Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Red All the Way Through

We're eating on our second, and final, crop of strawberries for the year.  Unlike our June-bearing variety these ever-bearing fruits are odd looking.  They were in their first crop back in June and they are in their second crop now--though certainly less so.  Not at all a normal looking strawberry, but nonetheless they are so sweet and juicy as to just about melt in the mouth.  Its pretty incredible.  Matt likes them better then the conventional looking berries.  They seem sweeter.  But all of the berries, regardless of shape, are the most brilliant red all the way through to the core...none of the white-in-the-middle business so common in supermarket strawberries.  My niece Keleigh, who told me she didn't like strawberries, even liked them!  Matt went out to pick what he thought were probably the last of them on Saturday and came back with a good bowl full for breakfast.  And it looks like they weren't even really the last after all.  In fact, I think we were grossly mistaken in our assessment.  We picked a half pound for breakfast again this morning.  Yum.  I am keen to have strawberry season stretch out as long as possible!
Little tiny plants....  4/25/2013
Our neighborhood herd of deer mowed down the leaves and blossoms off this plant in the front yard.  The stinkers.  We never had deer to even consider as garden pests at the rental house.  5/16/2013
But the leaves grew back quickly and the plant bloomed again and fruited pretty well.  But, I bet not as well as it could have.  6/2/2013
The other two front yard strawberry planters.  They are full of ants.  Almost every single plant has an ant mound at its base.  Its strange, but doesn't seem to be hurting anything so....  5/16/2013
Blossoms and tiny hints of berries!  5/20/2013
Green berries loading up and teaching me the art of patience!  6/2/2013
A few berries picked for breakfast.  I think this was the second picking of the season.  6/10/2013
RED!  6/10/2013
Picking from the front plants.  6/11/2013
Birthday cupcakes out-of-doors with the wonderful Laurel Joy.  6/12/2013
An example of the irregular shapes of the ever-bearing strawberries that we have.  The seeds all end up at the bottom (and sometimes the bottom is more like the side) and they are not symmetrical in any way.  But, oh, so juicy and wonderful.  6/17/2013
Joy in 3, 2,...6/17/2013
...1!  When they are ripe like this the fruit just seems to slide right off the core as it melts in your mouth.  A lot of the time the core is even red all the way through.  6/17/2013
Homemade bread with homemade preserves and homegrown strawberries.  This is the breakfast of champions.  6/17/2013
These strawberries are enough to make a person never want a store-bought berry (picked under-ripe in California so that it is still "good" when it arrives in Montana) ever again.  Now that I've had them red all the way through I know what I've been missing all along.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Matt's Compost Sifter

Matt has been composting for years now.
He's also been talking about making something to sift his compost with for years now, too.  He wanted something that would enable him to sift out any remaining large bits, such as mango pits, that could use more time to breakdown leaving him with just the rich, fluffy, wonderful compost to use.
But, it was one of those back-burner type ideas.  But, then he snagged what seemed to be the perfect boards for the job from a neighbor's trash bin.  With some staples, brackets, and wire mesh he had on hand he built himself a simple little sifting box.  So simple and just perfect for the job.
I must say, the compost looks amazing afterwards.  See, Matt is always going on and on about his beautiful compost--wanting me to smell it, crumble it through my fingers, and so on.  I appreciate composting as an action and a garden amendment, but I guess I just lack the hands-on enthusiasm for it that Matt has.  But, even I can moon a little over this sifted compost.  It is just rich, dark soil again, it seems.  It has no smell whatsoever aside from that pleasantly earthy smell of freshly turned soil.  There are no recognizable bits of still-decomposing vegetable matter.  It is cool and soft through the fingers.  Its pretty darn impressive.
We spread a good layer of it over the beds in the garden until we ran out of compost.  It seems we will never make enough compost.  We can use whatever amount we can manage to produce.  The compost top-dressing will enrich the soil as it is incorporated by rain and insect life.  It also keeps the weeds down.  Win-win.  It also make the beds look nice and pretty.  Triple win.
Tools and equipment that you can make yourself from simple supplies and basic know-how are cool.  Its impressive how much they can improve the way things work.  A planting grid.  Wash cloths.  A garden sink.  Tomato cages. And so on.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Golden and Red

We picked our very first homegrown raspberries on July 10th.  They were small and succulent and red and we gobbled them up without bothering to weigh them.  There were only a few, but they were magical.  They were followed on July 14th by our first golden raspberries--oddly yellow, but equally juicy and wonderful.

I don't really notice much of a difference in how they taste--red versus golden.  Matt and his brother Ryan seem to, but they just taste like raspberries to me.  Of course, with the exception of honeycrisps I think all apples taste pretty much the same, too.  I just like fruit.  My palate is not that discerning it seems.  Just give me fruit!

We didn't really expect too much of our canes as this was their first year of production.  But, we've been pleasantly surprised.  We pick what we assume will be the last ones and then days later find even more.  Its nice when things exceed expectations.  I can't even imagine how many we will have several years from now as our bed matures and fills out.  Oh, how I look forward to that.  To the days when we will have enough that it seems worthwhile to bring them inside and weigh them instead of just gobbling them directly off the plant.

Someday I want to make raspberry jam.  I love it.  Matt and I both have fond childhood memories of eating homemade raspberry jam.  Its the best.  And while raspberries are magnificent and my favorite of all berries I wouldn't be surprised if nostalgia is part of the reason we both hold raspberry jam in such high esteem.  Someday....
Back in May when the canes were just starting to leaf out.  5/2/2013
They leafed out pretty rapidly, too.  5/19/2013
The very first golden raspberries to ripen.  7/14/2013
Picking berries with my niece.  7/18/2013

Someday Blueberries and Currants

I've mentioned before our intent to add perennial fruit-bearing plants to our garden each year.  We planted strawberries and raspberries last year.  This year it was blueberries and red currents.
Matt and the current bushes (either side of the iris) 6/2/2013
We planted a bush each of Jersey and Patriot blueberries and two Red Lake current bushes.  Next year Matt is talking fruit trees--sweet cherries or honeycrisp apples, my favorite variety.  I adore fruit and am keen to provide myself wish as much of it as I can.  Fresh for eating out of hand and frozen for smoothies and preserved in jams, jelly, and syrups for all manner of uses.  Oh, man, do I dig fruit.
Preparing the bed with a scoop of freshly sifted compost.  6/6/2013
Speaking of "dig," Matt dug up a big, but not-too-spectacular flowering bush that had been at the corner of the front yard along the drive way and replaced it with one of the blueberry bushes.  The blueberries will flower, too, AND make fruit.  That is much better, I think.  The other blueberry bush was planted at the north end of the same bed.  Apparently you need to have at least two plants in order for successful fruit production.  I wish I had taken photos of the big bush prior to its demise, but, I failed to do so.  You can see its large root ball in the photo below, however.
The root of the old bush and the hole it left behind.
Matt taking a water break from his intense excavation of the big bush.
I've never eaten a blueberry or a currant fresh right off the bush, but I am very much looking forward to someday when I will.  If the raspberries and strawberries are any indication I bet they are phenomenal.