We survived the heat wave–Happy St. Patrick’s Day

March 17 is typically when I started my garden when we lived in Connecticut. Not here in coastal southern California. We garden year-round. But this year, we are facing record-breaking heat. This was the hottest winter I can remember. We just had four days of record-breaking heat that fried a number of my plants in containers, including my beautiful new flower baskets.

These were my beautiful flower baskets. Our four-day spell of 90 degree weather fried them.

These were my beautiful flower baskets. Our four-day spell of 90 degree weather fried them.

Even the famed California poppies in the Antelope Valley were fried, and those are desert-adapted native plants. We live in interesting times, an era when all of the world except the right-wing folks in the USA know that the climate is changing, and that man is causing it. Well, I do what I can to reduce my CO2 emissions, and keep on gardening.

Our Katy Apricot tree was covered with blossoms. Or at least half the tree was.

Our Katy Apricot tree was covered with blossoms. Or at least half the tree was.

Because this winter had so few winter chill hours, my fruit trees are blooming rather sporadically. Some branches of the apricot tree were loaded with flowers. Other branches produced only leaves. Overall, I got about half the blossoms I would have expected.

Some of the apricot blossoms are producing fruit. So far, I can count about a dozen apricots. Since there were nearly a hundred blossoms on the tree, I am hoping for more than the half dozen apricots on this branch.

Some of the apricot blossoms are producing fruit. So far, I can count about a dozen apricots. Since there were nearly a hundred blossoms on the tree, I am hoping for more than the half dozen apricots on this branch.

The Florida Prince peach tree has a very low chill requirement, and it has set fruit magnificently.

The Florida Prince peach tree has a very low chill requirement, and it has set fruit magnificently. The other trees, not so much.

The Panamint nectarine is blooming now, but most branches have no blossoms on them. The poor Babcock Peach tree has only three blooms on it. Maybe more will open later. Hope so.

The Panamint nectarine is blooming now, but most branches have no blossoms on them. The poor Babcock Peach tree has only three blooms on it. Maybe more will open later. Hope so. So far, there are no flowers on the Snow Queen nectarine.

The ultra dwarf GoldMine peach has two clusters of blossoms, quite surprising since it requires 450 hours of chill and we got fewer than 80 winter chill hours.

The ultra dwarf GoldMine peach has two clusters of blossoms, quite surprising since it requires 450 hours of chill and we got fewer than 80 winter chill hours.

One of the Asian pears had 28 blossoms on it. The other two Asian pears have fewer than 10 flowers each. I am hoping that more flowers might open on them next week or the week after. We love those Asian pears.

One of the Asian pear trees had 28 blossoms on it. The other two Asian pears have fewer than 10 flowers each. I am hoping that more flowers might open on them next week or the week after. We love those Asian pears.

We are getting an average of two eggs a day from our four hens. They are no longer spring chickens, and production is down. I am still debating whether to get more hens this year or wait until next year.

We are getting an average of two eggs a day from our four hens. They are no longer spring chickens, and production is down. I am still debating whether to get more hens this year or wait until next year.

The artichokes are producing flower buds. It is always a challenge to know how long to wait before harvesting the bud. I will want to catch it well before it starts to open for the most tender flesh.

The artichokes are producing flower buds. It is always a challenge to know how long to wait before harvesting the bud. I will want to catch it well before it starts to open for the most tender flesh.

This is the onion end of the front veggie bed. I planted about 120 tiny onion seedlings. Only 80 survived.

This is the onion end of the front veggie bed. I planted about 120 tiny onion seedlings. Only 80 survived.

I planted one clove of elephant garlic and 29 cloves of regular garlic. Only one of the regular garlics failed to sprout. I may end up with far more garlic than I need. What was I thinking? Apparently that I like garlic. No werewolves near my garden.

I planted one clove of elephant garlic and 29 cloves of regular garlic. Only one of the regular garlics failed to sprout. I may end up with far more garlic than I need. What was I thinking? Apparently that I like garlic. No werewolves near my garden.

I have a small bed in front that is filled with arugula, chard, red frilly mustard, and bok choy, all doing well. The path is blocked by an abundance of dinosaur. kale.

I have a small bed in front that is filled with arugula, chard, red frilly mustard, and bok choy, all doing well. The path is blocked by an abundance of dinosaur kale.

This is a dead-on straight shot of the front beds from the street. Kale, kale, kale.

This is a dead-on straight shot of the front beds from the street. Kale, kale, kale.

But if you look closely, you will see carrots! Scarlet Nantes.

But if you look closely, you will see carrots! Scarlet Nantes.

And Purple-top turnips.

And Purple-top turnips.

And Deer-tongue Lettuce. I can hardly wait until this stuff is ripe. Not pictured--Komatsuna, an Asian mustard green.

And Deer-tongue Lettuce. I can hardly wait until this stuff is ripe. Not pictured–Komatsuna, an Asian mustard green.

This is the non-vegetable garden part of the front yard. It is in full bloom in February-March, such a pretty time here.

This is the non-vegetable garden part of the front yard. It is in full bloom in February-March, such a pretty time here.

This is a nice meditation garden for hummingbirds.

This is a nice meditation garden for hummingbirds.

Yippee, my first snow peas are in bloom in back. These are Oregon Sugar Pod. I planted the sugar snap peas later, so they aren't blooming yet. And the Mammoth Snow Peas are just now sprouting. The netting is doing its job of keeping the birds off the shoots and flowers. Maybe I will get a pea harvest this year.

Yippee, my first snow peas are in bloom in back. These are Oregon Sugar Pod. I planted the sugar snap peas later, so they aren’t blooming yet. And the Mammoth Snow Peas are just now sprouting. The netting is doing its job of keeping the birds off the shoots and flowers. Maybe I will get a pea harvest this year.

The citrus trees are all blooming magnificently. We have Navel and Valencia Orange trees, Eureka and Meyer Lemon, and Bearss Lime. Should be a great harvest next winter, God willing and the creek don't rise.

The citrus trees are all blooming magnificently, as well as our avocado tree. We have Navel and Valencia Orange trees, Eureka and Meyer Lemon, and Bearss Lime. Should be a great harvest next winter, God willing and the creek don’t rise.

The back veggie beds are doing well, but I have planted only two out of three so far.

The back veggie beds are doing well, but I have planted only two out of three beds so far.

Because my garden seems to be off to such a good start, I have nudged my harvest goal for the year upward to 200 lbs. That may be a challenge if the fruit trees don’t set or if we keep having these wilting heat waves. As of February 28, I have harvested 26 lbs of fruit and 3 lbs of vegetables, plus 42 eggs. The fruits were 1 Granny Smith apple that came from an autumn blossom rather than the usual May blossoms. I’m telling you, the weather has gotten WEIRD. Also two Eureka lemons, a passel of limes, and both Navel and Valencia oranges.

The vegetables harvests included arugula, bell peppers (in January and February–this was a warm winter, folks), collard greens, herbs, kale, lettuce, green onions, and radishes. Most of the collard greens go to the chickens, along with sorrel, arugula, and nasturtiums. I don’t weigh the harvests that the chickens eat.

The red cabbage is curling up, and assuming that it isn’t from disease, we may get some cabbage soon, as well as cauliflower. I have high hopes for my 2015 garden.

 

Most beautiful spring ever, March 2015

I don’t know what it is, the age of our plantings or the weather, but this has turned into the most beautiful spring ever in our southern California yard and garden. I am utterly enthused about our prospects for a great harvest this year.

A series of gentle rainstorms blew through earlier in the week, and I got outdoors between sprinkles to photograph the yard in all of its spring glory.

I have a couple of varieties of Osteospermum, aka Freeway Daisies. They are beautifully drought tolerant and bloom much of the year.

I have a couple of varieties of Osteospermum, aka Freeway Daisies. They are beautifully drought tolerant and bloom much of the year.

But first, an explanation of why I call my blog my Green World. It isn’t just because I grow organic fruits and vegetables and keep chickens in our small urban yard. As environmentalists, we live a green life with composting and collection of rain water. We conserve energy and water, and do what we can to reduce our carbon footprint to combat global warming and climate change.

This is our main rainwater collection area--three rain barrels under a downspout plus an over-flow barrel.

This is our main rainwater collection area–three rain barrels hooked in series under a downspout, plus an over-flow barrel.

We had a gutter and downspout installed on the north side of our house for the express purpose of saving rainwater. When the three barrels in series are full, I put a diverter in place to collect yet one more barrel of water. When it isn’t actually raining, I keep lids on these Rubbermaid trash barrels to keep mosquitoes out and prevent water loss due to evaporation. I also use Bt in the water to kill any mosquito larvae. I use a watering can to take water from the barrels to my  veggie beds and potted plants. I can empty many of the barrels several times over a rainy season, with rain dripping off the eaves putting water back in with each storm.

This is the rain barrel in the front yard. In addition to the four large rain barrels, we have 7 Rubbermaid trash cans that collect dripping water from the eaves. And check out my dwarf Valencia Orange tree. It is in magnificent bloom.

This is the rain barrel in the front yard. In addition to the four large rain barrels, we have 7 Rubbermaid trash cans that collect dripping water from the eaves. And check out my dwarf Valencia Orange tree in a pot. It is in magnificent bloom.

The flower border by the front walkway has freesias, cobbity daisies, petunias, and freeway daises in bloom. It also grows marjoram and oregano. Edible landscaping!

The flower border by the front walkway has freesias, cobbity daisies, petunias, and freeway daises in bloom. It also grows marjoram and oregano. Edible landscaping!

Here is a different view of the front yard. Because the house sparrows have been eating my vegetable garden, I have replaced the bird feeders with baskets of flowers for pollinators. The bees LOVE those flower baskets.

Here is a different view of the front yard. Because the house sparrows have been eating my vegetable garden, I have replaced the bird feeders with baskets of flowers for pollinators. The bees LOVE those flower baskets.

These snowdrops are nearly finished blooming. And the paperwhite narcissus were through blooming long ago.

These snowdrops are nearly finished blooming. And the paperwhite narcissus were through blooming long ago.

The first flower buds on my grafted Asian Pear tree show promise in this photo from Sunday. They opened up today.

The first flower buds on my grafted Asian Pear tree show promise in this photo from Sunday. They opened up today.

I bought some blueberry bushes this year. Maybe we will beat the birds to the berries. Maybe I will be smart and cover them with bird netting. Maybe I will get around to actually planting the bushes.

I bought some blueberry bushes this year. Maybe we will beat the birds to the berries. Maybe I will be smart and cover them with bird netting. Maybe I will get around to actually planting the bushes.

This semi-dwarf peach tree is supposed to be an August Pride, but since the peaches mature every May, I think it is a May Pride peach. At any rate, it didn't get many chill hours and produced only 19 blossoms this year.

This semi-dwarf peach tree is supposed to be an August Pride, but since the peaches mature every May, I think it is a May Pride peach. At any rate, it didn’t get many chill hours and produced only 19 blossoms this year.

My camellias have never been prettier.

My camellias have never been prettier.

This camellia has more flowers on it than it has ever had before.

This camellia bush has more flowers on it than it has ever had before.

This is a view of our front yard from the street. My longest veggie bed is in front, right by the sidewalk so passersby can enjoy looking at it. No one ever takes anything, and I think it is educational for people to see vegetables growing.

This is a view of our front yard from the street. My longest veggie bed is in front, right by the sidewalk so passersby can enjoy looking at it. No one ever takes anything, and I think it is educational for people to see vegetables growing.

This is a long view of the raised veggie bed in front. Onions are in the foreground, then kale.

This is a long view of the raised veggie bed in front. Onions are in the foreground, then kale.

These Scarlet Nantes carrots sprouted, but I had sown them too densely. I transplanted many of the tiny seedlings yesterday and ended up with about 60 carrots.

These Scarlet Nantes carrots sprouted, but I had sown them too densely. I transplanted many of the tiny seedlings yesterday and ended up with about 60 carrots.

The Purple-top Turnips sprouted quickly. They were also to dense, so I transplanted them last week. I ended up with 25 turnip seedlings.

The Purple-top Turnips sprouted quickly. They were also too dense, so I transplanted them last week. I ended up with 25 turnip seedlings.

Different vegetable, same story. These Deer Tongue Lettuce seeds were sown too densely, so I transplanted about 2 dozen. I don't need more lettuce than that, so I plan to harvest this unthinned row as micro greens.

Different vegetable, same story. I sowed these Deer Tongue Lettuce seeds too densely, so I transplanted about 2 dozen. I don’t need more lettuce than that, so I plan to harvest this unthinned row as micro greens.

It seems that a new garlic clove sprouts every day. I now have 23 out of 27 garlics sprouted, plus one elephant garlic.

It seems that a new garlic clove sprouts every day. I now have 23 out of 27 garlics sprouted, plus one elephant garlic. What am I going to do if they all make garlic heads?

I built this smaller raised bed behind the long one. It has Rainbow Chard, arugula, bok choy, and Frilly Red Mustard in it.

I built this smaller raised bed behind the long one in front. It has Rainbow Chard, arugula, bok choy, and Frilly Red Mustard in it.

Our Lacinato (aka Dinosaur) Kale is in its third year and flopping all over the place. The harvestable kale is now blocking my pathway. I just step over it. All of this is kale from ONE plant.

Our Lacinato (aka Dinosaur) Kale is in its third year and flopping all over the place. The harvestable kale is now blocking my pathway. I just step over it. All of this is kale from ONE plant.

The freesias are in full bloom and so aromatic. Delightful sweet smell.

The freesias are in full bloom and so aromatic. Delightfully sweet smell.

The butterfly garden also has artichokes for us, as well as a dwarf apple and a struggling persimmon tree.

The butterfly garden has artichokes for us, as well as a dwarf apple and a struggling persimmon tree.

I keep checking my artichokes for flower buds, and way down deep in the largest artichoke plant, I finally found a tiny hard flower bud. I think this is like checking a cow for pregnancy, but not nearly as messy. :-)

I grow green onions in pots. It works pretty well, and we almost always have green onions to harvest. I think it is time to sow another pot of two because I'm running low on green bunching onions.

I grow green onions in pots. It works pretty well, and we almost always have green onions to harvest. I think it is time to sow another pot or two because I’m running low on green bunching onions. You can see a bit of one strawberry planter at the bottom right.

And this is only the FRONT yard. There is more in back, like most of my fruit trees, three raised veggie beds, and the chicken coop with four hens. But I see it is late in the morning and I need to go to work this afternoon.

I work at the Orange County Conservation Corps, where I teach conservation awareness and field safety to the newly hired crews before they go out to the field. I only work one afternoon every other week, but I love it. I like hanging with my homeboys (and girls). They are mainly male Hispanic gang members ages 18-22, often on probation. They come to the corps to earn their high school diplomas while working on conservation projects. Best work I’ve ever done.

 

White pizza with arugula and proscuitto; Butternut with kale and feta cheese; Moroccan Orange Cake

My silly iMac has been acting up for several months. It stored any emails with attachments in the Outbox instead of sending them, and it “lost”  a day’s photo shoot of harvests and what I made with my harvests. This morning, I accidentally fixed my computer, you know, the turn it off, turn it on, enter in whatever passwords it asks for. Bingo, over 40 emails magically sent themselves, and my lost harvest photos appeared in Aperture. A miracle! So here are a couple of things I made recently with my harvests.

This is our last butternut from the fall harvest of 2014. They stored very well, with no rotting this year.

This is our last butternut from the fall harvest of 2014. They stored very well, with no rotting this year.

Half of this butternut went into a Butternut-Kale-Feta Cheese dish that I kind of made up as I went along. I got the general idea from a recipe from Fitness Magazine.

BUTTERNUT, KALE, and FETA CHEESE with cranberries and pecans

2 T Meyer lemon olive oil

half a large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 3/4 inch cubes

1 large onion, diced

1 T chopped garlic

6 oz kale, stems removed and cut into 1/2 inch slices

zest of one Meyer lemon

juice of one Meyer lemon

1/4 C dried orange flavored cranberries

1/4 C pecans broken into large pieces

1/4 cubed Feta cheese

Saute butternut, onion and garlic in oil until squash is lightly browned, about 5-10 minutes. Add kale and lemon juice plus zest and cook until kale is wilted, about 5-7 minutes. Add cranberries and pecans, and heat for 2-3 minutes.  Add Feta cheese, toss, and serve hot. Makes about 4 servings.

The butternut-kale dish is on the left. The white pizza with arugula and prosciutto is on the right.

The butternut-kale dish is on the left. The white pizza with arugula and prosciutto is on the right.

WHITE PIZZA WITH ARUGULA AND PROSCIUTTO

Dough:

1 C Killian Red Irish Beer

1 T melted butter or oil

1 tsp salt

2 T sugar

2 C bread flour

3/4 C whole wheat flour

1 T yeast

Add ingredients to bread machine and set machine on “dough” cycle. It takes about 2 hours to make the dough. When it is ready, turn dough out onto a floured board and roll into a 12-14 circle to fit your circular pizza pan. Put the dough onto the greased pizza pan and turn up the edges. Let the dough rise for an additional 15-20 minutes. Heat oven to 450 degrees F and bake the crust for 8 minutes while you prepare the topping.

Topping 1:

2 T olive oil

1 T chopped garlic

1 tsp fresh chopped rosemary

1/2 tsp salt

Combine these ingredients and spread on the pizza dough after it has baked for 8 minutes. Then add cheeses.

1 C ricotta cheese

1 C shredded mozzarella cheese

Spread the ricotta cheese over the olive oil, then sprinkle on the mozzarella cheese. Return to oven to bake for about 7-10 more minutes until mozzarella is slightly browned and bubbly. While it is baking, prepare topping 2, the arugula-prosciutto mix.

Topping 2:

2 T olive oil

juice and zest of half a Meyer lemon

1 large shallot, thinly sliced

Mix these ingredients to form a dressing.

about 4-6 oz arugula, washed and sliced thinly

2 oz cilantro, chopped

2 oz thinly sliced prosciutto

1/4 to 1/2 C shaved Parmesan cheese

Mix the cilantro, arugula and prosciutto. Mix in dressing. Spread over the pizza after it has finished baking. Top with shaved Parmesan cheese. Slice and serve.

Finished White Pizza with Arugula and Prosciutto

Finished White Pizza with Arugula and Prosciutto

Arg, I can’t believe it. My computer posted the draft instead of the finished blog post. Here is what was missing from the 11 am post.

This is my entire harvest of Valencia oranges: three of them. One went into a Moroccan Orange Cake.

This is my entire harvest of Valencia oranges: three of them. One went into a Moroccan Orange Cake.

MOROCCAN ORANGE CAKE

4 eggs

1 1/2 C sugar

1/2 C melted butter, cooled to room temp

2C flour

4 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

juice from one large orange, about 1/2 C

zest from one orange (use a microplane grater)

1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Oil and flour a bundt pan. Beat eggs and sugar together, add melted butter and continue to beat. Stir in the flour, baking powder and salt. Add orange juice, zest, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Pour into bundt pan and bake at 350 for 40 minutes. Allow cake to cool for about 10 minutes, and turn out onto a plate.

Moroccan Orange Cake

Moroccan Orange Cake

I have a couple more harvest photos from a couple of weeks ago.

We are getting a lot of limes, and have given some away and donated some to our local food bank. The lime harvest is finally slowing down. I hope.

We are getting a lot of limes, and have given some away and donated some to our local food bank. The lime harvest is finally slowing down and next year’s crop is setting fruit.

Our garden produces green onions year round. This is almost the last of our bell peppers that set fruit in 2014. The peppers overwintered during our really warm 2014-2015 winter, and are about to flower again.

Our garden produces green onions year round. This is almost the last of our bell peppers that set fruit in 2014. The peppers overwintered during our really warm 2014-2015 winter, and are about to flower again.

That kind of brings us up to date.

Spring in southern California and a good Harvest Monday on Wed, Feb 24 2015

I just came in from Yard Patrol–my morning rounds of my  tiny yard and garden. With a cup of coffee in hand, I walk around the garden to keep an informal eye on what is blooming, what is ripe, and what needs doing. It is magnificent out there today.

Some of the cilantro, red-oakleaf lettuce, arugula, and red mustard that I harvested this week. It all went into a salad.

Some of the cilantro, red-oakleaf lettuce, arugula, and red mustard that I harvested last week. It all went into a salad.

We had a lovely rain a couple of days ago, and things are still wet. The sky is crystalline blue, flowers and fruit trees are in exuberant bloom, and birds are singing from every tree top.

Our Katy Apricot tree has about 70 blooms on it. We got a few more hours of winter chill this week, so maybe we will get some fruit set from those blossoms.

Our Katy Apricot tree has about 70 blooms on it. We got a few more hours of winter chill this week, so maybe we will get some fruit set from those blossoms.

Our semi-dwarf May Pride Peach tree has 19 blooms on it this year. Will any of these flowers set fruit in our very low winter chill year? Too soon to tell.

Our semi-dwarf May Pride Peach tree has 19 blooms on it this year. Will any of these flowers set fruit in this very low winter chill year? Too soon to tell.

Our Valencia orange tree produced three oranges this year. One went into a Moroccan orange cake along with four eggs from our hens--delicious!

Our Valencia orange tree produced three oranges this year. One went into a Moroccan orange cake along with four eggs from our hens–delicious!

As you are probably aware, California is in a major drought. We normally get a mere 14 inches of rain a year. So far this 2014-2015 rain season–with not a lot of time left for additional rain–we have received a piddling puddle of about six inches. I save rain water in rain barrels and Rubbermaid trash barrels stationed under the eaves. You can see one rain barrel in the photo above behind the orange tree. I had already emptied three of our 11 rain barrels prior to this week’s rain. One of those barrels–the one under the downspout–is full again. The ones under the eaves with no gutters collected about eight inches of rain from a small storm that delivered less than an inch of rain. Yesterday I used all of the water in one barrel to keep my newly planted veggie bed from drying out.

I have 8 red mustard plants sprouted, all volunteers from a mesclun mix that went to seed last year.

I have 8 red mustard plants sprouted, all volunteers from a mesclun mix that went to seed last year.

I am fired up about my garden this year. I was sick a lot last year, and it only rained four inches during the entire rainy season from November to April. The birds and night critters were out of control and they got a lot of my crops–all of the apples, peas, and tomatoes. It was an abysmal year for my garden. I have higher hope for this year. Kale, arugula, collard greens, and limes are ripe and ready in abundance. All of the citrus trees and our avocado tree are bursting into bloom. Thanks to the application of bird netting to my veggie beds, two rows of peas are thriving and undamaged. And the chickens are laying again. Oh, joy.

I planted 27 garlic cloves. so far only 18 have sprouted, but  if I get even 10 bulbs of garlic out of the crop I'll be happy. I planted the bulbs way late--they should have gone into the ground in November. It remains to be seen if I will get ANY garlic bulbs. Fingers crossed.

I planted 27 garlic cloves. So far only 18 have sprouted, but if I get even 10 bulbs of garlic out of the crop I’ll be happy. I planted the bulbs way late–they should have gone into the ground in November. It remains to be seen if I will get ANY garlic bulbs. Fingers crossed.

Right now growing in the vegetable garden I have mixed beets, Scarlet Nantes Carrots, Purple-top Turnips, Komatsuna (an Asian mustard green), Red Mustard, Rainbow Chard, Red Oakleaf Lettuce, red cabbage, cauliflower, Easter Egg Radishes, 120 onions (Texas Red and Texas Sweet White), garlic, Oregon Sugar Pod Peas, Super Sugar Snap Peas, bell pepper plants that overwintered, three kinds of over-wintered kale, collard greens, and a lot of herbs (cilantro, basil, dill, rosemary, thyme, sage, mint, and one struggling parsley plant). The Mibuna (an Asian mustard green) crop was  failure. Old seeds. I think I have some Mizuna (yet another Asian mustard green) sprouted from the mesclun mix that went to seed last year. Hope so.

Onions are growing from tiny sprouts. They should be ready to harvest about July or August.

Onions are growing from tiny sprouts. They should be ready to harvest about July or August, God willing and the creek don’t rise. Ha, not much chance of my garden getting drowned out this year.

I neglected to make a post on Harvest Monday, but I did indeed have a harvest. Here it is.

Some of the kale we are harvesting: left to right, Dwarf Blue Curled, a mystery red kale from the mesclun mix, and Lacinato (Dinosaur kale).

Some of the kale we are harvesting: left to right, Dwarf Blue Curled, a mystery red kale from the mesclun mix, and Lacinato (Dinosaur kale).

HARVEST MONDAY week ending February 22, 2015

FRUIT

8 oz Lemon, Eureka

3 lbs 14 oz Limes

1 lb 7 oz Oranges, Valencia (three oranges, our entire crop!)

5 lbs 13 oz Subtotal Fruit

VEGETABLES

5.5 oz Arugula

4 oz Bell Pepper (in February!)

2 oz Green Onion

2 oz Herbs

13 oz Kale

3 oz Lettuce

1 lb 13.5 oz Subtotal Vegetables

7 lbs 13.5 oz TOTAL PRODUCE plus 12 EGGS

If you had a harvest, or want to see what others are harvesting this time of year, visit Daphne’s Dandelions. The link is on the sidebar to the right.

 

Farewell to Henrietta, Hello to spring

I have sad news to report. My favorite hen, Henrietta the Black Australorp, has passed away at the age of 8 years. She hadn’t changed into the normal red, swollen comb and wattle of spring, so I knew her estrogen levels weren’t normal. I thought maybe she was going through “henopause.”

Henrietta, a couple of days before she died.

Henrietta, a couple of days before she died.

But then she quit eating and became listless. She perked up for a couple of days, but then she went off her feed again. She didn’t come out of the coop one morning last week. She was the only one still sleeping in the coop. The other four hens preferred roosts in the enclosed run for their sleeping quarters. Henrietta was old and preferred the indoor shelter of the coop.

My other four hens all have swollen red combs and wattles and are now laying eggs.

My other four hens all have swollen red combs and wattles and are now laying eggs.

Henrietta was hunkered down, alive but not moving. I petted her and left her alone. I checked an hour later, and two other hens were with her. One was gently grooming her neck feathers. Another hour passed, and so had Henrietta. I buried her under my fruit trees and put a paving stone on top to keep the night critters from digging her up.

She was my favorite hen because she was the only one that let me pet her. I have since learned that the Black Australorp was developed in Australia from the Orpington Breed. Orpingtons are known for their docility. I thought I wanted to replace Henrietta with a Buff Orpington, because they are the best pet breed. But they don’t lay as well as other breeds and tend to go broody. Also, other chickens tend to pick on the Buff Orpingtons because they are so docile. On the other hand, the Black Australorps are great layers, and are docile and friendly as well.

This may be the same Barred Rock as in the other picture.

This is a different Barred Rock. Her upper beak is a bit short in comparison. No, I don’t trim their beaks. At some factory farms, the chickens have their upper beaks cut part way off to keep the birds from pecking each other. They peck because they’re over-crowded and stressed.

 

Since the rest of my flock is three Barred Rocks and one Black Sex-linked (cross between a Rhode Island Red and Barred Rock), I think I will seek out more Black Australorps. But not just yet. Even though my two youngest hens will be three in July, egg production has picked up after the winter hiatus. We are getting all the eggs we need for now. Frankly, Henrietta wasn’t pulling her weight in the egg-laying department the last couple of years anyway. Hens enjoy an unlimited vacation and retirement package here on our urban mini-farm, especially friendly hens that let our grandkids hold them. On factory farms, the entire flock is slaughtered at age two when egg production slows down. They have to do that to keep their operation cost effective. I have the luxury of letting my chickens enjoy full lives.

This is my current flock. Chicken Little is the Black Sex-linked. The others are Miss Hillary, Peep, and Cheep. Miss Hillary is five years old and needs a nail trim.

This is my current flock. Chicken Little (age 7) is the Black Sex-linked. The Barred Rocks are Miss Hillary (age 5, on the right), Peep, and Cheep (almost 3). Miss Hillary needs a nail trim.

I really enjoy having my own hens. I know that the eggs I eat were laid by hens that have plenty of room to move and flap their wings, lots of sunshine, and nutritious food, plus scratch and organic greens to keep them busy. They have ample pine shavings in their coop to keep it smelling nice. No ammonia build-up or stressed out birds in my flock. And no battery cages. My girls get to scratch in the dirt and duff. I even toss autumn leaves in their run to give them more to dig through. Chickens love to look for their food. It gives them something to do other than peck each other. Nothing but happy hens in my little flock.

Correlation of winter chill hours with harvests from deciduous fruit trees

I am experimenting with inserting an Excel spreadsheet directly into my blog (see below, bottom of post). It works so-so. I can’t alter the width of the columns after I paste the image, so the winter chill hours (number of hours below 45 degrees) that each fruit variety requires are kind of quirky looking.

Avocado and citrus trees do not require chilling. Our avocado tree is about to burst forth in bloom.

Avocado and citrus trees do not require chilling. Our avocado tree is about to burst forth in bloom.

In this spreadsheet, I separated the deciduous fruit trees (top of spreadsheet), which require winter chilling to set fruit, from the citrus and avocado trees (bottom of spreadsheet), which require no chilling, and subtotaled them separately.

We had good winter chill in 2011-2013, moderate chill in 2014, and a pathetic 76 hours of chilling during the 2014-2015 winter. The harvest of fruit from the deciduous trees appears to correlate better with the amount of winter chill than the citrus harvest–no surprise. I am not expecting very much deciduous fruit in 2015 due to the low chill this winter. My August Pride peach has a pathetic 10 blossoms on it, and my Katy Apricot is blooming early with very few blossoms. The Asian pears, apples, nectarines, and Babcock peach are still dormant.

Our Florida Prince peach tree has nearly finished blooming, and is setting a good crop of peaches.

Our Florida Prince peach tree has nearly finished blooming, and is setting a good crop of peaches.

Most of my fruit trees were planted 2007-2014. Some (persimmon, pomegranate, Gala apple) are too young to bear fruit yet, and some have not yet reached their good bearing years. And some years the birds and night critters get to the fruit before I do. So this is an experiment in progress.

Bees are busy pollinating our lime trees, which are currently in bloom. The lemons and oranges aren't far behind the limes.

Bees are busy pollinating our lime trees, which are currently in bloom. The lemons and oranges aren’t far behind the limes.

I hope you can see the chill hours in the Required Chill Hour column.

My conclusion, based on very limited data and a lot of speculation, is that I can expect the warmer winters brought to us courtesy of global warming to have a negative effect on my harvest of deciduous fruit.

# of trees TREE Variety req chill hrs 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010
  (actual chill hrs)   76 166 497 389 340 95
1 Apple, Fuji 200-400
2 Apple, Gala 200-500
1 Apple, Granny Smith 400 14 60
1 Apricot, Katy 200-300 65 8
1 Asian Pear, 20th Century 300-400
1 Asian Pear, Shenseiki 250-300 121 78
1 Asian Pear, 4 varieties grafted 250-400
1 Blackbery, thornless 100-500
2 Grape, Red Flame seedless 100+
1 Nectarine, Panamint 250 18 56
1 Nectarine, Snow Queen 250-300 37
1 Peach, August Pride 100-200 8 16
1 Peach, Babcock Improved 250-300 5 44
1 Peach Florida Prince 150 150 252 108
1 Peach, Garden Gold 450-500
2 Persimmon, Fuyu 100-200
1 Plum, Santa Rosa 300-500 80 9
1 Pomegranate, Wonderful 100-200
  SUBTOTAL Deciduous   0 271 557 301
1 Avocado, Littlecado 0 133 74 196.5
2 Lemon, Eureka 0 14 51.5
1 Lemon, Meyer 0 321 95 205
2 Lime, Bearss 0 127 385 106.5
1 Orange, Navel 0 460 329 544
1 Orange, Valencia 0 5
  SUBTOTAL Zero chill fruits   0 1041 897 1108.5  
Total oz TOTAL FRUIT in oz 0 1312 1454 1409.5
TOTAL LBS TOTAL FRUIT in lbs   0 82 91 88

Growing fruit on my urban Southern California mini-farm

I have worked really hard over the past 8 years to convert our small, urban southern California yard into a productive mini-farm. I have Barbara Kingsolver and her book “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” to thank for that. That book was transformational!

And thus began the conversion of our yard from boring landscaping to a productive mini-farm.

Our very low chill Florida Prince Peach tree is in full bloom. I have my hopes pinned on this tree for a stone fruit crop.

Our very low chill Florida Prince Peach tree is in full bloom here in early February. I have my hopes pinned on this tree for a stone fruit crop.

We now have six raised beds of various sizes for vegetables, a chicken coop and run with five hens, and a surprisingly diverse orchard.

Raised vegetable bed #1, planted with collard greens, bell peppers, radishes, lettuce, cauliflower, red cabbage, and a couple of onions.

Raised vegetable bed #1, planted with collard greens, bell peppers, radishes, lettuce, cauliflower, red cabbage, snow peas, and a couple of onions.

Vegetable bed #2 with bell peppers, dill, basil, radishes, red cabbage, cauliflower and snow peas.

Vegetable bed #2 with bell peppers, dill, basil, radishes, red cabbage, cauliflower and snow peas.

Here are the fruit trees that are now growing in our yard, plus their winter chill hour requirements.But what are chill hours? Chill hours are the number of hours of cold (i.e. 45 degrees F or below) that are required to break down the growth-inhibiting hormones that cause a deciduous fruit tree to enter dormancy and stay dormant, so that normal growth can resume in the spring. A “low chill” variety is one with a 100-400 chill hours requirement.

Chill Requirements for the Fruit Trees

1 Apple, Fuji. 200-400 hrs
2 Apple, Gala. 200-500
1 Apple, Granny Smith. 400
1 Apricot, Katy. 200-300
1 Asian Pear, 20th Century. 300-400
1 Asian Pear, Sheinseki. 250-300

1 Asian Pear, 4 varieties grafted, 250-400

1 Avocado. 0
1 Blackberry. 100-500
Citrus. 0

2 Lemon, Eureka

1 Lemon, Meyer

2 Lime, Bearss

1 Orange, Navel

1 Orange, Valencia

2 Grape, Red Flame Seedless. 100+
1 Nectarine, Panamint. 250
1 Nectarine, Snow Queen 250-300
1 Peach, August Pride 100-200
1 Peach, Babcock Improved 250-300
1 Peach, Florida Prince 150
1 Peach, Garden Gold. 450-500
2 Persimmon, Fuyu 100-200
1 Plum, Santa Rosa 300-500

1 Pomegranate, 100-200


25 Total trees (not counting the grapes and blackberries, and not counting our olive tree, which we keep pruned so it doesn’t produce messy olives)

Our olive tree is getting pruned today. it tends to get huge and shade out my garden beds in front.

Our olive tree is getting pruned today. it tends to get huge and shade out my garden beds in front.

When selecting fruit trees, I paid attention to the number of chill hours that each variety required. We live in coastal Orange County, which is known for its moderate, pleasant climate: highs in the 70s, lows in the 50s, year round. But as you saw from the table above, most deciduous fruit trees need a certain amount of chilling in order to set fruit and remain healthy.

Citrus like this Meyer lemon don't need chill hours at all.

Citrus like this Meyer lemon don’t need chill hours at all.

Microclimates affect chill hours. For example, in San Diego County, the average number of chill hours are:

  •  Coastal strip (within 10-15 miles of coast) = 50-250 chill hours
  • Median areas (between 10 & 25 miles of coast – La Mesa, Clairemont, etc.) = 200-400 chill hours
  •  Inland areas (El Cajon, Spring Valley, Escondido, Jamul, etc.) = 400-600 chill hours (source: California Rare Fruit Growers, San Diego Chapter)

The folks at UC Davis Fruit and Nut Research Information keep track of chill hours for us, and track it thoughout the winter season (November through February). So far, we have had only 76 chill hours this 2014/2015 winter season, which isn’t enough for most of my deciduous fruit trees to set fruit. To check out their table, see

http://fruitsandnuts.ucdavis.edu/chillcalc/index.cfm

My apple trees are dormant this time of year, with buds that are not yet swollen. They usually bloom in May.

My apple trees are dormant this time of year, with buds that are not yet swollen. They usually bloom in May.

Global warming is definitely affecting the number of chill hours we receive. It is going to affect commercial growers as well. For example, chill hours in California’s Central Valley have declined by 22% over the past 60 years. Farmers and home orchardists may be wise to search out varieties with lower chill hours.

As acknowledgment of our changing climate, I chose to plant low chill Fuyu Persimmons and a pomegranate as the most recent additions to my orchard.

For more information on how to grow and care for fruit trees in southern California, I recommend this great PowerPoint from San Diego County.

http://crfgsandiego.org/Presentations/Deciduous%20Fruit%20Trees%20in%20Southern%20California.pdf

I hope you enjoyed this overview of my mini-orchard of mostly dwarf and semi-dwarf fruit trees. They are still maturing, so I hope that their prime bearing years are still ahead of them.