Monday, June 28, 2010

Tart Cherry Pie!

We planted our dwarf Tart Cherry tree a few years ago, and last year I was excited to see how may cherries it produced, but the birds stripped the tiny of all fruit before I could even say "pie".
This year I decided to get serious. I read all about how difficult it was to keep the birds at bay, but if it meant camping out under the tree, I was going to get a pie. I waited patiently and as the first cherries darkened, I started to notice some had been partially pecked, left to rot and others had been pecked completely, leaving just the bare pit hanging. It was time to pick cherries. I enlisted the help of some neighbor kids (mine were not the least interested) who were eager to pick until they tasted them. YUCK! Too tart!!
In my excitement to beat the birds, the first batch I picked was under ripe. Although not a fruit known to ripen off the tree, I did read that cherries might ripen slightly if left out for a day. I awoke the next morning prepared to make a pie, and found a bowl of rotten cherries. Disheartened, I gave them to our hens who ate them with gusto. One man's garbage is a backyard chicken's feast.
Two days later I noted bunches of red-ripe cherries that had not been pecked or damaged by the birds in any way. I got my bowl out and picked away, but didn't come up with 3 full cups, so I cheated and added a handful of store bought sweet cherries. Of course after tucking the pie safely in the oven I read that sweet cherries make horrible pies. Thankfully there were just a few. And the final verdict on the pie? Perhaps not the best looking, but one of the best tasting pies I have ever had! The rest of the cherries are for the birds.

Monday, June 21, 2010

How does your garden grow?

This year I am trying to learn from past mistakes. I have been diligently pinching back my tomato plants every week to avoid too-bushy, over crowded plants which can decrease the circulation around the base. Since I religiously follow "Square Foot Gardening" my plants are placed frighteningly close together, and they already seem to be rubbing elbows. I know pinching them back allows them to invest all their energy into producing great big beautiful tomatoes, but it kills me to pick off any part of their lovely forms. The kids, on the other hand are only too happy to help.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Asher and the suagrsnap peas

Once upon a time there was a boy named Asher who was a very finicky eater and would never even touch a vegetable. After a while his mother gave up trying to get him to eat anything green. That was until she planted sugarsnap peas. Then she couldn't keep him away from the peas. Every morning he would sneak out into the garden in his jammies and eat up all the peas before anyone else got a chance to try any.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Edible landscape

potatoes, broccoli and kolrobi

Two years ago when I dug out my front lawn to create a Xeric garden, I didn't think I would be able to incorporate veggies, but now after reading every book Rosalind Creasy has written about edible landscaping, my front yard is mixed with potatoes and brocolli and beans hidden behind catmint and poppies. The tree in the center is a tart cherry and there are pumkins and zucchini along the back. I have strategically placed a soaker hose to water the veggies, while I can let the xeric plants go dry. It is still a work in progress.

Here is the newly planted patio garden with a few hardy plants that survived the hens. David insisted we add his charming "screaming man" statue for a little variety. I am still kicking myself for not accidentally placing him in the alley where he would have most certainly been picked up for scrap metal. (Someone took our old pipes from the alley before I could even close the backyard gate)

I put in as many herbs and edibles as possible. Lemon thyme, bee balm, lemon balm (it is in the mint family, so know I will be sorry, but I have some kind of garden amnesia) and woodland strawberries. Along the wall I planted beans and squash where last year I ripped out some roses to make way for vining vegetables before I realized how short a period of time it would look nice. Now all winter the wall is barren, so I planted another vining rose. I am doing my part to keep local nurseries in business.

Hanging with the Peeps.

Fin and Asher love the chickens, and at least one of the hens, Hazel is content to sit on Fin's lap for awhile. They are happy it's summer again as they get lots of greens. I give them all the weeds and grassed that sprout from the vegetable garden (which is a surprising large bulk) as well as extra lettuces that have gone to seed When they hear me puttering around in the garden they start up their pretty 'baawwk, bawk bawk" sound until I throw them some treats.

Little Red Barn

When we made the

desicions to get chickens last year, we started looking into coops. You would be surprised what a "Sonoma County Coop" runs. They are the high rent coops made in California wine country for the rich and famous. . The ones we looked at in town were made of ply wood and very unsightly. David, however, agreed to make a little "Red Barn" coop for me, complete with Pela windows! It took a long time to make and he almost broke his back, and that of our friend Todd's moving it, but it was worth the work. He was able to salvage a lot of wood from a house "scrape" a few doors down, and my sister-in-law donated the windows, so we didn't have to buy much. The coop is so bright and cheerful and the hens didn't need any prompting to get into it. They seem to know instinctively that's where to go at night. The other side has a small door that opens to allow you access to the eggs right from their nesting box.

I planted this peach tree last year, in the foreground and it is surviving (I had to put the green chicken wire around the base to keep the girls from scratching the roots, but it had over 50 tine fury peaches on it last month. I followed gardening advice and removed all but 12 (Ugghhh it was so hard to do, but I dropped them to the hens who loved them even in that stage.)

"Ode" to Hazel

Hazel and Odie love to hang out