Thursday, September 20, 2018

Fig Jam. 9.20.18

 Despite the challenges of yellow jackets, and then ants, I harvested a bowl of figs yesterday.  For ants, I usually wrap a 6 inch section of trunk with plastic wrap, then apply Tanglefoot over it to prevent them from climbing.  But had not done that until last week.  Their numbers are greatly reduced now, and there are figs without ants to harvest.

I usually dry extra figs for later use in breads or hot cereal, but this time wanted to make jam.  I make freezer jam, because I have not learned canning.  I also think that canning cooks longer, and I don't know the effect of that on the nutrition.

However, there is cooking with this jam before freezing.  That breaks down the structure of the figs so they mix better with the pectin solution.

I used Sure-Jell, the one for less or no sugar.  The fig recipe still called for what seemed to me like a lot of sugar.  I followed the recipe because it cautions that using less sugar can result in the pectin not jelling.

It's pretty easy.  I used about 4 1/2 cups of figs.  Washed, cut into half, then used food processor to cut them into a chunky mixture.  I didn't puree, because I like chunks of figs in the jam.  That yielded 2 1/2 cups, which is what the recipe called for.

Then placed into sauce pan.  Mixed pectin with water as the recipe in the box described, added the sugar and lemon juice, and brought to a rolling boil while stirring.  Then portioned into  pint size jars, let cool, and froze. 

This actually jelled almost too well.  I might have been able to use less sugar.

The recipe was:

2 1/2 cups chopped figs.
1 cup water.
1 pkg pectin

 1/4 cup lemon juice (3 small lemons)
3 1/2 cups sugar.

I  mixed the pectin with 1 cup cold water to disperse, and heated in microwave for a minute.  Stirred, then stirred into the pan of figs. Added the sugar, then lemon juice.  Brought to rolling boil, frequently stirring.  Then immediately ladle into clean pint jars, apply lids, then let cool before freezing.  The lid is not tightened until it is frozen.

The appearance is nice, reddish jelly.  It was very good stirred into yogurt.
I think next, I'll try the Pomona pectin, which I read does not require sugar, or as much.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Echinacea From Seeds. 9.17.18

Echinacea Seedlings.  9.17.18
This is the row of Echinacea seedlings.  Not hybrids - these are the wild type, native "Purple Coneflower".  I planted them mid summer, about July 15 (so 2 months ago) in full sun, in a historically hot summer.  I watered the row every day.  Most of the summer planted flowers did not grow, but these came through.  They are all sizes.  Maybe that reflects the diversity of seeds that are from a wild type, as opposed to a cultivar.  I think they will bloom nicely next year.  Deer resistant, drought resistant, nice flowers, pollinators like them, and growing from seeds is not too hard, if one is patient.

A Little Optimism. 9.17.18

Planting things in late summer or fall, takes a little optimism.  It means, maybe I'll be around next year to appreciate the results, and the world will still be here, and there will not be any disasters to blow it all to smithereens.  It means I'm willing to take some little effort, to make next Spring, and beyond, a little nicer.

So today I bought a hybrid Echinacea - this one is "Aloha", and is interesting because of the yellow color.  I'm becoming more enthusiastic about Echinacea because, so far, deer and rabbits don't seem to eat them, slugs seem to leave them alone, and they don't mind the hot dry summer.  I read they would not like wet winters, but so far mine have survived that.

The irises were sold as rebloomers for the Pacific Northwest.  We'll see.  The varieties are "I'm Back", "Come Again", and "Corn husker".  Reblooming irises generally bloom during the rainy season, in my yard, so the flowers look like wet sopping tissue paper, not worth it.  We'll see what happens with these.  Again, there is some optimism, because in previous years, I had problems with bacterial and fungal rot for bearded irises.  This year, the survivors looked good, so I'm trying again.  They are my favorite May flower.

In that box are 2 garlic heads, sold in the store as "Heritage California Softneck" garlic.  I will plant it next month, along with cloved from heads that I grew this year, and an order from Territorial Seeds for other types.  These will be fenced in, because deer and/or rabbits eat them all off in my yard.   I tried fencing covers for individual rows, but as soon as the leaves grew through the fencing, they were eaten off.  Again, it takes some optimism - planting garlic in the fall, means a harvest the following July.

There are some daffodils in there too.  I planted them in a row, like a kitchen garden crop. 

Paw Paw Progress Report. 9.17.18

Paw Paw "NC-1".  9.17.18
Most of the paw paw fruits made it through the hot dry summer without problems.  Some that were exposed to full sun, have blackened areas where the sun was brightest - something to think about next year, if they set fruit again.

This was a very hot dry summer.  My ability to keep things watered, was overwhelmed.  But I did manage to water each paw paw tree with about 10 gallons of water, once weekly, using the "5-gallon bucket with 1/4 inch holes in bottom" method.  They are also mulched with tree leaves from last fall.

I'm guessing they will ripen in October.  No way to know, this being their first year to set fruits for me.  The "NC-1" might be bigger, because that was the only fruit on the tree.  The "Sunflower" set about 2 dozen fruits.  Those are smaller, compared to the one on "NC-1".
Paw Paw "Sunflower".  9.17.18

The apple, there for comparison, is a Rubinette.  This happens to be an average size apple.

Figs with Yellow Jackets. 9.17.18

 This year, almost all of my breba crop was lost to yellow jackets.  I've grown figs for 18 years, and never lost a crop to any insect, including yellow jacket.  This year was kind of a biblical plague of the creatures.

One nest was inside the garage wall.  After trying traps, and catching what looked like thousands, I gave in and hired an exterminator.  That took care of those.  However, there are still yellow jackets now eating the main crop.  I've hung traps in the trees, which are catching many yellow jackets.  There seem to be less, but there is still some damage.  We'll see!

More tomatoes, for drying. 9.17.18

 I've made enough tomato sauce.  There are still some ripening tomatoes, especially on the sauce tomato plants.  Now, with cool wet weather, there are rotting tomatoes too. 

I wanted to make use of some of the remaining fruits.  It's been a great tomato year!  So, I gathered what I could find, and it turned out there were more than I thought.  I washed them off, sliced them, and put them through the dehydrator.

I use a low setting.  They turn black in the high setting.

These are so delicious.  Great in salads, casseroles, breads, cornbread.  When thoroughly dry, almost crispy, but not black, I place them into a freezer bag and store in the freezer.  That way they don't get moldy or flies.  They'll be good for a year.

Sun drying is not an option in this weather.  Plus, I think the UV might decrease nutrients and flavor.  The air dryer is a perfect way to preserve these tasty fruits.

Friday, September 07, 2018

Sauce Tomatoes. Tomato sauce. Great year in 2018. 9.7.18

Despite other challenges, the sauce tomatoes have been a start crop this year.  Until 2016, I thought that growing sauce tomatoes wasn't worth the effort, but had never tried.  Then I grew some, and made my own sauce, and I was amazed at how good it was.   Far better than any commercial sauce.  I also thought it would be a lot of trouble to make tomato sauce, or very complicated.  It's not.

The challenges of growing sauce tomatoes, in my yard:
1.  Deer.  So I grew them in a fenced bed this year.
2.  Lack of experience.  Now I have it.
3.  Blossom end rot.  This was a big challenge during previous years.  I read it was insufficient calcium, or too much watering, or too much nitrogen.  I added lime to the soil, watered less, and gave less nitrogen, but did not have an improvement.  This year, I grew 3 varieties:  Ranger (From Territorial Seeds), Big Mamma (From Burpee), and traditional Roma (I forget where ).

As it turned out, the Ranger and Big Momma had not blossom end rot at all.  The Romas, in the same bed, had a fair amount.  So I think the hybrids are better.  As for flavor, I didn't test side by side, but the sauce is excellent.  As for productivity, the Big Mamma tomatoes are huge!  And meaty.  But the Ranger tomatoes are a good size and meaty, and I think pounds per plant is more with the Rangers.  I didn't measure, but I got a lot more tomatoes on the Ranger plants.
The photos show how I make the sauce.  No added salt or sugar or anything, just tomatoes.  Additives go in when I make something using the sauce.  It's very simple.

1.   Wash the tomatoes.  Remove stems.  Cut each into big chunks - halves or quarters.  No water is added.  No salt, no sugar.

2.  Heat on low/medium until they release their juices and start to boil.  Stir with wooden spoon to prevent sticking to the bottom, about once
every 10 or 15 minutes. Then reduce to the lowest setting.
I change to a mesh colander for lid.

3.   Simmer for about 90 minutes.  I've seen shorter and longer times.  This works for me.  Volume reduces by about 1/3.  I think more watery tomatoes would need longer.

4.   Replace lid and let them cool off.  A few hours or overnight.

5.  Use food processor to puree, skins, seeds, and all.  I don't remove anything.

6.  Portion 1 cup per labeled 1-qt freezer bag.  Freeze flat, then arrange in plastic box in freezer like cards in a file.  I use these about one per week, for a year or more.

I think most sites say they will keep for a year.   I think that by the end of the season, I'll have about 50 pouches, which gives me about 1 per week, which is about perfect.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Bearded Irises. Trying Once Again. 9.6.18

Night Hawk.  2013.
Mixed Bearded Irises.  5.19.15
Edith Wolford.  5.15.14
I had given up on bearded irises.  They are probabl my favorite perennial flower, at least when in season.  And they are considered very easy to grow.  They survive hot dry summers, buy going dormant, so need little care then.

However, for some reason, they've done so poorly in some years and locations, I gave up.  They develop leaf spot and bacterial rot, die and fall over.  Meanwhile, it's difficult to keep them weeded.  So I gave up.  I didn't throw them away.  Instead, I dug out the clumps and moved them to the sunny side of the edge of the woods, where I cleared out blackberries.  There, I let them be, to die or grow as they see fit.

This year, there wasn't much  bloom.  I didn't expect it.  But the leaves were stronger and thicker than in previous years, and they did not have any bacterial rot or leaf spot, which were scourges for me.  Deer didn't touch them, which is great.  I did not water all summer long, and they continue to survive and grow into healthy-looking clumps.

Unlabeled Bearded Iris Clumps - In Recovery.  9.6.18

Bearded Iris Rhizomes Planted Summer 2018.
 I decided to give them another try.  This time, I'll plant them in unamended soil, unlike the compost-amended soil that I had in raised beds in the past.  This location was a blackberry bramble for many years.  In 2017, it grew sweet corn.  In 2018, it grew garlic.  I have not added compost.

As for which irises, since I was basically discarding them, I didn't label the clumps.  I'm leaving most in place in the border, but re-rescuing any that are in shade or too close to trees.  One is transferred from a front border.   Most but not all, are historic varieties.

In addition, I ordered rhizomes from Schreiners' in Oregon.  This is the best sources, of the healthiest rhizomes, that I know.  I ordered, and planted, Victoria Falls (light blue), Cheetah Cheeze (Variegated Orange flower with white splashes), Zin City (Burgundy), Play to Win (Yellow falls, white standards), Beverly Sills (Pink-ish, an older variety), Edith Wolford (I liked this in garden.  Blue falls, yellow standards), Red Hawk (and old one that I grew and liked, brick red, sort of), Owyhee Desert (an odd combination of white and sandy buff colors, and tiny burgundy splashes), and Padded Shoulders (white standards, falls with splashes of buff).  There was a free bonus of Starting Fresh - white standards, falls with blue and white.

That's probably  more than I should have bought.  I know that if they bloom, I'll  like them a lot.  This location is difficult to reach with the garden hose, so I want it to need minimal or no water next summer, good for irises. 

I also picked up  the package shown, from Costco.  The deep red color is "My Friend Jonathan" and the blue is "His Royal Highness". 

I may move a few other clumps that are in the trees, where they will dwindle away unless moved.

It will be nice if they bloom like they did at their best.  If not, it's not much of a loss.   I'll hope for flowers next may.

The Bamboo transplants, progress Report. About 2 summers later. 9.6.18

 These are the timber bamboo divisions that I divided (via Sawzall) and planted in Jan, 2016.  They are in the chicken yard, so get more water and fertilizer (via chicken) than other bamboo plants that I planted.  They have made great progress.

The original photo is a link to my prior post, when transplanting them in Jan, 2016.

My conclusion, is that the Sawzall method of dividing bamboo clumps, works.  They took hold, and are growing nicely.  There is a big variation - one fell over last winter, and has just a small pole which does look healthy.  The others are becoming nice shade for the chickens, and are taller than the original poles.

Resuming again. Again. :-) 9.6.18

Well, it's been a challenging summer in the garden.  The heat was difficult to deal with.  With many days over 100, I had to water some kitchen garden crops daily, or lose them.  It was hard to be out there watering.  Yellow jackets destroyed most of the summer fig crop - a new problem, first time in 18 years of growing figs.  That wasn't just here.  Home Depot and Fred Meyer ran out of yellow jacket traps.  The onions were repeatedly eaten my rabbits or deer, despite some creative mini-fences, so there was not crop of those.  I did get a crop of garlic despite the rabbits/deer, but it took frequent adjustments in coverings, and repellent sprays.  So some changes will be needed next year.

However, we got through the summer.  Subsequent posts will update some of the progress, and preparation for what comes next.  Some will be better attention towards the challenges of climate, herbivores, predators, and my own limitations, which are more than before.

Cheers!  On the the next joys, which are what it is all about.