• Orchard Update: Cherries And Raspberries!

    Early Van Cherries

    Nature always surprises us. This year we expected hoped to get a good crop from the orchard and berry patch, but did not expect much until June and beyond. But as we had our first warm snap, the raspberries and cherries (at least some of them) decided that now is the time- and we have fruit! Awesome. Just awesome. I won’t lie, we both started giggling like bad movie villains as we tasted the cherries, they were such a surprise we felt like we were getting away with something. And since we beat the birds to the cherries, I think we did!

    The cherries “hide” under the leaves, you need to look closely to find them

    The early cherries we have are Vans, a bright red, “sweet” cherry. The taste is sweet, but with a little tartness for balance. The flesh is dense and with a bit of pleasant crunch. Good stuff and perfect for simply eating out of hand (or in a Cherry Fling Cocktail). The Van is a great cherry to have in the orchard as it will pollinate with any cherry variety and is itself a good pollinator of other cherries. (If you really want to get into it, the Rainer cherry is a mix between the Bing and Van cherries, not sure what you can do with that, but there you go…). The tree in the photo is a hybrid tree with Van and Black Tartarian cherries grafted to the same trunk. It is somewhat odd to see one branch with ripe cherries and one with very green cherries, but this just means our cherry season lasts longer. We can live with that. Meanwhile our Bing cherry tree is covered with green fruit that is just starting to ripen, we can’t wait.

    Golden raspberries

    As for the berries, our golden raspberries also came in early. We always get a good, sustained yield from the bushes, but did not expect them so soon. The golden raspberries are simply an albino variety of  red raspberries. Neither of us can remember why we went with golden raspberries, but they are sweet and tasty, just like a red raspberry. And they certainly are pretty with their gold and rose colors. These berries rarely make it out of the orchard or garden. We simply pull a few and eat them as we work, a nice treat through the summer.

    Red raspberry blossom

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  • Orchard Update: The Battle Begins!

    Loquats on one of our older trees. The squirrels love these. We will use them in chutney-like preparations.

    Spring is the season of hope. And just as the winter citrus crop is gone, we move to the orchard. And this year the orchard is looking very hopeful with cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums, loquats, apples and pears all off to a good start. The big question is not if we will have a good crop, the question is who will get to enjoy it- us or the varmints? I hope we get to enjoy the fruit, but the rascally rodents of Putney Farm will certainly come calling, and we will have a fight on our hands. We hope we win.

    Orange Blossom and happy honeybee. Citrus season is pretty much over.

    While we have our share of pests to fight in the garden, the orchard is a totally different deal. The garden is partly caged with raised beds and wire mesh to fight the gophers, moles, etc. We fight the bugs organically, and it works pretty well. In the orchard, we are also (mostly) organic, but it’s a full-on battle. Birds, squirrels, wood rats, gophers and all sorts of blights go after our trees and fruit with gusto. And once the fruit is even close to ripe, the hordes will descend upon us. We get better every year at protecting the crop (and yes that means killing a bunch of gophers and wood rats), but we are far from victory.

    Early peaches showing some color.

    But for now, all is beautiful. When we first venture into the orchard, it is hard to see the fruit, but suddenly we see dozens, sometimes hundreds of small peaches, plums and cherries. The colors are just developing and the fruits are small, but we  just know how good the fruit can be. It makes us smile, every time. Continue reading

  • Garden Update: Planting and Harvesting

    Nasturtium in the garden

    Exciting times for us here at the “farm”. We finished our planting and are harvesting some of our early season fruits and veggies. So far, we harvested our spring potatoes and now the blueberries, strawberries and artichokes are in full swing. The herbs are going crazy with the heat. The mint, as always, is trying to take over the garden (so are the potatoes, for that matter).

    Let’s start with the harvest. Our blueberries struggled with the variable weather a few weeks ago, the alternating rain and heat swelled the berries, but they had little flavor. With the last few weeks of consistent sun, they are taking off and the flavor is concentrated and far sweeter. We have 4 large bushes (and a few stragglers) and they each provide blueberries with slightly different flavors. Fun to taste for the differences if you like to geek up on these things (and we do). Happily for the next month or two we will get at least 1/2 pint of blueberries a day, some days a lot more. The bushes are surprisingly productive and we often have to work to keep up. These are good problems to have.

    Blueberries- if they pull-off easily, they are ready.

    The strawberries are also taking off. We cleaned and de-slugged the beds a few weeks ago to coincide with the warm, sunny weather. Since then the beds are doing great. The first crop is usually a bit funky in flavor and shape, but most of the plants are looking good. We won’t be able to keep up with the strawberries as we move into summer, the bed has over 30 active plants and when they get going, they get going. Needless to say, you will be seeing strawberry cocktail and dessert recipes a lot in the coming months.

    Strawberry in raised container. This keeps the berry off the ground and limits rot.

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  • Nothing But Roses

    Backyard rose

    We are a shameless parents, and we admit it. We love our boys. Our eldest just hit his first home run. The team’s first of the year. He hit it when his parents and grandparents were at the game. I am very happy for him. They won the game. It was a good day. Nothing but roses. Here are some to share.

    Climbing rose, one of our favorites

    With a good day in mind, we give you some roses. There are tough days, too. We should savor the good ones.

    Another climbing rose

    Rose with morning dew

  • Oreo The Cat Wants In

    Oreo would like to come in.

    This is Oreo the cat, our pet and professional varmint-killer. Oreo was a barn cat- a mouser who protects the feed at a horse barn- who lost her tail to some coyotes (it is not all goodness and light in the country). She was nursed back to health by friends, who are allergic to cats, and our boys fell in love with Oreo- so we took over.

    Oreo would like to come in now, and thinks we are being a bit "slow"

    Oreo is a great cat, affectionate and playful inside and a stone-cold killer outside. Happily, Oreo mostly leaves the birds alone and focuses on rodents, lizards and the occasional snake. Since we don’t like semi-dead snakes being brought into the house as “gifts”, Oreo does not have a pet door. But as you can see, Oreo seems to think she does. The screen door has been no match for the cat. She can climb through the hole in the screen, but prefers to perch in the hole and “remind” us that she would like to come in. Funny stuff that gives you a smile in the morning- no so much at night.

    Oreo is just realizing the main door is still closed. Hmmm...