Our new best plum

Schoolhouse plum

Schoolhouse plum

About eight years ago I planted a lovely Italian prune tree. I love Italian prunes and the trees are supposed to be easy to manage and fruit abundantly. After a few years, I did get a decent prune crop. And then nothing. For nearly three years. Although Italian prunes are supposed to be self-fertile, I purchased another prune to serve as a cross pollinizer, hoping this would help. Nothing. So, out came the Italian prune. I’m pretty merciless about removing fruit trees and other plants that are not pulling their weight.

The tree purchased for cross-pollinization with the Italian prune, a yellow prune style plum called Schoolhouse, stayed and has flourished. I like the Schoolhouse plums much better than those on my Shiro tree. Shiro is an Asian plum. It is tasty, but it is super juicy, almost too much so. The Schoolhouse tastes great, plus it is a free stone plum that can be dried into prunes. The Shiro is so wet this would be really difficult. The flesh of the Schoolhouse is much more solid, with a texture I prefer.

In addition to all this, the Schoolhouse is beginning to fruit heavily. The branch you see in the picture above ripped off the tree from the weight of the prunes. I need to be careful to keep the branches propped up so they can carry the plums.

So, two thumbs up for the Schoolhouse plum!

Sandy

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100 lbs of apples

Cider apples

Cider apples

After a lovely five days in Carlsbad, CA, we’ve returned home to find two of our apple trees in dire need of harvesting. One, the Chehalis, had super pretty fruit because I bagged it all to prevent pest damage. The other, an old unidentified tree, had mottled skin that just didn’t look too pretty. No matter, all the fruit, thrown together, is going into cider. With 100 lbs of apples, we have just enough to have it pressed into cider at our local cider place, Minea Farms. We have our own cider press, given to us by Derek’s parents, but it needs to be rehabbed. Maybe it will be fixed by next season.

Even though the Chehalis were perfectly beautiful eating apples, we decided to use them in cider because I’ve already made enough applesauce (from the Gravenstein trees) and we have a Honeycrisp and a Winesap that will provide additional eating apples quite shortly.

I’ll let you know how the pressing goes! This will be our first time making cider, some of which will be made into hard apple cider.

Sandy

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Share your best fruit

Shiro plums

Shiro plums

Last week, I encouraged you to eat your ugly fruit. This week, I’m going to encourage you to share your best fruit. Anyone who plants numerous fruit trees hits a point in time when it becomes tough to find enough to do with the produce. You can only eat, cook, can, and freeze so much. Our Shiro plum tree produces like crazy. I pruned it hard this year and still have way too many plums.

There are many places to donate home-grown fruits and vegetables. Many local food banks take donations. Today, we’re going to drop these plums off at Molbak’s, a local nursery. If you have extra fruits and veggies, I encourage you find a good donation location. It’s way better than letting the fruit rot on the trees.

So why donate your best fruit? If you are going to share fruits and veggies with those in need, make sure they look great. Keep the ones with little speckles and bruises for yourself. I picked plums that were just a tiny bit green and perfect looking so that they’ll have a bit longer shelf life and so that those who get them will be so pleased with how nice they look and how great they taste.

Sandy 

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Eat your ugly fruit!

Gravenstein harvest

Gravenstein harvest

Organic fruit growing requires some additional work and compromise. In terms of additional work, perfect looking fruit requires manual pest control, such as I did with the nylon socks I used to cover most of my apple crop. I was a little behind schedule this year and didn’t get to my gravenstein apples in time, so I let them grow “au natural.” Above you can see a 25 lb bag of apples I harvested today. Not only are some of the apples ugly with pock-marked skins, many of the apples were actually on the ground when I harvested them. I’ve found that nature knows when an apple is done and it really isn’t until the tree starts to drop mature fruit that the fruit is ready. So I pick apples up of the ground and picked the rest of the ripe fruit from the tree.

Gravenstein with skin problems

Gravenstein with skin problems

As I said, some of the apples were a big ugly. But, ugly apples can still be used.

Inside of "ugly" gravenstein

Inside of “ugly” gravenstein

Cutting into the apple shows you that the inside of the apple looks great. Just a few little spots here and there need to be removed.

Gravenstein peeled

Gravenstein peeled

Cutting the skin off shows that the problem is really just cosmetic. Apples like this are great for sauce, pies, and ciders.

So, don’t let a few cosmetic problems stop you. Eat your ugly fruit!!!

Sandy

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High summer in the garden

Sugar pumpkin vine

Sugar pumpkin vine

Earlier this year, after the removal of the big leaf maple, we planted an edible landscape garden, which is a mix of ornamentals and edibles heavily mulched by the big leaf maple wood chips. Some of my edibles are loving this environment. The sugar pumpkin vine above is absolutely huge! It spans way beyond the edges of the photo and has at least five fairly large pumpkins growing.

Ripening sugar pumpkin

Ripening sugar pumpkin

This is one of two pumpkins that are nearly ready. The vine is developing some powder mildew problems, so I hope the pumpkins all ripen before the vine dies out.

Japanese cucumbers

Japanese cucumbers

Also happy in the heavily mulched edible landscape are the Japanese cucumbers. These cukes are super long and have a lovely taste.

San Marzano tomatoes

San Marzano tomatoes

In the greenhouse, the San Marzano tomatoes are ripening. The Sungold cherry tomatoes have been ripe for weeks, but I’m just now getting ripe tomatoes of the larger varieties. I imagine I’ll be making and canning some sauce in a few weeks!

Sandy

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Andrew’s carrot

Andrew eating his first carrot

Andrew eating his first carrot

Andrew wanted to have his own garden this year, so I let him use a half wine barrel for planting his seeds. He planted peas, carrots, and turnips and everything has done well. He’s especially happy with his carrots, the first of which we harvested today. I cannot recommend highly enough allowing children to have their own space in the garden.

Sandy

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Green beans and a new venture

Green beans

Green beans

I’ve had trouble with green beans this year. Even though I waited until the weather improved before planting, I had to replant both my pole beans and my bush beans. Birds might have been a factor, but germination seemed to be a problem as well. I guess the soil wasn’t warm enough after all. I’m now getting my first beans and look forward to having fresh beans over the next few weeks.

What did you harvest this week? Post to Daphne’s Dandelions Harvest Monday.

Now on to my new venture! Now that I feel quite confident with my canning skills, I’m going to learn all about fermentation. I bought the Real Food Fermentation book and have started reading it cover to cover. Hopefully I’ll do better than the last time I tried to make fermented pickles. I already think I know what I did wrong. Let’s start with the need to create an air-tight environment, which I most certainly did not do last time. To remedy this, I’ve bought a fermentation crock. I’m also trying the Pickl-It system. I’ll keep everyone updated on my fermentation learning and will gladly welcome tips and recipes.

Sandy

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Berries & artichokes

Blueberries and raspberries

Blueberries and raspberries

Strawberry season is officially over, but the blueberries and raspberries are going strong. In fact, the raspberries are fantastic this year. We have a few different varieties of raspberries planted (I’ve lost track of exactly what we have though) and one of the varieties is absolutely huge and very tasty this year. These berries will become mixed berry jam, Lily’s favorite.

Artichokes

Artichokes

For the first time, I’ve successfully grown artichokes! I’ve tried a couple of times before but didn’t site them well. These are planted where we used to have our big leaf maple tree. Removing that tree has made the whole front of our yard so much more useful. I’m not entirely sure when to harvest the artichokes, though, so please do share tips if you have any.

Sandy

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A good energy usage report!

July electricity and gas usage

July electricity and gas usage

Contrary to most people, I look forward to seeing our monthly electricity and gas bill. I’m always hopeful that the numbers will show year-over-year energy reduction. Our latest bill showed great progress!

July kWh production

July kWh production

At the same time, we produced 919 kWhs with our solar panels during this billing cycle, which means we produced more than we consumed. This is the great thing about a grid-tied system. Extra production goes back into the pool for general usage and does not get wasted.

Sandy

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Garlic & potatoes

Softneck garlic

Softneck garlic

My softneck garlic starting flopping over earlier in the week, so I knew it was time to harvest. Harvesting garlic is easy (just pull from the ground), but curing is an important step for long-term storage. After the garlic dries in a warm, dry space, it can be braided or tied for storage. I use the largest bulbs for replanting in the fall. Next week, I’ll probably harvest the hardneck garlic, which also appears to have done well this year.

Crushed garlic in olive oil

Crushed garlic in olive oil

The garlic I stored last year lasted nearly a full year. Sure, it wasn’t in peak condition (some cloves were drying out or sprouting new plants), but we’ve been using it. With the new garlic just harvested, I decided to clear out the last of the old garlic. Instead of just throwing it out, I crushed the garlic, making a garlic olive oil.

Update: A comment to this post raised concerns about botulism. I did a bit of research, and it is important to both add an acid to the mix and refrigerate.

Yukon Gold potatoes

Yukon Gold potatoes

Also looking droopy were the Yukon Gold potato plants so I harvested them as well. Not a bad haul from just nine seed potatoes! We’ll use some over the next few weeks for fresh eating and I’ll dice up, parboil, and freeze the rest for future soups and hash browns. Maybe someday we’ll have a root cellar for potato storage. Until then, I will continue my parboil and freeze method, using my trusy FoodSaver.

New chicken coop

New chicken coop

I’ll leave you with a shot of an upcoming project. A neighbor down the street moved recently and asked us if we wanted his chickens (just 3) and their coop. We said sure. The coop is a beautiful shingled structure. Derek, my brother-in-law Jeff, and nephew Ryan spent all morning taking it apart to move it. Next week, they’ll reassemble it in its new home. It will be a thing of beauty and aside from the labor involved, it was free. Sweet!

Sandy

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