Summer Around the Old Homestead

The Back Forty

In my fantasy life, I live on five acres with chickens and honeybees and a lamb or two, and an enormous garden that feeds me all year.  In my real life, I do what I can.  Since we just passed the solstice, I thought I’d post a round-up of the summer homestead news from here in the flatlands of Oakland.

After a long, wet winter and cold, wet spring, the plum report is a little bit mournful this year.  The fruit is small and slow to ripen, and we’ve got a little brown rot eating up some of the fruit.  That stuff can devour a full-sized plum in an afternoon.  Still, most of the crop is surely ripening, and I’ve already eaten a few.   They smell like perfume and taste like nectar, and I’ve never found a better plum anywhere. We’re warming up the jam-pots to get ready for harvest, which should start rolling in next week.

This morning, I found a ripe plum on the ground that must have fallen in the night, but some little critter had already chowed down.  I suspect the neighborhood possum, who’s also been known to sneak through the cat door to nab a snack of kibble.  It might also have the local raccoon, who’s been marauding around here for years.

Santa Rosas

The dwarf apple tree is a patient soul, letting the plum tree get all the summer glory while quietly growing its little fujis over by the fence.  Come November, when the plum branches are bare, we’ll be plucking afternoon apples from this little friend.

We call this part of Oakland the banana belt, a microclimate that usually brings enough summer heat for growing tomatoes.   This year, things are a little dicey.  So the tomato plants are cranking out plenty of foliage and not much fruit, almost like they’re trying to weave their own jackets to stay warm.  I’m betting on a late hot spell, so we should have tomatoes eventually.  Between the five varieties of heirlooms, two kinds of romas, and four kinds of green beans, there’s not enough room left for much of anything else, though I’ve got lettuces going in pots and barrels, and our herb pots never say die.   The homestead’s so crowded this summer that the Berkeley Tie-Dye tomato had to go in a barrel out front of the farmhouse.

Crop Overflow Acreage

It’s a grand season for neighboring.  I’ve been out every morning getting the local farm news, and am happy to report that here’s a whole lot of clucking going on behind back yard fences, and a new community garden springing up down the block.  Next week, I’ll bring you the news from around and about.  Until then, happy homesteading.


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15 Responses to “Summer Around the Old Homestead”

  1. Tracy Seeley Says:

    Thanks for checking in, Bonnie. Honestly, farming on this little postage stamp isn’t very hard, though I still have a lot to learn. I gardened in Texas when I lived there–whole different seasonal story! I do wish for enough heat sometimes to grow peppers, but am happy enough with my year-round growing season. It means we have salad even in December. I’ll check out your sites–thanks.

  2. Martha Says:

    Hey, Tracy – have you read Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” yet? I may have already asked you this… xoxox mp

  3. Lois Says:

    You are inspiring. We just are beginning our process. Basil and other herbs first and we will take it from there. The people at the two organic nurseries are my new best friends!

  4. DeAnna Says:

    Hmm…does this mean you are back already? Lets actually get together and make some jam this year?! The photos are LOVELY 🙂

  5. david silver Says:

    rock on!

    the plums you gave us this weekend were the best damn plums we’ve had all year. siena had a nibble and then attempted to wolf down the whole thing in one bite. delicious. thank you.

    • Tracy Seeley Says:

      You’re most welcome! That Siena knows a fabulous plum when she sees one. You’re welcome to come pick-yer-own. I’d say mid-next-week should be optimal–just give a call.

  6. Anna Kingsley Says:

    Those plums are still the best thing growing on this block. I told the girls you said they could pick some this weekend and they got this crazy look in their eyes, Julia even did a little happy dance!

    • Tracy Seeley Says:

      Woo Hoo! Come and get them–PLEASE. They’re raining down out of the tree, and I’ve made everything plum thing I can think of. Jam’s cooling as I write this. I also have a bowl of broken ones if you want them to make jam with the girls. I hate to complain about abundance. But really. Can’t they come a few at a time, instead of all within a 12-hour period?

  7. Out walking the dog Says:

    Your very own plum tree – how lovely. And the sound of clucking? Fantatsic. Your garden looks amazing. Here in NYC, we have tomatoes ripening on the roof near the building’s small communal herb garden. I don’t garden myself; I just admire and reap the benefits whenever I can.

  8. Trinity Baptist Church Says:

    Just tuned into your blog thanks to Newsweek’s reporting on slow reading. Great writing here; thanks for sharing.

    You’re in Oakland? I heard an interview of an author who lives in Oakland and runs a mini-farm in her backyard–Book is Farmcity by Novella Carpenter. She is living your dream, bees and all.



    • Tracy Seeley Says:

      Hi Joe, Thanks for this–there are actually LOTS of homesteaders in Oakland. It’s a great community–including Novella, whose book I love and whom I’ve had the pleasure to meet. She lives not too far from me. If I had an empty lot next to me like she does, believe me, I’d be living the dream, too. Bees and all.

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