Pie cherries

Montmorency pie cherries

Montmorency pie cherries

Pie cherries are a lovely fruit and fortunately they grow well in the Pacific Northwest. We grow Montmorency pie cherries, which offer a classic tart pie cherry flavor. Unfortunately, after changing up our garden plans, I attempted to move an already established Montmorency tree a few years ago. It hasn’t died, but it does look puny and it isn’t producing a lot of fruit. To remedy this problem, I planted a replacement tree, but it will take a few years to get established. In the meantime, we’re enjoying the small crops that we’re getting. The above batch is destined to be mixed with strawberries for a pie cherry and strawberry jam.

Sandy

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2513 kwhs and sun ahead

Production reading on July 1, 2012

Production reading on July 1, 2012

We’ve just passed the 2500 kwh mark with our solar panels! According to our solar log, this means we are averaging 28.55 kwhs/day, which isn’t so bad considering that we’ve just gone through our annual June gloom. So, we’re now at 88 days of production and our $0.54 kwh energy credit means that we’ve earned $1,357 back on the system so far. And, luckily, it appears as though we have some sunny skies ahead, which should push our daily average up over the next few months. Looks like summer will indeed start on July 5th this year — something we in the Seattle area joke about often.

Weather forecast

Weather forecast

Enjoy the coming sun!

Sandy

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DIY lidded mason jar glass

DIY lidded mason jar with straw

DIY lidded mason jar with straw

So I was at the hardware story today buying fly strips (exciting, I know) when I saw something clever. Being sold in bundles of two were lidded mason jars with straws. I was intrigued, and probably would have bought a few, if they hadn’t cost $8.00 each. I picked up a jar, looked at how the straw hole was made, and figured it could do this myself. I carried the jar over to a helpful hardware guy and he helped my find the rubber hole cover, which is a grommet. The grommets cost $0.50 each.

Grommet in mason jar lid

Grommet in mason jar lid

So I brought the grommets home and asked my husband to pretty please drill the holes. It took him all of 10 minutes to drill the holes and place the grommets. I was going to do a step-by-step how-to for this easy project, but I did a quick search and of course someone already did a great one.

Enjoy!

Sandy

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First blueberry and tomato

First blueberry

First blueberry

The blueberries are coming! We’re just a week or two away from our first batch of mixed berry jam (Lily’s favorite) and blueberries for fresh eating. This year, I’ve got about 5 bushes with a good amount of blueberries and probably 10 additional smaller bushes with a little bit of fruit. I was all excited about the first berry, snapped a pic, and then ate it. Of course, when I told Andrew (age 6) that I ate the first blueberry he told me he has already eaten two, but skipped the one with the “bug bites,” the one that I had. I should have known. He’s just like a small bear cub, harvesting berries as soon as they are ready.

First tomato

First tomato

Another first this week: a Sungold tomato.  Cherry tomatoes are often the first to ripen, so it’s not a surprise that this is the first variety to harvest. I have three Sungold plants this year. They are now about 10′ tall, trellised up a wood and twine structure in the greenhouse. I’m going to get a ton of these tomatoes! Methinks I’ll be making tomato jam again this year.

Self-seeded pansies

Self-seeded pansies

One of the wine barrels is full of self-seeded pansies this year. Originally, I had yellow and purple pansies, but these appear to be crosses.  I didn’t intend to leave a barrel full of pansies, but these were too pretty to pull out. Plus, Lily’s guinea pigs like eating pansies, flower and all, so we pluck a few out for guinea snacks every now and then.

Finally, yesterday I made a yummy batch of strawberry rhubarb jam. Canning season continues!

Sandy

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Strawberry jam, peaches, and peas

Fresh strawberries

Fresh strawberries

I picked enough strawberries today to make my first batch of jam. It was a half batch, but I’ll take it! With our wet weather, the strawberry patch has been doing OK, but I do have some fruit that has mildewed. When I pick berries, I also use it as an opportunity to clean out the beds a bit, pulling out any rotten fruit and disposing of any slugs I happen upon.

A little bear cub at the jam jar

A little bear cub at the jam jar

Per usual, I used a the low sugar pectin to make the jam. This allows me to use as little sugar as possible to maintain as much of the true fruit flavor as possible. Jam made this way can be a little tart, but our family prefers it this way. Andrew was all over the jam as soon as it was ready. I usual keep one jar open for fresh eating and everyone had some. As you can see, there isn’t much left. Even Lily ate a bunch after she actually tried the jam on some bread (she’s a suspicious eater). I predict the open jar of jam will be gone by this evening.

Peaches

Peaches

On to other harvests. The mini dwarf peach tree in the greenhouse dropped some fruit this week. I usually wait for the fruit to fall as a sign of ripeness. I tasted one peach. It was mostly ready, but I left the other to continue to ripen for another day or two.

Sugar snap peas

Sugar snap peas

We have a bounty of peas this year. We’ve had them fresh, stir fried, and lightly cooked with a dab of butter. Next, I think I’ll add some to a bean and kale soup I’m planning to make tonight. We’re actually having a hard time keeping up with them! I might have to start freezing some soon as well.

Well, that’s about it for today. I hope your garden is growing well.

Sandy

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Cherries

'Glacier' cherries

‘Glacier’ cherries

It’s cherry season! Not all cherries do well in our cooler Seattle weather, so I am happy to report that the Glacier cherry tree we planted a few years ago is doing well and providing tasty cherries. In addition to the Glacier, I have a Montmorency pie cherry which produces reliable and a super finicky Ranier cherry which is about to get pulled from the garden. It is more pest prone and we get minimal crops. Our newest cherry, a Tehranivee planted this spring, is too new to produce a crop yet. It comes well recommended for our area so, hopefully, next year we’ll be able to sample a few.

Sandy

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Tomatoes & hummingbirds

Tomato trellis

Tomato trellis

In spite of the wet, cool conditions outside, the tomatoes in the greenhouse are putting on signficant growth and are starting for form tomatoes. This year, we’re doing something new to trellis the Sungold tomatoes, which get huge in our greenhouse. Last year, the Sungolds easily reached over 10′ high (reaching as high as the giant sunflowers we grew in the greenhouse last year). What we did was attach wood posts to the outside of the raised beds, securing them to the rafters in the greenhouse. I’m using twine to support the tomatoes as they grow up.

Sungold tomatoes

Sungold tomatoes

So far, so good with this system and the plants  are forming tomatoes already.

Hummingbird

Hummingbird

I’ll leave you with a picture of one of the adorable hummingbirds visiting our feeder this weekend. I find them such interesting birds to watch.

Sandy

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Salad fixin’s

Pea pods, garlic chives, and alpine strawberries

Pea pods, garlic chives, and alpine strawberries

Andrew (age 6) is very excited about the salad we are going to have with dinner tonight because he picked a bunch of the ingredients. In addition to lettuce, we will be adding the pea pods, garlic chives, and alpine strawberries Andrew picked. I love how having a garden makes my kids eat things they probably wouldn’t if I had bought it from a store.

Happy eating!

Sandy

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Perfect apples: It’s in the bag

Thinned and bagged Chehalis apples

Thinned and bagged Chehalis apples

Last year, I tried using nylon socks to protect my apples from pests for the first time. The results were fantastic. So I’m back at it this year, although I’m changing it up a bit. Last time, I used orthodontic rubber bands to hold the nylon socks on the apples. Unfortunately, the bands broke down under the sun and fell off.

Apple bagging supplies

Apple bagging supplies

So, this year I am using soft wire ties instead of the rubber bands. I wrapped the wire tie around my index finger and snipped it with a pair of wire cutters. This ended up being the perfect size for the ties. I bought the nylon socks in bulk on eBay last year. They were really cheap this way.

Bagged apple

Bagged apple

Here’s what a bagged apple looks like. A few tips here. I thin the apples at the same time I do the bagging. I’ll pick a few branches, thin them out, and then do all the bagging. If you notice in the picture above, I try to place the apple in the middle of the nylon sock, leaving extra nylon fabric near the stem and at the base of the apple. I do this because the apple will obviously grow a lot and you want to make sure the apple won’t outgrow the nylon near the stem, nor be too tight at the base.

So, this seems like a whole lot of work, right? Not really. It took me about an hour to thin and bag the Chehalis apple tree pictured above. I’d need to do the thinning anyway and spraying would also take time, so while this method probably takes a bit longer than the conventional spray method, I’d rather spend a bit more time to get totally organic apples. Once you get into a rhythm putting the nylons on, it’s actually kind of meditative and not unpleasant at all.

Here’s to a great fruit season! I’m pretty optimistic at this point because my whole orchard pollinated extremely well this year.

Sandy

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Basil & bugs

Basil cuttings

Basil cuttings

It’s looking like we’re going to have a great year for basil. I’m growing two types this year, large leaf (left above)and Greek basil (on the right). Basil is a plant that really benefits from pinching. First, it prevents the plant from going to seed too early and makes for a fuller, bushier plant. Second, the pinchings can be easily rooted in water, allowing you to have a totally free and super low hassle way to get new plants throughout the season. You can see the Greek basil on the left has formed new roots. I’m going to plant these new starts today.

Here’s a quick basil pinching tutorial.

Spider eggs

Spider eggs

Doing my basil pinching this morning, I came across the above nasty looking blob wrapped in a few large leaf basil leaves. I’m guessing spider eggs. What is your guess?

Sandy

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