Where Have I BEEN???

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Whole Heirloom Tomatoes & Garlic Dill Pickles
That is one good question. Cause when three solid weeks pass without Bill Bird so much as touching the blog that is Sacramento Vegetable Gardening -- one goes through a withdrawl of sorts. Not that I haven't thought about it -- boy have I! But -- you see -- time is the problem.

As you can tell from the photo to the immediate right -- we've certainly found our time to put the summer backyard produce to good use. There are quarts and quarts of whole heirloom tomatoes for winter time use. Venus and I just finished up on our latest project this past weekend -- 19 pints of lip-smacking tomato sauce infused with fresh herbs like sage, thyme, basil, oregano, basil -- plus a Jalapeno pepper or two.

Heirloom Tomato Sauce Infused with Fresh Herbs
Oh -- and that doesn't include the 20-odd pints of fresh Roasted Garlic, Pepper and Heirloom Tomato Salsa. That's a Bird Family tradition!

But with two demanding jobs to hold down, five of the brattiest cats known to mankind -- plus a spoiled rotten dog (Ultimate Digging Machine) -- and four different homes to care for -- well -- that thing called "free time" is at a premium.

Speaking of which -- anyone interested in renting a fine home? Gardening boxes and not one -- but TWO loaded orange trees to boot -- included? Leave a note for me at the bottom of the blog. The fresh citrus comes with the house. Think of it as a "bonus."

Despite the demands upon our free time -- it hasn't stopped us from enjoying all of the Bird Back 40 bounty that summer has to offer. It hasn't stopped a couple of marauding mockingbirds either -- and now I fully understand why they call them "mockingbirds." The name is well deserved.

Fresh Fruit Harvest!
Let's be honest here, shall we? This has been one fine summer. I wish I'd been able to write it about it more often. From heirloom tomatoes on the vine, bell peppers by the boatload, two different types of eggplant, three varieties of squash, a nice selection of corn-on-the-cob and some surprising fresh fruit deliveries -- life has been good indeed.

One of the best harvests came just a few weeks ago -- and based upon what came ripe from our young fruit trees this year -- we'll be expecting a lot more of this in years to come. We've been building up the fruit tree and bush offerings in the Bird Back 40 in the hopes that it would produce a real backyard "fruit salad." And as you can tell -- we came close.

Table Grape Vines: Bird Back 40
This is the second year of production for the eight table grape vines that frame in the six main 4X8 foot raised beds in the backyard garden. Those aren't the only beds we have in the Bird Back 40 -- but it's clearly the main growing area. It's where you will find a multitude of heirloom tomato offerings -- Asian Baby Corn -- four or five different varieties of basil and we usually devote at least one bed to all things Bush Beans.

I knew from the outset that I was going to get some production off the eight table grape vines that the wife that is Venus and I planted during the 2010 bare root season. Little did I know -- however -- that the mockingbirds would savor the vast majority of the crop. Despite the addition of Scare Tape, a Scare Crow and netting -- nothing would stop two very determined birds from stealing the vast majority of the Bird table grape crop.

Mental note: I need to spend this winter building a better mousetrap!

Arctic Jay White Nectarines & O'Henry Peaches!
But I'll tell you something about mockingbirds. They are not the most perfect of thieves. In other words, they left a smattering of Fiesta, Muscat and Diamond grapes behind. Add a smattering of table grapes to the last of the white nectarines, some tree-ripened O'Henry Peaches and a selection of strawberries and you've got yourself something special.

It's a fruit salad from your own backyard!

And there's nothing quite like the zest and zing from tree or vine-ripened fruit that some straight from your own backyard. Sure -- you can purchase the same thing in your local supermarket or perhaps a Sacramento Certified Farmer's Market. But it's just not going to compare from the selection of truly ripe, sweet, soft and fruit selections from the backyard.

Fresh Fruit Salad Anyone?
About the only thing missing this year from the Bird Back 40? A fresh selection of watermelon and cantaloupe. It's the one crop -- the one and only crop I might add -- that failed to produce this year. Make a mental note of this children: Do not plant watermelon and cantaloupe seeds in the same area as pumpkin seeds. The end result is -- you get lots of pumpkins and little else.

But we'll write about pumpkins next month. Lord knows -- we have enough to supply the general neighborhood this year. I see a slice or two of pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread and all things pumpkin in my nearby and immediate future. Give the wife that is Venus a pumpkin and she'll turn it into something that will make your taste buds quiver with excitement.

Home-Grown Table Grapes
But for now? The grapes are still producing. The mockingbirds are long gone (thank goodness) and a nice crop of Red Flame grapes are just about ready. Like just about every fruit offering in the Bird Back 40 -- the harvest is a tad late this year.

But there is a nice harvest to come just the same.

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