Friday, September 28, 2007

Near the Autumn Equinox

Bounty, Beauty, Bugs, Berries, Burnables, Moonlight and More...This post is two days in the making. Many pics are a bit outdated, as it has been over two weeks since I posted last!
Zinnia Potential...
Home to a Squash Beetle...Little bugger, cute though.
The Hollyhock...I never plant these intentionally anymore as they will gladly volunteer here and there. They are straggly, rather homely flowers, sometimes over 6' tall. They are drought tolerant fall surprises. Below, a sweet little patch of petunias that volunteered in some newly cleared land that had been overgrown by blackberries. It has been over 5 years since petunias were in this part of the yard, impressive! Petunia seeds are very tiny, I am rather mystified how these not only survived an excess of 5 years in the ground, but sprouted, and grew up big enough to catch my eye, so as to garner some attention.
Red Bud , Budding...
The Firewood is In. Way to go Scott!

The Sunflowers Continue the Show...Deadheading sunflowers, and other fall blooming flowers (removing spent blooms -before they produce seed) really helps extend the bloom time.

Another Volunteer in the Garden...Tomatillo - Silly, pretty late, but interesting to watch. Below the Persimmon are fully plump and will soon start to blush gold, and then sweet dark orange. Persimmons are ready around the middle of Dec.
The Apple Harvest is ON...Sweet Crab Apple, very good to add to fresh juice - adds a lovely rose hue, and nice spritzy flavor to the juice. These are NOT too good for eating fresh. They are mealy and super tart. Below, the Granny Smith and Golden Delicious are both abundant and plump. The Granny Smith are starting to fall, so we are juicing those, the Golden's are just coming on.
ADDENDUM: All the pears have been (and should be) picked by now. Ripe and sweet, we pulled in over 150 lbs of Bartlett, Bosc, Red and Danjou pear. I like the dessert pears a lot, they take longer to ripen off the tree, and you aren't hit with endless fruit at once. Nothing, of course, can beat the flavor of a big, juicy, well ripened, (but not too ripe) Bartlett. Too good. Ate a ton of them fresh, gave a zillion away, and canned up about 40lbs for winter crisps, and pear tea, which is very good, in fact. If you have an abundance of pears, or are feeling a little under the weather, it is a great use of pears, and a healing tonic! RECIPE: Pear Tea: 4-6 Large ripe Pears cut into 1-2 in. pieces, submerge in about 6-8 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Simmer about 20-30 min. add more water if you need to, to keep the pears covered. Strain, add honey to taste. Yum.
Raspberries in Abundance...I am not happy with any of the pictures I have taken of the raspberries. This will have to do. The raspberries are a very prolific crop. My best were planted in the shade of the persimmon. They are super luscious. Rasberries seem to appreciate the regular water, and afternoon shade of this area, the rows I have that are in more direct sun, and higher levels of neglect, are truthfully, pretty weak. Below, Almond. Check out the dried mid-air nectar drip...These are a very interesting, soft shelled variety which you can basically shell with your bare hands. Non Pareil, translated as: Having no equal; peerless.

Below, Invasion of the GIANT WILLOW APHID.
I wondered what was up with the Willow, when about two weeks ago she dropped most of her leaves which had all turned brown. Normally, the Willow's leaves will begin to change color about this time each year, but well into winter when the rest of the deciduous trees are going about bare, it will still have little lime green leaves clinging to it. Upon closer inspection, I realized too many branches were absolutely covered in these little suckers. They look like some sort of scab at first, until you disturb them, and they all wave their legs frantically. UGH. So I hit them with an entire bottle of Safers, which melts them in about 20 seconds. Then I hit them with some high pressure water treatment, to wash off the carcasses, and disturb those I couldn't reach with the death spray. We'll see. The life cycle of the Willow Aphid is actually pretty interesting if you are into that sort of thing. Another cool bug website I found.

In Spite of the Yellow Jackets, (see previous post) we are enjoying plenty of sweet grapes, and grape juice.

Above, Mini Asian Pear. These are eaten right off the tree, they are crisp like an apple but have a delightful earthy pear flavor. Below, Acorn Heaven. The yard is a clickety-clack with the fall of big fat acorns.

Paradise...Home Sweet Home...Notice the glow of the home fires burning, they are sweet to return to

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Change in the Weather

The Zinnia in Brilliant Autumn Hues...
Passion Flower...
And Passion Fruit...Will they ripen? Who knows!
The Intense Autumn Colors...They are a redeeming beauty in the encroaching darkness...Below, Random, Out-of-Season Amaryllis...Over-summered in the garden, this cutie which hadn't bloomed when I attempted to force it last winter, decided September was its time to shine. Beautiful!
Above, Close up of Nasturtium...Below, Golden Delicious Apple...
Snoopy...In his favorite resting bed of flattened spring grass...
Perennial Sunflowers...Nearly 12' high these will bloom until frost. They are hardy and invasive.
Bad News...The yellow jackets have begun to help themselves to my grapes with a notable vengeance. For what we are punished, I know not. The grapes on the old adopted vineyard I was caring for are virtually a total loss as well. Those to mildew. (no pics. Trust me, it's bad.) We only did 1/2 the job there. Prune + Barely sucker + No sulfur = Fully trashed and mildewy grapes. In regard to the yellow jackets, probably aggressive trapping, early in the season would've helped. I live quite in the woods up here, and there are seemingly endless quantities of them. Since they've invaded I have been trapping them, and it is truly dramatic the huge amount I can collect each day. Yuck!
The Grim Reality...The yellow jackets (several different kinds, PLUS these nasty big black and white ones!) have consumed about 1/2 of the Pinot Noir and are working on the table grapes. They love the Perlette, which are golden green table grapes, with an awesome, earthy flavor. Luckily, they have left the Ruby Red and Thompson (which are later) more or less alone. Still, I am forced to pick a lot of the fruit before it is really sweet enough. Brix on the Pinot, was just 18 this morning. As you can see above, if I wait until it is 21+ they will all be gone. In a day, these beasts can empty an entire young vine, leaving just empty grape skins. Very funny. Not.

Below, view how bountiful and beautiful the grapes can hang. This is a mature vine from an old homestead, obviously they have been well cared for. Mannuka grapes - perfect for eating fresh and especially good for drying.
More Insect Damage...Sorry if I am focusing on the negative. It's the harsh reality of homestead dreams gone bust.
The weather has been down right freezing the last two days. I am gloomily accompanying summer on its downward descent into the windy, brrrrrdiful season of the approaching winter. I am grateful for the bounty of good fruit we are enjoying right now. We have plums galore, pears for days, and lots of luscious grapes, even with the ravenous winged ones. So, I will try to bask in the bright colors, and sweetness of autumn, in spite of the losses, chill wind, and grey. Below, check out the Red Bud these bloom in the fall/winter? I think they might. It is hope in these darkening days.Pollen Powdered Honeybee...enjoying the last of the sunflowers...