Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘garden’ Category

A little while ago Jim and I made the trek out to the East Coast for two purposes.  One was to return a large cast iron cauldron that we had ordered which arrived cracked.   We took it back to the foundry to have it replaced with one that was not cracked.  The guy who packed it at the foundry just couldn’t imagine how it could have been cracked…   Personally, I suspect that it left the foundry that way and they were hoping that we wouldn’t notice until it was too late for us to make them do anything about it.   But UPS could have dropped it during shipping, which would not be surprising since it was in a box that was labelled “HEAVY” but even a person who was expecting “heavy” might have been surprised by the 87 lbs…

DSCF9231

It isn’t the largest cauldron ever, either.   It is only a 12 gallon sized, and they come all the way up to 60 gallons and more, some large enough to scald a whole pig.   I don’t know how you carry around a 60 gallon cast iron cauldron, actually.

The other reason for the trip was to visit the grandchild, who really represents a huge fork in our road.  He is developing in a most satisfactory way, thanks to the excellent parenting he is receiving.   I surely do wish we lived closer to that beautiful little family, but Skype helps.  One of the things that made the odyssey totally worth it?  Getting to see this:

DSCF9183

DSCF9154

DSCF9207

 

Another vision that really “made” the trip was this sign:

DSCF9150

 

This road has a serious identity crisis.  Not only does it not know what it’s number is, it doesn’t really know what direction it is going either.   Or possibly, it is all things to all people and going every direction at once.

Sometimes, I feel like that road sign could be the icon for my life.   Like most people, I struggle with the questions “Who am I?” and “Where am I going?”   “What is my purpose?”  “What is really important in my life?”   “Where is my place in the world?”

I do know my purpose, what I was put here on Earth to do, and that is to touch people and help them find the path to healing.   My work as a massage therapist has been doing that for well over 20 years now, and it has brought me peace and prosperity.   It has led me to connections with people that are deep and meaningful.  Recently I attended a class in California featuring Neuro-Muscular Reprogramming.   That re-connected me to Jocelyn Olivier and the Alive and Well School of Massage, the place where my training began.  Watch this space, you will hear more about NMR, which is a profound healing technique that I am anxious to master.  I see clearly that it is a fork in my massage road I am going to walk down, far down, and ultimately it will add longevity and depth to my massage career.

So that is one thing I am.   I am also a gardener…

DSCF9260

DSCF9272

I like to create things, notably I am working on a quilt right now.  It is a bargello design called “Supernova.”   (This is a pattern I found in a book by Eileen Wright, which I have been thoroughly enjoying.)  I’m 75% done with the piecing.

DSCF9279

I am also a labyrinth tender:

01February2008 020

DSCF8456

Labyrinth june06 005

That “identity” has led me to connections as well.   My labyrinth is listed on the World Wide Labyrinth Locator, which brings strangers into my life from far away and turns them into friends.  Just a couple of days ago I was visited and interviewed by a woman who is visiting and writing about labyrinths in all 50 states.   I may or may not show up in her book.   After all, she may meet a better candidate than I am for her writing about this state.   Anyway, she had lived in Alaska for ten years and brought me a beautiful rock from the Mendenhall Glacier area of Juneau.   We had a thoroughly enjoyable visit.

There are no forks in a labyrinth, there is simply one path.   You begin at the beginning, follow the path through its twists and turns, and eventually you reach the center.

Sort of like life, actually.

 

 

Read Full Post »

I’ve been trying to get the garden put away for the winter.  This is a long and involved process.   Last year it included planting a cover crop in the garden, but I’m not sure this is going to happen this year.    I believe it may just be OBE.  In this case, the event is much traveling coupled with the fact I have not in fact ordered the seeds I would need in order to plant said cover crop.

However, I did get the jungle moved back inside from its summer quarters out under the pergola and on the north side of the house.   That was a HUGE job this year because Marvin, the giant peace lily in the far left corner of the picture below, required repotting this year, as did one of his compatriots.

DSCF9148

 

I managed to get all the apple sauce made, and Jim and I also made pesto out of the 3 pounds of basil leaves we stripped off the basil I picked the other day.

DSCF9134

 

One of the things that became evident during the course of events is that the remainders of applesauce are apparently quite delightful.   My compost pile has several very lovely visitors because of that being thrown on it.  There are also about a million flies out there too, but I didn’t take a picture of them.

DSCF9137

DSCF9107

 

In addition to the plant tenants and the compost tenants, I have quite a few amphibians around the place.   There is a very cute little toad who I never see when I have the camera.    However, there are several leopard frogs around, and they are so accustomed to me and Jim that they don’t get particularly concerned when we come across them.   Here is one in the pond, wondering why I have that thing that is not a fly stuck in its face.

DSCF9110

Since we have finished picking and crushing the grapes, we decided it was high time we put the stemmer/crusher away.   We were moving it into the garden shed when a very upset little tree frog emerged from the innards of the machine and said, essentially, “What the hell are you doing?   I was hunting here.”   He hopped off the machine, and after we put it away, we looked around for him so we would not step on him.   I caught him and put him over on the compost pile where I had dumped the remains of the peace lily repotting operations.

DSCF9143

 

There are at least three box turtles strolling about the place.   One of them was hiding under the hostas this morning.

DSCF9145

 

None of my tenants really like being photographed, except possibly the plants.   Of course, they might not like it either, but it is difficult to tell how they feel.

Anyway, last but not least, I was admiring the pollinators flitting about the place, and this little tachnid fly caught my eye.   It was extremely cooperative in posing for me.   I had the supermacro function turned on, and the camera was about half an inch away from this insect, but rather than scurrying off, he tilted his wings “just so” and I was able to catch the iridescence on them nicely.

cropped-dscf9133.jpg

 

Well, I’d best be off to pick chard.   If I’m quick I can get it blanched before my afternoon group of clients.

 

Read Full Post »

This morning my dear husband regaled me with a reading of a short article in The Week, a magazine we subscribe to.   It involved the travails of the Clintons, who apparently find it necessary to rent a place for the summer in the Hamptons each year.   They got into a dispute with their landlord of last year over their security deposit, which was $20,000, and apparently they weren’t getting it back because it was eaten up by landscaping and utility bills.   So, according to the article, the dispute was settled amicably, but this year the Clintons did not rent that place again.  Instead they rented a six bedroom place in the area for a measly $200,00 per month.

TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS?   For a security deposit?   TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS?   A MONTH????    Let’s see.   Around here, a family of four can live on $20,000 a year.   Not high on the hog, but it is doable.   I’m not even going to talk about how out of touch with an ordinary American life people who can afford to blow $200,000 per month on a summer rental must be.   Are we ready for Hillary?   Maybe.   But does she have a clue as to what challenges most Americans face?   I really don’t know.   Does ANY politician?

Okey dokey.  I’ll get off my political angst-wagon for now.

I have been visiting slide shows on the SF Chronicle’s website this morning:   a Victorian for less than a million dollars, worst kitchen ever, celebrities who dated.  That last one was a real eye-opener for me.   Probably 80% of the people pictured and named in that little exposé were pretty much unknown to me.  I did not recognize names or faces.   I’m so out of touch.  Kinda like the politicians, I suppose, but in a different way.

Probably the reason I’m so out of touch is that I actually have a life that involves producing a large portion of what we eat.

This was my kitchen counter a few days ago.   I was proudly displaying the apples after they had been peeled, cored and sliced; ready for the freezer.

DSCF9101

See the tomatoes in the basket next to the apples?   They have been roasted and are now in the freezer alongside the apples.   That reminds me.  I really need to defrost that freezer and rearrange it.   There are seven gallons of strawberries, six gallons of blueberries, one lug of peaches, plum pieces and plum puree, and God knows how many freezer bags of greens, green beans, asparagus, roasted winter squash, potatoes, carrots, onions, leeks, roasted tomatoes, and other stuff I have probably forgotten in there.   Inventory needs to be done.   The other freezer, which is even bigger, has the remains of a whole beef, sundry pork, lamb, poultry and fish, as well as the lard supply and again, God Knows What.

A job for another day.

I’m pretty sure the Clintons don’t have a pantry like this.

DSCF9102

That’s the view from the door.   Actually, this room is around the corner from the kitchen.   Originally, this house was built with the idea that sometime in the future a second story could be added.  This area was designed to become the stairwell up to the second floor.   The hatch that gives access to the attic is directly above your head when you stand just inside the accordion door that hides this collection from the view from the living room.

Well, that picture simply does not do the room justice, so I stepped inside and did a few close ups.  Below you find the left side of the room.

DSCF9104

The olives are purchased in bulk, and Jim processes them.   There are several flavors there, my favorite is the lemon/tarragon brined sevillanos.   Below the olives is the tomato puree collection, and below that is the apple sauce.   There is some pear sauce in there too.   The red box of milkbones is Ruby’s favorite thing in the whole house.

All those silver bags you see on the right contain the bulk spices.   We purchase them from Frontier Natural Foods cooperative.   Everything on that shelf is organic, and’ if appropriate, Fair Trade certified too.   There is allspice, cinnamon, cloves, caraway, mustard seed, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, coriander, cumin on that shelf.   No, we aren’t going to run out of spices any time soon.    It may seem like a lot, but whole seeds don’t get stale like ground spices; and I can buy a pound of organic cinnamon sticks for less than you will spend for a 2/3 oz bottle of ground cinnamon at your local grocery.  The rest of the prices have a similar ratio.

What you are not seeing because I didn’t photograph it is the giant container of 100 pounds of wheat, which I grind about 5 pounds at a time into whole wheat flour.  Also, down on the floor is an anonymous box that contains the un-roasted organic fair trade coffee in 5 pound bags that we acquire from Sweet Maria’s.

Now let’s turn our attention to the right side of the room.

DSCF9103

DSCF9105

DSCF9106

The second picture shows the jelly and pickle collection.   I honestly don’t think I need to make any jam or jelly for three or four years.   That is why I have been freezing most of the figs coming off the tree out by the barn.   I still have plenty of fig preserves up there on that shelf.   That reminds me, I need to pick figs today.

It is actually a little scary how many different kinds of vinegar we seem to require in this house.   Sort of in the middle of the lower picture is a half gallon jar full of some sort of red amorphous substance.   That is the raspberry vinegar I am making from the raspberries I managed to get to ahead of the birds.   It is about time to filter the raspberries out of the vinegar they are steeping in.

Below that is a bunch of containers that are used to ship olives from Greece to the United States.   We found them at a recycler up in Santa Rosa over two decades ago.  They are equipped with giant o-rings under the lids, and when screwed down those lids keep the bugs out of the contents.   We have unbleached white flour, corn meal, polenta, black beans, garbanzo beans, polenta, pinto beans, rolled oats, sugar, rice, barley, vital wheat gluten in 20-30 pound quantities.   Our favorite container:  the bright yellow one in the foreground.  That has the chocolate chips in it.   Right now there are barely ten pounds of them in there.   Need to get more.   Wouldn’t want to run out of those!

You will notice that not all of our supplies are organic, or totally environmentally conscious.  For some reason, we find it necessary to have pineapple on hand.   I imagine I could find it from some other source than Dole, but sometimes I just get tired of being so darned perfect.

A long time ago I found a link to a website that would calculate how long you could survive in your home without buying food based on the number of people who live there and the quantity of food you had stored.   It told me Jim and I could get along for 3 and a half years on what we have accumulated here.   That was before we bought the beef….

I guess we are good for a short apocalypse.   This assumes, of course, that we are not immediately struck down by a bolt of lightning for our liberal, tolerant of gay lifestyle, heretical pagan ways.

I’d really better get my pagan ass out there, I need to pick basil for pesto, harvest the chard and get it blanched, and pick the aforementioned figs.

Read Full Post »

Do you remember that we have a row of espaliered fruit trees?  There’s a pretty good picture of the row in this post taken in spring three years ago while the apples were in full bloom.

We started out with two pears and six varieties of apples.   Very shortly after we planted them, one of the pears succumbed to fire blight.   Unfortunately, I did not know what was wrong with it before the fungus had been transferred to the apple just to its north on the row.   After several years of severe pruning and a lot of praying over that apple, it also died.

Last year, the apple I planted because it was Thomas Jefferson’s favorite, the Spitzbergen, also died.  Frankly, I didn’t mourn its passing much because for the life of me I could not figure out what was so great about that apple.  It was mealy, and not very flavorful.   However, perhaps it made wonderful applejack, as that appears to be the reason most of the Colonials were growing apples in the first place.

Last year was also the year I discovered that the rubber tree rings we had placed around the young apples in hopes that they would keep the weed eating job around the trunks to a minimum had turned into tree girdling apparatus.   The lesson here is, those rings do not work.   They don’t slow the weeds down much, so you wind up doing the weed eating anyway.   Once the weeds have gotten thick it is very easy to forget that those mats are there, and as the years pass the trees grow larger and larger.   Eventually they run into the mats and begin to girdle themselves.

Last year, all my apples were looking SO unhappy, and I attributed it to the drought and heat until one day I happened to be clipping the weeds around the trunks while I was watering them deeply and realized what was really going on.   I spent a couple of hours creatively and productively releasing negative emotions as I ripped the mats away from around the trees.   Fortunately, I noticed this problem before the girdling was complete, and once the restriction was removed the little trees recovered well.

I am so grateful, because this year they bloomed beautifully in spite of the cool spring, and were pollinated well despite the rain that fell on the blossoms.   I managed to get the fruit thinned in a timely fashion in between my peripatetic spring wanderings.    Then we installed a squirrel/bird barrier when the fruit started looking really good.

DSCF8145

This is one of the children of Jim’s fertile brain and is designed to be easily moved and installed.   Each panel has chicken wire as the fence, and they are independent of each other.   The whole thing can be connected panel to panel using wire ties.   Over the top we put a flexible black plastic bird net and clip it to the chicken wire with clothespins.   Apparently it is far enough off the ground that the squirrels have not discovered they can chew through it.   I think they get stymied by the chicken wire at ground level and don’t even bother to climb up to the top.

Whatever the reasons, the barrier serves its function well and keeps the squirrels and the birds out quite nicely.   If only it would do the same for bugs and fungus.   Despite that, I picked the crop this morning.    The results were I got 46.8 lbs. of apples that are essentially perfect:  no fungus, rot, or insect damage.  Some of them I will put in the refrigerator for future reference to eat out of hand.   The rest of them will be peeled, treated with citrus acid, and frozen for pies and crisps.

There are also 38.4 pounds of apples that have active rot going on.   Those I will cut up and start cooking for apple sauce as soon as I am done with this post and the client who is due to arrive within moments.

At the prices we have to pay for organic apples, this amounts to about $150 worth of apples.   The squirrel barrier cost us the same amount, so we break even this year.   The barrier is re-usable, a one time cost that as far as I am concerned, more than paid for itself considering that a couple of years ago I had a nice apple crop and the squirrels got ALL of it.

For the record, the Moonglow pear tree, which is supposed to need another pear tree to cross pollinate itself, produced two dozen beautiful and tasty pears despite the fact that the Bartlett pear that was designated as its pollination partner is long dead.   I think the ornamental Bradford pears planted in the savanna may be standing in for the Bartlett.

The apple crop consists of Granny Smith, Fuji, Gala and Golden Delicious:

DSCF9073

I sat down and ate one of the apples as I was picking this morning.  It was wonderful.

I took a little time to express my gratitude to the trees, the weather, my husband for the ideal squirrel barrier, and to the Universal Deity for the conditions which provided us with this very nice crop of apples.   Next year there will be more!

And this, dear readers, is why we go to all the trouble to grow our own food.

Read Full Post »

Rainy August

Well.   Since August began we have received nearly 8 inches of rain here at The Havens.   That followed a July where we got about an inch of rain every week.   As a consequence, the grass around here looks like this:

DSCF8374

 

Now, this may not seem very extraordinary, but generally speaking the “lawn” you are looking at in the picture above looks just like the grass around the vineyard does in the following picture.

DSCF0322

 

Don’t get me wrong.   We are HAPPY to have rain in August.   There are people in the area who wish we weren’t getting quite so much of it quite so fast, since they are experiencing flooding and there are lots of low water crossings that are closed right now, making it hard to get about the county.

The lushness is welcome.   We haven’t had to water the gardens for several weeks, since Mother Nature has been taking care of that job for us.   But usually about the middle of July we get a respite from the constant demands for mowing made byf the green areas here.  Actually, we would be very happy to let it all grow, but Our Fair City has seen fit to pass an ordinance banning lawns taller than 12 inches.

So we were out on Sunday morning trying to finish mowing the acre of our property that contains the vineyard, the labyrinth and the savannah.   Since it has been precipitating upon us on a very regular basis, we had not been able to get out there and the grass was very tall and thick.   It was also still wet from the previous days rain, so it was necessary to stop about every 50 to 75 feet and clear the throw-out area of the mower so it would throw the grass.   I did a whole lot of pulling on the rope to restart the mower, since there was no way I was going to reach in there to clear the area with it still running.

We persisted, however, even after the light rain started falling, and completed our task just as the day’s rain began in earnest.   When I checked the rain gauge this morning we had received an inch and an eighth.

The vegetable garden is glorious.

DSCF8373

 

We are getting at least two or three zucchini every day.   I am in the process of pickling the third batch of gherkins.   Right now we have stopped picking the tiny cucumbers for that, so in a couple of days we are going to be overwhelmed with large ones.   The green beans are doing well.   The asparagus has decided it can make new shoots, so I have been gleaning the patch for snacks while I work out there.     The eggplants are pretty much finished.   Tomatoes are coming on, yesterday we strained a bunch, made puree, and started condensing it.  Today I canned that batch and there were 7 pints.   A good start on the season.

Out at the pond, I have a large fishing spider hanging about.   She posed for me last night.   I love how you can see she is resting on the surface tension of the water.

DSCF8370

 

Looks like it is going to rain some more.   I think we are definitely experiencing one for the record books.   I have to admit, it will make the job of the people looking after our place while we are gone on our cruise to Alaska a whole lot easier, and I’m glad for that!

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 59 other followers