the beginning of citrus season

We’re super excited that we’re now being able to enjoy some of our first citrus of the season! We have a number of varieties of citrus, and the ones that are ready for harvest now are the Page mandarins and the Kishu mandarins. True went out into our garden and picked a big basket full of them. The basket is from here; it’s perfect for fruit picking in our garden (it gets many uses as seen here and in this video). The Page have a balance of tart/sweet, are the size of a small orange, and the skin holds uncharacteristically tight to the flesh (might be better for juicing). The Kishus, on the other hand, are sweet, are about the size of a golf ball (on average), and have the characteristic, loose, “zipper” skin. Citrus season is… the most wonderful time of the year!


there’s a six foot tree in our car

We’ve done some funny maneuvering to get trees to fit in our car with the four kids. But when you only have two kids in the car, you go for an even bigger tree than ever before, and that tree ends up in everyone’s business. On our way home from our mini vacation this weekend, Ben stopped by Exotica Rare Fruit Nursery to pick up a few trees, and this large pineapple guava one ended up coming home with us too.

Soul said, “I don’t like this tree because it’s in my face.” LOL

We are at 70+ fruit trees in our backyard, and we just got approved for the water-wise rebate for our front yard (to remove all the grass and put drought tolerant plants), so we will be planting lots of drought tolerant fruit trees there too. There’s always some gardening adventure going on over here.


homegrown nectarines

These are our first homegrown white nectarines. They’re a variety called Arctic Star. We have a tiny sampling of plums, peaches, and nectarines coming in. This batch was mildly sweet, but the first fruits aren’t usually expected to have that wow factor. We’re hoping that as the tree continues to mature, our enjoyment will elevate, as it produces the low acid, super sweet flavors that are to be expected with this variety .

Some of our plums on the other hand… oh they taste like candy. I’ll be sure to share those with you too (if I’m able to contain myself and snap a picture before I eat them).


citrus tasting

Hello again, it’s Ben here to share about the citrus tasting we went to back in December (Ruby’s been asking me to write about it, but I’m not as fast as her in this blogging thing).

I fell in love with fruit trees a few years ago. While the trees we have are at a season of infancy (the majority aren’t bearing any fruit), my favorite type, at this point, is citrus. Why citrus? The range of flavors might be enough of a reason (sweet, subacid blends), and the invigorating smell of the oils being released during peeling helps support that decision. But what pushes me over the edge has to do with the season they’re usually ripe…the winter. In the gloom and cold of winter, outdoor vegetation lacks life, hibernating until the warmer months. Then citrus trees come in at winter’s peak, adorned with their evergreen bed of leaves that provide the vigorous backdrop for their decorative, spherical symbols of life in warm colors that are only matched by the spectrum provided by sunrises and sunsets. My reasoning extends beyond the taste of citrus…it’s about the whole experience.

Speaking of experience, I’ve been wanting to attend the annual citrus taste test through the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center in central CA for some time, but it’s always in December, which is typically a busy month for most (Christmas, cold season, etc.). Add all the birthdays in our family and all the time is used up. At the last minute, I’m thankful we were able to make the trip up this year!

We were able to taste HUNDREDS of varieties of citrus that Saturday morning; our mouths were drunk on the zesty flavor of citrus! As you can imagine, it was a memorable way to celebrate my birthday!



our citrus garden

We were finally able to plant our first citrus trees in May of 2014. Most of them came from 5 gallon containers, so this past winter was our first time getting to try their fruit! The experience was a little anti-climactic though, as many varieties served exclusively as eye-candy, as opposed to fruit-candy. It’s my understanding that ho-hum fruit can be characteristic of trees bearing their first crops. Thankfully, some did provide the desirable eye-/fruit-candy hybrid: tango mandarins, wekiwa tangelolos, cocktail grapefruit, and meiwa kumquats all exceeded our high expectations!

In total, we have 19 different varieties of citrus. However, a few are doubled up (and, yes, some even tripled), so that brings our citrus tree total to 27.

Most of the trees are in the ground (in raised beds because of our poorly draining soil), but a few are in clay and zinc containers. The in-ground citrus are being trellised in three different ways. The first way, an arbor (or arch), is seen in the photos. The second way we’re growing the in-ground citrus is referred to as an espalier (not seen because there’s nothing really to see now); it will be shaped into something that resembles a traditional fence, known as a horizontal cordon. The third way is a screen that will serve as a natural privacy fence.



our front courtyard

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Ben’s in charge of all things yard/garden related, but I get this tiny front porch-courtyard to tend to. We don’t hang out here much due in part to our neighbor’s over-watered yard; his two-a-day waterings lead to more of a swamp than a lawn. The health of the two trees we have on that side has been negatively affected due to the excessive water. And while we don’t care much for the trees, Ben has still tried to mention something to him (they are very nice neighbors). However, the message wasn’t received because it’s still quite swampy.

Besides the downside of over-watering with a drought going on in California, it has also led to a lot of mosquitoes from the sitting water (note the mosquito net curtain we use on the door to try to keep mosquitoes and flies out of the house). Hence, we don’t hang out in the front porch because the mosquitoes really love our California blood (when the girls and I go to Texas in the summer, oh how attracted they are to us!).

Every Saturday morning, I get up at 5am to go out to the courtyard water my plants before the bugs wake up (and for some reason I love waking up at 5am on Saturdays). Then, I never go back to this area until the following Saturday. Ironically, this courtyard is one of the reasons we bought the house (and I loved the big windows behind it), but it’s not such a pleasant place to hang out.

We’ve tried a variety of methods to keep the mosquitoes away, but none of them have helped too much (anyone have any tips?), so decided to give Ortho Bug B Gon a try. It says that it starts killing mosquitoes in minutes and is backed by a money-back guarantee, therefore what did we have to lose? Ben’s the fly killer in our house, thus I let him be the one to deliver the mosquito massacre.

Side story, Ben loves killing flies. He can even catch them in mid-air! We live near a lot of dairy farms, so we have lots of flies too. When Ben goes in fly killing mode, I call him the “fly killer,” and I sing (sung to Dave Matthew’s Band “Grave Digger”), “He’s the fly killer, he’ll dig your grave, he’ll make it shallow, so you can feel the rain.” Ben’s mom would tell us stories of when he was about 5 years old, he would disappear into the garage and then go back into the house to the backyard. He would do that back and forth, and it was obvious he was hiding something in his hands. Ben’s mom finally asked him to stop, open up his hands, and then a lot of flies flew out! Yuck! Told you, he’s got some talent catching flies.

I’m feeling more optimistic that the mosquitoes will B GON, so I picked up more plants to spruce up the area. Ben simply sprayed it it on the walls around the porch and he was done in about 10 minutes. It was a quick process. I’m hoping the bugs stay away and it’ll be such a pretty spot that we will want to sit out here and enjoy the space. I re-potted some plants, added new ones, cleaned up the area, and put some pillows on a couple chairs. Ben even created a trellis for my pink jasmine to grow on (will share that DIY soon), so I have plans to be intentional to sit in our courtyard, with a glass of wine in hand, and watch the kids play in the front yard.



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