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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Deserting Wall Street for the Farm

This article was featured in the New York Times

TORREY READE had an M.B.A. from Harvard, a six-figure job with an investment firm, a TriBeCa apartment, a closetful of expensive clothes — and a gnawing feeling that there was something better out there. She found it in a remote, rural corner of southern New Jersey, and tossed her former life away to become a farmer.

Home is now Neptune Farm in Salem County, a 126-acre spread where she raises beef cattle and lambs and grows oats. She has discovered that the work is hard and the compensation is low, but the fresh air and open space are her elixir.

“The longer I lived in the city, the more I longed for something green,” said Ms. Reade, 56. “I was going insane cramped up in an apartment building. Then there was my job. Investment banking can be very stressful, and you always have to perform for the investors. Every Christmas seemed to be destroyed because you’re always closing deals near the end of the year. There was so much stress. I feared that I was becoming not a very nice person.”

Ms. Reade is not alone in trying to live her own version of “Green Acres,” the television sitcom from the 1960s and ’70s about a priggish lawyer named Oliver Wendell Douglas who leaves behind big-city life to try his hand at farming.

According to the New Jersey Farm Bureau, there are 9,924 farms in the state. Pegi Adam, a spokeswoman for the bureau, said about 25 of those farms are run by people who came to farming after leaving other careers, and their numbers are growing.

“There are a lot of people out there who want to get off the corporate treadmill,” Ms. Adam said.

While those figures do not indicate a reversal these last few decades in the overall decline in the number of farms throughout the country, they are a sign of a small movement of people choosing the simpler life that farming offers.

“Young people are especially interested in organic farming, which is a growth industry in New Jersey,” Ms. Adam said.

Looking merely for a second home where she could escape to on the weekends, in 1989 Ms. Reade bought Neptune Farm, which included an 18th-century farmhouse. She so liked the peace and quiet that she soon persuaded her firm, which specialized in buying and selling bankrupt companies, to let her work from the farm several days a month.

That began a process of spending less and less time in New York and devoting fewer hours to her job.

The transition from corporate executive to full-time farmer was gradual, and even Ms. Reade cannot pinpoint exactly when she became more one than the other.

As she started out, Ms. Reade, who had worked in public television before attending Harvard Business School, had to find a way to supplement her declining income, so she knew she had to make better use of her land. The property’s previous owner did not use the land for farming and had allowed most of the fields to deteriorate.

Ms. Reade officially became an organic farmer in 1992, when Neptune Farm was certified by the Northeast Organic Farmers Association. Even so, she estimated that it took another five years for her to make a complete transition, when she no longer had to rely on doing financial work on the side.

“There was a steep learning curve,” she said. “I had to pour all my savings into this place to make it work, and there was little or no return on the investment.”

But Ms. Reade, along with her companion, Dick McDermott, made it work, bringing the farm back to life. Besides the cattle and lambs she raised, she grew and sold fruit and vegetables, all of which were organically produced.

Jonathan White’s path to farming started out as a hobby. An engineer whose jobs included a teaching stint at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, he liked to make his own cheese. He became so enamored with the pastime that he left engineering in 1993 to run his own business making and selling cheese. Unable to purchase milk from grass-fed cows with which to make his cheese, he solved the problem by starting his own farm, Bobolink Dairy in Vernon.

“Cheese making and farming presented me with a whole fresh set of challenges,” said Mr. White, who started the farm with his wife, Nina, in 2002. “I could see that this was an area that was ripe for improvement. It’s been a very long time since anyone had questioned the very tenets of dairy farming.

“I’m no longer an engineer, but I didn’t throw the baby out with the bath water. The engineering training and experience helps me be a healthy skeptic. The farming world is filled with conclusions for which nobody remembers what the assumptions were. I love to come in and ask questions that nobody ever asked before, especially if there is a better way to do something.”

Todd Applebaum used to work in the construction industry and live in Paramus. But he was not content with the quality of his life. He had had horses growing up and figured he would enjoy working with livestock. He wanted to go into a branch of farming that would not require owning a lot of land or raising a lot of capital, and discovered that raising ostriches met his needs.

With his brother, Lance, he opened Fossil Farms in 1997 in Andover, where they raise ostriches organically, selling their meat primarily to restaurants that offer exotic fare.

“I definitely enjoy it,” said Todd Applebaum, who now lives in Fredon. “It’s always interesting, always a challenge. I didn’t like the rat race. I like the quiet.”

About the same time that the Applebaums opened their farm, Ms. Reade made her complete conversion to full-time farmer, leaving the world of finance behind. That meant giving up a lot, mainly a decent income, she said. Her current income, she said, is “just above the poverty level.”

Ms. Reade’s former colleagues are not completely surprised at her career change.

“She went to work for an investment company and said she had some real qualms about all that goes on in that world and that she didn’t want any part of it,” said Karen Johnson, who worked with Ms. Reade at the PBS station WGBH in Boston. “She has a strong moral backbone. She just didn’t like what she was doing, so it didn’t surprise me that she would walk away from all that money to do something she considered better.”

For Ms. Reade, running a small farm has never been easy. In her early days as a farmer, she found a niche growing organic fruits and vegetables, which were not prevalent in the area at the time. But then several larger South Jersey farms eventually went organic and Ms. Reade found that she could soon not compete with them. She still grows fruits and vegetables, but for her own consumption.

She knows her farming profits will never remotely approach her previous income. And, she said, she does not care.

“It was surprisingly easy to give up what I had,” Ms. Reade said. “I don’t have kids and I don’t need a lot of money. Some people can’t retire until they have $10 million in the bank. I didn’t need a huge wine cellar or a Renoir on the wall. That was never me.

“I am compensated here in other ways, in ways I never imagined. I’ve always been a pretty happy person. But I’ve never been happier.”

Friday, August 29, 2008

Herb Hungry? Have some Ideas

This article was written by my (Marisa) Aunt Carolyn, she has the most amazing herb garden. Michael and I love to walk around her backyard and touch and smell all the different herbs.

Flavors for Vinegars:

White wine vinegar & rosemary, raisins, orange peel, garlic

Red wine vinegar & sage, parsley, shallots or chives

Cider vinegar & chilies, garlic, oregano

Rice vinegar & Coriander Leaf (cilantro) and garlic

White wine vinegar & fennel, garlic, parsley

Herb Butters

Mind and Dill

Lemon balm or verbena and grated orange peel

Basil, oregano, thyme and pureed shr8imp

Marjoram and garlic

Garlic, sesame seeds (or oil) and chives

Flavored Oils:

Olive Oil & garlic, oregano, thyme

Sunflower Oil & dill & garlic

Olive oil & basil, chili, garlic

Walnut oil & lemon verbena or balm, lemon type

Combinations of Herbs for Freezing or Drying Together

Coriander leaf and chilies

Chives and dill weed

Dill, mint, parsley

Oregano, thyme and parsley

Save, thyme, chives

Lemon verbena (or balm) and tarragon

Mint, lemon balm and dill

Oregano, basil and Thyme

Maximizing the Flavor of Herbs

To develop the flavor for dried herbs, soak them for several minutes in a liquid that can be used in the recipe – stock, oil, lemon juice, or vinegar

When using herbs in salad dressings, allow the flavor of the combination to develop by soaking for 15 minutes to an hour

Work the flavors of herbs into meat, poultry and fish by rubbing them in with your hands before cooking

For steamed or boiled vegetables, add the herbs to melted butter (or olive oil) and allow to stand for 10 minutes before seasoning the vegetables with it.

To intensify the flavors of whole spices, toast them briefly in a dry, heavy skillet before using.

Dried and fresh herbs may be used interchangeably in most recipes. Use three to five times more fresh herbs than dried, depending on the strength of the herb.

Featuring: Coriander (Cilantro)

Did you know that coriander and cilantro are the same plant. Usually, when the seeds are used, or the leaves are dried, it goes by the name of Coriander. When used fresh, we know it as Cilantro.

In the Arabian fantasy, The Thousand and One Nights, Coriander is referred to as an aphrodisiac.

Chewing the seeds of Coriander can calm an upset stomach.

In all probability, the herb came into use by the ancient Hebrews, who made it one of the bitter bergs involved in the ritual of Passover.

Seeds of the coriander have been found among the funeral offerings in ancient Egyptian tombs.

Coriander leaves have a bold taste that combines a strong sage flavor with sharp citrus notes.

Recipe that includes Coriander (Cilantro):

Cowboy Caviar

1 can black-eyed peas drained

1 can shoe peg or regular corn drained

3 roma tomatoes (seeded and chopped finely)

3-4 green onions chopped finely

½ - 1 cucumber chopped finely

3-5 T. chopped Cilantro

4-5 oz. Kraft (light or fat free) Zesty Italian Dressing

Optional: Chopped Avocado

Serve with: Tortilla Scoops or Chips

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Grapes of Sloth


I don’t deserve this bounty. I did nothing. No weeding, no fertilizing, no pruning, no trellising, no watering (and I live in a drought state!) Hardly even a thought about the grapevine in the corner of my yard, except maybe an occasional “Oh I really should do something about that.”

Yet I’m blessed with the fruits of my non-labor anyway. The grapes are just starting to ripen. It’s the time of year when my kids disappear all day beneath the vine’s generous foliage, in a delicious game of hide-and-snack.

Our grape vine produces sweet, seedless wonders. I wish you could pluck one off the screen and taste it. These grapes might be good for making juice, I don’t know, we eat them all too fast and I’m spared the work. Maybe I’m lazy that way, too.

To be fair, I really don’t intend to be so indolent as far as the grapevine is concerned. Each spring I say THIS is going to be the year I build a trellis. (I have a great vision for a combination swing set/grape arbor, but that’s all it is: an airy plan jumping around in my head.) Other gardening tasks always take precedence and before you know it I’ve enabled this plant’s rambling wildness yet another season.
(This picture, taken in June, shows blossoms just starting to give way to grapes.)

There are lots to learn about grapes. If my vine has shown me anything, though, it’s that if a grape variety is a good match for your climate and conditions, it can almost fly solo. Thus grapes can easily be great additions to your backyard farm. Sure, I know I can attain better yield with proper pruning and trellising, and I’m looking forward to gaining such knowledge – when time away from other more pressing chores permits. Thank goodness the grapevine is so forgiving. Give it light and it will produce.

Because I inherited the grapes when we bought our house, I lucked out in not even having to select which variety to plant in my yard. If you are considering adding grapes to your landscape I encourage you to contact your local extension service. (Generally, you can do an online search with the word extension and your state’s name.) The experts there can help you know which varieties are best suited for your area based on soil, temperature, humidity, length of growing season, etc. Keep in mind too your reason for growing grapes: table eating or beverages.

So do your homework this summer. Take walks around your neighborhood, looking for flourishing grapevines. Ask neighbors for tips. Make new friends. I know I’ll be staking out folks with beautifully trained vines and ask them to teach me a bit.

One lesson I do know, and which I retaught my children today, is how to tell a ripe grape from a sour one. Try this out at the supermarket. Other than tasting, there is a visual trick. No matter the color of the variety, ripe grapes become translucent.

Note the grapes nearest my daughter’s hand, which are much clearer than the cloudy ones above them. The bottom ones are ripe, the top ones will be in a few days. My children will synchronize their harvests, I guarantee it.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Vertical Farming Systems

I saw a great video on CNN about urban farming and it focuses on vertical farming systems that are built by a company called Green Living Technologies LLC. This is their website.

http://www.agreenroof.com/index2.php .

They build planting systems for roofs and walls where you can plant house plants and gardens. The video shows them building one in the middle of an urban area. The systems are made out of recycled aluminum and you can plant new crops in them or you can use starter plants that the company has already started growing. I love companies like this that are doing their part to improve lives and culture. Pretty soon, there won't be an excuse for not planting a garden. Check out the video.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Mystery Stomaches

My six year old has mysterious stomachaches. I hear the same concern echoed by her peers’ parents. After eating certain foods my daughter will have flushed cheeks,

sweaty brow, rapid heartbeat, and sometimes vomiting. I have friends who have carted their grade schoolers to the gastrointestinologist to cure what troubles these little buddies, but to no avail. The specialist often chalks it up to “stressful living” or some other vague diagnosis.

My quest begins…so of course I’m aware of the main food allergies being nuts, corn, wheat, dairy, and soy, and since my daughter was allergic to cow’s milk protein when she was younger, this is where I started. After cutting out dairy for a few days it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. We have, however, switched to organic milk after some research I happened upon {from Journal of the National Cancer Institute}. I’ll tell you why:

Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) is a replica hormone used by dairy farmers to enhance milk output. It is relatively new on the scene, introduced in 1994. Because of the increased milk supply, the cows are more prone to developing mastitis and in need of antibiotics. Both of these synthetics have been linked to a host of health issues including, but not limited to allergic reactions, early menses, and certain types of cancers. I’ve changed my outlook at the grocery store, what once appeared to be astronomical milk prices now looks to me like a very inexpensive health care plan.

More informed, but mystery stomachache still not resolved. I began to notice her reactions were only after we ate out or she ate school lunch. Immediately I pulled back the reigns on fast food and that unfortunately INCLUDES school lunch. I also omitted frozen convenience foods in this category. This required minor adjustments in our family. It was a retraining of my brain on what to prepare and a broadening of perspective on what is “convenient”. {ie: It may take four extra minutes to make a pb&j, but I don’t spend 45 minutes cleaning up puke and hearing a very uncomfortable daughter complain. Time gained, not lost.} As far as restaurants go she can order the grilled chicken and vegetables at most restaurants serving high quality food, but unfortunately she can NOT find anything that will stay settled at Mexican food restaurants (super disappointing).

While I haven’t pin pointed exactly what causes her reaction, I have narrowed it down to something synthetic in highly processed or enhanced foods. I’m narrowing my focus to preservatives and mono sodium glutamate. So I end this post with “to be continued”… I will pinpoint “it” and will gladly report back to you as soon as I do. If any of you have suffered similar symptoms and/or have found success I would love to hear from you as well. Please, however, do not take my word for “it”. If you have problems of your own I encourage you to do your own research, and by all means feel the way you feel about synthetics and bio-engineered food. I’m not here to persuade you, but I personally subscribe to a philosophy of food consumed in it’s most natural state is appreciated and utilized best by the body.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Green Cleaning

My sister-in-law, Mary, just moved to a new house. While moving she threw out all her harsh chemical cleansers, and now Mary is "going green". She wants to be more eco-friendly and Detox her home.

If you are made of money, there are supermarket shelf options to purchase. I'm a fan of Method, Mrs. Meyers, Simple Green, and Seventh Generation. These are companies who use plant derived ingredients and/or "safe" synthetics as well as run their companies eco-responsibly.

Since genuinely green alternatives can be pricey and hard to find, I put together a list of simple and inexpensive ingredients readily available that can get the job(s) done.

Mild acid cuts through grease, disinfects and discourages mold. It's effective in cleaning glass and tile, and removing odors.

Highly versatile, mild abrasive that can disinfect, eliminate odors, and will not scratch surfaces.

Useful and powerful cleaning agent. It is effective in removing mold and mildew and acts as an anti fungal. It is helpful in laundry cleaning as well.


Environmentally friendly dish washing liquid, or bar soap made from vegetable oils and animal fats.


~Multipurpose Cleanser

For cleaning glass, stainless steel, and plastic laminate surfaces fill a spray bottle with 2 parts water, 1 part distilled white vinegar.

~Microwave: place a glass bowl filled with 1/4 cup of vinegar in 1 cup of water. Place inside and microwave for 5 minutes. When finished dip a rag into the mixture (be careful--hot) and wipe off splatters.


~Toilet: pour a mixture of 1/2cup borax in 1 gallon of water into your toilet bowl, scrub with a toilet brush, then flush. Once a month, pour half a box of baking soda into the toilet tank. Let it sit overnight, then flush a few times the next morning. This will help to clean the tank and the bowl.

~Tough tile and porcelain stains: 1 cup of borax and 1/4 cup of lemon juice turned into a paste. Apply the paste to the problem area, rub it in with a sponge or rag and then wash away with warm water.

~Tile grout: use an old toothbrush and straight vinegar to restore the white grout.

~Mold and Mildew: mix 3 TBS of white vinegar, 1 tsp borax and 2 cups of hot water in a spray bottle. Work over the mildew areas, let it soak and then wash away.


~Windows: Use multipurpose cleanser and wipe dry with newspaper.

~Stain Remover: For carpet stains use Borax. Dissolve 1/2 cup of borax in a pint of water. Sponge the solution, wait 1/2 hour, shampoo, let dry, and vacuum.


~Adding 1/2 cup of borax to load with regular amount of laundry detergent is an effective stain remover and laundry deodorizer.

~Adding 1 cup of white distilled vinegar to your washer's rinse cycle can kill bacteria in your wash, make clothes soft and smell fresh, brighten whites, keep clothes static free, and set the color of newly dyed fabrics.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Question from a Reader: Chicken Advice (updated)

We're considering some backyard chickens. We have raised ducks before and know the work that comes with it. Here is my quesion - if a hen can live about 10 years under good circumstances and will generally stop laying after age 2 or 3, does that mean that unless you have the hen killed for meat, you have about 7 years of having a pet chicken that does not lay eggs and is just like any other outside pet?? Any ideas if any backyard chicken owners have found a solution to this?? I know from having pet ducks that once you name them, eating them isn't an option for us - and if you have young kids, they get named pretty quickly. We'd love to think about a few chickens, but I worry that after they stop laying, we might start to regret having them.
I realize what a stupid question this email centers around... but since so many people are doing backyard/urban chickens these days... are they ALL slaughtering them after they stop laying? or are a lot of chickens ending up in some sort of humane society-type place? I wonder if what seems like a good idea at the get-go might get tiresome when they have a handful of birds that needs feeding and caring for, but isn't laying any eggs anymore. Just wondered your take on this.


I'm glad that you are thinking ahead before jumping into chickens. I'm afraid that I just took the plunge without looking. When my first hens reached the 2 year mark, they started eating their own eggs as well as the other hens eggs. We would go out to the coop and find half and egg shell and nothing else. We knew something had to be done. I prepared myself to kill them so we could make a chicken soup or something. But, when it came down to it, I couldn't kill my chickens. Then there was the debate as to what we were going to do with them. They were my first hens, and I loved them dearly. I love their personalities and I loved the way they looked. I loved that when I would yell "come on girls" they would all waddle over to me. I just couldn't kill them. But, I couldn't keep them either if I wanted to continue to get eggs. My uncle Dale has a Mennonite family that kills and cleans his chickens for him. I don't have that luxury. I found some Guatemalan neighbors that would complete the circle of life for them. I couldn't think about it without getting tears in my eyes, but I knew it was what I had to do (this might not be the option for everyone). It still makes me sad thinking about it.

So, in the end, you really have to think about what you want, do you want to keep your chickens for 10 years? If not, will you be able to kill them or give them away after 2-3 years?

Good luck with whatever you choose. I love having my chickens and I love the fresh eggs each morning.



It is coincidental that when I am read the comments below about chickens, I had a broiler that we raised, cooking on the rotisserie to celebrate my son’s birthday. I know the feeling you all have because I got very much attached to a turkey that I raised last summer. But our family has determined that the purpose for our poultry is for food. I admit that I have influenced this somewhat. But my children have not complained when they are eating that thanksgiving turkey or barbequed chicken. I think a key to this is to discuss it with your children right from the beginning and to reinforce the philosophy occasionally. I love my “ladies” but when I went out the other day to find one of them beheaded by a fox, I got emotional for about a minute and then buried the thing and haven't thought about it again (except to figure out how to protect the others.) When they quit producing or start eating their eggs, we will complete their circle of life. Or I should say, my Mennonite friends will. I do feel hypocritical not doing it myself since I feel this is the most healthy attitude. For those of you who do not have Mennonite friends, I think there are many people from various ethnic groups who will do it for you. One suggestion is just to give the spent layers away to people who want them for stewing chickens. Getting new chicks a few weeks before you get rid of the old hens also mitigates the emotional trauma. As you view the accompanying picture of my two sons ready to eat a barbequed chicken, I hope you see it as a positive thing. But if I have not talked you out of the “pet” mentality, I would still encourage you to get some layers. They are worth it even if you have to put them in the retirement coup for a few years.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Jennifer's month of eating well

My family has really enjoyed being a part of a CSA this summer. Our weekly deliveries seem to jumpstart my kitchen creativity and have broadened my garden cooking. It's been fun to get our surprise package on Friday, then see if I can come up with a complete meal for that night with only its contents and what I already have on hand. I've been delighted with the variety each week.

There have been a few duplications with the CSA delivery and what I have in my own garden, like squash and salad greens, but never in such quantities that I've felt buried. And I've welcomed the bags of delicious, fresh green beans -- indeed, in my view, right up there with tomatoes for the main reason to grow a garden -- because my slowpoke vines haven't even put out blossoms yet. To salvage my growing experience in this way, the CSA is handily proving its worth.

Here's a look at my last few weeks:

Week 4 (pictured above): Six ears of corn (delectable!), bag of apricots, bag of green beans, pint container of raspberries, three bulbs of garlic, two cucumbers.

Week 5: Two zucchini, two yellow squash, bunch of golden beets, six ears of corn, bag of green beans, two cucumbers.

Week 6: Not pictured, because my camera was in Yellowstone having a much funner summer than I am. (My husband and son were there, too, having enough vacation for the rest of us, I guess!) Anyway, this week's delivery was a paper lunch sack of new potatoes, six ears of corn, three cucumbers, three zucchini, bag of green beans and six yellow peppers (banana variety, I believe).

Week 7: One humongous onion, three cucumbers, five peaches (which may or may not last long enough to be made into cobbler tonight), eight potatoes and another big bag of green beans.

I'd love to learn of your yummy cucumber recipes. My family teases me for my lifelong dislike of raw cukes (even though I gamely keep tasting them in an attempt to reverse this condition). Yet I'm having to give away several to neighbors, because no one in my family is eating them either. Hypocrites. I've sampled great cucumber slush and cold soup in the past, I just haven't stumbled on the right recipes in my repeated forays.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Vertical Gardening

If you are limited in the space in your garden, you might want to consider growing your vegetables vertically. This was one of the many gardening experiments I have tried this year. I bought nine 6 foot long bamboo poles so I could make 3 tepees. For each tepee I simply joined the tops of 3 bamboo poles together, I pushed the ends a few inches into the dirt and tied the top with twine.

This image was taken at the beginning of the season. There is one plant placed at the base of each of the bamboo poles.

And this picture was taken just a few days ago.
As the plant grows, I cut up old pantyhose, because who wants to wear them in the summer anyways, and tie the plant to the bamboo.

The vine is strong enough to hang onto the fruit. I am doing this with pumpkins as well, and it really works!
These are my charantais melons, I took a picture of it with my hand to show how big they are, but also to show you how clean it is under my nails. It is rare to see my nails so clean, I'm always digging in the dirt, and have chronically dirty nails.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

This Weeks CSA

2 large onions
2 bunches of beets
Green Beans
7 zucchini
and I think about 12 ears of corn

Friday, August 8, 2008

Freezing Your Squash/Zucchini

(This demonstration is using squash, but this also works with zucchini)

If you have ever grown squash or zucchini, or if you have had a neighbor that has, you know that you could end up with a fridge full of the stuff. Michael and I have given away hoards of squash, eaten it almost every other night and we still have a surplus.

I started by washing them all up (this step is really important if you are using pesticides.) Next, I just sliced them up.

While you are slicing, you can get a pot of boiling water going.

Once the water is boiling, throw some of the squash in the boiling water and cover with a lid. You will want them to cook for about 5 mins. This kills the enzymes and bacteria that make your vegetables discolor and go bad.

Prepare an ice bath. After the 5 minutes is up you will scoop out the squash, I used a large slotted spoon, and put it in the ice bath.

This stops the cooking process, I left the cooked squash in the ice bath for about 5 minutes as well.
I then divided it up into portions that my family would eat, and placed them in bags. I like these bread bags because they are inexpensive and it is really easy to squeeze out the air (which helps prevent freezer burn). I then labeled a large freezer bag and put these smaller bags in the large freezer bag.
When we are ready to eat squash again, which may be months. We can pull these out of the freezer, melt some butter in a pan and cook these babies up. Yum!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Questions from a Reader: Hornworms

The following question comes from Jody M., fortunately I have never had to deal with hornworms. Unfortunately, I am unable to answer the question. So, I thought I would throw it out there and see if anyone else has an answer for her.

"I love reading your blog and have found a lot of inspiration from it. I do have a question. I have found a huge Tomato Hornworm in my garden. I contacted our local extension office and I am pretty sure from my conversation with the Master Gardener that a hornworm is what I have. Their suggestion was to pluck them off and destroy them. Do you have any other suggestions? Are there any ways that you would suggest keeping them off in the first place? I blogged about it at www.something2learntoday.blogspot.com if you would like to see pictures of what I am talking about. Any suggestions would be much appreciated."

Monday, August 4, 2008

This Mornings Harvest

7 ears of corn
1 zucchini
1 crook neck squash
a handful of cherry tomatoes

Friday, August 1, 2008

Homeade Teas & Edible Flowers

(Getty images from Country Living)

While you are waiting for your produce to ripen, or like us here in Texas your summer garden begins to burn up and fall garden ideas start creaping into your head, here are a few ways to reap benefit from your edible backyard?

Plants that are safe to eat — and drink

Alliums (flowers and young shoots), bee balm, carnations, hibiscus blossoms, hollyhock, honeysuckle flowers (the berries are highly poisonous), Johnny-jump-ups (flowers and leaves), lavender (blossoms and leaves), nasturtiums (flowers, buds, leaves, seedpods), pansies (flowers and leaves), roses (petals, leaves, and rose hips), violets (flowers and leaves).

Basil, chamomile flowers, chives, dill, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, peppermint and other mints, rosemary, sage, thyme, verbena.

Birch leaves (especially when young), blackberry leaves, citrus blossoms (lemon, orange, grapefruit, etc.), elderberry flowers and ripe berries (the leaves and unripe berries are poisonous), gardenia, hibiscus flowers, honeysuckle flowers, pine needles (white and black), raspberry leaves.

Chickweed, chicory (flowers and buds), dandelions (flowers and leaves), goldenrod, good King Henry, kudzu, lamb's quarters, plantain (or white man's footsteps, as the Native Americans called them), purslane, stinging nettle.

How to Steep Herbal Tea :

Gather your plants and place them in your tea pot. Pour boiling water over them and let them steep for 3-6 minutes.

(Photo from Herbs for Texas)

Obviously you should NOT eat flowers or plants that have been sprayed with pesticides. But hopefully this sheds a new light on harvesting in your backyard.