Friday, September 28, 2007

Planning Ahead

When we moved to this house, it already had a few fruit trees. That was part of the attraction even though they were not all something we would have planted. So far we have removed four trees that were in distress or completely inappropriate for our climate. And we have added fifteen (two of which failed) which leaves us with nine more than when we started. Sometimes it is hard to know for certain what will grow in your soil and climate. Our soil is sandy, hard packed sand, and ancient eroded beach cliff. There is a high salt content remaining and a scarcity of nutrients. It is a struggle every year to mulch, compost, fertilize, mineralize, and water adequately. But some trees are very happy here if I try hard enough.
I was looking at my Fruit calendar and realized that I have almost a fruit tree or shrub for every month of the year. In January, I get citrus- Lemon and Lime, and could probably have a navel orange. February still has lemons and limes. In March, we get Loquats. In April, there are Loquats and Strawberries (which are not a tree, I know). And in May we get Blackberries and the start of Blueberries (which are a tree or shrub). In June, we have Apples and Avocados. July is Peaches, Plums, Oranges, and Apricots. August is Asian Pears, Oranges and Grapes. September is Figs, Pineapple Guava. October is Pomegranate. And November is more apples. And December, well that month is reserved for chocolate which doesn't grow here. All this fruit, coupled with all that I save from the harvests, keeps us fruity all year long.
You might think that I have enough. But I am always on the look out for another fruit tree. Our Plum tree is dying and will need to be replaced with something that is not a Stone Fruit type tree. Maybe that Naval Orange I was thinking about. And one of the Asian Pear trees just doesn't get enough cold time, so it is going to a friend in a colder climate zone. I could move a grape that doesn't get enough heat. Maybe something exotic and tropical?
Well, if I find a fruit tree to fill in that February spot or one that can compete with chocolate in December, I will keep you posted.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pestos and Pastas

The Fall season is my party time. I mentioned this before, but not in much detail. When I party, it isn't always having lots of people over and doing loud, fun things. Sometimes it just means that I am doing fun things I like and not spending very much time doing things for other people.
Take socks, for instance. Most of the year I am so hot that I can't wear socks or long sleeve shirts. In the Fall it is cool enough to dress in wooly things, at least in the mornings and evenings. So I have started knitting some nice socks with the wool I washed and spun earlier this year. I have taken my sweaters to the cleaners. I am getting ready for some serious cool time.
This time of year is also good for baking bread and pastries. It is good for roasted meats and chicken. There are things I make ahead so that I have them ready as I need them. I make pestos. Right now, I have harvested the basil and completed "Sun Dried Tomato Pesto" and the regular "Green Pesto". This is great for stuffing mushrooms or tossing with Pasta and left over cooked chicken. It can turn a regular boring meal into something quite special.
Recipe time:
Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
1 small can tomato paste
2 oz dried tomatoes
1/2 cup walnuts
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1/2 cup olive oil
1 (up to 2) cups fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
5 cloves garlic

I like to cut the dried tomatoes into strips with the scissors. Add all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Some people like less basil so that the pesto is redder.
For regular "Green Pesto" add 1/4 cup more olive oil and leave out the tomatoes and tomato paste.

After you have made this, you need to store it. You can keep it in the Fridge for about two weeks with olive oil covering the pesto and a lid over the top to keep the air off. You can also freeze it in 1/2 cup portions for about 6 months- thaw in the fridge over night.

And you need to use it. The standard pasta with pesto works as a side dish. I mix 2 tablespoons of it with 1 cup bread crumbs, 1 egg, finely chopped veggies and then stuff large mushrooms- bake for 20 min. 350f. Then there is stuffed chicken breast (slice open breast to make a pocket and fill with tomato pesto and a slice of prosciutto or ham. I also sometimes just melt a bit over the top of a piece of meat or chicken. When I get lazy, this is how I make nice dinners with very little fuss. Try it also as an appetizer. Make a little pie dough tart with a teaspoon of pesto and a teaspoon of cream cheese- bake 350f for 20min. Green and red comes in handy in a couple of months. Put a cooked shrimp in there, too. Really fancy. See, very easy and mostly already done.

So now it is party time. Bye- gotta knit some socks.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Autumn 1, Harvest 2, Party 3

Second Harvest is my special time of the year. I usually have a bit of a spiritual rebirth before setting off on the Holiday Season. So this coming Sunday, my sweeties and I will again hit the beach for some meditation and a beautiful sunset. I will try to make some special treats to eat and bring some candles and incense. Then I will get back to work. There is still so much to do.
I have been winding up the garden. I thought I would have a fall bunch of stuff, but the chickens ate it all. There are only a few cucumbers and some celery left, and the sweet potatoes. But that is enough.
We are getting eggs now, so those vegetables are being invested in Chicken Production.
I have been spending lots of time at the gym, swimming and using the weight machines. This is to improve my body tone and lose weight- so that I can spend more time in the garden. I have also been spinning wool and dying it lovely fall colors. It is amazing how much stuff there is to do all day that is not in the garden. I have even started cleaning the house a bit. Gosh! It has been a long summer and the house really shows it.
Well, it is time to go to the gym. I think the garden will just have to wait a little longer. Maybe next week.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


In my garden, I try all kinds of interesting plants. Some of them I try because I have eaten it and liked it. Some are because I can't find it in a store. Others are because store bought types are just too expensive or not very tasty. I finally decided to try Sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichokes). In the market (when you can find them) Jerusalem artichokes are about $4.00 per pound. They look like small, knobby potatoes. They are low in carbohydrates and taste a bit like water chestnuts. I have eaten them raw in salads, cooked like potatoes, and put them in Spinach dip instead of water chestnuts. So I decided to try growing them. The Garden reference book said they will grow anywhere in Northern America. It also said they are invasive and thrive on neglect. Oh, I can do with some neglect!
So this is a picture of the Sunchoke in flower. It is about 8 feet tall. The seeds should be viable, but you can never find Sunchoke seeds anywhere. Apparently if it goes to seed it makes less bulb. But I am OK with that because I want the seed, too. So I will let some of them produce seed.
The Sunchoke is harvested in the winter after just about everything has been eaten. It can tolerate some soil frost and keeps well in the ground. If you cut the stalk off at about 6 inches high you can easily find the spot where the bulbs are.
These seem to be very happy here. The grasshoppers are loving it too, but the plant seems to grow faster than the bugs are eating it. I am hoping for a modest first crop and about an ounce of seed. After I find out if the seed is viable I can share it with my friends. We can replant and enjoy a plant food that has been in our country for thousands of years and no one now knows about.