie and Twinx, who were in their late teens and suffering terribly from arthritis.  A few weeks ago, we added a doe goat, Myrtle, and her two baby daughters, Hermione and Ginnie.

Meanwhile, Gertie, our dog, is now full grown and a handful!