Emerging Monarchs

As a follow up to my previous post, I should have posted these photos in mid April when I took them, but alas here they are!  This first photo shows a monarch about 1 hour before emerging.  The chrysalis is completely see through at this point!  Also in the second photo notice the curled wings before the dry out.  This was taken a few minutes after emerging.  The fourth photo is pretty cool in it’s own right because those two monarchs literally emerged within minutes of each other!

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And just when I thought our monarch adventure was done for the season, we now have 14 new caterpillars within the last week.  That month in between gave the milkweeds just enough time to replenish to give life all over again.

Spring Garden Update

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The ONE tomato seed that germinated was this, the trusty Stupice (pronounced Stu-peach-ka) tomato.  Most of my seeds have entered their 3rd year in my kitchen cabinet and so I can conveniently blame their age for lack of successful seed sprouting this spring, having nothing to do with my 30 hour work week which I’ve never had since beginning my edible quest some 4 years ago.  And it’s no big deal that this tomato plant is about a month behind the tomato curve because Stupice is one tomato that is a lover of the fall, a welcomer of the sudden cool days that can sneak up in early autumn when we’re still passing them off as summer.  In 2012 I was still harvesting these medium sized red Czechoslovakian heirlooms in January.  Yes, that’s right.

Refreshed soil in the raised bed is now home to a white Armenian cuke, butternut squash, yellow crookneck squash, pattypan squash, basil and rosemary.  To my surprise the basil is getting DEVOURED by some rodent, perhaps with an Italian parentage.

Refreshed soil in the raised bed is now home to a white heirloom cuke, butternut squash, yellow crookneck squash, pattypan squash, basil and rosemary. To my surprise the basil is getting DEVOURED by some rodent, perhaps with an Italian parentage.

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My daughter and I had a “decorate grow bags” afternoon using felt shapes and water-proof fabric glue. They grow my best tomatoes ever.

My daughter's design, now home to a cherry tomato.

My daughter’s design, now home to a cherry tomato.

For such a small thing, Eva's Pride has an impressive crop.  Supportive stakes in my future?

For such a small thing, Eva’s Pride peach has an impressive crop. Supportive stakes in my future?

Honestly, I'm unsure what the deal is with my Snow Queen Nectarine.  the bottom half is growing some healthy, strong new branches but the top half is only now meekly blooming with no leaves.  I'm hoping the two ends can meet somewhere in the middle and soon.

Honestly, I’m unsure what the deal is with my Snow Queen Nectarine. The bottom half is growing some healthy, strong new branches but the top half is only now meekly blooming with no leaves. I’m hoping the two ends can meet somewhere in the middle and soon.

Pole beans making their presence known.

Pole beans making their presence known.  These WERE grown from seed (one of the easiest veggies to do so in my opinion).  I just save a few over-ripe pods each year and let them dry out on the kitchen window sill.

And last but not least, the red seedless Thompson grape.  This may be one of the most exciting things happening this season for me.  It's a first and I'm enjoying seeing the tiny flowers give way to this...

And last but not least, the red seedless Thompson grape. This may be one of the most exciting things happening this season for me. This vine fruiting is a first and I’m enjoying seeing the flowers give way to tiny grapes…

Chicken Salad

Our hens seem to be little charming magnets whenever family, friends or neighbors come over to visit.  Questions abound about their eggs, whether they’re friendly and how we came to keep chickens.  I’m always happy to share our story and tout how sweet and funny they are.  I think we have about 5-7 kids in our neighborhood dreaming about having their own chickens.

My husband and his sister enjoying some feathered friends.

My husband and his sister enjoying some feathered friends.

My daughter and I love feeding them yummy snacks.  Some of their most coveted treats from the kitchen include old bananas, apple cores, melon rinds, soft tomatoes, lettuce and carrot tops.  My daughter likes to help in the kitchen and she used her culinary know-how to concoct a tongue-in-cheek chicken salad.

Here we have crisp watermelon rinds with some crisp carrot tops.  Isn't it funny how food competition shows can describe a dish so eloquently?

Here we have fresh watermelon rinds with some crisp carrot tops. Isn’t it funny how food competition shows can describe a dish so eloquently?

DSCN0609Our Silkies often get compared to bunnies, and although their noses don’t wiggle, they do hop from time to time, usually to reach a flower or leaf just out of reach.  Otherwise, they have almost no vertical ability.  They are soft like a rabbit and don’t mind being held for some time, as long as their wings are held securely.  Their feathers don’t have the typical barbs, which gives them a fluffy look and a super soft touch.

We love our girls!

We love our girls!

Our grass has never been greener.  We have not fertilized with traditional bagged grass fertilizer since our hens came to our home.  Now we have a more natural and effective fertilizer.  Thanks, chickens!

Our grass has never been greener. We have not fertilized with traditional bagged grass fertilizer since our hens came to our home. Now we have a more natural and effective fertilizer. Thanks, chickens!

Applesauce from the Orchard

Yesterday was my family’s yearly visit to go apple picking at our favorite orchard near Julian, CA and dare I say I think it was our best yet.  Instead of letting October roll around and then saying, “Oh!  We need to go apple picking!”, we went a few weeks earlier than usual this year.  And boy did it pay off.  The crowds were thinner and the apples bigger and more plentiful.

Selecting our bounty with first-timer cousins.

Selecting our bounty with first-timer cousins.

The breath-taking blue skies provided a touch of fall in the air.

The breath-taking blue skies provided a touch of fall in the air.

Quite the array of apple types.  I filled it until not a single other apple could balance without falling.

Quite the array of apple types. I filled it until not a single other apple could balance without falling.

We picked Jonathan, Gala, and Golden Delicious, among others.  While walking the apple tree isles, I decided that I wanted to make my grandmother’s apple sauce recipe with a good portion of our harvest.  This morning my helper and I did just that.  This recipe has been made in my family for over fifty years and today was the first time that I’d made it with my daughter.  I thought of my grandmother and of the many Thanksgivings and Christmas meals that I’d passed the bowl of homemade applesauce that my mom made each year.  It’s a simple, fun recipe that isn’t afraid to let the essential flavors shine.  And there’s no sugar added. (It’s also amazing on potato pancakes).

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Grandma Iris’ Applesauce

7 yellow apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
7 green apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
7 red apples, peeled, cored and sliced thin
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup raisins
Cinnamon to taste

Put apples in a large pot with 1-2 inches of water.  Bring to a 
boil and then turn down to simmer for 10 minutes.  Don't cook to 
long to allow chunks of apples to remain.
Drain the water from the apples.  Add cranberries, raisins and 
cinnamon and stir.  Eat warm or cold.  Keep refrigerated.
Serves 4-6 people.

Second-Chance Plum

A year and half ago I planted two bare-root fruit trees in my front yard.  The area where they were planted I now understand to be the barest of baren wastelands on my whole property.  Over the past year I’ve realized that NOTHING survives there…not even California natives or succulents.  So, determined to save the Burgundy Plum, I carefully dug it up, trying to avoid root damage.  What I saw when it came out of the ground was very telling…hardly any root growth and what had grown were tiny, string-like roots.  I gave it a new home in my backyard in a veggie bed next to the new pergola, where the soil is naturally richer and has had the advantage of amendment over the past 3 years.

Well Plum lost all her leaves almost immediately.  The only way that I could tell it was still alive was a slight scrape of my fingernail on a branch, which revealed bright green.  After a few weeks I could see new leaves start to bud out.  I was seeing a second spring.

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She’s still a meek thing, having been starved of nutrients, but I’m hoping that this is a second chance to thrive.  With patience I think that this plum will be a shade-providing, eye-pleasing tree for next to the seating area in the years to come.

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Mohawk Chicken

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It’s been a hair-raising morning with extremely rare San Diego summer rain.  Our Silkies appreciate a nice rainy day, particularly because it gives them a chic hairstyle (note the dyed tips), but also because it allows them to see better!

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DSCN0439It’s hard not to smile at these silly hens as they cruise the yard and visit the back door to see if any scraps will get tossed their way.  Yesterday our Ameraucana, Henrietta (seen above in the background), walked through the open back door and was caught hanging out in the dining room!