Micole Khemarrica (khromat) wrote,
Micole Khemarrica

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New subject: Horticulture!

I've always been one to play in the mud, so to speak.  While I have never had my ADD-mind's scientific focus aimed at botany, I still in general like plants.  If nothing else, it was a way to reassure my abused inner child that I was not my mother.  Mother had a black thumb;  the plants that thrived around her were the ones she neglected, and for some insane reason she kept trying to grow African violets indoors without success (note: African violets are notoriously finicky and 'challenging' to the indoor gardener).  I remember one year where she decided to plant veggies along the side of the house and completely failed to understand basic gardening ideas (spacing, acid levels in soil, amount of sun, etc) so that while she planted onions, carrots, cucumbers and radishes between the tomato bushes, all that she got was tomatoes.  And worse, what she made out of the plot of tomatoes was tomato butter and tomato jam.  Nothing worse to an eight-year-old than making a PB&J with that looks like strawberry jam, started out tasting like strawberry jam, then an attack of TOMATO when a seed gets bitten into.  *shudder*
The house I'm currently in is a rental, but I've been given free reign to play landscaper (it helps when it was a family home and not investment property).  The landlords' parents had terraced most of the backyard, save the remaining untamed hillside against the end of the roofless carport (we've got a drive-thru driveway that's got a steep grade along the front of the house, then it flattens out along the side of the house where cars can park.  There is indications that there was once a patio roof over the area but it's long gone).  When we first moved in, I was mostly curious about just getting the accumulated mounds of yard debris cleared as apparently they liked to garden but couldn't make the effort to remove the cuttings and just piled them behind a sad orange tree on the untamed section of hill.  Turns out they had a second less-than-compost heap on the other end of the yard as well, but I was focused on the non-terraced hill.  As the Great Recession started to be noticeable, I was building a garden plot on the 'back 40' of our yard, and another housemate cleared out a lily-ridden section of flatland on the side of the house opposite of the carport to start growing tomatoes.

While I've been making small inroads into the rocky clay soil of the Diablo Range, I've also been tending to the various fruit trees our landlords scattered around the property.  There are two persimmon trees (one of each of Hayachi and Fuyu) which are doing very well, along with one rather prodigious pomegranate tree.  A sad looking lime tree on the side of the house was so happy to get a healthy pruning that it exploded with limes.  Along the main 'path' near the pool are two rather large guava trees I haven't touched outside of a trim to keep the leaf litter out of the pool. In my 'un-terraced hillside' area there are two untamed cherry trees, two barely-surviving pear saplings, and the orange tree that had been half buried in brush.  The pear trees suffered mostly from just a lack of routine water which was solved as I installed a slow-drip system at the top of the hill.  Evidence of a prior slow-drip system are all over the garden but the landlord indicated it doesn't work so I can dig it out. 

(Inner voice was insensed!  Slow-drip systems are the *best* way to water plants out here in drought-prone clay hillsides -- how did it "not work"?  I found out how -- he tried to push the water through the restricted flow system backwards, bottom of hill to top!)

So as I work to rehabilitate the soil and move the hillside back uphill (usual ground creep with clay) with my own bit of terracing from leftover landscaping stones scattered around the yard, and slowly train the trees,  I'm watching out for buried tubing as well!  I'm sure I'll have to run new tubing in some places, replace the drippers or stop up holes, but it would be best if I can use as much of the buried system as I can.

Those are all the Big Projects in an effort to restore stability to this plot of hillside.  There are also some rather large Small Projects, including harvesting the current season's crop of rose hips.   "Grandma" loves flowers, especially apparently roses.  I don't mind rose bushes, but I have a problem with rose monsters -- of which there are four in the backyard. Two old but better maintained bushes flank the stairs leading up to the second terrace (there are three terrace levels), and at least 4 mini roses who want to climb but keep getting hacked back before they get the chance, as well as a few stragglers that are blooming but not very established and in places they won't thrive.  Slowly, I am gently uprooting roses that are in the main pathway of the terrace to replant them in other parts of the property.  The Monsters are too big for relocation so they aren't moving, they just need taming.... and harvesting of their rose hips is a good side-effect of cutting back stalks.  As the four monsters are happily established, their ripe hips are nicely large, almost golf-ball sized. For the last two days, I've been going out and collecting rose hips and it'll take at least another day to finish the job, but I have a picture of the current crop:
Up to my hips in rose-hips! The blue tub has untrimmed hips. Micro-pumpkins!Cleaned hips at scale with a quarter.

What are rose hips good for, you ask?  They are high in Vitamin A and are usually carefully pureed' or made into jelly, from which sauces and the like can be derived from.  They taste less like fresh rose petals and more like how potpourri smells, but they still cook into a pretty pink color. The only problem with hips is in preparation: the seeds inside are surrounded in fine hairs which can be extremely irritating if swallowed, so either you clean the hips prior to cooking, or you cook the whole lot up with water and mash them down to drip in a fine sleeve or jellybag then repeat the wetting and dripping until you get all the juices without the skins and hairs.  Double mesh chinoise can work, even flour-sack towels can help as long as the weave is fine enough to prevent the hairs from escaping and yet open enough to let liquid through.

I have so many hips, that I can be choosy - pluck the big unblemished ones for the raw cleaning, the rest for boil-and-mash treatment. :D
Tags: culinary, horticulture

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