Cinderella Pumpkin…

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I took one of the house decorations, a large Cinderella Pumpkin (Rouge Vif d’Etampes), cut it into segments and baked it. This pumpkin is a French heirloom that was introduced to the US around 1883. It is flat in shape and deeply lobed. Normally the pumpkins gracing our fall decorating are dealt with once they become mushy, ooze and attract fruit flies. Not a total loss, they always wound up in the compost bins. Through my blogging and blog reading I have discovered that folks still take the time to actually use pumpkins as a wonderful addition to the table. It is a bit of work but the aromas and flavors are awesome.

It starts with dismantling the pumpkin.

Out on my garden bench, I make the first cuts using the lobes as guides.

The color of the flesh is stunning.

Sections cut prior to scrapping out the seeds.

I noticed that some of the seeds had begun to sprout.

The surgery produced 10 lobes of the deep orange flesh for baking.

Once cut and the seeds were removed I moved the cut up sections into the kitchen. I made shallow lipped trays with foil to catch the fluids and placed the foil and sections of pumpkin onto cookie sheets. They baked at 350 deg. F for about an hour and 45 minutes. I removed the sections and cooled them on wire racks until cool enough to handle.

Fresh out of the oven, steaming and smelling so good!

Pardon the mess on the kitchen counter – I promise to clean my mess up!

Cut into chunks, mashed, puree mode in the blender and allowed to sit in the sieve to drain off the free water.

Four cups of the puree were put to use immediately in the form of a pumpkin pie. It is sitting on the rack cooling as I write. I am so looking forward to tasting the ultimately fresh pumpkin pie! I think I still have about 5 quarts of pumpkin puree to deal with. I am told that it freezes well. I see some pumpkin bread in the near future and maybe a pumpkin ale! That sounds very tasty!
FYI – the pumpkin ale was brewed this past weekend!


The 25th of November – Where is Winter?


Did a quick walk around in the garden and I can’t believe that it is late November and I still have tomatoes setting fruit, the ancho/poblano peppers are still producing, and the usual winter veggies are looking good!

Tomatoes – or at least one variety in my garden.

Juliett Tomatoes still seting and turning red!

Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard – looking very healthy.

Turnips are coming along nicely –


Turnips are gaining some size. This one is tennis ball sized and asking to be picked!

Lemons too

Meyer Lemons – I can taste some lemon curd in my future!

Peppers – aren’t they a summer crop?

Poblano or Ancho peppers – locally known as Poblano – great for Rellenos!

Roses and Camelias are blossoming!

I just love the blossom patterns!

Miniature red rose. Bought as a house plant for my wife but is now happily residing next to the Camelia bush.

The strawberry towers are getting filled!


Sweet Charlie strawberries are in place and growing.


I ate some fresh picked asparagus this moring and then cut the ferns back one more time! Spread some compost pulled weeds – duh! Every day I can pull weeds! I thinned the beets and planted some red and white onion sets….need to head over to John’s house and populate his garden too!

I am in town all week so I should get a lot done….more composting, harvest the worm poop, shred some leaves, make some lemon curd and did I mention pull some weeds?










The Gardening Blog That Could Have Been


Four days ago, November 19, 2012, I drove my mother from her home in Los Osos, California to Bakersfield, California. The drive is stunningly beautiful taking the traveler up over the coastal range, through gorgeous vineyards, over the Salinas River, the Temblor Range and into the San Joaquin Valley. The San Joaquin Valley is a huge breadbasket – almonds, pistachios, carrots, cotton, alfalfa, oranges, onions, grapes of all kinds, pomegranates, dairy farms, grazing cattle and sheep and plowed fields everywhere. This was just seen from along the highway, no side trips needed on the drive from Los Osos to Bakersfield. Wineries are all  over the Paso Robles area and broad expanses of oilfields appear once on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley. I found several dozen vistas that could have made stunning photos/images but I was not allowed to stop.

To start with, my 83-year-old mother was not happy that I picked her up rather than letting her drive the 2 + hours to Bakersfield by herself. She insists that she is not too old to drive and we do agree with her but try to convince her that we just trying to be helpful……it doesn’t make her very happy. The second item, probably the most important item – she always needs to be in control or in charge!!!!! She let me drive but on her timetable, her route and almost her speed! I tend to drive a littttttle slower than she would like…. and I drive slightly above the posted speed.

Now, at 83 she has to plan her trip, timing is critical as the distance between her pit stops are very important. She knows almost to the minute how long she can drive before the necessary stop. This planning limited the number of times I was allowed to stop for photo ops to exactly zero. My goodness….there were so many opportunities on the drive this particular morning. The skies were nice, the marine layer in the morning was absent, the foliage was beautiful and she wouldn’t let me stop! So, here is what I did…I noted the opportunities in my head and will share them with all y’all. The blog will also be a template for a reprise sometime in the future. Here is the list of photo ops I could have shared with you.

View of Morro Bay and Morro Rock from Los Osos. The photo op from the highway turnout would have provided a great perspective from above!

Just outside of Mom’s little community park is the Sweet Springs Reserve – Photo above  is from a previous visit….this is the start marker, the rest of the trip’s images will be up to your imagination, some old photos and my descriptive talents.

We drove through Morro Bay up the coast past the little artist village of Harmony. A great photo would have been the turn out on the coastal side of Highway 46 looking back at Morro Rock and Bay….I couldn’t take a long look while driving…..Mom kept reminding me to keep my eyes on the road. I did spot a couple of vantage points that will be future stops. The views of Morro Rock and Bay from up here are stunning. The Oceano Dunes were visible 20 plus mile to the south and west.  I wish I could have slowed down and taken in a few more vistas but Mom kept pushing the pace!

Next scenic opportunity that mom made me zip on by was on the warmer eastern slope of the Coastal Range, many, many small estate size wineries and vineyards. One image that I need to capture is a hillside planting with an interesting unplanted shape around a hillside tree. I love the lines and patterns the planted vineyards make in relation to the rolling hills. I would have liked to take a longer look but I was strongly reminded to keep the pace up in order to make the first rest stop!

After leaving the town of Paso Robles (also home to one of my favorite craft breweries, Firestone Walker) and driving east there are some great scenic vistas. I am reminded of an image I shot in 1968 or 67, looking east on Highway 46 toward an old farmhouse and large tree on the crest of a ridge. I made several 8X10 black and white prints in my HS photography class that I can’t locate…It could be worth a few bottles of wine – the farmhouse is now part of the Tobin James Cellars. The winery manager has collected and displays a few old photos of the old farmhouse, none of which is from the era of my photo. My photo was a winter image, that tree was bare, the sky was cloudless highlighting the old white, wood frame, farm house. http://www.tobinjames.com/our_wines.html

Just past mom’s rest stop is the widespot in the road called Cholame, the historic site of the James Dean crash that took the actor’s  life. I do have an image of the monument taken several years ago ( took several dozen actually)….I have always wanted to take some additional shots of the site but no time available today as we were on a timetable to the next pit stop!

James Dean Memorial at Chalome – I need to spend more time on a future trip.

Over the Temblor range and down into the San Joaquin valley. In the Temblor range there are spring photo ops for wildflowers and bison. Two years ago I took a back road through the Temblor Range and found some beautiful scenery. More time is all I need!

Temblor Range Wildflowers.

Bison grazing near the wildflowers.

There some interesting rock outcroppings that were looking really nice this morning. The sun was at a great angle to create incredibly great shadows……but, alas, not nearly enough time on this trip! Mom was navigator in charge so we turned onto Highway 33 and  took a back road, Lerdo Highway, into town through some of the best farmland in California. Lerdo Highway took us through orange orchards that gave way to almonds and pistachios. A little ways down the road was a young pomegranate orchard! I was really wanting to stop, the trees were loaded down with fruit, the ground was littered with dropped fruit …… I wanted to grab a couple dozen or more and make some jelly at my sister’s house! Couldn’t stop!

Cotton fields were abundant now. Some chopped and plowed under, others having just been picked awaiting the mower before turning under, acres of covered mounds of cotton waiting to be ginned and thousands of bales waiting to be shipped. I think I could take some interesting shots here, patterns, shadows, diverging and converging lines…..better add that to my future “to do” list……no time to stop today.

Down Stockdale Highway into Bakersfield….we passed carrot fields stretching over two miles along side the highway. Only three choices, Grimway Farms, Bolthouse Farms or Yurosek (Bunny Love Brand) – they are all headquartered here in Bakersfield. We arrived at my sister’s house on schedule for her last pit stop. Two hours and 15 minutes since departing Los Osos. If I review the potential stops for me and my cameras it could be about a 5 hour drive….. I will have to plan a spring trip – maybe to coincide with the wildflower displays again…note; add another two hours to my trip! No worries…for me the pit stops aren’t that critical…. I love being a guy!



Sweet Potato Alert


For family dinner in Thanksgiving my wife lovingly prepared a sweet potato casserole with my home grown sweet potatoes. I’ll bet it could have been good! We have a new memory to laugh and smile about for future gatherings. FYI I did sample a bit that appeared to be free of broken glass. The emergency room indicates that I should be able to eat again in a few days. Just kidding!


Getting Close to Home


Getting close to home – in both locations.

I left my home in Kingwood Texas on November 4th, off to Bakersfield California to earn a few dollars. Bakersfield is my home town. I was able to share time with family and friends. The contracted work covered two different clients, both located in Bakersfield. During the second week I took my work buddy off to an iconic restaurant in east Bakersfield, Noriega’s. Basque food, good company, family style seating and less than 6 degrees of separation! In walks my sister’s father-in-law, earl. The seating is by group and Earl was seated next to me. Small world , eh?

Back to home again, I spent two days with my oldest daughter, and her family in Camarillo  – husband, grand-kids and my great-grand-son favored me with a few gentle kicks from the warmth of the womb! I am really enjoying being called grandpa…it has a nice sound to it and makes me feel so welcome. Then up the California coast to my mother’s home. I told her that I would arrive at 5:00 and she becomes a little anxious if I am late. Fortunately I made good time.

Fortunate, because as I checked my photographer’s ephemeral I saw that sunset was 4:55 for her location. The clouds along the coastal drive looked promising as a nice backdrop for a sunset. The clouds began to thin as I drove north and by the time I turned off toward Los Osos they were pretty much absent. I took a chance and headed to the bay. I was rewarded with a nice golden sunset and some nice folks to chat with as the sun dipped below the horizon before heading off to mom’s home.

The photo seems to have captured what the eye saw. The eye is still superior to the camera, but today they were well matched.

Mom and I head off to Houston and Kingwood tomorrow, to my other home. I get to share her with my family and friends, if only for a little while before she heads back home. I am so fortunate!



A Ride Through the Woods

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I just needed to take a ride this afternoon………needed a break from the chores. I did finish the Pomegranate Jelly and it is so good! I headed out on my beater bike to the East End Park area here in my community of Kingwood. The sun was about 5 o’clock high and the light was looking good.

I love the sound of the tires making that little crunch/scrunch as they roll across the gravel. It was a quiet afternoon and other than the occasional plane overheard – it was just my breathing, the tires crunching along and the rustle of the leaves and branches. East End Park is adjacent to Lake Houston and extends north along the East Fork of the San Jacinto River. I took along my little Nikon J1 for a few pictures.

First stop along the trail – looking south toward Lake Houston.

Cypress knees are the coolest looking pieces of wood. Spotted these at my second stop as I headed north. Sometimes they don’t look like knees!

Looking across the East Fork of the San Jacinto River to the east.

An idyllic bench on a little island in the river. What isn’t seen is the fort some youngsters have built in the trees. What wonderful adventures they must have!

Now, I need to let you know that there are some interesting critters along the lake and river. One of the trails is aptly named “Alligator Alley”. I have ridden here for several years and have never seen the gator…….until this evening. Unfortunately the camera was in the bag. I saw the tail flash up out of the water as the gator spun around and took off under water leaving a nice big wake. Looked to be 6 or 7 feet long.

All is quiet looking across Alligator Alley – for the moment.

Another view across the Alligator Alley.

Almost hated to leave and come back home….the chores are still waiting and the danged ole weeds never stop growing!



Pomegranate Jelly – The Hard Way

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One of my favorite jellies is Pomegranate and more specifically that made by my Aunt Josie. Her husband, my Dad’s brother, Uncle Jim, worked for Western Water Works in Taft, CA. The equipment yards were fenced and ringed with pomegranate trees. They didn’t grow very tall but were loaded with juicy fruit every fall. The word pomegranate is an apt description – “seeded apple” – and by golly, tons of seeds. After my efforts to make pomegranate jelly the hard way I have a lot more respect for the effort and love my Aunt put into making that wonderful jelly she handed out around Christmas each year.

To address my wife’s concern about costs – $ 20.00 for pomegranates, $ 3.00 for the Sure – Jell low sugar pectin, 5 cups of sugar about $ 4.00, lemon juice less than a dollar. About $ 28.00 for a batch. Let’s not consider my labor costs, it is a labor of love, just like my love for my wife …… priceless! Commercial pomegranate Jelly – somewhere between $ 7.00 to $ 13.00 per jar ~ 8 ounces. My jelly is in that cost range, only better because I made it!!!!!

I was smart enough to use my outdoor potting bench and sink set-up to extract the seeds. It is a messy mess. As I worked through the extraction process I actually became more proficient in the process. The methods I found on the internet search did not help much at all. See the process below.


Pomegranate cut in half.

The next step is to break it apart. If done well, and that is a bit of a learning experience, it makes the removal of the kernels easy. If not it is a B……….!

Broken open and the sweet kernels on display in a bowl sloooooowly becoming full.

The sink comes in handy to rinse my hands off and to rinse the kernels. The white membrane like material floats and the kernels sink making it relatively easy to separate the good stuff from the chaff.

The bowl with kernels on the bottom and the chaff floating on top of the water. Makes it easy to segregate the good stuff from the trash.

The trash….oh my, it is quite a bit, but it is all destined for the compost bin. Hopefully it breaks down fairly quick!

About halfway through the effort! Lots of trash.

Next is the extraction of the juice. I dumped the seeds into a pot, added a little water and heated it all to the boiling point. I used a potato masher and then ran the mix through my food mill. The juice is a bit murky after sieving and filtering. I have it siting in the fridge to clarify a bit before making the jelly some time today. More on that later. Can’t hardly wait to sample the results…..To my cousin Drew….I will send you a jar!





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