Monthly Archives: January 2014

This is Not Real Drought

I want to take a serious turn today. I saw an article on a news site a few weeks ago about a real water crisis and it gave me pause.

On this blog, I write about how you can have a beautiful garden by using less water. I do it mostly because I have to; we’re still in a serious drought in the Southwest and our property is on a well, so it’s not like we can access an unlimited supply. I also believe it’s the right thing to do. But my little efforts and musings are nothing, and I mean nothing at all, compared to the crisis faced by people around the world.

The article on CNN by Ian McKenna described the work Matt Damon does with Water.org, an organization he co-founded with Gary White in 2009. According to Damon, the nonprofit organization helps provide affordable access not only to safe water, but to sanitation, through projects like microfinance loans. It seems there’s a black market for water in some areas. And I fret when my rain barrel fills and I miss some. I just don’t have a real problem. I don’t have to walk very far to collect water from my faucets; it comes into several rooms in my home. We even have a few faucets outside. What would it be like to spend three hours a day just collecting water for your family? Or to have no sanitation in your local village?

Gardening, well, that would be the last thing on your mind. But so this doesn’t end on a downer, the CNN article talked about one small success from a microfinanced loan, and how an African woman was paying 40 rupees a day for her family’s access to a public toilet.  With a loan she was able to connect to a utility and add a faucet and toilet in her home. The 40 rupees a month went to paying off the loan, which took two years. She now saves that money each month and has access to water and sanitation in her home.

Making the Most of Native Roses

Our rock garden has a few native roses. We decided to try harvesting some rose hips this fall to see what we could do with them. The rose hip is the fruit left behind after a rose has faded, and one of these bushes was perfect for harvesting the fruit. We could tell because several critters had already been around the bush doing the same.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a good photo of the bush in bloom, and it was a little unruly when we moved in, having not been pruned the previous year while the place was on the market. I gave it a little haircut, but didn’t want to do too much too late in the season. It will get a deeper prune this year!

roses

Here’s a shot of the rose section of the garden. Looking past the weeds, see a new grandiflora a friend gave us (pink blooms) in the foreground and a really prickly native rose to the left. A bushy native rose sits in the middle; it didn’t bloom much, but we think it is pale yellow. Our rose hip plant, which produced pretty pink blooms and tons of fruit, is right of center and back.

Rose hips pack a punch of vitamin C, so we didn’t want them to go to waste. We read up on when to harvest (about a week after the first frost) and waited until a nice day. It ended up taking us a few nice days, a few buckets and a step stool. We never got them all, but as you’ll see later, we have more than we could ever use.

rose hips

A bunch of picked hips, well one tiny bunch, not the entire bunch. From what we read, they should be deep red and just starting to wrinkle or dry a bit. They seemed a little soft and resistant to harvesting the first time we tried, so we waited a week or so and tried again.

First up, jelly. Because it’s sweet, that’s why. We had to pick through and clean off the hips. We found a recipe online and after some trial and error, managed to get enough good liquid out of our boiled hips. They were so pretty and smelled really good while boiling.

boiling rose hips

Pot of boiled rose hips for making jelly. Maybe it was the altitude, but we had to run ours through the fabric again to get enough good syrup for our jelly.

The good news is that the jelly set and we like the taste. We’ve given a few jars away and kept the rest for us. It’s a little tart, but otherwise good. And I love the color. Somehow, I feel less guilty eating buttered toast when I spread the rose hip jelly on it.

rose hip jelly 022

Rose hip jelly. We put up five jars this fall, keeping the extras in the garage (cool) in a small cardboard box (for darkness).

The next attempt was tea. I thought the tea would be a healthy, caffeine-free drink for winter afternoons and evenings. I have not had as much luck with the tea, however. Most recipes say to boil berries for 15 minutes and then crush, steep and strain the contents. Or, you can crush the berries in a food processor and steep them in a tea sock (making sure not to let seeds or hairs from the hips through). But I’ve found that even after steeping for 10 minutes, the tea has little flavor. And after too much time, tea is no longer hot! I’m trying to figure out if I’m doing it wrong (so likely…) or if some of the berries were old, hanging out on the bush since last year.

dried_hips_tea

Drying the hips was easy here, where humidity is…what’s humidity? We laid the first batch on an old window screen over a box, but then just spread them out in an old cardboard box. I keep my processed barriers in a small sealed container and some clean berries in a plastic bag.

I’ll keep experimenting with the tea, maybe adding more crushed berries next time. We’ve got plenty left to use, so many in fact, that when I needed a quick arrangement around the holidays…why not? I threw some of the rose hips into a hurricane vase with some decorative rocks, and it’s still out on a small table in our sun room.

Rose hip art, at least in the eye of this beholder. Rose hips make a great natural craft item when not providing vitamin C in the form of jelly, tea or syrup.

Rose hip art, at least in the eye of this beholder. Rose hips make a great natural craft item when not providing vitamin C in the form of jelly, tea or syrup.

With some good late winter pruning, I hope to improve the yield on both native roses and we’ll see how we do with next year’s crop. In the meantime, I’ll enjoy the flowers, which appear with no  supplemental watering.