Monday, October 13, 2014

Drought Tolerant Front Yard

Thanks in part to a terrible drought and our consequent indecision, our front yard has been dirt for a number of months now. In the spirit of keeping things simple and recognizing our circumstances, we have come up with a most excellent solution: Mulch the whole thing!

Some climate researches believe that we are moving into a mega-drought and need to start completely rethinking how we utilize and ration our water resources. While I don't disagree with the need to be good stewards of our resources, I am unsure if we are headed toward a mega-drought. We went through 7 years of drought in the early to mid 1980s and were delivered from dry with a bout of El Nino years so wet that we flooded. No one seems to understand the fact that there really is no such thing as average rain fall in the desert. There are dry years and there are wet years; the average of which is supposed to be our allotment for a given year. It never works that way. At this time,unseasonably warm summer ocean temperatures have extended into fall, and the appearance of tropical fish in local waters seem to indicate we are going into an El Nino season, but that is yet to be seen. 

Instead of obsessing over water during drought years, we should be ever developing better access to water resources and conserving the resources we do have, most especially developing technologies that allow us to tap into other supplies and reuse reclaimed water. I gladly gave up my lawn; but I would hate to see a day come that I cannot grown my vegetables and water my flowers. I have to believe there is a better solution then to let all our plants die; the economic and emotional costs of would be great indeed.

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Last Blooms

Double Delight
The last blooms of autumn are a specular fireworks performance in my garden. The roses have grown tall and leggy this year, relishing all the sun but not lacking their desired drink of water despite the vicious drought. I continue to dead head spent blooms and strategically prune wayward branches so the plants don’t completely take over the patio. 

The vegetable beds are mostly empty, with just a couple crispy squash vines drying up in the dirt. Growing squash from seed starting in late summer was a lark of an experiment. The acorn squash and sugar pie pumpkins were a bust, but the butternut squash grew luxuriously in the late summer into autumn heat, giving me decent sized squashes to turn into soup and risotto.

The plumeria continues to thrive on neglect, spilling multiple stalks of blooms over and over during the season. The plumeria doesn’t hit its bloom stride until late July or early August, but it will continue to bloom through November as long as the temperatures remain warm. I’ve had much interest in cuttings from neighbors, passers-by, and friends and I am doing my best to indulge requests with offerings of multiple cuttings. Thankfully, there has been no damage caused by individuals stealing branches. Sooner rather than later, I will need to trim back and create cuttings from the front yard plumeria plants. I plan to try my hand at raising plumeria from cuttings in pots in the next couple of months, so I will have to keep a good number of cuttings for myself during this year’s pruning!

Fern's Pink and the fragrant yellow and white
Not sure what these are - anyone?

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Preserving the Pomegranate Harvest - New and Improved!

Back in autumn of 2011, I illustrated a laborious process of seeding and juicing pomegranates. Now I have found that I have been juicing these impenetrable fruits all wrong! You need not remove the seeds from the pith of the fruit, but rather squeeze the juice out of the pith. As in most tasks, this is accomplished through the correct tool. Needless to say, my old juicer was not the right tool. In fact, the damn thing is going in the garbage! The right tool for the job is a large commercial juice press. Common in bars for squeezing citrus juice for cocktails, this machine is a model of efficiency. All one needs to do is cut the fruit, in this case the pomegranate, in half across the middle, the remains of the flower to one side. Then, place the half piece on the conical shaped metal piece, holding gently so it does not fall off. Bring the press element down and after securing the half piece, remove your hand and press like crazy so the juice leaks through the colander like collection and into a container below.

Hubby and I have pressed multiple bottles of juice that we can now store in the freezer for when we need it for glaze, a cocktail mixer, or to make super healthy smoothies. This process does get a bit messy, but considerably less so than my previous instructions. I recommend completing the process outside; we used our back patio and then hosed it down afterward. Do wear old clothes and/ or an apron. Another added bonus is the reduced time needed to press the fruit. It took Hubby and I a half an hour to juice the pomegranates when it used to take two hours plus!
  The press process also provides larger quantity of higher quality, sweeter juice. There is less juice that gets wasted, stuck in the juicing leftovers, and the bitter pith is less likely to seep into the juice. Now, the only problem left is the dwindling amount of freezer space left to preserve this year’s harvest.