Boysenberry Syrup

July 27, 2010 at 8:19 pm (Vegetables)

boysenberry vines

After harvesting, too often cooking is the bottleneck. I typically have three days or so to do something with my vegetables– either sharing with kin or kith, or cooking it myself. The last couple years boysenberry bushes have volunteered themselves, growing from the margins of the fence toward the garden. The consequence the garden proper is being surrounded by a ‘fence’ of berry and tomato bushes. While the apricot and peach trees on the corners deposit their seed. It’s actually quite beautiful.

Boysenberries make great pancake syrup. But you first need to pick them! While picking the boysenberries I noticed two kinds of vine which I distinguished between male and female. The male vines bore no fruit and grow rather aggressively with fairly big thorns. The female vines bore flowers and had smaller diameters. These latter vines carried the berries, and of course I picked these as they turned a dark purple. It’s so easy to get not only pricked but berry juice all over your fingers. I was able to get about five cups of berries this year, and will let them grow, only pruning the male vines which tend to cross into the garden. Five cups of berries produced about 3-1/2 jars of boysenberry syrup. It’s easy to make. Simply put your berries in a pot, add a little water, and cook at a moderate to low temperature w/ a couple cups of sugar. I’d say one cup of berries to 1 or 1 cup of sugar. Stir and sample until it tastes good with a smooth consistency. Once the syrup ‘glazes’, they should be done.  The recipe is the same for apples, peaches, and plums.


Another summer treat was apricots. The garden started with three apricot trees. Over the last year and a half, I’ve been raking up the badly bruised fruit while saving the seeds from eaten ones, and throwing all into the compost bins. As I add compost to the garden, these seeds naturally sprout. As a consequence we have about 15 apricot seedlings with three rapidly growing trees. I plan to retire from bunny gardening (moving on to bigger things) in the next couple years, so as I move on I expect to leave behind a peach-apricot orchard. I am also passing on apricot and peach seedlings (between 7″-36″) to green friends.

Anyway, apricots are perhaps some of the most tasty fruit. Cobbler is my favorite, and you can make a quick cobbler by simply washing and deseeding your apricots, throwing them into a glass cooking pan. You don’t need to grease it. Just throw it in. Mix some biscuit with a little milk, and you can spread the dough on top. Throw some cinnamon if you like, and cook for about a half hour at 350, oven temp. It’s good stuff, fast, takes no sugar, and great for morning food w/ coffee, or desert for any meal.

The trinity season is really a time of bounty. We have tons of tomatoes falling off the vine. About 5 to 10 tomatoes daily. We also are behind on kale, beat, and collard harvest. A couple quick notes: kale is rich in all vitamins especially A, C, and iron. But it lacks B12. Collards are nearly identical plants to kale. They grow in virtually the same fashion, are totally rugged and robust, but unlike kale, have B12 but less A. Together, you have a total, off the chart, nutrient combination. So, make sure you grow both. I am totally convinced kale is a miracle plant, and in CA it grows through the winter!

putting in drip lines

My second gardening tip: while sponge lines clog up with dirt and must be thrown away after one season, 6″ drip lines also clog. Though the 6″ lasts longer, they still get clogged up with dirt. However, unlike sponge you can poke the 6″ holes with a pin and dislodge old mud. Just turn on your drip irrigation (the hose) and note where the dry spots lie. Then treat those areas that appear plugged. Sponge lines work awesome, but only a couple months. The others last longer and in the end will save you money. Drop sponge lines.

the Fargo and Bartlett families praying, cooking, and eating at camp

Lastly, Amanda and I will be getting married August 14th. We’ll be moving closer to her work. I already commute vast distances, so this is not a factor. Meanwhile, the garden will continue, and I’ll be planting another at my aunt’s. So, there will be some expansion of bunny garden this next year, despite us moving closer to the city. Meanwhile, we hope to invite friends for meals and prayer at our new place, of course sharing some of the delectables from the vine. We also survived our fist camping trip!

God Bless you all!


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Raddish Treats

November 9, 2009 at 6:28 pm (Vegetables)

DSC00178After I got my drip irrigation system installed (during the summer), my rows of soil replenished and built up, and seed broadcast, I then let the sun do its work! I had ten rows of garden vegetables– beets, kale, spinach, and lettuce. I also planted some tomatoes and corn only because I had some tomato volunteers (which I relocated along the drip line) and extra corn seed left over. I knew both would perish by December or January. Neither do well in cold, but you never know with the mild winter in CA, and, at the very least, green corn stalks are pretty.

DSC00157Also, a lot of things I do I learn the hard way. Rather than research things, I tend to experiment. I noticed this summer my corn cobs did not fertilize well. A lot of the kernals were missing on the cob, and this is due to poor fertilization and lack of neighboring corn. This time I packed the corn stalks in so each stalk had lots of neighbors! I am curious to see if I get more kernals this way per cob.

DSC00181Since corn grows tall with good sun light reaching underneath, amongst my rows of corn  I planted herbs, onions, and raddish. The ‘tiered’ approach worked well, and I imagine it is a excellent one when dealing with plants that do poor in direct, hot sunlight. These would include pumpkins (for fall) and any vine/squash plant in general. I highly recommend using corn to help provide shade for such plants in otherwise hot, sunny areas.

DSC00180To the right above (and left side) is a picture of my raddishes. Many only grew leaves without bulbs below. Both kinds I gave the leafy stalks to my bunnies. Bunnies love raddish leaves. I also gave my bunnies the roots or stalk end of kale which tend to be very hard and not good for cooking. The leaves (which tend to be large) are really the most edible/cookable part of kale, and they are best picked early on. If you wait they begin to turn ‘blue’ and fiberous. However, kale is exceedingly rich in vitamins. The raddish also get more ‘hot’ or peppery as they are left in the ground. Like beets, raddish roots turn into bulbs and as they rippen they ‘lift’ themselves out of the ground. When they are 2/3 above ground they are more than ready to pick.

This time around my most important lessons were:

1. Bottlenecks in home fertilizer production during summer is always a problem (I need more bunnies!). In summer, grass clippings and other sources of compost decrease. Also, compost piles tend to dry up and decomposition slows. Spray your compost pile with a hose and keep damp. Layer compost between dry clippings and wet table scraps. I only have three bunnies, and don’t get enough droppings from them to solve my fertilizing problem. Normally, on farms livestock is the primary source of nitrogen. This would work much better if I had ten bunnies with twelve chickens. Then I’d be in the black! Summer is a low point for compost bins, so ramp up over autumn and winter. My chipper helped but these were still large particles, so take more time to decomp.

DSC001732. Insects and weeds are always a problem. I am organic with no pesticides or herbicides. Normally I ignore weeds. But after the first rain in September I got overwhelmed by sour grass. Sour grass has grown everywhere and is faster and taller than my spinach and beet plants. I had to go through my rows a pull sour grass crowding out and covering my vegies. This was time consumming and self-defeating. I found, however, plants like Kale do the opposite! Kale outgrows the sour grass and will dominate. So, during sour grass season (the first good fall rain until Feb.), plant kale. My next crop will be less spinach and beets and more kale and sweet potatoes.

With insects, I found aphids to be most pernicious. They can explode on you, covering every stem and leaf in the garden. However, aphids will not endanger anything until your leaves are fully mature. The trick is to keep on eye on your plants and pick early. Don’t let your vegies over-ripen. I was able to isolate and hinder aphid growth this way. I had a couple pockets, but as soon as I saw them I picked the plant. On your drip line you know you have aphids in the row if you spot ants going up and down the line. Ants milk the aphids just like cows.

3. Plant herbs, raddishes, strawberries, sweet peas, and squash under tall plants like corn, sunflowers, etc.. Your corn stalks might even have some string between for vines to creep along! Try to save space (especially for urban and suburban gardens) by using a tiered approach.

Some future projects: At the local hardware store the garden section sells worms for composting. I’ve put off the chicken coop idea due to my racoon friends, but will adopt some worm pets instead! Expect something on vermiculture soon. This post is more or less a sum of my autumn vegie harvest. Two more posts are in the works– one on St. Francis, the other on Hallow’s Eve.

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Drip Irrigation

November 2, 2009 at 8:50 pm (Vegetables)

DSC00145Drip irrigation is a must for all gardeners. I first got the idea while visiting Ardenwood Farm in Newark CA. Their entire fields are watered by drip methods w/ some sprinklers. Not only is it water efficient, but it saves tons of time. Line comes in 12″ and 6″ drip spaces. For plantings like corn or squash, I recommend twelve inch. For spinach, beats, and like plants I advise 6 inch or ‘sponge’ lines. Smaller spaced drips, 6″ or below, will water the length of your entire raised bed.

DSC00168This second planting of spinach and beats,  I got wise and skipped a step. Rather than first plant seeds in seedling containers, I broadcasted the seeds along my rows of raised earth. First, I had to replenish the soil with fertilizer from my compost bins. After mixing in fertilizer (decomposed lawn clips and bunny droppings w/ some table scraps), I then raised the earth by digging six inch deep trenches on either side. These trenches were then filled in with chip compost to provide walkways between rows. Meanwhile, I watered down turned earth until clumps broke down into finer particles. Once this was done, I ran my irrigation lines and tapped this all into the local hose. Finally, I scattered the seed along half inch or so deep cuts on either side of the hose, covered them up, and then let regular watering and sun do the rest.

DSC00144Seedlings arose within three or five days. We were blessed with some early rain in September, and this really caused my spinach, beets, and kale to grow! Nothing is better than rain! Meanwhile, I had some volunteer tomato plants sprout. Sadly, the weather is getting cold, and these volunteers will likely be for naught. Nonetheless, I transplanted them in hopes of one or two November tomatos?!?

I am catching up on this blog. Meanwhile, I hope to post a few things regarding my church on St. Francis and Hallowmas! Nice pixs coming.

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Last Pickings

September 26, 2009 at 3:19 pm (Vegetables)

DSC00156Enough pictures of tiny, lonely fruit! Aside from spinach and beets, the rest of my plantings were not very bountiful. I hastily planted squash and corn in rather hard soil, and I believe they were nutrient starved. I have since improved soil conditions, and have a real bumper crop coming soon! Meanwhile, here are some interesting pixs of miscellaneous growings.

DSC00140Green squash flowers are a bit smaller but otherwise are identical to pumpkin flowers. Likewise every morning they would open up to the cool air and close by the time the sunlight directly hit them. My squash, as you can see in the picture, tended to be small and the skins were tough. Fairly disappointing like my corn. I also grew some cantelope, and none of them were as big or as sweet as what is sold in the store. All the above took a lot of water and did not fair well in the hot sun. They also were all vine plants and work better on a small, backyard lot if grown along a wire fence or similar support frame. I will not grow these seeds again.

DSC00143Upcoming: back to basics! More on soil and irrigation. I am still catching up on this journal, and pictures are taken daily. My garden right now is growing like crazy with green veggies, and this time I prepped the soil properly. But there are always bottlenecks as I can see this second harvest coming and the need for getting ready for a third.  Another bummer crop: snow peas. Grow better in wet, coastal climates where weather is cooler. But the peas tasted great, and were nice snacks for bunnies and while I worked in the garden.

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Tomatoes Spectacular!

September 18, 2009 at 6:20 pm (Vegetables)

DSC00147I don’t think anyone in California has a bad experience with tomatoes! Though I was tempted to grow from seed, I purchased 20 seedlings in May. May is a month when the hardware and nurseries drum up a fever pitch of tomato plant sales. I bought a number of types, ranging from beef steak (my favorite) to cherry tomatoes. Tomatoes will grow in almost any soil. But they are high nitorgen consumers, so will deplete the soil. As soil is depleted, the fruit grows smaller and smaller. However, they will keep producing all summer long, and my plants have been churning out tomatoes daily for over three months. I expect them to faithfully produce for another month, into October. My only warning, large tomatoes will tend to bend vines down to the ground. If tomatoes touch earth, watch out for slugs and other critters. Make sure your prize tomatoes are off the ground. I placed a number on top of styrofoam cups just to keep slugs away. Slugs will fiesta once the fruit turns from green to red. So ‘watch out’.

DSC00132Tomatoes are a great staple crop. They like daily watering otherwise the leaves begin to curl, and if water the vines will grow and grow. They did best along my livestock-wire fence. As vines get heavy with fruit, they can break, so be sure they plant as necessary support. I would also plant your tomato seedlings about three feet apart. Beef steak plants get very large, so maybe four to five feet there. I recently installed a drip irrigation system, placing outlets at the foot of each tomato plant. This has made watering pure ‘cake’. Will share some pixs on my water system soon! Will do the tomatoes again next year once the soil is replenished with bunny droppings, etc. .

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Corn on the Cobb

September 17, 2009 at 7:29 pm (Vegetables)

DSC00130Unfortunately my garden produced really anemic corn. I had two problems, and these can be kept in mind when growing corn yourself. First, I have hard clay soil, and did not prepare it properly. Rather than digging up an entire radius of ground, I dug out a small hole and planted the corn seed. Any serious planting needs proper preparation of soil which means full tilling plus (re)fertilization. Second, corn is fertilized by wind not pollen. In order to optimize corn kernals you need to plant lots of rows with corn fairly close to one another.

bunny wants butter with corn

bunny wants butter with corn

What I planted was mostly for aesthetic value. Each corn stalk produced two to three ears. But the ears, once peeled back, had scattered kernals indicating uneven fertilization. Between my few (14) stalks, I had one good ear of corn. Corn ears varied in size from very small to medium, and my guess this is lack of proper nutrition. My stalks also tended to be stunted, and this is due to a plant which becomes more or less pot-bound in hard clay soil. In the end the ears made good snacks for my bunnies. Corn along with sunflowers are very pleasing to the eye. I will grow more, but next time they will be in tighter rows  🙂

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Beets, beets, and more beets

September 7, 2009 at 12:01 am (Vegetables)

B0105I have a ton of garden pixs I have yet to post on this site. Hopefully I can catch up over the next two weeks. But I wanted to share some picutres of my first beat harvest. Like the spinach, I first planted these in containers and then transfered to  the garden. This was very labor intensive, and since then I’ve planted a second beat crop, and learning from mistakes, I wisely broadcasted my seed. This skips a very labor intensive step, saving much time with fine results. I would only recommend germinating seed in containers if prize or expensive flowers and something much more delicate than beats or spinach. As it is both spinach and beats are closely related seed, and they are very easy to grow with high nutrition. As always replenish your soil. Dark Greens suck up lots of nitrogen, and my soil restoerer, naturally, is table scrap, lawn clippings, and bunny mix! Go bunnies!

beatsMeanwhile, the beats were great. I prefer them to spinach, but you get five times the spinach seed per package unlike beat. Beats have the benefit of a tasty root along with succilent leaves and steams. They are like ‘bonus’ spinach plants, tasting the same. They only problem with this batch was I did not know the prime picking time. I alloweed them to grow in their beds for too long. And while they fallowed, an aphid population began to boom.

B104This didn’t ruin too much.  Aphids like to suck the juices of the plant from underneath the leaf, so they are not readily apparent. It’s a slow death, and you can wash them off. The key to deter aphid population growth is to pick early, limiting their food supply. After cropping both spinach and beats, I realize as soon as teh leaves turn a dark green, it’s time to pick! Don’t wait because the plants don’t get bigger and greener. If they fallow too long they will begin to seed and turn yellow, the tips of the leaves curling and drying up. When aphids attack, the leaves also will curly up as in the left-hand pix.

God Bless!

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Sugar Pumpkins

August 17, 2009 at 2:22 pm (Vegetables)

DSC00099It’s been a while since my last post. There’s been a number of crops since my last entry. Amongst the variety are my pumpkins. Squash flowers generally look the same, blossom in the morning, and close up during the heat of the day. Each squash plant produced, on average one sugar pumpkin. This was also true of my green zuchinni. Anyway, sugar pumpkins are not large. They tend to be more sweet and can be anywhere from fist size to a large softball. I only got about a dozen.

pumpkinThough the pumpkins turn out to be a wonderful orange, once they ripen, the pumpkin plant dies. They are also not too heat resistant and need water. For all the water I gave to pumpkin plants, I got very little harvest. I would not plant pumpkins in the summer, and perhaps this is part of my problem. I had some real disappointing vegetables, and after planting a variety realize the most bountiful are the dark-green leaves which grow in winter as well as summer.

DSC00066I have also been adding lots of bunny compost, tilling the soil, and mixing it all in with table scraps and lawn clippings. My soil is getting richer and richer, and now I am installing drip irrigation. There are a few other vegetables I would say not to bother with and will write about these later. It boils down to time, water, and payback. BTW. My brown bunny girl is not pregnant but just super fat. 🙂

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July 2, 2009 at 5:31 pm (Vegetables)

DSC00071 I harvested my row of Broccoli last week. It was  kind of disappointing. Out of fifteen, I only had  three with large heads. The rest grew to only bite-  size proportions. Alotogether I had perhaps as  much as two family servings of broccoli. I expected  more. I suspect the problem was hard soil and late  transplanting. Now I am discovering after H2O,  good and loose soil is most important. You must till your soil if hard clay. As you water clay conditions will return unless tilling between harvests. The broccoli took twice as long to grow as spinach, is a bigger plant, but does not yield the same in my opinion. I am use to large broccoli heads in supermarkets. These were big enough plants, but tiny heads.

DSC00086 When to pick broccoli? If you wait too long the heads will start to flower. When heads flower, they begin to turn purple. Once you see a purple tinge, pick! If they flower too much, the plant will then taste slightly bitter. My bunnies love broccoli whether flowered or not. It’s hard to see the brown bunny in this pix, but she’s there. You might be able to discern her ears. Good camo!

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Pumpkin Flowers

May 23, 2009 at 3:37 pm (Vegetables)

DSC00051 Two days ago I began to notice these  precious,  large,   orange flowers on my  pumkin plants.  Their petals    were paper  thin, and they  shriveled away a day or so  after blooming.  They were so ephermeal,  they  seemed truly  precious, and I had to get capture their  passing beauty before they entirely disappeared,  hence the pix. One thing buds to mind, these  pumpkin  flowers sure don’t give much opportunity for cross-pollination!  I am guessing since pumpkins grown in batches of vines, normally this would be ok. But these plants are only a month old and have yet to become vine-like.

DSC00048 Since we all know a person can find anything on the  internet, I looked up the flowers and found this article on pollination. Evidently there is a problem, and gardeners are advised to pick male flowers and pollenate female buds with the stamins. Male vs. female flowers are recognized by whether a bulb is present immediately under the flower. Females have bulbs, which if pollinated, become squash pumpkins. When I find a male flower, I will let readers know how long they last once picked in terms of the stamin.

DSC00049Update: There are usually far more male than female.  I looked at my pumpkin plants this morning and  almost all of the flowers, whether budded or still  growing, were male. I from all counted, out of  perhaps 20 only 2 were female. At there base you  will find small bulbs that look like miniature  watermelons (green and striped). I tore a male  flower, removed the pedals, and rubbed the stamin in the pistil. Just to ensure pollination I left the stamen in the pistil. I will let readers know if this translates to a sugar pumpkin!

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