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Wayward Spark

Hand Pollinating Peach Trees (With Dog Hair)

 peach blossoms 

Henry pokes his head in the cabin door and asks, “Do we have a paintbrush?” 

I look around and quickly wrack my brain, “No. What do you want one for?”

“I need to pollinate my peaches. Do we have anything kind of like a paintbrush? Maybe something hairy?”

I look down at the heeler dog napping at my feet. This is the time of year when her soft undercoat starts to shed in clumps. I pluck one such clump from her rear end and hold it up. “Will this work?”

“Perfect!” he says.

dog hair on blossoms 

We have five young peach and nectarine trees growing in our greenhouse. Henry planted them under cover because Oregon’s climate is pretty marginal for peaches. Growers here only get a good crop about every third year. In the greenhouse, they will bear every year, though Henry will have to prune them back heavily to keep them from getting too big. 

The peach and nectarine trees are in full bloom right now, about a month ahead of a normal outdoor flowering schedule. Peaches are ideally pollinated by insects who smear pollen around the female flower bits as they buzz in and out of the flowers in their search for nectar and protein-rich pollen. The weather in early March or even early April in Oregon is often cool enough to keep insects grounded, sometimes leaving fruit tree flowers untouched.

Even if the weather were nice now, our wealth of honeybees doesn’t necessarily benefit the things Henry grows in the greenhouse. Honeybees will enter the greenhouse if the doors are open in warmer weather, but they have a hard time orienting under cover, so they often get trapped inside and eventually die.

 henry pollinating 

blossoms 

One remedy that’s really only feasible on a small scale is pollinating by hand. Hand pollinating is generally done with a paintbrush, but in this case, a clump of dog hair was a decent substitute. Henry simply went along swiping each flower with the “brush,”  accumulating pollen and redistributing it around the tree. This was not a precise operation, but it will greatly increase our chances of a good peach yield come July. 

 dog hair 

Above is the “before” shot of the dog hair “brush”… and below the “after”. It’s pretty surprising how much pollen one tree can produce. 

 dog hair with pollen 

 pretty 

Henry is glad to have one more little random chore crossed off his to-do list. 

 more pollinating 

Cheddar Crêpe Packets

 cheddar crepe packets 

We’re having a lazy snow day at home. It’s just me and the kids hunkered down indoors while the storm outside dumps large quantities of wet, slushy snow/hail/rain. It’s not nice weather. BUT I did make crêpes, and boy, do I love crêpes. I like crêpes plain, with jam or honey, or rolled up with savory filling. 

Today’s crêpe-based brunch was inspired by a recent recipe for egg sandwiches that Deb of Smitten Kitchen posted over on A CUP OF JO. When I read the recipe, I got the urge to make an egg sandwich right then and there, but I didn’t have any bread (let alone english muffins) in the house. In the post, Deb talks about cooking a beaten egg in a “crêpe-like” fashion several times, which gave me the idea to skip the bread and melt the cheese straight into a crêpe. I tried it, and it may be my favorite way to eat crêpes yet discovered.

crepe cooking 

My crêpe recipe was handed down to me from my mom who got it from her mom. It’s written on the back of a well-stained envelope. I’m sure it’s basically the same as any standard crêpe recipe, but importantly for me, it does not require the use of any electric kitchen appliances. This recipe works with both sweet or savory filling.

As much as I love crêpes, I’m not a crêpe elitist. My crêpes aren’t perfectly shaped or microscopically thin. I really could care less about any of that because I think what matters most is taste, and these crêpes taste good. I usually make a double batch of these to feed myself and two hungry kids.

 (I just googled “How to make crêpes” and found these tips from The Kitchn. I don’t actually follow any of these besides flipping with my fingers, but if you’re new to crêpes, you might try their method/recipe.) 

brown crepes 

 

Basic Crêpes 

2 good eggs
3/4 cup white flour
1 cup milk
pinch of salt

In a medium-large bowl, whisk the eggs. Gradually whisk in the flour. The batter will get very thick and sticky. Slowly whisk in the milk until the batter is smooth again. Whisk in the salt.

Pour the batter into a measuring cup or other vessel with a pouring spout. Heat two pans on medium. (I use cast iron because that’s what I have, but you’d probably be better off with something lighter weight like a basic sauté pan.) Melt a generous amount of butter to coat the bottom of each pan. Pour a small amount of batter into a pan, and tilt and shake the pan to spread the batter out evenly. Add a little more batter if needed to cover any significant holes.

Cook on one side for about two minutes. Pinch one edge with your fingers and lift and flip the crêpe as deftly as possible. Cook on the other side for about 30 seconds.

 cheddar on crepe 

 To make cheesy crêpe packets, place a slice of cheese in the middle of the crêpe just after you flip it. You could probably use any kind of cheese, but I’m a cheddar girl, so I use Tillamook Special Reserve Extra Sharp. When it starts to melt, fold in the four edges like an envelope. (See Deb’s egg sandwich tutorial for instructive folding photos.) Let it sit in the pan for another minute or so while the cheese melts fully. 

salad and crepe packet 

 The whole process start to finish takes maybe a half hour, but it feels totally gourmet. Cheesy crêpes are a pretty rich and filling food, so I ate mine with a big pile of homegrown salad greens to balance things out a bit (or maybe just to feel better about myself).