Thursday, July 17, 2014

Life's Peachy

My wonderful neighbor, Al, let me strip his tree of the ripe peaches that were threatening to drop. They were simply perfect.
I went online to see how I could freeze peaches. Lots of articles gave advice using sugar, and some even used some chemical to preserve the color, but I really didn't like to add any of these. Then I saw a post in a chat room about simply freezing the peaches whole with their skins on. So I experimented and am happy to report that, yes, it works quite well. When thawing, simply pop the peach into warm water and the skin slides off. The rest of the peach defrosts in about 10 minutes. The texture is affected - its not quite the same as eating it fresh but it is great for use in smoothies - mine was a tomato, spearmint and peach smoothie - total yum! The frozen peaches can also be used in baking and making sauces and jams. Speaking of which...

Yesterday I made a jam, a salsa and a crumble...

Peach  and Lavender Jam

Click on the title to take you to the recipe on the Love and Olive Oil Blog.

I loved how they extracted the lavender taste from the leaves giving a delicate hint of floral flavor -soak two tablespoons of lavender flowers in boiling water for twenty minutes, strain off the flowers and add the water to the fruit.
You can do this to add lavender to a lot of recipes. I even made up a recipe of my own. More about that later...
The jam was amazing and My Husband practically took a spoon to it. He's exasperatingly picky with food, so I was very pleased!


The Peach Salsa 

This recipe is from the blog "She Wears Many Hats." (Don't we all, darlin"?)

I'm not very up on Mexican food, and I don't know if cilantro is a must in salsa, but the aim of this salsa was to prepare it from ingredients that came from either Al's garden or mine. Therefore, I had to substitute some items...like basil instead of cilantro, since cilantro is currently blooming in my garden only and therefore not so nice to eat. Also, I used a bunching onion instead of a red onion and lemon instead of lime since Al's lime tree is still in recovery after the cold snap that nearly killed it last November.
Don't the ingredients make a pretty picture? The tomatoes, peaches and lemon were from Al's garden.
The salsa tasted even better than it looked.

Peach Crumble

I followed the recipe in the link above but doubled the ingredients for the crust as I typically find there isn't a thick enough crust.
 
The crust was great, but the layer of peaches was too thin and seemed to get absorbed totally into the crust.
 
My Husband prefers a dryer crust dessert anyways, so he was happy, but I'd have liked more peaches. Next time I'd use a smaller dish 8X8, with the quantities from the original recipe.

So this is where I invented my own sauce to go with the crumble. When I researched the recipes, every single one of them  added cinnamon. It's not that I don't like cinnamon, but why does it have to be added to every single dessert in America? Apple pie, pumpkin pie and now this?

So here's what I came up with...

Byddi's Peach and Lavender Sauce to keep every crumble eater happy!


Ingredients

2 tbs of lavender flowers
1/3 cup water
8 Peaches (I actually used about 12, but they were small - aim for 4-5 cups of chopped peaches.)
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla essence

Directions

  1. Soak lavender flowers in the boiling water for 20 minutes.
  2. Peel and pit peaches (say that 20 times, fast!)
  3. Coarsely chop peaches into 3/4 inch cubes. (That is, don't be too precise about the size, not act like a ruffian and swear while you cut them...but you can if you want.)
  4. Strain lavender flowers out and keep the water.
  5. Mix lavender water, peaches, brown sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla essence together in a sauce pan.
  6. Bring the mixture to a boil stirring constantly.
  7. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring to prevent the mixture from sticking (Not sure if it will. I was just scared it would!)
  8. Allow to cool and dish up with Peach Crumble, or ice cream or both!



Now you can have it any way you like - so long as it's peachy!

Byddi Lee




Monday, June 23, 2014

I love it when a plan comes together.

This time last year I was laying out plastic to solarize my lawn. Well the jury is in...

I wouldn't recommend it.

I've been disappointed a the amount of  bur clover that came back not to mention a recurrence of grass. A meticulous weeding regime means I'm on top of things, but I wonder if sheet mulching would have given me the same results in less time. If the front and side yards are anything to go by, the answer to that question is yes. Saying that, it provided a handy work area last year when I repainted my garden furniture.

After solarizing the lawn, my friends helped me build Wee Lee Canyon, a dry creek around the what used to be the lawn. Another friend, and very talented carpenter, constructed a pergola beneath which My Husband and I laid hard-scaping and mulch in time for the winter rains to come. Except that they barely came...

By March I decided it was now or never and I planted some woolly thyme to fill in between the pavers, I also planted some blue fescue grasses and a couple of lavenders that were actually volunteers from a huge one we already had. I planted two grape vines on the pergola and made a shade out of old curtain material that should keep us cool until the grapes grow in.

You can just make out the little seedlings in the picture below.
In two short months the woolly thyme is filling in nicely. There are some bonus lobelia too.
 The grapes are really bounding up the posts!
Despite the lovely seating area, I rarely get time to enjoy it - the hard work in the garden continues! Here's a shot of this years garlic harvest.
 
 Byddi Lee

Monday, March 10, 2014

Nice new natives

I can't believe I last posted in January...two months ago! And to think of those days as a new enthusiastic blogger when I posted every week. 

My excuse for not posting more blogs is twofold...
1) I've finished my novel and am currently looking for publishers for it.
2) I've started my second novel....

Lots of writing going on - just not blogging.

Also lots of gardening going on ... In fact, it's hard to keep up with the garden, things are moving so swiftly with it. The miture of much needed rain and warm spring temperatures has made everything simply bounce forth this spring.

I added a couple of new plants to the native garden, having taken out some of my dwarf coyote bushes that had gotten straggly looking.

Inspired by the beauty of my redbud I purchased another.

I never usually buy big plants, but it was the only one left in the store. At $49.99 I must have visibly quaked at the the price because the sales guy gave me $20 off on the spot!

As I dug the hole to plant it I was struck by how nice the soil was. Four years ago this was compacted, tried old lawn, now it crumbles like chocolate cake - yummy! Take note those of you who don't believe that a layer of cardboard, a six-inch layer of mulch and time to let the earthworms do their thing can produce great results - without removing sod and double digging!  You can see the new plant in the top right hand corner of the photo.
I planted a white sage. It smells divine and will  grow to be quite huge.
Good job I left plenty of space around it! In the foreground of the photo you can see the coyote mint and the Clevelandia sage - all of which smell wonderful in the heat of the summer.
I bought three ceanothus plants. I'm looking froward to the bloom on this Yankee Point next year.
This variegated Diamond Heights prefers shade, and its bright leaves do brighten up a shady corner. I tried one before under my Douglas fir but it died. This one is under the plum tree. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.
And the Julia Phelps promises to fill the gap left by my removal of a giant volunteer coyote bush that had gotten too leggy.
An Impulse buy at the garden center, this Mendicino Reed grass is beautiful at maturity, but I hope this spot gives it the shade it likes. It just looks like a random clump of grass right now!
 As does the baby  Deer Grass.
I got it to match the beautiful one I already have... which certainly does look like a random patch of grass.
But the prize for stunning native plants went, this year, to the Dutchmans Pipe vine I have growing through my crepe myrtle. It blossoms with these unusually shaped flowers that  look like a string of novelty lights, and just at the time of year when the crepe myrtle is bare - a perfect complement for each other providing interest year-round.
 
And yes the thermometer in the background really is showing the temperature in the shade of 75F...sorry to nearly everyone else in the Northern hemisphere suffering from extreme weather.


As they say here in California - it is what it is!


Byddi Lee







Thursday, January 2, 2014

Hopes for a Happy New Year

Wow! It's been quite a while since my last post. This is probably because it has been such a challenging year in the garden and I've not been inspired to blog about it. Why isn't the opposite of inspired just "spired" or even "outspired"?

Back to the blog...

First, we had no rain for most of last winter. And the total for the year is less than half the lowest ever recorded - 3.8 inches. That has greatly impacted my native garden in my frontyard. The plants had a tough summer and in the end I had to water them. They are struggling now and nothing looks that attractive.

In the backyard, the ground squirrels became the bane of my gardening existence. In the end, I had to trap and kill them using #110 body gripper traps, supposedly the most humane trap that kills the blighters instantly. ...I'm up to 6 now.

Since the winter came in, their activity has diminished, but there are still crop losses. So I set a trap right over my lettuce which they'd eaten down to about an inch in length. I was hoping for some regrowth. Next week I'm dog sitting for a friend so I needed to put away the traps. As I dismantled the trap I'd set over the lettuce, the claws sprung round and grabbed the lettuce, tearing all the plants in a eight-inch radius right out of the ground. Squirrels-0, Byddi-0!

Then the really cold spell we had just at the end of November killed quite a lot of my ornamentals.

Yet the weeds keep on coming. In the area I solarized last summer, I've notice a rash of Geranium dissectum. Not a big deal. I can pull it quite easily, but why can't it die from drought, get eaten by squirrels or succumb to the frost?

What actually did inspire me to write this post was an little indoor gardening experiment.

We had a New Years Eye Party, and as part of the "Black and White" theme, I made up a number of white flower arrangements to place around the room.  Most of the flowers were carnations (all bought in, not homegrown sadly!) but I had a few chrysanthemum in there too with some Gypsophila Babys Breath.
They made a refreshing change after all the Christmas decor.

The day after the party, I remembered an experiment I'd done when I worked as a teacher back in Ireland. I added food dye to the water in the plants and the white petals changed color - over night!

When I added black food dye, the white carnations developed a black stripe and the chrysanthemums even started to show some color.
Red food dye has produced a pink stripe and a pink hue to the rest of the leaves.
I just wish I'd other colors to play with now!

Hope it rains soon and that it drowns all my ground squirrels.

Happy New Year!  (unless you are a squirrel .....)


Byddi Lee