Garden Goings On

Summer is finally here. June has been mostly overcast and rainy with a few days of sun to give us hope. The weathermen say summer doesn’t start in Seattle till July 8th. I talked to my brother this week and it was over 100-degrees, and the MR’s brother-iin-law was posting about tornado warnings. I guess we can handle a little rain.

Our new deck furniture seems to be able to withstand stormy nights with no problem. Look at the way the water just beads up. It’s amazing.

All that rain, means cool crops, like lettuce, are doing great. We’ve had salad three times this week. Isn’t that romaine beautiful?

In total transparency, I have a lot of weeds in my garden and the broccoli is bolting without ever crowning; but on the bright side, the carrots that went to seed last year have sprouted all over the garden, the beans are looking good, I have a ton of lettuce (besides the transplanted romaine), two of the kiwi vines are climbing all over the chain link, and the carrots I planted are coming up in neat little rows. I have a feeling it’s going to be a good year.

Remember my swathe of purple dreams?  They are coming to fruition. A few of the lavender didn’t make it through last year, but this year all is well. I’m thinking of visiting a local farm/winery and buying some more. We have a big hillside to cover.

Along with rainy days, we’ve had plenty of mild weather to enjoy the new furniture on the deck. I’ve spent many a morning out in the sun with my buddies—the hummingbirds. When I was filling their feeder, the MR cautioned me to rinse it well, because he’d seen ants crawling on it. In problem-solving mode, I decided to google how to keep ants out of your hummingbird feeder. You can basically find anything on the internet. Sure enough, Amazon had a copper cup with hooks that you slather in oil. It’s done the trick so far. Amazon also had new stoppers for the wine bottle feeders. In the past, filling the feeders resulted in an arm drenched in sugar water, a shower, and a cranky Kim.

I tried to get an action shot, but my friends were being shy. Perhaps they didn’t like a camera and tripod set up next to their feeding station. Usually they’re quite pushy and demand attention. I went golfing and shopping with the MR yesterday; they could be feeling neglected. This little guy watched from afar.

I also saw this visitor. Fat bunnies are everywhere. We’ve also had plenty of deer and a few bears stop by lately.

In other outdoor news, the MR has been pruning in the orchard, and the front yard, and the driveway. I’ve thinned the apples down to just two or three per cluster. We’re going to have a banner crop this year with both apple trees covered in fruit. The rest of the trees have a few of this and that. But the currants are dripping with berries. It’s always fun no matter what we end up with. We’re bringing a currant-strawberry cake to a potluck dinner tonight. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

How is your garden doing? Any visitors?

(You can check out A Swath of Purple and All That Swath of Purple Stuff and relive all the fun of the past.)

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Don’t Count Your Chickens…

I was down in the orchard last week, and I know you’re not supposed to count on success before it happens, but we just may have pears.

We’ve been worrying about them; do Comice and Rescue really cross-pollinate? It seems like maybe the do.

Along with pears, we have apples, and plums, and even a few nectarines. I still remember walking into a fruit tent the summer I was pregnant with Sweet Miss and having someone offer me a slice of nectarine. With sweet juice covering my hands and dripping down my face, I left with a bag full of them. That’s the kind of fruit I want to grow.

I wasn’t simply admiring all the fruit we might enjoy if all goes well; I was upgrading the signage. If you’re a long time reader you’ll remember Rocking the Garden. Well my bright, lovely rocks have begun to peel, and letters are disappearing, so I’ve replaced them with copper markers I picked up at Target in late winter.

The little signs have been sitting on the counter for months. I just wasn’t sure how to use them. Was the copper soft enough to etch varietals into them? I decided to go the safe route and use a sharpie. If they start to fade, I can always write over and refresh the words. I have an orchard map in my gardening notebook that doesn’t have to withstand the elements and is tucked away safe and sound as a back up.

I’m thinking some worm castings spread around the trees and some judicious thinning are next in order for the orchard. The MR has already put out fruit tree fertilizer spikes. Then we get to sit back and wait. Harvest is just around the corner.

What’s growing at your house?

It’s Not All Fun & Games

I know on Friday, I was all excited about seeing the kids and playing this past weekend.

Just in case you get the wrong idea, me and MR have had plenty to do around here.

You know how we had more rain in April than we did in January. We had more rain in April than we did in February and March combined. All that rain coupled with mild temperatures equals a whole lot of weeds.

The MR would make short work of it with a shovel, but I’m trying the no till method. Something about underground networks bringing minerals and nutrients to my plants but not if I rip them all out. It sounds a bit like hocus-pocus, but I’m giving it a go.

Slowly but surely it’s coming together.

You can see my tomato plant swathed in a wall of water. I’ve added broccoli and marigolds from the high school plant sale. When I pulled up those weeds, I discovered the asparagus had made it after all. It’s year two in this location, so I’m dressing it with worm castings and letting it grow. Next year, we’ll have a harvest.

Did you notice the vine on the tennis court? That’s last years manly kiwi. While it’s consorts died, the new replacements are budding out. The MR says the pears are setting fruit for the first time. This garden/orchard thing might actually work.

While I was at knit group chatting with the ladies, he painted the stairs to the deck and mowed the lawn.

I think I got the better deal. We have lots of gardening and maintenance stuff going on, but that’ll wait for another day.

How’s your garden coming along?

March was Marvelous in 2018

Sometimes I look back at the month and say “wow” look at all those posts, so many things happened; but other times, I just say “hmm.” It’s not like we did nothing; I just didn’t manage to write about it.

So here’s just a little of what we did in March. Me and the MR flew to LA for a wedding and a rainy weekend at the beach, we spent time with family, and Baby Girl came home for spring break. We met people for lunch, and dinner, and movies, and wine tasting. Plus we went shopping and  bought new tires, and new brakes. The MR bought a suit for the big event this summer, Sweet Miss’ dress arrived (it’s beautiful), BG’s dress arrived (lovely, too), Cocoa chased deer and barked at a bear. I went to a wine and paint night with my buddy. We were busy.

And now here’s the blog in a blink. That Snowball Effect started off with just one job that turned into craziness. While we were out of town, the tree guys came and took down some huge cedars. Everything looked great till, we realized our propane tank was rapidly emptying. There was a break in the line, and we had to do without for a few days. With a little rearranging of the schedule, the new tank went in early, and all is well.

It’s in the Details is a cautionary tale about the need to think things through. Let’s just say, a well-lit mantel is a lovely thing–we just don’t have it. Maybe some day…

The Second Time Around had me planting kiwi vines in the garden. This is take two, and after the wind, hail, snow, and rain of the last few weeks, we may wind up with a third try. Knock on wood for me and my kiwis. The onion sets are looking great, and the orchard is continuing to break out in bloom.

Wishing for Sun showcased our lovely view and the new lounge chairs we’ve bought. It snowed on Easter. It may be a while before they get any use. It’s just one of those months.

And now because I’m glad to be winding up more than a few knit and crochet projects and Cocoa makes me laugh, here’s BG’s new socks and her lovely feet.

BGs socks

The MR is cutting back on his consulting, and we’ve got a bunch of projects on the fire, and I’m hoping to be a little more present in April. After four visits, our wifi is finally working, so I should be a little less frustrated when I do write to you.

Happy April!

The Second Time Around

Last year, I had these visions of vines covering the chain link fence around the tennis court. They would soften the harsh lines, add greenery and charm. Reading through a catalog, I came across hardy kiwi vines and knew they’d be perfect. Leafy vines with flowers and fruit, what could go wrong?

Sometimes plant orders go out at different times, and our kiwis arrived as we were leaving for a trip. Too much time on the deck resulted in only one of the three vines making it through the summer. So at Christmastime when I was ordering the MR’s satsuma tree (for indoors), I ordered two female kiwi vines to go with the male that appears to have made it through the winter.

They arrived a few weeks ago when we were headed to California, and we left them inside away from possible winter storms. Reading up on the planting info from the nursery, they said as long as the ground wasn’t frozen when we planted our vines, they should be fine. The ground was pretty soggy but definitely not frozen when Cocoa and I got to work.

I added some worm castings that I’ve been saving up this winter and replaced the dead plants with new healthy versions. Cocoa did her best to tamp down the soil around them. This is why she’s usually banned from the garden.

I had a lot of castings leftover, so I made a circuit through the orchard to scatter some around the fruit trees. The plums and plucot are in bloom and the pears are budded out. Let’s hope for a good harvest this fall.

The MR says the bees are our doing their part. I do love picking fruit from our little orchard. The MR has been talking about adding a more permanent fence around the trees. I’m glad that they are finally getting big enouch to withstand deer damage. We just have to hope our pear trees get a little friendlier with one another. They’re supposed to cross-pollinate, but they haven’t been on speaking terms for the last few years.

Oh, and in case you were wondering, the company we’d contracted with for the new propane tank took pity on us and installed it last Friday a few weeks earlier than promised.

New Propane Tank

Now I can fry food, heat the kettle, and dry as many clothes as my heart desires. The new tank is about twice as big as the old one, so we’ll have a little more peace of mind when the power goes out.

Are you getting your garden ready for planting? What’s in bloom at your house?

 

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.

 

 

 

 

And That Was July

Me and the MR have been playing hooky for the last few weeks. We’ve been in Europe with Sweet Miss seeing the sites and visiting Baby Girl, and it was wonderful.

Now we are home playing catch up with laundry, and gardening, and grocer shopping, and dead mice, and harvesting. And finally, I’m getting to my blog. So while it’s a little late, here’s what July brought to the Big White House on the Hill.

  1. The MR’s folks were in town, and Papa Larry (aka the Handyman) needs projects to keep him busy. The Handyman Can get the job done…hanging shelves, servicing the lawnmower, replacing a sink. You name it; he’s done it, and we are so grateful.
  2. While the Handyman started this project, the part for our leaky shower didn’t arrive until after he left. Isn’t it amazing The Power of Technology? You can take a photo on your phone of a 20-year-old, leaky valve, send an email to the manufacturer, and someone thousands of miles away knows exactly what you need and mails it off. It’s a crazy world we live in.
  3. Currant Events featured some of our red gems and some of the delicious recipes I want to try this year. Since I’m feeling generous, I thought I’d share one of the new app’s I downloaded recently.  It’s Yummly. One of the great features of this app is the filter system. Since me and the MR can’t eat constant cake and sweets, it’s really nice to be able to select main dish or sides when I’m searching for currant, or plum, or blueberry recipes.
  4. I’m really liking the laid-back vibe of our new linen shams featuring A Little Contrast Please. And the cute bag they came in was the perfect way to wrap up my sandals before putting them in my suitcase. Those ancient cobblestones get pretty dusty.
  5. Now before we left, the garden was looking good. I was like, The Garden Fortress Has Come to Fruition copping attitude and all. Then we came home. Gardens do need a little attention. The lettuce is up, the beans are up, the peas are toast, and the broccoli has bolted. At least nothing seems to be messing with my vegies. And me and the MR enjoyed a lovely zucchini orzo dish our first night back. I predict that this baby is going to make some fabulous vegetable fritters with smoky tomato sauce.
  6. In the Orchard life is good. I’ve been enjoying blueberries and plums in my breakfast yogurt, and we had chicken salad with plums and blueberries for dinner last night. Remember my fears? Remember the stinky string? I was sure I’d find a demolished tree or two, but so far so good. In another year, most of the trees will be big enough to withstand some major deer attack. I’m glad we’re finally getting to that point, and even happier to be enjoying some tasty fruit.
  7. And that brings us to The Mystery Unwrapped, my own personal journey towards using less plastic and making my own waxed fabric alternatives. They are still in the drawer. Apparently after starting with Czech meat-and-potatoes,  enjoying Viennese cake for breakfast, and healthy doses of Italian pasta, we don’t have much in the way of leftovers. The homemade wraps do seem a little stiff, but I’m sure they’ll work out. I’ll keep you posted.

Castles, churches, and museums are great, but the best part of our trip was being together.

I love this bunch. Hope you had a wonderful July. Good luck with all the back-to-school stuff; fall’s just around the corner.

In a side note, my friend’s dad was a farmer and grew carrots. She remembers planting season, and she knew exactly what my green, lacy bouquets were. Check out Changing Perspective to see how pretty carrots can be.