A is for Abundance of Apples

13. November 2021 17:40

I thought I had almost finished with apples for the year. However when I went out to pick the expected handfull left on the trees, my basket was rather full. Plus I now know there is that much again not quite ready.   The smaller apples will end up being cored and chopped up for the juicer and will join the three quarts of cider in the freezer until the weather turns cold. Then a glass of warm cider is a perfect drink for a winter's evening. I have been making pies and crisps with the larger apples. Usually there is one for the oven and several for the freezer for easy baking deserts long after the apples are gone from the trees.

My apple orchard was planted in 2013. Two dozen tiny sticks with different varieties grafted onto the dwarfing rootstock. They were planted four to a hole, very closely with the idea that when they matured it would look more like six trees as the trunks merged. At this point the trees seem to be more interested in producing fruit than growing. Most are closer to one inch in diameter than two inches and under six feet tall. The climate here does not have enough chill hours in the winter to work with many apple varieties, so it is nice to find such a bountiful harvest.

I probably do have to find some more apple recipes though.



Off to the Food Bank

1. October 2021 21:39

There were just too many nice large tomatoes ripening.  We found a solution -- the local food bank.  After spending the better part of an hour picking what basically five plants had to offer, we had a carload to take over to the local food bank.


There are still some that will be ripening over the next couple weeks.  Plus lots of bruised and worse that will go out past the fence for the deer and other critters to have.



too Many Tomatoes!

19. September 2021 21:30

After processing what I picked last weekend, there were even more today. Plus many more ripening on the plants. Some of these fruits weighed in at over 1 pound, so it is way more than I can possibly use.




Harvest TIme

16. September 2021 18:38

The corn in the photo is a partial harvest from two 4' by 8' raised beds. These grew from seeds left over from last year. But last year the corn stalks grew only 4 to 5 feet tall and they produced few and small ears. This year the plants are 6 to 8 feet tall with plenty of large (grocery store sized) ears. It is a pleasant surprise. I wish I understood the reason and can duplicate in in future years.

This year's garden is very different from that of the past few years. First, it got off to a later than usual start as we were making some changes to the fence line and adding some additional raised boxes. The weather this summer has been consistently cool. Gray, drippy mornings with sun breaking through around 10 or later and the fog rolling back in the evenings. The only hot spell was less than two days. Ground squirrels invaded and wiped out multiple attempts at squash, peas, beans and several other crops. But we have had good luck with tomatoes and corn -- although those are ripening later than usual due to the late start.  The stone fruit was sparse -- few blooms in the spring and the bushy tail critters also attacked much of that. However the pears have been bountiful and it appears apples will be likewise.

The tomato plants have grown much bigger this year than last year, I have been running a sort of trial to find varieties that do well in our climate. The previous best tomato is one Burpee stopped offering, so plants from 2016 seeds are competing against two Oregon university developed varieties and two new options from Park's seeds. Thus now that the plants are producing, we have way too many tomatoes for our needs. At this point, it looks like one of the new Park's varieties is going to be the winner. Next year, I will plant only two or three tomatoes plants instead of twice that.


20. February 2021 16:33

We have a row of small citrus trees lining one side of the driveway. The other day, it was calm and warm and sunny and I couldn't help but notice the tangerines. The golden orange of the fruit contrasted wonderfully against the glossy green foliage of the tree. I didn't think to get a photo of that until after I had a full basket harvested and in the kitchen. I left a few on the tree for snacks while outside working in the garden. These were juiced and will be an alternative to OJ for the next few weeks. Perhaps by then some of the oranges will be ready to pick.

One of these things is not like the others...

17. November 2020 22:47

A lone medium-sized Ametrine with concave pavilion facets is surrounded by an assortment of small garnets. It being 2020, as the pandemic news continued to get worse through the summer and into the fall months, I found myself in a faceting slump.   I just could not get feeling creative enough to do justice to the great rough I had brought home from Tucson in February. So I started cutting simple, smaller, less costly pieces of garnet.

Since I have a soft spot for garnets there were plenty in the inventory. Some of them dated back to when I was just learning to facet and buying though the mail from advertisers in the back of Lapidary Journal. Thus some of the rough has been more to the learning-to-cut material rather than gem quality. Even then, garnets can often show all sorts of interesting inclusions when examined with the 10x loupe and still sparkle when held at a normal distance.

Normally, this time of year I would be making reservations for Tucson. Because the US has not brought COVID under control, I will not be going to Tucson in 2021. (At this point, we aren’t having our usual family gathering for Thanksgiving and Christmas is looking unlikely as well.) I guess I will keep working on small garnets for the next few months. Maybe if things are looking brighter by February, I will be inspired to start working on that 2020 stash.

Meanwhile, please stay safe folks. Listen to Dr. Fauci.

Pie Time of Year

1. October 2020 23:05

September and October typically have some of the nicest weather here along the California Central Coast and also typically have a few especially hot days. This year there seem to be more of the later including some record breaking temperatures. We have a home weather station set up out in the garden and 112 degrees was recorded one day -- something seriously unusual. There is a strong marine influence here since we are only a few miles from the Pacific ocean and our home, like most in this area, was not built with air conditioning. To make matters worse, some of our heat spells coincided with smoke from the wildfires, so opening the windows even when it cooled off was not a great idea.


So, probably because of the extra heat, the apples were ready before I expected them and the pumpkin vines were more dead than alive. I ended up with a double crop of pie pumpkins as about the time the first batch were ripe, the vines produced another crop. When I took down my pumpkins (yes, I had them growing up rather than out), I left them on the steps hoping they would stay nice and be available as holiday decorations. By the end of last week, it was clear that they were not going to last. So this past weekend it was time to process most of them for the freezer an make one pumpkin pie for us now.


The previous weekend it was the apples as they had filled up a shelf in the fridge. Our trees are only a few years only and still small, but several of them are extremely good producers. Because we don't get the cold required for many varieties of apples, I am pleased that we have found quite a few which are doing well although sometimes the seem confused about the season. I ended up with seven pies. One for the oven and the rest triple wrapped in plastic wrap and put in the freezer.   A local farm stand has wonderful homemade pies as one of their special features. In addition, they also, make extras that are frozen for take and bake. After seeing that, I did a bit of a google search and now do my own version. They are not as pretty -- but doesn't that add to the home made appeal?



Tomato Time

16. August 2020 20:29

So finally I am having a good year for the tomatoes and it is time to start canning jars of sauce and crushed tomatoes for the coming year.  I had only a box and a half of lids left from last year, so I went out early yesterday morning to get additional lids.  I found empty shelf space where they should have been at several stores.  Reluctantly, back at home I looked for an online source and did not have much better luck.  Oh, there are a few sources which claim to have the lids but they appear to be price gouging unless their lids are actual gold rather than gold colored metal.  Apparently a shortage of canning lids is yet another result of the COVID pandemic in the US. 

From the Garden

14. June 2020 19:02

At the same time the garden is starting to produce fruit and veggies to harvest, I am still working on tasks that should have been completed by early April.

While I was clearing the neighboring raised bed to make way for another planting of corn, I noticed a couple of carrots that looked like they might be ready. Carrots tend to be very random in germinating for me, so the crop comes in over a long time. And the raised beds with hardware cloth at the base are the only way to go with carrots. Otherwise the soil may be too tough and the gophers will see to it that none are ever ready to go to the kitchen. So it was nice to get a couple of decent looking carrots. Only how, since the bed is made from two 6 x 1 boards, did the one get to be 15 inches?

Among the should-have-been-done-months-ago tasks to clear the bed is moving a clump of tarragon. Two years ago I started moving it and took most to another bed as a "temporary" home for it. Thus I now have two big tarragon patches. I took the shears to initial planting so I could find the base of the plant, I will have to see about drying it and perhaps doing some herb crafts in the fall.




Initial Harvests

8. June 2020 17:12

It is the beginning of June and the garden suddenly has fruit and veggies to bring in. The citrus row along the driveway is providing my morning orange juice as well as lemons and limes for lemonade or limeade for months to come.

The Flavorosa pluot is always first of the stone fruits to be ready. While I don't expect as much from the apricots this year as last year, so far we are getting plenty of them. A plumcot which had never done anything but grow leaves must have heard me threatening to cut it back and graft on peaches as it actually produced a small number of apricot like plum tasting fruit. I hope it will do even better in future years. The early peaches and nectarines are not doing well -- there was still too much peach leaf curl.

Although the blackberries did not get much care over the past year, a couple varieties are still providing plenty of berries. Hopefully next year they will be relocated to a better spot where I can deal with them properly and harvest the berries with less bloodshed on my part.

The snow peas and lettuce were the first veggies ready for the kitchen. Now zucchini and beans are starting. We had to build a bird net cover for the raised bed to protect corn seedlings from birds who uprooted about a third of the first planting to get to the sprouted kernels.  It will probably be another month before corn, tomatoes or winter squash are ready -- if all goes well. Weather and critters in past years have managed to destroy a promising crop.  And given the kind of year 2020 has been, it seems almost anything might happen.

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