Fruit and other deliciousness

Kumquats on dehydrator tray.

Kumquats on dehydrator tray.

Recently, I was given a gift of a flat of overripe pears and a large box (probably more than 20 pounds) of Hichya persimmons. Hichya persimmons are the large pointy ones that you don’t want to eat until they’ve been exposed to a frost.

Unfortunately, I had a really busy day, so I didn’t get to the fruit until nearly 9 p.m. I sorted quickly through the pears. More than half of them were too far gone to do anything with them except toss them in compost. However, the other half were firm, and perfect for drying.

I sliced them, filled four trays of the dehydrator with pear pieces, and set it to run over night. I had dried pears for breakfast. They are delicious and didn’t last long.

I also dealt as quickly as possible with the persimmons. There were so many of them and they were ripe, ripe, ripe, so all I had to do was peel them and plop them into bowls to cover in the refrigerator overnight.

Once the pears were out of the dehydrator, I dried tray of persimmon fruit leather. That worked, so I cut parchment paper to cover the other trays, so I could do more at one time. The best news about preserving the fruit leather is that it is a healthful treat for us and for the dogs, too. They have gone wild over the dried persimmon.

I’m getting better at preserving fruits and vegetables, as well as using all my CSA produce, though I have to admit that sometimes it’s overwhelming and I can’t get it all done. Then the produce becomes compost, though I really don’t want to do that.

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I also made persimmon cream cheese parfaits. The non-gmo corn starch I used didn’t set right, so the puree isn’t exactly attractive. I’m so glad delicious doesn’t have to look pretty.

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Of course, before I finished creating dessert (which we ate before dinner) I helped prune the apple, pear and almond trees and plant the new Fuji apple, getting rained on in the process. Our current tree count: seven peaches, one four-in-one grafted apple, one Fuji, one almond, two avocados (will they NEVER produce?), one pear, two Mexican sweet limes, one lemon tree, a fig, and we might have a couple more that I’m not thinking of right now. Not bad for a small town lot. Oh, and I have two blueberry bushes I planted this week.

There’s something immensely satisfying about producing and preserving food.

I’m baa–aa-ck–with (out of place) doves

CARRANZA-EURASIAN COLLARED DOVE-2_MG_7581

This is an out-of-place (read invasive) Eurasian collared dove (they are substantially larger than our local mourning doves).

Learn how to identify these birds here.

Learn more about the influx of these birds and how they are being tracked at this link.

It’s been a long time since I’ve published anything to my blog. Unfortunately, I’ve been using Facebook as the all-too-often-lazy-way of posting. But, I’m back now. Look forward to seeing more about Sonoma County Farmers, food and recipes, gardening, and sometimes dogs and other creatures. You might even find some poetry in these pages once in a while.

I’m so happy to be back!

A tale of three peaches

This is NOT one of our peaces. (Photo: Ann Carranza)

This is NOT one of our peaces. (Photo: Ann Carranza)

We have seven peach trees in our yard.

Four of the trees aren’t bearing yet because they are still babies. They’ve show strong growth this year and will offer us peaches, if all goes right with the weather, next year.

One of the trees is from a pit my husband grew in a pot more than 30 years ago. Oh how he babied that tree! It moved with him once, and with us twice more.

The current tree is a “baby” from that original tree, and one of three peaches we kept when we replanted last year.

This year, it flowered at the wrong time and most of the blossoms didn’t set. Usually it gives us a heavy crop of tiny cling peaches because we never thin the fruit. This year, however, there was little fruit to thin. The tree has given us, this late August a half-dozen delicious yellow cling peaches. The fruit is juicy with strong overtones of vanilla.

The other two peach trees that are fruit bearing are also of unknown origin. They are peaches that have a time overlap in their ripening. The first, on the west side of our yard, began to ripen its fruit in early July, and the fruit ripened slowly and we have just finished picking, sharing and eating them. It is a red-yellow freestone.

The other tree is on the south side, where it is the only bearing tree out of five. Its peaches have ripened all at once in higher-than-90-degree weather. They are red freestones but they get soft easily and rot readily. They also get mushy inside (not my favorite texture.)

We’ve finished harvesting them and we halved most of them and are drying them in an electric dehydrator. The dried fruit won’t last long but it buys us a little more time.

I still have about a quarter of a small bucket to process of the red freestone fruit. I’m thinking fruit leather but I may just make peach butter. Either way, it will be yummy, and something else we do not have to buy for our pantry.

The almonds are all dry—half in the dehydrator, half in the sun. We are going to shell them next weekend and put them in Mason jars for the winter.

We also have tomatoes to freeze or can, figs drying in the sun, chiles to freeze and good food to eat every day.

Dignity

Heart of the red bud. (Photo: Ann Carranza, 2014)

Heart of the red bud. (Photo: Ann Carranza, 2014)

I was shopping in a local store late this afternoon. I went to my favorite grocery store, where I have made fast friends with several of the clerks and managers and always, always have a good time chatting with the clerks in the meat department, with the checkers and with the courtesy clerks. Not so much today, though.

The courtesy clerk was a young man, I thought of high school age, who is a trainee. (I actually found out he’s older than that, which makes what I recount even more distressing).

I have a fun and long-term acquaintance and friendly camaraderie with the checker who was scanning my groceries. I made a friendly comment about one of the bags being very heavy and I said to the courtesy clerk, “Gee, you’re going to have to be careful when you lift this bag into the truck.”
He said, “That’s all right, I work out.”

I offered the riposte that that was more than I could say and said it was obviously that I didn’t work out…and he agreed with me. I made a face at the checker and said, “Well, I guess that put me in my place.”

I trundled the cart out of the store, across the parking lot and into some gravel that made pushing heavy work but I made it to the truck. When the young man didn’t notice the struggle to get the cart across the gravel, I didn’t say anything to him.

The young man turns to me and says, “With a little more makeup…” (I wasn’t wearing any makeup) …you’d make a great Quasimodo.”

I was shocked breathless. What a rude and personal comment. Tears welled in my eyes.

I said, “You know, that’s a shockingly rude comment.” He apologized but, somehow, that didn’t feel like enough.

I got home, my husband and I unloaded the truck and I put the groceries away. Tears continued to well up as I thought about the young man’s comment. I couldn’t find it in my heart to be really angry but wondered at the young man’s insensitivity.

I decided to call the market and talk with the manager, not with any intent to get the young man fired but as the opportunity for a teachable moment. I would hate for someone else to experience the rush of pain and anguish that I felt.

I asked the manager to take the time to talk with the young man about making personal comments. That, without anger, would he talk with the young man to help him understand what he did wrong. It would offer him the potential to grow and reinforce the idea that sometimes just because you have a thought doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to say it.

I had a nice conversation with the manager who said he would go talk with the young man. I’m left feeling as if I made the right choice.

A two-part dog story

Yodi is all grown up now...and he's learned to obsess.

Yodi is all grown up now…and he’s learned to obsess.

We fostered a Chihuahua mama and her two puppies starting on August 20, 2012. They were perfectly adorable and we named the mama Honey, and the puppies Yoda and Leia. We were told we’d be fostering the puppies for about six weeks. They were just two weeks old at the time and they were still “belly-babies” when they got here.

However, the three of them came to us with sarcoptic mange, which we proceeded to get. It itches–bad, and it gets under your skin. While it simply runs its course in humans and is self-limiting, for dogs, it was a debilitating scourge.

We treated Chica (our Border collie) and Honey with Revolution right away but the poor little puppies couldn’t be treated until they were six weeks old. Yoda, in particular, had a severe case and was a naked boy by the time I put the first drop of medicine on their necks. Treatment went on for a couple of months, during which they all had diarrhea, too, though they’d been wormed right away and the illness was unrelated to their mange. It turns out they needed higher protein/no grain dog food. Great food ended the huge messes I had to clean up and made everything more manageable.

But weeks became months as more challenges became evident.

The two puppies came down with Demodex mange. Sigh. It signals weak immune systems, though after they get better, there are no lasting immune-suppressing effects. Leia had only a slight case but Yoda ended up nearly naked, in fact, it has taken months and months for him to get better.

Honey got adopted first by a wonderful family. They were truly lucky to make this happy little dog part of their home. She was housebroken and she loved to please, and she did her little Chihuahua dance of delight every time she saw someone she loves. I’m sure that continues in her new home.

Princess Leia (her full name) was adopted in May, while visiting another foster home (I had to have surgery). She, too, found a home where she is beloved and she loves to please her new “mama.”

Yoda, however, had to come back home, after staying just a couple of days with the other foster family. We missed him too much and he got sick. So home he came—and we became ‘foster failures,’ meaning we kept one of our foster dogs.

I may be a failure at more than fostering.

Chica will be three in December. She’s a gorgeous dog, graceful, fast…and nutty. She had serious OCD and the object of her obsession is shadows. She’s been known to climb walls for shadows, smash her snoot on the carpet trying to grab them, she is entertained by shadows endlessly (but don’t get in the sight-line of her shadows because she might nip at you). She is completely obsessed by the clothesline, too, but that is yet another story.

Yoda started out normal, and this was good. We thought we were not going to have to accommodate ourselves to any nutty behavior on his part. But now, I have to rethink that position.

One day, Yoda saw a fly in our bedroom. He chased that fly in a rage and when it flew away he became terrified that it was going to get him. He left the room and wouldn’t come back. I had to pick him up and cart him back into our room. Thus ended the fly’s reign of terror because Yoda forgot about it by morning.

Today, though, Yoda sat beside Chica as she obsessed over shadows, and focused on a fly. Yep, a fly. No longer afraid, he nearly gave himself whiplash as his head whipped back and forth and up and down following that that pesky critter’s flight. He was simply a’quiver watching that fly. And now I have two dogs with obsessions.