Saturday, July 30, 2011

Garden Mid-Season Update

We are right in the middle of our growing season, so this is a good time to look at how things are growing. Often, this time of year, we are so busy picking tomatoes and figuring out new ways to use zucchini that we don't get a chance to take any pictures of the garden.  I had to force myself to get the camera outside this morning.
Above, you see one sad rosemary plant (I don't hold much hope for the winter for this guy), some fantastic sage on the ground and a fragrant pineapple sage in the center.  I do love sage.

Below is another shot of the same herb garden, in which you can see some fennel, chocolate mint, and peeks of very crowded oregano.  I transplanted some oregano to another herb garden in the spring because the oregano is clearly losing this fight.(see their spring pics)

The cone flowers (echinacea) are at the end of their glory; the bees and butterflies have stopped visiting them and have moved on to the mint and Russian sage.  We will leave these as a winter treat for the birds.

Below is the Italian garden.  The tomatoes, basil, eggplants, peppers, cucumbers, and flowers are all doing well. I've mulched over the new asparagus planted this spring just outside the fencing.

It is getting difficult to walk in the squash garden, below.  My new butterfly weed just outside the door has finally stopped being food for the wildlife, so I removed the cage my sons made for it.  The purple cabbage is grown mostly for the chickens, which means I don't need to worry about any bugs eating it (extra treats for the chickens).

I do love little pathways...
This one leads to the newly weeded and mulched strawberry patch.

The cucumber plants are doing really well.  I'm hoping to try making pickles this summer.

Searching for the cucumbers is fun.  Equally fun is the search for pumpkins in the mass of vines below.  If you look carefully, you'll see a large green one hiding in the leaves.  We've gotten zucchini, spaghetti squash, patty pans, and pumpkins so far this year.

Not everything is going as planned in our garden.  The blackberries are looking less-than-lovely this year.  I'm thinking that the chickens might be getting more berries than normal.

The struggle to grow pole beans AND limit the Mexican bean beetle population by planting in the chicken coop is a work-in-progress.  The first problem we found is that the chickens kept getting into the bean area of the coop, trapped in there with nothing to do except eat bean plants. I limited the area by just fencing two of the best plants.  The second problem is that the chickens don't seem interested in eating the bean beetles! Figures.

We never realized how the wind patterns around our property would affect what we grow, but now that we've got six fruit trees on the top of our hill, we realize that there is somewhat of a wind tunnel going through there.  We've staked one of the peach trees to help keep it upright during the gusts.

The blueberries in the above picture are finished for the season, so they've been weeded and mulched.  At this point in the year, we are turning our attention to harvesting vegetables, bracing ourselves for the big apple harvest in September.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Heat and Humidity

It is so hot and humid here that my camera kept fogging up as soon as I'd open the lens cap!  This is the kind of day that is perfect for washing the car with water guns, making ice cream in a bag, and playing Drip-Drip-Drop, a fantastic game played with a cup of water much the same way that Duck-Duck-Goose is played.  A talented day care provider taught me this game and the kids enjoyed the chance to get wet (or get REALLY wet, depending on their luck in the game).

Friday, July 15, 2011

Harry Potter Party

 Had to celebrate the release of the final Harry Potter movie with a costume party before going to the midnight premier.  Dressed as Mrs. Weasley, I made Pumpkin Pasties (pie dough folded with pre-cooked pumpkin pie filling, then cooked enough to set the dough) and set out Licorice Wands.

We added some green cotton candy to both chocolate cupcakes (Tasty Cakes) and small store-made brownies. With a licorice cord for a handle on the larger cauldrons, we had some fantastic Cauldron Cakes.  Notice the golden snitch in the picture below? One of many decorations.  We also used Harry Potter Legos and some of our movie posters to make the house look festive.

These Treacle Tarts are pie dough filled with treacle (golden syrup) mixed with fresh, unseasoned breadcrumbs.  The kids didn't really like these too much, but they all wanted to try treacle, which we never really see much, here in the States.

Our magic wands are nothing but pretzel rods, but they were fun.  We collected sticks outside to use for real wands, which everyone needed for the Good Vs Evil pictures we took outside before leaving for the theater.

Our Every-Flavor-Beans were really just Jelly Bellies.  I know you can buy the real-deal, but I didn't want to risk having a bowl of leftover ear-wax flavored jelly beans.

Some of our clever guests brought food, too.  One girl made red Quaffle Waffles and another brought Golden Snitch cookies.  We ordered some very un-Potter pizza, and no one went to the premier hungry.

Before leaving for the movie, we played a Horcrux Hunt in which party guests needed to find all 7 Horcruxes.  We hid plenty of rubber snakes, some diaries (actually used all 6 books from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series!), and other symbols. The real fun was when players realized that the 7th Horcrux was really the guest dressed like Harry Potter.  They had to find and capture him to win!

The best site for inspiration if you want to throw a Harry Potter party is

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Thumb Pots

To protect our plants in the squash family, this year we are planting radishes to attract the same bugs who bore into our squash vines.  We planted two packets of seeds in the spring, but now that the radishes are mature, it is time to plant some more.  Who knew radishes were so easy to grow?  They literally pop up out of the ground when they are ready to harvest.  I'm leaving the damaged ones where they are, so the bugs can keep munching.

In order to entice my boys to help plant the radishes, I offered them the chance to use our new Thumb Pot.  We bought it on our trip to Colonial Williamsburg. 

The pot has a large hole at the top (for one's thumb) and several small holes on the base.  By putting it into a bucket of water, the small holes allow water to fill the pot.  To pick up the pot, one covers the thumb hole, trapping the water inside.

Letting go of the thumb hole releases a nice shower of water onto the plants.  This was fun for the boys, and for the cat, too.