Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bountiful Berries

We're having a bumper crop of strawberries this year! Already 17 pounds of strawberries picked, and we're only halfway through the June-bearing berries. The pictured berries turned into a batch of strawberry jam, and since Thing 1 and I picked 5-1/2 pounds worth today*, I'm looking at making a second batch tomorrow. I'm also thinking about drying some, freezing some, and maybe making strawberry syrup, if I can find a recipe that doesn't call for corn syrup.

*Oh, yes! The harvest tally is finally growing!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Apple Maggot Traps Up

Today I glued the apple maggot traps. It's a sticky job, and I hate it, but darn if they don't catch the bad guys. It took a small output of cash last year for the traps, but there was enough glue for several years, and I only needed to buy the phermone lures this year - about $8 for three. The stuff reeks to high heaven, and I needed to wash my hands several times to get the glue and phermone stuff off my hands. Gloves just don't work. I need to put the socks on the apples soon. They're sizing up really fast....

Monday, June 8, 2009

Curcurbits Planted, and Other Cheesy Topics

I finally got my cukes and squash transplanted today. I planted some sugar pumpkins, a buttercup squash variety, acorn squash, and some dual-use cukes. It sounds like it shouldn't have taken very long, but of course, in order to plant them I needed to weed out the section (blasted buttercup), make a batch of organic fertilizer.... I'm hoping that transplants will be large enough to fend off the nibbly creatures.

The broccoli all went to seed. I can't seem to time them just right. Not ready, not yet, too late. The cabbages are more forgiving, and are starting to head up. The garlic is forming scapes, and I need to decide whether to stir-fry them, or hang them on the apple trees to fend off the deer that seem to have found them again.

I have yet to get the beans planted, and I better get them in tomorrow, along with a bunch of other stuff. I know, it seems really late, but for whatever reason, the soil around here is very slow to warm up. Rather than "better late than never," around here it's "late or never".

Thing 2 had a chemistry experiment that he and a friend needed to do for school. So my kitchen became a chem lab for an afternoon, and I got to play chemist for the first time in a long while. Part of me misses it, but not for the pay they're making these days. The chemicals they needed I found at a homebrew store, which piqued my interest. Not so much for brewing beer or making wine, but most homebrew stores also carry cheesemaking equipment. I have a kit that I got for Christmas. I think it's time to try it out. Fresh ricotta, anyone?

Sunday, June 7, 2009

First Strawberries

Yesterday the first few strawberries were ripe from the day-neutral variety. I only got a couple of ounces worth, and they were gobbled up in seconds by the guys, but apparently they tasted delicious. I don't care for strawberries myself, and I always get questions like "Well, why do you grow them?" Well, because there are three other people in the house that do like them, and I like strawberry jam, just not raw berries. That and it's WAY more cost-effective to grow them, rather than to buy them, and I know that they're not sprayed with ANYTHING.

Right now I smell like smoke. I didn't spray the apple trees this year, and what a big mistake that was. I went out to check the trees, and I found many tent caterpillar nests among the branches. Man, did they grow fast, because it's only been three days since I was out that way. So I clipped them, and Thing 2 and I built a little fire to kill the pests. Being that the fire was made of apple wood, sage and bay leaves, the smoke smells nice, but I'm smokey all the same.

After loads of rain in early May, we haven't had a drop in weeks, which is unusual for this time of year. While I'm saving on natural gas since there's been no need to use the furnace, I'm using much more water than normal for this time of year. Of course, compared to my neighbors who don't follow the voluntary water restrictions and are watering their lawns EVERY DAY, and letting it run into the street, I'm using hardly any water. There are days that I ask myself "Why do I bother?" but I know, at least, that I'm doing the right thing.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Herban Renewal

After a few years, some perennial herbs get really woody centers and need some freshening-up.

My sage plants were six feet across, and after this winter, the centers were dead with a ring of green around the outside. The plant had propagated itself by layering, so it was time to dig up the whole thing and replant one of the new, smaller plants.

It wasn't the only one. I can't seem to keep thyme for very long before the same thing happens. I've tried hacking it back hard, like I do for lavender, but it doesn't seem to work. So I have new thyme plants, too.

And then the rosemary died, which isn't unusual. It's marginally hardy here, and I haven't had one that's lasted longer than four years. What was surprising was the horehound died. I'm not replacing it since it's pretty weedy.

Also, the bay trees gave out - The two in the herb garden died back to the ground. Thankfully I have one more which is on the south side of the house and didn't sustain any damage. They were too big for the garden anyway, so those got pulled out as well.

So my herb garden is in need of plants. I've replanted the rosemary and will move the sage to its' proper place soon. I bought more Greek oregano, since I go through all I can dry and then some. I'm waiting to see if the tarragon will survive Thing 2's trashing of it.

I've replanted the thyme with french thyme. I taste-test herbs before I buy, and there was a huge difference between the french and winter thyme. The french has way more flavor. Even Thing 1 said "WOW!" when I had him taste it.

I'm weeding out the spots for the annuals - basil, coriander/cilantro, summer savory, and marjoram - and have all but the marjoram started. I keep forgetting to find seed.

So now is the time to go for broke on new, different herbs. I have lavender, fennel, lemon balm, caraway, borage and horseradish. And the parsley self-seeded, but it's not looking very promising. I may need to buy a couple of plants until some newly sown ones get going.

So what else should I try? Does anyone have recommendations? What can you not live without?