Monday, August 25, 2014

The Vegetables Say it FINALLY Feels Like Summer!

The cool summer is frustrating to growers like us, but finally we are seeing some ripe tomatoes, peppers and the set of many winter squash. Yay! We turned the tomatoes into a batch of Tomato Glut Sauce, a super delicious recipe we enjoy very much. This is a freezer preservation technique only due to some of the ingredients.

Some of our dry beans are finishing up and we adore the colors and the taste! These pictured are Jacob's Cattle Bean. There are so many beans drying in the garden..what a rewarding crop to grow.

Jennifer made another smudge stick with the white sage we overwintered from last year. We can't have enough of these around here.

She also made a batch of calendula infused oil and holy basil tincture. The oil will be used in our salve. Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs, A Beginner's Guide is a great place to start for those of you interested in harvesting some of your homegrown herbs and using them for health.

The Ashy Sunflowers (Helianthus mollis) are in full bloom in our front yard. They are STUNNING so we are enjoying them outdoors and in.

Alvin is loving the warmth too. Ahhhhh summer....

Monday, August 18, 2014

Monarch Time, Finally!

We hosted a few monarchs early in the season, but now we are seeing them daily. Woo hoo! There are many new young caterpillars (2nd and 3rd instar) on our new common milkweed and we found this chrysalis on a head of our cabbage! Thanks to Steve for observing it before it was tossed in the compost pile.

As I type, this chrysalis is starting to turn darker and giving hints of the adult monarch's coloration. Soon we will have another adult to roam our gardens, nectar on flowers, perhaps lay a few eggs or start to head south!

If you are in need of milkweed seed for your own place here are some options.

Save Our Monarch Foundation

Monarch Watch

Xerces Society

We are also planning to supply seed and plugs in 2015.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Cedar Bog & Gallagher Fen State Nature Preserves

We spent some time hiking and exploring at two very cool Ohio nature preserves - Cedar Bog and Gallagher Fen, which are two very cool protected wetlands. Most of the original wetlands in Ohio and our homestate of Indiana are gone due to development, agriculture and other reasons so those that are left are priceless! They harbor some rare species mainly because these types of habitats are rare. We didn't see the cute spotted turtle, but we did see some interesting plants and insects and really enjoyed the feel of these wetlands interspersed with woodlands, sedge meadows, prairie fens and cool flowing streams.

Tall Bellflower with a nectaring bee...

Swamp Milkweed with a nectaring Giant Swallowtail. These butterflies lay their eggs on plants in the citrus family (Rutaceae). One of our favorite nature moments of all time occurred at Lindenwood Nature Preserve in Indiana when we hiked by a Prickly Ash and noticed dozens of bird poop mimicing Giant Swallowtail caterpillars feeding. What a defense mechanism!

A mile long boardwalk winds through Cedar Bog allowing visitors to explore.

Who doesn't love blazing star? We planted lots of this plant in our new wildflower beds.

Steve spotted the always captivating Sundew, a carnivorous plant! I sure would not want to be a fly and get stuck on those little balls of goo.

Lovely view of the fen...

The cool wetland waters harbor the spotted turtle, a threatened species in Ohio due to habitat destruction.

We may not have seen the spotted turtle, but we did see a five-lined skink!

Young Green Stinkbugs are so colorful...

Happy hiker Steve...

Here's another plant included in our new wildflower beds - Queen of the Prairie. What an appropriate name for this brilliant bloom!

A nature center welcomes visitors to Cedar Bog.

We just adore all these blooming flowers and all the insects that call them home!

Can you tell?!

Gallagher Fen is awesome! Bluffs with prairie with wetlands in the valley makes for stunning scenery.

A vestige of a homesite? Blackberry lily.

Identification time! The wetland loving Ohio Goldenrod lives here.

We would like to grow Swamp Thistle. The buds are interestingly colored and thistles are such a great source of nectar for insects and seeds for birds.

Nature is really just this cool:

We hope you all are enjoying some outings too!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Summer 2014 Gardens

Recent rains made all our plants grow and bloom. It's lovely in August in Ohio! The scarlet runner beans and breadseed poppies are real show stoppers.

All the other vegetable garden flowers are really adding to the scene with their brilliant colors.

The 2014 garlic harvest is in the barn and curing. It smells fabulous in there!

We've also started the onion harvest. This is about a quarter of it. We again made it through a whole year of not buying any onions. Awesome!

 The corn is tasseling and we are hopeful for a great non-GMO corn harvest!

Just for fun - here's a view from our roof of the vegetable garden and the beginnings of our new wildflower beds: