Category Archives: Fruit Trees

Putting up Plums

Ripe Santa Rosa Plums

Ripe Santa Rosa Plums

Just picked plums

Scoring Plums


Food Mill Plums
The Santa Rosa plums came ripe within the last two weeks. Looking into my canning notes, we hadn’t yet preserved anything this growing season(!), but the plums changed all that. We sat down the other Sunday to do our first batch of jam. I picked with gusto, I carried them into the house with gusto but as soon as I sat down to put the task to hand, all the wind was knocked out of my sails. Our plums are delicious but they are hidden behind a very bitter skin. I started peeling with a knife, but the knife was dull (a solveable problem, I know). Then I tried scoring the bottom, like tomatoes, and dunking them into hot water to let the skins separate from the meat of the fruit. It looked like it would work, but it didn’t. In fact it totally backfired. Not only did the skins not fully loosen, but by placing the bitter skinned plums in the boiling water, the bitterness soaked right through the fruit, making the whole batch bitter. Argh! Scott sharpened the knives and we sat down and hand peeled…for hours!

Then inspiration hit and for our second batch, we picked them, let them sit on the counter a few days to truly ripen and sent them through the food mill. Problem solved! Not only that, but after the fruit passes through the food mill, it’s smooth and thick enough that it only took a minute or two on the stove to let the sugar dissolve and then into trays to become handmade fruit roll ups. Hardly any hot cooking involved! Food mill, where have you been all of my life?

First entry into the 2014 Canning Log: 6-half pints of plum jam & 4 sheets of fruit rolls ups.


Filed under Fruit Trees, Preserving

Growings On…


The tractor works, the field got mowed.

Unfortunately the tractor does not differentiate between grass and mustard and it all got plowed down. At least our field is too big to mow in one sitting and a patch got saved.

She’s growing too. Walking and toppling all over the place.

The felco’s were sharpened and all the fruit trees have been pruned.

What a job!


Filed under Fruit Trees, Our Weekends

on making apple cider


Tonight we made some more cider and tonight I brought my camera out with us. First, it starts with a huge amount of apples. As we were sitting together chopping apples into quarters and taking out any worms we saw, we remarked that the only way you’d be able to afford to make cider is if you had your own apples trees, because it takes a lot of apples to make cider! To buy apples for this endeavour would cost a fortune!

When I began researching apple presses I had narrowed it down to two, one from Happy Valley Cider Presses and the one we got from Pleasant Hill Grain (we got the MacIntosh press). There aren’t many reviews of apple cider presses out there, so we had to go on educated guesses and personal preferences. We in the end decided on the mostly metal construction with the oak tub, rather than the all pine construction. In hopes that we will live in this house forever, that means pressing a lot of cider and all metal construction seems more durable than pine. It was a little more expensive in the end, but I’m happy with our decision. This model came with a separate grinder, whereas the Happy Valley press came with a grinder that emptied straight into the tub, which I kind of liked the idea of, honestly. No worries though, this doesn’t seem to slow us down.

After quartering the apples, you send them through the grinder so that the press can extract the most juice as possible.

Then you place the grinds into a mesh bag which sits in the press and away you crank. What we also liked about this press is that the entire red metal top, folds down so that you can easily clean the tub and take the fruit in and out easily.

Isn’t the press beautiful? The grinder too, I think. There is something about well made, quality constructed, simple things that I find so beautiful. I want to put this press on a table for display.

Pressing cider is certainly a group effort. While one person presses, another person has to hold the jug to fill. This year I feel, we are just getting used to this contraption, what it can do, how the juice tastes, what different things we can press. Next year I want to host a cider pressing party.

Because like I said, you need an amazing amount of apples to make a small amount of cider, so we need all the help we can get! We’ve filled a few bottles for the freezer too. What fun! I doubt our family is immune to the stresses that every other family feels. We too worry about all sorts of things that other people are worrying about in this day and age, we get frusterated with our kids and each other. But there are times when we get to do something like this, that slows us down and makes us appreciate simple things, like cider, solid construction, each others company, and adds a little richness to our every day. And sometimes I think that’s what it’s all about. Adding that bit of beauty and richness into our daily lives, that makes it all worth living for. Cheers!


Filed under Fruit Trees, Preserving

If you can’t find your four year old….

…and the cherries are ripe, try looking up. I swear that little boy is a monkey! Unlike last years huge harvest, we only have a couple of small baskets to enjoy this year.


Filed under Fruit Trees

The Good News and the Bad News

As I mentioned last week we came home to full spring in our yard. The forget-me-nots are in full bloom under the white peach tree. The yarrow is full and green and the leaves are emerging on the roses. We spotted our first soldier beetle yesterday, ready to eat those pesky aphids off the roses. Every year I am surprised by how much I like spring. Autumn is a given in my book. I adore autumn and our relatively mild winters are always welcome. But spring gives way to summer, which to tell the truth is my least favorite season only because of how hot it get here. My energy really does melt in our Sonoma heat. So at all other times of the year I see spring as only a doorway to my dreaded summer. And then spring comes and just amazes me, all the flowers and green, green hills. It is so incredibly gorgeous in here in spring.
We’ve had our fair share of both successes so far and disappointments already in this growing season. Take for instance our rhubarb. It is growing like crazy this year. I haven’t made much with rhubarb besides pie, what do you like to do with it?
We have our first sizable asparagus coming up. Just a few stalks, but I can’t wait to eat them!
The potatoes are coming in fast and we are starting to mound up around the plants. In the off chance you didn’t already know this, as potato plants grow, you mound up dirt around the plant so that more potatoes will grow off the part you cover up. You can do this for quite a few feet in fact. Some people chose to plant them at ground level and then build structures around them to stack and hold in more dirt. We tend to dig a deep hole and gradually add dirt to the hole as they grow. This year we are growing Yukon Golds and a purple potato which I have forgotten the name of already. We buy seed potatoes from The Potato Garden.
The blueberries we recently bought are growing in the back of our garden, a part that receives some mid day shade in summer. We hope that will be welcome by these berries.
The disappointments? Well, a small one is that my new rudbeckia was eaten by snails. As you can see as a last minute save I tried surrounding it by sand from the boys sandbox, but to no avail. They still ate it to the ground. After reviewing an old post of mine on how to keep slugs and snails away, I will have to pick up some copper on my next trip to the hardware store.
Dead Nectarines
And our greatest disappointment, it looks like we will be getting little to no Santa Rosa plums or nectarines. We had a bought of warm weather which made those two trees burst out in full bloom only to receive a good few nights of frost after wards which killed all the blooms. We are so sad not to be overwhelmed in plums and nectarines this year.
At least we have plenty of onions, garlic and shallots.
And tulips and for-get-me-nots.
Dinner after Gardening
And we can always be thankful for almost completely local meal like this one. (Beltane Ranch kabobs, Lundberg rice, and our own celery leaf salad, chard and roasted turnips.)



Filed under Fruit Trees, Good Bugs, State of the Garden, the birds & the bees

Up a Tree with Cherries & Chicks

Thanks to everyone for the well wishes! This pregnancy (I’m sure my last) has been so enjoyable. Yes, sure there was morning sickness in the beginning, but it wasn’t bad and I’ve been feeling really good ever since. My last pregnancy was much less enjoyable so I’m trying to ‘be-in-the-moment’ as much as I can with this one.
Today, those cedar waxwings camped out permanently in our oak tree waiting for us to go inside so they could strip the cherry tree, so we decided we had to pick as many as we could. They weren’t quite as ripe as we would have liked them, but better to have them slightly under ripe than not at all, I suppose! The cedar waxwings have this incredible song, it’s not a chirp, but rather kind of a ‘shirrrr’ kind of sound. Or maybe think of a flock of crickets high above your head, only more bird like in sound.
I put the boys to the task of pitting most of them with the cherry pitter. Half of those went into a pot with sugar for jam and the other half went on a cookie sheet and into the freezer (later to be put in ziplocks). The rest will go in our mouths. Have you read Blueberries for Sal? I thought of that book as I was picking. Kaplink, kaplunk, kaplonk.

For fun I was checking out my past cherry posts, here’s when we had the same bird problem, when we harvested them in 2008 and what I did with the frozen ones a few months later.

We also let the chicks outside for most of the day. We used the screen Scott built for sifting compost as a makeshift cage for them, put in their food and water and let them enjoy a little outdoor time. Having been kept in incubators and our guest bathroom for their entire short little lives, they were completely freaked out in the grass, but quickly adjusted. They are still too little to put with the big girls and probably will be for quite a few more weeks, but it’s great to see them outside getting in touch with their inner chicken-ness.

Have a great weekend blog friends!


Filed under chickens, Fruit Trees

Roses & Cedar Waxwings

Now that spring is here, I’ve been trying to make a habit of keeping fresh flowers from our garden on the table. I usually keep it simple with a fistful of purple pincushions in a canning jar, but yesterday I felt fancy and made more of an effort. Four years ago Scott and I both picked out roses to plant and as you can see, they both turned out beautiful shades of dusty pink/red. I’m not really a very fussy flower gardener, I give my perennials a healthy dose of tough love, so roses sometimes frusterate me with all of their rust spots and carefully needed pruning, but even in my laziness I’m glad to see them turn out some beautiful flowers.
Last night was also our first invasion of the cedar waxwings. They come every spring, and only in spring, to attack our cherry tree. So whilst out BBQing we both admired their beauty through binoculars and then hoot and hollered at them to go back to where they came from. We don’t mind sharing a few cherries with the birds, but they come in flocks of over 100 and we aren’t willing to share that much!
As you can see from this photo they camp out in the oak tree that grows right above the cherry tree. Shoo birds, shoo!
cherry tart
The good news is that where cherries are ripening, cherry tarts will need to be made soon.


Filed under Fruit Trees

Spring Blooms

Spring has begun to flower out here in Sonoma! Always the first to make it’s appearance is the cherry plum tree, but the nectarine and plum aren’t far behind.
This year we are hell bent on not having peach leaf curl on our trees, like last year. Last year we were bad about spraying through winter and our nectarine tree took the brunt of the peach leaf curl the worst. All the leaves were affected and all curled up and fell off. With great luck a new batch of leaves grew out and were fine, however the fruit we received was smaller than usual and had some damage to it.
We spray with a copper spray, which is probably the most inorganic thing we do in our yard, however peach leaf curl has become something of an enemy to us, so we’ve loosened our reigns on our ‘only organic’ stance on that nasty fungus. The rule of thumb is to spray on the three winter holidays, Thanksgiving, Christmas and Valentines. We missed Thanksgiving, but we got Christmas in and Valentines. Just in time too because the trees are just about to burst forward in bloom and you want to get your spraying in before that happens.

Did you spray this winter?


Filed under Fruit Trees, What's Blooming

Pear Tree Blooming in November

Yes, I really did just take this picture yesterday morning. Yes, it is November and yes it’s been below 30 degrees at night the past couple of nights. So why in the world is our pear tree full of blooms? We did have a string of cold days in October followed by warm, even hot days which I think it what did it. I can’t seem to find anything online that talks about what happens when fruit trees bloom in autumn. Will this mean that we won’t have much fruit next summer? Will it bloom again in spring? One snippet I found said that trees that are damaged during summer sometimes bloom in autumn, however we haven’t even so much as given the poor tree a sideways glance, let alone damage it. I suppose only time will tell. I’ll report again next spring on how our poor pear tree is doing.

Has anyone else had their fruit trees bloom in autumn?

Just for proof of frost, the next photo in my camera, after the pear tree shot was taken was this one. See? Frosty!


Filed under Fruit Trees

What to Do with All the Fruit?

Despite last weeks reported disappointments, we must be doing something right in other parts of our yard because it is becoming increasingly harder to find counter space in our kitchen. Is your kitchen counter the same each summer? We are truly at that point in zucchini season where you are ready to sneak over and pop a few into the neighbors mailbox and run for dear life. If I knew that our neighbors didn’t already grow plenty of zucchini I would have done so already. In fact our neighbor across the street was the one who inspired us to grow these Portofino zucchini’s which are our favorite by far.
The peach and nectarine tree are ripe this week which means lots of canning, fruit roll ups and of course peach margaritas!

Do you have any ideas for preserving fruit besides canning? Enough people have suggested dehydrating that I might just give that a try this year. We’ve tried freezing bags of cut up peaches, but besides using them in smoothies we haven’t found them to be a very useful. I’d love to hear more suggestions.

UPDATE: Yesterday I made this fantastic peach galette that a former collegue created. It was fantastic! Give it a try.


Filed under Fruit Trees, just picked