Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hot Damn, Peach Jam!

My mom and I planted the peach tree as soon as we got settled in our little house back in '97. It was to mark our new adventure here in Austin and nothing makes me happier than to see our little tree covered in fruit! I have no idea what variety it is, but I know that if we have a cold, wet winter, we'll have fruit! From what I've read, you need between 400-750 chill hours here in the hill country to set fruit and I'm guessing that mine is closer to 750.

I knew nothing about growing fruit trees back then and chalk the health of my tree up to pure luck. I pruned it whenever I felt like it needed a haircut, never once fertilized or watered it but for the past several years have stuck to the thinning, which leaves a mess of marble size balls all over the ground for the bugs n' birds, I always save a big bowl for my neighbor Hai, who is Vietnamese and grew up eating unripe peaches with salt! It's nice to share before they're even ready!

Dorothy is excellent company in the garden. After she's chased away any birds or squirrels she slows down and investigates the plants, she actually closes her eyes when she smells flowers, she's pure sweetness. She also snorfels up the rotten peaches that have fallen to the's nothing I encourage, but it's also something I can't she loves them...flies and all.

The bounty minus the 'greenies' still sitting outside on the table in the sun.
I didn't count them this year, but my last harvest was 3 years ago and I stopped counting then at 200. Thinning really makes the difference. The rule of thumb, is one peach per 6 inches...which means that you thin up to 92% and it seems crazy when you're doing it, but a mature tree simply can't hold the weight of all that fruit and you can damage the tree, mine is already bifurcated (when the main trunk splits) so I take this seriously. I fill the sink about halfway, then wash'em good before the dirty work begins.

And this is what I mean. I leave the peaches out for a few days to soften before I begin and once you move the bowls there are always a few worms that have jumped ship. The enemy: plum curculio beetle larvae...eating it's way through the peach flesh. I don't mind sharing though, it beats spraying or dealing with chemicals.
There's the little guy.

And this is more like what you find in each peach, several worms.
The chickens got 5 big cereal bowls full of brown peach flesh, pits and the last bowl they were getting kinda bored.
Once they're cleaned and de-wormed though, they're just the same as any other peach, only they're organic...and the processing is one of the reasons you pay more for organic food.In all the batch I only found one perfect peach...when I cut it open, sure worms. Hard to believe they missed it...they're so thorough.

Always have a secret ingredient...or it ain't yours!
So, in my big beer brewing pot, I fill it halfway with peaches, add a cup of lemon juice, and a packet of pectin...half the sugar, about 2 1/2 cups (organic), half a jar of pickled jalapenos and cook it long enough that the peaches are soft and 'gooshay' (that's for you Ellen!) After it's up to a good boil, I add another 2 1/2 cups of the sugar and drop the heat a bit. The secret ingredient goes in at the beginning as well!

mmmm, makes the house smell wonderful!

Spouse picked up a few dozen jars at the Minimax and that's just about right! I fill 'em right off the heat and turn them over to start the sealing process.

There's enough for another 'plain' batch or I can keep 'em for smoothies and Margaritas....hmmm what should I do?

What you see there in the Bonne Mama jar is all that was left over!

Just to be sure of the seal, I pour boiling water over the top and let them sit for a spell. The carpenter showed up just at the end and I got distracted...otherwise I listen to hear each top pop as they cool...I'm hoping they're okay. Here's my favorite sandwich recipe with CherylAnn's Jalepeno Peach jam add peanut butter, Tillmook cheddar cheese, arugula fresh from the garden on homemade's got everything! sweet, salty, nutty, creamy, spicy, cheezy, and fresh! Much improved from the plain ole PPJ of yester-year!
Yum! If anyone has some pickled okra or beans or such and would like to trade some of my yummy goodness for yours, lemme know! Making jam isn't a science, it's a passion and you can't really go wrong with good ingredients and an attitude of love!
Happy Gardening!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Whoosh, There Went Bloom Day!

Dang. Missed it completely. The blooms from spring are mostly gone but there are a few stars that remain. This August will be 14 years that I've lived in my house and there are two plants that I don't think have ever looked this stunning in all of Austin and they are the Crape Myrtles and Beebalm. Here's a shot of Ms. Myrtle and her sister on the West side of the driveway. Between last month and now the Chaste Tree did her thingy, as did Belinda's Dream, the Mexican Oregano and Dianthus.

The Yarrow, white and yellow, in the front and back yards has multiplied profusely after just sitting dinky for 2 years.
And, above the Yarrow, the Peach tree is about ready to harvest...I'm gonna guess there's about 150 or so peaches on her. I'll be making a batch of Jalapeno Peach Jam and the rest will be frozen for smoothies.

The tomatoes are almost as tall as the peach tree in the back there...can you see 'em?

I transplanted 2 Buddleia that acted out a dramatic fainting spell for about a month, then are just blooming like mad. Seems the 3 I transplanted are actually performing better than the 2 I left in place. I've seen this happen with other plants as well...a little abuse and they send out flowers as if to say...'I'm worthy, don't yank me out of the ground again!'

The Canna's have reached the top of the door on the Garden Haus.

And I had to sneak one more shot of those Myrtles, but also show how the Pony's Foot...that completely died away (or so I thought) in the winter has come back strong!
Other things of note: the Confederate Jasmine and Cross Vine are on their second bloom cycle of the year, the Flame Acanthus has gone wild and put out several babies (I'm happy to dig them up if anyone wants one...not a fan of Flame is enough,) this is the first year the lavender, other than Provincial has bloomed repetitively, best year yet for tomatoes, and if anyone wants me to save the seeds on the Pride of Barbados...let me know!
That's it folks...short n' sweet. Happy Bloom Day to all you mighty fine gardeners out there and a shout to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for organizing this ordeal!
What else is blooming at the Govumpella residence:
Red Yucca
Heartleaf Skullcap
Gregg's Mistflower
Desert Rose
Purple Cone Flower
Katrina Rose
Cecile Brunner
Butterfly Weed
Mexican Petunia
Autumn Sage
Mealy Blue Sage
Columbine (second round)
Fern Leaf Verbena
Russian Sage
Black n' Blue Sage
Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Inseparable Sister Love

It's been a bittersweet spring wrought with delightful discovery and an achy heart. I get overly sentimental about family because mine is so scattered and as a young child I knew something was very wrong (for me) with the way we moved around leaving pets and friends behind. I resented it as a child and my parents howled with laughter when we watched "Roots" on TV and I broke down crying "I'll never have roots!" (Insert image of Kunta Kinte collecting Kizzy's footprints.) I vowed to stay put while raising my children so they could have the roots I lack. It's been unusually hard fulfilling this promise because every few years I get the gypsy bug and have to struggle for stability...14 years later, I think I've found some.

Thanks for the seeds Mom!
So, I'm a week into my "Staycation" a term of endearment for me. My brother generously brought my girls to Vienna to see his family and welcome the last of the grandchildren for my mother (who is also in Vienna) and soak up the culture. We lived in Germany for 4 1/2 years when I was in Elementary School and I think he envisioned a family reunion of sorts. Well, if you follow this blog at all, you know I've got 13 pets and a few hundred plants and summer is really no time at all to leave them alone in hotter than hell Texas, and we were unable to find someone willing to put in the time to water the garden, walk the dogs and treat their daily disasters (Bud just came in with fireant bites all over,) collect the eggs and spoil little Blanca, let out the bunnies (BTW, I've found a home for the bunnies Linda!) pet the cats, lifting them to their perch to complain about the endless changing food, and feed the Flash the birthday fish. My passion and love or part-time job, however you see it. We're here, they're gone.
Sister Corn standing tall, Sister Bean sprouted with leaves, and I was late on planting Sister Squash...though I think it may have been wise...
Besides, I would have missed out on meeting my new sisters! My mom sent me a packet of seeds in February called "Three Sisters" that she bought in Kansas. My thumb is covering the real home base of Ashland, Montana...unfortunately the varieties are not simply says "corn, bean, squash" on the little packets inside. Like most of us who paid attention in history, the Iroquois Indian Legend that helped feed the pilgrims held a unique fascination because of how they planted the seeds in a mound with a fish for fertilization. I seriously didn't give it much thought after hearing it...the fish part seemed weird, but I wasn't raised gardening and hadn't experienced the success and fallen in love with Alaska Fish Emulsion...yet! So it was filed...until I opened the package and read the instructions. This was a project, and I needed a new project because the 100 projects that lay around my house and studio just weren't doing it for me.

A few weeks comes Baby Sister Squash!

I spent awhile reading up on some of the Iroquois stories and having read quite a bit of Sioux lore found them beautifully intricate and gruesomely fascinating. My own sister lives in Eugene, Oregon and I don't see much of her. My sister-in-law is the one in Vienna, a day over due giving birth to what everyone thinks is another sister. I'm at home falling in love with sisters that are here, rooted, inseparable and co-dependent. Why would I say that? Well, zoom down and have a look at my poor squash at the beginning of borer season. I missed the mark on the companion planting and every single one has been attacked, and yanked... save the squash growing at the foot of the mounds...coincidence? I think not. Though I have heard of successive planting that outlives the borer and maybe my baby sister was saved because of that?

My hard-headed self didn't bother researching what I was doing, I just read the directions and picked 4 locations as a trial. I've never grown corn and I was a bit skeptical of the dried up looking popcorn that looked like something that fell out of the bag at the movies. Now that we've harvested and eaten the corn, I will never go without it. But, I really don't want to grow the yellow stuff...sweet as it was. I want to grow the purple and blue, wild indigenous hearty stuff that seems as old as Turtle Island herself...North America to the Iroquois.

Every stage of the growth was beautiful. Here is Sister Corn in her pale green shawl, getting ready to let her hair down.

Sister Bean, the giver of nitrogen, a term unknown hundreds of years ago. I don't think I'm a greedy gardener, but I'll have to say that when I see a bean, I eat it. I don't run for the camera and I had to stop myself and save a handful to share with loving spouse! They were delicious and somehow I missed watching them grow. Seems like one day I saw the flowers and the next thing I knew, I was pigging out in the sun.

I did remember to grab the camera at mealtime though. This squash comes from the farmers market, Sister Squash has yet to flower at the Govumpella residence, but those are my 'maters n' beans! Whoohoo!

Disaster! squash vine borer...on my OTHER squash and pumpkin.

A few years back Bonnie, my first blogging mentor at Kiss of Sun wrote about the squash vine borer and I read it with disgust. Now I'm ready to dig the little bastards out with a knife too! Nothing makes me scream profanities in the garden like stink bugs and borers! My neighbors, I'm sure, think I'm a nut...standing there screaming and cussing! I'm simply not going to put poison on the earth so it's me against the bugs...and I aim to win! That being said, other than sugar ants on my corn...the sisters are safe.

Sister Bean loving on Sister Corn!

Look at that healthy squash! The corn and beans have been eaten...we're waiting for your heart to flower dear!

We just guessed as to when to check on the corn...the silk tassels had turned brown and they seemed pretty plump, sure enough...beautiful sweet corn!
Next year I'm going to plant a 10ft. x 10 ft. patch with as much variety as possible...I need to move the tomato patch anyway.
I'm pretty critical about American society being materialistic, fear based and scattered...but seeing this ancient tradition thrive in my backyard makes me feel home, rooted and okay. That was one fun, successful and delicious project...yum! I wish my sisters were here to share in the there something strange about wanting your sisters to help you eat your other sisters? Just another day at Conscious Gardening.
Happy Gardening to you!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Putzing Around in the Rain

I got out to see what wonders the rain brought this morning and discovered about an inch and a half in the gauge.

The lichen on the old umbrella is gorgeous with the saturated light...unfortunately the photo doesn't do it justice.

Full to the top! It's been empty for a few weeks now. The weekend forecast is calling for 102-104 degrees so who knows how long this will last, thank goodness I have 5 others.

Lonesome Dove out on the arm of the Sycamore.

Bird baths magically full...

And blooming fungi overnight!

Note to self...find out the name of this stuff that comes yearly...

The girls are going to Vienna and Cannes this summer for a month to see family, and I've spent the past week making my summer project list...this fence is getting more flowers and cacti. They represent the children on our block.

Friggin' squash vine borer! Fun-spoiler...dag-gum pain in the arse! Okay, I'm fine now.

I had to bolster up the tomatoes that have outgrown their cages with bamboo.

The peppers look lovely in the rain!

The 'pillars are out on the parsley, fennel and passion vine in hoards!

I love the delicate flowers of bronze fennel.

I quick transplanted a few things to the mound. Lambs ear had come up in the path out front along with some prairie verbena...I hope they like their new home.

The bean clinging to the corn stalk.

This is a measurement of two things...The size of the baby Redbud and also the height of the Mexican Petunia. It was nearly 3ft in the fall and it froze to the ground...first time in 3 years.

I had to rush in because it started raining again and I found BobCat and Persephone crashed out on the fainting couch enjoying a rainy day as I plan to!
Happy Gardening!