Saturday, July 29, 2006

Butterfly Metamorphosis

I noticed this beautiful caterpillar on this dill stalk a few days ago, and it was still there today, and growing larger, so I decided to take a photo, and am hoping I can witness and document, the metamorphosis into a butterfly.

I am really excited, because after seeing the Swallowtail not able to get into the other dill bed the other day, due to the bird netting, I was somewhat distressed. But when this dill went to seed, the stalk shot up, through the bird netting, and developed its umbel, which the butterfly would have been able to land on, and lay it larva.

Once it turns into a chrysilis, and then a butterfly, I want to be sure and release it (it will be trapped in the bed because of the bird netting thats covering it). It should be safe to observe for a few hours, without having to worry about killing it.

I have collected butterfly caterpillars before, so I have confidence all will turn out well. When my kids were little, we collected caterpillars we found out on the parsley, put it in a fish bowl, feeding it fresh parsley, covering the top with a coffee filter (so it couldn't crawl out, but got air, and had a place to hang from when ready) until it turned into a chrysilis, and then a butterfly. I have a great photo of my daughter holding the beautiful swallowtail butterfly when she released it. It's a wonderful learning experience for kids to witness.The best picture book on the subject is The Caterpillar and the Polliwog, by Jack Kent. We read it at least a million times. I wish I owned a copy, we would renew it at library constantly.

Dill Umbel

Collecting the seed of the dill is a little more tricky for me, then the cilantro or parsley. As you can see in the photo, most of the seed has already fallen and scattered. Hopefully I will get better at recognizing the precise time to collect. There are a few seeds left on this umbel, so I bagged it and hung it, to finish its drying. I'll take whatever I can get.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Collecting Lettuce Seed

My lettuce that was planted in the early spring has gone to seed and is now ready to collect. Hopefully you left a few plants in your garden to go to seed as well.

It does seem to take a long time to let things go to seed. First you will notice your lettuce shoots up a tall stalk. Then it will bloom.

Finally, it will all turn to fluff, at which point you want to collect it before it all scatters. I just cut if off, and put it in a paper bag to catch the seeds as they fall. I'll keep it hung out of direct sun where it won't get wet for a few weeks.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

July Blooms


Uncle Tom's Black-Eyed Susans

Carnations I started these seeds last August. I thought they were a cool season flower, but they did at least over-winter, and are finally blooming.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Frightful Heat in the Bay Area

We have been having record breaking temps here in the Bay Area. We have always had cooling off in the evening, which is the best part about living here, but this year, we are getting NO relief from the heat whatsoever at any time.

Hardly anyone has air conditioning, because we are so used to mild temps. But this is getting unbearable. Yesterday, we set up our screened in tent, so we can sit outdoors in the evening, without any mosquitos getting us. The house is just way to hot (and its really not much better outdoors). We even had the fan on us last night in the tent! And didn't get up to go for a walk with the dogs till nearly 10PM.

I have been watering twice a day, to keep things alive.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Black Swallowtail Butterfly

This butterfly wanted to get at the dill so bad, it wouldn't give up, so I finally opened the netting and let it in, of course then it wanted out.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


I have never canned cucumbers before, but I picked all these in the morning, so I thought I'd give it a try. I have canned strawberries, beans, and hot pepper jelly in the past, so I had all the supplies necessary. We're having some unusual hot weather here, so I waited till evening to get started.

For the first time, I have actually coordinated the dill to be ready to harvest with the cucumbers. This is a milestone for me.

I decided to go with the one part vinegar to one part water formula. This is the minimum ratio you should use to be safe. I noticed the Dilly Beans I made, were made with 2 parts vinegar to 1 part water, and they were really tart.

I only wanted to make one batch (didn't want to be up all night). I fit 4 quart size jars, and 3 pint size jars in my canner. I used 7 1/2 cups vinegar and 7 1/2 cups water, and had enough left over to probably fill one more pint size jar.

I used all the cucumbers in the photo. I probably could have stuffed the quart size jars with more cucumbers. The pint size jars held about 1 cucumber each sliced in chips. The quart size jars could have held 2 cucumbers each, quartered lengthwise.

I had a spice packet for making dill pickles that I added to the quart size jars, to which I also added fresh dill and garlic. I added salt, dill and garlic for flavor into the pint size jars. I thought about putting in a jalapeno pepper, but didn't. Maybe next time. I processed my pickles in the hot water bath for 18 minutes, being sure the jars were covered by about an inch of water.

It really wasn't too much work. I knew from previous experience, I like working in small quantities. So one batch was just right, didn't kill me. I started around 8 PM and was done I think by 10:30. It just takes so long for the big pot of water to boil.

These web pages were very helpful:

Colorado State University Cooperative Extension

Foti Farm

FYI - Last night Whole Foods had a beautiful display of gourmet pickled items in 15 oz jars, on sale for $6.99 each (reg $7.99). They had green beans, cucumbers and beets in small jars. They looked really good, like the ones we make ourselves at home. I'm going to try pickling my own beets next time, they had ingredients like brown sugar and cinnamon, pickled in apple cider vinegar.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Garden Motivation...........

just when I need it.The NOT SO CUTE ANYMORE, little chickens got in my lettuce bed! I will be so careful from here on in, when attaching the netting, not to leave any unhooked. Not a one! This just goes to show how smart the chickens are.

Anyway, I came across a link to this Edible Landscape web site yesterday, and I found it so refreshing, so motivating. Sometimes I get a little burnt out on gardening, and need to be reminded of what a good thing I am doing, and why I am doing it. Please check this out:

Edible Estates

And if you haven't yet seen this one, it should surely help get you in the gardening mood as well:

Garden Rant

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Uncle Tom's Blooming Black-Eyed Susans

These plants were started from seed saved from my brothers garden in Maine. I started them on March 24, in memory of his birthday. They just started blooming yesterday. They are beautiful. Thanks Tom.

See my March 24th post, to learn more about Uncle Tom's fantastic seed starting method.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

July Harvest Photos with some recipes

July 29
Cabbage Crunch
I received a head of cabbage in my CSA basket, the cilantro and the scallions are from my garden. One of the nice thing about home grown veggies are the varieties you can choose. I love these Deep Purple Bunching Onions. I got the seeds at Johnny's Select Seeds


1/2 head cabbage - thinly sliced
1 large bunch cilantro - chopped
6 large scallions - chopped


1/2 cup sliced almonds - toasted
2 T sesame seeds - toasted

I just heat the almonds and sesame seeds together in a pan till golden, then store them in a jar if your not using till later.

(enough for 2 batches of cabbage crunch salad):

1 cup oil
6 T seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 T sesame oil
4 T sugar
1 t salt

Combine all ingrediens and shake in a large jar.

I made my first batch yesterday, we ate the entire thing, so I made the second batch today. I won't put the dressing or almonds and sesame seeds on till I am ready to serve. But it is all ready to go.

This salad is so fresh tasting and smelling. Try it.

July 27th
Cherry Tomatoes
Picking enough tomatoes everyday now for our salads, and a few extra to share. They like the heat we've been having.

Spearmint This mint is on the northern side of the house, so it is in shade most of the day. It has not yet bloomed, like my spearmint in the sun. Another good reason to plant things in more then one spot.

Cilantro This bed is in a cool micro climate, due to the proximity of the Curly Willow Tree. It's a natural air conditioner. So I am hoping my cilantro won't go straight to seed.


1 can cannelini beans
1/4 cup sesame tahini
couple cloves garlic
1/2 of a roasted red pepper
1/2 lemon juice
1/2 to 1 tsp cumin
olive oil
salt & pepper
fresh chopped spearmint or cilantro or both

Food process all ingredients except herbs till smooth, stir in fresh herbs. Serve with pita chips.

I was able to give away my first bag of squash, cucumber and basil yesterday.


Pasta with Basil Chiffonad

Olive oil
lemon juice
pine nuts

Chiffonad is the way the basil is chopped. Just stack the basil leaves on top of each other, roll, and slice very fine. You end up with long thin slivers of basil.

Heat enough olive oil in pan (depending on how many servings of pasta you are making), add lots of chopped garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Add the juice of 1/2 - 1 lemon and saute for 1 more minute.

Serve over your favorite pasta tossed with lots of fresh basil chifinade, toasted pine nuts (put in toaster oven for 5 minutes till golden) and a chopped fresh tomato or sundried tomatoes.

Pesto on polenta

4 cups basil leaves - blanched in boiling water for 30 seconds (to retain green color)
4 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Food process all ingredients together. I like to put my pesto on fried polenta slices. I buy the precooked polenta in the roll and slice it into 1/2" pieces, fry one side first to golden brown in a very little olive oil, then flip and add a spoonful of pesto and some parmegian cheese on top, cover pan and fry for a few more minutes, till melted. I also like to put a few extra toated pine nuts on top.


I could live off of these recipes everyday, during the cucumber season, and don't seem to get sick of them........and I don't have do any canning (not that I wouldn't mind.....especially when its so hot outside):

Greek Salad

1 cup Quinoia
1 cucumber
1 tomato
1 red onion
lots of fresh dill
Feta Cheese
Olive oil
Salt & pepper

Rinse quinoia 5 times, to remove the natural protectant (from birds) coating. Add to 2 cups boiling, salted water, simmer covered for 25 minutes. Cool.

Add peeled, seeded, and chopped cucumber, chopped tomato, chopped red onion, and chopped dill, some feta cheese and olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss and chill.

Swedish Cucumbers

2 cucumbers
1 cup vinegar
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Boil the vinegar, water and sugar till disolved, refridgerate over-night. In the morning, peel and slice the cucumber as thin as you can and marinade in vinegar syrup till dinner. Best eaten that night, they don't hold up to well (not usually a problem).


Golden Scallopini Bush This is a nice compact bush, not sprawling or requiring too much space.

Summer Zuchetta Squash This is turning out to be my favorite squash. I like that it is a vine, that is easily trained up vertically, so it doesn't take up much space, and it is prolific.

Crookneck Squash
This squash is best picked tiny and grilled whole, unlike the big lumpy ones. This bush plant is sprawling foward, requiring a lot of bed space.

Penne Pasta

This is really quick, but tastes like it simmered all day, and is heavy on veggies.

3 Mild Italian Sausage - take out of casing
2 red onions - thinly sliced 1/2 circles
2 cloves garlic - chopped
3 summer squash - sliced into good size/chunky 1/2 moons
2 red pepper- 1" cubed
1 large can tomatoes - pureed
1/2 box penne pasta - cooked

In a large stock pot, saute the sausage, breaking it up into small chunks, add the onion and garlic and saute some more, add the squash and red pepper and saute some more, add the tomatoes and simmer for about 20 - 30 minutes. Toss in the pasta and some fresh basil chifinade.

If you like creamy sauces, add 1/2 cup sour cream with the pasta and basil and stir well, you won't be sorry!

Lettuce, radichio and endive salad

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Good Thing.......

those chickens are so cute!

This was a Harbinger Tomato Plant, I guess Daisy thougt it was lunch. I had it protected, but removed the wire to use somewhere else last week, and forgot to put it back, and she finally found it.


Henrietta and Bueller

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Collecting Seeds

Some of my annual herb plants have gone to seed are dry enough to start collecting. They would just self sow, but I want to collect some of the seeds and save them so I can do some successive plantings, when and where I want them.

I want to collect them when they are starting to turn brown, but before they all fall to the ground, and its too late to save.

Parsley seed heads ready to Collect

Cilantro seed heads ready to collect

Before storing them in a jar, I will let them hang dry in a paper bag for a few more weeks, some place where they are out of direct sun, and where they will stay dry.

At least I have more herbs on the way..........I'm learning!

Lemon Basil



Monday, July 10, 2006

Shade Cloth

My strawberries do not like all the hot weather we have been having. They starting frying during the last heat wave................I guess this is why they grow them commercially along the coast.

I thought maybe some shade cloth would protect them. I had a small piece left-over from another project, but it didn't cover the whole bed, so I just kept rotating it over portions, giving some plants a break from the sun each day. I think it might have helped some. I started to get some beautiful strawberries again, instead of brown ones.

So yesterday when I transplanted some basil seedlings and other herb plants, during another heat wave, I decided to protect the plants with the shade cloth. It worked great. I usually try to wait till evening to transplant seedlings in the heat, but I'm so tired by then, and I keep putting it off, now I can just do it in the morning or during the day, and use the shade cloth to protect them from burning. This is fabulous. What are you waiting for..............go get yourself a piece of shade cloth!

My husband picked up a new piece of shade cloth yesterday. It looks more like burlap or potato sack material. I'm using this over the entire strawberry bed now. If this doesn't help, I guess I'll just have to leave the strawberry growing to the people on the coast, who have all that cool foggy weather, that the strawberries prefer.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

A Gardener's Kitchen

I was away from my garden again this past week, but it survived thanks to the attention of some wonderful neighbors. Only one hanging tomato basket was dried up, but who's complaining.....not me.......the chickens, dogs and cat are all still living. While away.......

I picked-up this cool pot rack in Santa Cruz. I found it on Craigslist before I left, and it was still available when I got there. If you haven't heard of Craigslist, its a wonderful place to buy or sell your wanted or unwanted items. Check for items in your local area.

Very important for gardeners to have a place to store all your dried herbs.
This wall above my kitchen sink was wasted space until my husband built these beautiful shelves out of salvaged redwood. With a little effort he designed his own stencil and cut the wood to make it look like a work of art.

And a place to hang your dried flowers or dry your herbs.
This was a great use of space to hang up a drying rack. It's both pretty and functional for gardeners. My husband made it from pegs purchased from our local craft supply store.

As you can see from the photos I like a little color. We never completely remodeled our kitchen, but updated whatever we could do ourselves over the years. It's amazing what paint can do. Just imagine the wood veneer cabinet doors, and red brick back splash when we bought this place. Something had to be done, and it had to be quick and inexpensive. (Well maybe not too quick, I think it took me about six months to paint the cabinet doors, a few at a time due to kids nap schedule and limited work space, out in the garage. But my husband did lay the nice tile floor in a weekend.....nearly cost him a finger.)

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Hanging Baskets

This plant is not edible, but it smells like it is. It's vanilla scented. I bought this plant last summer at the farmers market. It died back over the winter, but I pruned it and repotted in fresh soil this spring, and it has made a nice comeback.

Since were talking about vanilla.......

did you know you could make your own vanilla extract? Just add 5 fresh whole vanilla beans (slit down the center) to a bottle of vodka and let it infuse for at least 6 weeks. Use in baking just like vanilla extract.