Friday, June 28, 2013

The Good, Bad and Real Ugly This Week on the Farm

The Good this week is everything in our gardens are growing so well.  The flowers beds are blooming their hearts out.  The watermelon grow bigger each day.  And some of our relatives came to stay with us a few days to get the old fashioned farm experience. They helped pick apricots, cut them and they are being dried in the sun. The Carli side of the family all had orchards and farms during the late 1930s-late 1960s. .

  Unfortunately, the farms were in what is called Silicon Valley where industry took over the most fabulous farms as the soil was one of the best in all of California.  One side of the family grew apricot trees in Los Altos and every summer, the whole family would go there to cut cots.  All ages of kids to adults would stand in the apricot shed and cut/pit the cots.  So that is what we did for 2 days, pick and cut but our cots were all so small.  We had to pick them early because of the rain storm that was coming in so fast.  We had such a great time visiting and reminiscing about the "old times" in Los Altos, Saratoga, Cupertino.  In fact, our original family members were friends with the Mariani Nut family and the Mariani Dried Fruit family. They were a very big family run drying and packing company right at the corner of Stevens Creek and Hwy 9. Unfortunate for that family too, Apple decided to open up their company about 2 blocks away and the family sold out and moved to Winters and to Gridley. They still do their farming business but are now run by the great-grandson's of the original owners
The Good/Bad business this week was the rain.  Of course, everyone was looking forward to it, but for farming, it has other consequences this late in the season.  Grapes will split and mildew.  The fruit that has started to ripen will split because of the wet.  We lost almost 1/2 of our apricots due to the rain, the split leads to rot so there are hundreds of beautiful not yet mature apricots on the ground.  Even some of the nectarines have some rot going on.

The Bad and Ugliest part of this week.  We lost so many of our trees because of the rain and heavy with fruit.  One of my very favorite trees, the large pluot tree actually split 3 ways right down the middle.  The pluots were large and not quite ripe and the tree will have to be removed.  After driving around and looking at all the trees, we lost a large limb on each of the nectarines; lost a huge limb of apricots; and we lost 3 of our large peach trees.  Each lost one of their biggest limbs.  We will try and pamper the rest of the limbs in an effort to let the rest of the peaches and other fruit get ripe.  But at the end of the season, many will have to go and it will be many years before we will enjoy the fruit again.  It just makes me sick to my stomach to see the limbs down but what can you do?  Nothing but go on.
The ugliest of ugly news.  A visiting relative's dog killed one of my chicks (which is about a month old now).  He was so proud of himself, he brought it right up to Frank in his mouth.  It was such a shock and happened so fast, we didn't have time to anticipate a city dog being around in the country.  I hate to see animals hurt and these cute little guys had gotten so tame with my feeding them, they didn't understand.  Again, nothing you can do but just go on.

  I have scheduled a new class--Making market bags using re-cycled feed sacks.  Class is July 10th, 6-8pm. $20.  Even if you don't know how to sew, I will teach you, you pick your own bag from my assortment of bags; you receive the instruction; printed materials; refreshments and go home with a completed bag.  Space is limited so if you are interested in taking the class, email or call me to register.
Hopefully, next week will have more "Goods" than the "Uglies".

Friday, June 21, 2013

CSA Basket Delivery, Camping and Finding A Great Surplus Store

I think I am back in the living again.  I have had this summer cold/flu for about 5 days and it really got me down.  We did have our CSA baskets to deliver and honestly, if it wasn't for my sweet husband Frank, it wouldn't have gotten done.  He took care of the chickens, chicks, picked and washed all the produce; moved the completed ones into the cooler; helped me deliver the CSA baskets and put everything away.  He did all the watering and so much more.  I finally went to the doctor and now with some anti-biotics, I am on the mend and back to business!!!

Fun thing happened when we made our deliveries this week.  In Paradise, we have two members so make the sweep and deliver to Chico and then go up the Skyway to Paradise.  Drop of the baskets and cut over and take the Clark Road down to Oroville.  On the way, we always saw a sign that said there was a military surplus store.  Frank and I love these stores because they have the most interesting items you never see.  They have camping items; ropes; wool blankets; coats, jackets; camouflage shading items.  We always said next time we would stop, so this time, we did and met the owner and the store was so much fun.  The store is called Swiss Link and it is located at 5355 Clark Rd, Paradise if interested.  At the last Gatherings Antique Flea Market, one of her vendors had this white shade cloth over her booth.  It was so pretty and

useful, I asked her what it was and she said it was a military netting camo.  I thought she had bleached it because I had only seen them in the greens.  This store had the white camo netting and I was told it is called Snow Camo from Britain.  Of course, doesn't that make sense that they would need a cover in the snow country, green would show up!!!  I think I am going to use it off my sorting shed when I have my canning classes for shade.
They had these 1930s-1940s cotton and wool blankets.  They are new/old stock meaning they were from that era, never used and new.  The cotton blankets were from a Swedish Hospital and the quality of the blankets were so wonderful.  And they had wool new blankets from Italy, Sweden, US, and Russia.  I am going to purchase one when my daughter finishes re-doing our grandson's room and have it at the foot of his bed.While there, the owner took our farm business card as he said he and his friend had been looking for a CSA farm that would deliver produce and nobody in their area delivered.  So we met some great people; saw some fun items; and added a couple more members to our farming business.  In the biz world, I think they call that networking!!!

Our grandson, Collin had a birthday last week so the family all went up to Lodgepole Lake and camped.  It is a beautiful place and the campsites were so clean, large areas around each spot and the camp host Tina does a fabulous running the camp ground.  Of all the years I have camped, I never saw a camp host clean a camp site, I mean she picked up trash, cleaned the fire pits and RAKED all around each spot.  The lake is breathtakingly beautiful.  The kids are really interested in fishing so we fished every day but unfortunately, none of us caught anything.  Celli and family have kayaks so they did that on the lake.  Fun time with Celli & Chris and the other Baker Grand parents, John & Katie.
We all had a great time and after working so hard on the farm non-stop since April, it was nice to just relax and enjoy the out doors and family. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Nothing Says Country More Than a Garden of Zinnias

This year, I added more space allocated to growing cut flowers.   I am guilty of this fact, that I may spend $10 on a bouquet of flowers, but I will pass up of 2 baskets of something for the price of one at a market.  People just LOVE flowers!!!  I do too, I just can't have enough of flowers around me at all times, in my house gardens, in my vegetable gardens, in my home.
At the beginning and end of each of my vegetable rows, I plant flowers.  In between my vegetable rows, I plant flowers.
But I am really excited about my added patch of rows of cutting flowers.  I want to sell flowers this year for special occasions; for parties; for events, wherever someone needs flowers.  Not just any flowers, but "country style" flowers and nothing says country more, in my mind, than a bunch of zinnias. 
What is interesting is all the different types of zinnias.  Did you know they bloom in every color EXCEPT blue?  They come in short and tall varieties; have single, double or dahlia pedals. Zinnias have short condensed pedals or larger - in your face pedals.

The small zinnias in a bouquet look great on the bathroom vanity, on your night stand, next to the kitchen sink.  The large, bold, long stemmed ones look great anyplace and they all last for a long time as long as you trim the bottom stems and change the water occasionally.
I have found that I can grow the plants very well from seed.  You don't need to pay a large amount of $$$ for a single plant or a 6 pack.  One small package of seeds will go a long way and they germinate very quickly, love full sun and grow under lots of different soil conditions.  Sometimes the very tall ones do need a bit of staking but if you do some other transitional planting of flowers in front of them of smaller graduating heights, that normally can do the trick of holding them up.
There are these new colors out, I planted a few last year.  The seeds were a little pricey but the lime green with pink in the middle were so special.
So start your own country garden, plant a few zinnias and you will enjoy them all summer long and into the fall.  The more you cut, the more they make new ones.  But if you don't want to grow your own or don't have the space to do it, you can always call a farmer like myself and buy directly from the farm your own Country Bouquet!!!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

How to Store and Care for Potatoes and Onions; Our CSA 2nd Basket of Produce

What a great CSA basket our members received yesterday.  In the basket were freshly dug up potatoes; fresh onions; 3 variety of squash; lettuce; cucumbers; peppers; beets; turnips; Swiss Chard; kale; dill; Chives (for the potatoes); Basil; strawberries; apricots; peaches; snow peas.  Eggs and Flowers upon request.

I was reading about how to store and care for potatoes since we dug a batch of the red and Yukons up.  I wanted to wash them because they had dirt on them but the skins started coming off.  The information stated that you need to "Harden off" potatoes after they have been dug up.  The potatoes are placed on newspaper, covered with newspaper and stored in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks.  The darkness will stop the potato from wanting to sprout.  Then when you bring them out, the outer skin will be hard so they can be washed, like the ones you purchase in the grocery stores.  That doesn't mean you have to wait, you can take these new potatoes, wash them and cook away.  They just can't be washed and then stored, they will rot or sprout.
Similar process for newly dug up onions.  I leave the stem on them when I pull them up, braid them and hang them where it is dark and cool.  After a few weeks, cut off stem, peel off the dead outer layers to reveal a nice clean union, then wash.  The onions we put in our CSA basket this week were dug up just a few days ago, so I did not have a chance to dry them out so my CSA members received dirty potatoes and dirty onions!!!  If you wash an onion then it would need to be used or it will also start to rot.
I am constantly amazed with the soil and weather here in Gridley, Butte County, California.  For those that have read my blogs before, sorry but I have to repeat my marvel at how fabulous it is to grow anything you can imagine in this soil.  It has very few rocks, if at all; it has a great PH factor, mine is 6.5; it has enough clay and sand into it that it retains water, yet not too much clay to keep it wet.  My amazement is that last week, we started to pick cucumbers and TODAY Frank and I each ate a tomato.  Now we spent 35 years growing vegetables in Nevada City, Nevada County, California.  I put in my garden between May 15-31st.  That means I would put seeds in the ground or buy small plants and plant tomatoes and peppers.  Last week here was May 30-31 and we had a salad with fresh lettuce, fresh pepper, just picked cucumbers.  We are like 60 days minimum sooner than Nevada County unless you grow your vegetables in a tunnel!!!  Simply marvelous.
Gardening brings me so much pleasure I am so happy to hear more and more people are deciding to put a tomato or pepper plant in a pot in their yard or actually planting a vegetable garden.  They really don't take that much trouble or work, but they do need consistent watering, some fertilizing, and weeding if they are in the ground.  The rewards outweigh the work.  Still not too late to grow something now!!
Until next time -