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Friday, December 24, 2010

RIP Little Connie

Our little araucana chicken, Little Connie, died the other day.  I think I'll always have the vivid memory of my husband walking in the side door with a dead chicken in his arms.  I think he wasn't sure what to do.  Little Connie had to be at least 8-10 years old, as we got her from someone on Craig's List when she was 2-3 years old, at least... She laid the bluish-green eggs, until the last few years when she was really just hanging out, and as new chicken ranchers, we are not brave enough to cull our flock by killing, so we've let the older hens enjoy a retirement here in Niles.

Little Connie always reminded me of my great aunt in her later years.  They both had a very stiff-legged walk, seemed to be suffering from arthritis, but maintained a very formal, proper sort of dignity.  They also both became skinnier as they aged.

RIP Little Connie...

Monday, November 29, 2010

More Niles Pie Company Pies

We've been tasting lots of Carolyn's creations over the past several weeks, and we're developing a list of favorites, especially the Chocolate Pecan Puddle:

For Thanksgiving, we ordered a slew of pies, but especially enjoyed the Bourbon Pumpkin Pie:

As the pie aged by a day or two the bourbon flavor came through much stronger, it seemed!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Niles Pie Company

Carolyn has started a new company in Niles (Fremont, CA)--Niles Pie Company.  The first pies were available for pickup last night at our local grocery store, Mr. Mikey's.  We ordered a scrumptious pear-almond galette, and it was just wonderful! Congratulations to Carolyn for starting a wonderful company.  Go to the website and place an order, pay by paypal or credit card and pick up on Friday locally at Mr. Mikey's Country Store!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Pies and Tarts, oh my...

We have too much fruit around here!  We've been making jam, tarts, pies, cobblers, dehydrating French prune plums, and sharing the extra produce.  Today I picked some rhubarb, as our plants have gone a bit wild.  The pink pearl apples, as well as the Cox's orange pippin apples are falling off the trees. We also still have some peaches. So I just finished baking two desserts. First, a rhubarb-apple crumble-topped pie, and then a peach tart with meyer lemon and cinnamon sugar.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Citrus Bud Mite

It is strange that such a tiny pest can cause such great distortions in fruit, but the Citrus Bud Mite (see UC Davis Integrated Pest Management site on Citrus Bud Mite).

I picked this Eureka lemon from our tree last week. The pictures show how "alien" the fruit can look:

The fruit almost looks like a hand with very large fingers.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Red Cabbage

We harvested the last red cabbage from the winter planting.  It weighed 7 lbs after the large outer leaves were removed!  Wow! That's the largest one I've ever grown.  Now, what to do with the red cabbage: sweet and sour cabbage?  cabbage slaw, again?  It does seem that although the red cabbages are prettier in the garden they are not as versatile as green cabbages. I don't think they make sauerkraut out of red cabbage, do they?

Saturday, June 12, 2010


In the above photo, the cauliflower looks kind of small, but it is actually a typical grocery-store-sized one. I was surprised we had this perfect cauliflower growing in our winter vegetable garden.  I thought that a green cabbage just had some ungainly, wild leaves, and that the head wasn't forming correctly.  I peeked inside the leaves yesterday and discovered this full, 8-inch cauliflower growing happily inside.  Today we picked the head and we'll eat it tonight, probably steamed with a little butter and salt.

The leaves are so healthy looking with very little cabbage moth infestation.  We can use the giant leaves in a stir fry too, or feed them to the chickens.

Here's another view of the cauliflower in the garden, just before cutting:

Friday, June 11, 2010

We harvested our first red cabbage

We harvested our first red cabbage last weekend and planned on making both coleslaw and some sweet and sour cabbage with it.  We got the cabbages in kind of late this winter, so the harvest time is later than usual and the cabbages are a bit smaller than in years past.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Our Little Grapefruit Tree

Our little grapefruit tree has had 2 fruits so far--one each year.  This photo was taken in March, and shows the large grapefruit on the teeny tree.  The variety is Rio Red and the tree seems quite healthy despite the fact that it has not grown too much yet. Perhaps I should have not let it fruit and concentrated on growth these first few years.

The tree has been a magnet for snails the last two months, and here in California the rains have continued.  Normally by now the rains would have stopped, but the wetness is creating a terrific environment for snails and slugs. The fruit is much yellower now,  almost ready to pick.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs with Fried Sage Leaves & Feta Cheese

Along with fresh-squeezed orange juice from our tree, we enjoyed these scrambled eggs (from our hens) with fried sage leaves (Berggarten sage--a cultivar used in cooking with large leaves) and feta cheese. It was awfully good.  I'm starting to get a bit addicted to fried sage leaves--we also had them the other night, served on top of some lemon roasted chicken.

Here's a photo of breakfast:

Rhubarb-Strawberry Custard Pie with Meringue

Last night I made this pie, a variation from a recipe in Joy of Cooking.  The only problem with it is that our rhubarb is a green variety with only a bit of red on the stalks, so that when mixed into the custard the greenish-yellow color is a bit off-putting. That's why I added some strawberries to this, to help with the color.  Last time I made this pie, it was all-rhubarb (the Victoria rhubarb we grow in our garden), and the color unfortunately has led to our daughter refusing to eat rhubarb.  I'm hoping to some day win her back.

Here's what the pie looked like:

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pasta with Spring Garlic, Favas, and Meyer Lemon Sauce

This is a slight variation of a recipe by Annie Sommerville in her cookbook,  Fields of Greens. I cooked up some fettucini in a large pot.  In a separate pan I sizzled spring garlic in olive oil, added frozen sliced peppers from Trader Joe's, as well as some fava beans from our garden.  Later I added the zest and juice from one meyer lemon as well as pepper, salt, and minced Italian pasley.  After draining the pasta, I added it to the hot skillet with the vegetables, stirred things around a bit, and then served the pasta in a large bowl, topped with shredded parmesan cheese and some fresh chive blossoms, also from our garden.  Voila!

Here is what it looked like:

Friday, May 21, 2010


The fava beans have grown to be huge, and the time has come to pull out the plants and to finally get my summer garden planted. I've been busy making a kind of fava hummus by preparing the favas and mushing them well, but not too much, adding garlic and olive oil and then enjoying this spread on some good Italian bread.

I recently saw a recipe that uses a meyer lemon sauce and fava beans  and your choice of other spring vegetables--such as asparagus-- mixed into fettucine pasta.  Sounds delicious and I think I'll try this this weekend.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pink Pearl Apple Blossoms

Our pink pearl apple tree has been abundantly full of blossoms this year...more than in previous years, it seems.  I think that the apple tree has been enjoying our very wet spring.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Artichoke, Plum, Peach

The photo above shows part of our artichoke plant, young peach tree, crabapple, and in the background the blooing French prune plum trees.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Chickens on the Deck

Our Australorp and two White Orpingtons on the Deck, enjoying the spring weather...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Artichokes soon...

This artichoke plant looks very healthy. I keep peeking down the center, but I don't see a baby artichoke yet.  Maybe with the sunny weather next week they will start to show themselves...

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Time to make a Rhubarb Pie!

It is time to get out the recipe book and make a rhubarb pie!  This plant is doing very well, and the other two that I grew from seed are also starting to send out some stalks and leaves. Yum!

Monday, March 08, 2010


A close up of some ripe calamondin--a fruit popular in the Philippines.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Not too much longer...almost Spring!

Here it is, last week in February.  We've had a dry week, but now the rains are starting up again.  Our apricot tree is starting to bloom, as is the peach tree.  The plum trees look about to burst into bloom and I hope that that happens during a dry spell so the blooms can be pollinated and we can have a large harvest like most years.

The fava bean plants look so happy in the winter garden.  The ones I planted earlier are tall and blooming. The shorter ones seem to have growth spurts every few days. The garlic, too, looks happy. We are eating salads out of our garden every several days. The broccoli plants are also producing. The avocado tree (Bacon) was very prolific this year, and the meyer lemons look ready to pick for meyer lemon sorbet and marmalade. I've still been making blood orange marmalade in small batches, and we are juicing our oranges every several days, and giving away oranges and avocados.

I've been checking for asparagus shoots. They should be coming up soon.  We have lots of rhubarb, and the plants that I grew from seed are now sending our leaves as well.  Just planted a redder rhubarb too, so now we have four rhubarb plants--should be enough!