Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Last time, I wrote about how much I enjoyed a four season climate.  I also really enjoy the transition from one season into the next.  It's a combination of savoring the last of the departing season and anticipating the pleasures of the one to come.  Right now, I'm trying to relish each moment of summer remaining as it dwindles down.  The warmth of the air, the fragrance of fresh herbs in the garden and I'm eating all the fresh produce I can get my hands on.  At this time of year, I often think how nice it would be to have homegrown local fruits and vegetables year-round.  But I also wonder if it would seem such a delightful treat if we could get our hands on fresh produce at any time.

At the same time I'm appreciating the last bits of summer (like scraping all the ice cream from the bottom of the bowl) I'm anticipating the soon-to-come attributes of fall.  Some cool mornings, I can feel a slight tang in the air that I know will turn into the crisp coolness of fall mornings.  A couple times I've looked up to see small flocks of geese flying overhead.  Our lovely paperback birch has dropped a lot of leaves.  I'm sure it's from the dryness.  Generally, the leaves turn yellow in the fall.  These were dry and brown.  But it made for an enjoyable shuffle through the carpet of fallen leaves under the birch tree.  Unlike the white-barked river birch, this variety has tan, exfoliating (or peeling) bark which looks particularly attractive in the winter when the tree is bare of leaves.  It's also more tolerant of our hot, humid summers than river birches are.

Another sign of the impending arrival of fall--our goldfinch pair has started dining daily at the big stand of coneflower in front of the greenhouse.  Sometimes there are more than two, but a pair always come in together to enjoy the bountiful crop of seeds.  Sometimes, they fly back to the bee and butterfly garden to survey the area from a piece of decorative fencing or to splash in the birdbath.  Guess that's a pretty good day if you're a goldfinch.

I happened to be looking out the back door one day in time to see a giant bird flying over.  It was so low that it was easy to see it was a blue heron--I could even see it's feet hanging down as it flew over.  I thought it was going to land in the neighbor's above-ground pool, but it landed right at the edge of our wild, overgrown area.  It landed and immediately folded in its wings, making a very narrow silhouette.  It spent some time resting and walked around awhile.  I did not see it leave.  I've seen a heron flying over several times this year, so perhaps he lives in the area.

We still have a few perennials left for fall planting.  And the shop is fully stocked with our herbal products.  We are open Tuesday - Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. through December.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015


I am definitely a four-seasoner.  I like distinct seasons and the transition from one to another.  Lately, I've been thinking about all the summer things I enjoy.  First of all is food.  I love going outside and picking fresh herbs to use in my cooking--I do this almost daily in season.  I guess for summer, basil is my favorite herb.  Regular basil--the genovese type goes well with all kinds of summer veggies, plus vinaigrettes, pasta dishes and Italian/tomato dishes.  I also like the fresh basil-citrus flavor of lime basil--good on chicken, fish and southwestern dishes.  And cinnamon basil on fresh fruit--yum!

I realize I gauge summer by the fruit that's in season--starting with strawberries and apricots.  Then our wild black raspberries and sour cherries.  I love bing cherries which have a relatively short season and blueberries which have a nice long season.  Now I'm obsessed with two of my favorites--cantaloupe and fresh peaches.  I think the smell of ripe peaches is just divine.  I make cantaloupe soup--actually a smoothie, by combining 8 oz. plain yogurt, a medium-sized melon, cubed and a splash of orange juice in the blender.  Cool, refreshing and delicious.

And of course, there are fresh vegetables from the garden in summer.  Our sugar peas lasted two months this year!  We've had loads of green and wax beans and a few tomatoes--enough for a few BLT's so far.  We don't grow corn, but we've been getting  delicious  bi-color  corn  at our local amish farm.

Other summer enjoyments--the loud, distinctive sound of cicadas, lightning bugs at night, tree frogs and the sweet, sweet fragrance of honeysuckle.

I had another sighting of our resident box turtle.  I've seen him (her?) three or four times over the years.  I'm sure it's the same one because he's beautifully marked--bright orange on his legs and shell.  He lives in the back corner of the property--the wet, wild, thick area.  I only saw him this time because he was crossing the grassy area next to the woods.  I'm glad to see he's doing well.

I've definitely seen more honeybees as the summer progressed, although not like I used to see.  They've been very busy between the thyme when it flowered and all the clover in our yard.  Had several monarch butterfly sightings--but only one at a time, so I don't know if it's a lone one.  Swallowtails--black and tiger--seem plentiful and lots of smaller varieties are around.

I read something recently which regarded planting butterfly bushes in a negative light.  The logic was that since they are not host plants, they are less worthy.  Host plants are those that provide a food source for caterpillars before they become butterflies.  There's no doubt that host plants are vitally important in attracting butterflies to your garden.  But just  as the immature caterpillar needs a food source, so do adult butterflies.  And I must say that for sheer numbers, and certainly for variety of species, it's hard to beat butterfly bushes.  Ours are loaded with butterflies, large, medium and small.    My plan is always to provide variety in plants--host plants and nectar sources--and let the butterflies choose their favorites.

Plants I'm harvesting and drying--basils, tarragon, mints, chamomile flowers, calendula, savory, statice, gomphrena, orlaya (queen anne's lace substitute) and craspedia (petal-less yellow globes).