Tuesday, 18 February 2020

My Fruit Harvest 2019/2020

As you may know, I have in my garden a nectarine, an apricot and a plum tree. They were planted by the previous owners and were already raring to go when we moved in. Little known fact: I found out from old photos on a real estate website that there was originally an above-ground swimming pool in that spot, but for some reason they removed it and planted the fruit trees instead. Life is all about compromise, I guess.


We also have a cherry tree that we planted ourselves a couple of years ago, which makes 4 stone fruit trees. A mini orchard! This year I was determined to try and take advantage of the abundance of fruits that suddenly appear all at once. I wanted to be prepared, and waste as little as possible. I think I did okay, mostly. I was still recovering from my surgery, so I couldn't go full-scale canning factory or anything like that. I also tried a little experiment. I didn't want to cover the trees in mesh sheets or bags because they're a pain and also damage the branches. They're hard to put on, hard to take off, and you have to climb up underneath them to pick the fruit. Besides, birds can get to them anyway from underneath or if any fruits are too close to the mesh and they can stick their little stickybeaks in enough to reach them.

I decided to pick the fruits while they were still slightly underripe, hoping that birds wouldn't yet find them appetising, and let them ripen indoors. I wasn't even sure if they would ripen like that, to be honest. First to fruit, at the end of November, was the cherry tree. I'm guessing it's so early because the fruits are very small compared to the others? This was our entire harvest:

I'm very pleased because there was more fruit than last year, and the tree itself has also grown a lot. The fruit ripened up nicely and we had it for dessert one night with some ice cream.

As for the other trees, last year at pruning time I pruned them quite severely, especially the plum tree. (It had really gotten out of hand. So sick of plums.) I wanted to make sure that a) there weren't too many fruits for me to handle and b) there weren't any fruits growing too high for me to reach. I can't remember where I read this, but it's good advice because mucking around with a stepladder in the garden is a bit awkward!

As I mentioned before, I figured the thing about mesh-less growing (I'm just gonna call it that) is to pick the fruits while they're slightly underripe. Even on the same tree, the fruits ripen at different times. To do this right, I needed to check them every day. I have to admit, I was better at this some days than others!

Next up was the apricot tree. The fruits are ready to pick just before New Year's. The harvest was smallish -- enough to be able to eat them all fresh without them going off or being thoroughly sick of the sight of them. This photo represents about half of the total. I only lost one or two to birds.

The plum tree started yielding around mid-January. There were a lot, and they ripened progressively over the course of about two weeks. They're too tart to eat raw (for my tastes anyway) so I stewed them in batches. (I stewed them rather than made jam because, I have to admit, I couldn't be bothered with sterilising jars, etc, in the hot weather.) I ate some with yoghurt for breakfast, and froze the rest for later.

I was surprised to find I lost less than I thought I would. There were many completely ripe fruits that were still intact. I guess the birds find them too tart, too! A few had dropped on the ground. In all, I'd say I lost about one-sixth of the total.

Finally, the nectarine tree gave it up around the last week of January through to first week of February. These are the ones to wait for -- huge, juicy, sweet and delicious. Good to eat raw or cooked.

There was a pretty big harvest and I felt like I was constantly tending to it and coming up with ways to use the fruits. Even still, I got a bit behind and the fruits ripened faster than I could pick and process them. We ate many raw for breakfast, and I stewed a lot more for either eating straight away or freezing. Husband even added one to a veggie stir fry that he made and it was yummy. I got bored with straight stewing them, so I made chutney from a recipe in the Country Women's Preserves cookbook. It was freakin' delicious.

There was only a small amount (fruit sure shrinks a lot when you cook it for ages!) so I split it up into several tiny containers and popped them in the freezer. Now the only thing left to do is prune them. As I've read, I should prune straight after harvesting instead of in winter (the traditional time) if I want the trees to stay small and not produce too many fruits.

That was my fruit tree harvesting journey for this year. This long and detailed post was mainly a reminder for myself for the future. If you've read this far, thanks!

Saturday, 1 February 2020

My January

January has been a typical one, weather-wise -- days of searing heat mixed with stormy downpours and sticky humidity. I was still recovering from my surgery, but got the go-ahead to resume normal activities in the third week of the month. I still find myself very tired though, and I find I need to either have a nap mid-afternoon, or go to bed very early. In some ways it's like being a two-year-old!

What I've been harvesting ...
The plums were ready to harvest this month. The harvest was about half what it was last year -- but I wasn't complaining. There were just too many for us to handle. This year, there was enough to fill about 4-5 plastic takeaway boxes once stewed. I just didn't have the energy to go to the bother of making jam (sterilising jars, etc) so I stewed them, packed them into boxes and stored them in the freezer.

Aside from that, most of my time in the garden has been employed in watering the plants, trying to keep them alive in the heat.

What I've been painting ...
I painted a landscape for a bushfire fundraiser exhibition/auction. This photo shows it still in progress. It's a bit different to my normal style: I was trying to be more realistic and make something that someone might want to buy.

What I've been journalling ...
I decided to do Rainbowholic's New Year 2020 Kawaii Journalling challenge. I've done 3 so far, not including the intro/title page. Here is my first page:

What I've been doing ...
I went for a walk in the park.

What I've been eating ...
After a trip to the dentist I went to a place I remembered from where I used to work over 10 years ago, which sold delicious French baguettes. It was still there! Emmenthal cheese, salami, whole gherkins and mustard -- just how I like it!

What I've been playing ...
Husband and I played Tsuro: Phoenix Rising, a variation on the popular Tsuro game. I think I enjoyed it even more than the original. I won't write any more now; I'm planning a full post in the near future.

What I've been reading ...
I've joined two readathons this year already! The first was Bout of Books, which went for a week. I managed to finish 4 books, one of which I'd had on my Currently Reading list for a year. That felt good. Currently I'm doing Pondathon, which is a story-based, co-operative reading challenge organised by CW from The Quiet Pond blog. Readers earn points for every page they read, and they affect the outcome of the story as its revealed over the 6 weeks of the challenge. There are cute characters, stamps to collect and, of course, books to read! Here's my character card with my first stamp: