Thursday, July 26, 2012


Hi, I have two new posts below. Readers love the chickens, so there is another chicken post. Also, I figured out how to make an email gadget, so if you want to get an email when the blog is updated, use that email box on the right hand side. I thought "following" did that but it doesn't. If you would like to follow, that would still be cool too. I do not sell email addresses to Santa Claus, aliens, or third parties. You may want to sign up for email cause I may be having some big news in a couple weeks.

Cutworm Cuisine

Ah, the dreaded cutworm. You tomato growers know what I talk about, the scourge of the garden. These giant caterpillars (and the moth they turn into is this unimpressive, scraggly looking thing) bury themselves in the dirt and come out at dawn and dusk to snack on promising tomatoes. We've tracked down two in our raised bed, below is the fate of a found cutworm on the Scordato homestead. First, the cutworm is hanging out on a plant, content with the tomato bounty before it.
Here is an example of the cutworm's fine work.
Correction. Per my friend Jay, this tomato is actually the work of a calcium deficiency called blossom end rot, a disorder of pepper, tomatoes and eggplants and we need to put some tums at the base of the plant and water it well. Because it is not a disease, if you let the tomato ripen you can cut the bad part right out...or just compost it, which is what we did. However, the cutworm is not blameless and still deserved it's fate. Here is an up close shot of the cutworm. It is one of the caterpillars that have a fat end with "eye spots" to scare birds and other would be predators. The smaller end is actually the tomato-destroying end.
Before this pictures were taken, I had fed the chickens a cutworm in their tractor but the light was too low. One of the chickens, let's call her smartie Goldie, noticed me walking down toward the grapes (this is when they were still allowed in the grapes) and ran towards me before the other hens took any notice.
I don't know about you, but if I was that cutworm in that jar, I'd start wishing that I found another garden.
Uh-oh, now the other Goldies have caught on, run smartie run!
Next week, look for a post on the chickens being on house arrest. I'll give you a hint though...

Grapes? What Grapes?

Around The Herb Garden

I realized that I posted the wrong bee picture last time, here is the one that shows the tattered wings of the little honeybee. Note the ragged edges, she's done her work for the hive.
Early herb garden harvests are kicking in. The lemon balm in one of the blue washtubs has needed cutting for a couple weeks. Last weekend I finally made the time to cut some off and make an experimental tea.
I took the bowl of lemon balm leaves and washed them in a mild water/bleach mixture to kill off any bacteria, rinsed well, and dried them in the salad spinner. Then I used this muddler to crush the leaves to release their lemon0y oils.
This sweet glass jar with a spout was a wonderful find at this lovely place called Timber Tunes, located off route 62 near Johnstown Ohio. The couple that own the shop have antiques, hand carved wooden music boxes, wood turned items, and lots of other great gifts. We also have a handmade walnut cutting board from them in our kitchen. I have the pitcher getting sun-heated by the lemon balm tub and I also added a good bit of honey to sweeten. the sun helps release the oils in the lemon balm then I refrigerated it overnight to take to the my yoga workshop. I have to say it was pretty tasty. Andrew has requested that I make a mint tea next time.
I wish the picture below was clearer. The finches spent a whole week hanging about the herb garden, digging at the dried lavender blooms. I don't know if they were digging at seeds or what, but they were a fun sight, often perching on those evening primroses I love so much.
Chamomile and Calendula (also known as pot marigold) two key ingredients in the herbal facial scrub that is such a hit at work.
Zucchini pickled and canned by Andrew
"So Jules, have you and Andrew had to do much watering this summer?" You might be asking. The answer would be yes. Our maple pretty much burned up, and two of our larger pine trees got crispy. So it was back to buckets. When you drill holes in the bottom of plastic buckets and then fill the buckets up, the water drains at a much slower rate than just dumping the surface of the ground around the tree with water from the hose. This inexpensive system allows for the water to soak slowly around the roots. I did a lengthy post on watering a couple years back and am recycling it, but you will have to cut and paste the links because sadly, I am not smart enough to figure out how to make it a link. and As I said, keep an eye out for some big news coming soon here at the blog. Sign up for the email list to get all the news as soon as it is posted.
Maxwell says "sign up on the email, all the cool cats are doing it."

Sunday, July 08, 2012

The Grapes!

Lavender isn't the only thing in our backyard. Andrew now has over 75 grapes including many varieties. He hopes to try his hand at wine over the next few years as the wine grapes get older. This first round of pictures were actually taken last year before I got my fancy macro lens. I love the grapes in spring when their leaves are just beginning to unfurl. I love the lines and edges, and the pink hues in some of them.
Andrew has planted some eating grapes like Concord and Resilience but for wine he has Vignole, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Pinot Blanc, Traminette and this year he planted Cabernet Franc (which may or may not be able to survive our winters) and Foch (a variety that really takes to this climate.) Here is a picture of the vines Andrew planted over Memorial Day weekend, already taking off.
And a couple pictures of the older vines with grapes.
Andrew also has indoor projects. On July 4th as I tried a new lemon pound cake recipe, he worked on his Lego ambulance. Note the bicyclist/patient in reference to the truck. Paramedic humor...

Chicken Update

Everyone is asking about the chickens it seems, so here is a post just for them. They are holding up okay in the heat. We've been putting in liters of pop with water frozen solid in the chicken tractor, hoping they will lay against them like rabbits do to keep them cool. We haven't had them out as much as I would like because of recent fox sightings. Last Saturday I went down at noon the collect the eggs to see one of the juvenile foxes now on his own, sitting bold as brass in the middle of the orchard not twenty feet away from the chicken tractor. Now that father fox isn't feeding pups in a den, a nuisance permit may be in order, but I am still hoping for co-habitation of foxes and chickens.
The grapes are still the chickens favorite place to be, with a close second being our dirt/compost pile. We haven't had the chickens in the grapes for the last few days as Andrew had to spray some fungicide, and I hope they can get their fill of grapes before the ripen, cause then they will be banned until Andrew harvests the grapes. This week there was and ENORMOUS egg in the nest box, I mean freakishly huge. We were surprised one of the chickens wasn't limping. And yes, it was a double yolk-er!
After a long night of watering trees and the garden, I often find myself having a late night dinner of an egg sandwich, some of that aged cheddar I can actually eat and now with a fresh tomato from the raised bed!

Garden Pictures

Here's an update of the garden, but really another update will be in order soon. We got tons of zucchini, pickled peppers and sugar baby watermelons (I've got some ideas for those) so we'll see. Broccoli is doing well this summer and I seem to be staying just ahead of the worms, they seem to get ready over night, and it's hard to catch them before they over...ripen? Bloom? Of course the first heads are always the largest.
I took tons of pea pictures weeks ago with the macro lens. They are just beautiful plants. We have three food saver bags of them frozen.
Evening primrose I think, is my favorite garden flower. I love how they attract night pollinators like big moths at night. I am seeing more moths this summer than last summer, but not as many lightning bugs, which I read are becoming an endangered species because of weather and pesticides. These blooms are at once a bright, soft yellow, and really add to the garden.
Peas in a pod...
Remember the wash tub potting project? Here is the lemon balm, going like gangbusters and more than ready to cut down. If I can just find the time...
Now here are some picks from my Mom's garden, and she is the true green thumb. I love zinnias. She had to plant seeds a few times this year because of the persnickety spring we had.
A really lovely bee picture. I love it when I can catch the pollen on their legs/bodies. Note the tattered edge of her wings, this forager bee (foraging is the last stage of the honeybee worker life cycle) is getting towards the end of her road. She needs to travel approximately 12 miles to complete a single load of pollen and over her weeks of foraging, will collect an average of 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey. Think about that the next time you buy a big (and I hope local) jar of honey!
These last three shots are also with the new macro lens of a huge hydrangea straight from Mom's garden. Can you find the spider? I had no idea he was there when I took the shot, lots of happy surprises when macro is involved.