We Have Walnuts – and Pears!

Three years ago we planted our first walnut tree up on the future homestead.  Then, two years ago we planted another.  Walnuts are notorious for taking a long time to produce a crop, but here we are with our first walnuts!First crop of Walnuts

Yeah.  I know.  We only got seven walnuts – but it’s a start!

Actually, we only have five walnuts because two of them weren’t ready to harvest yet.  The walnut husk has to split open to release the nut, and these two weren’t ready to be released yet…

First Walnut Harvest

These two walnuts weren’t ready to be harvested. You can see, however, a crack starting to develop on the husk!

The walnuts will be an important source of protein on our homestead, along with animal protein from our eggs, chicken and fish. Walnuts are just chock full of nutrients, and walnut oil is prized among many gourmet chefs. We also planted an almond tree last year (we have purchased all of our fruit and nut trees from Peaceful Valley Nursery), but have three more almond trees in pots that Mother Nature gave us this past spring.  They came as volunteer almond trees that grew from seed our mature almond tree dropped last fall!

Walnut and Pear Spice Cake

A giant pear at the Kelseyville Pear Fair!

This past weekend we attended the Pear Festival in Kelseyville, California (which is near Clear Lake), with some dear friends of ours.  This was such a quaint small town affair and we had a lot of fun. First, we watched a parade with some beautiful horses, a mariachi band, and some awesome vintage cars. Apparently the local high school was hosting their homecoming game that afternoon, so the individual class floats – all themed after Dr. Seuss books – were a highlight of the parade.  After the parade we walked down the main street of town and visited booth after booth of handmade and specialty items for sale.  We ate some delicious tamales for lunch and noshed on pear ice cream for dessert.  Before we left, we bought two large bags of pears.

Walnut tree's first crop

The pears made a nice little display with some of my pie birds. So colorful!

The yellow round pears are Asian Pears, but unfortunately I forgot which variety they were.  They are sweet and firm with a wonderful crispness.  The red pears are called Starkrimson. Ray and I have never tried this variety before, so we decided to get a bag and have a taste. I did some research when I got home about the Starkrimson pear, and apparently they turn from a deep almost burgundy red to a brighter fire engine red when ripe.  The bag we brought home only had one that was ripe, which is great because we can eat the pears every other day or so as they ripen. My verdict of Starkrimson?  These pears are heavenly.  Very sweet, juicy and with a finer texture than a Bartlett.  I think they will make a great toasted walnut, blue cheese and pear salad!  In fact, the newly harvested walnuts just might be just enough for a nice salad. 😀

Three walnuts from our first harvest.

Three of the seven walnuts from our first harvest.

To celebrate our first walnut harvest and to use some of the Asian Pears, I decided to bake a Cake.  I got a recipe from Food Network called Pear Walnut Spice Cake.  I chose this one because it called for 2 cups of diced pears, 1 cup of chopped walnuts, and 1 cup of raisins – along with cinnamon, cloves and allspice.  Mmmmmm……  it sounded so good!  The glaze was made with powdered sugar and maple syrup.  The result?

Kelseyville Pear Festival

Since pears and walnuts are fall harvested crops, I thought it would be appropriate to display the cake next to my fall vignette on the dining room table.

……….A really good cake!

The cake itself was fairly heavy – like a fruitcake with a melt in your mouth “crust”, but the pears were moist, and the walnuts had a yummy roasted flavor.  The raisins added just enough twang and it all paired very well with the spices.  This one was a winner and I will bake it again and again! Here is a link to the recipe:  http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/pear-walnut-spice-cake.html

We haven’t planted a pear tree on our future homestead yet, but plan to get one of those multi-graft trees that have several varieties on one tree.  These are great because you don’t have to worry about pollination issues, although usually the fruit will ripen at different times which extends the harvest season.  If I had my choice, I would get a Bartlett Pear, a D’Anjou and our new favorite, Starkrimson!

I was also looking at a few recipes for pear pie.  I would like to try the Starkrimson in a pie to see how it holds up with baking.  Do you have a good pear pie recipe?  If you do, please feel free to post a link in the comments below!

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Our Homestead in Drought

We took a vacation up to our future homestead this past week and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!  Our friends Shelley and Bruce invited us over for a Fourth of July Party and we had so much fun visiting with lots of our neighbors.  We met the “new guy” who just recently purchased property in our area, made some new friends, and Ray found a new fishing partner!

Between clearing an area to place a shipping container to use as a storage shed, getting our valley house ready to put on the market, and  bad nonexistent internet service on the future homestead, I haven’t been blogging much lately. Plus, I found out that I have bursitis, tendonitis and a probable healing rotator cuff tear in my right shoulder… and I’m right handed!  Ugh!  Hopefully physical therapy will get me back on track.

The drought here in California isn’t getting any better.

California lake in drought

This high mountain lake about 1/2 hour from our future homestead is usually one of the last lakes to get drained in the fall. At this time of year the water is usually way up and spilling over the dam.  Unfortunately, it’s already pretty low because there just wasn’t any snowpack to fill it up.

Anyhow…  there are a lot of things happening on the future homestead:

gooseberries

The gooseberries are starting to ripen, though because of our drought I don’t think we have half as many as we did last year.  In fact, some of the bushes that were loaded last year have only a dozen or so gooseberries this year.  It’s a shame.  However, I do think I will get enough to make a batch of gooseberry jelly.

blackberries

The blackberries look even worse.  The berries that are developing look very small and will probably be very seedy, and I think it’s too late to water them, though I don’t think I would anyway.  While I know they will still make a great jelly, I was hoping to get some nice juicy ones to can into pie filling this year.  This is the recipe I wanted to use: http://oursimplelife-sc.com/blackberry-pie-filling-recipe    Maybe the hubby and I can take a ride down to our local creek and find a few plump, ripe berries.

ripening rose hips

Even the rose hips that I planned to harvest this year for a healthy and delicious tea are already starting to ripen, which is way earlier than I remember this happening in previous years.  At least they look somewhat plump, despite the drought.  I guess I will just have to harvest earlier than I had planned.

woodpile torn up

And then, near our campfire ring where our wood  is  was stacked, some critter tore it to pieces and made quite a mess.  I assume whatever it was (bear, raccoon, dog), was going after some critter that had made a nest in the woodpile.  Unfortunately, if you look at the bottom of the picture, you can see the beginnings of a poison oak bush, which is why I didn’t clean up this mess right away.  UGH!  I hate poison oak and unfortunately it likes me! 🙁  I will just have to keep my Technu and Stri-Dex pads on the ready.

Along with all the bad news due to our current drought here in California, we still have some good to report:

irrigation using rain barrels

The new zero pressure water timer and irrigation system we set up for our raised boxes is working well!  These tomatoes have absolutely tripled in size and are in full bloom!

ambassador walnuts

Our two year old Ambassador walnut tree has seven walnuts on it!  Heavens to Betsy – they aren’t supposed to produce until they are at least five years old, but this one seems to be extremely happy.  We weren’t positive that walnuts would grow well in our area, but apparently they do!

Redhaven Peach

Our Redhaven peach tree has three nice peaches on it, and at the rate that they are taking on color, they should be ripe in about a week.  Unfortunately our apricots didn’t put on any fruit this year, probably because we had a snowstorm just when they were starting to bloom, and the few cherries that we had were eaten by birds.  But, we are very hopeful that within a few years our small orchard will be providing us with lots of fruits and nuts!

purple thistle to make vegetable rennet

Finally, the purple thistle is starting to bloom again.  Apparently they aren’t bothered much by drought, because they seem to be as numerous and as big as they were last year! It’s time for me to start harvesting the purple thistle (before the down develops) so that I can continue my experiments with using it as a vegetable rennet to make cheese.  Now that our local natural foods market sells raw goats milk, I have all I need to make fresh goat cheese!  Click HERE to read about how to make rennet out of purple thistle.

Because of this drought we are seeing a lot more beetle activity and wasps on the future homestead, partly because they didn’t die off during the winter because of our warm temperatures, and partly because the drought weakened trees aren’t able to resist the beetle invasion.  We may lose some of our pine trees because of this. 🙁

On the brighter side, our well seems to be holding it’s own.  So far.  Since we were able to get three 1,100 gallon water storage tanks full from the winter rains, we haven’t had to pump much water from the well, which is a good thing.

Until next time – stay happy, healthy and as honest as you can be.

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