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Good Things From the Yard

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Nearly started off with an interesting typo! “Good Thongs From the Yard” – that could have raised some eyebrows! Spring is here and good things are showing up. 

One of the yards that hosts a couple of hives also has chickens. For my garden I receive some chicken fertilizer…. nice way to say it! Almost as good are the excess eggs I receive. Yum! 

Little ones, medium ones and big ones! He has about 20 chickens and they are laying very well now! 

Carrots, I grow short ones because of my clay soil. They may be short but they are very sweet. 


Unwashed but yummy. I put them on the grill the other night with some asparagus and chicken. Very yummy. When the sugars carmelize they are so yummy. 

Snow peas and sugar snaps are blooming and producing. The early pods never make it to the house. Insert smiley face and tongue licking lips here! 


 And yes…..strawberries. I have made two batches of preserves so far. One plain and the other with vanilla. I am hoping for so much more. 


And bees too. The Meyer Lemons are blooming and the bees are working. Mine and many others. Such remarkable creatures!


Ok, enough for now! Just one sting today out of 6 hives inspected today! I can always attribute a sting to a faux pas on my part! Yes, I have made a mistake or two! Most of the time I have no swelling but this one……hit my left hand and sure enough –  a little ballooning on the back of my hand. Ok Hun- please kiss it and make it better. 

TTFN

Bishop

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Rainy Day Garden Blog

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We had a rainy and stormy night last night. The thunder was the booming and it was the rolling type followed by the sound of heavy rain drumming rain on the roof. The last 24 hours brought 2.76 inches of rain in my neighborhood and as much as 3.64 a few miles away. As I write the sound of rain beating down of the roof is accelerating again…. Gotta love it!

Too wet to have coffee with the bees but I am enjoying my coffee. I am kinda sorta having coffee with my oldest daughter and her husband – they are out in Camarillo California to be precise, but with me in spirit. They sent the family a gift pack the past several Christmas’s from Harry & David, well known for their pears, but this pack had a 12 ounce package of coffee beans. The Northwest blend flavored – Hazlenut, Praline and Cinnamon. So, Melissa and Tayna….here’s to you! I am also snacking on my homemade sourdough bread, 30 minutes out of the oven…..still warm enough to melt the butter under a layer of my Serrano pepper and peach preserve.

Fresh and warm sourdough - Yum - I love making bread but even more so...... eating it!

Fresh and warm sourdough – Yum – I love making bread but even more so…… eating it!

I did check on the bees and the garden yesterday and they are busy buzzing away and gathering pollen. The strawberries are kicking out blossoms like crazy and I noticed a handful of blossoms on the sugar snap peas. I suspect I will be picking some snap peas well before New Years Eve. The carrot seeds sprinkled a few weeks ago are coming up nicely and should be ready to thin in another few weeks….I say should….seems like I have good intentions and always wind up with crowded carrots!

I will be picking my lemons this week and I need to decide how to reward my self, hmmmm – Lemon Curd is high on the list and may also be compatible with making Limoncello. How about both! Claire from “Promenade Plantings” gave the best advice for using lemon curd – open jar, insert spoon, pull out a heaping spoonful and insert into your mouth and let your taste buds celebrate….She said something like that

  • 1.5 Liters of Everclear – available in Texas
  • 14 Lemons
  • 1.5 Liters of water
  • 2.333333333333333333 pounds of sugar

Peel lemons taking care to not use the white portion of the peel…..just the yellow.

Place peels and Everclear in glass jars, seal tightly and place in a dark cool place for two weeks.

Mix sugar and water – heat and stir until dissolved. Let sit for an hour or so.

Drain lemon peels from the jars and mix with sugar water. Make a calculation a head of time in order to have on hand enough bottles to accommodate the new volumes.

Be patient and allow the bottled Linoncello to sit for a full month in a dark and cool place.

Store in the freezer and enjoy shots….I am looking forward to the fruits of my labors.

TTFN

Bishop.

Strawberries for my Birthday

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This morning I woke up on the green side of the earth rather than the under side……That was a good thing and made even better with a handful of fresh picked strawberries – <strong>Yee Haw</strong> – the strawberry harvest has started. I picked a nice handful of red, ripe, sweet berries. Once in hand the self-talk started. Should I share them? Should I eat every one of them before I get into the house? A bit of a dilemma for me.

I didn’t share-(sorry Kathy) and I didn’t eat every one of them. The very best berries found their way into my mouth and several others started the frozen package being accumulated for the jam making later this spring. There is something so very special about berries picked at the peak of their flavor. That first berry I bit into caused a wonderful flood of true strawberry flavor and my mouth was overjoyed.

A handful of Birthday Berries for me!

A handful of Birthday Berries for me!

A healthy berry bed....more berries on the way!

A healthy berry bed….more berries on the way!

While wandering through the garden on this beautiful birthday morning I found a few early stalks of asparagus….Not enough to save for anyone other than the birthday boy. If you have never had asparagus picked and savored the freshest, you are missing the sweetness that is missing from commercially farmed and shipped from who knows where asparagus.

My lemon tree is showing signs of blossoming soon. I can’t think of a flower blossom that is any more intoxicating than that of citrus. It is amazing how some scents and aromas can cause flashback memories. When my lemon tree blooms I am always transported to a late night motorcycle ride from UCLA down Sunset Blvd., to Will Rogers beach. That cool night ride took us through what used to be extensive citrus orchards before the land was converted to homes and estates. Fortunately many of the home owners kept the citrus trees, helping to fill the air the night with that intoxicating citrus blossom scent…..I said <strong>intoxicating</strong> before didn’t I! Let me dive into the Thesaurus! Intoxicating is a good word for the scent filled night air but…..there could be a stronger word or something better able to convey the sweet olfactory assault that created the enduring memory!

How about “enthralling” – no, doesn’t capture the feeling/memory/brain recalled sensation. “stimulating” – not quite strong enough either. “Enchanting” – close. “ Exhilarating” – needs a little more to meet up with the sensations and emotions connected to the sensory memory . I’ll have to wave the white flag and give up on finding the perfect word….I will take any suggestions – English majors preferred! Just trust me…..it was an amazing memory.

The garden is shaping up nicely; onions, strawberries, snap peas, asparagus, beets, turnips and yes, tomatoes are in the ground and putting down roots. I’m another day older and the garden is entering the new growing season….It may sound trite but I feel renewed….not older – just entering a new phase…. TTFN Bishop

Morning in the Pea Patch

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Mornings – ah literally my favorite time of the day. I enjoy the stillness, the quiet and watching the dew gather up on the plants as the sun sends its golden warmth to caresses the garden. This time of year, unfortunately doesn’t last long enough! All too soon these gentle mornings give way to some brutally hot and even more brutal humidity! The pea patch is in it’s last few weeks of the this lush green and dew bejeweled days. I am realistic enough to know that this is the expected and natural progression. The dead vines will be chopped and shredded on their way to the compost pile. I am well prepared though for their replacement. Two weeks ago I planted the cucumber seeds that have now emerged and will begin climbing the lattice soon to be vacated by the peas. The peas loath the heat but my cucumbers embrace the heat….. The garden illustrates diversity and adaptation  at it’s best.

As much as I love these spring mornings in my pea patch I know that soon the dew will be on my forehead, (is it dew or “perspiration”,)  when I step into the garden. I can take solace in the fact that I have choices that I can take in response to the the new conditions rather than lament to passing of these sweet and special mornings in the patch! Change…..it is something that many times I/we fear or want to avoid. The world around us is always changing and always will. With change I/we have an opportunity to adapt and respond in a way that  is “forward looking” – and yes we use our knowledge of the past – the past, a place where cannot really return,  but it  provides a vision for the path forward.

I will continue to enjoy each morning, each day and each evening that I can spend in my garden. I will look forward to the changes yet to come – not worrying about those things which are beyond my control. So as the environment warms I will adapt, I will plant new varieties, I will embrace new practices to tend my little patch. As the weather becomes wetter I will raise the beds a little higher, choose my planting to embrace the changes and I will continue to enjoy all of my mornings, days and evenings in the patch.

TTFN

Bishop

I Thought I Was Being Frugal

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Lettuce not be Cheap

I have been a little disappointed in that most of my lettuce seeds have failed to germinate. I know that the weather has been a little too warm so I have reseeded several times and have seen very few show up in the rows. I am a frugal gardener so I spread the seeds so that I don’t have to do a lot of thinning. Because of that I rarely plant all of the seeds in the packets. Over the course of the past few years I have many packets of leftovers and try to use them ……

I just found this bit of advice while searching the internet today.  “Lettuce also fails to germinate if the seed is old, so use fresh seed each season.” Should I take this advice???? I think I should!

I looked at some of my leftovers and the dates on the packets go as far back as 2008! Looks like I am not frugal but the word cheap might be a better descriptor.
I broke down today and spent $ 6.00 or so for some new, current season lettuce seeds. Weather is still on the cusp of being too warm…we will see 80 degrees this week again. I planted lettuce today for the fourth time this “fall” – Hope I haven’t wasted my money….what if it is more likely the warm weather and not old seed? I guess I won’t ever know.
Peas are coming up

I seem to use up almost all of the pea seeds every year and bought 2011/12 season sugar snap peas for this fall. I love this sequential depiction of peas sprouting. Most of my peas are further along than the right hand image. I noticed today that I have some up into the 15 – 18″ tall range and some flowers are beginning to develop. I am looking forward to the sweetness of fresh picked sugar snaps. The pole beans have just about stopped flowering so it looks like I will have a gap in the harvest. I didn’t have many beans today so most found their way into my mouth before they made the kitchen. They are actually pretty sweet but not like the peas.

Still gathering cucumbers from my volunteer plants. These cukes are so good. Sometimes the Houston heat causes them to grow so fast they become huge and they can be a little bitter. The weather is perfect right now, the size of the cukes just perfect and they taste great.. I grilled some of the fresh red bell peppers from the garden tonight. I have a bunch of Serrano peppers to pick this week and will probably make some more Serrano Pepper jelly. So good over cream cheese as a dip. I also found some red onion sets at the store where I picked up the lettuce seeds and added them to the white onions I planted a few weeks ago. The white onions and the garlic are up and stretching toward the sky. Looking forward to late spring 2012 for the onions to be ready.
I will be in the garden getting my hands dirty again tomorrow…..
TTFN
Bishop

Returning Home From Midland

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The Right Side is the Sunnier Side
Left side gets winter shade.

I returned Friday morning from a week in Midland Texas. Kathy kept the thirsty guys and gals in the beds well watered. We finally got some rain Thursday – not nearly enough to put a dent into the drought but it was a good soaking rain. I used my iPhone to shoot the two pictures shown. Not bad for an early generation iPhone…. I havent upgraded yet.

At the entrance on the left side my “volunteer” cucumber plants have been rewarding me nicely. I picked two very nice cukes for my salads and another 6 or so are maturing nicely. The green beans are doing well and I gathered about 3 handfuls. As you can see on the front right… the sugar snap peas are just reaching up to grab the twine. The bush cucumbers, back right, are beginning to produce little cukes but the weather may not let them become full-sized. Also in the right side beds are some radishes – I picked a few yesterday to go with the salads.
The butter crunch lettuce doesn’t seem to want to germinate so I reseeded two rows Friday AM…. hopefully the cool temperatures will help out. The kale has really taken off and the white onion sets put out a week ago are reaching skyward. I need to share a few  sets with my buddy John this week along with some of the extra garlic.  I also transplanted some broccoli today. The plants looked really healthy and they should do well.
I should be getting my strawberry plants week after next. I have 150 coming. 48 of them will be used to fill my vertical PVC towers, 24 per tower.  I am anxious to see how well they do in the towers. I will feature the strawberry plantings in a future rambling.
I am still waiting to see if the tomatoes will break color before the temperatures put a halt to their ripening.  It will be sunny and slightly warmer for the next 7 days and beyond!!!! So, fingers crossed, I will get some home-grown fall tomatoes.
TTFN
Bishop

California Dreamin’

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Graceful and Uuuuuugly

No, I wasn’t really calling it a winter’s day and “all the leaves are brown” but I was dreaming of owning my own piece of ground in California. I spent a week in California, five days in Bakersfield and then a quick visit over to see mom in Los Osos. I am  envious as I drive through fields of green and, in this case, field of orange pumpkins. The little valley on the way to mom’s house has the most beautiful dark – almost like dark chocolate-colored soil. Cabbages, broccoli, lettuces, sunflowers, seed flowers of brilliant hues, winter squashes and the list goes on. In the rolling hills are cattle grazing in lush pastures…Does it get any better than this?

My dreamin’ continued as I took a back road to avoid the construction delays on Highway 101. I cut over at Santa Margarita, through to Creston and hooked back into the Highway at Shandon. I fell in love….Santa Margarita area is temptress, rolling hills, big oaks, digger pines and beautiful little ranchettes. The seduction was complete as I rolled through Creston. I heard the Syrens song – I almost stopped and dug my hands in the soil. Here is a place where your California Dreams of getting back to the land can become reality. Warm summers with cooler nights, temperate year round, open spaces and rolling hills. The view is made up of vineyards, pastures, grazing animals, wonderful plots of land …… I didn’t ask about mosquitos! I think I could put up with them here…….I get so tired of them in Houston.

Note to wife….. Kathy – somewhere down the road we may want to consider a little hideaway in these hills. Still close to the beaches but not overrun with tourists and other crazies.

I also chastised my self for not pictorially documenting my field of dreams – oh yes, did I mention corn??? I had my camera and with all the beautiful land around me …..  all  I captured was the image of a buzzard. Now, don’t get me wrong they are beautiful in their own right – graceful in the air as they glide along the ridges searching for their next meal. But on the ground – butt ugly

The drive along Highway 46 back over to I-5 is a growers smorgasbord. Grapes of all types, table grapes green and red, wine grapes, olive tree, pistachios, almonds, citrus, cotton, hay, carrots, black-eyed peas, and so much more. Last spring I was driving along  I-5 and saw some little trees that where both new and, to me , unrecognizable. On this trip I saw that they were loaded up with pomegranates. Oh my…… I absolutely love pomegranate jelly and my mouth was watering thinking about a piece of hot toast, melted butter (real butter!!!!) and pomegranate jelly.

This is my California Dreamin”!!!!!!! Hun….. I want to share it with you. XOXO – Bishop

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