Thursday, May 14, 2009


First four raspberries are ripe.  Fantastic flavor.  Huge crop coming.  

The only thing that eats raspberries besides humans is hornets and they don't take much.  It is the perfect crop for areas with pest problems.  A few bugs eat the leaves as do chickens but raspberries grow so quickly it is hard to slow them down by being eaten.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A virgin bee keeper no longer...

Two stings today.  One on the eyebrow, one on the forearm.  

 The eyebrow sting concerned me most due to stories about eyes swelling shut under similar situations conveyed to me by friends but it does not even ache.  No pain, no swelling after 30 minutes.  The forearm sting aches a bit.  This may be because I immediately brushed away the eyebrow sting venom sack as I walked away from the hive but did not realize I had been stung on the forearm until after a few seconds.  That was enough time for the stinger to pump some toxin into me.  So it aches a bit.  I really do not know whether the toothpaste does any good or whether it is just the elimination of the pumping apparatus that has reduced the majority of the sting effects.  I doubt I will experiment with this.  The ache is like having a highly localized pulled muscle.

Earlier in the day, about a half hour before the stings at 4:30pt, I had taken the top off an adjacent hive to remove some comb that had fallen to the bottom during the extraction of the bag in which it was ensconced while collected when it was first put together in March.  This is the observation hive that was first obtained as a hive in a paper shopping bag on 3/13/09.  Today is a sunny, warm day and the bees are calm and busy.  I temporarily removed a couple of foundations to get to the comb that was on the hive floor and removed it without incident.  There is some pollen in some of the cells.  This hive has three foundations that are being heavily worked by the bees.  Piece of cake.  No problems.  Closed the hive up w/o incident.

That was so easy I decide to put the new glass observation top, which I had just made, on the massive-number-of-bees hive that I collected on 4/24 and upon which I subsequently put a queen excluder and super because they seemed so active and numerous.  The other hive was complacent so why not?  Seemed like perfect timing.  As I remove the wood top to the hive super I receive a sting to the eyebrow immediately.  The super is amazingly full of bees.  (All three hives I have are thrown from the same mother hive.  Two on 3/13, one on 4/24.)  I wipe the sting off as soon as I see the bee coming at my face and feel the bee on me.  Then I place the glass observation top on the hive, askew, and walk inside with a bee in my hair.  It escapes inside the house.  I put toothpaste on my eyebrow immediately to alleviate the sting effects.  I have read a study that this is the most effective pain relief available other than time.  The bee-errant is found on a window adjacent to me and dispatched then I go back outside to replace the glass and wooden top properly to the hive, receive another sting on the forearm which goes unnoticed for a bit, then I retreat inside again while wiping off the sting sack that has been actively pumping toxins into me.  Not optimal.  Toothpaste goes on it and it stops the pain in moments but it aches.  Two hours later, after dinner, it still aches but only when pressure is put on it.  Two and a half hours later and not even that happens.  Next time, I need to get the pumping apparatus off me immediately.  

Finally, I am stung.  No longer a virgin bee keeper.

I was stung by bees
Being careless and silly
Seemed right at the time

First week of May

 2 inches of rain.  Rain total:  20 inches.

Heavy wind has blown off two of the grafts.  Not expecting a good take for the grafts this year.

Cameo wine bottled this week.  Good flavor for a Celtic Scumble.  Had been racked twice so almost no leas.  

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swarm collecting

Third swarm collected for the year.

About dinner time the same hive on Van Ness that threw off the other two swarms currently in our back yard threw off another one today and it is a Monster.  It was eight feet up in a tree.  I had to stand on a chair to get the loppers up to the branch it was on to be able to cut the branch.  Maybe it was ten feet up.  Let's say nine so as not to exaggerate.

Anyway, I had to position the box perfectly so that when I cut the branch it would drop into the box.  That took me a while because if I made a mistake the swarm would be all over the ground and then where would I be?  Shoveling bugs into a box is where I would be and I did not have a shovel.  Not a good place if the bugs can sting and you are reduced to using hands in place of a shovel.  The swarm was so big that I took out all but three of the foundations to accommodate it and the branch to which it was clinging.  The ropes to secure the bottom to the top of the box were laid out under and to each side of the box.  I was very careful and took my time positioning the box and the ropes to catch the drop.  The drop was almost perfect but bugs scattered on both sides of the box as well as filling the hive box as I got down from the chair immediately adjacent the box and slowly walked away from the proceedings.  From about 30 feet I turned to observe my doings, the bees' doings, and listened to the noise they were making and how the few that were still around me were acting which was not aggressive at all.  I was never stung during the entire process which then involved going back to the box and putting the top on it (this action squished a few which is not a good thing from a pheromone standpoint of hive alertness), tied the two ropes around the box which, as you may remember, were covered with bees that were outside the box and therefore thick upon the ropes that were to secure the bottom of the box to the top I had just replaced.  This gave me some trepidation as they crawled from the ground up the ropes then up my hands in remarkable numbers.  After tying the ropes I again walked away for a few moments to observe their attitude (and truth be told, mine).  Both were complacent.  (I think this was a wet swarm.  I believe it had been out of the mother hive for no more than three hours which indicates that they were full of honey with no hive to protect.  This is the perfect situation for collecting a swarm other than that it was a bit too high in a tree for perfection from my point of view and my viewpoint is that of a novice.) Then I lifted the box by the ropes tied around it and carried it to the truck.  There I shut it in and drove home.  Upon arrival, I made a clear path to the back yard and hive stand which I had set up for no good reason two days prior and there it was placed immediately outside the slider to our bedroom.  

It is a thing of beauty in aquisition and placement.

It makes a lot of noise.  There are a lot of bees in that box.

Pear bottling

Today is the day to put pears in bottles hanging from trees.  

Two bottles with three pear in them.  The double pear bottle is large.  Both are covered with cheese cloth and choked with same to keep sun/bugs out.  Both were examined for aphids and those found were killed.  Hoping for the luckiest and best outcomes.

Not expecting much.  The odds seem against it.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Grafting, bud break and the last Mandarins

Wedge graft used to move Pink Pearl and Fuji onto the Cox's Orange Pippin on 4/3 with Cox bud break on 4/8.   Wind was very strong for two days immediately after the grafts.  Gala bud break on 3/31 blossoms appeared 4/8.  Cecille, Double Delight, and Mr. Lincoln roses grafted onto Cox with apples.  

Harvested the last Mandarins 4/19.  

Moved chicken compost onto blueberries and garlic.  Garlic is rusty for the second year in a row.  No more garlic for two years until that dies out.  

Rain 0.5 inch during the first week of April.

Rain total 18 inches.

Friday, April 3, 2009


The apple buds are beginning to push/break on the Cox's Orange Pippin.  That is the receiver (host) for the grafting I plan on doing this year.  Warmer areas located on higher benches along the coast have already pushed bud and the best grafting period is past.  Timing is everything for completely successful grafts.  Timed correctly and done simply, grafts can be 100% successful.

Timing is accomplished by watching the buds on the host tree.  When the buds are only just beginning to change from the winter dormant mode to the first bud on the host tree showing only the smallest bit of color it is time to apply the scions you plan to graft.  You must watch for bud push/break every day because when it begins it will continue quickly.  The scions should be taken without any leaves and stored in a plastic bag in a refrigerator or the coolest spot available like in the shade on the north side of a house.  They should be taken in January at the earliest.

More later.

Friday, March 13, 2009


I captured the first swarm of the year that I have heard of happening.  My feelers are out in as many places as I could put them to notify people that I wanted a swarm.  The hive that produced the first swarm is in the perfect location to collect warmth against a stone wall in a well protected back yard.  They were very docile because the swarm was only a couple of hours old and full of honey, warm, and with no hive to protect.  Having landed on a loquat branch about 3 feet off the ground it was a simple procedure to capture them just by clipping enough leaves off the branch until they had all dropped into the hive sitting on a table below them.  The hive had seven foundations (this allowed room for the leaf drop and bees) in it that had been used by a previous colony so once they were in they had no desire to flee and set up pheromone producing bees immediately to signal all their bees that a home had been found.  It was the first time I had collected a hive so I was glad it was a very fresh swarm (a wet swarm) and everything fell into place so easily.  

It was my first time to collect a swarm but I came prepared with two sizes of ladder, loppers, rope, toothpaste, plastic card, cell phone, and all the clothing that a rational, well-read person would wear (all white, baggy, sealed at wrists/ankles) with rubber banding at ankles/wrists and a bee hat.  The reception box was roped shut and the entry blocked once the bees were inside for safe transportation.  Looked like I knew what I was doing, anyway.  It was fun. The main things to remember are to have a calm demeanor and know what you are going to do next no matter which way the situation progresses.  (Running away screaming is not one of them.)  

"What happens if..."  This should be going through your head at each point of possible divergence in probable activity.  Choke points...

Rain total to date:  17.5 inches.  Average rainfall is about 30 inches.  Official rain season ends June 30.  Usual rain season is from early October to the end of March.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dormant Oil Spray

If you have had problems with aphids or scale the prior year, you may want to apply a dormant oil spray to fruit trees.  Now is the time to apply it for apple trees and pear trees.  Pick a day when the sun is out and the weather is warm so all the eggs and overwintering adults you are trying to kill will be respirating at maximum potential.  They smother better that way.  If you are growing nectarines, which are already blooming by now, you have to apply in early January before they flower and include lime sulphur and a copper containing Bordeaux to kill the inevitable fungus that attacks them, Taphrina deformans (peach leaf curl).  But you have to spray anywhere the rain can splash a fungal spore onto the tree, too.  Some people put paper down under the tree to keep spores for splashing out of the dirt.  It's a mess and it never worked completely even though I was meticulous about it.  I gave up on nectarines.  The fruit is too attractive to all the animals and fighting the fungus got old.  Besides that, we could never figure out what to do with them besides pies, canning and eating out of hand.  In addition, the fruit is a mess to deal with compared with anything else.  The tree was very agressive and grew too fast, second only to the kiwi in growth rate so that was not a plus.  In the end, it made good wood for the smoker.  It was an education for a few years.  Ours grew true from a discarded seed.  

Apples, of course, won't breed true to the parent from seed.  That's why the apple represented democracy and the people in colonial America to the early colonists (E Pluribus Unum, from many one).  Each seed was unique in quality although still an apple variety of some sort.  To become a "millionaire" in the colonies was to find a good tasting apple from a random seed that everyone would want to have for themselves(from many one).  Because the seeds won't run true, everyone would have to take a twig (scion) from your tree to propagate (graft onto their tree) themselves.  Colonists could charge what the market would pay for a good apple or scion and make their fortune.  The Northwest territory was settled using apple tree plantings and this is where Johnny got his fame peddling apple seed and scions to the settlers along the Ohio River so they could provide proof of occupation and working of land claims by having an apple orchard of a size regulated by the government.  Apples were the only way to make alcohol for yourself and a good way to add value to your crop.  George Washinton did it every year at Mount Vernon.  But I digress...(See:  The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollen)

Comice and Asian pear trees.  Today is the day the first flowers appeared.  I usually time the dormant spray to this.  However, having had no problems last year I will not apply it.  The spray also kills the overwintering stages of beneficial insects and mites.  I like to keep any beneficial organism be it nematode, fungus, collembola, insect, mite, bird, mammal, etc., around as much as is possible.  They make a huge difference in the amount of work you have to do to control pests.  

Rain total for last four days:  1.5 inches.

Total for the season is 17 inches.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Spring is almost here

The Equinox cannot be far behind when the Mandarins are all ready to harvest and the Blueberries are flowering. 

Top pics: Juicing in process.  Mandarin/bronze fennel ahi marinade, left, with finished juice.  Fegs ready to yield 2.5 qts juice.

Over the past week:
Raspberry shoots have come out of the ground in profusion and leaves are coming out on old canes.
Sangiovese (main component of chianti) grape vines pushed leaves.
Blueberry varieties are moving.  Earlyblue and Blueray are pushing leaf past the bud.  Bluecrop is beginning to leaf out but no flowers.  Oneal and the Yard Sale Unknown have foliage and are in full flower.  Southmoon has foliage and is now beginning its flowering.  Only the Herbert is sitting silent and bare.  
Fourth pic:  chickens fenced with mandarin tree (click on pic to enlarge it)

Stripped one mandarin tree and juiced the crop.  Yield is at least 40 pounds (conservative estimate) of fruit for the tree this year.  100 pieces pulled form the tree without calyx equaled 7.5 pounds.  Tree size is six by six by six feet and is pruned about 1.5 feet off the ground at the drip line and looks like a miniature maple tree.  Twenty pounds of fruit was juiced to yield 5 quarts.  After peeling, fegs were put through a Champion juicer.  

The mandarin/bronze fennel leaf marinade for the ahi was spectacular.  Marinated the ahi for a few hours, turning it occasionally because the juice tends to separate, then cooked it in a stove top smoker with hickory chips for 15 minutes.  A few minutes on high and the rest on low flame.  Highly recommended.

Snails make fungal infection of the fruit common.  Keeping the snails out of the tree usually just involves triple banding the trunk with thin copper strips about 1/4 inch wide for each band.  I had tree leaf/oxalis leaf(ground "weeds") connections at the drip line of the tree this year, a mistake.  Also had oxalis touching the trunk above the copper banding.  If snails can climb above the bands using the ground cover, the copper banding cannot work.  I now have to spray the tree with high pressure water to knock off the snails then the chickens are in a tractor (a movable enclosure) under the tree to finish the job until the ground cover is gone.  Should take about a week with only two chickens.  Should have done this before the snails got into the tree, of course, but I got lazy and rationalized it looked so picturesque with the yellow flowers beneath it.  Not so much, now.  Tossing some scratch (cracked corn) in with the chickens keeps them digging up the greens otherwise they just stand there looking at you and thinking about escape.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Rain Total

Rain over the past four days is 1.75 inches.

Total for the season is 15.50 inches.

Average for the entire season is 30 inches.

Water emergency declared today by California.  Individual urban water users urged to immediately decrease useage by 20%.  Mandatory conservation may be needed. 

The following article includes a list of crops grown and the percent of total US production that comes from California:  California Declares Drought Emergency

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Chicken Info

As usual, the chickens began laying precisely on Valentines Day.  It is rarely later at latitude, 37 degrees north.  They are tied to the hours of darkness they receive and it has to be pretty cold and rainy for an extended period of time to delay that.  Biorhythms make them do it.  That's why commercial growers keep the lights on 12/12 imitating midsummer.  That keeps them laying year 'round until they wear out in two years then off to the compost heap or processing into chicken food although beef is the usual ingredient in commercial hen feed.  Cross feeding includes less problematic micro-organisms so hens go to cows and cows go to hens feed, usually.  

The history of the chicken industry in California is quite an interesting read.  It was the get-rich-quick scheme for the common man of its day (early 1900's if memory serves me but it often does not) like houses were recently.  That economy collapsed, too, of course, as everyone piled into it, leaving personal anguish, debris, and indebtedness behind.  Humans and their foibles...  Anyway, Santa Cruz, CA, was a center of that movement and, up until quite recently, properties with chicken coops were very common.  They have since been turned into condos because the properties necessary for raising chickens were relatively large.  I lived in one that was barely converted to human habitation when I first came to the area in 1981.  It was pretty cold during the winter but the price was right for a U. C. Cooperative Extension employee doing research on brussels sprouts and strawberry IPM.

Our hens are old and need replacing.  However, they are on social security (assuming SS is what the gov't has told us it is and it is not bankrupt like the largest banks in the world) because they don't produce like younger hens.  They will continue into old age scattering their 17 pounds per year of feces per bird  about the yard.  We will be getting a new crop of "peepers" soon which we will raise inside until they can integrate with the older hens without being eaten by them or the neighborhood cats.  That process is really cute as long as you keep their cage clean otherwise it gets old very quickly.  The old ones will be relegated to composting and providing the occasional egg while giving lessons for the new arrivals about hawks and cats.  By the way, if one of the little ones does get hit by a cat, we have found that a liberal application of sugar on the wound, assuming you can recover the victim, is very good at stopping any infection that may occur.  It certainly saved one of our chicks that was taken by a cat but saved by the wife in an extraordinary feat of fence leaping and running down of the cat.  I am still astounded by the memory as, I can only assume, was the cat.  I imagine the cat was very surprised at the vigor of the approach since it dropped the chick rather quickly.  I was so amazed at the wife's effort and I still am amazed at it.  (Years later she attempted the same rescue for a large orb weaving spider we had adopted as a pet and named Agatha that was taken by a Townsends Warbler outside our picture window in full view of both of us.  The spider had dared come out during daylight and that was its undoing.  That attempted saving was not so successful as flight is a cutoff for us as rescuers.)  In addition, it gave me the wonderful opportunity to try the sugar-on-wound trial about which I had just read as the chick had at least an inch long cut on its body from being dragged through a hole in the fence.  You don't come across that sort of opportunity readily so I seized it and it worked admirably.

I watched one of our hens kick the bucket a few years ago.  I was looking at it as it stood in the yard.  It was a Barred Rock.  Of a sudden, it said, "Bawk" and leaped into the air doing a back flip.  When it hit the ground it was dead as a rock, appropriately enough.  I stood amazed, guessing it was a heart attack at age 12 years.  I think that one was turned into apples, judging by its burial site, and good apples they are, too.


Pruning is an art form.  It is vaguely akin to Bonsai, in some ways, but on a grand scale.

Absolutely everyone does it differently even if any two people have identical goals as their outcome.  So don't feel like you have to attain some sort of perfection when you do this.  That said, you can easily ruin a tree forever if you do it wrong.  Comfortable?  OK, let's dive right in.

Depending upon what kind of tree or bush you have, your plant will need different care in every way including pruning.  Blueberry bushes can get by with no pruning or just taking out any dead wood.  Alder trees need be pruned only to your taste as to what you want them to look like or the more practical aspect of whether you can get under them easily enough to harvest the raspberries you put there.  Apple trees...well, there are different approaches.  There is some new research out of Cornell University that shows an unpruned apple tree may produce a bigger crop than a pruned apple tree.  Masanobu Fukuoka of Japan came up with this idea during the middle of the last century so it is nothing new.  But the "quality" of the apple can be changed by judicious pruning.  So many choices, so few trees to test them on.

Pruning of apples can be done to strengthen the tree structure, make it easier to get inside to pick, keep it short enough to pick without using a ladder, be able to walk/work under it easily, make it look like a weeping willow to fit your yard motif, etc.  Everyone needs or wants something different from their trees.  

Here is one of the multitude of sites about pruning (half way down the page link below "irrigation") that shows some of the techniques:

Making the pruning cut angled or flat.  Used to be an angled cut was all the rage now it has been shown that a flat cut is better for the tree.  It makes sense as less inner tree branch open to the air and microbes is best.  If you are removing anything larger than what a one hand pruner can manage, you must first make a cut on the underside of the branch opposite where you anticipate the main cut to end.  Without doing this, you can strip the bark for a long way and expose the tree to infection.  Losing a tree this way is sooo wrong.  

There is weak branching and strong branching.  The weak ones can split a tree down the middle, if left as one of the main "scaffold" branches when the tree is young.  This is a critical item to become familiar with and easily avoided.  Weak scaffold branches are sharply "V" shaped and must either be changed, if caught early, or strengthened, if caught late.  Early catching means you just cut one of the branches off and work from there with the other as the main support branch.  Late catching means you have to provide lateral supports via grafting which is far more difficult.  Go with the first option although the second is fun to do and rarely seen today.  The only place I have ever seen it, beside in my yard, and where I got the idea is in a hundred and thirty year old abandoned apple orchard in the hills above Corralitos, CA.  They had made three main scaffold branches in a "vase" pruning style coming off the trunk and each of the branches was grafted to the other about a foot and a half above the confluence with the trunk to form a triangle horizontal to the ground connecting the branches.  It was beautiful.  All the trees had it.

The trick to successful pruning is to be able to visualize how the tree will look in five years due to your pruning.  You need to know how the tree will grow as it matures so you must be able to look at pictures of the growth pattern of your variety of tree and how others have manipulated it.  Get online or to the library and look it up or visit an orchard and study the pruning marks and growth pattern.  All fruit tree varieties are slightly to completely different in growth patterns.  The devil is in the details and you will live with the outcome of your understanding of the details for years to come so spend some time with this aspect of growing fruit.  Everyone that passes will see what you have done and how well you understood what you did.  Spend some time on planning your pruning.  Sit with the tree and visualize where you want it to be in five years and where you may need to make the cuts to get it there.  There's no rush.  You can always do it next year or later in the summer.  It is easiest to do when all the leaves are on the ground.  Keep in mind, it is a bit difficult to watch the knowing look of a thoughtful pruner obviously trying not to say anything about your tree other than, "Oh my, um...what a...nice tree".

Hiring a pruner can be problematic unless that pruner comes highly recommended and even then I would want to see examples of their work.  I have seen ruined trees that the customers thought were done quite well and would happily recommend the pruner to others.  

Rain Total

Rain over the past 7 days is 6.75 inches.

Total for the season is 13.75 inches.  

Historical average for entire season, which ends June 30th, is 30 inches.

News today of water rationing in Los Angeles next summer.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rain Total

Rain over the past nine days is 3 inches.

Total for the season:  7 inches.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Harvested 30 pounds of fruit from the sunny side of one of our two mandarin trees.  It was not even a quarter of the potential harvest of the tree.  The rest of the fruit still need some ripening.  You can feel whether they are ripe enough to pick as you touch them on this tree.  Sunny side has the highest vitamin C amount per fruit throughout the harvest and ripen first.

30 pounds of fruit yield about a pint over 5 quarts of juice when processed through a Champion juicer.  The fruit peels easily.  Took about two hours to process and juice.  The other tree is not so forthcoming in ease of peeling even though it is supposedly identical.

One gallon was frozen, one quart put in the fridge, a pint sent to Davis with the daughter on the train.  Good thing it went with her, too, because she has a nasty cold.

Made a "pumpkin" pie with an orange turban squash for the first time.  May be one of the very best of that type of pie I have ever had.  We are definitely growing turban squash somewhere in this packed-to-the-edges-with-comestible-plants yard this year.  Those are the type of squash that look like Cinderella's coach before it was a coach and the mice were not yet horses.  The Australian Blue squash make equally tasty pies and are also "turban" squash but are blue until they turn orange, if you keep them long enough.  These things save for a long time outside under the eaves.  

All the detritus goes back into the yard somewhere; into the soil or to the chickens.  Nothing goes into the trash.

75F today at the ocean.  This is obscenely warm for this time of year and for far to long.  No bud break yet but they are moving on several fruit varieties.  This could be a tragedy in the making for fruit trees.  Apparently, a La Nina effect off the coast is happening.  Makes Sierra skiing ice/mush, with a bit of good snow between those conditions for less than an hour, at best.  Been there in a prior La Nina at unnecessary expense and unsatisfactory experience.  Best to take a trip along the coast, instead.  You'll enjoy it more for it's intrinsic value.

Rain season:

Total rain for the year is at 4 inches.

Watering the yard has not yet been necessary.  Soil is holding moisture, so far.  During the last La Nina we had to water during the winter but we had a much different plant structure then.  It was mostly annuals.  Now it is almost exclusively perennials with the few annuals being mulched.

We received 1.5 inches during the last storm.  Average annual rainfall is 30 inches per year with all but an inch of that occuring between October through April.  We are over half way through that period with roughly about 1/8 of the usual total rainfall or 1/4 of the usual rainfall to date.  Yikes.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Raspberry Time in January

Moved the raspberries out of an old bed and into a new one.  It is time to refurbish the old bed and then use it for something else for a while.  Raspberries can use up the soil in one spot if it is not composted or fertilized regularly.  It doesn't hurt to change the crop every couple of years to give the soil a rest from mono cropping.  For that reason we move ours around the yard much like walking a very, very, old dog slowly and patiently.  If you had a movie of our yard over time the raspberries would be in constant motion.  If you want a metric to use for bed change try this:  when you notice the next years canes being smaller than last it is time to move on.  You can just move some chickens into it during the winter, if you don't want to move it around.  That works well.  Of course, there is always the mega-farm methodology but to do that you have to go buy something.

If this heat/dry spell doesn't change soon, the fruit trees are going to break bud and potentially cause all sorts of timing trouble which could culminate in a poor fruit set.  Hoping for a wet, cold February.  So are the California Tree Frogs which are making a very large noise for their diminutive size in various places around the yard.  The one inside the hollow, ceramic elephant sounds like a bull frog.  He must be pleased.

Put some more potatoes into the bed last weekend because I found some at the market I liked for making mashed potatoes.  First leaves are coming up from the prior planting.  Had a fantastic dinner of smoked Alpers trout caught at Saddlebag Lake last September and grill seared (60 seconds per side) Tombo tuna with the potatoes and a salad of baby greens. 

Garlic is about six inches tall.  

Found a peanut trying to grow that a scrub jay had planted.  Never have grown one of those before but, apparently, the birds think I should.

First Owari Satsuma Mandarin Orange harvest was January 18.  The trees will yield fruit for the next two months.  Harvested from the sunny side of the tree first.  They are the ripest.  Prepped four batches of marmalade and put it in the freezer for canning on a cold, rainy day.  Too hot to do that now.  Juiced the rest of the days harvest.  Yield is slightly more than 50% by volume of the peeled fegs.  Champion juicer makes that part of the process easy.  We have two Mandarin trees.  Same variety for both but the trees produce different fruit.  One trees fruit has a tight skin, is difficult to peel and is noticeably sweeter.  It is much like the difference between Valencia and Navel oranges.  One is better for juicing and the other easier to eat out of hand.  

Last persimmons were dried, bagged and frozen last week.  This last batch was the sweetest and most colorful of them all with the consistency and sweetness of Medjool dates.

Kiwi fruit is ripe enough to begin eating.  It has been in the crisper since harvest at about 38F.

Beneficial insects flower seed varieties were put into the old raspberry bed and a little something for the hummingbirds.  This will help with the pollination and pest control in the spring.  

Trapped two gophers out of the yard last week.  Found their tunnels while moving raspberries.  The varmints don't push up dirt hills in our yard because the soil is so soft they can just push it aside instead of mining out tailings into a gopher mound.  This makes the gopher game a little trickier in that I usually do not know where they are until a plant goes awol or declines unexpectedly.  They are little trouble to established trees and bushes but are hell on garlic, clover and potatoes.  It never hurts to patrol the grounds daily to enjoy, stay in touch with, and keep the peace.