Peachy Days

Red Haven free-stone peaches 2021

We were blessed with mucho peaches this year from our Red Haven peach tree. It was planted last year and surprised us when it produced a full 5-gallon bucket of peaches in the first year. This year our little peach tree grew in height and width and produced 10 gallons of peaches. Wow, double the harvest! It really went to town, giving us many sweet moments to savor, and many more for later in the year from our pantry.

2-year-old Red Haven peach tree ready to pick.

See how heavy the branches were with all of the fruit on them. The tree would have fallen over or it would have had broken limbs if Pete had not built supports for the limbs that were so heavily laden.

10 gallons of fresh peaches

We harvested two full 5-gallon buckets of very sweet-tasting fruit. They are not giants but are absolutely delicious. This little baby tree is a very welcome addition to our garden.

Peeled & sliced peaches in bowl.

Here is how I go about canning what we don’t eat fresh. I blanch them for 2 minutes in boiling water or less, then the skins are easily removed. Here is a bowl of the fruit peeled and ready to put into glass canning jars.

15 quarts of sliced peaches

Our little 2-year-old Red Haven peach tree blessed us with all we could eat in fresh fruit, then 15 quarts of the sweetest sliced peaches. Yummmmm. I made peach syrup for pancakes, peach jam, and sliced peaches. Our pantry is happy. 

Picking Today

Picking today in the garden produced a winner for the biggest as the Mr. 6.4 lb green zucchini squash. He is sticking his head out of the middle bucket in this picture, a really big guy measuring 18″ long with a 5″ diameter. This is what happens when I put off picking for a couple of days. There is quite a few crookneck squashes in the bucket on the left. The bucket on the right is full of beets along with a single head of lettuce and eggplants.

Also, harvested lots of cucumbers today, including big guys for relish making. Mediums to be sliced for bread and butter chips. Then good old dill pickle jar sizes. You can see that they are sorted by size. It is safe to say that pickling season has now begun.

I was pleased to see that the blackberries have begun to ripen. It looks like it will be a nice crop this year if the weather cooperates. It was a couple of cups of berries, which isn’t bad for the first day of picking.

The first group of jalapeno peppers was harvested today and the green peppers are slowly but surely increasing in size too.

Picking Wild Chokecherries

Have fun picking wild chokecherries! We went with two friends in Spokane WA to pick some wild chokecherries on a walking path near their house. There were four of us and after about an hour of picking together, we had filled a 5-gallon bucket.

Lots of washing, washing, washing. After cleaning, it measured out to 72 cups of berries and about 6 cups of stems and leaves. The picture is with all of them in the large stainless steel pressure cooker pot holding the washed berries

My recipe made three batches (20 cups each), which I had to split between two big pots on the stove. I tend to keep the maximum at 10 cups per pot. Otherwise, I get quite a mess when it all starts to boil and foam, overflowing all over the stovetop. You know how much of a mess that is to clean up. We are now two very stocked-up families in both choke cherry syrups for pancakes and jam.

Herb Section

We have a herb section in the middle of our garden as we grow fresh spices for cooking along with teas and tinctures to keep us healthy. I started off mainly wanting to have fresh herbs to cook with. Now, we have a library of reference material on herbs by reputable herbalist and we are much more interested in the healing capabilities and qualities derived from our herb garden.

The hardest part for me initially was figuring out how to identify the sprouts as they came up. I’d kill them as I weed until it got easier to recognize them. Almost all of the images available online are of blooming, fully mature plants which do not look very much like a mature plant when they sprout out of the ground. I really wish that the seed packets would put pictures of what the sprouting plants look like. The cultivation success rate improves along with the ways we utilize the herbs as we learn more about them.

It is important to figure out which herbs are annuals needing careful seed retrieval to replant and which were easy self-seeding varieties. Also, which herbs are truly perennials hardy enough to survive our winters in the Inland Northwest climate. Do I need to protect them with a straw covering over winter? If it dies over winter I put straw over the next year to see if it can survive. It has become easier as we dedicate areas for each herb allowing the perennials room to grow and the annuals places to drop their own seeds.

The herbs established in our garden so far include basil, borage, caragon, caraway, chamomile, dill, elderberry, horseradish, hyssop, lavender, mints (lemon balm, peppermint, spearmint), mullein, oregano, parsley, poppy, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme, valerian, yarrow. Following posts will show information and photography of each one of these separately along with information about successfully cultivating.

Canners BEWARE

Canners Beware Chinese Lids

Avoid This Costly Error

Fellow canners beware of “Chinese” canning jar lids advertised as being “Mason Lids” on Amazon.

Chinese is a loser when compared to “Ball” lids. These two jars of cherries were processed in the same boiling water bath, the one on the left is a Chinese lid and the one on the right is an American “Ball” lid. In a boiling water bath, the Chinese lids expand — raising up like a balloon, then wrinkling and creasing as they cool. Chinese lids are sized to fit a standard American-made canning jar, but, are sadly much lighter weight and totally unreliable. If you choose to buy these lightweight “Chinese lids” you will very likely lose portions of your harvest. I ultimately had to repeat the water bath process with American lids, in order to seal the jars.

Faulty Lids

Our local farm supply store has not carried any canning jar lids this year so I have had to turn to online purchasing in order to get canning done this year. Here are links to what I bought on Amazon which I returned for a refund. Do yourself a favor and avoid these manufacturers like the plague.

AOZITA 100-Count, [WIDE Mouth] Canning Lids for Ball, Kerr Jars – Split-Type Metal Mason Jar Lids for Canning – Food Grade Material, 100% Fit & Airtight for Wide Mouth Jars

96 Pieces 70 mm Canning Lids Jar Lids Split-Type Lids Reusable Leak Proof Storage Solid Caps Metal Canning Jar Lids Compatible with Mason Jar for Pickling Canning Jar Lid Storage (Gold and Silver)

Unfortunately, I ordered the cheaper foreign-manufactured canning lids on Amazon which taught me this lesson. The lure of cost savings is not worth the amount of lost product and time it entailed. “Made in America” is what I am going to purchase from now on. We spend a lot of energy growing fruit, pitting and processing it to put into our pantry each year. Gardening and food preparation is some of the blessings in our lives. It is frustrating when a foreign manufacturer takes shortcuts, that destroy our work, making the job so much harder.

Harvesting Beans, Lettuce, Squash & Herbs

green beans 02

Harvesting beans, lettuce, squash & herbs today from our garden. We purposely plant an abundance of crops in a quarter-acre vegetable and fruit “orchard” garden, with the intention of donating to friends and family in need, along with local food banks during the summer.

Beans

We have one 50 foot row of green snap beans in the garden this year and they are just starting to come on, here is what we picked this evening. Peter and I sit at the dining room table and clean them. We end up with a total of 24 cups in our big metal bowl. Next, we wash them and blanch for 3 minutes. Using our Foodsaver, they are vacuum-sealed in portion-sized packs and freezen. Making them all ready for eating all through the winter.

Lettuce

Fresh salad is always a welcome part of our diet, Buttercrisp lettuce was picked today.

Squash

Two types of squash are harvested today, the zucchini and yellow crookneck. We have already saturated close family and friends with lots of the zucchini excess and I will be cooking zucchini bread and cakes today. It looks real probable that there will be lots of zucchini squash this year, so if you need any come and get it.

Herbs

Today the herbs being harvested were sage and basil which are already washed and in the dehydrators and are filling the house with wonderful scents. I’ll take pictures of them harvested this week sometime.

Nelson Creek Fire, in Elk WA

We are in the path of the wildfire named “Nelson Creek Fire, in Elk WA”. It started downhill from us about 2 miles away on Friday afternoon burning down our neighbor’s home and garage across from the Inland Grange on Nelson road. Their propane tank blew up and the fire traveled uphill rapidly coming right at us on Casey Lane Evacuation notices type 2, were issued.

On Friday even though the fire department went into immediate action to contain it by using multiple county crews, trucks, water trucks, helicopters, prop planes, and even a jet plane. It got right up to our next door neighbors property perimeter requiring retardant on the west and northwest adjoining neighbors properties. Friday was thick smoke and lots of air traffic directly over our home. Check out how close to the trees those pilots fly WOW!

We got a surprise visit from Jake at State Farm, really, Jim and John I think because we have State Farm house insurance. They drove in working with the fire crews to assess fire preparedness. We evidently passed and they advised us to start sprinkling water around the house to deter embers from igniting. Then, immediately the electricity goes out, so we run generators to put water around.

Saturday some of the smoke was clearing, There are still crews working the fire and hot spots still being put out. The air and ground teams were still hard at it. These pilots carrying water drops and retardent drops are so very gutsy and professional.

The jet, prop plane and multiple helicopters just barely cleared our hilltop coming over the top of our house and on to the neighbors next door.

Sunday less crews trucks planes and helicopters. Pete drove out to get our mail and saw our neighbors had their yards burnt and one even lost a truck that was parked in his yard.

We were all lucky that none of us were hurt and we didn’t loose our homes. We are going to have a lot of cleanup to do.