Tag Archives: tomatoes

rain with quinces

In the evening of this humid day I was cooking, and waiting for my computer guy, who never came… Rain began to fall about 5:00, but the air is mild, so I opened the windows wider so as to smell the indescribable and rare scents of these early rains. When you live where the whole summer is dry, often for five months, the first showers of fall are especially delicious.

I was peeling and cutting up the smallest quinces I’ve ever seen, and surely they are the most rock-like. For years I’ve been on the lookout for neglected quince trees, which I know used to be common, when I didn’t have time to experiment with them. Last month I was invited to go with my new neighbor Kim up in the hills to pick fruit at her friend’s estate. The word was, the fig trees were loaded.

When we arrived, we found that the figs were mostly not ripe. Passing over the monster zucchini, we picked kumquats that turned out to be more sour than lemons, a few apples and pears, and these dwarf quinces. Note to self: tiny quinces are not a good deal.

I interrupted my tedious quince prep to make tomato soup for dinner, using roasted cherry tomatoes of every color, preserved in the freezer from a distant summer, and other hoarded tomato treasures. Then I decided not to eat my garlicky soup after all, because I am going to the dentist tomorrow. I munched on a few handfuls of sunflower seeds.

Then it was back to the quinces: At this point they have been poaching for a good hour, and did get soft, but they are more sour than the kumquats, reminiscent of rhubarb, in spite of me adding extra extra sugar. Now I’m wondering if the tree they came from was some kind of sport — but no, there was more than one tree….

So many of my thrifty cooking projects lately have ended up terribly time consuming, but at least today I was able to feel appropriate to the fallish weather, in my efforts to use the garden harvest. The fresh and damp air was such a tonic that only laughing, not grousing, seemed natural. When I took this picture, a light rain was watering the earth.

 

The Green Doctor, kindred souls and squashes.

While I was waiting at the fairgrounds gate I saw people leaving with their arms full of watermelons. A woman walked past me wearing a green t-shirt with bold letters proclaiming, “Things go better with kale.”

Then my friend Linda arrived. We entered the Farm-Garden-Homesteading-Everything show and soon found ourselves at a poultry exhibit. When she invited me last week I hadn’t investigated ahead of time what all there would be to see, and chickens were a happy surprise.

As we were admiring the different breeds one exhibitor explained to us that the truest Rhode Island Reds are a very dark mahogany color, and there was a rooster to demonstrate it. He told us about the “Frizzle” gene that causes the feathers of any breed to grow backward.

We got into a discussion with him about whether the upcoming winter would be warmer than usual. He mentioned seeing scores of baby lizards at what would normally be too late in the year, and wild birds setting on new clutches of eggs. I wondered myself yesterday when I saw a bird pulling rice straw out of my strawberry barrels.

Last week I heard another opinion, that the lack of sunspots of late foretells a cold winter coming. I didn’t even know what sunspots were, and will like to see how winter reveals itself. A related question of no import is whether I will remember any of this come winter!

A young woman I’d met briefly at church was at this fair, selling wool that comes from her family’s fiber mill. Another friend was at the medicinal hemp oil booth. I listened to a bright lady from the South talking for 45 minutes about fermenting, as she occasionally sipped from her bottle of kombucha. I even took extensive notes on that talk, and her recipe for kimchi, knowing full well that I will never make it.

More applicable to my life was the cherry tomato tasting, from which Linda and I and even Master Gardener people at a separate booth concluded without a doubt that Green Doctor was our favorite. It was developed by two women who are both doctors 🙂 . By contrast, I ate a little Yellow Pear, while telling the volunteer behind the table that one summer I had grown this variety and thought I must have got a “lemon” of a pear because every fruit on the vine was tasteless. She answered flatly, “They always are.”

For someone like me who avoids shopping, the shopping at this event was certainly great fun. There were two places with vintage clothing and other used items, from which I chose aprons! One seed booth featured corn, beans, and amaranth, all of which were appealingly laid out in varied and rustic baskets. I did indulge in a packet of orange amaranth seeds, and Linda bought a scoop of the Hopi type below; we will share with each other.

By the time we reached the moringa booth I still had some adventuresome energy to expend, but was slowing down a bit in the legs and feet. When I saw the jug of very green drink they were freely offering, signed “Peppermint Moringa Tea,” I helped myself to a cup, and it felt like Strengthening Medicine. From what I learned, the leaves are in fact concentrated nutritionally, but more pertinent to my situation long-term were other aspects of the plant, that it is easy to grow and can thrive in my area, and — look at these dear seeds! I have to try some. Linda bought a small tree. Now I am trying to figure out some way I might organize all my hopelessly burgeoning garden ideas.

It was refreshing to listen to a motivational speaker who was urging us, not to maximize our financial wealth, but to find ourselves and our joy by digging in the dirt and learning how to grow things. To talk to a man who has been hand-forging beautiful tools for fifty years. We hated to leave his booth, where the trowels, coat racks and trivets wanted to be hefted and stroked and admired, and their creator seemed content that they be appreciated, knowing that most of us couldn’t afford to own them.

Hundreds of people all in one place with whom one might discuss natural pest controls and sheep breeds, Mason jars and succulents…. and species of scented geraniums. Linda and I each took home a little nutmeg-scented plant which will remind us of our outing together. I have a few close friends who are fellow-gardeners and who love to share our excitement with each other, but never before have I had a day as full to the brim of like-minded folk as bright and colorful as the squashes we had come to see.

Whatever winter will bring this year, it is not yet upon us, which means more hours and days I might prepare for it, while bringing in extra basil, strawberries, and figs. Now that I’ve returned from the dream-invigorating festival, it’s back to the Real, my own garden.

The power of sunshine.

Sunflowers, Sungold tomatoes, baby figs and basil and hollyhocks – It’s summertime! I’ve been feeling it, and seeing the effects of heat.

 

First, the bad news: My beloved osmanthus/Sweet Olive could not transition to life without lawn water, and was ultimately killed by years of drought. Below is the last scene of its root ball being rolled into a truck. I will never forget this Garden Friend who gave me so much joy. If I ever live where it rains in the summer I will plant another one as soon as I move in!

Let’s get this next unpleasant picture out of the way, too, of Puncture Vine – the bane of my childhood bicycle tires and bare feet! This particular one was growing in the Central Valley, but I also saw some of this weed in my neighborhood yesterday! Its stickery seeds are certainly a product of summer sun.

My favorite rose at church

I’ve picked so many green beans, I was able to make two batches of Turkish Green Beans, a great luxury. This dish freezes so well, it’s ideal for using up the basketsful you get at peak of harvest. The evening that I was preparing the beans was one of those sweet times in summer, when the breeze and the neighborhood sounds of birds and wind chimes and happy voices are coming through the open window, the kitchen window, and I am satisfied and content, having made good use of my garden, at least this week.

All the carrots I harvested had been stashed in the fridge and I eventually made some coconutty soup with them.

There is one exciting thing that happened in my garden that is less directly related to the power of sunshine, and that is the hatching of bluebirds in the birdhouse! I had never seen a bluebird before, but I’d bought a bluebird house, and other people who did that got bluebirds where they’d never seen them before, either. So…

Last spring chickadees nested there, and they might have again if I had thought to clean out the house. They checked it out this year and found their old nest all soggy, and departed. I cleaned out the house, and next thing you know, there are bluebirds nesting in it!!! I took a few pictures and videos of them growing up, until the parents began dive-bombing me, and I left on a trip. This early one is the best that is a still shot. And now they have flown!

Even when I am lazing about in the mountains or hanging out with my children in faraway places, people like Kit keep making use of the sunshine and flora of summertime to make welcome-home bouquets like this:

When it was Kit’s birthday I cut some Queen Anne’s Lace at the creek and put the stems in different colors of water. The red and the green had an effect, but the blue did nothing.

Ground morning glory
One of Kim’s hollyhocks

Last and mostest, the Delta Sunflowers! They have passed eight feet tall now, and I can’t get in between the side branches to get an exact measurement. The poor things are like gangly teenagers, growing so fast and lanky that their lower branches snap off and lie down, but so far the sap is getting through by some means and those stems aren’t wilting.

I feel very proud of them when I come home in my car or from a walk, the way their exuberance displays the best of summer and the power of the sunshine.