quinceThis is my second year quince tree. It’s already flowered this spring, so maybe, just maybe, I’ll get some fruit off it this year.

I chose to plant a quince tree for several reasons. First, it’s a fruit that isn’t commonly found in a grocery store. Second, it’s well-suited for the climate up here. Third, it’s self-fertile, so I only needed to plant one. And finally, it makes a great wine.

The quince is related to apples and pears, and in fact looks a bit like a pear. The fruit matures in late autumn, though it blossoms in early spring. Sorry I didn’t get a picture of it then. The fruit is left on the tree until after a good frost, and then is bletted (That’s a nice way to say it starts to rot.) It softens and sweetens the fruit.

Quinces are popular in many parts of the world, with Turkey coming in as the highest producer. They are also found in parts of New England, having been brought over by 18th century colonists.

Water Chestnuts

WaterChestnuts_croppedOn a recent episode of the Survival Podcast (to which I owe more than you’ll ever know), they talked about growing water chestnuts. Now, I love water chestnuts, and when I found out how prolific they are, and that I could grow them in a couple of old coolers that I have, I was sold. I’m not sure that we have a long enough season up here to get them to harvest, but I’m going to give it a go. I’m starting them in pots now (April) in the garage under lights, and when the shoots are about 6″ long I’ll transplant them into the coolers, with soil and water; the soil being completely immersed. Other than not letting the water get stagnant, there’s no attention that I have to give to them at all – my kind of plant!

It’s morel mushroom season

morelI went out yesterday to spread manure around all of my fruit trees and berry bushes, and was pleased to find morel mushrooms popping up in my wood chip mulch pile and throughout the food forest wherever I had put mulch.

There are many different varieties of morels, but they all have a honeycomb like top, and are referred to most often by their color; yellow, white, green, grey, and black being the most common. There is a type of mushroom called the false morel, which is poisonous, but it is easy to recognize after you’ve compared the two side-by-side.

I suppose a sure way to know you’re picking the safe kind is to try a morel mushroom kit, but I can’t testify if they work well or not. Another option would be to get a good book on the subject, one with lots of pictures. I do know that I stopped by Pike Place Market in downtown Seattle to find out the going price. $70.00 per pound!

As far as cooking them, simple is best for me. Freshly picked, and sauteed with a little butter, a little salt, and a little pepper is all it takes.

Bring on the baby chicks!

incubator_croppedSince I have three chickens, and only one of them is a hen, and she’s not doing much laying, I bought myself a Brinsea Mini Incubator, and got some eggs from the neighbor across the street. The incubator is fully automatic – it controls temperature and humidity, has a day counter, and turns the eggs. The turner runs for 19 days and then keeps the eggs warm for an additional two days to allow for the chicks to hatch on the 21st day. They could end up being several different breeds, but I hope there’s a least a couple of hens.

Pea Sprouts

pea sproutsI read an article a couple of weeks ago about how pea sprouts are the new “hot thing” for salads and stir fries, so I took all of my extra seeds after planting my raised garden and threw them in a sprouting tray. I just finished trimming them off, and OMG!!! Between me and the chickens, that ol’ tray of pea sprouts didn’t even make it to the house. Let’s just say I’m going to find a place where I can buy peas in bulk, and I’m going to be saving every pea that I don’t eat from the garden. Seriously, if you want to make some easy money, grow a tray of pea sprouts, take some to a local upscale restaurant, and tell them you can supply them with these. I use a combination of trays with holes and trays without holes. The trays with holes fit inside the other trays. I fill them with a thin layer of potting soil, and put water in the bottom tray. I sprout the peas in water, and plant them when they are just starting to sprout, so that I don’t damage the roots. I actually got this setup to grow wheatgrass, which is done exactly the same way, and which I still grow as well.