Pea Sprouts and Flowering Cherries

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A honey bee on a cherry blossom. When I took this picture, the whole tree was buzzing with insects.

The last chance of frost is quickly approaching.  Already, one late frost hit the peach tree pretty hard and almost all of the blossoms died before starting to set fruit.  Compared to last year, only about one in ten or twenty flowers is setting fruit.  I hope the tree will compensate by making larger fruit, but even if it doesn’t, I’ll be happy with whatever fruit I do get.  I still have several jars of canned peaches in the pantry to use.  The cherry trees and the apple tree missed that freeze and are in the process of blooming, and hopefully the soft freeze forecasted for next week does not affect fruit set.  At least this year, I know which tree is which.  Last year, I mistakenly though the cherry tree was actually an apple.

One of the first five peas that have sprouted.

One of the first five peas that have sprouted.

About a week and a half ago, I started direct planting peas and beans in the garden. So far, the results have been rather mixed.  I have had five pea plants sprout and several of the beans also sprouted.  However, the beans don’t seem to be surviving the cold night temperatures, so it is just as well that the majority of the beans to sprout yet.  I have plans to plant the beans close enough that they basically form a blanket over the garden bed.

The grape vine is starting to put on leaves.

The grape vine is starting to put on leaves.

The grape vines are just starting to put leaves on.  Last year, the grape vines had this happen almost a month earlier.  In general, this growing season seems to be taking its time to get going.  Not that I mind too much.  I just am anxious to start seeing the results of my work.  Last year, was not able to do very much with the grapes I harvested, and almost all of them went into the freezer. Because they are seeded grapes, they are not really useful for eating straight, so grape juice and wine are really the only uses for them and only the grape juice is really an option for me because I refuse to drink alcohol of any form.  The only way I could get juice out was to cook the grapes and then strain them thru cloth.  The resulting juice had oxidized and was not very good.

The steam juicer I used to make fruit juice.  This is the same style of juicer that my wife's grandmother used.

The steam juicer I used to make fruit juice. This is the same style of juicer that my wife’s grandmother used.

About a week ago, I got a steam juicer in and was able to easily turn the grapes into very good tasting grape juice, along with the peach peals and apple peelings and cores.  The juices will probably need to be mixed to get a good final product, particularly with the peach as it is quite tart, but overall, they taste quite good.  The grapes in particular were quite good because the juicer keeps the grapes from oxidizing and giving the juice an off taste.

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Peach Harvest in Full Swing, and Grape Harvest Finished

The peaches a week ago. I got the first round of peaches on Monday.

I’ve been working like crazy over the past two weeks because the grapes decided to ripen last week and the peaches decided it was time to ripen this week.  I ended up not being in the mood to post anything last week because I managed to cut the tip of one of my fingers.  Two weeks and a preventative Tetanus shot later, my just about completely healed. I’ve hurt myself more in the eight months since I’ve moved here and started gardening than the previous two or three years.

Two bags of grapes and a bunch of tomatoes.

For the most part, the grapes ended up being frozen.  This was the simplest way and while they wouldn’t do very well with a power outage, they will otherwise be fine and it gave me time to take care of other things.  A portion of the grapes I turned into grape juice that I later used for canning peaches.

The first batch of peaches filled four five-gallon buckets full.  And that ended up being only about half of the harvest.  Tuesday and Wednesday were spent busy pealing, pitting, heating and canning all the peaches I could.  Not all of the peaches were good.  A number of them were partially eaten by some large ants while they were still on the tree and several were partially rotten or otherwise bad and had to be discarded.

One shelf in my small pantry is nearly completely filled with peaches. Tomorrow, there will be even more here.

Even after throwing away a lot of the peaches, I ended up with four and a half gallons of canned peaches.  As of now, I have six quarts and twenty-two pints of peaches canned.  I am definitely going to need to start making peach cobbler and start looking for other peach recipes.  It is not much use to can so many peaches and have them go bad before they can be eaten.

My second batch of the peach harvest.

I got another three five-gallon buckets full of peaches again today.  I plan on spending a large portion of Saturday pealing, pitting, heating and canning peaches.  I am not sure how much this will end up as, but the majority of this will be going into quart-sized  jars.

Checking In On Things

Burns look and feel a lot better than yesterday.  I ended up going to an urgent care clinic to have things checked on.  I’m a computer programmer when I am not working in the garden, so making sure my hands are working properly is fairly important my livelihood.

The newly dubbed “White Hive”. This is the second and stronger swarm I caught this year.

Before I was burned myself yesterday, I did an inspection of all four hives.  The green hive continues to fill out the super on it and the blue hive continues to ignore its super.  I can’t really blame the blue hive as it swarmed this year. The second of the two swarms, in one white hive body and two supers, has filled the majority of the deep and the top supper with honey, with only a few cells capped in any of it.  I would not be surprised to get a super of honey from this hive.  The other swarm is still  in two supers.  I have a bit of time before that hive needs to be expanded.

Pinto bean pods on the largest bean plant.

Today, I was pleasantly surprised to find that my pinto beans have bean pods growing on them.  The larger of the plants started flowering a week or two ago.  I will need to start putting poles next to the larger plants as they are getting rather large and are starting to topple over.  Altogether, I have about fifteen pods so far on four plants.

The tomatoes are still green, but growing larger every day.

The tomatoes are starting to come faster.  At last count, there are thirteen tomatoes growing.  There are more than fifty small yellow tomato flowers on the plants right now.  Before much longer, I won’t be counting tomatoes because there will be too many.  I’m going to be up to my ears in tomatoes, with a grand total of twenty-seven plants in various stages of development.  Only about a third of those have flowers on them so far.

Very small pecans. I won’t have any pecans ready until sometime this fall.

My wife and my mother noticed that the pecan trees are starting to produce nuts.  Judging from the sizes of the four pecan trees I have on the property, I am going to have a lot of pecans this fall.  I rather like pecans and I’ve lived in a house that had a pecan tree before.  The tree was much larger than any of the pecan trees on my property, but there was only one tree and that one produced enough pecans to fill half a deep chest freezer.  I am probably going to end up giving lots to my family and I may be able to sell some at the farmers market in town.  I don’t know yet what needs to be done for that.

Lots of green grapes.

The grape vines are making some nice bunches of grapes.  I’m not sure how to preserve these yet.  If they were concord grapes, I would be making a lot of the grapes into jelly and canning it.  I will probably try making some raisins from them to see how they are.  I’ve never been a big fan of raisins, so I’m a bit hesitant to make the whole harvest into raisins.  I would also like to try making grape juice from it.

Plants in the Ground

Peas, tomatoes, and strawberry plants

Today was a big milestone for me: I finally put plants I raised from seed into the ground.  The peas have gotten so tall that they have been needing support for a while now.  Putting them in the ground allows me to have a support system to prop up the plants.

Also, I took this opportunity to plant all of the first round of plant starts.  I know it is still before the last average frost date here, but I think it is close enough to the date that I can probably get away with it.  It also helps that it has been unseasonably warm this year.  All told, I got Alaskan peas, zucchini, tomatoes, strawberries and cabbage in the ground today.

Close up of the tomatoes

Close up of strawberries

We got rain today, which has made working in the garden a very muddy affair.  One big upside to that, however, is that it made dealing with the heavy clay soil much easier.  I had been tilling the soil to help with the weeds that have been coming up in the garden plot for a few weeks now, but the soil has been drying out horribly in the process.  The rain has made it workable again.  I hope to have a few days where it remains that way.  I will probably end up spending a great deal of time and effort over the nxt few years amending the soil with compost to make it easier to work with and more fertile.

Peach fruit set

All of the flowers on the peach tree have finished their bloom and the fruit is setting very nicely.  I don’t know how long it will be before I need to thin the fruits so that I get nice sized peaches at harvest time.  Also, the apple and cherry trees and the grape vines have all started to set fruit as well.

In the greenhouse, I have another set of cabbage and tomato seedlings in reserve in case the ones I’ve planted don’t make it.  Also, I have started some pinto beans I got from a local whole foods store.  Supposedly, I have some mint and thyme started as well, but they are taking their sweet time to germinate.

Pinto beans sprang up over the past two days.

One thing I have realized is that the larger the seed, the bigger the seedling.  I suppose that makes sense, as larger seeds would have a bigger energy supply to pull from when germinating, but it caught me off guard.

I still have a few more plants that I haven’t started yet.  I have some lavender and chamomile seeds I need to start fairly soon and I will be able to now that I have several plastic pots to use from the seedlings I just transplanted into the garden.  I have a bit of mostly dry soil stashed away in the greenhouse that I can use to fill the pots, but I will probably end up waiting a while for the ground to dry out a bit so that I can get more soil from the garden plot.

Finally, Its Not Raining

Over the past three days, it has been raining on and off.  So much so, in fact, that I haven’t been able to get hardly anything done outside.  What I have done is rather meager.

Maybe bamboo?

I have obtained seeds for mint, a bag of pinto beans and some onion sets.  The onion seeds I tried to start never did.  I managed to get the sets planted before the rain and it appears that the first bulb is starting to push up from the soil.  Also, I may have some bamboo growing in my garden plot.  I frist thought that they were red onions after looking online at sprouts, but after digging one up, I found not a bulb, but something that looks like a stick.

Things I have done nothing with appear to have made the most progress in the past few days.  The apple tree is on the verge of blooming, some other tree I’m not exactly sure of its identity is starting its bloom,and both the grape vines and the pecan trees are putting on leaves.

Grape vines have a few leaves already

This saturday, I’m planning on doing the second hive inspection of the year and hopefully the hive is far enough along that I will be able to put on a super.  The hives have been very active when they weren’t hiding from the rain.

I’ve also discovered three pots of herbs by my back porch, of which I have identified two: thyme and rosemary.  Unfortunately most of the thyme plant looks dead. The rosemary is doing amazing.  I’m not too worried about the thyme because I am trying to start several new plants in my greenhouse.  I’ve put seeds in 24 pots and if I get only a fraction of that germinating, it should leave me with plenty of thyme.

Nice looking rosemary along with mystery herb

Hopefully things stay dry for a bit so that I can get my hive inspection done on Saturday and possibly get a few other things done outside. The forecast has this weekend looking rain-free, but that can change at a moments notice. I also want the sun to be out to help the plants along so that I can start hardening off the plants for transplant.