Winter garden in southern California

Christmas wreath from Oregon on our front door

Chrismas is almost upon us and I’m sure you’re all as busy as I am getting ready. We just got our tree up today. I haven’t put up a Christmas tree for at least five year. I just don’t do the Christmas decorating thing. But for some reason, I wanted a tree and decorations in the house this year.

Our Christmas tree is decorated, but the presents aren't under it yet.

Our tree sheds worse than a collie in August. It seems to have the ability to throw its needles. I no sooner clean up one pile of needles than another batch falls. And they don’t just fall under the tree. Noooo, they manage to travel quite a distance. I think when I’m not looking, this tree must be flipping its branches to fling the needles into the far corners of the living room.

Maybe it’s the weather that is making the tree lose its needles. While the east coast is getting buried in a winter snowstorm, our tempertures today were in the high 70s. These poor trees are cut in Oregon and trucked down to southern California, where they sit outdoors in the hot sun and dry out. I didn’t decide to get a tree until really late, when they were marked down. By then, they were already dried out.

Winter in our yard is an odd mix of autumn and spring. Our deciduous trees are on their last gasp, while some spring flowers are blooming, and others have just poked their noses out of the ground.

Leaves on our Asian pears have turned a brilliant yellow.

Leaves on our liquid amber trees range from burgandy to scarlet to orange to yellow.

The first double paperwhite narcissus are in bloom in back.

I am enamored of our new raised garden beds and never seem to tire of photographing them.

Our second head of cauliflower is nearing time to harvest.

I harvested our first head of cauliflower from our raised beds last week. I couldn’t believe how tender it was, with such sweet, delicate flavor. I steamed some and served it with butter. I ate a quarter of a head raw with lemon-dill dip. The rest went into the skillet with broccoli, lots of slivered garlic, olive oil and salt. I sauteed it on medium high heat until the vegetables were brown, then covered it to steam for a few minutes to complete the cooking. Delicious!

Cauliflower, broccoli, and garlic cook in Vic's grandmother's 100-year-old cast iron skillet.

I cooked this fully cooked half ham at 350 for two hours, putting on a glaze of brown sugar, dijon mustard and orange juice for the last 45 minutes.

One of the oranges from our tree went into the glaze for this ham, which was studded with cloves. Wish I could put the smell of that ham baking onto the web for you. I served the ham and the cauliflower/broccoli saute with a roasted sweet potato from my CSA box.

I love picking fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables for our meals right out of our yard. The seasons dictate our menu. And now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to wrapping Christmas presents.

About Lou Murray, Ph.D.

I'm a professional writer/photographer, avid gardener, and active environmentalist living in southern California. I am retired from writing a weekly newspaper column on environmental topics in the Huntington Beach Independent, but I am still teaching at the Orange County Conservation Corps. This blog chronicles my efforts to live a green life growing as much food as possible for my husband and myself on a 4,500 sq ft yard that is covered mainly by house, garage, driveway, and sidewalks.
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4 Responses to Winter garden in southern California

  1. villager says:

    I’m glad the cauliflower turned out well. It looks and sounds yummy. And I CAN smell the ham in my mind!

  2. JP says:

    your cauliflower looks so perfect – did you tie up the leaves at some point? mine always gets brown and just plain unappetizing to look at!

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