Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What's at the Fruit Stand

At the fruit stand we now have:

  • Fresh Persimmons--Hachiya , gyombo and Fuyu, (all soft)
  • Dried Persimmons (Hoshigaki)--strips only
  • Oranges--Nodahara's Navel variety, (very large)
  • Lemons--Meyer
  • Apples--Koyama's Granny Smith
  • Kiwi
  • Vegetables--Jerusalem artichoke
  • Gourds--for decorations and crafting
  • Honey--from bees at our orchard
Above is a photo with a view from the end of the trees at the orchard, showing the new irrigation lines that we are in the process of installing.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Chickens in the Orchard & Garden

At the orchard we have chickens that live in a movable dome that Toshio built. The dome is about 12 3/4 feet in diameter and made of PVC pipe and chicken wire. The roost is a lashed bamboo grid suspended from the top of the dome. The design comes from the book, "The Permaculture Home Garden", by Linda Woodrow.

We move the chicken dome every two weeks to a new spot. The floor is open, without wire, so the chickens help out the orchard by eating weeds, insects, and surplus fruit and vegetables, and by fertilizing the ground. Right now the chicken dome is in my garden, where the chickens are eating up weeds and insects and fertilizing the soil for the spring.

Last year I had the chickens stationed in the area that I later used to plant tomatoes. They left the soil loose and free of everything but the biggest weeds, and I didn't need to have the area tilled. After we moved the dome to the next spot I put down hay as mulch to keep down weeds until it was time to plant. I made beds by just pulling back the hay and hoeing in compost. Last year's tomatoes seemed to grow really well, so I hope to have time to station the dome in the areas for tomatoes, summer squash and cucumbers. The chickens need to be out of the area 120 days before ground crop harvest and 90 days before the harvest of vine crops.

We started out with 13 chickens, but now we have only 9, including the rooster. If we want to have more eggs to eat and sell, we'll have to buy a few more chickens that are younger. Ours are now about 4 years old and don't lay eggs very frequently.

Monday, January 12, 2009

What's at the Fruit Stand?

If you come to the fruit stand, you'll find:

  • Fresh Persimmons--Hachiya , gyombo and Fuyu, (all soft)
  • Kiwi
  • Lemons--Meyer (picked this week for the first time this week)
  • Apples--Koyama's Granny Smith
  • Mandarins--satsuma (only a small supply left)
  • Quince--the last of the season
  • Vegetables--Jerusalem artichoke
  • Gourds--for decorations and crafting
  • Honey--from bees at our orchard

Above is a photo of a persimmon tree at the orchard.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Rafu Shimpo Article Correction

We wanted to correct a bit of misinformation that some of you may have read in the Rafu Shimpo, a Japanese language newspaper based in Los Angeles. In a Dec. 9th article sent to us recently, columnist George Yoshinaga wrote about hoshigaki and Otow Orchard. While we appreciate that Mr. Yoshinaga took the time to write about hoshigaki production at our orchard, we want to make sure that he and his readers have the right information. We wrote an email to him personally, but thought it would be a good idea to also post some corrections here.

Although Mr. Yoshinaga's point was to stress the amount of time and effort required to dry persimmons, some of his information was not accurate. We actually devote about 4 months a year to the process (rather than 6 weeks), since drying takes between 4 and 8 weeks from beginning to end.

Mr. Yoshinaga wrote in his column, "I was not aware that it took a lot of delicate work to produce dried persimmons. First, there is the hand-peeling, followed by hand-massaging the fruit over five days to bring the natural sugar to the surface". Actually, depending on the weather and the ripeness of the fruit, persimmons take a minumum of 4 weeks to dry with hand-massaging every 3-4 days. After peeling and hanging, the massaging that they get every few days does help to bring the persimmon's natural sugar to the surface, but the first sugar crystals are not usually visible for a few weeks. At the end of the drying process, some of the persimmon's natural sugar crystals have become a dusting of powdery fructose on its surface.

Towards the end of the season, when the persimmons are riper and the weather is more damp and cool, the drying process can take 8 weeks. This year we have found that most of the hoshigaki that we began drying from November on has taken close to 8 weeks to finish. All of this accounts for the reason we have to charge upwards of $35 to $40 a pound for hoshigaki, instead of the $12-$25 price that was mentioned in the article.

Above is a photo of Obaachan (Helen Otow) this Fall, massaging persimmons where they first hang outside on the wall in the sun.

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