Who’s Eating Our Strawberries?

When we discovered that some of our ripe strawberries were being eaten, before we had a chance to pick them, I assumed it was slugs.  Slugs are notorious for invading strawberry patches.  I began saving our coffee grounds separate from the other compost and spreading them around the strawberry plants to deter the slugs. Since I didn’t have enough coffee grounds to do them all at once I wasn’t surprised that I was still seeing eaten berries.

Earlier this week while I was watering garlic and my husband was watering strawberries, he called me over to the strawberry patch. “Want to see some baby bunnies?’ he asked. I grabbed my camera.

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There are at least four of them. My husband found their nest, a small hole in the ground, hidden in an area where the strawberry plants are thick. It is well camouflaged as are the baby bunnies. They are very difficult to see until they start moving around.

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I can’t say for sure that there are no slugs eating the berries, and I have also found a few bugs which I assume are sap beetles, http://extension.psu.edu/plants/gardening/fphg/strawberries/insects-mites/sap-beetle  but I suspect the majority of the eaten berries are providing yummy meals to these cute little critters who couldn’t care less about the coffee grounds.

A Year In Growing Garlic Part (VIII) Garlic Scapes

It’s time to start cutting the scapes. The music garlic has formed scapes and we want to cut them while they are still young and tender.

What are garlic scapes???

They are the seed heads produced by hardneck garlic varieties. They appear in the spring, and if left to grow they will flower and produce dozens of tiny garlic bubils (seeds). Most growers cut the scape off the garlic plant in order to allow the garlic to put more energy into growing a bigger bulb. If cut early the scapes are tender and delicious. They are said to have the same nutritional value as garlic bulbs, and although they possess a milder flavor when cooked, they are a culinary delight. They are great roasted, grilled, stir fried or used raw in dips, salads and pesto. To discover great garlic scape recipes simply do an internet search for garlic scape recipes or try the pesto recipe at the bottom of the page. They are only available for a short time in the spring but can be preserved by freezing or pickling.

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The above is a photo of a garlic scape forming. If allowed to grow it will probably form a second curl before straightening up and forming a seed head on top.

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This photo is some of the scapes I cut last year.

Garlic Scape Pesto

Ingredients:

1 cup garlic scapes (8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into 14-inch slices
13 cup walnuts
34cup olive oil
14to 12 cup grated Parmesan cheese
12 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Ground black pepper

Method:

1. Place the scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and blend until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in the oil and process until integrated.

2. With a rubber spatula, scoop the pesto out of the bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add Parmesan and salt and pepper to taste.

3. Keeps for up to one week in the refrigerator. Also freezes well; the cheese can be added to the pesto after it has thawed.

Makes about 34 cup.

Garlic scapes are only available for a few short weeks in the spring. If you are looking for scapes sent me an email at ruth20012001@yahoo.com.

 

Time Flies

It is said that as you get older time seems to go faster. It is also said that time flies when you’re having fun. I’m not sure which it is, and I suspect it is a combination of the two, but time sure does seem to be going quickly. Here it is well into June already and it  seems I have missed a lot of the things I should have written about. I thought I’d make this a catch up post.

Planting and weeding were two of our priorities in the last week of May and first week of June. My husband and I worked mostly together to do a thorough weeding of the entire garlic field. We spread it out over 5 or 6 days working 2 to 4 hours each day and it looked really good when it was finished. We are now just pulling big weeds as needed in the garlic. I have also spent time pulling weeds in the Prayer Garden, and devoted almost a full day to weeding the strawberry patch and asparagus. We have pretty much waged war on weeds and for now we seem to be winning the battle.

My husband has also spent a lot of time getting the garden planted. He started with the fifty tomato plants that he has grown from heirloom seed, as well as some green peppers, cabbage, and cucumbers.  We had our annual date to the local green house. The green house is one of the few places I enjoy shopping and usually I spend way too much money buying plants. This year there were only a few thing that we needed because my husband had started much of what we needed from seed. He picked out a couple of egg plants and some leeks and I bought a couple of rosemary plants but they were all out of culinary sage that I wanted. I did get a couple of Russian sage plants. Although they are not edible they should look nice in the prayer garden and the blossoms are said to attract butterflies. Maybe the bees will like them as well.

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We had another swarm of bees. We watched the entire event. Above is the beginning when the group was starting to leave the hive.

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It’s hard to make out in the above photo but all the little yellow spots against the green areas and all of the black spots against the blue sky are bees. They settled in a picturesque location nearby.

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The flexibility of the  pine branches made it easy for my husband to slip a bucket up over the swarm. He then shook the branch while holding the bucket around the swarm. Nearly all of the bees fell into the bucket. He covered it with a lid and carried it to the empty hive.

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He dumped the bees into the hive and put the inner cover on. He placed a piece of wood over the hole in the top of the inner cover to keep the bees inside. He went back to the pine tree and repeated the process to collect the bees that were left behind.

We watched the hive and saw bees gathering at the small slot in the side of the inner cover. This was a good indication that the queen was inside and the workers were going in to be with the queen.

It’s now about a week later and this hive along with our other 5 are all doing well.

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The Irises are in full bloom in the Prayer Garden. When I was planting rosemary and sage the other day a lovely fragrance caught my attention. Since the Irises were the nearest blossoms I walked to them and took a sniff. Wow! Spicy-sweet. I then took a long deep breathe to fill myself with this wonderful scent. These have only been in place for a couple of years and have really just taken off this year. I always thought that Irises were planted for their showy flowers, and that is why I planted them. I never realized that they were aromatic as well.

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I guess this just goes to show that we should take time to stop and smell the Irises. I’ll consider this a lesson learned.

Harvesting and watering are now our primary activities. Our asparagus crop was significantly affected by the wet weather this year and we harvested less than 50% of what we had last year. The strawberries are ripening and I have picked about 7 quarts so far. I am freezing them for now and will make jam with many of them when I have more time. I have also picked and dried oregano, spearmint and chocolate mint.

We are now having to water daily as we have gone from overly wet weather to overly dry. I think our last good rain was before Memorial Day, and the lack of rain plus the summerlike temperatures, equals very thirsty plants. This post explains our watering system on the farm. Since the farm is off grid watering takes a little more time and effort than just turning on a faucet. https://donteatitsoap.com/2016/06/05/our-off-grid-irrigation-system/?iframe=true&theme_preview=true

While there are many other things going on here, there is much work to be done and precious little time to write about it, so until next time 🙂

 

 

A Beautiful Monday

We spent much of Monday at the farm weeding garlic then attending to some other things that needed to be done. We witnessed a couple of things we had never seen before and I was able to get pictures of them.

In the morning as I was heading to the garlic bed to begin weeding I looked toward the pond and noticed this visitor.

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It is a White Heron or Great Egret who apparently stopped by for a snack of tadpoles. My husband had told me he saw it the day before but previous to that we had never seen a White Heron on the farm. We have seen Blue Herons and it seems as if the bird I posted about here https://donteatitsoap.com/2017/05/16/bird-identification/  is a Green Heron. We are happy that our farm is host or home to so many of God’s creatures.

In the afternoon and evening we had some light rain showers come through. As the last round of showers moved out I looked to the sky and saw a beautiful rainbow.

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I grabbed my camera and started taking pictures. I then got my husband who was cutting grass. Look at the rainbow I told him. At times we could see the entire rainbow but sometimes the middle was covered with clouds. My pictures really do not do it justice. I could not even fit the whole rainbow in one shot. I told my husband that I don’t remember ever seeing both ends of a rainbow before and he said he didn’t ever remember seeing that either.

Maybe since we have had so much rain this year and we having been praying so much for dry weather this was our message from God.

Genesis 9:12-15

12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.

 

Five Hives

As of Monday, May 23 rd., we have five hives of honey bees.

We were working at the farm in the morning, my husband planting tomatoes while I was weeding the prayer garden and marshmallow garden https://donteatitsoap.com/2015/08/05/marshmallow-root/ . We took about an hour for lunch and decided to get right back at it. As my husband walked toward the field where he was going to start planting pepper plants I heard him say, “We have a swarm”.

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I grabbed my camera and walked in his direction. I saw the bees still getting themselves organized in an Autumn Olive tree. The way they were landing it looked like two separate swarms but by the time they had finished they had all come together as one large swarm.

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One of the nice things about the location of our apiary is that it is surrounded by trees so when it is time for a swarm of bees to move to a new location their first stop is usually in one of the nearby trees. The Autumn Olive which is in bloom right now is very fragrant and I don’t blame them for choosing this tree.

Swarming is how honey bees colonies reproduce. When the hive begins to become over crowded the bees produce a new queen. They do this by building special brood cells which are known as queen cells. The queen larvae is then fed exclusively on royal jelly. The old queen leaves the hive with the swarm of worker bees in search of a new location to call home. The new queen hatches, mates with the drones, and begins laying eggs in the hive.

One thing I want to point out is that if you come across a swarm of bees on a tree or other structure there is no need to panic. It is not necessary to have someone remove them, as these bees are in transition and will be gone soon. There is no danger if you simply avoid the area. That’s not to say that if you know a beekeeper you shouldn’t call them to see if they want to come get it, as they might appreciate the opportunity to start a new hive.

As the bees settled in my husband began preparing to capture them. Just like with hiving bees it is important to make sure that everything is in place before getting started. He already had a empty hive ready in anticipation of capturing a swarm. He opened it up and removed some frames from an area where he would dump the bees. He left the covers sitting nearby.

He got out a five gallon bucket with a lid and examined the tree. I reminded him this tree has thorns. He decided he would need to cut a lower branch off so he could get to the swarm. He put on his bee suit, but since he wouldn’t need my help I didn’t suit up. I would just watch and take photos.

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The battery of my camera went dead after this photo.

After he removed the branch he was able to put the bucket directly under the branch that held the swarm. He then shook the branch very hard and a large portion of the swarm dropped into the bucket. His objective at this point was to get the queen. He quickly covered the bucket and took it to the hive that he had ready.  He emptied the bucket into the hive and I imagine he said a silent prayer that the queen was amongst them. He placed the cover over the hive and went back for more of the bees who were gathering back on the limb. He again shook the branch so that another large amount of bees fell into the bucket, and he took them to the hive as well. After repeating this a third time he had captured most of the bees. When he placed the cover on the hive many of the bees which were flying around the outside began clustering on the hive. This was a good sign that the queen was inside.

It is now three days later and this hive seems to be functioning as well as the others. Worker bees are leaving the hive and coming back with bright yellow pollen. That is just what we like to see. 🙂