Living in California I definitely take Pomegranates for granted. We can grow them here and they are pretty common. Every nursery around here carries them. I’ve even used them in planting plans on model homes for developers.
In the late spring and early summer the small, multi-branched tree becomes covered in these bright red flowers and buds. Contrasting the bright green foliage it not only makes a wonderful fruit tree but it also is quite ornamental. Late fall brings the fruit, which will split when they become overripe. The trick is to pick them before they split, though I haven’t quite figured out when that is. They will start to develop small fissures, so if you pick before those fissures open up it should be perfectly sweet and tart.
The best way to open up a pomegranate is to score the outside along the center and then pry it open. This reduces the mess because you avoid cutting the seeds, which can easily stain everything they touch, including our fingers. Eating pomegranates is definitely a labor of love. You have to carefully pry the seeds out from between the pithy flesh and remove the white membranes from around each chamber. I’ve heard of several different ways to do this, from doing it underwater to striking the outside of the fruit with a rubber mallet. I haven’t tried either of these techniques though.
So now you want to grow a pomegranate tree? Well, their main requirement is 150 hours of chill and heat during the summer. They grow well in the southern states and in California. They can also be grown in the Pacific Northwest, thought crops will be small due to the lack of heat. They do best in Zones 8 to 10 (though some varieties can be grown in Zone 7), though there are dwarf varieties such as Red Silk that can be planted in a pot and brought indoors during the winter.
If you’ve never tried a pomegranate (and no, pomegranate juice does not count as it tastes nothing like pomegranates), it is definitely something you should try to find. The taste is bright, tart and sweet.
Soil testing is incredibly important when you’re planning to produce food from your yard. It tells you what you’ve got and what you need. Plants won’t give you their best if they don’t have the proper nutrients or proper pH levels. The three most common nutrients, referred to as macronutrients, that plants need are Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium usually referred to as NPK. But NPK isn’t the only thing you need to know the levels of in your soil. Other important nutrients, or micronutrients, include magnesium, calcium (especially important for tomatoes, peppers and eggplants), manganese, and iron (especially important for citrus).
It’s also important to know what your soil structure is and how much organic matter is in it. This affects your watering and plants’ ability to take up that water. High clay soils are more prone to run off and take longer for water to infiltrate, while sandy soils drain very fast and don’t hold enough water long enough for plants to access it.
So how does one go about finding out all this information? Well, you could buy one of those at-home soil tests, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I have found these dreadfully inaccurate. They also don’t give you all the information you need to determine what is in your soil. Instead you will need to find a soil lab that can do the testing for you. I use A&L Western Agricultural Labs. You simply print out their form, fill a quart sized Ziploc bag with soil and ship it, the form and a check to them and they will email you the results. I choose their SC3 Soils Analysis with recommendations. Here’s a soils report from them with the recommendations included:
You can also find a soils laboratory through your county extension or local university.
To determine the structure of your soil you can do a home test. All you need is water and a jar. Simply add 1 part soil to 2 parts water in the jar. Close lid and shake for 1 minute. Allow this mixture to settle. This can take between a couple of hours to a couple of days depending on your soil’s structure. The first particles to settle will be the sand since they are larger and heavier. Silt is the second particle followed by clay, which are the smallest and lightest soil particles.
From this test it appears that our soil is equal parts of clay, silt and sand, but what does that mean? Well, take a look at this handy soil structure diagram to determine what structure the soil is:
As you can see, where the 30% lines of each side of the triangle meet to form a triangle we are dead center in the Clay Loam category. Loam is considered the best balanced soil structure because it offers both optimum water retention and water drainage. Clay loam will not drain as quickly, but it retains water well. The most common and concerning soil structure is clay soil. Clay soil can be very difficult on plants as it doesn’t drain well and makes it difficult for water to percolate in. It also contains a lot fewer air pockets with roots need. If you have clay soil, your best option is to dig in a lot of organic matter. An easier option, however, is to forgo using this soil and just build raised beds.
On Sunday while getting the eggs Tom found a tiny soft shelled egg. It could only mean one thing: our pullets are getting ready to become hens. They are still on the small side so even a small egg is ambitious for them. I’m curious as to which bird laid it. My Australorp pullet and Buffs are by far the largest of my pullets. And I know it wasn’t an Ameracauna because the egg was brown. It might have been one of the Speckled Sussex, but they are still relatively small. Clare at Curbstone Valley Farm wrote a great post about egg formation.
Of course my curiosity got the better of me and I had to crack open (or should I say tear open) the tiny egg. For some reason I was expecting only whites. Maybe it was because of the slight translucency of the shell and I couldn’t see a yolk. When I opened it up though, the yolk was plain as day. Another interesting thing was the consistency. It was very gelatinous. The albumen (what many people refer to as “egg whites”) was very firm and completely surrounded the yolk. Unlike with most eggs it didn’t drop to surround the yolk – it looked more like a glass marble. In the photo you can also see how soft the shell was.
I ended up giving the egg to Riley, who LOVES raw eggs. He made a funny face and wasn’t quite sure what to do with it.
|Jeanette as Camo Fairy at our Wedding|
Ha ha! Just kidding. My close friend, Jeanette, who you may know from some of her posts earlier this year on pheasant hunting and planting in colder zones, raising meat chickens, and gun safety, is staying in the water tower for a little while. She’s excited to help with the livestock and garden and we’re excited to have her here.
Join us at Soul Food Farm in celebration of artisanal butchery and Agricola grass-fed beef. A meat magical line up awaits you as: Chris Arentz and Angela Wilson of Avedano’s and Dave the Butcher along with Josh Kleinsmith of Piedmont Grocery and Zach Gero of Shoppers Corner break down a side of beef to be raffled off. Local Chefs- JW of The Fairmont, Tia Harrison of Sociale, David Tanis of Chez Panisse and Paul Canales of Oliveto will prepare cuts of dry aged beef alongside spit-roasted pastured chickens prepared by John Fink of The Whole Beast and Fai Visuthico of La Trappe preparing carbanade Belgian sliders! Lastly but most importantly Patrick Horn of Pacific Brewing Laboratory and Mike Azzalini of La Trappe will be pouring their tastiest brews. The event proceeds will benefit local food organizations such as Slow Food Solano, The Butchers Guild, City Slicker Farms, Shooting Star Farm and Farmers Veterans Coalition.
Please help us support local food systems.
Purchase tickets at-www.brownpapertickets.com/
|Gloucestershire Old Spot Pig|
Yep, you’ve guessed it. We’re in the market for some hogs. Well, actually weaner pigs that we can raise for pork. Of all the stuff we do here, pigs are the least likely to fly with our neighbors. So we’re not going to keep them here. We’re currently working on getting a place to keep our hogs. Tom’s coworker used to raise them for 4H when he was a kid, so he’s going to help us learn the ins and outs of keeping hogs. I believe he’s going to be keeping a few as well.
We currently have our sights focused on two different breeds. Both are on the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy lists. The first is a Tamworth, which is listed as threatened. The second is a Gloucestershire Old Spot, which is listed as critical. Both breeds are good foragers and hail from Great Britain.
I’m excited! There is something about eating meat from animals you’ve raised. You know how they were raised. You know what they ate. You know they were happy and healthy. And of course these factors can really effect the taste of the meat.
Total eggs: 971
Total honey (lbs): 48
Total Milk produced (gallons): 64.16
Total Meat (lbs): 167.06 lbs
Harvested Produce (lbs): 821.88 lbs
Total Savings : $3,885.95