Sunday, July 31, 2011

Strawberries and Zucchinis

Today after stopping homework I watered the containers and the newer fruit trees, and picked strawberries and zucchinis. The biggest of these are "Seascape" Strawberry.  These were planted in containers this February. They are bearing nicely and still blooming well.

I also pruned back the Stanley plum to get it into a low branched bowl shape. The lead had reached about 7 feet. I pruned it back to the lowest point that had good branches in each direction, about 3 and a half feet tall.

Kitchen Garden Progress Report

I pulled the multiplier onions ("yellow potato onion") and garlic from a small bed south of the house. This bed got out of control with weeds, and it looks like most of them died. Or someone ate them. I think I have a dozen to make a new start next year. These are an heirloom variety and I don't want to lose them. Plus they taste really good, but there won't be any to eat this time. I will have a special raised bed or garden box for them next year.

In the place of the onions I planted 2 types of bush beans. The seeds are a few years old. If they don't grow, no great loss. But I think they will. If they do, that should mean beans in September.

Fig cutting

This fig cutting has grown about a foot. I stuck all of the fig branches in this container garden, among peppers and onions, this spring with no special treatment. I didn't care much if they grew. But it's nice if they do. Most have baby-leaves. Those are small leaves that grow before the roots take hold, so remain small. This is the first cutting to take off aaand really grow. This is Desert King, which seems to be harder to root compared to other fig trees.

Once the onion goes, the cutting will have a lot more room.

Container Gardens Progress Report

These beans are growing like crazy! They are blooming great! These are an Italian pole bean. The container is a plastic basket, with holes drilled in the bottom. This is working great! It does need almost daily water though.  I can't reach the top growth now!

Peppers! Before barrels, I could never get them to bear. I can't beleive they are almost ripe.  This is great!  I had garlic plants in this barrel too.  It was the largest garlic I've grown.

More peppers. Cool!  The onions are spring bunching onions.  I planted the seeds in this barrel just to see what would happen.

Peach Progress Report

The peaches have made excellent recovery from peach leaf curl. This tree is the only one with a significant number of peaches. All of the peach trees recovered and are covered with beautiful lush growth. They look tropical.

Despite thinning the peaches, there was some June drop. Maybe July drop. That was the tree saying "I can't manage all of this damn work! I've been sick mister!" Maybe the rest will get to ripen! There are enough for a good taste.

So lush! This fall I really really really have to stip the leaves in November and cover with plastic bag. It works if you do it.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Zygopetallum hybrid

The larger plant is the result of one year of care at home. The smaller plant is new. It's subtle to me, but the smaller plant has lighter leaves. I think that indicates the lighting was better, and may be why the larger plant hasn't bloomed. I had it in brighter sun and now there is some sunburn. I don't know yet it it will bloom later. Always learning.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Little Potato

The newest addition to the family. His name is Henry.

Kitchen Update

We are still in the "what have I done" stage. The good news is that with all of the joists exposed, there is no sign at all of any insect issues. The challenge is that the roof needs better support, so an engineer had to be brought in. If the plans go through, work can resume early next week.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Orchid. An intergeneric oncidium hybrid

I bought this as a throw-away last year. After it bloomed I thought, why not keep it. I repotted, and moved it to my workplace window. After a bit under one year, it bloomed. Interesting how that happens.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Kitchen Day #1

Day #1 of Kitchen remodel.  The change is dramatic.  First, the appliances and plumbing go.
Washer and dryer too.
I wasn't here in between.  Now, the cabinets are gone, the drywall, and the dividing wall.  This view faces the North wall, where we'll have the sink.
View from the dining room.  Much bigger.  Even with dark walls, it's more open and brighter, and will be more so soon.  Top layer of flooring is gone.  Two more finish layers, and one in between, to follow.
Looking into the dining room.  It's much more open now.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Kitchen "Before"

I"ve been planning the kitchen renovation for 10 years. The original plan was to do it myself. There isn't time. It's going to be faster and less long term hassle to contract out.  The extra shifts I am working will help with the extra cost.  Silver lining on a cloud.

The layout will change. Charlie is demonstrating the dining room. The wall dividing dining room from kitchen will go. It will be brighter and more roomy, but less formal.  We don't need, and don't use, formal.

There will be a small counter on the right.  I'll use a lighter color.  The original dining room was traffic signal red.  We painted it lime green.  That was ugly too, so I painted it this earthy brown.  I like the brown but it's too dark.  One thing about paint, it can always be repainted.

The old kitchen will go, but we'll keep the current dogs.  The floor will no longer match the dogs - it will be the same oak as the rest of the house.  I know, it will need to be kept clean.  I'm hoping that the better kitchen will keep me inspired to do a better job.  It worked with the bathrooms so I think it will work here.

We'll keep the cabinets and counter for the garage workshop / workbench.  That will be a big improvement too.  Recycle is good.

The mudroom will go. The wall, dividing current mudroom and kitchen, will go. I'm not sure where Baigou will sleep. He likes the basement family room.  That is an option. More likely the laundry room.  That will be downstairs in a formerly finished basement room, current junk room.

Charlie is demonstrating the Northern aspect of the kitchen.  It's better in the photo than it is in reality.  The sink will face the North-facing window instead of being in the corner.  There will be a real gas range, where the current dishwasher stands. 

It looks bright in the photo but is really cramped, difficult to maneuver around, and not so pleasant for cooking.  I like cooking and I think I will enjoy the change a lot.  It's really for Ning but it will be a real luxury for me too.

Baigou is sitting in the approximate location of the planned island.  That currently non-working oven will be replaced with a free-standing gas range with oven.  I've been waiting to replace the oven for 3 months.  The current oven quit working, but was never completely predictable.  The wall behind refrigerator and oven will go, that is the wall that divides kitchen from mudroom.

The fridge will be in a similar location, but in what is now the mudroom.  Also against that wall, a second, small sink for coffee machine and smoothie station.  Those are my luxuries.  I use them several times daily.  The smoothie blender is also the coffee grinder.  Having their own sink will be a nice touch.

Piña Colada Smoothie:  Start with one cup frozen pineapple chunks.  Full the cup to the top of the frozen pineapple with orange juice.  Add a couple tablespoons of flaked coconut.  Add 1/2 cup of silken tofu.  Blend about 10 seconds.  Check for big chunks and blend a few more seconds if they are too big.  I like small chunks.  It's like a piña colada ice cream or milkshake.  The exact amounts of ingredients don't matter.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

Pruning Sweet Cherries for Backyard Orchard Culture

For my version of backyard orchard culture with sweet cherries, cherry picking time and cherry pruning time are close together. I wouldn't prune before cherries are almost all picked, because then the birds can find them. Birds have not been much of a problem yet. Pruning now has some advantages:

*Summer pruning is considered to have a greater dwarfing effect, compared to winter pruning.

*In a rainy winter climate such as I have, winter pruning may lead to disease. Summer pruning gives the wounds a chance to seal.

*Summer pruning opens up the tree so that potential buds are exposed to sunshine.

*Summer pruning is an excuse to be outside. It's not so nice in the winter.

*By pruning when the cherries are on the tree, it's possible to see where cherries form. On these trees, they form on last year's growth.

These 2 sweet cherries are scruffy and need pruning. The camera angle was bad, into the late afternoon sun.

I cut off the majority of new growth.  For outward facing branches, I leave 6 inches to a foot.  For inward branches, I leave about 3 inches.  Termed another way, I leave about 6 or 8 leaves on outward branches.  I leave 2 or 3 leaves on inward branches.
One is pruned, one to go. It's much neater now, and I can reach all of the branches without a ladder.

The cherries grow in the first part of last year's growth. So the parts that I have left should be good for next year's cherries.

Now it's easy to see the cherries. Before they were hidden in the lush growth. Better get them before the birds do.

These sweet cherries are very good.  Almost like little plums, with a snappy texture and lots of juice.  I wish I was savvy enough when I planted them to know which was which.  Now I keep better track.

Once the cherries are done, I'll also do some thinning in the center, so they are more open to the sun.  They will also probably need a second pruning in late summer.  Not as extensive.  By now they have done most of their growth.
Cymbidiums (cymbidia?) are growing nicely in full sun now. Currently feeding with 30:10:10 and occasional Epson salts, both at about 1/2 teaspoon per 1.5 gallon. This is less than 1/4 strength for the orchid food. It's weakly but more like every-other-daily instead of weekly, for the ones in full sun. The leaves are that nice light green that websites talk about being ideal for cymbidium and some other orchids.

Miltassia or something similar, I think. It's interesting, most of the oncidium intergerics have similar pseudobulbs and leaves, just different flowers. Miltassia is intergeneric Miltonium or Miltoniopsis, with Brassia. Other than the flower, the plant looks like Oncidium or Odontoglossum - completely different genera.

7/16/11 From an orchidtalk discussion, this is a Banfieldara.  From a RHS forum, some Balfieldara are:

> BANFIELDARA Gilded Tower =
> = Adaglossum Summit (Odontoglossum x Ada) x
> Brassidium Gilded Urchin (Brassia x Oncidium)
> Brassada Memoria Bert Field (Ada x Brassia) x
> Odontoglossum Yellowstone Basin

Nice looking plant, view of the plant as well as the flowers. I like looking at the entire plant. Photos with just the flowers don't tell me as much.

Yellow Oncidium. It grows so easily. It bloomed once, and never since. It's now in full sun, resulting in sunburn, but also the new growth is that light apple-green that is sought for many orchids. Maybe that's what's needed to get it to bloom. Better get sun while it can, it's already July.

On Epson Salts - It's not clear that they are helpful. Some people think they help the plants grow faster, assuming there is no other source of Magnesium. "in an experiment the use of Epsom salts brought seedlings to maturity and flowering faster than those which were not provided with magnesium sulfate in the form of Epsom salts". The amount is given as ranging from one teaspoon per gallon with every watering, to 1 tablespoon per gallon, 4 times per year. I've rarely been using them, and at the low rate of one half teaspoon per gallon.

The death of one daydream

Inspection didn't go so well. There was a lot more insect damage to structural systems and floor joists, than the owner apparently knew. Bummer. Not just carpenter ants, but apparently termites and 2 kinds of beetle that I never heard of, which apparently hollow out beams, leaving a nice looking shell and nothing inside. Most likely, the support structures and joists will need either substantial work, or replacement. I can't see the current owner going for that. I can't take it on, so we'll probably move on and look at some other places. Damn.

Friday, July 08, 2011


Haven't counted how many bowls of cherries this year. Lots. Too many to eat them all fresh.  I need to get out and pick many times this tomorrow, so they don't spoil.  Not bad for some dwarf backyard trees.  Backyard orchard culture works.

Clever cherry pitter is handy for anything other than eating them fresh. I pitted a cup of cherries, added orange juice almost to the top of the cherries, a teaspoon of sugar, about 1/3 cup of silken tofu, and blended them to frothiness in the smoothie maker. Very good "milkshake'. Freezing some for pies. Pies have to wait for the kitchen resurrection. That's another story.

Maybe the new weekend retreat.

We've been looking at some places more out of the way, with a little more land but not too much, off the main road but not too far, in reasonable shape but not too expensive, not needing major work but open for puttering. This is the current main contender. A little further north but not too far, climate is still going to be similar to Portland/Vancouver.

The yard is big enough for a couple dozen trees in the "backyard orchard" style that I already use at home. That means dwarf and summer pruned trees that are small enough for all fruit to be reached without a ladder. Hip fractures are not needed. An ongoing fruit crop through summer with multiple bowls of multiple varieties is welcomed.

I've been studying up on paw paws. Grampa used to grow them. They would be experimental in this climate - in theory not impossible, any more than figs are. Paw paws survive a lot colder than figs do, but might need wetter & warmer summers than  we have here. I can devote some ground here to them.  There is room for failure and success. Also more mulberries, plums, cherries. May kiwis.

I may have lots of fig trees if those cuttings grow. I don't know where to put them. There is room here. Also some grape vines, some rhubarb and some other stuff.

Inspection is tomorrow.  The place needs to pass before I get carried away.

The house is an updated, old farm house.  Relaxing.  Does not appear to need any work.

Lilies are blooming

These started as a little throw away potted lily, about 6 inches tall. As the years pass, I divide them now and then. They continue to multiply. They've also grown taller. I may have been over-generous with compost. Before I raised the level, the grass in this location barely grew.

These asiatic lilies are bigger every year too. I did add a layer of compost last year before mulching with bark nuggets. This year I won't add any. They don't need to grow any larger. Must be about 7 feet tall.

Orientals and trumpets are next.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Orchid Progress Report.

Here are some lessons I have learned from experience with orchids, so far:
1. If you buy one in bloom, at least you get the pleasure of having it bloom once. If it has a number of unbloomed spikes, that may be a few months of blooming, depending on the variety. See the Burrageara photo, a fine example.

2. Sometimes you just have to try a few varieties of a genus or species. I've had great success with Dendrobium nobile, mostly Yamamoto hybrids. I've had no success with Dendrobium phaelenopsis, multiple varieties. I think the nobiles like it cooler, and the phaelenopsis like it warmer, and just can't adapt to my environment. Similarly, I've rebloomed a couple of Oncidium intergenerics that are extravagant in their flower production, but can't seem to get a standard yellow Oncidium to bloom no matter what I do. The Cymbidiums I've collected all looked pretty much the same out of bloom, but some are growing rapidly, while the one next to them sits and sulks.

3.  I'm not sure how much the container type matters.  I have some in glazed orchid pots, with lattice sides that allow drying of medium quickly.  Others in clay pots.  The clay does seem to build up salts.  The references recommend occasional drenching with rain water to prevent salt buildup.  I've been bad about doing that.  Some are in plastic pots.  I think Cymbidiums do well in plastic.  I've been going to clay for the Oncidium intergenerics lately.  Still trying to decide what's best, or if it matters.

The Yamamoto Dendrobiums are on the south deck under the grape arbor. For much of the day, they are in full sun. The young starts are growing quickly. I am feeding them high nitrogen 30:10:10 except for Apollon Spring Dream, which has the start of buds, looking a bit floral - so it's gettin 10:20:20.

A Miltoniopsis hybrid that, according to my label I bought and repotted in late 2010. After reading they can be difficult, I didn't expect much but never got around to throwing it away. Now producing a flower spike. There you go. That's why I salvaged another Miltoniopsis that I almost threw away - time will tell if that "dormancy" actually killed it.

Burrageara Nellie Isler. As I recall, this is Stefan Isler with some additional Miltoniopsis, hence the larger skirt. Quite fragrant. There are 3 unbloomed spikes, so I expect it to bloom for a long time. I repotted it into a squat 6" clay pot to give it a chance for growth, as well as better wet/dry pattern than the miniscule plastic pot it was in originally. These are labeled as "azalea pots".    I haven't seen that repotting, even in full bloom, is a set back for most orchids.  Leaving them in their original pots can be a challenge, because they are often packed very tightly and in a medium that might have worked in a greenhouse but not necessarily in my hands.

Here are the Cymbidiums. These are North of the house, but get full sun for several hours daily, as can be seen here. They will have to move when the contractor comes next week to tear out the old kitchen - not sure where I'll put them. I just up-potted one that I thought dried out too fast, not a big deal just pulled it out and put into a larger pot with as little disturbance as possible. The medium was recent, from this winter, so it did not need an aggressive replacement. Also here is an oncidium, now unfortunately sunburned. Doesn't like the sun that the Cymbidiums and Dendrobiums love, but it also hasn't bloomed in about 5 years, so maybe this will help it bloom. The new growth are pale green which is said to be a good thing.

Grape progress report.

I wondered if I almost killed them during the pruning this year, because I removed so much growth. Then there was a hard freeze.  Not the case. Now as lush as ever. The grape clusters have barely started to form, but there may be over a hundred clusters.  The arbor shades the bedroom so well I think the temperature is 10 degrees cooler. I did not measure that effect however. One issue is that the branches grew so fast, some broke off at their origin. I've been pruning a few back. The chickens love eating grape leaves, denuding branches within minutes on throwing them into the chicken yard.

Some vines have grown more than 6 feet already, and they are not done yet.

Some more roses

"Fair Bianca" is a David Austin rose. Pure, pure white. So white it's difficult to photograph. The fragrance reminds me of Mme. Hardy. Spicy. This rose has been off to a slow start, partly due to raspberries that over run it. I need to be more diligent. It's a beautiful and beautifully-scented rose.

Tranquility, not an Austin but 'almost'. Also really beautiful, the palest pink possible without being white. Wide open, many petaled rose, spicy fragrance. In my garden it tends to grow tall, about 6 feet.

Sceptered Isle, an Austin rose. It gets up to 10 feet or more. Nice rose, pretty, can't go wrong but I think I need to find a more roomy place for it.

Evelyn, another David Austin rose. Not too prolific here, but tolerates the dry summer and the flowers are large, unique and fragrant.

Happy Child, also a David Austin rose. Nice color. To me it's a tea-rose fragrance, unlike a lot of Austins that have a spicy fragrance.  I moved it last winter, wondered if it would survive. It did.