Colorful Inspiration for the Laundry Room Counter Top



I am sorry to report, we still haven’t completed our laundry room/ mudroom remodel.  It is usable, just not finished.  Home improvement projects around here kind of take a back seat to other more important things, like family, the kids’ extra curricular activities, the garden, or just the daily running of our home.  However, I am slowing moving ahead on the tile counter top.

As you probably noticed from my other posts, I am a big fan of homes that still retain their original retro, vintage, or mid century design elements.  Due to the many tile factories around the Southern California area, a large number of West Coast homes from the 1930’s through the 1960’s originally had tile counter tops in the kitchens and/ or bathrooms.  Most of these vintage kitchen tile counter tops pictures come from California real estate listings or home rental websites like Home Away and VRBO.  I recently showed these, along with some others I clipped over at Pinterest, to my DH, hoping to convince him that colorful vintage tile is totally awesome and white is just plain boring.

retro kitchen dinning tulip table bungalow venice beach

Vintage yellow and burgundy tile kitchen counter

green black white checked tile linoleum floor counter top kitchen

retro kitchen in cream black green and white found at homeaway vacation rental in Austin TX

Vintage retro tile counter sink cabinets formica laminate new

Pink peach tile counter top in 1940s California kitchen found at a vacation home rental


mid century blue tile kitchen counter with beige paint

Blue and white vintage 1950s kitchen in a Mission Beach vacation rental

yellow vintage kitchen with original tile counter top and white cabinets

mustard yellow and burnt umber brown counter top in a retro kitchen. I love the old original stove and wall mount faucet

wall mount faucet on blue vintage tile kitchen

Cute blue and white kitchen with two toned blue ceramic tile counter top. This one has another cool original wall mount faucet and blue box cap tile work.

retro kitchen with vintage stove and tile

Okay, this kitchen is just plain white, but I threw it in to show him for comparison. However, I do like the white tile in this photo and vintage stove with the red accessories. Found at a vacation rental in Long Beach

vintage kitchen tile counter top

grey and burgundy box cap tile in a original 1940s or 1950s kitchen
found at vacation rental in Santa Monica
This house also has an awesome green and yellow tile deco bathroom

formica counter top in vintage 1940's kitchen.

Although it isn’t tile, I like the colors in this cute little retro kitchen in Orange, Ca. with an awesome fridge and dishmaster faucet. My hubby wants one of these faucets for the laundry sink under the window.

tile ceramic retro 1950s liner backsplash counter top material home improvement

A cute beige and minty blue 1940s vintage kitchen with an antique stove.


white green kitchen counter top tile ceramic porcelain back mounted faucet

I love the liner details in this tiled 1940’s kitchen.

If I don’t sway my hubby to my way of thinking on a colored tile counter top, I want to paint the cabinets an outrageous fun red like in this retro kitchen. Found at a Santa Cruz Vacation home rental.





© 2013, .

Adding More Plants To The Edible Landscape


I actually didn’t get as many new edible plants and trees this winter or spring as I have in past years, but I still probably got more than I really have room for.  Basically, my small urban backyard is getting too full and the family isn’t ready to give up the front yard lawn yet.  Since many of the neighbors on the block are changing over their lawns in the city’s Lawn to Garden program, our front yard has become one of the few left that are ideal spaces for kids to run and play on.  At any given time, there is six or seven kids out there running around in the shade, and sometimes none of them are even mine.  Therefore, for now, in order to put in new a edible landscape plant, I prefer to pull out something already growing, but I hate intentionally killing plants.  Never the less, I do have to do it sometimes.

This winter I did something drastic and ripped out my pretty Black Mission Fig tree.   I had good reason for doing it; it got really enormous, despite summer pruning.  It is a delicious variety, it just kept getting too big for my yard. I took the time to propagate the Black Mission Fig through cuttings first, and managed to clone about 8 baby figs, so technically I didn’t kill it.   The new little figs trees went off with other gardeners and I made sure to forewarn them “Black Mission Fig turns into a very big tree.”  I still have one left in a pot, but it won’t stay a good fig for a pot for much more than a year or two.  It was a poor choice for us from the beginning, espcially for the espaliering I was trying to do to it.  When I first planted the Black Mission years ago, I didn’t realize that figs have different growth potentials.  Without summer pruning, some figs get huge, like the Black Mission, some are standard sized like Brown Turkey or Strawberry Verte growing to about 25 ft tall, and some stay a little smaller in the 10 to 15 ft range, like Black Jack, Celestial, and my little Violette De Bordeaux.  My 3 year old Violette de Bordeaux Fig is much better behaved for the purpose of espaliering.  The VDB has grown really slow in comparison to the Black Mission which seemed to grow a foot every time I took a day or two off from gardening.

This winter I was generously given a Tena Fig and some cuttings of Mary Lane Fig by a fellow edible enthusiast, Kathy.  However, I don’t know a lot about either variety yet, like if they prefer inland heat more than my cool coastal conditions or how big they get without summer pruning.  I don’t mind doing some summer pruning on them, but I also don’t want to sacrifice production for size control.  For now, they are in pots in the driveway, getting watered regularly with my other plants from propagation projects.  Kathy said the Tena fig came from a cutting from the U.C. Davis germplasm and the Mary Lane Seedless fig originally came to her from her husband’s childhood home, having grown there from 1960 to 2006.  That tree was burned badly in the “Old” Fire in 2003, but they took cuttings prior to it finally dying in 2006.  I love that figs can be easily shared and passed on in families, carried from one home to the next.  I have yet to find room for the figs yet.  I doubt I can keep them happy in pots long enough for the kids to get all grown.

Mary Lane Fig Black Jack Violette De Bordeaux Mission Brown Turkey Tena

Tena Fig gift along side the last of Black Mission figs I grew from cuttings.

On a whim, I bought a Parfianka Pomegranate.  It was an impulse buy because I found it by accident for $6 at Sprouts natural foods grocery store of all places.  I had previously read (but not personally tasted) that it is one of the best flavored varieties and it is also supposed to be one of the smaller varieties of pomegranate trees.  So of course when I saw it so cheap, I just had to pick it up.  I am skeptical about the smaller size, but hopeful it is true.  For now, I planted the little 2 quart sized tree in a giant pot.  Yes, I did say 2 quart size; I am a patient gardener and don’t mind waiting a year or two to save a little money. I may end up planting in near the Sweet pomegranate and let the two grow together.   In the month I have had it is had doubled in size.  Anyone else grow Parfianka and knows if is a bit smaller than other pomegranates or has an opinion on taste?

best tasting low chill cool weather small

Young Parfianka Pomegranate in a pot

One fun new plant I got is a Kiwi Berry, or Hardy Kiwi.  I splurged on a Issai Hardy Female Kiwi in a one gallon pot.  It pained me to spend $17 on it, but it is reported to be self fruitful.  Even if it isn’t able to self pollinate, I figure since I already have a male Fuzzy Kiwi, which actually can pollinate Hardy Kiwi, I could give it a try.  My daughter loves Kiwis, and the one time we bought a box of hardy kiwis/ kiwi berries at Trader Joes, we liked them. However, we don’t know what variety they were so it is a gamble if we will like the taste of Issai Kiwi.  I was surprised when I noticed this morning that it actually is flowering already.  I have read this variety is precocious, but wow! It isn’t even here for a full season and it wants to get started making fruits. My Vincent took 6 years and my male Fuzzy Kiwi took 8 years to flower.  The Issai will get big, although not as big as my Vincent Fuzzy Kiwi, so I am going to have to build another trellis for it.

fuzzy kiwi matua yellow issai anna cordofolia  kens red

Flowers on my new Kiwiberry or hardy kiwi, Issai.

And last but not least, is my new Neptune Grape, a hybrid of Vitis labrusca.  It is part of the Celestial series of grapes released by Univ. of Arkansas Department of Agriculture.  My all time favorite seedless purple grape, Jupiter, is one of their varieties, so I am hopeful I will like the Neptune just as well, especially since it is a little later ripening.  I really would have preferred to get a different new variety of Hybrid grape called Gratitude, based on the University’s description,but it isn’t available from any retail growers that can ship to California yet.  I am hoping someone in California Rare Fruit Growers has connections and can get their hands on it to see how it is around here.  I plan to put in the Neptune grape where my Fantasy Grape was over on the side yard by the hopscotch path, which is also where the Interlaken and Concord grow in the long narrow strip of yard.

CRFG cool weather summer coastal grape Neptune Mars Jupiter Saturn Gratitude Hope Joy Faith

The new Neptune Grape I bought at the California Rare Fruit Growers booth at the Fullerton Arboretum Green Scene

My Fantasy grape was the last of the European grape varieties, I planted a decade ago, that was still left in my yard.  Over the last four or five years I have been removing all the vitis vinifera one by one.  Most of them were unpredictable in their productivity here.  In the years that we had plenty of early summer fog, they did poorly, suffering from mildew, were less productive in producing fruit, etc.  As I replace the European Grapes, I choose varieties that have been reported to do well around humid or cooler climates like Puget Sound Washington, Oregon, or New York.

The Perlette was the first to go. Although it produced huge crops, it rarely sweetened up enough before it would have a few grapes crack, and then it would quickly be plagued with green fruit beetles which further damaged the fruit.  I tried picking the grapes on the Perlette a little on the early side, but they were slightly sour.  The Flame grape was the next to get the axe.  It wanted to grow what seemed like a half a foot a day, eventhough it consistently suffered from powdery mildew by late summer.  Despite the mildew, it did produce a fair amount of grapes in some years.  The two year old Interlaken Seedless now occupies the spot where the Flame was originally.  The Fantasy and Black Monuka never set big enough crops to justify the amount of space they were taking up, and both were very vigorous.  Due to our lack of summer heat, neither was overly productive for us.  However, I did love the few grapes that they did produce and was sad to see them go.  When I wanted to plant my first Jupiter grape, I took out the Black Monnuka that occupied the same area.  The flavor and quality is just as good and it is doing so much better in that spot, so much so I probably will have to thin the crop this year.  To date, since choosing new hybrid grape varieties that were reported to do well in cool or coastal locations specifically, I have had much greater success with grapes.

Hanbury House Grapes ( all seem to be good choices for our cool coastal weather, especially our foggy summers:)

  • Interlaken Seedless (a very early season green hybrid grape in late June to early July)
  • Eastern Concord ( seeded purple grape that we usually pick in mid August)
  • Jupiter (seedless purple we usually pick from late July to Mid/late August.)
  • Canadice (seedless red, really sweet and early season, in early to mid July, but they continue to keep good quality of the vine for another month or so.)
  • Neptune (seedless green, supposed to be a mid season grape, ripening after Jupiter.)* Brand new/ No Report yet on how good it does in the local area.

* My neighbor, K, has good results with Glenora and Niabell

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© 2013 – 2014, .

How to Gently Get A Brooding Hen to Stop Setting


Broody hen, pullet, silkie, buff orpington, black australorp, Cochin, pekin, break fix stop

The rabbit hutch tucked into a corner of the yard near the concord grapes. Our Black Silkie is in there to get over her broody behavior and George is patrolling nearby.

Bantam Cochins are one of the best breeds of chickens for small urban backyards, mainly because they are generally quiet, curious, very friendly, easy to handle, kids like their small size and docile nature, they don’t fly like other bantams do, and they do well with confinement to a small coop or tractor.  Some people are reticent to keep them as part of their flock because they are also known for going broody often, just like Silkies.  Well, the part about the broodiness is very true.  However, after 5 years of keeping backyard chickens, I don’t feel broodiness, or the desire to hatch eggs and raise chicks, in a breed is a downside or a problem.  Typically the best natured breeds are also broody breeds, like Buff Orpington and Black Australorp.  When it comes time to add to our flock, a broody hen makes the job of integrating young baby chicks almost effortless, including day old chicks they didn’t hatch. Chicks raised by hand without a mother hen to look out for them, can’t be easily added to an established flock without blood shed or a lot of pecking, at least not until they are closer to the same size as the adult hens.  Broody hens also eliminate the need for an indoor brooder or heat lamp for chicks.  The baby chicks scurry in and out of the mother hen’s feathers, self regulating their need for warmth.

A few times a year, I let the hens raise chicks, but right now isn’t a good time for us to have chicks around.  Life is just too hectic, and when their are chicks around, I spend too much time holding and watching them, instead of getting my chores done.  Once school is out, and our family’s schedule slows down, and if one or more of the hens go broody, I’ll probably let them have some day old chicks.  In the meantime, on Tuesday, our newest pullet, the black Silkie, decided it was a good time for her.   She is our third broody chicken this year.

Although our hens don’t always go broody when it is convenient for us, “breaking” a hen of being broody or stopping the hormonal cycle isn’t that hard.   The sooner I notice it and intervene, the sooner the hen will go back to normal behavior and laying.  When I notice a hen or pullet has staked out the nest box all day, and especially when she is still in there when it is time to roost for the night, I usually have a pretty good idea that she has started going broody.  Broody hens often have a distinctive dinosaur like growl when disturbed on their nest.

I have tried different things over the years to break my broody hens, but the easiest and gentlest has been to but the hen in our extra hutch, a collapsible rabbit hutch with a wire bottom.   It is handy having a second moveable place to put chickens if it is ever needed, not just for broody chickens.  My hubby calls it the chicken “sweat box.”  I think of it more like a sweat lodge.  It is secure with 1/2 inch wire, a covered top, and latch on the side door.  It sits in the shade in a corner of the yard where all the goings on around the backyard can be seen.  The broody hens don’t seem to be too bothered about being in there since they are generally zombie like anyway while they are in the broody phase.  The few times I have added a non broody buddy, but both times the buddy just picked on the broody.

The hutch’s wire bottom allows for air flow on the under side of the chicken.  This airflow helps the hen cool down on her belly and keeps her from insulating her abdomen.  I don’t give her a nest in there, just food, water, and snacks like grape leaves or lettuce to peck at.  I prefer to stop broodiness this way because it doesn’t seem traumatic for the hen at all, kind of like a time out.  After about 3 to 7 days in the hutch, or if she lays an egg before that, the hen is usually no longer broody and I return her to hang out with the other ladies in the coop.  If she goes back to taking over a nest box, back to the hutch for a few more days she goes.  When I notice the first day that the hen is broody and intervene, it usually only takes her three days to snap out of it.  But if I accidentally let her go a few days, it takes a bit longer.  The longer she has been broody, the longer it takes for her to return to normal.

The black Silkie was on her third day in there when I snapped the photo.  She was still talking like a broody hen with a soft cooing bak-bak-bak-bak, so I knew she wasn’t quite ready to come out yet.  The next day, she seemed back to normal, so I returned her to the big coop.  It will likely be another 3 to 5 days, at least, before she goes back to laying.

Below is a short video of my two broodies from last year. Broody hens sound and act a little different than how hens normally do.  Despite not wanting to be bothered when broody, most of our Cochin hens are really nice and don’t peck or bite at us. The Silkie was the same way as these two ladies in the video.  They just cluck and puff up to tell us and other hens to leave them alone.

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© 2013, .

Spring Update: Kiwis, Berries, Cherries, and More…



By Southern California gardening standards, we are already half way through Spring, and as usual, the Hanbury edible landscape and ornamental garden continues to evolve.  Every winter and Spring I change out things that under performed or plant new varieties of things I never tried before.  For last couple of months I have kept pretty busy with chores in the garden, the kid’s activities, local plant shopping, two landscape designs for others, and with home improvement projects around the house.  The chickens are laying like crazy now the days are long enough.  Three out of four of them have tried to go broody, but I keep having to tell them “No chicks until July!” Life is too busy for babies right now.  When the above photo was taken, Lacey, the Silver Laced Cochin, was camped out in the nest box trying.

In March, I attended the LBCC Horticulture Department sale with my good friend, K.  Although I didn’t come home with too much unusual stuff this year, K picked a rare fruit tree called a Capulin Cherry.  She has quite the collection of “Cherry” trees at her house across the street, including her eight year old Royal Lee and Minnie Royal cherry trees, Cherry of the Rio Grand, Surinam Cherry, and now the new Capulin Cherry.  Unfortunately, her low chill Minnie Royal and Royal Lee cherries don’t look like they had as good of year this year, in comparison to how they did last Spring.  By the looks of her trees, one is huge and is a standard size. The other, the Minnie Royal is much smaller and may be a dwarf, but I didn’t think they were available yet on semi dwarf or dwarf root stock when she bought these the first year they were introduced to the public. Their bloom period didn’t overlap this season to give them much pollination, even though the Royal Lee was really loaded with blossoms. K has only picked a few handfuls of cherries so far this year, and it looks like she will only pick another couple of dozen cherries in 2013.

southern california best cherry coastal choice variety

2013 flowers on K’s Low chill cherry, Royal Lee. It bloomed great this year, but not in sync with the Minnie Royal. The Minnie Royal started early this year and only had a few flowers by the time the Royal Lee really got full

low chill cherry tree full grown size long term

This is how K’s low chill Royal Lee cherry tree looked when it first started to bloom this year. My dog follows me everywhere and loves going to visit K so he happily agreed to hop in the picture for scale.


I purchased a few natives at LBCC including a pretty orange Mimulus, Sticky Monkey Flower, and a few more surprise colored Bearded Irises, one turned out to be a pretty violet blue. Plant purchases from other places included a Parfianka Pomegranate, Issai Hardy Kiwi, Neptune Hybrid Grape, Sun Sugar Tomato, Super Marzano Tomato, and an heirloom melon.  Most of the rest of the stuff for summer I just recently started from seed.

The yard has been full of color for the last month, and I would say it was probably at its peak blooming beauty last week, eventhough the plums, peaches, and nectarines bloomed more than a month ago, and the kiwis are just now starting to open their blooms.  Last week we started picking the first few Bababerries of the year, however, the bulk of the crop is a ways away, especially on the new primocanes.  The blackberries still have a few flowers, and they already have started to blush a bit of color a few berries.  Most years, we get to pick the first ones around Mother’s Day and they go up through 4th of July.  Rather than go into anymore of the boring details, I’ll post some of the photos from today instead.

raspberry homestead backyard berry bababerry

Some of the last of the blackberry flowers on the Thornless Triple Crown Blackberry

thornless black berry blackberry triple crown chester low chill

Here a few of the blackberries. There are a couple that are starting to color up.


Male Kiwi Flowers Tomuri Matua on an arbor

These are the only Male Flowers on the Kiwi Vine so far this year.  I think my male is a Tomuri that was sold with the Vincent Kiwi 10 years ago. It doesn’t flower heavily at all. However, this is the only male kiwi being sold by Monrovia Nursery with the Vincent female.  I think I need a Male Kiwi named Matua instead, but I haven’t found a reputable nursery with one in stock.

Kiwi male and female flowers with bees pollination

Female Kiwi flowers on the Vincent Kiwi. It is not self fruitful and needs a male near by for pollination. Unfortunately, my male kiwi is lazy and only makes a few flowers each year. I know the lack of flowers isn’t a pruning error on my part because the female had tons of spurs and flowers every year. I wish I could find a Matua Kiwi locally.  The black spots on the flowers are BEES.  It is covered in them right now.


blue purple bearded iris LBCC Horticulture Dept propagated

One of the mystery/ surprise colored Bearded Irises I bought at the LBCC Horticulture sale this year. I love bearded Irises, especially since they can tolerate our dry summers so well and come back beautifully year after year with little care. I have many other colors in the yard that have naturalized and I have shared with other gardeners.

bearded iris

This is a lilac pinkish purple colored bearded Iris I planted about five years ago. I have divided it twice so now I have it in a few other parts of the yard as well.


Hybrid American Grape Candice Canadice red small very early good for coastal cool weather

The Canadice grape is growing well. It still has tiny flowers on some of the clusters, but it has also already set some small berries. They should be ready to harvest at the beginning of July here in Coastal Southern California.  If I recall correctly, it is a 5 year old vine now. It doesn’t mind our June Gloom foggy June and July months

Cucumbers, pickling, marketmore, tendergreen,

Four kinds of cucumbers and some bright lights chard. We go through a lot of cucumbers around here. Tiger Lily, the desert tortoise, and chickens like to eat them as much as my daughter and I do.

Fairy gardening garden mushroom red

One of B’s fairies sits out on the front porch amidst the succulents on a new red mushroom she made out of modeling magic clay.

Jupiter grape garden southern california grape good from cool summer

One of the two Jupiter Grapes. This one doesn’t get as much sun, but it is loaded with tiny clusters of grapes and grape flowers.

climbing vine clematis

Clematis growing on one of the arbors in the front yard

artchokes and goji

Artchokes growing in the backyard that have been invaded by goji berries.



cool summer grape purple seedless coastal southern California

This the Jupiter grape vine out on the veggie garden arbor. This one gets full sun so it is always a little ahead of the other one. Its a good choice for a grape for cooler coastal areas. It is a purple seedless grape that we usually start harvesting in late July here in Southern California

Here is a video update on the Kiwi Vine, plus it shows the difference between the male fuzzy kiwi and female kiwi flowers.

© 2013, .


2013 Spring Horticulture Sale at LBCC

One of my favorite plant sales of the year is almost here, the Long Beach City College Horticulture Department Spring Open House and Plant Sale.  This year is they are celebrating their 41st Open House.  I look forward to this plant sale every year, more than any other garden event.  Although it is not near as big as some of the other Southern California plant shows, tours, and sales, like the Fullerton Arboretum Green Scene or the Spring Garden Show at the South Coast Plaza, it is always fun to the see the annual changes to the LBCC horticulture Dept. grounds made by the newer students and what new things they propagated.  Every year it is a little bit different than the year before.


Click the flyer image to enlarge and see the published details


The prices are always reasonable, generally much better than home improvement stores, and the proceeds go to supporting the club and department. There are usually thousands of common and unusual plants, propagated by the students, staff, alumni, and club members.  The horticulture department has an extensive selection of indoor and green house plants, as well as display gardens.  Last year, they had a really cute fairy garden display and they had recently expanded their chicken yard.   In past years, the plant choices included dozens of tomato and pepper varieties, culinary herbs, cacti, succulents, native shrubs, house plants, bedding flowers, roses, and more.   Also, students and staff are usually happy to answer garden related questions.  But a word of advice, bring your own wagon or garden cart and try to go one of the first days of the sale, the earlier the better.  When there is only a flat or two of something new or unusual, they often sell out of it in the first hour of the first day.  Plan for time to check out, the line for the registers are pretty long that first hour of the first day of the plant sale.

LBCC spring plant sale and open house 2013

Looking toward the west of the garden sale at LBCC spring plant sale

LBCC plant sale 2013

The chicken coop and yard at LBCC was recently expand in the last couple of years. I took this photo at last year’s Spring Plant Sale.

LBCC plant sale 2013

One of the fairy gardens displays on the Horticulture Department grounds


LBCC Spring Open House and Plant Sale
The dates this year:  March 26th-30th, 2013

9AM to 6PM

LBCC Pacific Coast Campus Horticulture Gardens

1305 E. Pacific Coast Hwy. Long Beach, CA 90806



© 2013 – 2014, .

Free Reusable Storage Canning Lids that Fit Ball and Kerr Jars

Once a jar of homemade jelly or jam is opened, reusing the same metal lid and ring that was used to can it can be difficult and messy.  When my neighbor first starting teaching me to can a couple of summers ago, she asked if I had any storage caps or lids, and when I told her “no” she mentioned where I could buy the reusable lids at the best price locally, along with some of the other canning stuff I may need on a regular basis.  Ball and Kerr each make their own brands of reusable storage lids for mason jars, which range in price from $4 to $6 for a box of 8.

Shortly after that conversation, I noticed that the peanut butter I buy every other week, from Trader Joe’s, has a plastic lid that fits perfectly on a Ball or Kerr regular mouth jar.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the other small jars of peanut butter on the market also fit, but I have yet to buy any to see.

canning ball kerr lids caps lid cap plastic glass jar free cheap

Plastic reusable lid for storage of homemade jam taken from a jar of peanut butter. These are for storage of an open can or jar in the refrigerator, not the actual hot water canning process.

Now, every time we use up a jar of peanut butter (and with kids in the house, that is pretty often) I save another a storage jar lid.  I like that we recycle something that would have been otherwise discarded, use it over and over, and save money at the same time.  These plastic lids can’t be used for the actual canning process, like the tattle lids can, but they are easy to throw in the dishwasher and reuse.  The lids also work well for covering empty glass mason jars during the off season when they are in storage waiting for canning season to start back up.  Keeping a lid on an empty jar keeps them from accidentally getting chipped and makes it a little easier to stack.

Do you happen to know of any other brands of products that the lids can be recycled for storage of homemade jam or jelly?

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© 2013, .

Low Sugar Kiwi Strawberry Jam from Home Grown Vincent Kiwis

This past growing season, despite the fact we only had a half dozen male flowers on the Kiwi vines, we still had a bountiful crop of Vincent Kiwis, way more than the previous year when we only had two male flowers for cross pollination.  Since we are limited on our cold storage space here at Hanbury House, rather than completely harvest all the fruit at once this year, I decided to let the fruit continue to hang on the vines, as long as none started dropping. It looked funny out there on the trellis with no leaves on the vines but lots of hanging kiwi fruits.  Some of the fruits looked like they were on steroids, having grown as big as a fist.  However, the majority were about the size of a jumbo chicken egg.

The interior of a home grown Vincent Kiwi. This is one of the more dependable varieties of Kiwis, Chinese Gooseberry, for low chill parts of Southern California. Vincent Kiwis interior fruit color isn’t quite as bright kelly green as Hayward Kiwi, the kind often sold at the grocery store. I would call the color slightly more golden, but it isn’t technically a yellow variety of Kiwi.


Over the winter, we picked the kiwis as we needed them and let the fruit soften on the counter for a few days before eating them.  But now that it is late February, many of the fruit trees are starting to flower in the backyard and around the neighborhood, plus I saw a couple Kiwis on the ground under the vines, I had to get out there and glean the rest of Kiwis.  The easiest way to use them up all at once was to make jam.  Lucky for me, strawberry season has just started locally and they make a great compliment to kiwis.  I decided to make jam.  I tried two different recipes, one was a standard recipe with regular pectin and lots of sugar.  The other was a Low Sugar recipe with “No or Low Sugar Pectin.”

vincent kiwi low chill variety for Southern California home grown backyard orchard

The finished strawberry kiwi jam ready to be enjoyed


Low Sugar Kiwi Strawberry Jam

4 cups organic strawberries, washed and hulled 
4 cups organic kiwis –  peeled & diced
3 oz.  powdered No or Low Sugar pectin
Juice from 1 Meyer lemon
1 tablespoon butter
3 cups sugar

This yielded 13 jars.   I loved that this jam is only slightly sweet, more like fresh fruit, with just a hint of tangy flavor.

  1. Puree the kiwi and strawberries in a large bowl with a burr mixer or throw it all in a blender/ food processor to mash it up just a bit.  At this point the color of the fruit mixture is a little strange, more peachy in color than traditional redish Kiwi Strawberry Jam.
  2. Put fruit, pectin, butter, and zest in a large pot with plenty of head room for boiling.
  3. Bring to a full boil, stirring constantly.
  4. Add the sugar and return to a full rolling boil so the sugar gets completely dissolved. Then continue to boil for another minute, stirring constantly.  During this step, the color of the fruit brightens to a dark ruby red.
  5. Pour the jam into the sterile jars.  Leave at least a 1/4 space at the top. Seal the jars using sterile, unused lids.  See Ball canning for details on how to can.
  6. Boil the filled & sealed jars for ten minutes completely submerged and covered with boiling water.
  7. Remove the jars and allow to cool to room temperature on a towel on the counter undisturbed overnight.  Double check they vacuum sealed themselves.

Its okay to skip the last two steps and keep jars in the refrigerator if you plan to eat the jam within a few weeks. Any jars that didn’t vacuum seal within an hour or two of resting on the counter, after the canning process, need to be treated the same as unprocessed refrigerator jam.  After opening a jar make sure to keep it in the refrigerator.  *For more detailed steps on safe canning practices, please read up on safe food preservation and storage, like from Ball Fresh Preserving website or   U.C. Master Food Preserver Program Publications.


One brand of the kind of pectin needed for the low sugar strawberry kiwi jam.  Another company, Pomona, makes a similar product.


Diced Fruit for the kiwi strawberry jam

Photo taken after the puree step. The fruit is a little peachy colored at this point, but it will brighten up after cooking and adding sugar.

Boiling and adding sugar changes the strawberry kiwi jam color to a darker ruby red

The cans of Kiwi Strawberry preserves resting on the counter

Vincent Kiwi low chill vines fruit home grown backyard orchard

The remainder of the Vincent Kiwi fruits sitting in front of the canned jam before starting the second patch.

I enjoyed the low sugar strawberry kiwi jam with breakfast this morning, and it was delicious.  However, the first batch of jam I made, used a standard recipe I found on another popular foodie blog, and it was much like most jam recipes with lots of sugar, almost more sugar than fruit.  It was way too sweet for my tastes, so the next two batches were made using a less sugar and a low sugar pectin and the best of the two batches is written down in the recipe is found above.  I made a third batch that had an additional 2 cups of sugar, and that was still too sweet.

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© 2013, .

Making More Fig Trees – Stage Two Begins

black mission fig tree propagation

tiny little white roots beginning to grow on one of the Black Mission Fig cuttings.

Here is a link to my first post about starting the new figs trees from cuttings.

After storing the damp Black Mission Fig cuttings, wrapped in paper towels and a plastic bag for a few weeks, I took them out to check on their progress again.  So far so good, for most of them.  There are no signs of mold or mildew, and all of them still have signs of life in the nodes.  Four of the cuttings have little roots at the end, like the one in the picture above.  The rest are still working on their coarse bumps where the roots will hopefully soon grow.  I potted up the four that had roots in a cell pack and insulted them in another plastic bag.  I plan to keep them indoors for now.  We had a few frosty nights last week.

In the meantime, I started a second batch of little fig trees, but this time with Strawberry Verte Fig cuttings. Strawberry Verte is one of the best tasting figs I have tried. It does pretty well with only half day sun espaliered on a West facing wall, and it isn’t the giant monster that Black Mission fig wants to be. I have a few other varieties, but they are too small to take cuttings yet. They include a one gallon Tena fig, Mary Lane Seedless fig, and Violette de Bordeaux. I briefly grow Kadota, that a neighbor gave up on and gave to me in a giant pot but that fig didn’t seem to like our cool summers.



© 2013 – 2014, .

The High Cost of Sub-Urban Homesteading


Am I imagining it or are edible plants at the nurseries going way up in price due to the increased popularity of backyard food gardening, sustainability, and homesteading? I was running errands this morning, and one of them took me past a Garden Center; it’s a chain, but I won’t name names.  I love browsing at new plant selections and I am in process of helping a friend with a backyard garden design that includes some fruit trees, so I decided to stop inside for a few minutes to have a look around.  It was sticker shock as I cruised through the fruit tree and berry section.  Okay, so I am no longer a spring chicken, I have been doing this homestead/ edible landscaping thing for a decade and a half, and pretty frugal, but the prices for edible plants at that nursery seemed ridiculous for what they were selling.

The fruit trees, the kind with about a 1/2 inch caliper started at $34.99, some were more than that.  Uggh! The plants were obviously this winter’s bare root trees and berries that had just been dug out of the fields and popped into nursery cans in the last month or so.  The tiny one cane berry plants, with maybe a pint and a half of soil, practically bare root, were $12.99.  It seems like just two years ago, the same berry plant varieties were $6 to $7 in one gallon at this same nursery.  I could understand if these were new introductions with patents on them, but most weren’t.  The berries included Boysen, Triple Crown, Fall Gold, Williamette, and Canby, all varieties that have been around for ever and can found at a just about any nursery.  The high prices were on fruit trees that have been planted in SoCal backyards for decades like Anna and Dorset Golden apples, stone fruits like Santa Rosa and Babcock Peach, and grapes that don’t grow well around here, like Thompson Seedless.  A one gallon pomegranate was $44.  A one gallon goji was $35! Those things grow like weeds! I started with one small goji berry twig of a thing and it grew to one gallon size within a few months.  Why such a crazy high price for a goji?..maybe because a gardener must be crazy to plant such an invasive plant in the ground that spreads like mint?  I don’t know.  However, I sure got the impression they were trying to price gouge novice gardeners just starting a homestead.  Is it like this everywhere recently, and I am just stuck in the past remembering the “good ole days,” or are prices for edible landscaping plants suddenly skyrocketing?

Sorry for the rant.  I’ll go back to gardening now.

wolf berry, goji.

Goji Berry tucked away in the vegetable garden. I keep it in a pot because it is super invasive. I don’t recommend planting this anywhere that you don’t want to spread everywhere.  Apparently, according to one local nursery, this thing is worth it weight in gold.

© 2013 – 2015, .

An Uncoventional Organic Method for Killing Root Knot Nematodes

As you may have read in a previous post, root knot nematodes recently became public enemy number one in the Hanbury House vegetable garden.  I was kind of depressed about it for a few days, struggling to decide what the best coarse of treatment was, if any.  Being a home gardener, especially an organic one, there are few options for dealing with nematodes in the soil.  One of the most commonly recommended organic methods to kill them is solarizing the soil, covering the area with plastic for 6 weeks to allow the soil to reach 120 degrees for an extended period.  The area has to be in full sun for it to work.  My particular veggie bed is only in full sun a few months out of the year, in the height of summer.  I am patient and could wait until then, but according to what I have read in some master gardening publications, solarizing is less effective near the coast where summer temperatures don’t get sufficiently high.  Our summer time highs are rarely over 80 or 85 degrees.  Great.  In all likelihood, it will not get hot enough to kill the little buggers in my coastal Southern California backyard, even in the summer.

alternative to solarizing hot water to kill root knot nematoads

I spent the day boiling gallons of water to try to the kill the nematodes organically

I need an affective organic treatment for nematodes that works in the cooler seasons and in less than full sun situations.  After a bit of research and a suggestion from Patricia at the end of my other post, I decided I might as well give boiling water a try, especially since I will have to wait many months before trying solarizing.  In the past, I have managed to kill a few weeds with boiling water, and I am hoping it might also work against the root knot nematoads in the garden.  There are lots of dept. of agricultural resources that mention hot water above 120 degrees has been affective at eliminating nematodes on the root ends of bulbs, banana plant roots, hostas, and other green house plant’s roots.  Hot water seems worth a shot.  Depending on the crop, the plant is left submerged a different amount of time.  The publication about the banana plants said 30 seconds was sufficient to dip the ends of the plant and kill nematodes, but the one about bulbs said ten minutes.  I have no control over the time it takes to soak in, but if it starts out at boiling, by the time it cools down to 120, it should have had plenty of time to work and soak down in.  Boiling water is relatively cheap, non toxic, and easily available, so the worse case senario would be it doesn’t kill the nematodes.

I spent the better part of my day going back and forth between the back garden and the stove, dumping gallon after gallon of hot boiling water on the veggie bed.  At any given point, I had three different pots and kettles going.  Now the bed looks like warm steamy mud.  I sure hope it helps, and I will report back in a few months on whether or not boiling water was effective way to kill root knot nematodes in the garden.  Wish me luck!

I have a long wait until summer, and if you know of another organic solution to root knot nematodes, I would love to hear about it.  I’ll give anything a try.

* This post is linking to a Blog Hop over at Sunny Simple Life blog and The Self Sufficent Home Acre

© 2013, .