Sweetpea and Daisy have a blooming rosebush in their outdoor coop.
Last week we had a house full of guests. Our youngest son Milo, was married on our deck overlooking the ocean on a sunny afternoon. Guests wandered through the garden and were entertained by Daisy and Sweetpea. The hens love people and several children who were in the wedding party, kept letting them of their outdoor pen. While our garden is fenced, there are a pair of hawks that keep watch on the hens and when they are not protected, will fly down and sit on the fence, waiting for an opportunity to snag a chicken dinner. After telling the children not to let the hens out again, we put an old padlock on the gate so that we didn’t have to keep watch on the mischievous children. Daisy and Sweetpea had to view the ceremony from “behind bars”.
Wedding on garden deck
Milo and Lea saying their vows in the Cambria sunshine.
My youngest son, Milo, was married in our garden last week to the lovely Lea. She stole his heart a couple of years ago and now they are beginning a new chapter in their lives. The sun came out in time to shine on Lea, as she walked with her parents from the new garden room to the deck. The pair stood before the pastor, to receive blessings and say their vows. Birds were singing and flowers were blooming and it was a joyous day for the couple and their families.
As some of you know, I broke my hip in February, it was a bad break and I will be having more surgery in June. I’m still in a wheelchair. Never the less, I participated in the wedding as much as I was able. Husband Don spent a week before the wedding getting the garden in shape and we hired a couple of laborers to do weeding and trimming. I am a little worried how the garden will survive without my nurturing touch but we can’t always control our lives in the way we’d like. A lesson I’ve had to learn in the last months.
Garden Room May 2013
We incorporated the garden into every aspect of the wedding. A couple of dear friends did all the flower arrangements, as well the bridal bouquet and corsages and Lea’s mother did all the food preparation. The cake was flower studded and quite beautiful.
This most special day was one I’ll remember forever. All three of my sons were together (see picture above). Utilizing the garden as the backdrop saved money and gave the wedding an intimate, personal ambiance, as if all of us were embarking on an adventure together. It gave Don and I great pleasure to share this day with the bride and groom and most welcome guests. Because the ceremony took place overlooking a garden that plays such a large part in our lives made the day even more special to us.
A wedding cake for a garden wedding.
Flowers from the garden with roses from the farmers market
“I didn’t mean to do it!”
I’ve had to put aside my computer for the last month. I took a fall in the garden and have been in the hospital for the last four weeks. Early one beautiful morning in late February, I broke my hip. I’d taken the labradoodle puppy, Marilyn, the one that had been returned for further training, into the garden bed that I’d selected for her to do her “business”. When she’d finished, I turned one way and she turned the other. As I stumbled backward, I stepped into our river rock drainage ditch and just couldn’t stay upright. The tall pine trees and blue sky rose up as I mentally reviewed the list of chores I needed to get done in the following day, week, month etc.. I had plants waiting to go in the ground, was in the middle of pruning the deciduous shrubs and trees, and was preparing for my “youngest offspring’s” garden wedding in late April. On the way down, I knew it would be a bad fall and I was preparing for the worst.
I’ve had my first round of surgery now and am recuperating at a rehab center. I miss my husband, my home, my garden, my dogs, my old hens, crisp winter mornings, green hills, and, of course, people of Cambria. As long as I can keep learning about gardening and sharing it with you, I’ll continue to keep up on my blogs and my garden columns.
“Scooter”, one of our six-week-old Australian labradoodles, meets the hens.
We’ve had the best luck with our two Australian Labradoodles and the two elderly hens Daisy and Sweetpea. Labradoodles are rather high energy dogs and I really thought that we would never be able to let both hens and dogs out in the yard together to free-range. But, they have both learned to tolerate each other quite nicely. The dogs still like to sniff and will follow the hens around until the old girls can’t take it any longer and turn, puff up, and say, “That’s enough!”. The dogs go back to doing what they were doing and the hens go back to digging in the dirt beside me.
I love being outside with my two old hens and my two young dogs. I was unable to be out in my garden as much as I wanted this fall because our “Tillie”, a breeder that we co-own with a professional, was bred in October and produced the sweetest, smartest, puppies for us to raise. Husband Don and I were kept busy inside with the six little furry bundles so it was fun when they were ready to get out and explore. One of our favorite puppies “Scooter” was the only one really interested in chickens. Maybe a little too interested and we had to put the girls in their run when the puppies were out. The puppies have all been sold and are in wonderful homes. None have chickens to play with.
See puppies here.
Lee saying goodbye to Labradoodle puppy “Starboy”.
It’s February in my coastal garden. Time to get out in the sun, or overcast, or fog, and get those weeds pulled while the soil is moist. I’ve put off some fall chores this year and the fruit trees need pruning (husband Don does the big ones and I do the small). The roses need pruning, some shrubs need pruning, the salvias needs to be sheared and the climbing roses and jasmine need cutting back.
I like to alternate garden chores. I do about an hour of bending chores (pulling weeds) then go to work on vines and tall shrubs to give my back a rest. I can’t garden on my knees anymore as I’ve had knee replacements and my knees are tender. I just have to get along with bending and stretching. Today I’ll do my garden in the morning so that the husband and I can watch the Superbowl in the late afternoon. We’re from the North Bay so we root for the 49ers. Go Niners! Hey, I’ve got a life beyond gardening, you know.
Rose hips on the Berries n’ Cream climbing rose added color in the winter.
I had to adopt a relaxed schedule of gardening in the fall because of our first litter of Australian labradoodles. What fun we had with these six little bundles of energy. The garden suffered but except for a few sleepless nights, we enjoyed raising them and seeing them go to wonderful homes. Our black doodle “Maddie” was bred to a boy from Pennsylvania last month. We’ll see if this long-distant relationship turns out. One of the gardening chores I let go, was deadheading the climbing rose called Berries n’ Cream. I loved watching the rose hips turn from green to red and resemble little red Christmas bulbs; one of the perks of “casual gardening”. Now I need to get out and do the pruning so I’ll have a flush of vibrant pink in a few months.
Most of the leaves have dropped from the deciduous trees. Because our climate is so mild, I sometimes have to hand-pick of the few remaining leaves on some. Our poor naked trees don’t get much of a rest in the winter. Before you know it, we’ll have spring green surrounding us.
Asian pear glowing in the after sun in late December.
I took this picture of the garden from the deck in the light of the setting sun. The orange glow in the background is an ancient Asian pear tree that we don’t have the heart to take out. It still produces giant pears but the squirrels usually get them before they ripen so we don’t enjoy as many as we’d like. This picture of the Asian pear was taken just after Christmas. Now the tree is bare. It has been pruned. It’s time for it to rest and get its required number of chill hours. Chill hours are the number of hours the weather provides under 45 degrees. With the necessary number of chill hours when the tree is fully dormant, the tree will be ready for renewal. I’m going out early today and see how much I can get done. Happy gardening.
Wine Painting by artist Milo DiVincenzo
Another Cambria event worth checking out. This weekend, January 25, 26 and 27, 2013, the little village of Cambria is gearing up for the popular Cambria Art & Wine Festival. People come from all over California to enjoy Central Coast wines at a three-day event. We like the wine tasting each day and enjoy trying wines that we may not have even heard of. There are hundreds of wineries in our central coast area. When we moved here to Cambria, there were only a handful. Now you can spend days in the beautiful rolling hills of Paso Robles visiting picturesque tasting rooms and sipping the finest Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, and lessor known varieties.
Cambria is somewhat of an artist community so pairing the Art & Wine is special. There is an Art Show, Silent Auction, Wine and Cheese pairing, an elegant dinner at Linn’s with Hearst Wine and then there’s a label making party at Moonstone Cellars. Something for everyone. For all the details on this event, visit CambriaArtWine.org or call the Chamber of Commerce at 927-3624. See you there!
Fuju Persimmon and Spinach Salad
We can’t grow persimmons along the coast. We don’t have enough chill hours in the winter to set the blossoms, and heat in the summer to ripen them. But I have a few friends that bring them to me because I love them. There are two varieties that are both delicious. Each variety has a purpose.
- Fuyu Persimmons (or Jiro or Sharon fruit) are short and firm. They’re crisp and the skin can be eaten or peeled like an apple. They are great in fruit salads. These tomato-like ones are the better variety for eating fresh.
- Hachiya are more “peach-shaped”. They are eaten when soft. You can spoon out the meat. I like these for baking but you must let them ripen until they are very soft.
Here’s a great use of Fuyu Persimmons. It’s an easy-to-make salad and great on a buffet table as it is a salad that will keep for a few hours without wilting.
Persimmon Salad with Spinach & Pecans
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 tablespoons orange marmalade or orange zest
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Salt and pepper
3 quarts baby spinach leaves (1 lb.), rinsed and crisped in refrig.
5 firm Fuyu persimmons (5 oz. each), peeled and sliced into wedges
3/4 cup glazed pecans
In a large bowl, mix vinegar, marmalade, and sesame oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Make a bed of spinach. Put persimmons and pecans on top. Pour dressing over top. Mix gently to coat with dressing.
Note: The dressing and persimmons for this salad can be prepared up to 4 hours ahead; wrap fruit bowl with fruit and chill. Assemble the salad shortly before serving.
How to make glazed pecans:
1 Tbls. butter
3 Tbls. dark brown sugar
3 Tbls. maple-flavored syrup or real maple syrup
2 cups pecan halves or pieces (8 oz)
Heat oven to 350°F.
1. Line cookie sheet with cooking parchment paper. In 12-inch skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and syrup; mix well. Cook until bubbly, stirring constantly.
2. Add pecans; cook 2 to 3 minutes, stirring constantly, until coated. Spread mixture on to parchment-lined cookie sheet.
Bake 6 to 8 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely, about 30 minutes. Store in tightly covered container.
Next time you have an abundance of Fujus, make this salad and let me know what you think.
Wander through lighted paths leading to the Cambria Christmas Market
Cambria’s newest event, a German Christmas Market surrounded by garden paths lit with thousands of Christmas lights was a delight, even in the rain last night. The event has gone on every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night for weeks and we just couldn’t fit it in. I’m sorry I didn’t get to this event sooner so that I could tell my readers to go.
The festival is in its first year. I’ve heard there will be triple the booths next year and many more edibles offered to browsers. At home, we celebrate a “Scandinavian” Christmas so the German style Christmas atmosphere felt familiar. Tomorrow (Sunday) will be the last night of the event this season.
Germany’s famous Christmas markets, dating to the 14th century, inspired Cambria’s Christmas Market, which is lighting up the Central Coast town for the first time this year. Thousands of colored lights illuminate the path between Cambria Pines Lodge and the Cambria Nursery, where choirs, bands and singers regale shoppers browsing booths filled with artisan candles, toys, glass, Christmas ornaments, jewelry and other gifts-in-waiting. Santa drops by each evening, and sustenance from four food booths includes German classics such as brats and Gluhwein, a traditional hot spiced wine.
Info: Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 23, 4-9 p.m. Free. 2905 Burton Drive, Cambria. (800) 966-6490, www.cambriachristmasmarket.com.
Pretty Poppy a Silver-laced Wyandotte Hen
Poppy, our pretty silver-laced Wyandotte died today. I’m not terribly distraught because she died of what I believe is old age. I found her under the roost. She was paralyzed on one side of her body. No blood. No broken bones. Just laying with her wings spread out. I put her in a cage in the garden shed with food and water. She ate a little. But in the morning she was gone.
The hens are approaching 5 years of age. Their toes are twisted and they look to have arthritis. They no longer lay eggs but I don’t have the heart to get rid of them. I’m down to two hens now, Daisy and Sweetpea. Both have been through much more than Poppy. Daisy has been sick twice and Sweetpea was attacked by a dog. They both survived their mishaps and are still strutting through the garden, taking dust baths, and running to me when I have a treat in my hand or call “chick, chick, chick”.
What to do with old hens is a dilemma that we, who have pet chickens, find ourselves in. We can’t keep building on to our coops to house new “young chicks” who only lay a few years, then retire. Most of us don’t have room in our backyards.
Perhaps we need to lobby for a breed that will lay and live longer. Is it possible? They certainly have developed chickens that lay more eggs than ever thought possible.
I will miss Poppy. She was a level-headed survivor. When a hawk would fly over, Poppy was the first to sound the alarm and run for cover. She loved to free-range, scratching deep under the artichoke leaves. She was not as tame as Daisy and Sweetpea and did not appreciate me picking her up. She was a bit of a “wild thing” but oh so beautiful. I don’t think I’ll get another Wyandotte. I had trouble with both of my Wyandotte girls. The golden Wyandotte was “mean girl” (story here) and I had to rehome her, and Poppy was a “wild child” (see story) and I had to separate her when she was young. But, none-the-less. Poppy was one of the original six and her passing marks time in my own life.
It’s too wet to garden and I’m spending my time raising six Australian Labradoodle puppies. Mind you, I’m not complaining about the rain. We who live along the central coast don’t complain when we get rain. It is so desperately needed to keep our gardens growing and our Monterey Pines thriving.
I Thought my readers might be interested in how the puppies are turning out. Living with six bundles of energy takes up most of my time when I’m not outside digging in the dirt. So if you’ve been following my blog, you know that Matilda (Tillie) has given birth and is now weaning her fluffballs. They’ll be going to new homes at the end of the year. Little pieces of my heart will go with them.
These puppies come from a long line of hypo-allergenic, non-shedding service dogs. They are gentle animals, intelligent, easy to train, and make loveable pets as well as working dogs. The breeder, Elizabeth Ferris of Country Labradoodlesships them all over the world. It is my job to ready them for the journey and, hopefully, an opportunity to bring love and joy to those around them.
“Twinkletoes” is curious, lovable, happy, and well, adorable.
“Starboy” Big and beautiful. Smart and gentle. He’ll be about 45 lbs.
“Scooter” is small enough to crawl into my lap and fall asleep.
“Hoagie” is a “lover”. Soft, gentle, gorgeous. He’ll weigh about 45 pounds when grown.
Angel is one of the smaller girls. Active and fun-loving.
“Marilyn” Blond and beautiful. A face to die for.