Wednesday, July 25, 2012

A little rain to make the flowers grow

We had a little rain the other night.  Not enough to make a dent in the drought but enough to moisten the roots and soften the soil.  This morning I was greeted with cooler temps and a sea of brightly colored wildflowers.

Out in the garden, the squash has be thriving in the heat.  The splash of rain was enough to create an explosion of new blossoms.  What I wanted to share with you was that the gourds we planted are also in bloom.

This lovely delicate little beauty is from the bushel gourd.  Given the right conditions including a long HOT growing season, bushel gourds have been known to grow up to five FEET in diameter.  I don't believe ours will ever get that big but think they might get big enough to make a nice bowl for dried arrangements.

Another gourd which is in bloom at the moment is the Nestegg gourd.
The gourd produced by this plant is white or pale brown and as the name implies, about the size of a large egg.  Sometimes it helps to put an object into a chicken's nestbox to encourage her to lay her eggs there.  Nesteggs are made out of all sorts of materials from carved wood eggs to golfballs.  I rather like the idea of the nestegg gourd which could also be colored, carved, or decorated as a home craft.

Still the flowers, while fleeting, are lovely.  Look for beauty where you find it.  Sometimes it will appear in unexpected places.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Green bean paradise

All sorts of beans are coming into season at the moment.  Green and yellow snapbeans are best this time of year.  One can freeze or can the surplus or just enjoy them as they come in from the garden.
This morning we harvested quite a lot of these beans and should have plenty more coming throughout the season.  Still unconvinced?  try the following:

Three Bean Salad

1 lb Cut Green Beans, drained (lightly blanched and iced)
1 lb Cut Yellow Beans, drained (lightly blanched and iced)
1 lb Red Kidney Beans or Black beans, drained and rinsed
1 lb chickpeas, drained and rinsed
¼ cup Chopped yellow Bell Pepper
½ cup chopped Red Bell Pepper
1 cup sliced Purple Onion (sweet onion)
½ cup Cider Vinegar
⅓ cup Vegetable Oil
½ cup Granulated Sugar (scant)
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp Pepper

If using fresh green & yellow beans, lightly steam or blanch until crisp cooked then plunge into an ice water bath to stop the cooking process.  Drain when cool.  Layer the vegetables into a large bowl.  In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar, the oil, and salt and pepper to taste.  Add little at a time onto the vegetables, gently tossing them until completely added.

Cover and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

This is a wonderful surprise for any picnic or Summer supper.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Water, Hot weather, and helping things grow

It has been an amazing week!  The weather has been very hot and very humid, which turns out to be just what the garden has been wanting.  Squash, tomatoes, and beans are all producing a bounty of fruit.  In the coming weeks we will need to watch the amount of rain coming through and provide supplemental watering when necessary.

Yellow Beans
 The beans were in full flower last Monday.  The yellow beans had these lovely white flowers.  The green beans had a profusion of purplish blue flowers.  We staggered planting our beans so we should be harvesting fresh beans for quite some time.  As a side note: if you have a little open space, don't hesitate to plant a few bean seeds.  They're low maintenance and add nitrogen to the soil.
Green Beans
 We have several different types of Summer and winter squash.  Our summer squash include pattipans and Papaya squash.  Both of these varieties have a delicate flavor and are favorites with the kids.  The pattipans look like yellow flying saucers.  Papaya squash has a slightly sweet flavor and is a tasty addition to stir fries. 

Papaya squash
So much of the country is suffering from drought.  Although where we are located we have not had the usual rains, we count our blessings that it is not as bad as it is in other places.  One of the first things we noticed comparing last year to this, was our cucumbers. 

Given normal circumstances, the cucumber vines should be around four feet long by now. 
Supplimental watering has helped however the extreme heat (day and night) had dried the soil and stressed the plants.  They are currently stunted at about a foot tall.  The plants are still producing however our crop may not be as abundant as in previous years.

The tomatoes are thriving in the heat.  The extra water we provide will keep the plants from taking water from the fruits, hopefully leading to good harvests in another few weeks.  We'll see.

Big Boy tomatoes

The good news is that the weatherman is predicting rain for the next week.  Temperatures have already come down to far more comfortable readings.  Storm clouds are gathering on the horizon.  Pray for soft, slow, and steady rains to replenish the parched earth and restore the water table.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Garlic Time

We are delighted to announce that fresh garlic is now available at My Happy Acres!  Mild and delicious fresh garlic is one of the most popular herbs used in the world today.  This perennial hails from central Asia and has been enjoyed by many culturals including ancient Egypt.  It is said that the builders of the pyramids were paid in garlic and beer. 

That may not be my first choice for dinner however not enough can be said for the joys of Garlic chicken or Garlic bread with a lovely fresh tomato-cucumber salad.  If you would like a recipe for one of these, please feel free to send me an email or become a follower and send me a comment.

For those that prefer a firmer garlic head, this year's crop is presently curing and should be ready by August.

Oh!  and for those of you who just can't get enough, the Gilroy Garlic festival (also called the Stinking Rose Fest) is scheduled for the last weekend of July!  So mark those calendars!

Monday, July 9, 2012

How does your garden grow?

As you walk the garden in the early morning, take a look at what's growing there.  A few seeds pressed in the soil quickly take root when given a bit of water and room to grow.   Depending on the concentration of little plants springing to life, it is sometimes necessary to thin these so that the remaining plants will grow big and healthy.  Before you discard the sprouts, remember: There are all sorts of tasty greens out there for those who are willing to try new things.  As you thin the garden some of those tiny vegies can be delicious in salads or in stirfries.

Baby Beets waiting to be thinned

Giant White Kohlrabi
Kohlrabi and Swiss chard are in the cabbage family however are very mild tasting
Multi colored Swiss Chard

 Baby beets, swiss chard, radishes, and kohlrabi can all add a spark of color, taste, and texture to your vegetable plate!  Some vegetables such as kohlrabi can be too tough and fiber-y to eat once they mature however are quite good when small. 

Speaking of delicious, keep an eye open for squash and zuccini blossoms.  Periodically harvest the blossoms with its tiny vegetable growing on it.  These can be eaten raw, put into stirfries, or dipped in a bit of batter and deep fried (not the healthiest way to make these, but tasty all the same). 

All the tomatoes are doing wonderfully!  We use soaker hoses the periodically give garden a gentle drink in the evening without wasting water.  By using soaker hoses or drip lines one can direct the water to where you want it and reduce run off.  Clean fresh water is a finite resource, treat it respectfully.  

Tomatoes are growing strong

 oh, and yes, the cucumbers are already producing flowers.  Sidebar: don't be fooled by the small size.  Although they are producing blossoms now what I have learned in previous years is over the course of a few short weeks, these will be growing prolifically.  Don't give up!  Have a little faith!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Dragonflies and Damselflies

Once again I find myself amazed at the number of Species found in our area.  Dragonflies and their cousin the Damselfly thrive where clean water is available to complete their lifecycle and food sources are plentiful.
Eastern Pondhawk dragonfly

According to the League of  Naturalists, at Bear Mountain State park, there are over 400 species of dragonfly and damselfly found in the US, of which about 180 are found in New York!  When many dragonflies hunt, they create a basket with their legs.  As they fly and dart about, they are capturing flying insects which get caught on the barbs of the dragonfly's legs, ensnaring them, for an inflight lunch.  Gnats, mosquitos, moths, and other pests are favorites however will consume a bumblebee or two if the opportunity arises.

When looking out over the western pastures in the early evening, one can see the silvery flash as the last bits of sunlight sparkle off their wings.  The buzzing rattle created during their flight makes it easy to imagine an enchanted world of fairies.

For more information go to: files/DAMSELFLIES AND DRAGONFLIES OF SOUTHERN NEW YORK.pdf