• Second Spring Into Fall

    second11While autumn is here in Norcal, we also have our own little “second spring”. Harvest is certainly here. Lots of apples and pears, and the fall crops of figs and artichokes are right on time. But as things cool down, some plants that get scorched during summer have another chance to flourish. So even as the trees change color (and we do get fall colors in California!), our garden gets a few new glimpses of green….and red.

    second4second3secondsecond1The greens are baby lettuces and vibrant herbs- a last blast of summer that is always welcome. The reds are tomatoes, peppers and strawberries. The peppers are just ripening, but the tomatoes and strawberries are enjoying our last stretch of constant warmth. These tomatoes are often the best of the year. Worth the wait and a fine farewell to our favorite crop.

    second5second8second10So even as we plant our chard and the ever-popular kale (enough already with the kale…its just a vegetable, jeez), we see new roses popping up around the garden. Hydrangea enjoy the cool and bloom again. Fall is here, but our second spring makes it a smooth transition….second7second2second13second9

  • Blooming Roses And Falling Leaves

    Fall is a mixed bag here on the farm. The garden is slowly winding down. The stone fruit orchard is bare. But the citrus and pomegranates are coming and the flowers savor a break in the heat. Olives fill the trees. The leaves start to turn and we get new splashes of color.

    While some of our plants wither or go dormant, our roses seem to want one more round. We appreciate their effort. Blooming roses and falling leaves seem to symbolize the land in northern California, seasons change but the sun and flowers peek through. There is always a sprout or blossom somewhere.

  • Surprises From The Orchard

    Indian Free peaches. Yum.

    Sometimes (all the time?) the garden and orchard throws you some surprises. We just spent months, with only middling results, fighting off the varmints from our peaches and nectarines (only passive measures, but one does get tempted to go “active”). Meanwhile, in the corner of the orchard one of our smaller trees had some peaches, but they seemed destined to stay hard and green forever. In fact, these were our Indian Free peaches, and they are a real treat.

    The Indian Free peach is a late-season heirloom peach, common in the northwest and known for resistance to leaf curl. It’s been a popular peach for centuries, Thomas Jefferson even had them at Monticello. And as Jefferson was quite a gourmet, we aren’t surprised, the Indian Free peach is incredibly tasty and very beautiful. Actually we should say the insides are beautiful, with lovely variegated red and white color. The outsides are somewhat less attractive with less blush tones and more dark patches. But beauty often really is skin deep.

    While the Indian Free’s appearance is somewhat undesirable (this and need for a pollinator make it perhaps a less popular commercial variety), the flavor is among of the best of any stone fruit we’ve tried. The Indian Free’s flesh is similar in color and flavor to a blood orange, with more tangy and “berryish” flavors than most peaches. And since we are big fans of blood oranges (see our early posts from last winter) we are instant fans of our Indian Free peaches. And while we could use them in cocktails or put up a few, we are just eating them…..quickly…

    Early Meyer lemons.

    Kaffir limes.

    Why didn’t the squirrels and wood rats go after the Indian Free peaches? We have no idea. We didn’t reinforce or weight the nets, and we waited until they were ripe (the varmints tend to go after the fruit a few days before we would pick). We could come up with any number of plausible explanations, but we have no real evidence of any changes in the orchard. We will chalk it up to dumb luck. Go figure.

    As for the rest of the orchard, the pears and figs are coming soon, and we are very excited. The Comice pears and the figs should be ready in a week or two (some concern that what we thought was a Black Mission Fig is a different fig variety, more on this later). And the “mystery” heirloom pears that grow on the side of the house are still at least a month or two out- these take a while. But once they are done, a new season begins.

    And that means citrus! Our Meyer and Eureka lemons, Kaffir limes and Cara-Cara oranges are off and running. Meyer lemon-based punches for the holidays are already coursing though our minds. And sorbet, and preserved lemons, and lemon curd….you get the idea.

    And as a last pre-holiday bonus, we leave you with pomegranates. We get just a few every year. Not enough to call it a crop, but just enough for a snack and some smiles….

  • Orchard Update: Red Haven Peach Harvest!

    Red Haven peaches at harvest.

    A great day here at the farm. We managed to fight off some very determined squirrels, rats, birds and raccoons (and maybe coyotes) and get a real peach harvest. Our first tree to ripen gave us a few large, tasty peaches, but the animals dug under the nets and took the rest. Frustrating, but a good lesson. The tree we harvested today had most of the peaches, so we were able to augment the nets with wood and rocks until the peaches ripened. And we got a great haul of Red Haven Peaches! It’s been a few years coming and it was great fun to pick the peaches with the kids (although they found out picking fruit in the sun is real work).

    Red Haven trees are big producers.

    Weighting the nets kept the varmints from digging underneath.

    The haul from one small tree- a few hundred peaches about 1/2 the size of a baseball.

    As for the Red Haven peaches, they are one of the most common “eating” peaches. They are freestone peaches with a bright, sweet flavor and a decent amount of acidity. They are popular with farmers and home gardeners, as the trees are heavy producers and the peaches have a long “shelf life”. Red Havens are in season usually from mid-July until the end of August. We like these peaches a lot, but the Suncrests are still our favorites. But as we have a harvest of just one Suncrest peach, the Red Havens will be our focus this summer- at least until the nectarines ripen a few weeks from now.

    Our “lonely” Suncrest peach. Hopefully more next year.

    Nectarines are at least a week or two out. Hopefully our augmented nets hold up.

    So what we will do with all of these peaches? We are making peach-lavender jam, peach-vanilla ice cream, maybe peach butter and certainly a batch of Bellinis and other peach-driven cocktails. And we are already eating the peaches out of hand. But as much of the Putney Farm crew will be on the road for the next few weeks, we will give many of these away. Few things make us happier as gardeners than to have enough to share freely with friends.

    Time to get to work….

  • Peaches! And Updates From The Orchard and Garden

    Our first ripe redhaven peach. Sweet, tangy and juicy.

    Our redhaven peach trees are heavy with fruit- the nets are paying off.

    Our days away from the garden certainly came with a few surprises. The big surprise is that some of our redhaven peaches are already ripe with others on the cusp! Wow- very tasty, very cool and very rewarding. The netting on the trees really paid off, the trees are brimming with fruit. We just posted a peach cocktail, but expect many peach recipes in the coming weeks. Summer is really here.

    Unexpected, but welcome mission figs.

    Macintosh apples starting to color.

    Another very pleasant surprise is the mission figs. We planted a more mature tree after gophers killed the last one. We did not expect fruit this year, but it looks like we have it. Same thing for the Macintosh apple tree, we have quite a few apples on a young tree- way beyond expectations. We are very grateful for the luck we have, as we all know the garden can also dish up some disappointments.

    Artichoke blossom there are bees in there, look closely.

    One happy, but expected, development is the blooming of the artichokes. The blossoms are one of our all-time favorites, the color just pops. Nothing quite like it- and the bees agree, they love the artichoke blossoms and literally dive in. The thin purple needles of the flower constantly move with the bees. After giving us so many tasty artichokes to eat, the plant still gives us (and the bees) something extra, something special. Delightful.

    Carrots growing but still need more time.

    Sugar snap peas. We just had these at lunch.

    Zucchini always seem to grow by 2 feet when you leave the house… Continue reading

  • Heavy Branches and the Lonely Peach

    Bing cherries, we will harvest later this week.

    We planted our stone fruit orchard nearly 5 years ago. And while there have been a few successes, this is the first year we can say the trees are “heavy” with fruit. The peaches and nectarines are in process, but the Bing cherries are truly on the cusp. We eat them daily, but the big harvest will come later this week. The limbs on the Bing cherry tree are bending under the weight of the fruit. Amazingly, this same tree yielded just a few tiny, tepid berries last year but will give us baskets of cherries this year. A small reminder that patience and effort are sometimes rewarded.

    Cherry branch bending under the weight of the fruit. This is good.

    We are pleasantly surprised by the density of the cherries.

    And sometimes there are pleasant surprises. The hybrid Van and Black Tartarian cherry tree was mostly planted to  pollinate the Bing. But, as we noted last week, this tree is also bearing fruit. The Vans are tasty and the Tartarians are just coming in. We look forward to tasting all three of the cherries just off the tree.

    Netting the tress to protect the fruit in the orchard.

    On a more sober note, we took the plunge and netted the trees in the orchard. We needed help to do this, but as most of the trees have real fruit, now is the time. The orchard is less picturesque, but is hopefully protected from some of the nighttime raids of earlier years. We’ve written about our more…ummm, “active” protection of the garden and orchard from varmints, so let’s hope the passive systems work as well.

    A flash of purple amidst the green.

    Otherwise, the apple and pear trees outside of the orchard are looking great. The blossoms of spring are now the small fruits of the tree. These are older trees that bear fruit every year. We deal with leaf curl and the occasional pest, but we rarely worry about these trees. They are in their prime. Our younger Macintosh apple is also looking good and we expect a decent crop this year.

    Pears on an older tree. Lots of fruit, but months from being ready. Continue reading