Buttercup Squash

Last year I couldn’t wait to plant the  seeds I had saved from squash given to us by a friend in Montana.  I should have waited a few weeks. The seedlings were ready to transplant into the garden way before it was warm enough. I managed to baby them until I dared to plant them outside and luck was on my side. I ended up with a great crop of squashes.

This year, I thought I’d be smarter. I waited until it was closer to spring and warmer weather. I planted the seeds of the crop from last year and so many popped up I was quite pleased with myself. Until … they grew so well they started stretching for the light too much and were getting gangly.

It was supposed to be getting much warmer by now! Where was that warm April weather? I was STILL too early. Now I’ll put these eager plants into individual little pots, give them a pat, and tell them, “Slow down. It’s not as warm as it should be. You’ll have to rein in your enthusiasm.”

Here is one of last year’s squashes. I hope to have many happy plants this year too.

When I look at this young beauty, I’m encouraged to work at getting a good crop of these buttercup squashes growing again this year. They are one of the tastiest, sweet squashes I know. Great keepers and delicious to eat. If I remember, I’ll share a recipe later this summer.

 

Winter Apples

As it snowed heavily all around today, the Captain brought in some of this fall’s apples we had stored in our workshop. How bright they look against the snow. I think the smaller red one on the left is a MacIntosh, and the other three are called Wilmuta, which is a cross between Jonagold and Gravenstein. The Wilmuta is a great winter apple. It matures in October and keeps well in a cool place. What a treat to see them today in a January snowfall. The rest of my garden is asleep under the snow, but the apples are still edible after a sleep in the workshop.

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What sleeps in winter garden beds?

Some kale and wilted lettuce heads,

Carrots tasty, shriveled chard,

In soil that’s frozen very hard.

The chives are shivering with cold,

But in the springtime they’ll be bold

And send up shoots that say to me

Your salad’s where I’d like to be.

One day the sun will warm the soil

And Anne-li will go out and toil

Turning over weedy dirt

While working in her short-sleeved shirt.

She’s anxiously awaiting spring

So she can go and do her thing.

 

 

 

The Sunny Side of Life

We have five apple trees. One is a baby, a Gravenstein, parked right next to the grandfather Gravenstein tree. The little tree is doing fine but the big one has been leaning towards the sun more and more each year. By the time I noticed, it was too late to pull it back, but it probably would have been a good idea to put a stake in and tie it back anyway, to stop it from getting worse.

And worse it got!

With this early spring and warm summer, everything grew more than usual and the apples grew mostly on the sunny side of the tree, weighing it down even more on the leaning side. One day, I realized that the whole tree could fall down under the weight of so much fruit all on the sunny side. The apples must have watched the movie “O Brother Where Art Thou?” When I went out into the  backyard, I could have sworn I heard the apples singing  “Keep on the sunny side of life.”

I propped up the tree with a 2 x 4 as a desperation measure until the Captain could come home to help save the tree.

The plum tree to the right of the apple tree has a long branch that is also low to the ground. It is so loaded with plums that it lost two branches under the weight.

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The photo below shows a Wilmuta, an early cross of Jonagold. They are late apples — hardy, sweet, and juicy.  Again, the sheer weight of the apples on this dwarf tree, mostly on the sunny side (apparently they listened to the same song), had branches breaking and the tree trunk leaning.Tying it to the nearby plum tree helped for a while, but as the apples got bigger and heavier, the tree leaned even more. A couple of pieces of wood put in to prop the branches and the trunk have not prevented breakage and the tree is still in need of triage (or is that tree-age?) As soon as the apples are harvested, I’ll call  NINE- TREE-TREE. 9-1-1 is only for people, I think.

dscn6375The other two trees, a Transparent and a MacIntosh, are behaving well. I have certainly been able to have “an apple a day,” but this year, maybe we’re having too much of a good thing.

P.S.  A friend just reminded me that I haven’t pruned the trees for a while and that is a major contributor to my problem with the breaking branches. I know she’s right!

Full of Beans

My climbing beans and bush beans both grew well this year. A person can only eat so many beans at one time but frozen, these beans are almost as good as fresh. The trick is to blanch them. I picked two big bread bowls full of beans this morning and gave them a quick rinse. Then I chopped them into small bite-size pieces while a pot of lightly salted water was coming to a boil. I filled one of those bread bowls with very cold water, and set it aside.

Once the water was boiling I dumped in the cut up beans. That brought the temperature down and I had to wait a minute or two for the water to boil again. As the beans boiled, they turned a brighter green than they were when they were fresh. After a minute or so, I took the slotted spoon and scooped the beans out of the boiling water into the big bowl of cold water.

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Climbing beans (broad beans) on the cookie sheet. Bush beans in the pot, ready for the next cookie sheet.

Shortly afterwards I scooped the beans out of the cold water (which was now a bit warmer), and put them into a strainer. In this case, I found that the lettuce spinner worked well. Once the beans were drained I dumped them onto a cookie sheet and spread them out. These would go into my fridge freezer because it has a fan and will freeze the beans quickly. When they’re frozen hard, I break them up and put them into ziploc bags and put them into the chest freezer.

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Bush beans

We may be acting silly this winter because you can be sure we’ll be “full of beans.”

Fruit to Nuts

In our case, the saying has to be reversed – from nuts to fruit.

We have a few fruit trees in the backyard, and this year the apple trees are loaded. Branches are hanging low to the ground, easy pickings for us and even easier for the dogs. You’d think I didn’t feed them.

In previous years, Ruby used to pick up the hazelnuts that fell. I could clean up under the nut trees, but every time the wind blew, the problem (in the shape of a springer spaniel) reappeared. She cracked the nuts with her teeth and ate the inside, sometimes with bits of shell still on them. I was constantly chasing her away from the nut trees and trying to get the nuts picked up before she got them. Not only was she swallowing sharp bits of shell, but she was cracking her teeth.

When we got Emma, our English field cocker spaniel, Ruby taught her all her bad habits. That’s when we decided to cut the nut trees down. We had two more big nut trees in the front yard (enough for us) so we thought this would solve the problem.

But now without the nut trees in the backyard, Ruby has been harvesting apples and teaching Emma to do the same. I figure an apple a day for two months, times two dogs, equals about 120 apples. Why do I even bother to water the trees? Sometimes, I’d rather turn the hose on the dogs.

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Flower Power

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Barb Beacham’s hollyhocks growing in my garden on Vancouver Island.

I was lucky enough to become a friend of fellow blogger, Barbara Beacham, of California. Her blog, Life in the Foothills, was always interesting to visit. She wrote amazing flash fiction, took photographs of things that most people would miss, kept an incredible garden, and loved animals.

She battled cancer with such a positive attitude that when she died suddenly on November 22, 2015, I was shocked. She had me convinced she would beat it. She was a kind and lovely person and I wish I could have met her in person.

It would make sense to do a post for her on the anniversary of her leaving us, but the truth is, I’ve thought of her nearly every day for about two years. If you visit her blog at this link, you’ll see how this came about.

https://salmonfishingqueen.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/hollyhocks/

She loved her garden, especially the hollyhocks. In the comments, I asked her if she saved the seeds. From that comment on, we began emailing and we traded seeds. She sent me hollyhock seeds and I sent her poppy seeds (which unfortunately didn’t sprout for her). I planted her hollyhock seeds and babied them in my poor soil. They grew, but being biennials, they didn’t bloom that first year. Then the trick was to make sure the plants survived the winter. I piled leaves over them for protection against the cold, and hoped they’d continue to grow in the spring.

But then came a post on her blog that was written on her behalf, by her husband. I cried my eyes out when I read that Barb had died. I didn’t see how that was possible when she was so sure she would win that fight. All I had left of her, besides her blog to visit, were the sprouted hollyhocks in my garden.

I watched those plants and babied them to make sure they survived. When the captain built a new fence around my garden and put raised beds in this spring, I was constantly saying to him, “Careful of those hollyhocks,” and “Watch out for Barb’s flowers.”

I got so nervous about losing them that I moved them to a separate flower bed away from the construction. I thought of her as the plants grew, as the buds formed, and as they opened up to flower. They are a bit feeble compared to those in her own garden, but next year they’ll do better. Meanwhile, I’ve thought of her more than I could have imagined, and I still miss her so much.

But her memory lives on in my garden.

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The One True Poppy ?

I am the one true poppy

The one in Flanders’ fields.

Surrounded here by “wannabe”s

At last my patience yields.

I’m falling prey to apoppyplexy.

Helpless as I am,

Rooted in the ground like this

I’m truly in a jam.

But look at my frustration

The lesser poppies bloom

And I am forced to bear their smirks

While I am filled with gloom.

You see that Missy Paleface

Deceitful all in white?

And what about Pink Poodle?

Her hairdo is a fright.

The crackpots growing opium

Are gossiping again.

Do they not know their sticky juice

Is going to fry their brain?

The bugs may crawl upon my face

My pollen’s falling down,

But I’m the only real one here

And I should wear the crown.

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Pink Poodle

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Miss Paleface

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Crackpots