Monday, August 1, 2016

back on the farm

We're just back from a week with my parents on Cape Cod. I've been lucky to have been going there my whole life, and it's interesting to see it from other perspectives that don't have decades of memories behind them. We rented our own place, and the rental agency wanted to give me piles of tourist literature. We always used to have it around when I was a kid, because when it's pouring rain out and you have 3 young children in a small 2-bedroom cottage with no privacy and no Internet--what's up, 1985?--you want a comprehensive list of every straw you can desperately grasp at. So we went several times to Sealand of Cape Cod, which I thought I might have glimpsed in the damning documentary Blackfish, though I don't think they kept orcas. We did see dolphins, seals, and sea lions every year, though I found the latter two indistinguishable until I moved to California, which, elephant seals notwithstanding, is mostly sea lions.

The niece I'm used to thinking of as "my younger niece" is now almost 14, and since her title was taken nearly 6 years ago, I may re-brand her as "Brunhilde," which I'm sure she'll find hilarious once she learns who Brunhilde is. She definitely will not roll her eyes yet again and text "omg Uncle Chris is so weird" to my wife.

(Funny enough, she does have a living-memory ancestor named "Borghild." Great-great-aunt, I think.)

It's summer, which means even more things are growing. Oranges ripen in winter, which I never bothered to learn until I had an orange tree, but the rest of the food on the estate comes in summer. (Even in California, at sea level apple season is not in August.) I can't really tell you when pomegranates are ripe, because we can't figure it out, and anyway the opossums eat them.

Anna fertilized and calculated proper watering for everything, and I worked the irrigation system and the compost bin.
  • Both peach trees, the big gnarled one out back and the spunky little gnarled one on the driveway that seems like it should be dead, put out a wealth of fruit this year. Per Anna's suggestion, we stripped them both, and dried most of it. It turns out that peaches are mostly water and maybe 15 pounds of whole fruit became a few pounds of dried fruit. It's now a long way toward all gone.
    • The opossums when gonzo on the peaches, and good for them. Pretty funny to pick lots of good-looking peaches only to discover the skyward-facing half has been eaten out.
  • The plum tree took the year off again, but has very kindly continued leafing and providing shade.
  • The pluot is our real success story, with pounds and pounds of amazing fruit that is easily twice the size of our first year, and better tasting. 
    • It's still too much of a pain in the ass to process and save, though: it's very hard to separate the flesh from either the skin or the pit. (I have blanched, X-ed, cold-watered, warm-watered, pared, and food-milled in every combination. It all sucks.)
    • I'm not too sorry we can't save them, because I did get some dried last year, but the raw fruit is already so sweet that the concentrated sugar of the dried stuff literally hurt my teeth.
  • The apple tree is going gangbusters, but in addition to the normal variability of a tree's fruit year to year, the opossums like it, so.
  • Anna pruned the fig tree heavily, and in response it is...bigger than it's ever been. Possibly not with more figs, but Figpocalypse 2016 is gonna be a thing and you will hear about it.
    • (I have not finished the dried whole figs from last year, though I have some prosciutto ready to help me out.)
My garage may be held together by inertia and termite excrement, but the trees are all good!

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