July 30, 2008
The next thing to consider is what kinds of plants to put in your container. You can do flowers, foliage plants, vegetables, herbs or a combination of any of them. The size of the container will dictate some of your choices. It almost always looks great to have some kind of climbing or trailing plant that will cascade down the sides of the container. Some flower suggestions are allysum, salvia, zinnias, climbing (in this case trailing) nasturtium, snapdragons, pansies, petunias, geranium and lobelia. A nice herbal container might have lavendar, chives, sage, creeping thyme, oregano, parsley and basil in it. The obvious choice for a vegetable is, of course, tomato! This book, The Practical Guide to Container Gardening, will give you more ideas. It's another great one from Storey Publications.
July 14, 2008
July 10, 2008
That's Sweet, Sour and Spicy, our temporary residents on the farm. One for us, one for the beef farmer around the corner, and one for a friend. Uh oh, did you think this was only about vegetables and pretty flowers? Well, we grow vegetables and have lots of extras in the summer. With mucking out the barn for the chickens and goats, summitting the compost pile now means a day hike. It sure is nice to have somewhere else to put the surplus vegetables and weeds. Pigs love vegetables, and as you have heard, "you are what you eat". To stretch this logic to the snapping point, the vegetable eating pigs could be considered vegetables themselves and if we eat the pigs, I suppose we are really eating vegetables, not pigs. At any rate, they are great to have around and we treat them well. Stay tuned for more pictures of pigs having fun this summer! If you can't wait that long, this Adam Hersh poster of a pig family outing (Amazon $3.99) will do nicely.
July 7, 2008
As one of the smaller miracles in the garden, hummingbirds are fascinating to watch. If you haven't planted flowers to attract them or don't have the space, try this pretty hummingbird feeder. It holds enough nectar for 3 days and is durable despite its good looks. Available at Amazon for $18.75. You can make your own nectar by boiling 1 cup of sugar in a quart of water. Some people use packaged food which is really just sugar with or without the red dye. The instant food is suspicious to me because it doesn't require boiling. I suspect there is some kind of mold inhibitor or preservative in it and so I would never feed it to my birds. Whichever food you use, make sure that it's clear. Red dye is harmful for everyone to ingest, and especially to hummingbirds because they're so small. It's also important to clean out your feeder every 3 days to remove any mold that may have started to grow. These tiny birds are highly susceptible to mold-related illnesses. For more information on hummingbirds, consult Peterson's A Field Guide to Hummingbirds of North America. 180 full color photographs.
July 4, 2008
The Hen of the Woods mushroom (Grifola frondosa), also known as Maitake in Japan, is typically found in September/October at the end of mushroom season. (Photo via www.theforagerpress.com) However, GardenSnob staff found some last weekend in Lincoln, MA and in Temple, NH! This is a delicious mushroom that can be used the same way you would use a white button mushroom. It has a nice, woodsy flavor but doesn't overpower anything. Finding one will make you feel like you won the lottery. They might be 20-30 or even up to 50 lbs each! Hen of the Woods freeze extremely well and can last up to two years if the freezer stays around 0 degrees. Just clean and cut into pieces or strips and freeze in ziplock bags. If you're feeling entrepreneurial, try selling some to a boutique food or cheese store near a city. One upscale cheese place in Cambridge is selling them for $28/lb. Here's a recipe for a two hen salad from "Edible Wild Mushrooms of North America" by David W. Fischer and Alan E. Bessette:
Hen of the Woods Salad
3 green onion with tops, chopped
1 small tomato, peeled and chopped
2 Tbsps olive oil
1 Tbsp butter
8 ounces Hen of the Woods, chopped
1 Lb. Cooked, skinned, boned chicken
2 slices crisp cook bacon
2 Tbsps red wine
½ cup peanuts or pine nuts
Saute onion and tomato in oil and butter until onion is soft. Add mushrooms and cook 4 minutes more. Add large chunks of chicken and remaining ingredients to mushroom mixture and cook a few more minutes. Allow to cool. Add a favorite salad dressing and chill. Serve over a bed of lettuce or on avocado halves. Serves 2 to 4.
You could make it a three hen salad by adding chunks of tuna, the chicken of the sea. We know that was silly but sometimes things get a little slap happy at GardenSnob. To help you identify edible mushrooms, please read, re-read, and carry with you a reliable reference book with photos. "Mushrooming Without Fear" by Alexander Schwab, is an excellent guide with lots of pictures and a color bar for each type of mushroom. For the Hen of the Woods entry alone there are 12 photos. This book is available at Amazon for $11.21. Happy Hunting!
June 28, 2008
This is a great book about eating locally grown and locally raised food for one year. The author and her family tended a huge garden, raised chickens and turkeys, canned tomatoes and put vegetables such carrots, beets and potatoes away for the winter. It's a fascinating, honest look at doing all that work. There is also a lot of accurate information about the harmful state of our country's food system. In addition, the author's daughter contributed weekly meal plans that use seasonal, available ingredients and paint a great picture of what would be on their dinner table on a typical night. From the family debates to the hilarious turkey mother, this book is a great summer read for any gardener. Available at Amazon for $8.97.