Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Curious Cat

Louie Watching TV

Early this past summer I noticed a stray cat hanging around my place. It's not unusual to see visiting kitties out here in the country, some belong to neighbors, some are strays looking for a handout. This cat kept his distance, but seemed to want to come closer and be friends. Friends with me and also friends with my outside cat who spends his days safely outside in the large enclosed "patio" that we built for him years ago.

Unfortunately, since this new cat was obviously an intact male, and I mean obviously, he stressed my outside kitty who is also a male, although neutered and quite friendly. My boy was so upset by this stray cat intruder that he didn't want to eat his food, which is a huge sign that something is really wrong for this particular cat. He always wants to eat his food!

So I checked with my neighbors to see if anyone was missing a cat, and no surprise, that nobody claimed him. One neighbor who has many outside cats told me that this kitty had been "beaten up" by some of her male cats and he looked it too. He had some scars and cuts around his ears and a hurt paw.

I informed our local no-kill shelter about the cat and asked that they take him and get him neutered and adopted out to a good home. They cared, but had too many cats to deal with at that time. So I was on my own if I wanted to take care of this cat and also get him far away from my kitty so that he would relax and eat again.

I made friends with the stray cat by feeding him and day by day he got closer and closer and let me pet him a little bit. I took him to my vet and had him neutered and tested for all the normal cat diseases. He got his basic vaccinations since I doubted he'd ever had any. The vet told me that he was between 12 and 18 months old at the time, which would put his approximate birthday around March 1, 2008, a pisces kitty.

I named him Louie. And then I did my best to convince Hardware Bob that he needed a young cat companion to liven up his house with youthful cat antics. Somehow my convincing worked and now Louie and Bob are best of friends.

Bob sent me the photo above of Louie watching a movie about sled dogs. I just had to share it with you all. It cracked me up with its great amount of cuteness!

So, everyone, please meet our new, and youngest, kitty Louie Blue. (he has light blue eyes)

Louie Blue

© Copyright 2009 Mountain Harvest Basket

Monday, October 19, 2009

Gala Apple Harvest

Beautiful Gala Apples

I have several apple trees. One of my apple trees is a "triple graft" that grows 3 different kinds of apples on one main rootstock. This is nice because we only had to dig one hole to plant this tree, but we get a variety of apples. Gala, Jonagold and Mutsu apples are all on this one tree.

The Gala apple blossoms are the pollinators for the other two varieties, and the Gala apples ripen earlier than the other two. Usually I can pick ripe Galas in late August, but this year everything was wacko and delayed a bit. I didn't get to harvest these nice eating apples until about the second week in September.

They were numerous for my small tree, but smaller in size than they have been in the past. All of my apples were small this year. Again, I think it was our crazy weather, especially the extended heat wave we had. I probably should have watered my fruit trees a bit more deeply and more often to help compensate for the extra hot weather. But I didn't.

Anyway, my Gala apples make very good fresh eating apples for snacks and they also add a nice sweet flavor to apple crisps and pies. They are softer than the more common pie apples like Granny Smiths or Golden Delicious, so they do break down more when cooked, but they are still very tasty. I've been snacking on them when I want something sweet instead of grabbing a cookie or some candy. (not that I keep any of those things around my house, mind you)

Gala Apples up close ~ you can almost just reach out and grab one!

Happy Autumn!

© Copyright 2009 Mountain Harvest Basket

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bountiful Basil

Big Basket o' Basil

Since we were due for our first big winter rainstorm this morning, I decided yesterday that I'd better harvest as much of my remaining sweet basil as I could before the heavy rains hit. I didn't want the heavy rains and wind to damage the leaves or slam the overly tall plants into the mud. One plant has already sort of uprooted itself due to being top heavy.

I have three basil plant clumps still growing nicely in my lower garden. One is much bigger than the others. Eventually I will pull them all out of the ground as the really cold weather comes in, but for now I will leave them to produce more leaves, even if at a slower pace than they did during summer.

The photo above shows the huge amount of basil that I harvested from just my one larger plant yesterday. The basket was crammed full of leaves and stems and was quite heavy. As I came in from my garden last evening just as it was getting dark outside, I wondered where I planned to place all of this basil that I just harvested while it dries. I couldn't hang it outside on the porch as I usually do during fair weather, because it would just get drenched with rain and blown away with the wind.

So I spread it all out on a clean sheet on top of my massage table. That table is 72 inches long by 30 inches wide and I completely covered it in basil sprigs:

Basil on my Massage Table

All that basil was pretty bushy and thick, creating some depth:

Basil~ relaxed & ready for a massage

I let the basil cuttings rest and relax overnight. Then today I created several bunches tied with twine to hang up to dry. Usually I hang them from my herb drying line on my porch, but in wet weather I must improvise:

Basil Drying Hanger ~ one of two

This window is near my woodstove that I use for heating the house in cold weather. A good location for drying herbs.

Well, it has rained all day here and is still storming as I type this. I can hear the wind blowing things around out there. More of the same is predicted for tomorrow. We can use the water, but I'd rather get it a little at a time instead of all at once like this. The ground is slippery with mud and there are many puddles out there that I must watch out for while working outside. Life in the mountains. Never boring.

How's the weather where you are today?

© Copyright 2009 Mountain Harvest Basket

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Small Peach Harvest

Juicy Sweet Elberta Peaches

As with all of my fruit harvests this summer, my peach harvest was on the small side. My tiny Elberta peach tree is 9 years old, but still only gives me a few peaches each year. This year she grew 12 beautiful juicy peaches, but the birds got to at least 3 of them before I discovered that they were ripe. So I harvested 9 delicious peaches this year from my itty bitty tree. I ate every one of them fresh and "out of hand".

Elberta peaches are my favorite peach by far. They are free stone peaches with dark yellow flesh when ripe, and the outside has a nice tart slightly fuzzy peel that usually has a bit of a red blush.

As a young kid I remember eating my fill of peaches in late summer from the Elberta peach tree my Mom had planted in our backyard. Those peaches were huge and so juicy that when I bit into one, it would dribble juice down my chin and sometimes onto my shirt! I remember the whole sensory experience like it was yesterday. The sunshine warm freshly picked peach, fuzzy in my hand. The soft yet firm flesh giving way to my bite. The juice sweet and tangy at the same time squirting all over me. I loved it. And still do. Every time I eat a home grown Elberta peach those sweet childhood memories of my Mom and her peaches come flooding back to me. We had so many peaches that my Mom made pies, froze some sliced peaches for later eating and gave many away to friends and neighbors. Her tree would bear so heavily some years that the branches would break under the weight if not propped up to support them.

Since then, all other peaches that come my way are measured by those big juicy Elberta memories. Rarely have I found one that could compete.

My peach growing goal is to match that peach production memory of my childhood. Each year I will try my best. Those are wonderful peaches, and wonderful memories that I will keep with me always.

© Copyright 2009 Mountain Harvest Basket