Sunday, December 18, 2011

OK, OK. I know.

Update is long-overdue. Been running around: two trips to England, one to Russia, down to the San Francisco Bay Area too... in-between have been preparing garden for spring planting, using sheet mulch to (hopefully) kill off the weeds and prepare the soil.

Also found my tree guy--at least, I think so, we'll find out when the tidying-of-trees happens tomorrow. And of course the decision had nothing to do with the fact that he sounded just like Sam Elliott. Really.

And the gate--the one that fell on and squished Karli--is upright and safely tied in place. It will be fixed and safely functional within the next couple of weeks, once the contractor has obtained the needed parts.

New vegetable garden before...

... and after. Weed/light block of old newspaper and recycled-paper mulch topped with garden compost from the pile and some netting to hold it all in place.

And there is room for more. Where to put the asparagus bed?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fireplace discovery

The living room fireplace is a wall of rock with possibly the ugliest fake brass insert, still full of old ashes. The chimney needs a new liner so there will be no fires built in this... And I thought that it was hiding a cement mess and not a proper fireplace.

But this evening I found out how to remove the top trim and could peek in, behind the insert. There is a huge , proper brick fireplace! Perfect for a mass of candles.

Anyone want a Country Comfort fireplace insert? Complete with free cobwebs? Perfect for hallowe'en!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

One welly-booted step at a time...

Second bank of sprinkler valves has now been fixed--this one controls the irrigation around the fruit trees and around the south-west side of the house--the first bank to be fixed controls the beds around the pool and the bank behind the pool fence. Each bank has either five, or six, valves controlling five or six sprinkler circuits. I've dug up and fixed most of the sprinkler heads and excavated several areas where the underground pipe was leaking but the valves and timers or rather, the whole water and electricity thing, is not my idea of fun.

Now I can make a permanent herb garden; dug and planted part of it this morning; tarragon, garlic chives, sage, German and Lemon thyme, rosemary and a volunteer baby sweet basil all planted.

Then it was already too hot to dig any more--at 10.30 am--so rest will have to wait until later, or early tomorrow.

Planning what to plant in the rest of that border...

Friday, September 2, 2011

Pickle and chutney season!

With nearly 1/2 an acre that I can grow things on, this year is just a beginning. Windfall apples from the existing tree; lots of cherry tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes and lemon cucumbers and squash and pumpkins.This weekend I plan on digging the first new vegetable garden ready for "cold season" planting (lettuces and peas for example, yes this is Sacramento).

Americans are not often very familiar with things like English chutney and pickles. "Chutney? What's that?" But I love making it and Dylan, at least, loves eating it. So as well as searching for an authentic-tasting pseudo-Branston-Pickle recipe online, I was browsing my oldest cookbooks (bought in an Uppingham second-hand bookstore when I was expecting Jade). Not only did I find some yummy recipes, I also learned a lesson in food preservation... and how timid we have all become over the years.

The book is hardback, "British Everyday Cookery" and it has an advert for Fry's Pure Concentrated Cocoa on the back, and the price "1/6 NET" on the front cover. That's one shilling and sixpence; equivalent of 7.5 pence in current British currency, a few cents US.It's full of recipes that I remember from my childhood, like treacle pudding and bread-and-butter pudding and toad-in-the-hole and trifle and vegetable marrow (yuck) and Victoria sandwich (yum). But it's the preserving section that I was looking for and some of the recipes will have many of today's cooks freaking out in their sterile, sanitized kitchens....  here's an example.

Fill a stone jar with very sound, ripe tomatoes. Place a few cloves and a sprinkling of sugar between each layer. Cover with a mixture of equal parts of mid vinegar and cold water which have been boiled. Place a piece of thick white flannel over the jar, letting it fall well down into the vinegar. Then tie over the jar a cover of brown paper. These will keep for a long time and will not be harmed even if the flannel collects mould.

Hmmm yummy. Mould. That would have the exterminators and fumigators lining up... and yet, this was how food was preseved for winter when few people had refridgerators or iceboxes. Salt, sugar, and vinegar. Sometimes boiled up and sealed in jars with wax-paper rings and a muslin cover; sometimes in boxes or barrels and layers of salt, sometimes just stacked in a root cellar or laid out on in the attic. People lived on what was in season, what they could preserve, and what they could gather.

While I enjoy the immense choice we have today, and the ease with which we can keep food fresh and healthy, I very much enjoy being able to grow my own food. More coming soon.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sunday was chutney day

Lots of small, windfall apples, almost-ripe but brusing immediately they touch the ground. Grabbed before the turkeys got them on Sunday morning, and made chutney: apples, onions, dried apricots, a few raisins; vinegar, spices, fresh ginger and brown sugar.

Tomaisins (Copyright. Me)

 Large batch of cherry tomatoes picked on Saturday--the day my new dehydrator arrived! There are yellow pear-shaped tomatoes, mini red ones, little gems, and Juliet grape Romas (they, for some bizarre reason, make me sneeze, those Juliets).

First I washed them, as they have been allowed to sprawl all over the garden, as well as climb up bamboo tripods.
 Then I halved them and laid them on the dryer racks, lining them up towards the center. That is not so much OCD coming through but rather following the instructions in the manual. The yellow ones looked better on the rack, all perfectly aligned, but the photo was fuzzy.

Then turn on the dehydrator: 135 degrees F, and leave alone. There's a fan inside that circulates the air through several layers of drying racks. It took longer than the manual/cookbook said--more like 24 hours than 6, or 10 hours--but eventually...

TOMAISINS!!!  Tiny, sweet, tomato raisins that are like little chews of sunshine.

And I'm supposed to store them away and eat them later? Really?

Better grow a half an acre of them next year.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Oh pumpkin

I have never grown a pumpkin before. Now the plant is taking over, and there are many more pumpkins to come. But this is the firstborn!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sunny sunflowers!

Sunflowers! Learned that squirrels dig up the seeds, so next year they will all be sprouted in pots and then transplanted. These are in a container on the patio.

Location:Citrus Heights

Growing up... And over

Cherry tomatoes entwined with cucumbers and roma tomatoes and a watermelon vine that has only just taken off. Garden madness!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Folsom Zoo

Is it really that long since I wrote anything here? Seriously... where does time go?

Today, Jade and I visited Folsom Zoo, a sanctuary for rescued animals, those who cannot be returned to the wild for one reason or another. California black bears (sadly Fisher is no longer here), who help test bear-proofing of garbage cans... a blind skunk called Gizmo who was hiding today... coyotes and mountain lions.

Did you know that a bear who wants to get at the food you've left inside a locked car, will sit on its roof and bounce until something pops open? Or that wolves will eat pumpkins, and spit out the seeds?

That's what I learned today...




Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Another thrift-store find

This one cost just $15. It's been sitting in the garage since last weekend... too hot to do any sanding. It's more damaged than the last one: the scratches and dents are deeper, but I think it adds character.

I like that it's long and low. I may put a cushion on top and use it as a seat somehow.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Two sorts of walnut

As well as the English walnut, we also have some near-native, Black walnut trees around the creek. I thought they were a type of sumac until this morning, trying to cut one of the fruits open and failing badly.

The English walnut is grafted, about a foot above the ground, probably to a black walnut rootstock. It may be impossible to crack the pure black walnut fruits!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Not everyone takes a siesta

It was about 1.30 pm, and already about 96 degrees F (here, temperatures reach their peak around five in the afternoon, not midday), and the dogs were sleepy and taking their siesta. Suddenly, a commotion in the back garden: ten or so turkeys, yelling-gobbling, flew across the creek to our side, followed by the local cockerel (or rooster if you prefer), often heard but never before seen, shiny green and gold and red... all followed by a very-enthusiastic, furry coyote.

I think the cockrel escaped -- he went one way, and the coyote went another -- but there are a cluster of turkey feathers waving in the breeze on the other side of the creek now.

He looked like a furry, beige, large English fox.

Friday, July 1, 2011


Quite a few squash plants of various varieties around the garden. This one is "spaghetti squash", and it's quite rampant--climbing up the fence around the pool. Perfect for me--it's gluten-free pasta growing in the garden! (When cooked, the flesh turns to spaghetti. Magic.)

Also planted the ones that look like little yellow flying saucers, butternut (to make soup), and of course a courgette/zuchinni on the compost heap.

I like seeing them grow. I'm less fond of eating them. Have to find some recipes which do not turn them slimy. Rapid stir-fry. Julienned. Not cooked-until-mushy.

Baby tomatoes

Several different kinds are growing, yellow pear grape, red Juliet grape, various "heritage" tomatoes that will hopefully be tasty.

I am letting them sprawl, because they love that and there is the room here.

The pepper plants are doing well too. I now understand why Mexican food uses so much tomato and pepper, because when Sacramento temperatures reach over ninety F, these are the only things that flourish. The lettuces and arugula zoomed skywards to make seed and the radishes tried to flower. Must remember that they are "cool weather" crops here.


They are all flowering! It's the first year, so there are only one or at most two flower spikes per plant... but they are beautiful, and hopefully, will spread year after year until we have an ocean of flowers.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sean Lennon, sound check

Sean Lennon and his beautiful lady were doing a soundcheck on an outdoor stage, near the East River... we just happened upon them, totally unexpected.

A small crowd had gathered to listen and watch.

New York. You never know what is around the corner.

By the East River

A group of tall ships and tugboats, berthed near the financial district on the East River.

We had delicious smoothies made from fresh fruit by an Egyptian engineer...

Dragon fighters!

This is the fire department in Manhattan's China Town. They fight dragons!

Lady Liberty