Garden Report: January 23

Have I told you all how much I love our new gardeners? They are exactly what I envisioned when I went looking for gardeners a year ago, only better. More on that in a second.

I've been concerned about the garden for the last several weeks. It's been cold, very cold. So cold that both our bee hives froze to death, which is depressing. I hate seeing bees starve for lack of food inches from a full box of honey, just because it's too cold for them to move. That kills me.

So far none of the plants seem to have been killed, which is a relief, especially when the mornings are like this:

Frosty morning

Speaking of that view, notice that the leaves from the Naked Lady Amaryllis are nicely concealing the pruned rose bushes. I actually planned that and I love how it is actually working.

Front beds

Here's the other side, where you can see more of those leaves coming up from below and hiding the wall.

For the last couple months I've had the chickens free-ranging in the yard. They were getting bored in their yard, and they'd stopped laying for the winter, so it seemed to make sense.

Chickens destroying the garden

They pretty much made the kind of mess they like to make, and this weekend I locked them back in the yard again. At least one of them has started laying again, anyway, so it's tidier to have them in their yard.

The garden in winter

Here's the garden from the pathway. The gardeners have been pruning the fruit trees and shrubs, which means that extremely overgrown variegated hebe is now a reasonable size. The chickens made kind of a mess of things, digging holes and knocking things over, but I think with them closed up again we'll start getting more of our usual winter growth.

Poppies

I put poppies in the front and in the back this year. (In the garden picture above you can see them by the tree trunk on the far left of the photo.) They are quite happy and have started blooming, which makes me anxious about the cold weather. Also, I've been missing seeing them because it's dark and cold out.

This is the time of year when it's hardest to have a regular job. I hardly get to see the garden at all, much less work on projects there. But now that trees are pruned, I'm going to rent the chipper again and go through the brush in the big compost pile. I have a minor fantasy about getting that compost moved into the chicken yard, but that might be beyond my current capabilities. I'd be happy to chip the branches and turn the whole pile over once.

The gardeners suggested some more defined paths to me, and I asked them to work up a quote. Noel and I had sort of discussed doing something with the paths this year, and it seemed like a good time to start finding out what it would cost, since I know for certain I will have neither the time nor energy to do it myself. I really want to get the pergola top finished this year at a minimum. Time, energy, etc. Sometime you should see all the projects we brainstorm about that don't make it onto the annual plans.

In garden produce, we've had a really good year. In November I made a batch of passionfruit jelly. This year we had tons and tons of passionfruit, maybe a bushel in all, if not more. We ate some, gave some away, and the rest I'm turning into this ambrosia.

Passionfruit jelly

I cannot believe how good this jelly is. Usually I am disdainful of jelly but it is just the right way to preserve this fruit. Plus, the whole house smelled of passionfruit while I was making it. I canned it in tiny 1/2 cup jars to make it easier to share. I am hoarding them. I want to eat them all.

Lemon marmalade

Then this weekend I made lemon marmalade. I combined a recipe for candied peel and a recipe for lemon jelly and it came out pretty good. Noel loves it, the slight bitterness. Usually he is not much of one for preserves, but I guess I got this one right.

Future blood orange marmalade

And so far the cold weather hasn't harmed the blood oranges, so my next marmalade will be blood orange. I won't have nearly as many of those as of the lemons, which I got from a neighbor, but a small batch will be just as nice.

posted by ayse on 01/23/13

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