Friday, May 29, 2015

Haskap, Honeyberry or Zhimolost?

Our haskap berry bushes we planted three years ago this spring look as though they're going to present us with a (small) bushel of berries this year.

What is a haskap berry?  It resembles a blueberry, a fruit with which we are all much more familiar.  The plant has been grown in Russia and Japan for centuries and is just recently gaining some popularity in the United States.  Some folks know it by the name of "honeyberry."  My bit of research tells me it is known in Japan as the "haskap," in Russia as "zhimolost," and more frequently the "honeyberry" here in our country.  We started calling ours haskap bushes and that name seems to have stuck for us.

The shape of the dark blue berry is more oval than a blueberry, measuring somewhere around 1" to 1-1/2" in length.  They are touted as being delicious and very good for you.

What's the flavor of the berry?  It's been described as . . . well, it's been described as hard to describe.  Some say it's a zingy combination of blueberry and raspberry with a hint of elderberry.  Others say it reminds them of blackberries, cherries or even grapes.  (How can you miss with those flavors exploding in your mouth?)

Supposedly, the burst of the juicy flavor you experience when eating a haskap berry has been compared to the taste of a fine wine.  (I'll drink to that.)  Matter of fact, the berries are highly recommended for wine making because of their deep, intense color and high level of natural tannins.  (Get that wine making equipment out and ready.)

The high levels of Vitamin C and potassium, plus nearly three times the number of antioxidants of an antioxidant-loaded (wild) blueberry, add to the remarkable health properties of the fruit.  (They're sounding better all the time, aren't they?)

Haskap bushes seem to be happiest planted in Zones 2-4 (is this perfect for us up here near the tundra or what?), but it's possible to grow certain varieties in Zones 5-9.

They do require cross-pollination because the male and female reproductive parts develop at different times so it's recommended planting two to five different varieties together.  We've started with three bushes, two are the Borealis variety and one is a Berry Smart Blue.

The bushes fruit approximately two weeks before strawberries (and quite a bit before blueberries) when all grown in the same climate.  They produce for a two to three week period depending on the variety.

Most varieties grow to be an average of four to eight feet tall, so this is no little shrub we're talking about.  (I'm definitely going to have to use a ladder for harvesting.)  The bushes reach maturity at five to seven years and can produce berries for 30 years or more.  (Now that's my kinda plant.)  They can bear heavily producing five to nine pounds of delicious fruit per mature plant.

Because they seem to prefer a cooler region in which to grow, they can flower at 25 degrees Fahrenheit and are cold hardy to -55 degrees Fahrenheit. (Looking better and better for our little frozen-nine-months-of-the-year [not quite] homestead all the time.)

Weed control is essential and the shallow roots like to be mulched during the summer to prevent drying out.  Bumble bees are better pollinators than honey bees.  Fortunately, we do seem to have an ample amount of those big ol' bumble bees, but I'm sure our honey bees will be glad to help out in any way they can.

Haskap bushes need three to four years in the ground before producing any significant amount of fruit.  And it's true that this year, the third for our bushes, is the first year ours have had more than one or two blossoms showing.

Although this photo doesn't show the blossoms very well, many have developed on all three of our plants this year.

To illustrate how far ahead the haskaps are compared to the blueberries, above is a picture of one of our blueberry bushes which isn't even leafed out nearly as much as the haskaps.

We obtained our haskap starts via an order from Honeyberry USA based in Bagley, Minnesota.  If you can't find haskap bushes at a local nursery, doing a quick Internet search will pop up many plant businesses listing them.

To say the least, we're pretty excited to see our haskap bushes looking so healthy and prolific this year.  Does this all make us eager to taste-test our own haskap berries?  You bet!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Garden Planting Waylaid on Account of Mud

We had many hours of steady rain yesterday which was good for the seeds already planted in the garden, the new strawberry plants, the raspberries and blueberries.  (I think the lawn may have grown 6" also.)

I thought perhaps today would be dry enough that I could get back out into the garden by this afternoon, but 'twas not to be.  A gray, damp day made that impossible.  Tomorrow?  Hope so.

This past Friday, Saturday and Sunday much was accomplished outside which was a good thing.

All the strawberry plants are in the ground . . . including the ones we ended up giving our good neighbor because they didn't fit in the space allotted for them at our place.  Funny, everything looked so good when I plotted it out on the graph paper.  (I have that problem a lot it seems.)

Got notification today that our asparagus roots were shipped so I'm assuming we'll be putting those in later this week.

Sunday night before the rains started, I harvested the first of our rhubarb.  As Papa Pea and I are still trying to stay away from sweets (sob), I cut it up and made it into two pie fillings which I stashed in the freezer.  Way down in the freezer.  With lots of other stuff on top of them.  Hard to get at, ya know.

The blueberry bushes are looking good after I went a little crazy (I feared) pruning them a few weeks ago.  There were a few weeds starting to take hold in the patch and now with the rain I see they've called in all their relatives to come join them.  I need to get them under control pronto.

Our three haskap (honey berry) bushes that we planted three years ago this spring finally have decided to put forth blossoms this year.  Glory be, we may actually get to taste a haskap berry.

I really don't have a lot planted in the garden yet.  It's not that I haven't been putting in the hours out there.  It just all takes so darn long, don't cha know.  Got the shell peas in along with the snap peas.  Two-thirds of the onions are planted and Brussels sprout transplants are in the ground.  Have a bed of Swiss chard (we do love that stuff) and a bed of salad fixings including spinach, kale and radishes.

Last year I planted two 4 x 8' beds of garlic and it was way too much.  So last fall I filled just one bed with garlic, half hardneck and half softneck.  Gave the whole bed a deep, deep covering of straw for the winter and uncovered it earlier this spring.  I've had 100% germination on the hardneck variety but only 13-14 sprouts are up on the softneck side.  What the heck happened there?  I'm stumped.

There's a forty percent chance of rain for us tomorrow, but I sure am hoping the other sixty percent (chance of no rain) will enable me to get out and get some more planting done.  Maybe we can even work a bit on the lawn that is so high even our granddog, Tucker the corgi, is hesitant to venture out into it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Sunshine and Sore Muscles

We've been blessed with sunshine the last couple of days.  The temperature during the day is still staying only in the high 40s or low 50s, but the wonderful sunshine makes all the difference in the world.

Today we prepared the Upper Garden for some of the new strawberry plants.  The Upper Garden was formerly known as the Pumpkin Patch, but had to be renamed as it is now going to be permanently planted in asparagus and strawberries.  I wanted to call it the Asparaberry Patch or maybe the Strawagus Patch, but my better half decided it would be the Upper Garden.  (Sometimes he's just no fun at all.)

For a long time now, I've been studiously trying to avoid a rather large rock in the Upper Garden which lurks not far under the soil.  Today Papa Pea decided it had to go, and he was going to dig it out.

It turned out to be too big to dig out (unless we rented a good-sized backhoe), so he broke it up with a sledge and special chisel-type tool for . . . well, busting up big rocks.  As of this afternoon, that rock will haunt us no more.  (Methinks the man just searches for hard jobs.)

Got 50 of the strawberry plants settled in their new home, roots tucked in, a good drink of water applied and given instructions to (pretty please) grow into healthy, lush plants.  Now only 150 more to go.  (Would this be a good time for me to go on a trip?  Away from home?  Maybe until the strawberry plants have magically planted themselves?)  If my back and knees recover, we'll return to the planting tomorrow.  The rest of them will go in three long rows within the Field Garden.

Sunshine is forecast through this coming Sunday so I'll be spending as much time in the garden as I can.

A great way to celebrate Memorial Day Weekend as far as I'm concerned.  Hope your holiday is great however you choose to spend it!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Happy Mother's Day to Me!

Yep, that's the way things have been going around here for about the past week or so.  The hurrier I go, the behinder I get.

Belated that I may be, I wanted to post a picture of my daughter's Mother's Day gift to me.

Can you see what it is?  Nope, nothing to do with the two bags hanging on the inside of my quilt room door.

She made me a switch plate cover especially designed for my quilt room!  Pretty cool, huh?  I sure think so.

* * * * * * * *

I know I've been a bad bloggy friend lately.  Just too much going on.  I've not been able to keep up with even reading my most favorite blogs let alone staying on top of the comments on my blog or making comments on your blogs.  This doesn't happen to me very often, but this has been one of those periods where I'm not finding enough time to spend at the computer.

Most of you are crazy busy getting your gardens in, but I can't use that as my excuse.  Our weather is still too wet and downright cold for that.  We had frost last night with a light covering of snow on the deck.  More of the same is forecast for tonight.  One of these days, we will have warmth and decent weather . . . it's just very slow in coming this year.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Do You or Don't You?

Just wonderin'.  

Do any of you exercise on a regular basis?

Maybe I should rephrase that.  

Do any of you have a set routine of exercising?  You know, something you do exclusively to keep your body toned, flexible and in good shape . . . a schedule of working out at the gym regularly?  Or swimming, karate classes, biking, running/jogging, weight training, walking, yoga, calisthenics at home with an old Jane Fonda workout video, attendance at a zumba class, etc.?

In other words, do you have some kind of structured exercise built into your daily routine?

I must say (hanging my shamey-shamey head a bit), I do not.  Although I feel I live a fairly active lifestyle which affords me a certain amount of exercise on a daily basis, I know my body and probably my mental state of being would improve if I did do more to insure my total body got a workout regularly.

So why don't I?  I could easily use the (fairly lame) excuse that my days are jam-packed already, and I don't have time to fit in a regular exercise program.  But we all know that's a bit of a cop-out, right?  After all, what do I spend my time doing that is more important than insuring my physical body stays in good shape so I can continue living the lifestyle I want to live?

It's a conundrum, and I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject. 

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Do I Need A Handwork Intervention?

At a time of year when I should be concentrating my efforts on nothing but outside work, I looked around my quilt room this morning and counted no less than seven projects in progress.

These aren't the dreaded UFOs (unfinished objects) we all have stashed away to be forgotten completed "someday," but rather things I am actively working on whenever I can sneak into my padlocked sanctuary quilt room without anyone noticing I've temporarily disappeared.

You say I couldn't actually have seven projects in process at once?  Ha!  Let me show you.  Spread out in various places in my quilt room are:

1)  Summer Potholders.  I just gave away my last set of potholders that were summer themed.  Gotta get a few more made up.

2)  Miniature Sweater Ornaments.  A friend gave me one of these for our Christmas tree years ago, and I finally found a pattern I liked so am making some for small gifts for this coming holiday season.

3)  Hangers for Miniature Sweater Ornaments.  The friend who gave me the ornament loaned me her jig for making the teeny-tiny wire hangers.  Unfortunately, her hanger pattern was a smidge too small for my sweaters so I had Papa Pea make me a jig that is slightly larger.

4)  A "Welcome" Hanging for Entry Porch.  I have to figure out how to make a panel that will go on the bottom of this Attic Windows piece that will say "Welcome."

5)  Summer Tablecloth.  This tablecloth has been up on my design wall for some time waiting for inspiration to strike me as how to quilt it . . . without spending 40 hours doing so.

6)  New Full-Sized Quilt.  I have nearly all the blocks made for another quilt . . . king-sized so it will fit on our bed if I decide to keep it.

7)  Knitted Socks.  And lastly, the first sock of a pair just about done.  I think I'm dragging my heels on finishing this one because the second sock will be BOR-ing.  I know, I'm the one who chose this blue-gray yarn because it will go with everything, so I need to hush up and get on with it.

That's all.  Those are the only projects currently cluttering gracing the surfaces of my quilt room.

How about you?  Do you have several projects in the works waiting to be completed?  Or are you one of those irritating people who always finish one project before starting another?

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

It's A Mess But Ya Gotta Start Somewhere

I took a bunch of pictures to chronicle our deck demolition as we go.

Here's the deck from the south side.  We've had flower beds on the front and both east and west ends.

I fondly remembered Bridal Wreath hedges from my childhood and was told the Nine-Bark bushes would be much the same.  Not so much.  We planted a row of Nine-Bark along all three edges of the deck.  Grow thick they did higher than the deck railing, but needed nearly constant pruning to keep them looking nice.  I didn't like the pruning I had to do three times each growing season.  Last fall, I cut them all down to practically the nubbity-nubs knowing we were going to move them this spring.  (I cut them down once before and they grew back stronger than ever.)

This is the west end of the deck with a Sugar Maple growing next to it.

I love the maple tree, but over the years the blasted birds have practically killed it by pecking at the bark.  Hubby thinks they go after the sweet sap.  We've tried painting the bark with organic coatings as deterrents, but the birds pay no attention and have not been deterred.  So, (sob) the tree is scheduled to come out.

One of the reasons the maple tree has to go is that we have grown to despise dislike the steps coming off the deck on this corner angle.  So we are moving my clothesline poles (which enable me to hang clothes out on the deck) over to the middle of that side of the deck and in the new design the stairs will come off right between the uprights.  Hence, maple tree must go.

Another sad tree story.  This was a Nanny Berry tree off the southeast corner of the deck.  The main part of the tree died (possibly committed suicide one winter), but shoots came up from the roots.  We now have  a Nanny Berry bush.  Since then, the tree bush has never gotten any of the attractive berries.

A third (is there no end?) sad tree story.  In the flower bed at the east end of the deck is an ornamental flowering crab apple tree that has never, ever flowered.  Either it was mislabeled when we purchased it, or it needs another of its kind for cross-pollenation.  Again, this tree has to go because we are putting another set of stairs off the deck (moving the other set of clothesline poles) and this tree is smack-dab in the way of that set of stairs.

The pots of plants you see helter-skelter on the deck are plants I wanted to save from the flower beds.

All the flower beds were delineated by 6" x 6" timbers which are pretty well on their way to compost after being up close and personal with the soil for nearly 20 years.  The beds on both the east and west ends of the deck are being eliminated, and a larger (in an effort to eat up lawn that has to be mowed) bed will be constructed on the south in front of the deck.

Got all that?  It's a start and something we can work on until this crazy, cold weather of ours (we had a heavy frost this morning) decides to turn appropriate for planting in the garden.