Monthly Archives: August 2017

Gone Fishing

Recently we have been spending some of our evenings fishing in our pond. When we stocked the pond we wanted fish that were good for eating, so we chose catfish, perch and walleye. We also put in a few pike and lots of fathead minnows.

When we tell people that we have perch and walleye in our pond we get mixed reactions. Those, like me, who know little about fishing and fish habitat take us at our word. They have a simple “that’s nice” attitude about it, but it is not a big deal. More seasoned fishermen, however, have one of two reactions. Some are extremely interested in how we have accomplished this. They begin asking questions like how deep is the pond (20+ feet), what kind of structure have we put in it (piles of rocks), we talk about using the windmill for aeration and the sandy bottom in the beach area that provides habitat for perch to lay eggs. Other knowledgeable fishermen don’t believe us. “No Way!” is their reply when we say we have perch and walleye in the pond. It is their belief that ponds like our only support bass and blue gill.

After catching a 15″ walleye on two consecutive nights I decided I needed to start taking my camera with me while we were fishing. Since then all we have caught are perch. We have been catching perch as small as 2″

IMG_3112 This photo is a close-up of the small fish in the next photo. It is a bit deceiving.

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We have also caught perch as large as 9″.

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While catching a large fish is always exciting, catching the small ones is confirmation that the perch are reproducing in the pond. We have yet to catch a small walleye, so it may be that the environment is suitable for walleye to live but does not meet their needs for reproducing.

Now I did say that we have only caught perch since I started taking my camera along, but like every good fisherman I do have the story of the one that got away. We were catching only small perch that evening, so it was a shock when the large fish hit my hook. It hit hard and fast (as walleye do) and I caught only a glimpse of the fish as it neared the surface attached to my line. My husband immediately realized my shock. “Don’t panic” he said as he reached to help me set my drag. Then, as quickly as the fish was on my line, the line snapped and it was gone. That’s my story; a true story. I am not asking you to swallow it hook, line and sinker because a monster walleye already did.

 

Mystery Solved -Thank You Lisa!

Our Mystery Plant is a Mountain Mint.

https://garden.org/plants/view/78608/Narrowleaf-Mountain-Mint-Pycnanthemum-tenuifolium/IMG_3088This plant attracted my attention when I saw our honey bees heavily foraging in it. We are in a wildflower transition period where the blossoms on the Sweet Clover and Canadian Thistle are waning and the Golden Rod is just beginning to open. It seems the bees are foraging mostly on white clover which we have much of but we were happy to find something else that they loved.

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My husband and I searched all of our plant reference books and several online data bases and were unable to identify this plant. The plant had grown up in an area where we had planted a wild flower seed mix several years ago. So I decided to go to what I assumed was the source. The wild flower seed mix we planted was from American Meadows https://www.americanmeadows.com/wildflower-seeds . We first search their website and were unable to find any plant that resembled our mystery plant. I then decided to contact the company. I used the contact form on their website and included a picture of the plant I was trying to I.D. This was on Sunday. I received an automated reply that day saying they received my message and would try to respond within 48 hours.

My husband and I continued to search online wildflower data bases to no avail and on Monday I received an email from Lisa at American Meadows. She thought the plant in the photo was Yarrow. I replied immediately. At first glance the plant may look like Yarrow, but we also have Yarrow growing on the farm and there are several differences in the two plants. The flowers are different, but more noticeable is the difference in the leaf structure and I have never seen the bees visit Yarrow.

I sent Lisa a second photo of our mystery plant which showed the leaves more clearly. Lisa replied that same day. From this picture she could now see that the plant was not Yarrow. She could not identify the plant but if I could send a close up of the flowers she would “call in the troops” to help find our answer. On Wednesday I sent a couple more photos, described the light scent of the flowers and told her we lived in South-East Michigan.

Later that day I was surprised and excited to receive Lisa’s email. It read: “Success!

The plant is Mountain Mint, probably Pycnanthemum virginianum, which is the common species in Michigan. There is a related species that is much less common, called Pycnanthemum tenuifolium. The main difference is that P. virginianum has pubescent stems, whereas the stems of P. tenuifolium are glabrous (i.e., not hairy). I can’t see the stems well enough on your photos to tell whether the stems are pubescent or not.”

Lisa said her source of this information was a botanist here in Michigan.

I did an internet search and found photos of Mountain Mint and discovered that it was indeed what we had. I at first believed it was Pycnanthemum virginianum, the more common species. On Thursday after I read Lisa’s message a second time I began to question that. I didn’t remember this plant having hairy stems. On my next trip to the farm I confirmed this. The stems of our Mountain Mint are smooth. We have the less common of the two, Pycnanthemum tenuifolium. Common names for this plant are Narrow-leaved Mountain Mint,  Common Horsemint, and Slender Mountain Mint. My husband and I could not be more thrilled than to have this mystery solved. We will encourage this plant to spread and perhaps even propagate it.

This might go without saying but in a day and age where good customer service is hard to find I have to say that we greatly appreciate the help that we received from Lisa at American Meadows. She certainly could have determined that our plant was not something that came in the seeds we received from them an left us on our own. Instead she went the extra mile to help us solve the mystery. At this time we do not have a need to purchase wild flower seed but if we ever do we will return to American Meadows and perhaps if you decided to purchase wild flower seed you will consider them as well.

 

 

Stumped – Need Help Identifying Plant

Identifying plants and their usefulness is sort of a passion of mine and this plant has both my husband and I stumped. We have searched several plant I.D. books and online data bases and have yet to find out what it is. In addition to the photos below I can tell you that it has a very light fragrance and the honey bees and bumble bees love it.

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Feel free to share this post on social media but please leave comments on this page as I will not see them on social media sites. Thank you for helping me solve this mystery.

Using Garden Veggies – Two Recipes Worth Sharing

‘Tis the season of vegetables fresh from the garden, so I thought I’d share a couple of recipes that I made last week that we really enjoyed.

The first one was made with yellow squash. Generally it only takes one or two yellow squash plants to produce enough squash that you can eat it every day. More plants will have you sending it home with friends and family or the delivery man, and when no one shows up at your house you might resort to leaving a few on the doorsteps of random strangers and rushing off before you are caught.

With the yellow squash coming on fast and furious, and with no visitors in sight, I decided to look for new recipes for yellow squash. An internet search led me to this recipe.  http://diethood.com/garlic-parmesan-yellow-squash-chips/

I decided to make this (or something similar) as a side dish for our dinner one night. The ingredients were simple –

Yellow Squash cut into 1/4 inch slices

About 3 Tablespoons of Olive Oil

1 cup Parmesan Cheese

1 cup bread crumbs (I used Italian seasoned bread crumbs)

1 Teaspoon garlic powder

I put the olive oil in one bowl and mixed the bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and garlic powder in a second bowl. I dipped the squash slices first in olive oil coating both sides, then in the bread crumb mixture.

At this point my instructions vary from the original recipe. Rather than a metal baking pan lined with parchment paper, I placed the slices in my 9×13 Pyrex  baking dish. Since I didn’t know if my Pyrex could handle the 450 cooking temperature, I set my oven at 350. I baked them for about 15 minutes flipped each one over and baked for another 15 minutes.

These didn’t turn out crispy like the original recipe, nor did I want them to. Since they were a side dish we would be eating them with a fork not as a finger food. The breaded yellow squash was a delightful side dish.  When my husband repeated several times how good it was and went back for a second helping, I decided this recipe was a keeper and good enough to share with you.

Swiss chard is another garden vegetable that is very prolific. We start picking the green leaves when they are young and tender and they continue to grow back throughout the summer. We sauté them with garlic, use in stir fries and soups and eat raw in salads. If we try to give swiss chard to friends or neighbors they often reply that they don’t know what swiss chard is or have never eaten it. We describe it as being like a hardy spinach. That’s what trigger this next recipe idea.

We do like a good spinach artichoke dip but we don’t grow spinach. I decided to find a good recipe for spinach-artichoke dip and substitute swiss chard for the spinach. I started with this recipe   http://www.food.com/recipe/spinach-artichoke-dip-1209 . I read the reviews and suggestion’s for changes that people made then I came up with this recipe.

1/2 cup grated Asiago cheese

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 cup grated mozzarella cheese

10 oz. fresh swiss chard finely chopped

1 can artichoke hearts drained and chopped

8 oz. cream cheese softened

2/3 cup sour cream

1/3 cup mayonnaise

several garlic cloves minced equal to about 2 or 3 teaspoons

about 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

I mixed together the first 5 ingredients in one bowl and mixed the last 5 ingredient in a second bowl. Then I mixed the two mixtures together. I put it in a one quart casserole dish and baked it at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

We ate this with tortilla chips. “That’s really good” was my husbands response. He was right. “I’m not sure I will ever want to order spinach dip at a restaurant again” he said. We both had seconds and left overs were eaten the following day with lunch. Can you make it and freeze it he asked me last night, and I am planning on doing just that later this week. Obviously this is another recipe that I want to keep around, and in recording it here I have accomplished that and shared it with you as well.

If you decide to try either of these recipes please let me know what you think by leaving your comments on this page, and if you have a recipe that is worth sharing I would love for you to do so.

 

Making Pickles

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In the past my attempts to make dill pickles by canning, using vinegar recipes, have resulted in pickles with that have a decent flavor but are too mushy to really enjoy. I really haven’t even attempted to make pickles in a several years because we have had horrible cucumber crops. We had pretty much decided not to grow cucumbers as it seemed that no sooner would the cucumber start growing well then the cucumber beetles would arrive, the cucumber plants would then begin turning brown, apparently from bacterial wilt, and dying before we could harvest more that a couple of cukes.

When starting plants this spring my husband came across a packet of pickling cucumber seeds and decided to give it one more try. We aren’t really sure what has made the difference this year but the cucumber plants are flourishing. It could be that this variety of cucumbers is disease resistance, or that the cucumbers were planted later and the cucumber beetles missed out, or possibly a combination of the two. No matter the reason, we are grateful for the productive crop.

It was about three weeks ago when my husband brought me a bag with more than a half dozen nice size cukes from our garden. With more cucumbers than we would eat in a couple of days I knew I needed to make pickles. There were not enough to can a batch of the vinegar pickles, and as I said I was never happy with my past results, so I decided to try fermented pickles.  I use this recipe. http://www.culturesforhealth.com/learn/recipe/lacto-fermentation-recipes/lacto-fermented-kosher-dill-pickles/  I didn’t have enough to warrant the use of my 2 gallon crock so I decided to use a 1/2 gallon canning jar. I picked a horseradish leaf to use to add tannins, my husband picked me some dill and I peeled a couple bulbs of garlic to add. I didn’t add any other spices because in my opinion garlic and dill is all that is needed to make a great pickle.

Since I didn’t have a fermenting weight that would fit inside a jar to hold the vegetables down under the brine, I read about using a smaller jar to nest inside the wide mouth jar and decided that would work. It would have worked perfectly well except I discovered that all of my smaller canning jars were in use. I needed to improvise.  I used an ice tea glass and although it sat quite above the rim of the canning jar, it was heavy enough to hold the pickles under the brine. I then covered the jar, glass and all, with a dish towel.

I left them on the kitchen counter where I could keep an eye on things. By the next day I could see bubbles in the liquid and on the following day the liquid began turning cloudy. This is what should be happening. I wasn’t sure when they would be done, but since the temperature in my kitchen these days is higher then the recommended 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit, I decided that two more days on the counter was enough. My goal was nice crispy pickles. I removed the towel and the glass, put a canning lid on the jar and put them in the refrigerator.  Meanwhile I read a few more article about fermenting cucumbers and when my husband brought home another batch of cukes I immediately washed them, trimmed the flower end and put them in a bowl of ice water, until I was ready for them.

For the second batch I used the same recipe and the same process except I didn’t have any more 1/2 gallon jars so they were split between two wide mouth quart jars. The second batch was basically the same as the first – they began bubbling on day two, turned cloudy on day three and on day five I refrigerated them.

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The third batch of cucumbers that my husband brought home had gotten quite large so I decided to experiment with cucumber spears and slices. I used the same recipe and the same method. At this point they are cloudy and bubbling on my kitchen counter. I will refrigerate them tomorrow.

As for the taste test, last weekend we decided just to have cold turkey and swiss sandwiches for dinner and my husband decided that we had to have a pickle with our sandwich. I cut one in half and placed a half on each of our plates. I waited for him to try it first. “You nailed it!” he exclaimed after taking the first bite of his pickle. These pickle turned out just as I hoped, crisp with the garlic and dill flavor.