Planting Fruit Trees

Black Beauty Mulberry

Black Beauty Mulberry

One of the things about wearing multiple hats (rancher, writer, cook, bottlewasher, laundress, gardener, etc.) and being a blogger is that when you’re halfway through a project, it occurs to you that you should have grabbed the camera to record your activities for the blog. Since I’m usually going somewhere with tools already and my hands are full of things like shovels, fence pliers or buckets of chicken and pig food, the camera tends to be the last thing on my mind (I really need an official photographer clone to follow me around and record our doings). It’s probably not a good idea to leave the camera in the four-wheeler saddlebags — too hard on the camera in terms of moisture, temperature and general mayhem. On the other hand, if I leave it in the most readily accessible place (the kitchen counter right by the door) it’s quite likely to get doused with hot grease when hubby fries his breakfast eggs. All of this being a long-winded way of explaining why I don’t have on-the-spot pictures of a recent major project: planting new fruit trees.

The labels, of course, are removed as soon as you map the tree locations in your garden book.

The labels, of course, are removed as soon as you map the tree locations in your garden book.

This ranch already has two long-neglected orchards we are gradually getting back into production. We are well-supplied with apple and pear trees, do okay in some years and poorly in others with plums and sour cherries, and nearly always have LOTS of wild blackberries. I’m gradually getting the strawberry patch built up. We also have a few outliers, such as the single Asian pear tree in the lower orchard, the fig tree in the house orchard, and the scattering of pear, wild plum and apple trees growing in random spots. What we were lacking was sweet cherries, peaches and mulberries, the last of which is one of hubby’s favorite fruits (chickens like them, too, which is why we planted that one next to the chicken pen).

This was hubby's "No, I won't get the backhoe stuck, and even if I do, I can get out" spot.

This was hubby’s “No, I won’t get the backhoe stuck, and even if I do, I can get out” spot.

So this year, I bought three each of peaches and sweet cherries. Planting bare root fruit trees is not a major production unless (as we do) you have lots of big rocks in your orchard. For that reason, we did the hole primarily with the backhoe and then did a little shovel work after removing the rocks from the planting holes. It’s not a good idea to add compost or soil in planting holes, because the transition zone between native soil and your amended soil can create a “clay pot,” limiting root growth. So it was basically a matter of dig a big hole (it is a good idea to loosen the soil around the root zone so the feeder roots don’t have to work as hard to expand into the soil), position the tree and shovel the dirt back in. Then we tamped the dirt by stomping on it. You also want to make sure you set the tree so the graft (fruit trees are nearly always grafted to a rootstock variety) is at least two inches above the soil line. If you cover the graft with soil, the odds are high that the rootstock will start sprouting. Last part of the process — water well. Even if the soil is already moist, watering helps settle the dirt around the roots.
Here’s what I planted (of course, I got heirlooms!):
• Belle of Georgia Peach — Lewis A. Rumph introduced the Belle of Georgia in 1870. It’s named for Mrs. Belle Hall, mother of Mrs. J. N. Neel of Macon. Georgia Belle originated as a seedling of the old Chinese Cling peach. It’s a white freestone, very sweet and highly flavored. White peaches, by the way, are one of the exceptions to the general rule that deeply-colored fruits and veggies are more nutritious.
• Indian Blood Cling Peach is a bit of an oddity among peaches. The skin tends to be tough, but is beautifully streaked with crimson. It’s a bit tart compared to most peaches, although it still tastes good for fresh eating. It apparently is a Spanish peach, but was introduced to Mexico in the sixteenth century. Within a century, it had spread clear to the east coast of what is now the United States . In other words, it’s one of the few peaches that will come pretty much true from seed. Thomas Jefferson was delighted to get some to plant at Monticello.
• Rio Oso Gem Peach — developed in Rio Oso, California, and first mentioned in catalogs about 1926. It’s very pretty in bloom, with showy pink blossoms, and very tasty; aromatic, juicy and just the right blend of sweet and tart. It’s tender and bruises easily, like many of the old heirlooms, so you’re not likely to find it in a market because it can’t be shipped easily.
• Bing Cherry — named for a Chinese orchard worker named Ah Bing, who managed the Oregon orchard where it was discovered and first grown, it’s been around since 1870. This is the classic sweet cherry — very dark mahogany-red, sweet and meaty.
• Black Republican Cherry — this is one of Bing’s parents. It was first planted around 1860 by Seth Lewelling, a Quaker abolitionist who chose the name in honor of his beliefs. It has a complex flavor; people have described it as having rose, almond and herb notes. Cherries don’t usually come true from seed, but this one originally came from a seed of the Black Eagle Cherry and Bing came from a seed of Black Republican, so I’d say this one has more potential than most for promising seedlings.
• Royal Ann/Napoleon Cherry — this is a real oldie, having been around since the 1700s. It’s prolific, large and tastes great; a yellow cherry that gradually ripens to red with a few yellow spots.
• Black Mulberry — although they’re no good for silkworms, as the British found out to their dismay when the trees were imported in the early 1600s, they are good for eating. Technically a shrub — although older plants may grow 30 or 40 feet high — these are beloved by birds and small boys but hated by laundresses, as they stain quite badly. Not only are they good to eat, they may help lure the birds away from your cherries and peaches. Birds will spread the seeds quite nicely, so I expect we’ll soon have lots of them.

We planted these  February 14th. As of today, the Belle of Georgia, Black Republican (this one has multiple leaves all up and down the stem!) and Bing are starting to leaf out. Now I just have to wait about three years to get some fruit!

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Variations on a Waffle



When you cook from a pantry, as I do, flexibility is the name of the game. There’s no way I’m going to drive 25 miles or more to get ingredients on the spur or the moment. So I stock up and use what I have on hand. However, pantry cooking does mean that the time will come when you’re missing some or all of a particular ingredient for a dish.

Let’s say you have your heart set on waffles. Waffles are basically flour, some sort of liquid (almost always dairy, although the very first waffles were more like communion wafers – flour plus water), fat, eggs and leavening. If you’re completely out of flour, sorry – you’re out of luck. But that’s the only crucial ingredient, and if you have even one cup of flour, you can usually manage to make some sort of waffle. The liquid can be milk, buttermilk, cream, yogurt, sour cream or a combination. Fat can be butter, cream (also doing dual duty as liquid), liquid oil, or coconut oil. Cooks in previous generations also used lard — it could really be almost any kind of fat, although some will affect the taste of the waffle.

Myrtle Reed was an author under her pen name, Olive Green. In addition to her romance novels, the best-known of which was Lavender and Old Lace, she wrote a number of cookbooks. I’d say she was a very prolific author, considering she died at the age of 37 and had written at least 30 books. She is known especially for this quote: “The only way to test a man is to marry him. If you live, it’s a mushroom. If you die, it’s a toadstool.” Obviously, Reed knew something about cooking (and it sounds as though she also knew something about men). Here are her waffle recipes, published posthumously in 1916 in the Myrtle Reed Cookbook. As you’ll see, Reed knew well how to substitute and modify. For example, her Swedish, Kentucky and Tennessee waffles rely on eggs for leavening — good choices for those days when you’re out of baking powder and baking soda. Blue Grass waffles will use up that cream that soured and Rice Waffles will disguise the leftover rice from last night’s dinner. Georgia Waffles use buttermilk and lard — no butter needed (I suspect you could substitute coconut oil for the lard). In researching this article, I ran across one recipe that even Myrtle Reed didn’t have, which looks very useful for those days when you only have a cup of flour left — Potato Waffles — although her Indian waffles also need only one cup of flour, and Rice/Corn Waffles need only half a cup. A few hints about waffle-making:
• The iron should be HOT. As with a griddle, drop a few drops of water on the surface. The water should bead up and sizzle. You may find that’s a more accurate indicator than the temperature gauge on an electric waffle iron.
• Even if it’s a non-stick grid (and for your health’s sake, try to find one that isn’t) grease it lightly with lard, tallow or coconut oil. You’ll get a better crust.
• Pay close attention to the mixing instructions. For example, well-beaten egg whites must be gently folded into the batter or they’ll collapse and the waffles will be flat.
Waffles from The Myrtle Reed Cookbook
Blue Grass Waffles
Two cupfuls of thick sour cream, two cupfuls of flour, three eggs well beaten, and half a teaspoonful of soda sifted with the flour. Mix quickly, folding in the stiffly beaten whites of the eggs last, and bake until golden brown and crisp on hissing-hot, well-greased waffle-irons.
Cream Waffles
Sift together one cupful of flour, three table-spoonfuls of corn starch, and a pinch of salt. Mix one egg, well beaten, one scant teaspoonful of soda, and two cupfuls of sour milk together and gradually combine mixtures, beating hard meanwhile. Bake in hot, well-greased waffle-irons and butter the waffles before serving.
Feather Waffles
Four cupfuls of milk, three eggs, beaten separately. Add the milk to the yolks and a pinch of salt, then add one and one half tablespoonfuls of rich cream or melted butter and sifted flour enough to make the batter a little stiffer than pancake batter. Add the whites of the eggs last, beaten to a stiff froth, and stir in quickly two teaspoonfuls of baking powder.
Georgia Waffles
Two cupfuls of flour, a pinch of salt, two cupfuls of buttermilk, one cupful of melted lard, one scant teaspoonful of soda, and one egg. Sift the flour and salt together and beat into a smooth batter with the buttermilk. Add the well-beaten egg, then the hot lard, beat thoroughly, add the dry soda, beat hard for a minute or two, and bake in hissing-hot waffle-irons.
Hominy Waffles
One cupful of cold cooked hominy, one egg, well beaten, one tablespoonful of melted butter, one pinch of salt, two cupfuls of milk, and two cupfuls of flour sifted with one teaspoonful of baking powder. Mix thoroughly and bake in very hot waffle-irons, well-buttered.
Raised Hominy Waffles
To one cupful of cold cooked hominy add two cupfuls of scalded milk in which one half a yeast cake has been dissolved, one tablespoonful of butter, melted, a pinch of salt, one tablespoonful of sugar, and two cupfuls of flour. Mix thoroughly and set to rise over night. In the morning add two eggs, beaten separately, folding in the stiffly beaten whites last. Bake in very hot, well-greased irons.
Indian Waffles
One cupful each of flour and corn-meal, two cupfuls of thick sour milk, one cupful of sour cream, half a teaspoonful of salt, one teaspoonful of soda, two tablespoonfuls of sugar, and two eggs, beaten separately, the stiffly beaten whites being folded in last. Bake in a very hot, well-greased waffle-iron and serve very hot.
Kentucky Waffles
Make a smooth paste of two cupfuls of sifted flour and two cupfuls of milk, add one half cupful of softened butter, not melted, then the well-beaten yolks of three eggs, then the stiffly beaten whites, and, just before baking, one heaping teaspoonful of baking powder. Beat very hard for five minutes and bake in a hissing-hot iron.
Maryland Waffles
Beat four eggs separately, the whites to a stiff froth. To the beaten yolks add a pinch of salt, two cupfuls of milk, and enough sifted flour to make a stiff batter. Beat hard until perfectly smooth and free from lumps. Thin the batter by adding gradually the beaten whites of the eggs, and a little more milk in which a level teaspoonful of baking powder has been dissolved. Add lastly one tablespoonful of melted butter or lard. Have the waffle-irons very hot and well-greased, and butter each waffle as soon as done. Crisp light waffles are delicious when served with cream and sifted maple-sugar.
Plain Waffles
Two cupfuls of sifted flour, two cupfuls of milk, one tablespoonful of melted butter, one tablespoonful of melted lard, two teaspoonfuls of baking powder sifted with the flour, two eggs well beaten, and half a teaspoonful of salt. Beat thoroughly and have the irons hot before mixing.
Rice Waffles
One cupful of cold boiled rice beaten light with one cupful of milk. Add one tablespoonful of melted butter, half a teaspoonful of soda dissolved in a little of the milk, two eggs well beaten, and enough flour, sifted in with one teaspoonful of cream tartar, to make a thin batter. Beat thoroughly and bake in well-greased waffle-irons. Cream tartar and spices are practically certain to be pure when bought of a druggist instead of a grocer. (Not knocking the groceryman.)
Rice and Corn-Meal Waffles
One cupful of cold boiled rice, one half cupful each of wheat flour and corn-meal, one tablespoonful of melted butter, one half teaspoonful of soda dissolved in hot water, one teaspoonful of salt, two eggs, beaten separately, and enough milk to make a thin batter. The waffle-irons must be very thoroughly greased and the baking must be done with great care, as these waffles are likely to burn.
Swedish Waffles
Two cupfuls of cream, whipped stiff, one half cupful of sugar, one egg beaten with one fourth cupful of cold water, one half cupful of melted butter, and enough flour, sifted, to make a thin batter. Fold the whipped cream in carefully just before baking, and sprinkle with sugar when done.
Tennessee Waffles
Two cupfuls of sifted flour, half a teaspoonful of salt, one tablespoonful of melted butter or lard, one egg, beaten separately, and milk enough to make a thin batter. Bake until brown in a well-greased waffle-iron.
Virginia Waffles
Three eggs, well beaten, two cupfuls of milk, one half cupful of melted butter, two teaspoonfuls of baking powder, a pinch of salt, and enough flour to make a thin batter. Bake in hissing-hot waffle-irons.

Mashed Potato Waffles (from Moira Hodgson writing in the New York Times)
• 2 russet potatoes (total weight about 1 1/4 pounds)
• ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
• ⅔ cup milk
• Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
• 2 large eggs
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
1. Peel and wash potatoes. Cut into small, even pieces and put them in large pot of cold, well-salted water; bring to boil. Lower heat and cook until you can pierce potatoes easily with fork. Drain and reserve about half a cup of potato water. Transfer potatoes to large mixing bowl.
2. Heat olive oil in small skillet over low heat and sauté the chopped onion just until it softens a bit. Pour the oil and onions over the potatoes, then add the milk to the still-warm skillet — just to take the chill off it. Pour the milk over the potatoes.
3. Mash potatoes with oil and milk. Add a fourth cup of warm potato water, reserving the rest, and continue to mash until the mixture is smooth and looser than mashed potatoes you’d serve as a side dish. If it seems stiff, add more potato water, little by little, until you reach the desired consistency. Taste and season liberally with salt and pepper.
4. Preheat your waffle iron. If you want to hold the finished waffles until serving time, preheat your oven to 200 degrees.
5. Finish the batter by beating the eggs into the potatoes. Whisk together the flour and baking powder and fold them into the potatoes with a rubber spatula.
6. Lightly butter or spray the grids of your waffle iron, if needed. Brush or spray the grids again only if subsequent waffles stick.
7. Spoon out a half cup of batter (or the amount recommended by your waffle iron’s manufacturer) onto the hot iron. Smooth the batter evenly almost to the edge of the grids with a metal spatula or wooden spoon. Close the lid and bake until brown and crisp. Serve the waffles immediately or keep them, in a single layer, on the rack in the oven while you make the rest of the batch. Top with basil or rosemary olive oil or butter.

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Ta-Da! The Book is Now Available

This is the front cover picture.

This is the front cover picture.

OK, jumping in off the deep end, here.
I just clicked “save and publish” on Amazon to put You Might be a Ranch Wife out into the world. Here’s the link:

I discovered (after many hours of frustration and angst) that trying to put pictures in a Kindle book is the sort of thing that will drive you right around the bend. So, I’m sorry, but no pictures.

I hope you enjoy my baby. Now I’ll get back to work on the sequel!

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