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.

Garden Flower Zen

dahlia blossoms

Garden flower zen. A stroll through the garden provides bright colors and fragrant discoveries painted by blooming flowers planted throughout. I may be weeding but my ears are soothed to hear the song of many birds and bees buzzing by. The time spent is full of surprises like an occasional ladybug, butterfly, or dragonfly! Flowers are an essential part of an artist’s garden. I cut flowers almost every day to make our house feel alive in summer.

The work seems easier…

…as my eyes feast on the beauty surrounding me in the garden.

It is amazing what you discover when writing a blog. Looking through the photography of the garden, I see that we plant 20+ types of flowers in the garden on a regular basis. No wonder, the bees like our garden so much. I could probably write a post about each variety from the various pictures shot over the years that show the growth progress, colors, and best angles. But don’t worry, that is not the intention of this post. The goal of this post is to show you what flowers we grow in the garden as an introduction to further articles that show more intense information about each variety.

  1. Alyssum, a ground cover that I like to plant around other bigger guys.white alyssum ground cover blossoms
  2. Bachelor Button, a frequent bloomer gives a touch of color wherever they are.bachelor button blossoms
  3. Baby’s Breath, a small white flower used in bouquets.white baby's breath blossoms
  4. Bleeding Heart, the bush springs up just as the snow melts with heart-shaped blossoms appearing as we are ready for planting. Notice Mr. Butterfly on the top right.bleeding heart blossoms
  5. Carnation, the cinnamon scent of these blossoms make it a pleasure to snuggle them with your face every time you pass by.red pink and white carnation blossoms
  6. Coneflower, a hardy bush that grows up tall and spreads arms wide showering the garden with yellow blossoms all summer long. yellow cone flower bush
  7. Cosmos, a favorite wildflower blooming throughout summer.lavender cosmos blossoms
  8. Crocus & Daffodil, 2 short-time early spring guys who pop their heads out of the snow, with heads that turn to follow the sun.purple crocus blossomsyellow daffodill
  9. Dahlia, comes in a multitude of bright colors, shapes, and sizes.pink dahlias
  10. Daisy. We had daisies and red roses at our wedding.shasta daisy blossoms
  11. Geranium, I have to take into the house over winter.red geranium
  12. Gladiola, a flower that I love but so do all the gophers, an ongoing war.red gladiola
  13. Iris, is planted all around in and out of the garden. The deer seem to leave it alone, most of the time.bearded iris blossoms
  14. Lilac, lavender spring bush blossoms with a heavenly fragrance.lavendar lilac blossoms
  15. Marigold, 2 years ago I scattered a coffee can of dried flower seeds. Wrongfully, thinking were no good. But, they were just fine, notice the height of those marigolds.tall marigolds
  16. Poppy, a wildflower self-seeder.pink poppy blossoms
  17. Roses, one of my favorite flowers.pink rose
  18. Snapdragons are very fragrant and colorful blossoms.snapdragon blossoms
  19. Sunflower, pale yellow, orange, to brown. Check out the bee zooming in for a landing here.golden brown sunflower
  20. Zinnia, splashes of color all summer long.

Our Garden Apothecary

garden apothecary mullein 01Apothecary

Our herb garden apothecary keeps me busy all summer long. Above is a typical day of herbal drying on our deck table. There is mullein blossoms on the upper left, hyssop blossoms on the right top rack, and then chamomile blossoms in the tray upfront. Anything blooming gets picked and dried throughout summer. Diana Gabaldon’s bestselling book series, Outlander did a good job of introducing me to the role herbs play in human medicine. She is responsible for the intense interest I have in the herb section of our garden.

Saturday, I had an earache and sore throat requiring a visit to urgent care in town. They tested for COVID (negative) and then prescribed an antibiotic for which I am so very grateful. It is Tuesday, and I am doing so much better but the earache has not fully resolved yet.

What does a gardener that believes in herbal remedies do?

Rosemary Gladstar

Rosemary Gladstar's Herbal RecipesI get out one of many handy books by Rosemary Gladstar, an Amerian herbalist. You should really check this author on YouTube) if you are considering getting into healing herbs because her books are full of helpful real-life solutions. I find that the indexes in her books make looking up info easy.

mullein 04
I knew some mullein was blooming outside the garden fenceline.

This book is entitled “Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health” and the recipe I tried was on page 82 Garlic-Mullein Flower Oil for ear infections.

mullein 03I made up this recipe in less than half an hour, and after putting three drops in each ear, got immediate relief.

mullein 02BTW, did you know that the pioneers used to call the mullein blossom the torch flower? Well, they did. Why? Because they’d dry the blossom stems and later fasten them to sticks and soak them in oil and use them as torches to light their way at night. Wow. Did you think of that while you gazed at the yellow blossoms on a stick?

The definition of Apothecary is (noun), a person who prepared and sold medicines and drugs. Peter and I have become somewhat our own pharmacy. We use the information from reputable herbalist’s books with herbs we grow in the garden and the medicinal weeds growing around us.