Garden Tour cont……

      In this, the second phase of my first annual garden tour I am taking you outside our North Garden gate wandering clockwise and into the abyss of my back yard.  

Fig Tree 2013
Fig Tree 2013

     Starting with my Brown Turkey fig tree which you can see is just outside the North Garden gate adjacent to the north perimeter of the yard.  I’ve created a transition of gravel to grass with some sq. ft. stepping pads. This treatment has worked really well here as they serpentine on around the fig tree lending a bit of artsy to the landscape.

      I’ve been plucking the ripe figs each morning.   Every 3 days there is usually enough to quarter and store in the freezer with honey and orange syrup.  Very soon I will have enough for a few batches of our yummy “Fig Fantastic” jam!  One of my favorites!

Ripening figs
Ripening figs

 

Figs for Jam
Figs for Jam

   

     

   

   

   

In the raised bed behind the fig tree, up against the wall,  I have relocated my trailing blackberry vines this year.  I had been allowing the mother root to self-propagate in my little “volunteer” plant bed that is along side my patio.   I have dug up, pruned down and transplanted the best of the baby suckers into this bed quite close together.  I am unsure of the exact variety  of trailing blackberry it is as I was given the original cutting by a friend who also didn’t know.  It does have thorns ( which deters the chickens ) and grows better here in zone 9b than the newer thornless varieties.

new Blackberry bed
new Blackberry bed

 The grid is for keeping the chickens from digging up the newly planted roots .  In the spring I will add the trellis system for support.   I have high hopes for harvesting a first crop of berries next season from the 2nd year canes that are in this bed now.  It  will likely be a few more seasons before I harvest a pies worth or enough for some jam from the whole bed.  Fingers crossed!

Volunteer bed
Volunteer bed

My strawberry tower that is also sandwiched between the fig tree and the Valencia gets new rhizomes as needed from the “volunteer” bed  in the dormant season.  I do have plans to move the strawberries to a bigger bed that will be in my new “Grand Garden” that is designated to begin this fall.

Strawberry Tower
Strawberry Tower

Below is the matriarch of my gardens as she is today, standing sentry in view of all three of my garden plots; “North Garden”….the future “Grand  Garden”……and my “Micro Orchard”.  This  Valencia tree is responsible for getting me outside and busy making adventurous gardening plans.   She also keeps an eye on the chickens as they love to dust bathe underneath! This One Tree Matriarch

 

2014 orange crop
2014 orange crop

 And right now the 2014 crop is growing as expected.  I pay very little attention to this tree but for 2 times a year.  Starting in February/March, this tree yields an impressive crop of sweet, juicy oranges.  Her beautiful  globes of orange provide us with a freezer full of juice and since 2010 we have been putting up jars and jars of the best no-frills marmalade ever!   We call it “Simply Orange Marmalade” and it is available for sale to our local community.  Soon after harvest I prune suckers, dead wood and fertilize with citrus feed and leave it be at that.  The tree is watered with a controlled automatic system that is hooked to a timer.  

Our "Simply Orange Marmalade"!
Our “Simply Orange Marmalade”!
Freshly Squeezed for two!
Freshly Squeezed for two!
sliced and ready to eat
sliced and ready to eat

     

   Turning to the right from the orange tree you have this view of the “three sisters”  at the east wall of the yard.   I really enjoy the big fluffy lilac flowers of these crepe myrtles as they begin to bloom in the summer. They are also just the right height creating a privacy screen of the neighbors house behind us.

"Three Sisters" in bloom
“Three Sisters” in bloom
Our Lavender Crepe Myrtles in Autumn!
Our Lavender Crepe Myrtles in Autumn!

 My favorite is the impressive display of their fiery blaze in autumn!

Drawings are in the making for the “Grand Garden”.   Hopefully a grouping of 8 raised beds, 7 half wine barrels and a seating vignette all starting back at the crepe myrtles creeping out toward the center of the yard.

Currently in the perimeter bed along the grass flanking the myrtles, I will be planting artichokes.  One Globe artichoke is already on its way to maturity. I am nursing  another 4 that will be planted next spring.  Since artichokes are perennials they can be planted as one would plant most other shrubs that like sunny spots with even some light shade.  We plan to enjoy the chokes as well as the strange but unusually beautiful purple flowers.  A large enough harvest is certainly a few seasons away but in the meantime these plants are amazing as a focal interest in any garden!

Globe Artichoke 2013
Globe Artichoke 2013

     As for the sea of grass…well my chickens love to wander and graze on it.  It is these girls that are keeping the “Grand Garden” plans at bay until I have figured out how to keep them happy in a coop and pen arrangement.  They do do-do on my patio which I just spray off.  Not all that bad (no smell….good fertilizer) but I do dislike it.   As for me…. I hold a bit of ambivalence in committing to this grass exiting project as it’s square footage was intended to be used as a kickball/croquet and badminton court when our kids were in town….although that is a rare occurrence.  I realize that I will be responsible for more gardening chores; but the payoff is far more rewarding than watering and mowing a lawn.


chickens in the grass

      If you walk out beyond the chickens and stand between the pottery just off the grass and turn around, you get a great view of the back patios and the house where I have placed the non-veggie shrubs and flowers.  The pretty things that we like to see as we sit at the patio table or lounge on a chase.

Summer 2013
Summer 2013      

      Some plants are already well established like the wisteria, azaleas and day lilies.  The dwarf Satsuma was a great choice and is off to a good start in the center bed surrounded by the day lilies.  Day Lilies are popular here in So Cal.  A  perennial that is drought tolerant and easy care.  Snails love day lilly but I have chickens and chickens love snails!!  HA!   In the spring I usually plant annuals like petunia when I can find the lavender or periwinkle ones!   Other plants are years old and reside in pots that I brought from our last home……Ponytail and Pigmy palms…..a Fiddle Leaf and Benjamina ficus.  

 Other perennials keeping company with the day lillies are:  Alyssum, Mexican Star, Dahlia, African daisy and  Azaleas.  All planted so that I have something blooming each season. 

Dahlia
Dahlia
Petunia and Alyssum
Petunia and Alyssum
Mexican Star
Mexican Star
Samsung Day Lilly
                                                       Samsung Day Lilly
African daisy
African daisy

 Autumn Ivory™

Azalea Snow Frost

         All of this you see here is a mere 6 yrs new.   However the pictures below show what we started with in 2006!  These pic’s are a little tease and if you are interested in the whole house and yard makeover, look for “The Makeover” post soon to come.

best view back yard before

A sad house
A sad house

 Whew!  Quick….close your eyes…. scroll down and then reopen!  

 Below is our north patio today 2013

Summer 2013
Summer 2013

Trailing up and along the right patio pergola is a Chinese wisteria.  I  like having coffee out on the chase lounge on a cool spring morning as its blooms dribble along just overhead.  Wisteria is an aggressive invasive plant and is best grown on a strong support trellis then kept pruned to size.  I have found that brutally pruning my wisteria during the summer months to keep it from taking over my house facade and roof serves to provoke some terrific blooms in the spring!   In spring there is an explosion of long dribbling purple flowers that give the house facade a splash of color!  …..silly me…I never took a picture of all the blooms on the trellis!  I’ll post one next spring.


Garage wall in progess      
This final view of the tour is the long expanse of our garage wall that faces north into the yard. The garage and connecting fence divides the garden you just toured from the chicken coop and “mini orchard”.   We are in mid transition of having taken down 2 of the 3  lattice supports spaced on the wall in which white bower vine is growing.  The azaleas in the bed will stay.  Plans are to include this wall and the shady bed in our “Grand Garden” plans.  This wall is somewhat of a stumbling block and requires some creative thinking as to what to do with it.  Although the lattice and vine was doable, the wall is just too shady most of the year therefor the bower vine never flowered but it was beautifully green!.  We may plant more camellias as they would thrive in this shady zone or how about including a giant antiqued farm-style wooden plaque with the namesake THIS ONE TREE ” cottage foods” etched into the wood?  

 When I get my drawings done and when cooler weather is upon us I will post pictures of the plans, measurements and elevations we came up with.  Nothing will be in stone as I would love to have some input, ideas and/or suggestions from you out there before we start this huge undertaking.

North Garden Tour!

“The best place to find God is in a garden;  You can dig for him there!”

George Bernard Shaw

 

“I love God, dirty hands and garden clogs!    I loathe the devil, scouring toilets and wearing heels!”

Shellie Wolfe

     

     Welcome to the first annual garden tour of “This One Tree”!  

      First of all I’ve enjoyed getting to know so many of you by way of a blog site garden tour, and truly,  I have learned much already from many garden bloggers out on the landscape.  I also depend on some family members who also grew up on a farm and know a thing or two about edible gardening.  They have shared some really good tips and tricks too!   A shout out of thanks to all of you!

     For the past 6 years, hubby and I have been busy, busy, busy restoring his childhood home.  Giving new life to an old memory has been quite the challenge and I may cover just that in other posts.  Keeping a picture diary of the transformation of this 1/2 acre suburban abode has made me realize that my initial plans to live a slower retired life after owning and managing a business in the fast paced professional world wasn’t in the cards.  This new chapter in my life has actually spring boarded into a very busy outdoor garden life!  So far! 

     I chose the height of this summer season as a good time to introduce you to my plot-of-a-lot here in sunny So Cal!   There is always a big “to do”list and transitioning from spring harvest  to summer planting in my north garden is usually on the “to do” list  as soon as the celebrations of July 4th have fizzled into the night skies.   

   To begin, I would like to introduce you to the matriarch ….”This One Tree”! 

One tree left
One tree left

     There she is!  And just behind her is the space that became my North Garden!   Not so grand looking is she?   Well….let me tell you…. this little unassuming Valencia orange tree was the only healthy tree left in this backyard after tearing out and leveling the entire lot  (front and back) of weeds, sick and infested trees and old over gown misplaced shrubs.   This sweet princess of a tree became my inspiration and compelled me to build a garden,  add a micro orchard, and later get me cookin’ and cannin’ some jams, jellies and butters as  a “Cottage Food” operator.  You will get to know her more in “part 2″ of the tour of “This One Tree”.   There are also plans for editing out a huge span of grass in the back yard so I can build more beds for root veggies….asparagus…. and year round succession plantings.  I’ll be asking for suggestions for this undertaking in “part 3″ of the tour.

     You see, I thought I was going to spend a quiet retired life enjoying my grandchildren surrounded by a beautifully restored home and a large citified outdoor landscape that hollered “let the party begin”!    But that is another story!   It is now our little Valencia tree that stands sentry to my North Garden and it is the star of the show.  This little Valencia is now a big producer and remains a constant reminder of how something seemingly insignificant can change one’s perspective on life!   Who me?   A gardener?   That’s what I said 6 years ago, but this is what I’m doing today!

      So grab a sip and nibble of something and settle in for a bit.  Today I hope you  enjoy the first part of the tour in my garden located on the north perimeter of the house!  It is simply and appropriately called “North Garden”.

North Garden
 North Garden

       I have 5 raised veggie beds behind this picket fence.   Four measure 4 ft. X 8 ft., and the one with the grape arbor is a long 22 ft. and narrower at  2 1/2 ft..   A compost corral lines the west end wall and stretching along the north side of the house on the left is my camellia bed and my vermi-composter. The picket fence is to keep out the chickens!

Camellias
Camellias 

     My “Nuccios” white camellias are one of my favorite flowers  in the whole wide world!   They are pristine white and perfectly shaped like a Dahlia and are the first to bloom after Christmas.   I love to cut and float the flowers  in a crystal bowl!

"Nuiccos" white or "Dorothy Culver"
“Nuiccos” white or “Dorothy Culver”

                                                               Bed #1

N Garden bed
N Garden bed  1

       I  yanked most all the corn  from this  bed on the 4th of July.  I left a few  stalks to act as decorative supports along with my bamboo stakes for my pole beans.   It was my first time planting corn.   14 out 18 planted matured to edible size.  Hubby and I ate two each at dinner and I froze the rest.   They were surprisingly good!  Next spring I’ll plant at least 25 or 30 to really fill up a bed.

Corn July 4th 2013
Corn July 4th 2013

Corn stalk tee pee for pole beans July 1 2013

 I also put in my second planting of bush beans.  My home-made tomato cages are on their sides to act as supports  for the bush beans,  keeps them off the ground a bit better but still allows me to reach into the plants for picking.   The empty end of the bed by the chives is waiting for my Lima bean seedlings to emerge.  We usually have long summers so I’m experimenting with the Lima seeds plus the bed will be all beans which I’ll cultivate into the soil late fall.  Fingers crossed of course!

“There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments”.

          Janet Kilburn Phillips

Bed #2

N Garden Bed 2
N Garden Bed 2

     The empty space in this bed is reserved for lettuce.  I decided to pull the few beets that managed to pop up from my spring planting.   Their tops were short and light colored….never really got their  grow on.  These were the 3 that grew  (poorly I might add).  Each was about the size of a strawberry, I settled for calling them baby beets!   I roasted them and they did taste good !

Early Wonder baby beets
Early Wonder baby beets

      I tried the seedling approach but I think I’ll plant direct into the bed in September with “Early Wonder”,  a “Chioggia” and a “Golden”.   Both hubby and I love beets!   To ride out the rest of summer, I put a new “Roma” tomato right next to the Big Beef tomato.  I’ll be pulling out the beans as well so I can  fertilize the tomatoes and make room for the lettuce.  Beans and Tomatoes are not a companion planting but they each did fine this time.  You can also see the tops of the corn stalk tee pee’s  in the background which I left for the pole beans to climb.Cucs July 4th 2013

  At the far end is  a  “Burpless “cucumber….. the weather has been so hot then cold then hot ……. it has been a challenge to keep these guys watered properly.  They  are growing very long and curvy indeed!   I also usually plant a pickling variety but they really kept me busy last year trying to keep up with canning them.  I’m working on a better plan of attack for next season.

 

                                                               Bed #3

Trial bed summer 2013
Trial bed summer 2013

     Bed  #3 has been dug up twice already since spring!  I planted my favorite and always a winner….snow peas!   The rest of the bed became this years trial bed.  The bunnies are my trial bed icons.   This season I have planted basil, carrots and fennel from seed!   And in June I had to replant  zucchini because the one I planted with the corn never had male flowers….. hard to believe I know!

     As you see here the snow peas are pitiful…..they should be as tall as the top of the trellis and bushy too!  I have been snipping yellow scraggly tendrils with each few peas I’d harvest.  I already yanked the peas that were at the right of the trellis, they were dying and even more  yellow  than these ones.  I thought it was a watering or fertilizer issue because I had also lost two tomato plants from this bed earlier this spring.   And then  I finally found a looper caterpiller on these peas yesterday!  I’m just going to yank them too…..the harvest isn’t worth the water.  And with such pitiful peas how is it possible to grow amazing fennel right next door?  

Fennel July 4th 2013 2Look at the fennel….it’s beautiful!  The bulbs are starting to plump too!  Plus I transplanted a sickly Yellow Pear tomato seedling in the same part of the bed as the spring tomatoes that wilted earlier  just to see if it would die too…..but nope….it has taken off and is fruiting nicely!   ???????? is what I say!.

Basil, Fennel and Yellow Pear tomato
Basil, Fennel and Yellow Pear tomato

      I’ve been pinching and pinching this basil Genovese for a month now making pesto and freezing for later.   First time I’ve had such beautiful basil…….and from seed no less!   The carrots came up too.    With  big pretty tops ….sorry no pic’s….I picked them ( a whole handful) and ate them right there in the garden.  They were Nantes half-longs.  A finger long and as big around but straight.  Should I call them baby carrots too?   They might have grown nicely but I was just too impatient.  I always heard that carrots  are more likely to be crooked and split so I couldn’t wait, I had to peek.  Anyway, next year I will have a higher root veggie bed to plant the rest of my packet and try again….for real, I promise!

   Bed #4

Garden bed #4
Garden bed #4

     In this picture you can see that there is more vegetation outside the bed. Flanked in front is my potted thyme and parsley.  Against the wall are my mini roses and Meyer lemon.  These are all here to invite the bees to the garden.  Beyond the picket fence are some expiring sunflowers and the Brown Turkey fig tree just loaded with fruit this year!

” If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth; man would only have four years left to live”

                                                    Albert Einstein

The aged iron window planters in the foreground get used in the fall as props for potted Chrysanthemums and look great mixed with my ceramic pumpkins  you see in the background.  And now I have corn stalks to add to the vignette!

Corn Stalks
Corn Stalks

  Autumn is my favorite season……the fall colors and big bold leafy greens in the garden…..I can’t wait!

“A good gardener always plants 3 seeds – one for the bugs, one for the weather and one for himself “

                                                                 Leo Aikman

Yellow Banana peppers 2013
Yellow Banana peppers 2013

Growing really nicely in the bed right now are peppers and a late planted Big Cherry tomato.   Gosh…the tomatoes have been such a problem as a whole but the peppers  have all been fruiting so early!   There’s a  jalapeno, a green bell and the most productive yellow banana pepper I’ve grown so far!  It’s billowing over the jalapeno and I’ve been pickling these beauties for a month already!

Pickled Banana peppers
Pickled Banana peppers

 Just on the other side of the peppers I had planted tomato  plants in the spring….Brandywine,  Green Zebra, and a cherry.  The leaf curl got to each one of them.  The poor tomatoes got so stressed with our hot -then -cool -then -hot weather we’ve had this spring.   Even though I harvested a few great tomatoes from the Brandywine,  I decided  to yank them all because they just weren’t going to make it through the summer.

   Gardening is not a rational act!

                                    Margaret Atwood

                                                           

                                                               Bed #5

Grape Arbor
Grape Arbor

My grape arbor bed has a few tenants this summer!   On the right are my Red Bell peppers,  Sun Sugar and Cherokee Purple Heirloom tomatoes mixed in with basil and cilantro (which I’m letting go to seed).  Under the grape is a Crenshaw melon…….just one so far.

Cherokee Purple
Cherokee Purple
Red Bell
Red Bell
Sun Sugar
Sun Sugar

melon July 4th 2013

I have been teaching myself the how to’s of grape growing for some 5 yrs now!  I started with a Flame seedless, a Thompson seedless and an e-book I purchased from The Grape Guy in South Africa.

 2011 waiting for Arbor
2011 waiting for Arbor
Grapes 2009
Grapes 2009

 

The book is very informative and I have been trying to follow it to the letter yet I have struggled with the pruning on few occasions.   Anyway,  I tore out the Thompson seedless because I thought I pruned it wrong as it never fruited  like the Flame.  I believe now I may have jumped the gun……check out my blog “Finally Grapes!” for the whole story!   At least I’m still challenged by the persistent desire to grow really nice edible grapes!   The renters in this bed are residing where my Thompson seedless should be…….but  take a look at these Flame seedless!

Flame 2013 July 4th!
Flame 2013 July 4th!

Flame Grapes July 4th 2013It’s been 4 long years and a few struggles and I may still not know exactly what shoots and spurs to prune but I will conquer grape growing!   After another season of renters are done producing this  winter I will prepare the arbor bed for a new Thompson seedless and practice my patience in the garden!

 “A garden is always a series  of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself.”

                                                           May Sarton

So…. how nice it was to tour the North Garden sitting down!   The only things missing from this picture tour are the sounds and smells of a garden.  Would you believe I’m working on that!   Anyway, if you enjoyed the North Garden and wish to see more, I’ll be sharing the harvest and the “putting up” of my figs and introducing you to “The Orchard”.

      But before I go here’s a quick look at some of the North Gardens harvest so far this summer!

Basil and chives
Basil and chives
snow peas 2013
snow peas 2013
Onion runts
Onion runts
spinach and green Beans
spinach and green Beans
young onions
young onions
Green Bells / Banana peppers
Green Bells / Banana peppers
Sweet White and Yellow Corn 2013
Sweet White and Yellow Corn 2013
1st Harvest Flame Seedless 2013
1st Harvest Flame Seedless 2013

  

                                     

 

 

 

  

    

 

HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!!!!

 

      I’d like to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY AMERICA!….but in reflection  I’ve been mostly ranting lately…..really…even while on my way out to water  my garden this morning.

      It may be a bitter sweet  4th all around the nation today as the state of our economy is waving more than our flag does these days!  Our so-called out-of-control careless administration in the white house continuously #&%#@*$!!’s   with our future…… STILL NO JOBS…. the small- business  person is sitting on haunches waiting for the BIG FAT MEDICAL ELEPHANT in the room to splat on us all ….. constant border issues…..the usual less than stellar acknowledgement of our soldiers and those who actually work hard to bring home a paycheck…… oh…. and now we are making enemies with Egypt !   All this is good reason to cool off in the garden.

      And in the garden is just where I was this morning….cooling off!  It’s July and usually there’s  so much going on in the garden that I can drown out most any frustrations.  Finally the heat spell has subsided and picking my corn was the first on my list today.  I only planted 18 seedlings,  ( 9 white sweet and 9 yellow), both 90 day maturing.

Corn early June 2013
Corn early June 2013

      I wasn’t sure how well corn would do here and I didn’t want to waste precious bed space so I planted a courgette (zucchini) with the corn .  I also thought if the corn failed at least I would have stalks to dress up the fall garden and maybe even straggly cobs to feed the chickens.    I can tell you  that  I watered, watered, watered and fertilized only once in the total 104 days.   I think it should have been picked a week or so ago but I wanted to wait till the 4th…….a marker I guess…..fresh corn and the 4th of July!  

   

      I understand that the way to know when the corn is ready is that the husks will bend away from the stalk and the leaves will brown off at the base.  Some husks were bent and some were not.Corn harvest July 4th 2013

     So here is my little corn harvest….14 of ‘em. The other 4 were too under mature and I did give them to the chickens.   I picked  the corn late yesterday afternoon with the intent on planting the bed with more bush beans and to use a few left-in-the-ground stalks for pole bean supports. Corn stalk tee pee for pole beans July 1 2013

       We’ll see how this works….or lasts!   I also put in my usual bamboo supports for extra strength then planted the pole beans.   I also planted a second round of bush beans (should be enough summer left for production) in the bed and added 2 of my tomato cages on their sides to give added support.

  With the heat comes the bugs. I’m keeping a watch out for bugs now too.   It’s been so hot  AND I’ve got white fly trying to get at a tomato plant.  I’ve been spraying soapy alcohol and sprinkled DME already.

Tomato cages  supporting bush beans
Tomato cages supporting bush beans
Corn July 4th 2013
Corn July 4th 2013

     Here is my little harvest of shucked corn…..not bad but the kernels are a little dry in my estimation.  Note to self:   fertilize more to try for complete cob coverage and juicy kernels, plant more corn next time and closer together then pick according to my inkling.    I’ll cook up 4 to have with our hot dogs and baked beans  today and freeze the rest.

      With the corn harvest done and the beans planted.  I spent the rest of the morning taking pic’s  of the garden fare, the fruit trees and other plant life blooming around the grounds for my files and for you all to get a better view  of This One Tree’s surroundings in my next blog. 

      With my political frustrations now at bay,  I’m determined to enjoy this 4th of July on my patio this evening with my hubby, a few hot dogs, grilled fresh corn, baked beans and a freshly baked Apricot pie…..  a’ la mode….. for a great ending to a cooler day!   Happy 4th everyone!

GOD BLESS AMERICA
GOD BLESS AMERICA

     

    

Pasilla Peppers, Polenta, Black Beans and Marmalade?

     Today was  one of those “What shall I fix for dinner honey” days.   At our house many of our meals are made on the fly which means not a lot of prepping goes into them.  I prefer to make quick and easy meals that require few really good ingredients.  Plus I mostly try to use whats coming out of the garden and  create a meal around those picks.  Sometimes I make what I call a make-ahead meal or side dish because I have harvested veggies from the garden that need to be used in someway sooner than later.   In fact, yesterday I had put together my Pasilla pepper and Polenta  Lasanga dish (recipe below) because the peppers needed to be used.  We love the mildly spicy but sweet pasilla pepper freshly cooked in many dishes.  This pasilla and polenta recipe is a staple favorite around here.   It is easy to make ahead, cook, and served warm a day or two later.  The flavors are enhanced and blended.

     I planned on serving this pasilla pepper and polenta lasagna tonight and asked hubby to contribute a thought on a side dish.  I mentioned to him I had black beans but didn’t want to serve rice with the meal because the lasagna already had polenta as a carb.  He asked if there was a cucumber and I replied “hello…….of course…tis the season!   This is what he found on the internet:

Cucumber and Black Bean Salad

1 seedless cucumber cut into 1/2 inch chunks  ( a Japanese cuc from my garden)

1 (15 oz) can black beans  ( I use Whole Foods Full Circle organic brand)

1 (8 oz) can or frozen whole corn ( again Whole Foods Full  Circle organic brand)

1 cup cherry tomatoes  (from my garden)

1/2 red onion ( a few small red onions from my garden)

3 TB chopped cilantro  (not on the recipe but added from my garden)

The Dressing

3 TB  extra-virgin olive oil  ( I use Bragg’s organic)

4 1/2 tsp orange marmalade  ( of course I use This One Trees Simply Orange Marmalade)

1 TB lemon juice ( from my own Meyer lemon tree previously juiced and frozen in cubes)

1 tsp honey ( Whole Foods organic)

1/2 tsp ground cumin

Salt and Pepper to taste

Serves 4 hungry people or 6 polite eaters!

Cucumber and Black Bean salad
Cucumber and Black Bean salad

Well THAT was super fast to put together, yummy and it looks so colorful and pretty!  Hubby and I think this salad is definitely a keeper and if doubled this recipe would also make a great summer BBQ buffet/party dish to bring along next time.   Make it and let me know if you agree!

Pasilla Pepper and Polenta Lasagna

Oven set at 350 ……………. and a 2 quart Pirex type casserole dish

6 pasilla peppers;   roasted or micro-waved and outer papery skins peeled

1  “chub” polenta  ( I use organic prepackaged in a tube then mashed til crumbly)

1 ( 15 oz) jar of Cacique Crema Mexicana or ( 8 oz sour cream and 4 oz milk to thin)

2 C. Monterey Jack cheese  ( grated)

1C.  Queso Fresco (crumbled)

2 TB pimento (chopped in the jar)

1 TB cumin

Paprika and Salt and Pepper to taste

* you can add chopped sauteed red onion and  minced jalapeno for added zing if so desired!

To peel pasillas:

* (micro-wave in plastic produce bag till soft but not over done, leave in bag for 20 min)

* roast over flame till all skins bubble and start to char; place in plastic bag for 30 min)

*  remove from bag and peel papery skins off

When pasillas are peeled,  tear into 3 or 4 strips length-wise and place onto paper towel to soak up all moisture left from cooking.

Meanwhile chop and mash up Polenta chub til crumbly.   Add 1/2 grated cheese and chopped pimento, ( onion and jalapeno) if wanted, salt and pepper.  Mix all with hands.

Now begin to layer lasagna style:  starting with bottom layer of pasilla, then a layer of Polenta mixture, layer of grated cheese, then a healthy drizzle of crema or thinned sour cream with sprinkling of cumin.   Another layer Pasilla,  polenta  mixture, cheese, crema and cumin.  You should have approx. 3 layers total to finish.  Sprinkle top layer with remaining cumin and some paprika.  It should look like this when finished…… then into the oven uncovered for 20-30 min or until bubbly.  Sprinkle Queso Fresco on servings.

Pasilla Pepper and Polenta Lasagna
Pasilla Pepper and Polenta Lasagna

    This meal was delish.  The salad is a beautiful and perfect compliment to my Pasilla and Polenta Lasagna!  We have put this salad recipe into our “gotta have again and again” files!  

THIS ONE TREE and Zone 9b!

One tree left
One tree left

    

Embedded in this blog site are the chronicles of This One Tree.  How one lonely neglected and forgotten little orange tree lured me into becoming a gardening fanatic and turning my backyard into a productive and sustainable suburban garden here in Southern California at the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, teetering just on the western edge of the Inland Empire in zone 9b!

     Certainly there have been surprises, frustrations, and mishaps in restoring this very distressed  1/2 acre lot of my husband’s childhood home.   The house and yards had been neglected for some years and then stood empty for 2 ½ years without any  maintenance or care.   The outdoors surrounding this home was filled with a sea of dirt, weeds, many infested fruit trees, a scattering of unused building materials and a broken down station wagon.   It looked like a staging from the Hatfield and McCoy saga!  The task was almost overwhelming and I cried!   Lots!

Were do we start!!!
Were do we start!!!

     However, it is sometimes the memories that cause one to readjust what the eye sees.  This house had not been a notable example of beautifully kept homes in its upscale neighborhood.   It was simple and unpretentious both inside and outside.  The front and back yards were plainly landscaped but neatly manicured.  It was the backyard  especially, having a huge pad of uninterrupted grass and a couple of nice mature shade trees, that received commendations for being the most hosted playground on the block!   For over 40 years this home had once been a thriving hub of activity having endured three mischievous growing boys and their playmates.  And later as a safe and protected haven for their children.  My daughters, being two of those children, have the fondest of memories growing up in this home.  For them, it wasn’t about well-appointed furnishings or a perfectly manicured green lawn,  it was an after school and often times weekend destination that allowed them a sense of security and the freedom to play and explore guided by the love and warmth enveloped by their grandparents.  Yes!  was the families unanimous vote to restore this house to its rightful belonging on the block!

      In assessing the back yard,  one little orange tree had managed to retain its dignity in the very disaster of its surroundings.  This soldier of determination stood defiant and proud in the yard,  green with leaves and  full of  fruit.   It became my inspiration, compelling me to rethink my design approach to this sad unkempt space.   This one little orange tree inspired me to plan, plant and propagate this suburban lot restoring it to a viable, functioning, food-producing success!   It’s been six adventurous years and a lot of trial and error but so far this one tree has blossomed into a star player along with a new selection of companion fruit trees, a substantial raised bed veggie garden, four hens a laying and plans for much more!garden in full production 2010

    This is just the beginning,  so check in often as I will be showing you around the place!  

Oranges back drop best

This One Tree is diligently working on putting together recipes that include oranges, orange zest and/or orange juice as an ingredient.  Many of the recipes are tweaks of some well loved favorites.  We are also planning  to surprise you with some newer concoctions that you might like adding to your list of must haves.  Follow  This One Tree and we will send you these recipes as they come out of the kitchen!

Beware the Bag of Obliteration!

I was complaining in an earlier post…. and quite perplexed I might add…about how leaf curl had just about annihilated my spring crop of tomatoes and some other foreign reason my sugar peas pooped out just while getting growing.  I’ve never had snow pea problems.

Snow Pea in distress!
Snow Pea in distress!
Sun Sugar
Sun Sugar

Because I had more than the usual issues with my garden this spring,  I was reminded of a few articles  I read several years ago regarding killer compost!

When needed, I usually bring in additional soil to supplement my own compost.  I  prepped the North Garden beds with my fertilizer mix but I needed to add compost to 3 of the 5 beds.   This meant that I had to bring in soil/compost from a local supplier.  Because I was lazy and in a hurry this season I went to the big box store close by.   I wanted an organic peat free compost.  Hard to find!

 In one bed as I watched my tomatoes take to aggressive wilted leaf curl for the first time, I assumed it was due to the weather and watering issues.  In another bed  my snow peas halted, curled, and began to turn yellow and dry up not long after they were producing their first flowers and a couple handfuls of mature peas. The cucumbers were also struggling to produce fruit and the beets planted in the same bed also grew poorly.  These veggies were all planted in one of the 3 beds that I had added store bought compost to.  There were no signs of bug infestation or other common bacterial diseases . In contemplation I remembered….killer compost?

In the news back in 2009, controversy over herbicide residues found in our compost was a startling eye opener if you happened to stumble upon any  such articles.  If not; this article posted on the”Mother Earth News” blog site may heighten your awareness.   

It’s now 2013 and this startling bit of information has still had a hard time gaining legs as a national concern.  Fortunately  I have had no major issues in my garden since it’s conception and I’ve been doing well with adding my own compost to the beds so the “killer compost” warning had escaped me until the unusual predicament of my spring garden this year..  

If you inadvertently apply aminopyralid-laced manure compost to your garden, you may suffer the crop-killing consequences for three or more years.

 Gardeners and consumers alike seem to have been preoccupied with the whole GMO vs. non-GMO vs. Organic movement that  we home gardeners may have been sleeping on the  job and we may now be helpless in this back door……or should I say truck bed…. invasion of some killer compost!

  It’s not just pesticide laden or genetically modified strains of produce that is knocking on our doors…… we have killer compost that may be silently and unassumingly hitch-hiking into our very own gardens!  Yep!  Watch out for those loads of composted manure you have trucked in from your supplier, or bags of compost that are piled high at the local big box store!   What about community compost bins that offer free compost for the home gardeners?  The word “Organic” on the bag or stated at your local community garden may not even protect your confidence.

Now I’m not positive that “killer compost” is the dilemma in my garden this season but I will keep a look out  for similar plant destruction and failures in my North Garden beds.   I will also be acutely aware of checking out  the suppliers of any more compost before I choose to bring it onto my property.

In case you have had unusual garden issues  and are suspecting other than weather, watering and pest invasions for curious behavior among your garden fare, you can find some great articles  regarding “killer compost” on the following sites.  Please find the time to click on  “Mother Earth News”  and the “Rachael Carson Council”  as these articles best update and describe this very serious issue!  Harvests are being compromised……which also includes the viable seeds we count on!  Our nations commercial organic farmers and many backyard gardeners are experiencing  dreadful ruination of their crops.

You may also like to read what some small farmers and backyard gardeners here in the USA are experiencing!

 And if you wish to go global……check out Dr. Vandana Shiva’s  blog and read about big corporate owning our seed!   Or if you are into the GMO controversies read an exhaustively   emotional read on the calling out of the Anti-GMO Connspiracy Theory by Mark Lynas;  be sure to read the comments too!

 

 

Whether or not to deal with the Weather or not?!

   

   Today is HOT,HOT, HOT!!!    It is June 29th, 2013 and at 11:00 am it was 105!   The weather all across the western part of the country is experiencing a massive heat spell.  I am thinking of my family members in Phoenix AZ. with expected heat of 118.  WOW!  What an over night shift in weather huh?  I watered the garden very early this morning, threw ice in the chickens water and decided to stay in the rest of the day enjoying the high cost of air conditioning! 

     Just days ago I was agonizing over the prospects of my tomatoes and surprised at the early fruiting of all my peppers!  According to my garden veggies, spring this year has been short of normal.  

    Since planting in early March, the days have been  cool then hot then cool again……..right off the bat in early May I had to yank the zucchini  cuz it had NO male flowers!!  

Of course I only planted one this year because we get sick of too much zucchini and I’m bored with making  zucchini bread or whatever else I could make with ‘em!   I would feed a lot of them to the chickens.  Anyway,  I have just planted a new seedling in a different bed to have a few zucchini  

Zucchini replant June 2013
Zucchini replant June 2013

plus I always grow an extra jumbo size for a friend up in Friday Harbor who enters the towns annual “Zucchini Race” every summer……………she is champ many years in a row so I don’t want to let her down.  Hope I can grow one big enough by mid August!

My tomatoes planted in March all got leaf-curl do the stress I think……. couldn’t get the watering figured out………but they are still producing so I haven’t yanked them.

Brandywine with leaf curl 2013
Brandywine with leaf curl 2013
Sun Sugar cherry tomato
Sun Sugar cherry tomato

 

   

 

The peppers I also planted in March are all fruiting much earlier than the usual July/August and they look amazing!  I’ve been picking and pickling Banana peppers since early June. 

 I also planted a few more tomatoes in early May (for insurance)  and none have the dreaded leaf-curl.  I even rescued and re-transplanted a doomed yellow pear tomato (wish I could find the picture ) that is now showing great promise for a good harvest.

Yellow Pear tomato  rejuvinated

This morning while watering I studied the snow peas.  Two planted right next to each other………so……….why is one plant producing peas and the other just can’t seem to get a grow on?  

Snow Pea in distress!
Snow Pea in distress!

Just as I was inspecting the sickly one for the millionth time……..viola!  I found THIS little bugger!  I’m not used to seeing worms in the garden.  

Its a what worm

Is it a looper!  Reminded of the the inch worm song from the Hans Christian Anderson film.  Cutest song but NOT a cute bug to have on ones snow peas I don’t think!   I thought they just measured marigolds! HA!   I’ll look it up while inside today keeping cool!

Hope all of you are keeping cool too.

 

Finally! Grapes!

Five years ago when our veggie beds were first planted I had also requested that the north wall of the garden be set up for my future grape trellis.  I spent  considerable time searching information on the how-to’s of raising table grapes.  I did not want to end up with the ornamental grape-less vines I often saw.  I wanted to grow true edible grapes.

Living in a valley that was once known for growing grapes that supported quite a few wineries for decades I knew that I shouldn’t fear climate as a possible deterrent.   And as for the ornamental vines that never really produced an edible grape cluster………well, now I know……… there is a purpose to choosing the right variety as well as getting the vine to produce the fruit.    And it was going to take a few years…….4 to 5 years to be truthful!

Young Flame and Thompson 2009
Young Flame and Thompson 2009

I did some in- depth research for several months on selecting a variety of grape that would be suitable for my climate zone.   As there were actually several choices, I wanted a seedless and the heartiest as I was going to commit to 3 to 4 years of managing and watering a plant that was not going to give immediate results.

 Well into my researching, I stumbled onto a website and actually ended up purchasing the E-book ( my first and only one ) from this guy who grows grapes in South Africa!   A comparable planting zone.  He calls himself “The Grape Guy”,  and from this E-book I learned there are 10 classes of grapes (the vitaceae) family, and  only 1 is considered efficient as a table (edible) grape and for wine-making.  These are from the “Vitus-class” of which there are approximately 32 species, “Vitus Vinifera” the European species and “Vitus Labruska” the American species.   Are you with me so far?   The American species and most if not all European species are now grafted onto disease resistant root stock which are the Vitus Vinifera or Vitus Labruska and Riparia.  All because of the deadly root disease “Phylloxera” that attacked and killed off 2/3rds of Europe’s vineyards in the 1800’s! 

Because hubby and I enjoy eating both green seedless and red seedless grapes, I chose a Thompson seedless (European grafted) and a Flame seedless (American developed here in California)  variety of the vitus family……. both popular grape varieties sold in our local grocery stores.  They were planted in the spring of 2008.  Did you know that the grapes we buy in the stores have been grown with a grape hormone to make them larger than mother nature would normally.   Growers use the growth hormone gibberellic acid, not more watering or better fertilizer , to plump up the crop,  all the more reason you might like to plant your own grapevines.

When the vines are planted they need to be managed as they grow.  One cannot just start clipping and chopping at the tendrils.   In the first few years, the center trunk is allowed to grow up and shoots from each side are chosen to be the main arms that will be trained horizontally to grow into what are called the “cane bearers”.  Then on to developing the fruiting shoots and spurs.  All this has taken 3 years and patience.  Even during the first growing years the vine will produce grapes but I was warned to pinch them off and NOT to let them mature because the vine itself needs to mature first!   Really hard to do! grapes early April 2013 2

Believe me……. I have followed my E-book how-to’s almost to the letter!  I have made some boo-boo’s however.  I planted my vines against a wall…….not recommended but I wanted to disguise an ugly wall and so far the vines seem to like where I put them.   I have also made mistakes in cutting shoots that are still a bit unrecognizable to me.  Last fall I even removed the Thompson vine…..possibly by mistake……… because I think I pruned it improperly as I had not seen it produce any fruit in the 3 years so far.  I referred to my E-book and I think I had made a pruning mistake and most likely could have re- developed the vine.

 Anyway,  this early spring was year 4.   With E-book in one hand and pruning shears in my other hand I carefully and diligently snipped at my Flame vine leaving just the right amount of spurs per shoot, managed the shoots and leaf growth, crossed my fingers and watched .   AND OH MY GOODNESS!  I have grapes……. FINALLY!!!!

ripening Flame seedless 2013
ripening Flame seedless 2013
Flame early May 2013
Flame early May 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I couldn’t bare it!   I have already plucked a few ripe little globes off the sets!  So far surprisingly good!  The grapes will also be quite sizable and of course hubby and I will be proud to eat these beautiful globes of Flame seedless grapes!

new grape arbor 2013
new grape arbor 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And so far I am also enjoying my new grape arbor…..made by hubby…….. and have even planted tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, basil and a melon in the missing space that used to hold my Thompson.   I am contemplating planting a new Thompson vine next spring and hoping to make fewer mistakes.

As unpredictable as gardening is……. this truly is the longest I have spent with any one single garden project EVER!  Even composting renders a usable scrumptious product in a few months time.   Of course I say this as I am about to go check on my blackberries!  I have been cultivating these from a gift of berry shoots I was giving 3 years ago.  I couldn’t decide on a spot until this spring so I’ve been clipping the shoots and letting the root stalks mature.  I’ll get a post up for you all in a few weeks after I have indulged in the fig harvest that’s about to happen!

I will post pictures of my grape harvest  and wish me luck next spring!

The Apricot and the Ant!

Apricots!  A delicate fare

Just as we were winding down with the last of the marmalade making, in came a call to come and get some apricots!

I had the great honor today of starting out This One Trees “Private Reserve Preserves” with the seasons first picked apricots at a home just two houses from the home I grew up in!   Ms.  Aimee is my aunt, born and raised on a farm in North Dakota.  She is spry as you please  and has lived in this home for 48 of her 93 years.  She pleaded, “come get the apricots, they’re ready NOW!”    She knew I was canning for other fruit tree owners so she made sure to get on the “Private Reserve Preserves” list at This One Tree!

When apricots are ripe you can’t wait around to harvest them!  They have what I call a short ripe life.  They are extremely susceptible to bruising and they must be attended to A.S.A.P.   In my post “Fruit.i.licious” I explain how harvesting these delicacies are mostly torture and never mind the few bird invasions, it’s the ants that will beat you to the pulp!  Literally!

All that rinsing and still found an ant. A determined soldier!
The Apricot and the Ant!

All that rinsing and still found an ant.  A determined soldier!

This back yard apricot tree is at least 45 years old.  It has a massive craggy and knotty trunk with huge limbs and meandering unkempt branches looking like something one would see illustrated in a witches tale.  It stands as a matriarch to several other fruit trees   ( 3 Meyer lemon and a white grapefruit)  in this yard.  I hadn’t climbed this tree since before my girls were born which was 30 some years ago!  It is not as well maintained as it has been in the past  but this tree is still a big producer.  Picking the apricots is much more labor intensive than “putting them up”, which is what my grandma called canning the goods!  I have fond memories of my grandma and aunt canning the apricots and the aroma of that simmering fruit is still embedded in my mind.  I don’t recall being involved in the canning part of the apricot harvest but I do remember picking and eating freshly picked apricots and grandma’s home made apricot cobbler……YUM!

Fresh Apricots!
Fresh Apricots!

Today I had pick of the best of the apricots.    Just touching some of the branches was cause for a slew of these beauties to release and plummet to the ground below .   After 30 minutes, I had bagged 12 lbs that were perfectly ripe and would yield a few beautiful batches of delectable Apricot jam!

After splitting and pitting and canning 20 pints of jam I still ended up with plenty of freshly halved apricots to put into 3 freezer bags for pies later!

Aimee requested 6 pints of Apricot Jam, plenty to last her till next season!   The rest we have stored in OUR PANTRY ready for you to purchase some!

Yielded 20 pints of jam and filling for 3 pies!
Yielded 20 pints of jam and filling for 3 pies!

The Author

 Welcome to This One Tree!

     Currently you will have to know me as “the wizard behind the curtain”…… or more fitting, “the machine behind the scenes”, and that is just where I’m comfortable right now!

      First of all, I have never had the privilege of calling myself an author!   I usually just call myself busy!    This makes writing about myself a bit of a conundrum.   But I am working on it!   I have contemplated who I am many times throughout my life and as I started to jot down some experiences and accomplishments, I knew to be fair and not leave out the huge challenges,  mountains climbed,  lessons learned and consequences paid.   I can say that I’m no spring chicken and to be honest,  I mostly rule the roost!   I am usually devoted to my passions and have upheld the rule that practice makes perfect!   I am competitive and somewhat work-obsessed, which I think means I’m a type “A” personality.  I still say that I am just a very busy girl!

    This blog is a compilation of the journey I am on now.   I’ve been calling it the quieter, calmer chapter of life;   just in time for what seems to be a trending movement to revisit a slower (The Slow Movement)  sustainable lifestyle!   I’m not sold on the slower part just yet because I am too busy to feel any slowwwwww……….but it is certainly much, much calmer and quieter.   

     As for now……if you choose to browse around This One Tree and catch little snippets and blurbs interspersed in the blogs and pages…… I think you will do well in discovering who I am!