Sunday, June 25, 2017

Pretties and Pollinators

 The lavender in the front yard is teaming with pollinators!  Various butterflies and bees... I was particularly pleased to see several honey bees yesterday morning. 

cabbage white buttefly
bright yellow bee - like a Bumblebee

honey bee

Some "pretties..." 



gaura - siskiyou pink

day lilies

American Revolution


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Blooming Succulents

'Tis the season for succulents to burst into bloom.  I have several varieties in my back yard, most of which came with the house.  One came with me when I moved from California, and it's taken over what was supposed to be a secondary strawberry patch.  Some got into the herb garden too, which makes for some aggressive weeding.  Succulents are super easy to propagate, each and every little "bean" of a leaf will readily root! 

I suppose you would call all of these "stonecrop," a large genus of succulents consisting of more than 600 varieties. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

Out of Town Pretties, and a Spy!

Waiting for my daughter last week, in a nearby town, I spied these pretties...

I don't know what they are, but even the dried out blossoms are attractive.

I was being spied on while I waited...  This little raccoon kept peeking out of the sewer to check on me.  I told it, "You aren't supposed to be out this time of day.  Go away before they think you're sick."  Raccoons are nocturnal, and healthy ones don't come out during the day.  Although this little guy (or gal) was probably emerging for backyard handouts. 

Isn't that house in the background adorable?  I LOVE that picket fence and arbor! 

Gardening Updates - June 2017

BUTTERFLY GARDEN:  Well, it won't be drawing a lot of butterflies this year, I don't think, but it is doing nicely.

A lot of the seeds have sprouted.  I neglected to make a map of my seed sowing, so I don't know what is what!  They are all perennials though, so eventually there will be some nice big pollinator friendly flowers.

The coreopsis is so pretty. This one is Up Tick.  

The beebalm is opening blossoms.

I still have a trellis in the middle of one butterfly garden ring to keep Edward the Stumbling Goldendoodle out, but I have upgraded it!  I am spray painting all of my cedar trellises because I like the look!  I've drooled over photos of them for a long time, and now that I have four I am painting them all different bright hues.  This is Gloss Rich Plum from Krylon, paint and primer in one.  It took two cans. 

From right to left - Shasta daisy (white), catnip, coreopsis, ferny yarrow, pineapple sage and beebalm

HERB GARDEN:  Yes, I bought another herb!  It worries me how many wonderful new herbs I'm missing out on now that I'm not working at the farm store with it's nursery!  We get in some really nice ones from Log House.  My last purchase before transferring back to the pet store was this, a creeping winter savory.  It's in a green ceramic pot, which I am not sure shows off its own green.

creeping winter savory with rosemary to the right, chives and grape hyacinth seed pods behind and to the left (also some of the winter damaged tree still needing to be chopped up)

Although, "last purchase" sounds rather final, when in reality, the farm store is just one mile down the road from the pet store, so it's not like I can't, and won't, drop by to check out the new herbs and rock garden plants.

POTATOES: Oh, my... they are neatly to the top of their wire cage!

Crop updates coming soon...

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Boysenberry Jam

When I saw the boysenberries ripening I realized I still had some in the freezer from last summer.  Little did I remember I had a lot left from last summer!  I had to get them out of there to make room for this year's new harvest.

I had way too many (5 full zippered freezer bags) to make a simple pie, so I made some jam.

frozen boysenberries in my biggest pot - quite a bit of ice crystals, but they didn't affect the jam
I am not in any way a seasoned canner!  I am a very basic beginner, having only canned some applesauce, apple butter, tomatoes (and sauce including spaghetti sauce) in the past.

Canning is a lot of work! It's hot, messy, and above all else, time consuming.  For me, more time consuming than for most.   First off, I started this project without checking supplies.  So, I didn't have enough sugar and had to run to the store.  Then, while the jam was cooking was not the time to get out the jars, lids, and rings!  I only had three small lids, and three for the larger wide-mouth jars.  So, that's all I could can.  The rest is in the freezer, or in coffee mugs in the refrigerator!  I'll eat it up!

Here's the recipe I used...

8 - 9 cups boysenberries
5-6 cups sugar (taste it to see how sweet you want it)
3 TBS lemon juice

This recipe does not use pectin, so the lemon juice helps the natural pectin in the fruit do its work.  Make sure to boil it as long as recommended too.

Bring to boil and simmer 35 minutes.  I do not have a thermometer, so used the cold spoon test to see if it was ready.  Take a cold spoon, put some of the jam-to-be on it, and see if it slides off like jam, or is still runny.  Like I said, I am not an experienced canner, that's the best I can describe it!

The rest is just canner procedure.  This jam took 15 minutes.  I use a water canner, just one of those big blue pots with white splatters.  I would L-O-V-E an electric water canner!  But, alas, they are a bit too costly...  It would be so much simpler, neater, quicker...  sigh... someday... maybe...   

cooling jars - cool at least 12 hours

Monday, June 12, 2017

Mulching Potatoes

Potatoes need mulching.  Not mulching as in putting a layer of organic (or even non-organic - that nasty rubber chunk mulch isn't "organic" because it began as latex!) material around your plants to help protect them from heat, or cold, or to help keep the soil moist.

No, potatoes need mulch so they grow more potatoes, safe potatoes we can eat.  As a potato plant grows, it produces potatoes (well, naturally!), and if those little guys get too much light they produce solanine along with the chlorophyll that makes them green.  The plants themselves contain a lot too, as do the little sprouts on potatoes, so don't eat those either. 

Solanine can make us sick, so we don't want green potatoes!  That is why we add mulch around the plants as they grow, to keep the sunlight out. 

My potatoes have really taken off.  They took so long to sprout I dug around to see if they were still alive, which they were.

When the plants are about 6" tall it's time to add mulch.  I chose straw because it's cheap, easy to remove at harvest, can be recycled in the compost heap, and my employer sells it.  I set the bale of straw right next to the potato cage for easy access.  

Now, some people say you have to eat a lot of green potatoes to get sick, but I will err on the side of caution.  As one New York Times article ( states "...a 100-pound person would have to eat about 16 ounces of a fully green potato to get sick. That is the weight of a large baked potato."

As far as more potatoes, the plants will produce little spuds all under the mulch.  I can hardly wait to knock the cage over and see what I got!

Speaking of  my "employer," I have been transferred back to the pet store location.  I have learned a lot of new things working at a farm store for the past 4+ months.  Not enough, but a lot.  One thing is sure, I'll be spending a whole lot less!  But, as I look around the garden I see so many wonderful things I wouldn't have if I'd never worked there in the first place.  Trellises... cherry tree... a plum given to me by a co-worker (stay tuned for that one)... pots... herbs... seed potatoes... a fire ring... a good-bye cake!

The only impulse buys at the pet store have been Guinea pigs and pet rats!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Ripening Berries!

Mmmm... berries.  With the cold, rainy weather lasting so long into spring, I rather forgot that June was the berry month!

Although I don't have a strawberry bed proper this year (gave up when the bugs had me beat), I do have a few random plants here and there in the garden.  Some in the bed overtaken by orange mint, some near the deck struggling through the succulents, a few in cinder block holes around the fruit trees.  Some are huge and basically tasteless.  Others are teeny and taste like jam.  The big ones have a few holes I blame on sow or pill bugs.  My plans for next spring include a new strawberry bed, and new strawberry plants.

The raspberries are ripening.  I had enough today to toss some in my cereal and leave enough for my daughter to snack on.  These are Meeker, which only have one crop per year.

While it is too early for the full size blueberries, Jelly Bean is ripening full size berries on the dwarf "Brazelberry" plant.

The boysenberries are a way off from being ripe, but they are coloring up.  I still have a few frozen bags of boysenberries from last year's harvest.  I'd better bake up a pie!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Rock Garden Work Continues

Along with the butterfly garden plants I bought the other day I got a few more for the front yard rock garden area.  I neglected to get their photos before planting.  😞  I also planted the gaura I bought last month.  I thought it was a little too small and wobbly to put in, so I let it get some strength in a pot until today.

I ended up planting one of the white lavender (Ellagance Snow) after all.  Also are a tri-color succulent, and a sunrose.  Sunroses can be called rock roses, but not by me.
I have rock roses, all cistus.  Sunroses are helianthemum. They are both favorites for low water areas, and their blossoms are similar.  I have tried to grow a sunrose before, but it didn't survive.  Hopefully this one will do better!
Gaura - "Siskiyou Pink" next to two small sea thrift
To the left of the triangular rock in center is the tri-color stone crop sedum.  To its left is the sunrose "The Bride."  On the right, even with the succulent, is the white lavender.  

I took a trip to Lowe's, hoping to find some bags of correctly sized pea gravel and river rock. I had success with the river rock, not so with the pea gravel.  So, I was able to finish the boarder of the larger rock garden area. I figure they'll get the right stuff eventually... until then the path will have to wait. I'd rather have it unfinished than wrong.

There is still work to do, more larger rocks, and some more plants.  But, it's coming together.  I added a spritzing of cat repellent and I was done for "my weekend!"  

Speaking of cat repellent... this is Benny... and this is now off topic... 

Benny makes it very difficult to type.  I am Benny's favorite person in the whole wide world (his "world" consisting of inside our house).  So, cat repellent had no affect whatsoever on Benny!  He actually started licking my elbow and hanging his mouth open!  Hopefully the neighbor cats don't have the same reaction.  

Benny likes food... 

... cat food (note he is licking his lips!)...

... turkey "cobbler" (that is cat-speak for gobbler)...

...alphabet butter cookies...

... orchard grass hay...
... Guinea pig toys...  

...watermelon (he chewed that part off the rind, before claiming my new pot for himself - I got it back, for my French tarragon)...
We share yogurt, sandwiches, butter toffee peanuts, pancake syrup, Cheese-Nip crackers...  let's just say Benny has a "healthy appetite!"  

What Benny does not like... 

...his "big sister" Velvet (here he is shoving her off the dresser, thinking no one noticed!)... 
How can anyone not like a beauty like Velvet?

Excuse the digression from the garden!  I was just thinking how my cats don't poop up the neighbor's yards!  Maybe I should buy some cat attractant (they do make it, to litter box train) and "accidentally" spill it on the neighbor's lawn!