pruning apple trees

Yesterday, I spent the morning on the family farm pruning apple trees.

It was a nice break from a very busy week of landscape consulting and I was looking forward to spending time with my mother, who resides on Double S Farms with my youngest sister and her family.

pruning apple trees

The sun was rising up in the sky and the day promised warm temperatures in the upper 70’s with our unseasonably warm winter.

Now at this point, you may be noticing that the trees were already in flower and that we were getting to pruning them a bit late in the season.  Ideally fruit trees are pruned just before the buds begin to open.

But, even though we were pruning them late, it won’t make a huge difference and will improve the size and quality of our apple crop.  

pruning apple trees

 You’ll notice that the apple trees are located behind a wire fence. Well, there is a good reason for that…

Sodapop and Johnny

And their names are Sodapop and Johnny.

Soda is the daughter of our dog Missy, who passed away last year at the age of 13.

Johnny is a 3-legged doberman rescue dog who is so friendly and exuberant.

You see, the dogs love to eat the apples from the trees. Especially Soda who does her best to reach them up high.

You can read about Soda’s previous exploits here.

The problem is that the seeds of apples contain small amounts of cyanide and if dogs consume too many, they can have problems. So the fence is up, much to the dismay of Soda and Johnny.

Pruning trees

Pruning trees is one of my favorite things to do and although as a certified arborist, I talk to my clients a lot about trees, I don’t prune their trees. Instead I give them advice on how to prune them their selves or refer them to a certified arborist company who does it for them. So, my tree pruning is primarily focused on my own and my family’s.

Armed with a pair of loppers, hand pruners and a pruning saw, I took a moment before beginning to smell the sweet fragrance of the apple blossoms.  

Pruning trees

In the midst of our pruning, my granddaughter, Lily, showed up.  She proved to be a good helper and moved the small branches into a pile.

We focused on cleaning out the interior branches, which are hard to get pick apples from.  In addition, we also pruned off some of the taller branches so that come apple-picking time, we could more easily reach them. Once we finished, we had pruned away a quarter of the tree, which will allow it to focus its resources on growing the remaining flowers, which will turn into apples.

For info on how we have pruned fruit trees in the past, click here.

Pruning trees

My mother took a few of the cut branches and brought them inside and put them in a vase where they will offer beauty and fragrance indoors for a few days.

delicious vegetables

Now it was time to turn our attention to the vegetable gardens. My mother has two large, raised beds where she grows a variety of delicious vegetables.

Lily wanted to feed the chickens some lettuce from the garden.

Double S Farms

The resident chickens of Double S Farms, love lettuce.

cabbage

Next, great-grandma needed Lily’s help to pick a cabbage from the garden. It was huge!  I only wish that I liked cabbage.

I asked my mother how she uses it and she told me that she uses it in soups, but blends it ahead of time so no one knows that it is in there.

chickens

Lily wondered if the chickens would like cabbage and it turned out that they liked it better than the lettuce.

smelling their fragrance.

Before leaving the gardens, Lily had to pick a flower.  Like many little girls, she loves flowers and carries them around smelling their fragrance.

The white petunias belong to Finley, my nephew, who gets a small plot in the vegetable gardens to plant what he likes.

pruning tree

As we got ready to leave, I noticed a beautiful, little bouquet made up of petunias on the kitchen table. Who knew that petunias could make such a sweet bouquet?

Visits to the family farm are always refreshing and it was great to enjoy a morning out in the sunshine gardening.

rose bush

This gardening story is all about one particular rose bush which is located at our small family farm, affectionately called ‘Double S Farms‘. 

I first posted this story about an overgrown, nameless rose 2 years ago.

Since it is time in areas with warm winter climates, to prune back your roses, I thought you would enjoy this story as much as I do 🙂

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This poor rose had not been fertilized, deadheaded or pruned for a few years.  Personally, I think it looks fantastic considering the lack of care it has received. The residents of Double S Farms, (my mother, sister and her family), had only recently moved to the farm, so this rose had been neglected by the previous owners.

I decided to focus on this rose because I wanted to show how to prune a rose and I don’t have any roses that need pruning right now. So, my mother and sister (residents of Double S Farms) graciously granted me permission to prune their rose bush.  Actually, they were more then happy to have me do it so they would not have to 😉

I had no idea what variety this rose was. I was pretty sure that it was a shrub rose and it had a lot of old, unproductive growth that needed to be removed.  When finished, it would be rejuvenated and ready for the beginning of it’s new life with it’s new homeowners.

So I got started….

My tools

My tools – hand pruners, pruning saw and loppers. Oh, I almost forgot – gloves! I also recommend wearing a long-sleeved shirt as well to protect your arms from being scratched from the thorns. 

rose bush

First, because there is so much thick growth, I just started to cut branches in order to make a ‘hole’ like this, which made it easier for me to reach inside with my pruners to remove the interior wood. It is much easier for me to remove the larger branches at the beginning of the process instead of making multiple cuts of the smaller branches and working my way down.

Normally, I remove about 1/2 of the height of the rose bush. But, in this case, I decided to remove quite a few of the large, old branches (canes) at the base of the rose as they no longer produced as many newer branches and roses as the newer canes do. This neglected rose bush has a lot of old growth that had to be removed, so I would be pruning it back by 2/3.

First, I removed the old and dead canes. Then I selected the green, healthy canes that I wanted to keep and pruned back to an outward facing bud and cut at a 45 degree angle.

A Neglected, Overgrown, Nameless Rose....

Okay, you may be wondering why I am included this gross picture of a borer cut in half. Well, borers burrow into the center of the rose canes, causing damage as you can see in the cane to the right.

My son thought it was so cool….he likes anything that is gross.

*To help prevent borers in the future, simply apply some wood glue to the top of the newly pruned canes, which helps seal them out.

two rose bushes

Surprise!  As I continued pruning, I discovered that there were actually two rose bushes which had grown together.

beautiful blooms

Every January, it just kills me to prune back roses and watching all the beautiful blooms fall to the ground. But, beauty hurts and pruning will ensure that there will be more beautiful blooms for these rose bushes in the spring.

pruned incorrectly

Here is an example of a cane that has been pruned incorrectly long ago, (I told you this rose bush had been neglected and mistreated).  You can see where it turned brown and died. When pruning the canes, be sure to prune back to a bud or back to the base of the larger cane.

pruning

I really did the pruning myself and am not just taking credit for someone else’s work 😉

I was almost done. I continued cutting away all the remaining small canes and dead growth with my hand pruners. I used my loppers for the large canes that need to be removed.

A Neglected, Overgrown, Nameless Rose....

I enjoy pruning very much, but I hate this part….

roses and clean up any leaves

But, I was lucky.  I was able to bribe my son and daughter to help me clean up.

Now all I had left to do was to remove all leaves remaining on the roses and clean up any leaves lying around the area surrounding the roses. I do this because the leaves can harbor fungal diseases that will reinfect the new rose leaves.

Glamis Castle

Guess what? I found the old tag from when the rose bushes were planted. It is a ‘Glamis Castle’, which is a David Austin English Rose. I put the tag back on one of the rose bushes.

rose bush

I finally finished.  The roses were no longer “Nameless, Overgrown or Neglected”. Pastor Farmer (my mother) came outside to see what I had done to her roses. She was a bit dismayed to see so little left of her rose bushes. But I assured her that they would be happy and healthy and covered with blooms in spring.

Fast forward a few months, and these formerly neglected rose bushes were thriving again!

beautiful and fragrant

And the flowers were so beautiful and fragrant…

rose bush

It never ceases to amaze me how pruning, done the right way, can bring new life to an old, neglected rose bush.

Do you have a birdhouse in your garden?  Is it decorative or do have there ever been birds taking up residence inside?

This is a story about the birdhouses on the family farm, including one that has an unusual function.

Double S Farms is five minutes down the road from our house and is where my youngest sister and her family live along with my mother.

Double S Farms

I am over at the farm at least once a week – usually for the weekly dinner that my mother cooks for our entire clan.  It is a special time when I get to spend time with my siblings, their spouses and kids.  We get to catch up with each other’s lives and get to enjoy delicious food, cooked by my mother, Pastor Farmer.

(My mother is a retired pastor who loves growing food on their small farm).

Double S Farms

The backyard is dotted with numerous trees including apple, kumquat, almond, pecan, peach, apricto, plum, orange, lemon and grapefruit.  But, I always seem to find myself strolling by my mother’s raised vegetable beds to see what she is growing.

This past week, she was excited to show me her newest birdhouse.

Now, my mother has is a collector and has passed that gene along to her oldest daughter (me).  One of her collections consists of birdhouses.  Over the years, she has pared this collection of aviary homes down.  But there is still a small collection of birdhouses in her garden…

Birdhouse

I love this birdhouse, which is purely decorative.  But, the chickens seem to find it a nice perch back when it stood in the chicken yard…

Birdhouse

Now it sits with in the fenced-in vegetable garden area.

Double S Farms

The gardens are now fenced in because the netting was not enough to keep the chickens out – including ‘Francie’ my sister’s naked-neck chicken (yes, her neck is supposed to be featherless).

Birdhouse

If you look closely behind the first birdhouse, you will see one that looks like the ‘Tin Man’s head’ from the Wizard of Oz. 

Double S Farms

Like the other birdhouse, it is also decorative.  I remember being with her when she bought it at a roadside nursery just outside of Carmel, Indiana during our Midwest road trip.

There are many nesting sites around Double S Farms and the birdhouse below, is one of them.

birdhouse hangs

This birdhouse hangs from the Mesquite tree.  It is made from a gourd that I grew, dried and then made into a birdhouse for her.  I love this gourd birdhouse and have one in my own garden.

Well, now to the unusual birdhouse…

birdhouse

It doesn’t look all that unusual at first glance.

But, what this birdhouse is hiding is not a nest, but my mother’s hand tools that she uses for her vegetable garden.

They are easily accessible and are always on hand when she needs to harvest vegetables, remove weeds, etc.

She came up with this idea herself and just loves it.  The birdhouse was bought at our local Ace Hardware store and the top lifts up, making it easy to access her tools.

What types of birdhouses do you have in your garden?  

Are they decorative or have you had birds set up house in any of them?

This past Memorial Day, my mother had the entire family (minus my daughter, Rachele, who is in the Navy) over for brunch to celebrate the beginning of summer.

As we drove up to the farm, we were greeted by the following sight…

Memorial Day at Family Fsrm

My nephews along with my son, Kai, were selling lemonade made from the lemons from the backyard tree.

Memorial Day at Family Fsrm

They had quite a few people buying a refreshing cup of lemonade, including my son-in-law, Jeff.

Memorial Day at Family Fsrm

Kai and the boys were kept busy filling cups with lemonade.  In addition, they also sold homemade jam made from the peach trees.

Memorial Day at Family Fsrm

My daughter, Brittney and Lily (my granddaughter) came over too and Lily got her first taste of lemonade.

Memorial Day at Family Fsrm

As we entered the house, we were greeted by delicious smells of eggs, sausage, fruit and cinnamon rolls.

I couldn’t wait to finish eating so that I could go outside with my mother to see what was growing in her vegetable garden.

Russian gourds

She was most proud of her Russian gourds.

Russian gourds

Okay, they really aren’t Russian, but my sister-in-law brought the seeds in Russia for my mother.  You can buy the same gourd seed in the US.

But, we like calling them Russian gourds because it sounds more fun and exotic.

Russian gourds
Russian gourds

Her pattypan squash is also growing well, above.  This summer squash is a lot like zucchini.  My mom plans on cutting it into small pieces and adding to salads, much like you would cucumbers.

sunflowers

Her sunflowers provided much appreciated shade for the garden as well as seeds for the birds.  My brother considered trying some of the seeds.

sunflowers

If you want to keep the birds from eating the seeds, you can place a paper grocery bag on top of the flowers.

zucchini

Lots of zucchini were beginning to form.  If you are relatively new to vegetable gardening, then zucchini is a great vegetable to get started with in the summer.  They are easy to grow and there is something so satisfying when you bring a large one inside.

My 2-year old twin nephews took some time to play in the toy front end loader…

Memorial Day at the Family Farm

Then it was time to celebrate Kai’s birthday.  He is now 11 years old.

Memorial Day at the Family Farm

His favorite gift was a ‘Navy’ hat from his big sister, which we bought at the Naval base after we saw our daughter graduate.

Memorial Day at the Family Farm
Memorial Day at the Family Farm

His second-favorite gift was a huge squirt gun from his grandma.

Late May is also the time that we pick peaches from the trees.  

pick some peaches

So my mother and I headed out to pick some peaches for me to take home so that I could make peach jam.

pick some peaches
pick some peaches

I love making peach jam and enjoying it throughout the year.

own peach tree.

The peaches, above, were picked from my own peach tree.  We planted it in January and I was quite surprised when it produced so many peaches.  But, I certainly wasn’t complaining 😉

Of course, I didn’t have enough peaches from my own tree, so I used those that I picked from my mother’s trees to supplement my own.

own peach tree.

When you pick peaches, use them the same day if possible because they are so soft and bruise so easily.  I waited only one day and already had some soft spots on my peaches.

My mother taught me how to make peach jam a few summers ago.  I blogged about it back then in “A Harvest Of Peaches and Jam”

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I wanted to thank those of you who left such kind comments regarding my last post about my daughter Rachele’s graduation from Navy basic training.

Spring is my favorite time in the garden.  Is it yours?

Plants are in full bloom and my vegetable garden is filled with both cool-season and a few warm-season crops.

Today, I thought that I would take you to the ‘farm’ to see how my mother’s vegetable garden is growing.

Double S Farms

The ‘farm’ is nicknamed “Double S Farms” by the family.  It is just down the road from our house and is a favorite place for all the family to gather.

vegetable beds

My mother has two raised vegetable beds and she loves tending her vegetables.

One bed is dedicated to cool-season crops that will soon give way to warm-season vegetables.

vegetable garden

She still has lettuce growing, which she uses to make delicious salads when we all gather together for dinner on Tuesday nights.

vegetable garden

The broccoli has gone to flower, but it looks so pretty, that she keeps it in the garden.

Do you see the orange flower in the background of the photo, above?  That is a marigold, which is a great ‘companion’ plant for the vegetable garden because it helps to repel bad bugs who might eat her vegetables.

tortoise

While we spend time looking at the vegetable gardens, the neighbor’s tortoise stops briefly, to see what we are doing from the other side of the fence.

second vegetable garden

The second vegetable garden was built by the family as a surprise for my mother’s birthday over a year ago.

She has started her warm-season crops in it, including tomatoes, summer squash and gourds.

Sugar snap peas

Sugar snap peas (one of my favorite vegetables) hang from vines growing on a small trellis.

vegetable bed

The newest vegetable bed is also home to…

Spring on the Family Farm

A toad, which is helpful with insect control.

He recently moved from his previous home next to the chicken coop.  My nephew, who is a Star Wars fan, gave him a special name.

naked-neck' chicken

While the toad keeps bugs in control around the vegetable gardens – Francie, the resident ‘naked-neck’ chicken, patrols for bugs outside of the garden.

As you can see, spring has sprung at the family farm.

Soon, summer will be here which heralds another favorite activity…  

peaches

Picking peaches and making jam!

How about you?

What is growing in your garden this spring?

Will you grow something different this year?

Some of you may remember my “Goodbye to a Special Friend” post back in May, when we all said “goodbye” to my father’s dog, Addy.

She had lived a long life and was happy living on Double S Farms, where my mom, sister and her family live.

Now, there is a new resident living at Double S Farms….

Johnny

Meet ‘Johnny’. 

You might notice that he is missing a leg, but as you can see…that doesn’t slow him down 🙂

My sister has written a wonderful blog post about her new friend that you can read here:

 “My New Friend”

Living close to Double S Farms, my mother’s residence, means that we get to enjoy some of the bounty from her large lemon tree.

My nephew, Oliver, helping with the lemon harvest.

My nephew, Oliver, helping with the lemon harvest.

 Now, I could grow own lemon tree in my back garden, but I really don’t need to since my mother has more lemons then she knows what to do with.

lemon

Unfortunately, lemons don’t grow year round and I am stuck getting mine at the grocery store.

Have you seen how much a single lemon costs at the grocery store?

I can’t remember the exact amount, I just know that it is a lot.

So, whether you have a ready supply of lemons fresh off the tree, or even if you have to buy yours at the grocery store

– here are some tips to make the most of each lemon:

lemon

Let’s say that you have a recipe that calls for the juice of half a lemon.  Well, after spending up to a $1 a lemon, the last thing you want to do is throw away the other half, so why don’t you save the juice?

lemon juice

Whenever I get lemons from Double S Farms, I juice them and pour the juice into ice cube trays.  Then I freeze the ice cubes and then remove the frozen cubes of lemon juice and store in a plastic freezer storage bag in my freezer.

Then whenever I need a bit of lemon for cooking, all I have to do is grab a frozen cube of lemon.

In addition to saving lemon juice, did you know that you can also save and freeze lemon zest?

lemon zest

Now this step should be done before you cut and juice your lemons.

I actually forgot this step until it was too late, but I was still able to zest a somewhat squishy juiced lemon, although I wouldn’t recommend it.

Remove the outer yellow skin of your lemon using a microplane tool.  Take care not to remove the white of the peel, which is bitter.

lemon zest

Store your lemon zest in a plastic freezer bag and put in your freezer.  Whenever you need lemon zest, just grab a little.

Whether you want to make the most out of your expensive lemon purchase or if you want to preserve your yearly bounty of fresh lemons, try out these tips.

Have you been faced with the dilemma of what to give someone special for their birthday?  Well, the stakes are even higher when it is a ‘milestone’ birthday.  My siblings and I were faced with this very dilemma in deciding what to give our mother, (Pastor Farmer) of Double S Farms, for her 70th birthday.

After some deliberation, we decided upon building her a vegetable garden.

Now for those of you who are familiar with my blog, you may recall that my mother already has a nice vegetable garden….

Perfect Birthday Gift

Perfect Birthday Gift

But, for those of you who enjoy vegetable gardening; don’t you sometimes wish that you had more space to grow vegetables?

We knew that our mother did, even though she never mentioned it.  So, we got to work planning on what we needed to build a new one.

My brother-in-law, built the first garden by himself…

Perfect Birthday Gift

For the new garden, my brother-in-law and I planned on what we would need and where the new garden should be placed.

Actually, my part was easy.  I just figured out where to locate the garden and how many cubic yards of compost we would need.

Well, the date was set when we would all congregate at Double S Farms and start building the new vegetable garden.

My mother had NO idea we were coming or what we were going to do.

Early on a Saturday morning we showed up with shovels, rakes, picks, drills and wheelbarrows.

My mother wasn’t there when we all arrived.  She was at the local farmer’s market – at this point, she was still clueless that anything was going on.

Perfect Birthday Gift

First, my other brother-in-law and my brother hammered in stakes so that we knew where to remove the grass.

Perfect Birthday Gift

Perfect Birthday Gift

Then came the fun part (just kidding).  Digging out the grass.  Actually, it wasn’t too bad because the grass had been soaked two days before so that it was easier to dig out.

Perfect Birthday Gift

There were a couple of rocks that we used a pick to get out.

It has been years since I have used a pickax, as you can probably tell from how I’m holding it.

5-year old nephew

Soon, we had the grass removed and a muddy area left behind, which was absolutely irresistible to my 5-year old nephew, Finley.

my mother

At this point, my mother returned home from the farmer’s market and was surprised to see all of our cars parked out in front of her house.

She was quite shocked when she came into the backyard and saw us working on her birthday present.  She was so happy.  She then got busy making us food, including the cinnamon chip bread that she had just bought at the farmer’s market.

After a break for lunch (pizza), we began to add some loads of composted leaves and soon, it was time to start putting up the sides.

Sodapop and the chicken

Sodapop and the chickens took time to come over and see what we were doing.

'naked neck' chicken

This is Francie, and this is how she is supposed to look – she is a ‘naked neck’ chicken.

Sodapop

From time to time, we would take small breaks to play with Sodapop, who would drop her ball at your feet and wait hopefully for someone to throw it.

Sodapop

Of course, there was also time for the cousins to play catch too.

At this point, we had to quit for the day because it was almost dinner time. We all decided to come back the next Saturday to finish the project.

I went home and while my husband cleaned our mud-crusted boots, I put a load of very dirty clothes into the washing machine. Please come back for Part Two and see the end result of our labors 🙂

Okay, I know that I am terribly late in blogging about Christmas.  As a result, you will probably not be surprised that I didn’t get organized enough to send out Christmas cards this year either 😉

But, we did have a wonderful Christmas.  Much of Christmas day was spent at Double S Farms, where my mother, my sister and her family live.  

It was a beautiful day and I stole out into the garden to take photos of all that is growing….

My mother's vegetable garden is growing like crazy

My mother’s vegetable garden is growing like crazy….

We always enjoy fresh broccoli from her garden in winter.  We all love it....even the kids.

We always enjoy fresh broccoli from her garden in winter.  We all love it….even the kids.

Curly Parsley with Marigolds planted nearby to discourage pests

Curly Parsley with Marigolds planted nearby to discourage pests.

My mother makes a delicious salad using her Romaine lettuce.  I promise to share our family's special salad dressing recipe sometime soon

My mother makes a delicious salad using her Romaine lettuce.  I promise to share our family’s special salad dressing recipe sometime soon.

Lemons are ready for picking at Christmas time

Lemons are ready for picking at Christmas time.

So are the grapefruit.

So are the grapefruit…

The apple trees are almost bare

The apple trees are almost bare.

The chickens are oblivious to all the festivities

The chickens are oblivious to all the festivities.

Although their coop is decorated with a Christmas wreath

Although their coop is decorated with a Christmas wreath 😉

Wonderful Christmas, My mother's beautifully decorated table.  Notice the table gifts are decorated with a feather from the chickens

Wonderful Christmas, My mother’s beautifully decorated table.  Notice the table gifts are decorated with a feather from the chickens.

We had a wonderful day and a delicious dinner.  It was so much fun enjoying each others company and the fact that now we all live within 20 minutes of each other.

This Christmas was extra special to me because of my new granddaughter, Lily….

Wonderful Christmas

She is just so darling and makes me so happy.

Not so special was turning 46 the day after Christmas…

My nephew, Finley getting ready to help me blow out my candl

My nephew, Finley getting ready to help me blow out my candle 🙂

Although, I must say that I was so grateful to have my family all around to spend my birthday with.

I must say, that I feel pretty good being 46….so far 😉

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We are finishing up our special project that I mentioned earlier.  This project is for my mother’s 70th birthday, which is coming up this week.  I can’t wait to share it with you all once we are done!

I hope you are having a good week.

January GBBD – Winter Flowers in the Garden…

I always look forward to Tuesday evenings.  

Why, you may ask?

Well, every Tuesday we all get into the car and make the 5 minute drive over to Double S Farms, which is where my mother, my sister and her family live.  

In addition to hanging out with everyone, including my very cute nephews, Finley and Oliver, we also get to enjoy a delicious dinner that my mother prepares.  I just love not having to cook dinner one night a week 🙂

While we were there, I decided to take a look at my mother’s vegetable garden.  

The last time I saw it a few weeks ago, it looked like this….

Did you know that unused vegetable gardens are a great place to play with trucks and tractors?

Well, the trucks have now left the garden and it is now newly planted with transplants from our local nursery.

Petunia Plants

Leaf lettuce, dill, cauliflower, basil and other vegetables are already growing.

Interspersed in between the rows of vegetables are two flowering plants that my nephews picked out for the garden…

Petunia Plants
Petunia Plants

Petunia Plants

Finley and Oliver’s petunia plants make great companion plants for vegetables – especially leaf lettuce  broccoli, potatoes and squash.

Did you know that petunias repel aphids and beetles?

As the sky began to darken, we made our way inside to see the newest additions to the Double S Farms family….

They have four new chicks that are growing very rapidly and are almost ready to be moved into their new coop outside.

My sister, Chicken Farmer, likes people to hold them often so that they learn to be friendly with people.

Naked Neck' chicken,

I don’t mind holding them….they are awfully cute.  Especially, the ‘Naked Neck’ chicken, Francie.

Buff Orpington

My son, Kai, got to hold the friendliest chick, Lottie, who is a ‘Buff Orpington’.

Well, the chicks were getting tired, so the kids decided to hang out with grandma and see some fun Halloween games on her computer…

Evening on the Farm....

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I hope your week is going well so far.  As I am writing this, we are experiencing wind, thunder, lightning and delightfully cool temperatures.

Which reminds me that I need to buy a pumpkin…..

**You can read more about my sister’s new chicks here.