Some of this morning’s harvest.
Some of this morning’s harvest.
On my outing to the beach last week I snapped some pictures of coastal neighborhood landscapes. The spot I visited is by a hilly village of cottages, and in former days we used to walk up from the beach and admire the unique houses and plantings. This time I drove around slowly and leaned out the window a few times.
Things have been heating up here in an atypical way, which is what I hear from people all over. It’s not unusual to have a heat wave, but electric storms, rain showers, high winds and a series of muggy days definitely are not what we are used to at this season. I do like 90 degrees better without the dampness. Still, warm evenings — if they are calm — make me feel happy and more at home on the earth. Our standard weather, being frequently chased inside by the cold and damp summer breeze, is the downside of this temperate climate, but we’re always happy to go back to it after a period of scorching.
In my own garden the sunflowers,
white echinacea and asparagus
are creating their usual jungle.
Until this summer I had eaten exactly one plum from my two Elephant Heart plum trees, which are in their fifth season. This summer they bore five green-speckled fruits, and I doled them out to myself over last week. Each one astonished me. I know that sounds overly dramatic, and sadly it doesn’t even tell you a thing about the fruit, whose flavor deserves a poem. I’ll work on that, especially if I get a few more to do research on next summer. I must mark my calendar so I’m not away on a trip at the beginning of August.
At church there are new things the current gardener has done. I wandered around the other day when the Japanese anemones were being appreciated by a bee, and lizards ran joyfully about from one hot sidewalk to another.
I hope you all are prospering in your souls,
and that your heads are not hanging too low,
like this sunflower I saw in my neighborhood —
though it is beautiful. Have courage!
Ann Ralph does make it seem easy. She is all about the backyard gardener being the one in control, managing the tree, and not letting it decide on its own how big to get.
If you didn’t have to climb a ladder to tend your fruit trees or pick the fruit, wouldn’t you find it simpler to keep up with the maintenance and to enjoy the harvest? Most of us don’t need bushels of fruit from one tree, so it’s good stewardship to reduce the quantity of fruit likely to go unused anyway.
I read her book in the fall, and wished I had known about it when we were choosing trees at the nursery two years ago, because you can make the most of this method if you start with a specimen that has a couple of lower-than-average limbs to begin with. Mine are not ideal that way, but I think I can still be the boss. I pruned my plum trees severely before Christmas; but at the summer solstice, according to her plan, they should get their second pruning. I did that a day late, this morning. It took me exactly 50 minutes – I know, because I had set my timer so I wouldn’t be late for an appointment.
I had reviewed the pertinent paragraphs right before I set to work, so as I walked around the tree and made some preliminary cuts, and circled around to the other side to look from that perspective, and on and on in that fashion, I had some phrases lingering in my mind to guide me and give me confidence:
If you see something that cries to be corrected or pruned away, prune it. As always, prune out limbs that annoy you. Picture the height of the tree you have in mind. Don’t allow the tree to get taller. As Scenic Nursery’s Jim Rogers would remind us, “insist.”
Limbs that annoy me? Well, yes, I did find a few of those, that were angled down, or toward the center of the tree; maybe there were a couple that just seemed a little pushy in the wrong direction and not beautiful…. Must we analyze every annoyance?
I wish I had taken a Before picture. In this After picture you can see I hadn’t really finished, because the clippings are lying all over. But I have just hired someone to help me in the garden on a continuing basis — my heart is dancing for joy about it — and will let him do that part (as well as trim the wisteria vines which are coming into the picture from above, hoping to twist on down into the tree).
In the foreground below are yarrow, lavender, and hummingbird mint, favorites of the birds and bees. The picture is taken from a different angle on the same tree. Both of these pictures make me wonder if I shaped my trees enough… those gangly limbs… I trimmed them less because they had the nice curve and direction I am encouraging. They are small and not getting out of hand, so I thought they could wait until the main pruning in winter.
I’m feeling so relieved and restful about the garden now that I’ve engaged my Helper Gardener, cleaned the greenhouse, and pruned the plums. I can think about tackling a few other categories of projects and tasks on my to-do list. And also, sit down in the garden with a book, listening to the hum of contented pollinators.
Today I’m wondering what this grassy “weed” is, along a stretch of path by the creek that didn’t get mown down – yet? It’s very familiar, and I guessed it was rye, but I can’t match it up with anything in Weeds of the West at this stage. Maybe when the seed heads develop, if it is allowed to remain.
The Queen Anne’s Lace that made such a lush display last year was removed on my side of the creek, but there are a couple of plants starting to bloom on this far side:
Thursday I worked in the kitchen and cooked up a storm the whole day long. I hardly did anything else. Every other Thursday my CSA box (farm box) gets delivered, so I had that to deal with. I made some more of the Egg Bhurji, a sort of Indian scramble, and got the flavors closer to my goal. This time I grated fresh turmeric into it because I had it on hand. I had bought the turmeric rhizomes to plant, but there were more of them than I needed for that.
I boiled the quail eggs. They were so darling at every stage, I even had to take pictures of them simmering in the pot. One place I read said to cook them for two minutes, another four minutes, so I think I had them in the pan for about three minutes, and the yolks are soft, but that’s very pretty, too! And they are very tasty. 14 calories and 1.2g protein each.
Last Sunday when I saw them as the love offering on that bench, it was amazing how instantaneous was the progression in my mind to the thought, “I could raise quail!” Ha! I did laugh at myself. It’s not beyond the realm of possibility, and it would be easier than chickens, but I want to get started on raising worms as my next homesteading project.
Now that the temperature has been in the 80’s the sweet peas are exploding; one day I took bouquets to two different neighbors, and the next day I filled two vases for my own house. Soon the stems will be too short to do much with, and I need to take them out anyway, to make room for the butternut squash that I will train up the trellis.
Some pretty blooms in the house are the Nodding Violet or Streptocarpella, a species of Streptocarpus, which a friend and I agreed sounds like a flower to feed a dinosaur with a sore throat. But they don’t make that many flowers that I want to offer them to the sick, so I think I will forget about the dinosaur and just remember Nodding Violet.
Mrs. Bread gave me my first plant, from which I accidentally broke a stem that I rooted into a second plant; I gave that second plant to friend Ann at church. Then my violet was struck down by cold in the greenhouse one winter’s day, but by then Ann had started a second plant which she gave to me. And that is how we take care of each other and of our Nodding Violets, and how I am learning to just keep them safe in the house. They are nodding “Yes” to that:
And in the back garden, the red California poppies are blooming under the (fruitless) plum trees. Mr. Greenjeans said that the warm weather we had a few months ago confused the plums and made them bloom early; then the frost hit and destroyed the buds. 😦 So he doesn’t have any plums, either. This is the third year for my plums and I ate one last year.
Considering how little attention I have given my strawberries, and the fact that they are old plants, it is a big surprise to me that they are so happy and productive this spring. This morning I picked eight fruits to bring into the house, which might set a record, but that could be because in the past I have eaten them all in the garden.
I hope your June is starting out as happy as mine. ❤