This is a fine old Gravenstein apple tree on my father-in-law’s property which includes a falling down old apple orchard. One year we pressed the Gravensteins and made fresh apple cider which I then canned (there was a lot!) and I entered our apple juice in the Harvest Fair of Sonoma County and it won first place. I still have my ribbon because I haven’t often won first place in any kind of contest. The juice was fantastic and I wouldn’t mind having a glass of it right now.
There is nothing in this world like a broken old apple tree that is still blossoming in the spring and producing fruit in the fall. How its branches must ache under the weight! This particular tree here (which you can’t see in full) was grafted with more than one variety of apple and is nearly prostrate – to the point where I’m not sure there would even be a way for it to be reclaimed and healed – yet a few years ago it made one of the best fresh eating apples I’ve ever tasted. I am sure it was a Golden Delicious – the way they’re SUPPOSED to be: crisp with a fine textured flesh and sweet without being insipid, full of the most wonderful classic apple taste. I’m not sure what variety this is in the picture – it’s growing on half the tree.
An old trellis which used to have grapes growing over it. I couldn’t find many of the grapes left but we’ve tasted them and they are wonderful – like tiny Red Flame grapes (which is what I suspect they are). Now there’s some poison oak around it and blackberries too. I don’t understand what those pipes attached to the structure are. Maybe my father-in-law knows. I’ll ask him.
You couldn’t pay me to go into this cellar unless someone goes in first and ushers the spiders to new locations. It is covered in a thick blanket of dirt and dust and webs. But it’s so cool! The old man from whom my fil bought this property kept barrels of either cider or vinegar or wine in there. It digs into the hillside. It would be a great fruit and vegetable and canned goods cellar if it was cleaned out.
My camera wasn’t cooperating with me much here – this is a small Kalamata olive tree my fil planted for me. It’s one of the sweetest things anyone has ever done. Kalamatas are my very favorite olive of all time and olives grow well in Sonoma so I really wanted to have some of my own. He planted two but the other one died – unless I just couldn’t find it. This one is still quite small – I don’t think it’s getting enough water. Olive trees are not necessarily big trees in the first place and they do thrive without much water once they mature. This little one is proof of it – he may be diminutive but he’s completely healthy! I mean – every leaf is disease free and lush. Now all he needs is a pollinator.
Yes, I’m aware of the kind of work it takes to cure olives. I’ve done some research on it and it’s exactly the kind of food making challenge I love with the possibility of great rewards. My dad has a property in Sonoma County too and has a stand of olive trees that he presses olives from – they make a wonderful olive oil – I’m not sure exactly what kinds he has but some of them are eating olives too and he says I can pick and cure some this winter because it’s a good harvest year.
This is a mostly wild partially terraced garden area. Before we moved to Oregon my fil let me run wild on his property, just like the apples, and gave me permission to build a garden here. The big problem was irrigation (there’s well water and even a pump house but the property is mostly up-hill and planning irrigation systems isn’t my strong suit. Planning garden spaces IS. This whole sunny hillside directly behind his house would be perfect as a terraced garden in the Italian style. I’m hoping he’ll let me run wild again and get back to work on taming parts of the property to grow food on for all of us. There are lots of challenges to such a project: irrigation, root protection from moles and other underground beasts, deer, and soil. Still – every time I’ve been on his property I see what it can be and a little of what it was.
But even if he prefers I don’t do any garden planning – he’s still generous with the fruits that grow wild there. Right now I’m processing his Santa Rosa plums which he let me pick. I got about 15 pounds of them and by the morning after I picked them I had to toss a couple of pounds for having gone bad – it happens fast with these plums! I got two batches of plum liqueur going and one small batch of sweet and sour plum sauce for dipping egg rolls and pot stickers in and I am going to make either jam or jelly with the rest. Santa Rosa plums are really juicy so it will probably be more challenging to make a jam from them but that’s what I really want to do.
It feels good to be digging my hands into my first food preserving project in the new house. The preserving season is officially OPEN.