Sunday, January 31, 2016

When Life Gives You Lemons ...

Another bushel of lemons came into my life this past week. This basket-full on the heels of a bushel-full a couple of weeks ago. I can't let produce, fruit or vegetables go to waste ... it's just wrong. So, first lemon-time around I made candied lemon rind and lemon ice cubes. Both of which I still have.

This time around - lemon cake and lemon marmlade. Not only were these both incredible taste sensations, but my house smells amazing. It's been raining for days here in California - so badly needed - but after so much rain, the house starts to smell and fell and little dank. Nothing like a house full of lemon zest to chase that away.

Lemon saturated cake, topped with candied lemon rind, accented by lemon slices and lemon rind zest. It's a lemon-stravaganza!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

800,000 Tubers is a Lot of Begonias!

As a University of California Master Gardener I get to be a lifelong learner! The requirement is 12 hours of continuing education every year. Yippee! Here, in the Salinas Valley, the Salad Bowl of the World, there is so much growing going on that our continuing ed is generally at a local ag company.

This past week our group got to go on a tour of Golden State Bulb Growers, a local grower of California Callas, AmeriHybrid Begonias, Scilla Peruviana and Eucomis. The company was the first and is now the last remaining grower of tuberous begonias in the US. Operations Director, Michael Ferguson, walked us through the entire facility in Moss Landing, CA. Golden State grows bulbs, tubers and rhizomes for resale, as well as flowers the cut-flower market.
We got to see how bulbs are sorted and then packed for resale, the cooling sheds where both cut flowers and bulbs, etc are stored - 800,000 begonias in one shed!, 15 million throughout ... wow!; we walked through the greenhouses where are few trail begonia varieties were growing. We met employees who were happy to share their knowledge about their role in the company.

And ... Michael graciously gave us a bag of begonia bulbs for our home gardens and a bunch of cut flowers to remember our visit. It was a put-your-muck-boots-on great day!

Narcissus - aroma was
The grading shoot.
Cool ... literally!
Cut flowers in cold storage.
Begonia bulbs.
Flowers being cut and bagged for resale.
I'd take these!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Citrus is a Winter Fruit

I have a prolific Meyer lemon tree (citrus x meyeri). These trees are tiny but oh, so plentiful. So far this winter I've made lemon ice cubes (not so hard to make since all you do is freeze the juice in ice cube trays!); I'm currently pickling (salt and lemon juice is all it takes) a big jug of lemons, great for middle eastern cooking - in a month I'll let you know how those are; and I've made candied lemon rind - which is delicious dropped in a cup of tea, on top of a green salad, on my oatmeal in the morning and as a simple sweet-tooth fulfilling treat!

I'm thinking of making some marmalade. It's very labor intensive - a lot of peeling and scraping and slicing, but it sure would taste good on toast in the morning!

These are the last of them for now. They brighten up my whole kitchen and that sweet, lemony smell makes me smile.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

On Second Look ... or Third ...

This from my hike last Sunday. What is it? It caught my eye because of the pattern. I'm fascinated by what nature creates. There's a heart shape here ... the image of a face ...  an amber jewel ... when actually it was a hollow in a tree trunk, probably created when a branch broke and just deep enough to collect water from the recent rains. Can't explain the face ...

"Keep close to nature's heart ... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. 
Wash your spirit clean." - John Muir

Monday, January 11, 2016

Umbrellas in the Grass

I'm fascinated by mushrooms right now. Probably because I haven't seen many in dry, drought-stricken California these past four years. I was walking in my upper pasture this weekend and scattered throughout the grass were these beauties. Even though most mushrooms are deadly, I find them quite whimsical. Something about little rooftops in the grass that make me smile.

It was lightly raining when I was out mucking so, of course, I started singing ... in the rain ... which made me think of Gene Kelly ... which made me want to dance with an umbrella ... which these reminded me of ... where's my yellow rain slicker when I need it!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

I'm a Nature Nerd

I'm a Nature Nerd - N to the second power; that's me.

Today, I was hiking at the Pinnacles National Park near Soledad, CA and not too far from where I live. It was a beautiful day - cool and overcast. More often than not when I hike there it's 100 degrees. Looking at nature all around me with sweat dripping into my eyes is not so fun. But today was great.

There's a California Condor spotting team of volunteers that I run into quite often. There are about 70 condors nesting between Big Sur, CA and the Pinnacles - a huge success story. I didn't see any today; didn't see much wildlife today, but I did see lots of mushrooms.

Mushrooms are so intriguing and stylish and creepy and whimsical and deadly. Look at this one. What caught my eye was the big canopy top, but when I bent down to get a closer look I noticed the fluorescent band around the bottom. So cool.

I like the way this one has a saggy, droopy roofline and that giant foot-like stem. A little Tolkein-esque - Lord of the Rings middle earth feel to it. 

So much in nature inspires creativity. That's what keeps me hiking! That and the piece of chocolate cake I ate after my nine miles today.