One Year Ends …

I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be. ~~ Douglas Adams

This seems the perfect quote for a gardener.  In spite of all our plans and hard work, a garden has a tendency to go where it wants to go.  I know that I have never once achieved the garden I saw in my head as I did my winter planning.  Sometimes it’s fallen short of my image and other times it has turned out to be much better.  It is always it’s own thing.

Things are quiet now in Ray’s Garden.  We have been having strange weather.  Much too dry — we are starting to worry about another drought year — and unseasonably warm for December – even though the warm spells are interspersed with spells of freezing temps. lower than anything I can remember around here.  A very odd year indeed.

Looking back over the year that is now passing, it has been a profligate year in the garden.  The flowers never really stopped last winter and really exploded in spring and summer.  In the fruit and vegetable sections, the tomatoes bore more than anyone could keep up with, the strawberries were abundant, and the grapefruit were so plentiful they pulled the limbs down to the ground.  My favorite part of Ray’s garden each year is watching the full cycle of the fruit-bearing trees — from new leaf to blossoms to set fruit — to ripening and harvesting.

persimmons2

persimmons 5

Persimmons are an especial favorite because they not only provide delicious fruit, but a season-long display of changing leaf colors …

Persimmons leaves

But — as does all good fruit — this is where they finally arrive …

Persimmons in box 2

… harvested and ready — along with some equally beautiful pomegranates — for eating, out of hand, or baked as cookies or muffins or, in this case, Persimmon Chocolate Chip Bread!  Oh, yum!

Persimmons bread

Happy New Year, everyone!  And may your New Year be blessed with an abundance of green and growing pleasures!

What we call the beginning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a beginning. The end is where we start from. ~~ T. S. Eliot

Advertisements

Autumn Quiet

“During Prohibition hot claret wine gargle becomes popular “cure” for sore throats.”  ~~ Sonoma County Historical Society

This is the quiet time of year.  Nothing particular is happening in Ray’s Garden.  The bed’s have been cleared of summer’s excess, the persimmons and pomegranates have been harvested.  Now we wait for rain.  It’s a quiet time.

Mostly it’s quiet because The Crush is over for the year.  The wine grape harvest is in and it’s up to the winemakers now. Just a few weeks ago it was anything but quiet.  Trucks and tractors and gondolas clattering up and down the roads twenty-four hours a day in a controlled frenzy to get the precious grapes in at their sugar peak.

Now the vineyards are gold and orange — and bare of grapes.

vines 1

vines 2

Many  of the wineries in our part of the world bear Italian names, but it was a Hungarian, Count Agoston Haraszthy, who is credited with first bringing grape cuttings into our region, back in 1857, and in spite of changes in consumer taste, Prohibition, and Phylloxera-scares grapes have flourished ever since.

leaves 1

Other crops have had their day in our sun:  Wheat was the primary crop here in the years when gold-seekers and entrepreneurs flooded California — until the wheat rust epidemic of the 1890’s pretty well took out wheat completely from California.  Gravenstein Apples still are prized today and pears and prunes once ruled our valleys.  And we never forget that innovative horticulturalist Luther Burbank arrived and set up his experimental gardens in nearby Santa Rosa — giving us, among other things, Shasta Daisies and Santa Rosa Plums.

Today, grapes reign supreme here — and we are entering a time of relative quiet in our vineyards.  Soon the beautiful colors will be stripped from the vines and the fields will rest.

leaves 2

“That Plump Thing with a Navel”

How it all began: Tomatoes are thought to originate in Peru. The name comes from the Aztec “xitomatl,” which means “plump thing with a navel”. ~~  Fun Facts

combine

When I first began this blog I thought it would be easy enough to find things to write about all year round.  After all, this is California, where bearded iris bloom in January and roses flourish all year round, but I’ve found out that there is almost too much happening at the peak of a season. I appear to prefer the change-over months, the in-between times — the times of beginnings and endings.

The flowers were abundant this summer — maybe too abundant — it proved difficult to focus on any one thing when there were color and pattern everywhere.  I loved spring, when the new plants were set out and enjoyed following the drama when an unusual late frost threatened the new seedlings.  The vegetable garden quickly took most of my attention once I recorded the promise of newly set fruits on the autumn bearing trees (they are coming very close now!).

Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.~~ May Sarton 

tomatoes

The tomatoes became the story of the season. They flourished.  They became ridiculous! They threatened to take over the entire vegetable section.  The quickly outgrew their cages and escaped their plots and exploded across the disappearing pathways.  They grew so wildly that it was work to find the actual tomatoes in the center of the plots.

But Autumn is here and the vines are dying back.  Most of the leaves are gone now and the remaining tomatoes glow like fairy lights strung through the naked vines.

cherry

naked

mix

I love the color spread in that last photo.  And speaking of color, these below are the current stars of the garden:

black

Their bottoms are finally turning red, which means they are ready to eat.  They are a sweet-tasting fruit — nice but nothing special in flavor.  Just an ordinary tomato, despite their exotic appearance.

Heaviest tomato. The heaviest tomato on record weighed in at 3.51 kg (7 pounds 12 ounces). A “delicious” variety, it was grown by Gordon Graham of Edmond, Oklahoma in 1986. Gordon sliced the tomato to make sandwiches for 21 family members. ~~ Fun Facts

While this baby  doesn’t begin to compete in actual pounds, it does look more like a small pumpkin than a tomato —

pumpkin

I think we all have a dream of what it would be like not to work and grow heirloom tomatoes, and I do have that dream. It would be lovely. I do love gardening and all of that, but I do love my work. ~~ Helen Mirren 

I’ll end today with my favorite out of this current batch of quotes.  Happy October, all!

Just when you’re beginning to think pretty well of people, you run across somebody who puts sugar on sliced tomatoes. ~~ Will Cuppy 

So Much Better When You Grow Your Own

“More grows in the garden than the gardener sows.” – Old Spanish Proverb

One of my favorite things about Summer is the anticipation of wonderful things to come…tomatoes

There are so far only a couple of actual small unripe tomatoes, but the plants are overflowing their plot and it isn’t hard to imagine the juicy red riches they are going to produce — any day now.

And, of course, you’ll need lots of basil and rosemary to go with them.

dual

“Why try to explain miracles to your kids when you can just have them plant a garden?” ~~ Robert Brault

It is ridiculously easy to wax lyrical about tomatoes — freshly made pasta sauce — the simple joy of a sliced tomato layered with fresh mozzarella and basil — or just a warm tomato straight from the vine– but I think the thing that provides the most anticipation in Summer is fruit.

This special feeling towards fruit, its glory and abundance, is I would say universal…. We respond to strawberry fields or cherry orchards with a delight that a cabbage patch or even an elegant vegetable garden cannot provoke.  ~~Jane Grigson

yum

Strawberries may be the perfect summer fruit — they are beautiful to look at, fast-growing, and best of all — delicious.  For real anticipation, however, you need a fruit tree.  You cannot hurry a fruit tree along — you simply have to wait for it to produce in its own good time — imagining pies and puddings and jam.

pears

persimmons2

pomegranates

Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul. ~~ Dorothy Day

Eating a piece of fruit that you have watched grow from a blossom must be one of the great joys of life.  Eating it fresh and warm from the Summer sun may well be heaven, itself.  However we enjoy it, homegrown food is a blessing to be treasured.

Despite eating more than ever before, our culture may be the only one in human history to value food so little. ~~ Barbara Kingsolver, “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”

The Tree of Life

What is this contradiction called a pomegranate? The pomegranate is sweet, but the pomegranate is tart. The pomegranate is tough and wrinkled, but when cut open it glistens with ruby-like seeds.  In the Greek myth of Persephone, the pomegranate is called the fruit of the underworld, yet in the Muslim Qu’uran it is called the fruit of paradise. ~ Diana Viola

There is a pomegranate tree in Ray’s Garden — not a big tree, almost more of a bushy shrub — but early  this past summer it became obvious that it was going to bear a very good crop this year if all went well.  Hard little green lumps at first, the fruits soon took on their traditional pomegranate shape.

  • Distribution: Native to Persia and the Himalayas in Northern India. It has been cultivated in the Caucasus since ancient times, the drier parts of southeast Asia, the Mediterranean region of Southern Europe, and tropical Africa. Introduced into Latin America and California by Spanish settlers in 1769, pomegranate is now cultivated in parts of California and Arizona.

They began to turn pink, and then red …

They became a topic for conversation as the whole staff seemed to monitor their progress … “have you checked out the pomegranates lately?”

Not only were they growing redder, but the small tree was, by October, filled with dozens of very large fruit — ready to burst with ruby-colored goodness.

The Prince:  I do not like pomegranates.  Farah:  What is wrong with you?   The Prince:  They’re messy, impossible to eat with dignity. SO much work for a few small seeds.   Farah:  But isn’t it the effort that makes them that much sweeter?     ~ quoted from Prince of Persia

Eating a pomegranate is definitely a task that is better accomplished in the kitchen than at one’s desk.  They take work, but they are most certainly worth the effort. There are options:  We can return to our childhood and just dig in and enjoy, not minding that we become a mess in the process.  Or we can do all the work at once, near a sink, gathering an entire bowl-full of glistening red seeds to eat tidily with a spoon at our leisure.

Or — we could try something like this: www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/kiwi_salsa/  — that sure looks good to me!

The inner beauty of the pomegranate has inspired design since Biblical times, and there are some who believe it may be the fruit on the tree of life. ~ Anon.