Planning Ahead

If you’re a regular, you’ll know I have a thing for daffodils.

When me and the MR bought our first home, it was fall. The next spring we watched bulbs sprout and waited for blooms with eager anticipation.

Here too, we moved in during the dead of winter. The yard was overgrown and desolate. We had problems with the heat, problems with the well, problems with pests… Let’s just say problems and leave it at that.

Maybe that’s why when a bevy of golden blooms sprung up next to the deck I was was so happy. They gave me hope that this crazy place could really be home.

We’ve added a few bulbs here and there the last few years, but I wanted to step up our game.

So last week when I was picking up a few things at Costco and saw these, I knew they were going home with me.

Looks like I have some planting to do. It’ll be well worth it next spring.

Any fall plantings at your house?

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You Can’t Always Believe What You Read

Saturday, when I was doing dishes, I asked the MR if he thought those were apples on the ground out in the orchard. Neither of us were quite sure, and somehow I never made it down to check things out that day. By Sunday, it was clear I had apples everywhere.

But you say isn’t that kind of early? Well yes, yes it is. According to four out of five websites, Chehalis apples (a derivative of Golden Delicious) don’t ripen until mid-September or early fall. This is August. What’s going on? The one website that slated harvest for August was based on California’s climate. We never get that hot. Sometimes you have to embrace reality over what you read.

Now that I have about 15-20 pounds of slightly bruised apples, I decided it was time to make some applesauce.

I love homemade applesauce because it’s just apples pure and simple. First I washed and quartered the apples and cut out the bad parts. Then onto the stove they went with a cup of water.

After about an hour, with frequent stirring, the apples were cooked, and soft, and ready to be milled.  A friend of mine was talking about processing apples a few years ago and extolling the virtues of her Kitchen-Aid mixer’s food mill attachment. After peeling and coring apples for years, I thought I’d give it a try.

She let me borrow hers, and I wound up buying my own. Your applesauce won’t have the chunks that give it character, but the mill has cut down on so much of the prep work.

Once you’ve cooked your apples, you run them through the mill—seeds, peel, and all. Then your left with sauce.

Meanwhile, I had jars boiling in my water-bath canner ready and waiting. Fill jars, wipe rims, add flats and rings, and your set. Process for 15 minutes at a full boil (for pints), and enjoy.

The half-filled jar makes a lovely addition to lunch. I figured this is a good start at dealing with my glut of apples.

I’ve got quite a few blueberries down in the orchard, so I was eyeing a recipe for blueberry-apple jam, and I have an Italian inspired canning book that has a recipe for apple-pear paste. With a name like paste, it’s go to be good. Seriously, it’s more intriguing than it sounds.

We’ve eaten all the red beauty plums, but I still have a bowl of yellow ones to find a use for. They’ve been a great addition to fruit salads lately. And we’re at the tail end of both the currants and blueberries. You may have noticed the large zucchini in the photo of my jars. I think we’ll be having blueberry-zucchini bread before the week is  out.

I always get such a sense of accomplishment when we’ve had success in the garden or the orchard. We still don’t have any ripe tomatoes, but the farmer’s market and farmstands have come through while we wait.

Another week, and we’ll be enjoying green beans and lettuce from the garden. I do love our long growing season. We’ll be in harvest mode through October if all goes well.

How does your garden grow? Any favorite apple recipes?

We do love our Sweet Miss. And yes, I did make her pose like that.

In other news, Sweet Miss celebrated her birthday this week as did The Fella. Wishing both of them many happy returns.

 

 

 

 

In the Orchard

 
Since we visited the garden in our last post, I thought the orchard deserved equal time.

It’s been five years since the first batch of trees was planted, and we’ve had some hits and misses. The plumcot is a big zero in the fruit department this year. It’s one of the few trees that’s escaped leaf curl and deer damage, but it’s not producing.

It’s supposed to be self-fertile, but maybe it needs a friend. The new nectarines that replaced the dead nectarine tree are also a hit and a miss. One died, and the other is starting to take off.

The liberty apple is covered in fruit—I forgot to thin it this year, so the apples are a little too thick. The MR has braced the branches, and the mature fruit will just wind up a little under-sized. And our Chehalis tree has a couple apples as well. I think apples are a success.

 Pears are a big nothing just like the plumcot. We have a comice tree and a rescue tree. They’re supposed to cross-pollinate, but seem to be having issues. A deer did knock down half of the rescue pear early on, so it’s been playing catch up. Maybe it’s time to add another pear to boost pollination.

That’s what we did a few years back with the plums, and we immediately saw a difference. While the young weeping Santa Rosa has yet to produce any fruit. The Shiro is going to yield quite a few this year.

 I used a filter on the picture of these light green/turning yellow plums amongst light green leaves, so you could see them a little better. We do not live in a strange psychedelic world. 

And just look at the beauty plums coming on. I’m so glad the tree has recovered from its deer mauling last year. The ripened plums will be bright magenta soon.

Me and the  MR have been trying to ensure that the deer stay out of the orchard. Earlier in the spring he extended the fence posts using old galvanized pipe we pulled out during some well work and then adding more netting. Now that the fruit is oncoming on, I soaked more jute twine in patchouli and tied it near the fruit and along the fence. 

With the new high fence and the bad smell, maybe the deer will stay away. Cross your fingers; were hoping to enjoy some plums this year. 

Do you have fruit trees in your yard? Any local farms as a great source of produce?

Garden Fortress Comes to Fruition

There are good remember whens and bad remember whens.

Remember when the deer high centered on the garden fence and took out the corner post? Yeah, that was a good one—ugh.

Well, the MR replaced the post that had fallen and smashed the broccoli, and added a new higher layer of fencing, and all is well for the moment.

We have broccoli.

The beans are up, and peas are producing well.

And we have a few zucchini coming on.

Maybe a 10-foot tall fence is all we've needed to enjoy some home-grown vegetables in deer country.

What's growing in your garden?

Clean Up the Mess

I remember way back when, when the daffodils were in bloom. The profusion of yellow blossoms made me smile as I drove down the driveway. They were lovely…until they were not.

When I went to the garage to tie up the stems, I couldn’t find my garden twine. I did finally make it to the hardware store, but in the intervening weeks, they’ve turned brown, so all i had to do was cut them off.

Doesn’t this look much better?

 

I staked up on if the lilies that had been stepped on and took other broken flowering bits inside. I didn’t clean my up all the wood and debris; I figured I’d wait till the deck guys have finished up. 

Despite all, these are some beautiful flowers. 

And it took less than a half hour, three trips to the compost, and two dead slugs to get here. 

You can check out why I keep those silly daffodils here. 

https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/daffodil-detail/
 https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2014/03/13/spring-has-come/

Or maybe you’d like to remember with me how Sweet Cocoa helped me plant those lilies. 

https://bigwhitehouseonthehill.wordpress.com/2013/06/28/june-in-review/
What’s blooming in your garden? I’d love to see pictures. 

It Doesn’t Look Like Much

I had this vision, this plan, this wonderful idea. We’d cover the tennis court in vines, and I’d no longer feel guilty for never using it.

Not only would we cover all that chain-link fence in vines, we’d make them edible, so they’d be beautiful and beneficial. That’s where kiwis come in. I get all these seed catalogs in the mail and read about fabulous fruit trees and berries that will make my heart sing.

Raintree Nursery boasted a variety of kiwi vines. They grow in Russia, our little valley is a little more hospitable than Siberia. We should be good. Now these are not the fuzzy kiwis you buy at the grocery store; these are what they’ve coined “kiwi berries”. They’re smaller, and you don’t have to peel them. If you believe everything you read, they’re going to be the next big thing at all the farmer’s markets.

I’m not that gullible, but they did sound intriguing, and they could cover a lot of fence. Of course, you do need a boy and a girl, and I decided to add another variety of female just to mix things up. My idea was to cover the fence facing the house.

The MR, always logical, pointed out that the soil was bad, with the retaining wall the vines are quite far from the fence, there’s no irrigation, and the last thing we planted there died. With the recent fence issues, animals eating my onions and ripping up carrots, I decided maybe there’s room in the garden after all.

So here’s the start of my kiwi empire: one male…

And two females.

I’m hopiing the male revives after his time on the deck, otherwise we’re in trouble. But in happier news just look at the honeysuckle. It’s been awhile, but it’s finally taking off.

By the end of summer, the fence will be covered in vines, and the sweet scent of honeysuckle will fill the air as I weed my little garden.

Until then, I’ll leave you with a little found beauty. Remember when the MR had the guy come and rip out all most of the blackberries last fall? Well, around all the dead brambles, foxgloves have begun to sprout up, and you know how I feel about foxgloves.

Wildflowers make me smile.

What makes you smile?

 

 

Unexpected vs. Uninvited

Unexpected guests can be a delightful thing. You hear a random knock only to find old friends on the doorstep. Suddenly, a quiet evening has turned into a party. Or out of the blue you get a text and your headed out for an evening of dinner, and laughter, and catching up.

We’ve even invited friends for a weekend away and had them show up with some tagalongs. The more the merrier; people are always welcome.

It’s the uninvited that bring me down; the uninvited garden guests to be specific. The MR took Cocoa for her evening walk the other night and found giant slugs dessicating our newly-planted columbine. And when I went down to the check the state of our garden I found unequivocal evidence of invaders.

The first sign was random onions tossed about.

Moving along, I found carrots similarly thrown aside. Invaders, let it be known, if you’re going to tear up my vegetables, you can at least have the decency to eat them.

But I had the last laugh. Whatever has been messing with my garden appears to have had a bit of trouble exiting.

Now that the weather seems to have turned—we’ve had a run of dry, hot days—I’ll have to see if the garden has dried out enough for proper weeding. It’s just so much more fun to work outside when it’s quiet and peaceful, and I can listen to the birds. For the next few weeks, my efforts will be accompanied by the sound of hammers as work on the deck continues.

To be honest me and the MR have been playing hooky for the last few days down in Mexico. We spent a long weekend with my brother and his lovely wife at the Viceroy down in Zihuatenjo. Good food and good friends coupled with sunshine made for a lovely weekend.

But now it’s back deck repairs, garden mishaps, and real life.

How do you get rid of those uninvited guests?