Thursday, June 30, 2011

Early harvest, shelling peas, sugar snap peas, and broccoli

     It was a day of early harvest today.  I harvested Legacy shelling peas, Knight shelling peas, Cascadia sugar snap peas (the fat, edible pod type), and Packman broccoli, and then spent four hours shelling the peas!  We try to do major planting of these staples in order to freeze them.  First they get blanched for a short time in hot water, cooled off, put on trays in our freezer, removed when they are frozen, packaged in vacuum sealed plastic bags in our food saver system, and then put in the freezer to have during the winter.
     Another part of this adventure today was pulling out some of the earliest pea plantings, fertilizing the soil with chicken manure, blood meal, bone meal, greensand, and alfalfa seed meal, tilling the soil where the old plants stood, and raking it out to a smooth seed bed.  Tomorrow, after the new moon, I'll be planting three types of bush beans in the spot that held the peas and the leeks we pulled today.
Legacy shelling peas
     Here are a few pictures (click to expand) that show the harvest.
Broccoli heads
Cascadia sugar snap
After blanching to the freezer tray

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Using what you've got for rhubarb-pumpkin butter

     We made a fruit butter today.  It is probably the only one in the world of its type because we used rhubarb, pumpkin, shredded zucchini, and oranges in the mix.  The backstory follows:
Rhubarb grows very well here on the cool northern coast of California.  We have two huge plants of it (see a previous blog note on rhubarb).  We are planning to make some rhubarb juice drink, but today, we used 33 large stalks of rhubarb, 4 cups of grated zucchini which we had frozen from last years crop, 12 cups of cooked frozen pumpkin from last years pumpkin harvest, and three whole oranges quartered.  Usually we make apple butter or pear apple butter in the fall each year, but wanted to try something new, and clear out our freezer for the new veggies we are freezing.
     Here is a picture of the whole mass when we were just starting. (Click to enlarge).
The next photo shows the process of putting the lightly cooked fruits and veggies through a mill to get rid of seeds and the stringy pulp from the rhubarb.

Next comes the slow cooking of the mix with the addition of 3 1/2 cups of sugar, 8 t cinnamon, and 4 crushed pods of cardamom seeds.

After cooking this down for many hours, we prepared to hot bath can the rhubarb-pumpkin butter in pint jars.  The final pictures show the process of putting the butter in the jars, then canning in boiling water for ten minutes, and then taking the jars out of the water to let them cool            and seal.  The taste is quite unusual.  You can taste the pumpkin in the mix, and the acidity of the rhubarb, as well as the cinnamon flavor.  Yum!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Chasing deer and aphids

We saw a most horrifying sight yesterday.  Three deer, two bucks and a doe, were at the eastern edge of our property, about to enter our yard.  Illijana saw them from the upstairs window, alerted me, and I went charging out the back door to scare them off.  They ran into the woods.  Illijana followed, and noticed that they were not very afraid of humans.  We heard reports of them eating plants in two of our neighbors yards today.  So what to do?  We do not want deer in our yard.  They are amazingly destructive of plants we grow.  Since we don't have a dog large enough to defend our yard, we have to use other measures.  What seemed to work several years ago is a device called a "Scarecrow."  It is a motion sensor connected to a water sprayer.  When it sees movement in its field of vision it lets out a startling spray of water.  The sound and the water combine to startle animals away.  This has the advantage of discouraging the animals from being around where we don't want them.  Here is what it looks like (click to enlarge).
When spraying
The other spraying I did today was with my hand held 1 1/2 gallon  sprayer filled with Safer's Soap.  This is a product of specially formulated fatty acids that dry out the target insect and kill it.  It is seemingly a bit more environmentally friendly than chemical pesticides.  I was spraying it today to control aphids on my apple and pear trees.  The aphids had taken up residence on a number of trees.  I tried to control them by hand, rubbing my gloved fingers over the leaves, but they were multiplying faster than I could control them, so I sprayed today.  It will be interesting to see how effective this is.  (Usually this works in just one treatment.)
     Illijana picked raspberries today.  YUM.  We had them with sugar-free jello for dessert tonight.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Taking out a tree stump by hand

    Today was the day I took out the peach tree stump in the soon to be garden bed on the western edge of our property.  Originally when we purchased the property, the area was a mass of alder trees and blackberry bushes.  We took down all the alders, but decided to plant a Frost peach tree in one spot.  Frost is a semi-freestone peach that is resistant to peach leaf curl, and had worked very well for us in Fortuna.  Here, hard by the ocean, it almost never ripened the peaches.  So eventually (after 10 years) we cut down the peach tree, and now are digging out a vegetable bed to put in its place.
     Digging out a tree stump is hard work!  Here is a picture of the tools I used to do the job (click to enlarge).
Tools included an old English forged garden fork, a curved hand saw, a DeWit Dutch hand hoe, my Felco #2 pruner, and a ratcheting lopper for bigger roots.
After getting out the weeds surrounding the stump, I dug and clipped any roots I came across.  Here are some of the roots I cut out.

It always seems to come to a certain point in the work where I am befuddled about why "the damn root isn't coming out" (after all this work).
But finally with more clearing the final roots come into view to be cut, and some intensive rocking of the roots will free the stump.  It is a great feeling when it comes out.  Here is the triumph.
More weeding is on tap for this bed, and some transplanting as well.  Then it will be time to construct a bed boundary (we are using more of the concrete retaining wall pieces detailed in the blog posts about the retaining wall), amending of the soil with as much organic matter as I can muster, tilling it all in, and then planting the bed with veggies.  More reports to follow.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Peas, more peas, lunch, and Dortmund

     It was a fine day in the garden today.  The Summer Solstice was here, the long day enabled me to do "shifts" in the garden, and I got alot accomplished.  I started out watering the vegetable beds, then pulling off the Reemay cloth that had covered and protected my new beans during their emergence (protected them from crows and blue jays).  Then it was time to weed the beds, trying to give my beans a head start on any weeds.
     Then came time for peas.  Peas are one of my favorite garden crops and we grow a number of different kinds.  Today I focused on the edible pod peas (Oregon Sugar Pod II), pulling up all the plants and taking the last of the peas off the vines.  These peas were planted from seed on January 23 of this year, and we have been eating them on and off for about three weeks now. (Click to enlarge.)

     I then came to explore my favorite "garden candy", the English shell peas or sweet peas (Knight variety) which I love to eat right off the vine or with pasta as we had it for dinner.  These plants are not done producing and I gathered about 60% of the crop today.  They will continue to produce for another two weeks or so.  I love unzipping the pod and eating the sweet peas, although I did leave some to process for our freezer this winter, and to have some for both lunch and dinner.  Here is one bowl full along with a photo of the proverbial pea patch.
After picking the peas, it was time for lunch.  We have really been enjoying garden salads on a daily basis and today was no exception.  Here is today's lunch.

After a break (to figure out whether to buy a bird bath mold kit to make bird baths with, I returned to work to open up a new bed where our old peach tree used to be on the western side of our property.  The soil is so sandy there because it has not been amended in all the years we have been here.  Here is a pic of the area I will be digging up, amending, and enclosing to make a new vegetable bed.

Plant of the day

Climbing rose Kordesii 'Dortmund" is a wonderful addition to any garden.  It color is very clear and bright with a lovely scarlet petal with a bright white eye.  It is very attractive and has done well for us in a variety of settings.  It was developed in Germany by a breeder named Kordes and can be found at many garden stores or via internet.  Here are some photos.

Friday, June 17, 2011

A new garden bed, and garden candy

     There are many mistakes made in my garden.  When we first moved here about 12 years ago, we planted some trees and bushes that could not survive well in the climate we have.  Chief among them was a Frost peach tree.  We had grown Frost peaches, a semi-freestone variety with a resistance to peach leaf curl disease, in Fortuna quite successfully.  The coastal climate here, 400 feet from the Pacific Ocean, and much cooler than Fortuna did not allow the fruit to ripen well.  We finally cut the tree down last year.  The area around the tree was an unplanned patch primarily of weeds and grass.  We have decided to dig up this bed and reclaim it for vegetables, so today I started to do this.
     Digging it up reminded me again of just how sandy our soil is, especially in areas that have not had loads of organic matter added to them.  I'll have more info and pictures of this project soon.
     On the food front, I picked pac choi, beet greens, and edible pod peas today, combining them in a stir fry with garlic, oil, soy vay, fresh parmesan cheese, and a can of black beans, and cooked them together with a chicken-apple sausage.  Yummy dinner.  Another great development was recognizing that my "garden candy", my name for English or shell peas, are about ready to be picked.  It is so wonderful to be able to graze in the garden for these sweet treats, zipping off their shells, and totally enjoying the sweet and green pea flavors right off the vine.  There is nothing I enjoy more.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Gardening with the moon, Reemay, planting veggie seeds, quiche, and rhubarb

Today was a waning moon (between full moon and new moon) and a good day to plant root crops from the astrological perspective.  So today I picked all the broccoli in one bed, then prepared the bed with weeding, the addition of organic fertilizer, and some tilling.  I then planted early wonder beet seed, nantes carrot seed, and an above ground bush pea, Legacy.
     I recently found out that the father (Victor Koshkin) of an old friend was one of the key developers of the fabric Reemay. Reemay is a spun bonded polyester fiber that has been of major use in my garden.  I use it to cover seedlings to prevent bird damage, to prevent freeze damage when the temperature is low, and to prevent insect damage to crops.  Here is a picture of a reemay like product on a vegetable bed. I'm using it to prevent bird damage to the seedlings.  Click to enlarge the pictures.

 Lots of people focus on flowers in their gardens.  I tend to focus on vegetables.  Here are a few I picked for dinner tonight.

Here is tonight's quiche that I made with the vegetables above.

Plant of the day

Rhubarb is a vegetable grown for its fleshy stalks, and makes wonderful pies and jellies in combination with fruits (like strawberries).  Here are the (poisonous) leaves, and then a picture of the edible stalks.  They grow very well here on the north coast.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Evening planting; dinner vegetables

I spent until 7:40 pm outside planting tonight.  The long days make it possible to work late and it is fun that it is so light so late.  I was planting our late fall/winter crop of brussels sprouts.  If you have never grown them, you are missing something.  They do not taste like the ones you get in the store.  When fresh they have a sweet cabbage like taste and are wonderful in stir frys and in soup.  We planted a dutch variety named Roodnerf which does well here.
     I spent lots of time today with my Tanaka (weed whacker or string trimmer) today.  Illijana wanted to mow the lawn, so I try to do the edging first so things look tidy, and slug and snail habitat is eliminated.
     Finally, I made dinner tonight with garden veggies.  The Oregon Sugar Pod edible pod peas are ready to eat, and there is a bunch of broccoli ready as well.  I sauteed these with last years garlic, added them to the cooking chicken/apple sausage, steamed the whole thing, and served with a 2007 German riesling spatlese.  Yummy.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Getting hung up on tomatoes; compost temp, raspberries

     Tomatoes tend to grow very large in our hothouse, and each year we need to support them (especially the indeterminate varieties which grow large.)  We also try to limit their foliage to some extent to keep as much air circulation as possible in the hothouse and prevent fungal diseases.  You can notice that we built the hothouse with sliding glass windows on the east and west sides to create air circulation. Illijana did the first supports today and pruned back some of the leaf growth.

I started a new batch of compost yesterday.  Temperature in the drum today was 116 degrees F.  I expect the temperature to be 140 - 150 degrees tomorrow.

Plant of the day

One of my favorite sections of the garden are the raspberry bushes.  They produce a wonderful crop each year.  They are just beginning to ripen in our coastal location.  Yummy!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Composting day

I unloaded a three week old batch of compost from the Compostumbler today, spread it on the main asparagus patch, and loaded a new batch into the tumbler from lawn clippings and sawdust (with small additions of free Starbucks coffee grounds, bonemeal, bloodmeal, greensand, and alfalfa seed meal.)  We also moved concrete blocks to new locations, and did some watering.  All in all a pleasant day in the garden.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rainwater harvesting

     We attended a talk on "Rainwater Harvesting" today given by Keith Hamm of and at Living Earth Landscapes in Arcata, CA.  We have been talking about the possibilities of capturing rainwater during the wetter months and using it to water our garden in the drier months.  The difficulty of course is storage.
     We have an elementary system at present that works well.  I've been using it over the past several months whenever I have used a water soluble fertilizer (Maxsea) in the garden.  I use this fertilizer quite a bit because I believe in the "mudding in" method of transplanting.  I simply put the fertilizer in a garden watering can and then fill it from the tap using the recycled rainwater.  We collect the rainwater from one of our downspouts on the house.  It flows into a rainwater catchment, like a garbage can, which has a spigot on the bottom.  Here are pictures of the valve on the downspout, and of the catchment.
Mr. Hamm talked about systems that could be used with far more extensive use of rainwater.  We discussed underground catchment systems, ponds, and Australian systems.  It was fascinating.  If we had $15,000 to use we figured we could have quite a nice system and use rainwater exclusively.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Harvest, spinach quiche, planting, and alstroemeria

This morning was harvest day in our garden.  I picked three heads of lettuce (2 green leaf, 1 romaine) to give away, picked three types of spinach, and a bunch of edible pod peas (Oregon Sugar Pod).  I had decided to make a spinach quiche for dinner, and instead of using frozen spinach, I thought we would use our fresh stuff.  Here is a photo of the harvest, and of the spinach quiche.
I went out later and planted some of the lettuces and other greens that were ready to plant.  Prior to planting I rototilled the area which had previously been planted to spinach.

Plant of the day

One of the most consistent flowering shrubs in the garden each year is this alstroemeria, also known as Peruvian Lily.  This perennial plant has over 190 cultivars, and is a showy bloomer each year here on the Pacific coast.  Here are two photos of one of our plants. (Click to enlarge).

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Basil, pesto, pesto cubes, beans, and sulfur

     We have had a good crop of basil this year.  Basil does not grow outdoors here.  It is clearly not warm enough here along the coast for basil to grow well outdoors, so I grow it in pots in the greenhouse, and keep it on the heat mats there.  I grew three different basils this year, spicy globe basil, Genovese basil, and Sweet Basil.  I couldn't tell any difference between the last two in looking at them, but they had a slightly differing aroma.  The spicy globe basil was a small leaved variety, the other two were large leaved.
     I picked the basil with scissors this morning, cutting the stems way down, but leaving a section to regrow on each plant.  I am hoping for a second crop later in the summer.  I harvested at least 10 cups of basil leaves from the plants, reserved 6 cups or so for my pesto making, and walked around to my neighbors and gave them each some of the basil leaves.
Making pesto
      I try to make pesto each year, freezing some to use later in the year.  I use a traditional method to make pesto, utilizing a mortar and pestle and hand crushing the basil leaves, garlic, salt, peppercorns, roasted pine nuts, parmesan cheese, and olive oil.  This year I followed the recipe in the cookbook "Chez Panisse Pasta Pizza & Calzone" by Alice Waters, Patricia Curtan & Martine Labro.
     I usually freeze the pesto into cubes, then package them up to keep in the freezer until needed.  Here is a photo of the ice cube tray with the frozen pesto cubes.  They don't really freeze all that solid, probably because of all the olive oil and oil from the pine nuts in the mix.
      I replanted pole beans today in two varieties, Blue Lake, and Romano, to replace the failed earlier planting.  One final chore remained-spraying the espaliered fruit trees with micronized sulfur.  This is water soluble sulfur for use in a sprayer.  Sulfur is an element which is helpful for the prevention of fungal diseases and will hopefully prevent scab on the apples and pears.  My wife noted that I was a bit grumpy after the spraying.  I think I react to the inevitable spray drift which gets on me.  A shower restored my spirits (or maybe it was the stuffed salmon and lovely bio-dynamic Maysara winery pinot noir for dinner that did the trick.)

Monday, June 6, 2011

Tree Tanglefoot, or "Stop milking those aphids", and an espalier

Every year like clockwork the local ants start climbing the fruit trees in our yard, and having a relationship with aphids on the leaves of the trees.  The aphids produce some sort of food for the ants.  The major problem in all this is that the aphids create disease problems for the trees.  The leaves they inhabit curl up.  So each year the remedy is the same- Tree Tanglefoot.  This is an extremely sticky resin that I paint onto the trunk of the trees.  It is an impassable barrier to the ants as they try to take the aphid food down to their ant colony, and come back again.  They soon give up the attempt, the aphids die off, and the trees survive.  It takes a few days to make sure that each tree is properly coated at its base and there are no gaps for the ants.  Here is what the tanglefoot looks like freshly applied.  (It lasts all season). Click on them to enlarge the photos.

The other event today was the continued saga of weeding.  We have a perennial flower bed to the east of our new retaining wall (see previous posts regarding Moss Terrace.)  Illijana and I spent quite a few hours there today pulling out bermuda grass and other weeds.  Tomorrow it gets a coat of mulch.  Here is a pic of the weeded bed.
I also planted out (transplanted) another round of vegetables to take the place of ones we have eaten or given away.  Here is the completely planted bed.
Plant of the day
     One of the reasons the tanglefoot is so important is that most of the fruit trees on our property in planted in a "Belgian Fence" pattern in an espalier.  An espalier is a formation of trees or vines which have been trained in a pattern which is flat, or two dimensional.  It is meant to be both decorative, and space saving.  My espalier was begun 11 years ago by building a structure with wood beams and wire to train the trees against.  It contains 9 different apple trees and 6 pear trees (three asian and three european).  It takes lots of pruning in winter to maintain its flat aspect, and it produces very well.  It is quite beautiful in each season.  Here it is today, being an effective screen, just after the tanglefoot application.
Belgian Fence Espalier

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Bean disaster, weeding, tilling (or not), and broccoli

     Today I uncovered a bean disaster.  I had planted 6 types of beans several weeks ago, and covered them with polyester fiber to keep the birds from eating the new sprouts.  Little did I realize that the slugs, snails, sowbugs, and earwigs decided to devour the beans under the cover.  I discovered this today and had to replant most of my bean crop.  Luckily, there is still time to get a crop in before fall.  This time I'm chancing the birds, and will try to stop the other critters without a cover on the beans.  We shall see.  Here is a clickable picture of the beans from today.

We spent the day weeding today, going through the upper vegetable beds, and then the blueberry patch, and a perennial flower bed.  I planned to till a section of a vegetable bed but was reminded that one of our beds is a "no-till" bed.  Instead, we used a hand hoe for weeding and working up the soil, and then planted three sections of spinach.  We have been eating alot of spinach lately.

Plant of the day
     One of my favorite vegetables is broccoli.  I try to grow a number of different varieties each year.  We freeze quite a bit of it for the winter.  Here is a head (variety unknown because of lost labels in the garden) that we will pick in about 2 days.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Rough and tumble gardening

Today we moved two mid-sized shrubs in the garden.  The plants were beautiful but weren't the right fit for the places they were growing.  It was quite the chore to dig them out, trying to preserve the root systems, and then replanting them.  One plant was a lovely red barberry and the other plant is an unknown shrub.  Our neighbor asked us to give her the plant so we did.
Sheared barberry in new location
After taking the barberry out of the ground, and discovering that it had layered itself and created a completely separate plant, we moved it to its new location, sheared it of half of its growth, and then replanted it.
     Since our neighbor was not home at the time of digging, we had to cover the roots of the potential transplant which we did with soil and burlap.
Awaiting its new home

     We then transplanted the last of the winter squash and pumpkins into the flower bed (see previous post) which had held the two bushes.  Here is the result.

Plant of the day
     One of the flowers that Illijana loves is bearded iris.  Here is a quite unusual one.  It is almost black as it begins to open.  Quite stunning.  Click to enlarge.