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.

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

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?

Currant Events

When the girls were in middle school, I’d be packing lunches or making dinner only to notice one or the other cutting up my newspaper. To my surprised “what are you doing?” They’d say it was for current events.

We’re enjoying a different kind of currant events around here. It is one banner crop this year.

We have three blueberry bushes that are all different varieties and ripen at all different times. The three currant bushes on the otherhand all ripen at once. And boy are there a lot of them.

The deck worker was askingwhat I was picking. They’re so red; he was hoping they were raspberries that he saw across the yard under all that netting. He hadn’t heard of currants, so I left him a few clusters. They’re an acquired taste he told me later.

They are quite tart and full of seeds, but I’m always happy when currant season arrives—I like a challenge. We make our favorite Braised Mediterannean Chicken and of course the raspberry-currant popsicles, but I have to new recipes, too.

So I’ve been searching through Yummly and Pinterest and have quite a few things in the works:

Little Big H’s Red Currant Blueberry Yoghurt Popsicles look amazing and would help use uptwo things I have in abundance.

Me and the MR enjoyed Hungry Shots’ Red Currant Banana Orange Smoothie with breakfast the other morning. The pulp from the fresh-squeezed OJ helped obscure all the seeds. And the sweet bananas off-set the tang.

The Ricotta Pancakes with Red Currants from Dare to Cook were good but not amazing. You have to get past all the seeds.

Red Currant Curd from Kleine Chaos Küchen was so good, but I’m a sucker for lemon curd so it was an easy sell.

Then there’s the Red Currant-Strawberry Oat Thyme Crisp from Our Four ForksRed Currant Popsicles from Hungry Shots, and so many more.

This week we tried Oat Cake with Currants from Everyday Flavours. Sometimes you have to try a recipe just because of the language. Google translate has its issues. When it started talking about the reaction furnace I was in. But who can resist, butter, eggs, and fruit? A little sweet, a little tart—I’d say it’s good enough to eat.

Any currant recipes to share?

Turn to Sweet Red Gems for our favorite popsicle and chicken recipes featuring currants.

 

A Look Back at March 2017

Waking to the sound of rain, sometimes I wonder if spring will ever come. With the weather we’ve been having lately, it seems to have abandoned us even though the calendar says otherwise.

Perhaps that’s why I was so surprised to see a hummingbird seated on this shepherd’s crook as I passed through our bedroom the other day. He seemed to be chiding me for not having the feeder out when he was here for a visit. Soon my friend, I will sit out in the mornings, drinking my coffee, and laughing at your antics, but I won’t do that in the pouring rain.

Me and the MR enjoyed a breath of Spring Inspiration at the Seattle Home and Garden Show. The air was heavily scented with flowers, and I can’t wait to put our outdoor seating to use.

Sadly, this is not our outdoor seating–just inspiration. But a girl can dream.

Daffodils greet us with their bright cheery heads, and hyacinths are just beginning to open. On the one sunny day last week, I spent a few hours working in the garden. All this rain can’t last forever.

Maybe it’s a good thing we’ve been stuck indoors. Otherwise, we might not have noticed that certain scent that proved Life is Messy. The sink is no longer in the entry, all the holes have been filled, textured, and painted, and the exterminator gave me hope when he told me it’s only mice—that’s still not my favorite thing.

I may not be Saving the Planet, but I’m trying to make little changes that decrease my footprint. Earth Day’s coming up; it’s time to step up my game. I don’t want to leave a mess for future generations.

 

I shared with you our banner Citrus Harvest—three whole lemons this year. That’s a 50 percent increase in yield. I was feeling pretty good till we visited the MR’s cousins down in the LA-area, and their friend had trees dripping with lemons, clementines, and grapefruit. I’m just going to be content with what I have. The whole family got to enjoy the fruits of our labors with a yummy lemon pie; it was even full-sized this year. We’re getting there.

And finally, the new carpet came. It’s beautiful, soft, squishy-between-my-toes, wonderful. If you haven’t noticed, I’m rather in love. Now I promised a photo of the guest room—the one with the biggest change going from dark emerald to a lovely morning mist. This will not disappoint.

OK, maybe you’re not oohing and aahing as much as I’d like, but let’s go back a ways. Remember when it was a catch-all sewing/storage/mess?

Like those old ads from the ’70s “You’ve come a long way, baby.”

And sometimes this monthly recap is all about the stuff that didn’t make it in the blog. Like having both girls home for a few days is awesome and exhausting. Baby Girl turned 20, and Sweet Miss is planning a big move and had an exciting job interview. Me and the MR chased the sunshine to California. While it was in the 90’s the week before we arrived, the 70’s felt warm to us. And we explored most of the beach at Santa Monica before it started raining.

All and all, life is good even with holes in the wall, rain, and mice.

How was your March?

 

 

 

 

 

February Flew By

Last month started with the MR’s birthday, and a visit from our sweet girls and ended with a quick trip to Oregon to see them in turn. Two visits with our kids in a month is rather delightful.

Sandwiched between those was a lot of rain, a lot of snow, and a lot of crazy. In Winter Wonderland I shared the joys of snow outside and a cozy fire inside which led to questions and a whole blog on the History of Our Fireplace. It’s gone through a lot of changes over the past five years. Remember the conversation pit and the green carpet?

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When a Tree Falls in the Woods, I asked that it stay off our driveway. Me and the MR worked up a sweat clearing branches, small trees, limbs, and debris from our only way out.

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Of course that wasn’t the end of travel woes. All the snow and rain—it’s been the wettest February on record in Seattle since 1961—caused part of the road up our hill to collapse into a steep ravine. (Check out Winter Storms & Prepping for Spring.) They are working on it, but for now we have another one lane road to navigate on the way home.

With the power out, no TV, trapped at home, that gave me lots of time to knit, right? What should have been a good thing turned into trouble when hand-dyed shade variations showed up in a big way on my fingering-weight cardigan edged in lace. I’m still mourning the loss or maybe pouting is a better word for it. This is one time when Following the Rules would have paid off in a big way.

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On the positive side, How’s That for Color? featured our picks for new carpet in three of the bedrooms. Baby Girl has a ton of stuff, so her bedroom will have to wait until she totally moves out. One of our color choices is in production and should be available in mid-March, so we’ve had the rooms measured, made a down payment, and are just waiting a few weeks to schedule installation.

For me, The Best Part of Winter is getting up before the sun. I could probably do it during the summer, but 4 am comes awfully early. I love watching the everchanging sky in the mornings.

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With more snow this week, enough to delay schools but not enough to keep us trapped at home, I did notice how pretty the front doors are with their mountains backlit with real snow.

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Cocoa agrees with me, of course.

For March, I’m hoping for fewer storms and a better attitude. While there’s nothing I can do about the first, I’m working on the second.

How was your February?

 

Winter Storms & Prepping for Spring

The snow and rain this past month has brought its share of headaches. 

The MR spent a few days straightening posts and redoing the netting over the orchard. The weight of the snow had caused it to collapse. 


We got by with just a few broken branches. Taking a closer look, the MR noticed that the critters who tore up our grapes last fall had also damaged the vines. He took the opportunity to remove the bottom wire of the grape trellis, so the grapes wouldn’t hang on the ground. 

Although it snowed every day last week, it was sunny by afternoon. So the MR did some careful pruning to the fruit trees and bushes, fertilized the trees, and applied a dormant spray. The orchard is ready for spring. 

He also began work on a French drain for a low spot in the driveway which sports a puddle half the year. In his preliminary digging he came across a large rock just shy of 12-inches deep. After a lot of hard work, he decided a 10-inch drain would be the better choice; it’s on order. 

The big news isn’t on our property; it’s on the one road leading to the 60-plus homes on our hill. With the heavy rains this month, the road began collapsing into a deep ravine. I did mention that this is the ONE and only road leading up the hill, right?



The county has added some drainage, filled in, and paved over the uphill shoulder. During the week, they posted half hour waits, and this past weekend it was one hour waits to get through the construction zone. 


I’m hoping we’re safe for the moment and thankful that no one has been hurt. Over the weekend, the county was taking core samples. Maybe they’ll show that our hillside is going to stay put. 

Any storms headed your way? How are you preparing for spring?