Monday, December 28, 2009

Harvest Monday

First time I remembered to do this. The slow harvests are probably helping my memory! At any rate, while I think that year-round gardening is great, sometimes it's difficult for me to remember that some things have to be done at the "right" time for optimization. For instance, late December is pruning time. Instead of writing it down on my calendar, I determined to remember it. Usually that doesn't work well, but this time it did!

In the interstitial time between Christmas and New Year, I've gotten a lot of nest-neatening stuff done, and that included a big prune yesterday. All of the fruit trees, and some of the herbs, got their yearly haircut. The little trees that were put in last year seemed too little to cut, but I remembered the instructions -- cut all summer growth back by 50%. So I gritted my teeth and did it! I hope I get a nice harvest this year, with new watering plans and a fertilization schedule.

But first, a few ounces of spinach and some baby beet greens for salad. This was easily the worst tasting spinach I've ever tasted. It was awful. I would have enjoyed grazing as much as I did this. Ugh. It's "Wolter," and I don't know if it's the lots of rain or what. In past seasons, it's tasted better. The chickens are going to love it if it keeps tasting like this. Pretty, though.

All that pruning led to lots of citrus harvest, even without the Meyer lemons I'd made into sorbet for Christmas. This is the first year the lime has been in full production, and I'm delighted. I haven't weighed it yet, but the basket is heavy. I'm putting off juicing and freezing the fruit because my wrists will ache afterwards. Candying the lemon peel is a pretty good idea, too, and I'm thinking I might do that tomorrow. Some I'll probably grate and save, though, too.

So that's it, pretty much. The carrots are swelling slowly in the ground and the peas are starting to think about bearing. It's a nice time in the garden here. If you want to join in the fun, Daphne is the ringleader of Monday harvests at Daphne's Dandelions. You can head over there to see other folks and what they've grown.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Art imitates life

The kids and I decorated gingerbread houses that I managed to design, bake and assemble right on time (perhaps the last thing I'm going to do on time this year) and each one reflected its decorator's personality. The eldest made a painstaking mosaic of candy on her roof, the next one made an exuberant self-declaration, the third made a military installation, and the fourth followed along gleefully, sticking candy hither and thither.

She also looked up and said, "Mama made the backyard!"

And so I did.

"I'm not a witch, I'm not a witch!" But that is, in fact, a witch in front of my cottage. My temper is beginning to feel a little stretched these days. Perhaps this being the solstice and all will help -- more daylight makes me much less witchy!

Chickens for eggs. I've already had a Jordan almond omelette from this hen.

And of course, no yard is complete without a hive of busy bees. I guess this kind likes the snow.

I hope the turn of the year finds all of you looking forward to longer days and stress-free celebrations.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Right on schedule

I am, weirdly.

But first, pictures from that three year old Christmas present.

I think she likes it. If she doesn't want to wear it, it would make a nice table runner:

Close-up of mistake free section.

Friends and acquaintances keep telling me how stressed they are by holiday preparations. I keep waiting for the "oh no oh no oh nos" to hit, but they haven't.

You see, I have a Secret Plan. It involves A List:

If I do everything on that list, in the order listed, I should arrive at Christmas morning serene and with enough sleep. We shall see. Tonight, I finished one Fetching, in Jimmy Bean's 8 ply from stash.

Here it is spokesmodeling one of the uneaten gingerbread houses I got made up and decorated with the kids yesterday. (I delivered them, fully assembled, right on time. A List.)

Now I have to go and quilt one end of a lap quilt before I go to bed. Yawn.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

While I was hiding from the rain

The weeds had a party, especially under the Reemay. As the cover whooshed off, clouds of little gnats flew up, and revealed:

I think this must be some kind of braising blend -- at least I'm going to treat that like mizuna and cook it. I won't be cooking the oxalis or the grasses. The chickweed might find its way into a salad or three.

The spinach is doing well, with only a bit of leaf miner damage. I'm contemplating a salad.

Weeds were having a pretty good time among the Bedazzled sweet peas, too.

Someone needs to get the memo about "winter" to the Anna apple. I wonder if there will be a crop this year, or if it's just all cattywhompus.

Green snow peas appear to be recovering nicely from their November Nibbling.

The Golden Snow peas have missed out on all predation -- I have high hopes.

Some of the peppers are still hanging in. I began harvesting the piquin ones and will try to finish harvesting tomorrow. I hear the rain is going to slack off for a few days. I should probably get to weeding, too.

In just a day or two, I think our first shelling pea harvest will commence! Nothing like a three-pea beginning. These are "Alaska."

Winter gardening here, except for the dratted weeds, is pretty much pure pleasure. Low pests, easy weed pulling, and tasty salads and stir fries.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Sweet and cold

Yet another night of survival of the most frost-tolerant here. The courage to visit the peppers out back hasn't yet arrived for me. I did see that the side of the front not under the street tree had a bit of frost on it -- mostly it's the artichoke I'm concerned about out there (although if the aphids infesting it got hit, that would certainly make up for a bit of frost damage!).

I know that to those of you up to your knees or necks in snow and ice, my whining about the weather only confirms the worst stereotype of Californians, especially the crazy tree-hugging econuts in the bay area. As I told Eric when I'd wear a sweater at 80F in Arizona, it's not the absolute temperature that matters, it's the relative one. We're just not used to (nor are our flimsy Victorian houses made for) weather much under 40F. Neither are many of our plantings.

On my way back inside after the school run, I went to examine the neglected rasperries on the side -- their support wires need redoing to follow the slope of the yard. For now, they're just sprawling.

I found these two, with more behind!

They were so cold that they didn't taste until they'd warmed up in our mouths. It's really not the season for these, and they aren't "Fall Gold." In fact, I don't think those bore this year. I think they're just dual season red ones that fired a little late.

I don't know whether to apologize or revel. We may have crazy politicians; our houses may cost more than is reasonable (and be worth less than we owe on them); we may spend too much on good coffee and talk about local food enough to make people roll their eyes, but darnitall, I've got berries in December.

Now I'm going to huddle by the heat stove and drink tea.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

I should have listened to Kevin

He actually called me and told me to cover my plants. "Yes, of course," I answered, but then talked to Denise, who said that the forecast had already put the coldest temps behind us, plus we'd had an inch of rain Sunday night. Well, last night was beautifully clear, so. . .

Red kale and carrots:

Broccoli and spinach and beets:

Tat soi:

It was still a a little dark when I got outside with the camera. I hope that all the things in the garden bounce back, as they're all pretty hardy -- excepting the peppers. I'll pull those if they turn black. I'm also worried about my artichoke, and watching it as the frost melts. Things surprise us here, though. In a land where people grow what are houseplants anywhere else in their yards, odd things happen.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Peathetic, that's what it is, peathetic

Anyone else obsessively read Winnie the Pooh to their children? That story was one of my favorites. Poor Eeyore and his birthday party. Aaaaat any rate. . .

All of the children love snow peas. They get sort of fought over in stir fries and other dishes. Many of the kids like shelled peas, also. Those get stirred into pasta, and I remember the kids eating them as little frozen snacks when only babies (the kids, not the peas).

So I figured, based on last year, that I'd grow both kinds.

"Alaska" seems to be a basic bush pea, that many seed companies carry. They're supposed to get 30" tall, so I figured I'd try the compostable sticks method of staking them. Seems to be working out well -- they're blooming and setting peas and I'm sure they're going to enjoy ten straight days of rain next week.

I also tried "Canoe," a pea from Territorial, as they promised that there would be so many peas crammed into each pod that it wouldn't matter how many you planted -- peas galore. They are significantly shorter, so far, than the Alaska peas, and while the Alaskas have small leaves and graceful, delicate tendrils, the Canoe are like the rugby players of peas.

Rugby players with wild, enthusiastic hair. Their tendrils grow in bunches, like ferns with attitude. I don't know if they hold on any tighter; they're not that big yet.

We'll see if they respond happily to their upcoming near drowning.

So far, so good. But what about snow peas? Remember, I was going to grow so many that we could stuff our freezer full of them and not buy any more packaged, sad-looking snow peas? I even planted the long bed, where the tomatoes had been, full of them, all along the sides of the drip hoses. We were going to do nothing but pick peas.

The birds appear to have had other ideas.

Although the peas have sprouted well, every single one seems to have sustained multiple bird attacks. It's "off with their heads" all the time in that bed. I don't know if the birds have noticed the golden snow peas planted later in the lower half of that bed. Last year, there was the same problem. Apparently it's a timing issue -- they just have to get big enough to not be interesting, and these were planted at just the right time to seem like a thoughtful buffet for the beaky ones. I don't want to fuss with bird netting, so I'm going to plant again and again, just before the rainstorms, and see if I can get a few crops out of this.

Remind me of that when I'm moaning about how many peas there are to pick and freeze, okay?
Michelle, or as I refer to her privately, "The Studmuffin of Seed Saving," sent me some "Green Beauty" snow peas. Here's where they're going to go, after I rip out the sourgrass, of course.

These are going to get a little Reemay jacket until they're big enough to stand up to the bullies.

Hope your predators are either too cold to predate or elsewise occupied!