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Posts from the ‘Garden’ Category

Pickling Lemons

With a surfeit of lemons last fall harvested from one lone lemon tree barely four feet tall, I hunted down recipes and ideas for dealing with those lemons. I gave many away but still had a lot left–and so I pickled them in quart jars with a lot of salt.

The lemons shrunk in size filling about half of four quart jars. I added olive oil to them and ran them through the blender. One jar had a lovely sprig of dill added prior to blenderizing.

The result has been a lovely mush of salted lemony flavor–perfect for fish or chicken.

And we were both pleased to see blossoms on that lemon tree hoping it survived our snow and icy temps this winter.pickle20lemons-m


Lemon Tree Very Pretty

January and February of this year featured several intermittent weeks of cold–freezing cold. While this was not really all that remarkable if we still lived in Wisconsin; here in gulf coast Texas with citrus trees and poorly insulated houses it becomes a challenge.

Last summer the Meyer’s Lemon Tree produced in abundance. I had so many lemons I gave many away, froze some, made marmalade and pickled lemons–and still had some fresh to store in the refrigerator for cooking.

I wondered what I would do with the coming year’s crop.

Then the snow and the cold arrived and the rain.

we covered the lemon tree as bet we could with two old sheets. The satsuma (orange) was left on its own.. The lemon tree dropped all of its leaves and we were ready to go shopping for a new lemon tree. But then a few green tips appeared and then more and now that tree is covered with leaves. There is just one small sprig of flowers.l

The satsuma, however, was covered with flowers, filling the yard with its sweet scent.


Shaker Pie and Lemons


Last year we experimented with a Shaker Lemon Pie. We both agreed it was the best Lemon Pie we had ever eaten. Lemons are sliced paper-thin, covered with a pinch of salt and a lot of sugar and left to macerate for 24 to 36 hours at room temperature. Eggs are added and the resulting mixture is baked in a two crust pie.

There is always more filling than will fit into a pie tin–the resultant custardy type pudding is also quite tasty if a bit messy.pie20filling-m

But it only used three lemons and I still have a basket full–even though I gave them away to unsuspecting neighbors, family, and friends–anyone that did not have a visible lemon tree in their yard.

A bowl of finely chopped lemons is awaiting to be turned into a second batch of marmalade and that basket of lemons will be pickled. Some have already been frozen with a few reserved for fresh slices on fish.

Cold weather is hard on citrus fruits–with the orange trees being the most hardy. Limes are the least hardy–but this is a Meyer Lemon–not really a lemon and not really an orange. While I enjoy the scent of lemon that pervades my house I hope that tree survived the cold to present the same problem of abundance this next season.


Lemon Marmalade

Several years ago, we decided to plant a Meyer’s Lemon Tree. It was a scrawny thing–resembling Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree.img_3596-m

Maybe not all that scrawny! We were delighted to find about half a dozen lemons on it the first year–huge sweet lemons.  A few more would have been nice–this was enough for lemon slices in water or tea and embellishing fish. We thought perhaps double that amount would be appropriate.

The next year we got our wish–I had a whole drawer in my refrigerator dedicated to lemons–they lasted nearly a year with only a few tossed in the end due to soft spots.

The following year the crop doubled and I had more lemons than I could fit into my refrigerator. Someone told me about freezing them–and so I gave it a try. Good for squeezing the juice over fish or baking with blueberries but not good for slices in water or tea or that particularly odd thing of putting a slice in a bottle of beer.

We tried a recipe for Shaker lemon pie—a pie made with paper thin slices of lemons soaked in sugar for 36 hours or so and baked in a two crust pie tin—it was wonderful but there are only so many pies two vintage persons can consume.

In spite of our odd weather for two years running and a vegetable garden that yielded two tomatoes and some lettuce, the lemon tree outdid itself this year. We had been picking one or two for table use, still green but quite satisfactory–now the branches were threatening to break. We picked two huge bags of lemons and left another third on the tree.

What to do with all those lemons?

And even worse, at a Christmas party, someone with the same dilemma gave everyone a large bag of lemons! Wish I’d thought of that first.

I considered the anonymous dropping off of lemons at various neighbor’s houses–ended up giving them a jar of my honey and a few lemons–perfect for winter colds. They were on their own for the whiskey addition.

But I still had a lot of lemons left. And more on the tree.

We now have two jars of pickled lemons made with an exorbitant amount of salt to be used in cooking sometime in February. The recipe called for cutting a cross into them, filling it with salt and sticking it into a Mason jar—I tried that but the lemons were far too large and I had to cut them into quarters just to fit them into the jars.

Then I tried making some marmalade.

This involves cutting up the lemons, soaking them in sugar for an extended time and then boiling off the liquid—-and playing where’s Waldo finding the seeds. My mother always put a small amount of whatever jelly she was making into a small cup for tasting–and so I did the same–except I was much lazier and just left a bit in the bottom of the pan.

Real hot biscuits or English muffins would have been better for taste testing but it was quite nice on a piece of whole wheat toast–certainly awakening the tasters.


And maybe another Shaker Lemon Pie is in the near future.


ear20of20corn-mOne of the tasks I set myself on the farm each time I visit is dealing with the raspberry patch. Raspberries happen to be my favorite berry–although blackberries and strawberries are nice too. When my father was still living and I checked in on him after my mother’s death, he would pick raspberries for me each morning for my breakfast. Although this patch is not the same patch it still brings back good memories.

Last fall I cut back the grapevine that had invaded the berry patch and we installed one of the metal gates used in the calf pens in the barn as a support. I cut away all the raspberry shoots around it and carefully pruned only the bearing stalks on the part I wanted to preserve as raspberries.

Imagine my surprise when I found an abundant new growth of raspberries around the grape vine and only bearing stalks on the part I thought would be just raspberries. Plenty of raspberries on those stalks but only a few new stalks—they bear the second year==not the first year. And not one grape bunch!

Still I pruned away again and this time covered the ground with shovelfuls of composted oat husks from the grainary. Last fall I used corn stalks from the barn—still plenty of them to go.

more20of20plum20creek-mOnce at home I face the daunting task of pruning my photos–although I am taking fewer photos these days–it is hard to select the perfect few to upload and I tend to err on the side of too many versus only a select absolutely wonderful ones. I am sure I have repeats from previous years; my taste for imagery does not seem to change much. That may be a good thing–or limiting.



Handling Harvey and Eying Irma

On Sunday the sermon was about our ‘new normal’. That normal changes from day to day and sometimes hour to hour. We were without tap water for about two days and then it was a trickle and intermittent. Exxon Mobil and two other companies teamed up despite dealing with their own plant issues to provide a temporary water supply for us–not potable–but enough to flush toilets. Now we have one of our permanent pumps back in action and we are just waiting for the water quality to be approved.

Long lines are still everywhere–lining up for water, free hot meals. Some places are still flooded, other areas have been removing carpet and drywall and the stench reaches through my vehicle. One post office open and the UPS main office is overwhelmed by people who have received notices their package has been delivered but things are still stuck in Houston.

For several days we were blocked in by flooded roadways—not just me in my neighborhood but the entire city. Before that we were trapped by the incredible downpour–at first logged at 52 inches—our annual rainfall is 54 inches–and now some reports are that it was closer to 64 inches. Travel is possible but very congested.

After Hurricanes Rita and Ike, the sound in the evening hours was chainsaws. Now we hear helicopters of every variety flying overhead from early in the morning until late at night. Some area are still flooded with restoration of water and power not possible.

In some respects the city looks much the same–but then there are some traffic lights that are not functional, the few stores that are open have limited hours, a few restaurants are open with limited menus but more are closed with empty parking lots. All our ‘normal’ busyness of running this or that errand, picking up this, shopping for a card or skein of yarn for a project, making an appointment are things to be considered as a ‘do later’ or ‘do I really need this’ mode.

Irma and Jose are still very much on our minds, hoping they will not come here but feeling a bit guilty for wishing them to go elsewhere—not that our hopes or wishes have much to do with meteorological influences.

In the midst of all of this, though, I found two of my orchids blooming. another20orchid20in20bloom-morchid20in20bloom-m



Spider Lilies

One of my favorite flowers of this area are the spider lilies. I think they have other names but they can be found growing along the ditches and blooming in early June. These are planted at the back of the shed and bloomed earlier this summer. But another lovely drizzling soaking rain has evidently inspired at least one of them to bloom again.


Cherries and Tomatoes

Several years ago I discovered Ranier Cherries—they are a lovely golden reddish cherry made for eating fresh from the bag. I have shared them with co-workers and friends–all of whom went out and bought some as well. Last year I was disappointed to never find any although I looked diligently each week.

But this year they are back–and I am enjoying a full bag of them–and hope there will be more this week.

my20favorite20cherries-mAnd for the big news—after two terribly unsuccessful years in the garden–my raised beds were over-run with grass and I switched to stock tanks filled with rocks and soil—I have my first crop of tomatoes. There are a few more and I have a cucumber vine growing contentedly as well—so hopefully I will have more fresh produce.


Japanese Magnolia

Magnolia blooms have a lovely fragrance that greets you whenever you walk out the door this time of year. This tree is near the front door of my shop and has huge dinner plate size blooms that last just one day. The magnolia in my backyard blooms last several days but are too high up for my to photo; I usually photo my neighbor’s tree–they seem to be accustomed to my odd  wanderings about in their yard.

Several years ago, I spied hummingbirds in my neighbor’s yard and stood for over an hour looking like a peeping tom with my camera trained on their backyard. Fortunately they just laugh and tell me to just come into the yard for better photos.magnolia20bud202-m

Pink Lilies and Green Figs

img_5807-mThe sun is shining but it is still a relatively cool 79 degrees this morning. Humidity is drastically lower than the 94% it was on Saturday and the world seems right again.

Today I put another box on my chicken yard bee hive–the bees much better behaved today than the previous day but the deep box is clearly full and the bees needed more room. I found two hive beetles and scraped away at the inner cover which had been stuck to the telescoping lid. A few bees were hanging around outside the hive after I finished—so felt a success. I did not inspect the hive–figuring disturbing them twice in less than a week was not a good idea.

Then out to the front yard to check out the lilies. I bought a small pot several years ago at our local Master Gardener’s sale–and we have split it at least once–but now it needs to be split again. The blooms are huge and many.


The fig tree is doing its best but I have yet to find ripe figs on it. I would guess the blue jay or the pigeons get to them before I do. This fig is hard; definitely not ripe.

And here is a glimpse of my neighborhood