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Mooncake Flower Farm in Camas, Washington is such a wonderful addition to the local community. And the swoon-worthy name is perfection.  Would a flower farm by any other name smell so sweet? I think not!

The story starts several years ago when one of our favorite neighbors asked me to sell her farm house on five-acres. It was a bittersweet sale. Our family hated to see her go, but we were happy for the new adventures waiting on her horizon.

However, a big question hung in the air. Who will move in, and will we be compatible? Turns out, the answer is a big and enthusiastic, yes! They are the perfect people to have living on nearby acreage. Bonus, our two white Golden Retrievers love to keep tabs on their rescue dog, Mouse, through the fences of our two parcels.

Since we are nature-lovers at heart, you’ll find no toxic chemicals used for gardening at our rural home. We think anything called Round-up is best found at the annual cowboy gathering in Pendleton, not in a potion that can impact the health of our pollinators.

Therefore, we were thrilled to discover Mooncake Flower Farm in Camas, Washington is committed to healthy, organic farming practices. Specifically, they prioritize soil health and water conservation. What a treat to have responsible stewards of the earth growing flowers next-door. Imagine we can learn a thing or two from them.

Right now, you can support their endeavors while brightening your home with artfully-arranged, weekly floral bouquets. Their CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program offers several different schedule options and two price points, $100 for 4 weeks, or $200 for 8 weeks.  It’s easy to sign up at Mooncake Flower Farm’s website.

The couple behind the vision of Mooncake Flower Farm hail from the east coast. Since it’s best to get the scoop directly from the source. You can read more about Annie and Stephen, their farming philosophy, and the origin of their farm’s name, at their website Mooncake Flower Farm.

Driving up our road, it’s fun to catch glimpses of the rows of colorful flowers swaying in the breeze. The sight always brings me smiles. To quote Ralph Waldo Emerson, “Earth laughs in flowers.” My family is indeed grateful to have Mooncake Flower Farm in Camas, WA as our next-door neighbor.

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Flourless Zucchini Muffins have passed the test at our house – everybody loves them, even those family members without a gluten sensitivity. 

There is everything to love about these healthy, and tasty little delights that can be easily mixed up in a blender. Easy, quick, and delicious, my kind of recipe. Although, husband Bernie made the first couple of batches of Flourless Zucchini Muffins. He loves to cook, it must be his Italian heritage. Yes, it’s true, I’m a lucky woman.

We leave the skin on, which adds an odd, greenish ( The Incredible Hulk) hue to ours.  You could easily remove the green if you peeled the skin. Although, we don’t mind. The skin has added fiber and nutrition. Each one cup serving of raw zucchini provides 37 percent of the recommended daily dose of vitamin C. Your kids and grandkids won’t even know they’re eating healthy food.  Hint-add mini chocolate chips and kids will really go for them.

The secret to creating Flourless Zucchini Muffins is grinding up the rolled oats. If you’re extremely gluten sensitive, such as celiac, be sure to use oats labeled as gluten-free; oats are often cross contaminated with wheat and barley. We like to use gluten-free oats from Bob’s Red Mill. It’s so fortunate to have this company as a local resource.

Okay, okay, enough about ingredients and nutrition, let’s get to the recipe for Flourless Zucchini Muffins.

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups rolled oats 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 medium zucchini, shredded (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 large eggs
  •  cup packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup mini chocolate chips (Optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 24-cup mini muffin tin with cooking spray.

  2. Pulse oats in a blender until finely ground. Add baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt; pulse once or twice to blend. Add zucchini, eggs, brown sugar, oil and vanilla; puree until smooth. (The batter will be wet.) Stir in chocolate chips, if using. Fill the prepared muffin cups.

  3. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 15 to 17 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then turn out to cool completely.

We put any leftover Flourless Zucchini muffins in a ziplock bag, and store them in the freezer. They are great warmed up in the microwave with a tiny bit of butter. Super yummy with a cup of coffee. My 96-year old mother, who lives with us, loves them anytime of the day. It’s always good to sneak in added nutrition for seniors too.

Next time you’re wondering what to do with the non-stop bounty of zucchini squash, I hope you’ll remember this quick and easy recipe. And, be sure to let me know what you think. 

And, be sure to subscribe to my blog, “News and Views,” and newsletter.

Once Upon a Fairytale Pumpkin

Fairytale Pumpkins 

We love autumn with all its colors and magical transitions. Once, on a hunt for the perfect jack-o-lantern, we stumbled upon a bin filled with beautiful and mysterious looking pumpkins.

These are not your typical pumpkins – they range in color from dark green to a gorgeous deep mahogany. They conjure up images of a fanciful gourd straight from the pages of a fairy tale. In fact, they are called “Fairytale” pumpkins.

Squat in shape and deeply ribbed, they appeal to the possibilities of imagination. Perhaps this kind of pumpkin carried Cinderella to the ball?

Fairytale Pumpkins Are a Favorite With Chefs

Fairytale pumpkins are an old heirloom variety native to France. Its French name is “Musquée de Provence” – its nickname comes from its fanciful appearance. They not only present many possibility for whimsical decorations, they are a favorite with chefs. The meat is fine grained and well-suited for soups and pies. It’s described as the most flavorful pumpkin you can find.

Tuesday, October 26 is National Pumpkin Day.  Maybe that day you, too, will discover the spectacular beauty of a fairytale pumpkin. However, be quick – fairy godmothers might find them irresistible and get to them first!

Looking for a place to find the perfect pumpkin?  Here are some pumpkin patches in Clark County – some also offer hay rides and corn mazes.  Call for  hours of operation and COVID restrictions:

Walton Farms, 1617 NE 267th Ave, Camas, WA 98607 (360) 834-2810 

Vancouver Pumpkin Patch, 18905 NE 83rd St, Vancouver, WA 98682 (360) 892–0434

Bi-Zi Farms,  9504 NE 119th St, Vancouver, WA 98662 (360) 574-9119

Ollmann Farms, 22706 NE 37th Ave, Ridgefield, WA 98642 (360) 887-4000

Pomeroy Farm, 20902 NE Lucia Falls Rd, Yacolt, WA (360) 686-3537

Looking for the perfect home where that Fairytale pumpkin can live Happily Ever After?  Let’s explore your options.

Filed under: Nature | Organic Gardening

Fruit trees in bloom

Rural life has great benefits – clean air, beautiful views, and elbow room for the soul. But it also has its share of hazards: Lions (Mountain), and Tigers (Lillies – toxic to pets) and Pears! (Well, pears are not exactly hazardous, but they can lead to frustration and disappointment.) Here’s the full story:

Earlier this year, we posted a video explaining how to prune fruit trees for better production. After that demo, spring brought excellent results – full, bright blossoms that promised a bounty of apples and pears.

I continued to prune unwanted suckers, spray with organic oil, and generally ensure there were no bugs.  I also took the additional precaution of placing mesh bags over the fruit as it started to form – this was mostly to ward off the large wasps that showed up last year at the end of the season.

As the season continued with exceptional weather the trees produced large clusters of fruit that grew and started to ripen.  (Unfortunately, I did not take a photo, so you’ll just have to trust me on this.)  I was extremely excited that we would have an exceptional variety of fresh, organic fruit this year. I even started researching different recipes for preserving them.

Then that fateful morning, I walked out to the trees and poof!!

Fruit trees in bloom

Every single fruit was gone!!

To add insult to injury, the nasty marauders left chewed-up bags – the very bags designed to protect the fruit!!

Protective Fruit Bags

AAARRGGHH!  So there I was, like Yosemite Sam, stomping around, shaking my fists, mumbling pseudo-curses “racken fracken, ya dirty varmint, why I’m gonna getcha.” And so forth…

Lesson: When Living With Nature, Don’t Make An All-You-Can-Eat Buffet for Wildlife

After continuing in that vein, mumbling to myself for quite a while, I eventually settled down. It dawned on me the raiders were the family of deer we often see on the property. And who could blame them? I had carefully prepared an all-you-can-eat buffet, then graciously presented it in an easy-to-reach, help-yourself arrangement.  I should know better. When living with wildlife, you have to anticipate such things, and I had (naively) assumed that the small fences I had were sufficient. The lesson is: never leave anything to chance.  So, what can I do to prevent this from happening next year?

I immediately set out searching the internet for the best solution. And I was a little shocked at the vast range of options – from dangling soap and hanging noise makers to wolf urine and commercial repellent to (Gasp!) hunting! Yes, one web site actually suggested shooting them for game. But we’re more gatherers than hunters. So after rejecting the options, including repellents (they small like rotten meat) I settled on Occam’s Razor – “the simplest solution is usually the best” – a taller fence. Doh! I already had fences – just add to them!

I guess we’ll see how that works next year.  In the meantime, Debb reminds me that the deer are a gift from our “nature as neighbors” surroundings. And if I’m really craving a pear, there are plenty of them at our local Farmers Markets.

Want to learn more about how NOT to grow organic fruit to feed wildlife? Just Ask!

Filed under: Camas | Nature | News | Organic Gardening

Pruning Fruit Trees in Clark County, Washington

 

Spring is almost here and, if you live in the country, you might be thinking about pruning those fruit trees in your yard. Growing fruit trees is not a passive activity – especially on rural property where you often find lots of them. They actually require year-round attention for optimum health and better fruit production. 

Obvious chores include watering and fertilizing during spring and summer. But trees also require attention during the winter, even though they are mostly dormant for that season.  In fact, late winter is the ideal time for pruning and spraying – hence the term “dormant” oil for the type of spray used.

Pruning May Seem Counterintuitive

Cutting off branches from a healthy tree might seem counterintuitive. But careful pruning removes unproductive branches and shapes the tree to produce healthier fruit. After pruning, we spray a light mineral oil that is compatible with organic gardening – no fungicide or herbicide.  The oil coats the branches and seals it from mites and other bugs that might show up during the spring bloom. 

For ideal conditions, trees should be dry with no foreseeable precipitation for at least 24 hours. Likewise, ideal temps should be close to freezing.  Although in some areas, you may be able to prune as late as April as long as the trees have not sprouted leaf buds.

This past winter was a real challenge because it was so wet. Our continuous days of snow and freezing rain made it nearly impossible to get out and take care of the trees.  Finally, with dry weather and temperatures still below 40, we found a perfect day in March. 

Shaping The Tree For Better Fruit

While pruning is not that hard with the right tools, it helps to know what you want to accomplish with the trimming. A fruit tree continues to grow throughout the year, producing new shoots from its limbs.  Unless these shoots have fruit buds, they need to be pruned off. Otherwise, they divert nourishment from the branches that have fruit. Pruning helps direct the nutrients from the tree trunk to branches with fruit.

Likewise, the shape of the tree can determine how productive and healthy the harvest will be.  There are several schools of thought about this, but we prefer to prune the center lead (trunk) out. This helps the outer branches spread out and grow into an umbrella shape. The open center allows more air circulation and sunlight into the remaining branches, which helps blooming. This approach also makes it easier to harvest – as the outer branches bear fruit, they tend to bend down, making it easier to reach.  Proper pruning can help shape a tree into ideal production.

Sometimes Major Pruning is Necessary

You will often see a mature fruit trees laden with fruit at the very top branches. This makes the fruit nearly inaccessible when the tree hasn’t been pruned regularly.  We had a few mature trees on our property when we moved in four years ago.  They were overgrown with misshapen branches that criss-crossed inside the canopy. This not only creates a tangled mess, it also invites bugs and disease.  And, of course, the harvest was lacking.

So, two winters ago, we did a dramatic pruning that cut back many of the thick, older branches, and opened up the centers.  It is a scary proposition and, again, counterintuitive because it looks like the tree will die from all that major surgery.  Plus, trees often appear to “suffer” because they will skip a year in production as they recover.  However, after a major pruning, trees usually bounce back, and are healthier for it.

Proper Pruning Fruit Trees

And that was the case with our trees – there were no apples last summer. But spring weather has brought tons of flowering fruit buds, and the trees are thriving.  Plus, this summer, as the lower branches fill out, the fruit will be a lot easier to reach. Next winter, we will able to return to light pruning.

So don’t be afraid to trim your trees after you’ve determined how you want them to look. Regular pruning and dormant spray will keep them healthy and producing for years.

If you’d like to hear more about life in the country, with Nature as Neighbors, write or give us a call.

ry Dayery 5 Easy Things You Can Do for Earth Day 2019 - Protect The Bees

Earth Day – Protect Our Species

There are 5 easy things you can do for Earth Day. While it may seem that climate change and saving the planet are overwhelming, you can contribute in a small but meaningful way.

The theme this year is “Protecting our Species.” This means protecting humans, too, but it starts with examining our own behavior.  Nature as Neighbors has long been a supporter of protecting the environment and creatures that are affected by us.

A crucial component of natural plant and tree cultivation is pollination – fertilization spread by bees, butterflies, even hummingbirds.  Today, we are finding this is more important than ever, so we are sending out seed packets to help in this cause.  Let us know if you’d like a free sample.

A few years back, we set up a “Bee and Bee” and immediately started seeing the mason bee pollinators emerge. Even after harsh winters, they return every spring. And they are here again! Bees are true survivors when they have our support.

There are many variations of honey and bumblebees out there to see. Our biggest concern is they may be threatened due to overuse of pesticides and destruction of their natural habitat.

Here are 5 Easy Things You Can Do for Earth Day to help preserve bees in your environment:

  1. Reduce or eliminate pesticides used on foraging plants
  2. Plant a bee-friendly pollinator garden in your yard
  3. Register your area with S.H.A.R.E.
    (Simply Have Areas Reserved for the Environment)
  4. Check out the many bee-friendly devices you can hang in your yard
  5. Support your local beekeeper – buy local organic honey

Also, check out this Illustrated Guide To a Pollinator-Friendly Garden by another bee-friendly author Chris McLaughlin.

Also, check out this article about How the Internet is Helping to Save the Bees.

If you’d like to learn more about our Save The Bees campaign, give us a call.  We’d love to hear what you’re doing to help preserve our little earth-friendly friends.