Monthly Archives: May 2013

Fruit.i.licious!

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To be “Organic” or enjoy a “Good Harvest”?

        I was browsing the Freshly Pressed venues just before getting ready to post a blurb about one of my tomato plants that seems to be struggling with leaf curl ( although not usually a deadly condition ) when I stumbled on a post that completely describes my frustration when it comes to explaining my choices in following the practices of maintaining an “organic” garden as opposed to the “chemical / synthetic” practices of our modern farming techniques !    The truth is that there are insidious as well as manifested problems that come with engaging in any of the known  techniques of gardening  in my experience ( as little as I have).   Although I’m currently an advocate of “organic” gardening, there are some veggies that I have held off planting due to their likeliness of getting unfortunate traumatic diseases and it would be too devastating for me to have wrapped my hopes around a beautiful potential bounty only to have to rip it out or discover upon harvesting that there is little or nothing to harvest!
leaf curl on my tomato
leaf curl on my tomato

      So………do I spend most of my gardening time hovering over each and every plant searching for infestation or some cosmically altered reason why my tomato plant just took a dive and the one right next to it is thriving?  Not anymore!  My usual response to this phenomenon is, what the @%&$*#(@ is wrong now?   Although there are many guesses as to why leaf curl occurs,  no one expert knows exactly why except that, in a word, each plant is it’s own just as we humans are.  Its my deduction anyway.   So in my garden the action I take is either “yank it” or “monitor it” depending on how far into the season the problem plant is and whether it is life threatening to it’s neighbors.

     You see, I already spend a considerable amount of time planning and securing the best probable techniques and placements when planting my garden.  My goals are usually lofty (organic) but I expect that there will be issues along the way.  For example:  I’ve contemplated often about whether its profitable to try and grow only heirloom tomatoes as opposed to tomatoes that are already modified and conditioned to be disease resistant!   Quite frankly, sometimes it’s hard to decide as the taste AND texture of any homegrown tomato far exceeds that of the too-soon-picked,  thick waxy skinned,  tasteless tomato at the grocery store!   And heirloom tomatoes are more vulnerable to diseases and don’t usually provide a huge harvest, per plant anyway.  As of now, I continue to plant both and enjoy both.

     So as to not go on any further explaining the joys or not of trying to grow an “organic” only garden,  I defer to this guest post; “Why I’m Through with Organic Farmingauthored by Mike Bendzela.  Reading this really set the tone for me when it comes to the convoluted and complicated explanations I come up with when describing my practices of “organic” gardening vs. not organic?   Its a long piece as the blog site author describes, but it says it like I mean it!    One example, and I quote;  ” Organic farmers use pesticides and they have to follow the same laws as non-organic farmers.  No amount of special pleading (“But they’re natural!”) negates this fact”.   How ’bout them apples?   Another humorous statement to contemplate and I also quote;  “As one of the partners of Dow Farm daily injects himself with insulin that is produced through recombinant DNA technology,  does this mean he can never consider himself an “organic” farmer?  Good one!

      Please indulge me, for this is truly a well written piece!

     At the end of the day,  I have concluded that “organic” vs. “modified” or”chemical” seems to be even more convoluted, thanks to the intelligent teeter tottering of our agricultural rulers, attorneys and their uncompromising  laws!   As a gardener consuming what I grow,  all I desire is that the foods I ingest have a fairly strong chance of rendering  their vitamin and enzyme content in the most practical and wholesome way in order to keep me and the ones I love strong and healthy.   

Simply Orange Marmalade

Our "Simply Orange Marmalade"!
Our “Simply Orange Marmalade”

 

     It all started with one lonely backyard orange tree.  Little was it known that this one tree would work so hard to maintain its rightful place in our backyard.  Each year our little tree produces an astounding sometimes overwhelming amount of oranges.  It seems sad not to share some with our neighbors!  The juicy globes of sunshine from this one tree are consistently just the right size, color, texture and sweetness to make some very yummy marmalade.

      For our “Simply Orange Marmalade”  we use the best of the bunch from our little tree.  We use the whole of the orange, not bothering to cut out all that white pithy part as many recipes call for.  One can see in the picture that these oranges have a very thin rind and pith providing just the right amount of natural pectin which is why our oranges make such awesome marmalade!  We don’t worry much about any bitterness and we use the juice for a more intense flavor. 

      Our “Simply Orange Marmalade” is home made in small batches and available to our local residents and fans.  We do not ship as of yet so you have to come and get it!   It comes in pint jars and pricing for our 2014 season is $8.50 per jar.   Empty jar exchange is $7.75.   Maximum 4 jars per order!    

     Beware that you must be in the loop” as we are able to can only so many jars of our coveted locally grown fare. “Simply Orange Marmalade” is our star player and we have fresh new batches each spring.  Check “up coming events”  for order dates.  First come first serve!

Missed out?   Check out our list of other favorites for prime time availability or see whats still in “OUR PANTRY” !

Spring has sprung and so has this blog!

As a newbie start-up blogger I am anxious to get some blogs posted!  YEP!  I’ve got a good slew of em’ already to go.  Since the first of March I’ve been out in the garden prepping, sowing seeds, planting seedlings, and monitoring the fruit trees as they began budding.    And along the way clicking pictures to add to my illustrated record of our evolving estate…..  (well to me it’s an estate,  meaning a sizable piece of land with a large house).   And for hubby and I living on a half-acre in the city with a 3,100 sq. ft. rambler qualifies as an estate.

last of 2013 harvest
last of 2013 harvest

It’s now the middle of May, the last of our oranges have been harvested (which means quite a few more batches of marmalade) and spring is bursting out in abundance in the garden and on the fruit trees.

Last of 2013 harvest!
Last of 2013 harvest!

Yes!  Yes, I know!    Gardening  blogs are slathered all over the internet and I’ll likely be buried in the myriad ,  but my mission isn’t to be the most followed of blogs on the net.

Figs galore!
Figs galore!

I am responding to requests from friends and fans challenging me to put my jams on the market and my citified gardening experiences out for public review .   Plus this newly hatched blog may……just maybe…… have a slightly different twist.   I am about to embark on a journey into the realm of “Cottage Food Operator”.   After 6 years of remodeling, restoring  and bringing  back to life my husband’s childhood home and especially its 1/2 acre lot,  it occurred to me that I could share the experience in a uniquely different way.

Hass avocado is size of my thumb!
Hass avocado is size of my thumb!
itty bitty valencias; our cash crop!
itty bitty valencias; our cash crop!

I am hoping to engage an active group of garden loving  Californians, ( perhaps even other bloggers) with experience and expertise to share, that would enjoy the journey with me.   It could be vicarious, active participation, or even just informative.   My garden has become viable and fairly sustainable, but non-the-less provides too much for me and my hubby to gobble up!

Share it?    Well…………….. that’s the plan…… and……if any of you gardeners out there in blog land would like to offer your expertise, experiences or even some pointers,  please do!  Join me;  I enjoy the company!

“CFO” has new meaning here in Sunny California

Our "Simply Orange Marmalade"!
Our “Simply Orange Marmalade”!

     Words like;   Home Grown…….Heirloom…… Sustainable……Seasonal……Organic……Small Batch……Artisanal……Canning……Non-GMO…..vermi-composting …..raised beds……spring up all over the gazillion food and veggie garden blogs that reside on the internet.  And yes these buzz words are an integral part of daily life here at This One Tree.  

      Add “Profitable” and “CFO” to the buzz word list as these have new meaning to the home gardener and  entrepreneur here in sunny California and may soon grace the pages of food and garden blogs.  The twist is  the passing of the “Cottage Food Operator” (thus CFO) bill in January of 2013.   This has opened up a new category in the land of blogs for a California homegrown like me.   California is known for its wide array of ethnic and fusion restaurants and “artisanal food” store fronts.  Farmers Markets have been gaining popularity in the last decade and now there’s HOME MADE!!    A niche that may be filled with an assortment of unique, inventive concoctions, and  the reinventing of home style and traditional family recipes from the past.  

     As a soon-to-be “Cottage Food Operation” , This One Tree will be able to offer up some of  its harvest in the form of Jams, Jellies and Butters, ( we call them J.J. and B’s to our local residents and fans.  We have spent a few years playing with some recipe configurations and have decided that some of the simplest good old-fashioned seasonal pantry favorites just can’t be beat.  

    To start,  you can click on “Simply Orange Marmalade” available  in  OUR PANTRY.   Also browse our list of other traditional and yummy J.J. & B’s!    Remember, we are a small batch producer so it is first come first serve.  

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!  

A Natives view of living in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains

San Bernardino Mtns from our front yard!
San Bernardino Mtns from our front yard!

      Here in Southern California it is said that the sun always shines.  Well….. the four seasons effect may not be as obvious here as it is in the eastern states but I will say this as a native Californian, we do have four seasons.  Our seasons may be milder out here in the west coast but each in their ways are still the antithesis of the other.

      Although here in the Inland Empire we enjoy a special set of circumstances or as I like to say…..special benefits!  You may have heard of a place in Southern California where one could ski down a fresh path of snow then hang ten on the surf all in the same day!  Well its true!   I could easily enjoy my 20 minute drive to Mt. Baldy in time to enjoy the morning sun while skiing down the slopes then drive right back down the mountain and south on the local freeway to end up at our popular Newport Beach just one hour (or less) away to reap the rewards of a suntan and end the day with a glass of wine at sunset!  And of course not to forget that there is always some sun a hour the other direction (east) ending up in  Palm Springs another famous and popular destination in our local desert!

      In winter it rains plenty most years and it can get very cold.   Our San Bernardino Mountains are gifted with a few great ski resorts just minutes away!    As an avid snow skier, I can tell you that it is awesome living close to several ski resorts.  One, Mt. Baldy, being my favorite (when there is lots of snow) is 20 minutes from our house!   And then there is Mountain High, Big Bear, Bear Mountain, and Snow Valley all within  1 and 1/2 hrs  drive! 

       Down along the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains acres and acres of citrus (mostly orange and lemon) were planted.   I grew up waking to the smell of smudge pots that were fired up to keep the groves from freezing on nights when the temps would drop down into the 30’s.   School boys in need of extra cash would scramble from grove to grove lighting these smudge pots so no one would lose their crop.  Alas, most of these citrus groves have been replaced with shopping developments and housing.  I miss the strong sweet smell of the orange blossoms that were so dominant in early spring!

     Spring comes on more subtly and sometimes its a bit confusing to wake up and look out my window at a fresh clad of snow on our local mountain peaks and at the same time admire the rebirth of  brightly colored new leaves bursting out of hibernation on the beautiful Moravian Ash trees that line the parkways of our street.  I guess someone who lives where it is heeded to wait until after the last frost to plant their garden would be jealous of us here as we can usually plant crops directly into the garden beds;  no need for a hoop house or cold frame.  Often we can plant much of our spring gardens as soon as mid February.   I didn’t even start any veggies by seed for the longest time.  It was much easier to buy seedlings ready to put in the ground from our local nurseries or big box stores.  I have since learned the value and joy of seed saving, planting those seeds and watching them grow……. as organically as possible too!Spring Garden

     Here along the highland corridor there were also dense vineyards.  It was common to visit a local winery and enjoy a wine tasting.  By the time I was in high school most of the vineyards had also been sold to housing or business developers.   The few that were left remained popular party destinations for high school and college students!   This was because the vineyards (somewhat like a corn field) provided a discrete hideaway for underage drinking and excellent coverage from local law enforcement.  There was usually an easy escape route!   In my garden, I have planted a Flame seedless and a Thompson seedless which are popular table grapes for us here.  I don’t plan on these vines harboring any party goers but the lizards enjoy refuge in the shade of the leaves that trail along the wall.

The summers here in the Inland Empire can be miserable.  I’ve been back east plenty of times in the summer and can’t bear the humidity,  however those who think a dry heat is best wouldn’t hang out outside on the our patio much when temps hit upward of 95/106 degrees!   We can count on getting a few of these hot spells each summer and they can last  for several days to a week or so.    The heat can really stress out a garden but tomatoes and other hot weather garden veggies love it as long as their feet are cool and moist.  And at the end of the day nothing beats a summer BBQ with freshly picked veggies from the garden, a rib eye and some of our favorite cold micro beers!

I love autumn!   Many days are crisp and invigorating.  This is my favorite time to be outdoors and particularly in the garden!

Our Lavender Crepe Myrtles in Autumn!
Our Lavender Crepe Myrtles in Autumn!

As I clean up and prep the garden beds from the summers harvest, I usually get to enjoy my Crepe Myrtles as their leaves turn, reminding me that I have much more to enjoy around my yard than whats growing in my garden boxes.  In early autumn I get to plant my favorite veggies!  No greens in the garden do it for me as much as spinach and arugula.   I grow lots of it and in addition I always plant a variety of lettuces,  Swiss chard and kale!  Most of these greens can be grown equally as well in early spring.  There are plans on the table for ridding more of my backyard of grass so I can put in additional raised beds for root veggies like carrots, potatoes ( I’m asking for a real challenge here) and more beets!  Did I say I love beets!   Another rather large raised bed addition in my yard will be for asparagus.   It is a premium veggie in the stores,  it grows great here in zone 9b and hubby and I never get tired of eating it.   Growing your own veggies and greens is not rocket science.  It takes minimum effort and the reward of eating right when you pick means  that your eating the greens when they are the most potent.  The vitamin factor is huge when you eat that days pick!