Butterfly Weed, Blueberries, Basil, and a Cocoon

Happy Summer Solstice!

We are having a very lush June this year after much rain.

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This is a “yellow” butterfly weed that I planted last year, I think, but it just got going his year.  The butterfly weed are blooming around the yard and hopefully will attract some monarchs.

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This was the view from my lounge chair this afternoon.  In the front some ground cover is blooming yellow.  In the back the orange butterfly weed is blooming and attracting a variety of bugs.  Just to the left of it the pineapple sage is getting taller and looking healthy.  You can also see a few blueberries on our little ‘top hat’ blueberry bush that are starting to ripen in the middle of the picture.

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It looks like my first blueberry is getting  ready to eat on the ‘Duke’ blueberry bush!  We don’t have that many blueberries as I have not worked hard to acidify the soil around them.

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It looks like the basil is ready for me to make some basil pesto!  In front are prairie verbena flowers.

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Just above the basil is Heliopsis helianthoides ‘Summer Sun.”  I was lying on my lounge chair enjoying these flowers and watching the clouds float by.  Summer at its finest.

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We also have some heliopsis blooming in our little meadow.

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I took this dragonfly picture in the meadow early this morning, where it had rested in the grass for the night.  It is probably some type of skimmer.

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A little before noon I found this turtle on the road in front of our house.  We also found a smaller turtle on the road near Lake Katherine this morning.  Maybe with all the rain recently the usual rocks in the lakes are covered with water and the turtles are looking for other places to catch some sun.  That is just a theory.

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Turtle foot.

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The Tokyo cross turnips are coming along well.

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We are throwing in chopped up collard leaves in our recipes now, too.

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I have seen black swallowtail butterflies in our garden depositing eggs, so was glad when I finally saw a caterpillar chewing on our curly parsley.

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Later in the week I noticed it had travelled a few feet to the rhubarb leaves where a cocoon was getting started.

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Today I went back to the same spot and found this cocoon, well disguised.  Little things like this make me happy!

Poetry referring to nature:

Were the whole realm of nature mine,

That were an offering far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all.

                                          Isaac Watts

Beautiful Leaves and Healthy Vegetables

My husband told me this week that maybe I should prioritize what I do in the garden, if it gets to be too much work….  We agreed that growing food it our priority!  Still, we have planted a lot of trees, shrubs and perennials over the years and once planted they continue to faithfully bring forth beauty year after year.  So hopefully we can enjoy both beauty and health!

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Alchemilla mollis lady’s mantle

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Tender new shoots on hicksii yew shrub capture a raindrop

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Spider webs made visible by the morning dew on the hicksii yew shrubs.  When the hummingbirds are making their nests I think they like to collect spider webs for their nest linings.  I have seen hummingbirds in these bushes in past years.

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Unfolding leaves of our new bitternut hickory, one month after it was planted.  On the right we managed to get a little grass seed going in the hole from our old silver maple tree.

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Here is what the bitternut hickory looked like earlier in the week as the yellow buds were starting to break open.

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A few flowers, like this salvia, are starting to bloom.

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This is where we planted our drought garden a few years ago.  It still gets a lot of sun, but the shade from the crabapple is growing.  The ground covers and blue fescue grass fill out in the front and the daffodils bloom in the back first.  That is followed by the iris show in the back, which will be starting soon.  After that the middle plants start blooming, including the gaillardias, butterfly weed, coneflowers, Russian sage, zebra grass, agastache, etc.  I might add a plant or two as needed.  I try to mix in some herbs and vegetables where there are open spaces.

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Duke blueberry blossoms

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I have been planting vegetable and herb transplants as well as planting seeds this week.  In the front here I planted sweet basil, curly kale, and collards.  I looked at the trusty plan I made in January and then made modifications as needed.  When we moved into this house we had the fenced in vegetable garden in the back, but as the years have gone by we have kept taking more lawn space to add vegetables plots.

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Tokyo cross hybrid turnips always seem to germinate well and are ready to be thinned out.

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I planted red cabbage for the first time.  I am not sure if we will like eating it, but it looks like it will be pretty!  My motto is to keep experimenting…

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A week ago we saw a bunny in the yard and chased it out.  A day or two later it was back through our “rabbit proof” fence.  I have a theory that there might be tunnels under the fences, starting in our tall meadow where we don’t mow the grass.  Here it is enjoying a clover breakfast, with crabapple petals adding pink color.  So far it has eaten the swiss chard I planted, but nothing else is damaged…yet…..

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I noticed the cowbird couple hopping around exploring the yard this week.  He seemed to be chasing after her…

Graduation: My niece Anna graduated from college today, so a good break from gardening!

Autumn Vegetables and Ornamental Grasses

Last Sunday I pulled up the tomatoes, beans, and zucchini, and after the hard frost last night I pulled up the cherry tomato plant, the eggplants, and the peppers.  Still, there are vegetables to eat until the really cold weather comes.

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I left some stumps when I pulled out my really huge cauliflowers earlier in the year.  The leaves are still edible and this week I noticed all these baby cauliflowers starting to form.  I’m not sure how big they will get before I will need to eat them, but it was fun to see!

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Winterbor kale.  The leaves will die when it gets really, really cold, but so far each spring the stalk has started sprouting again, for a second season of kale.

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We have four lacinato kale plants around the yard and they have kind of a tropical feel to them.

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Here is what the lacinato kale looked like after the frost.  However by late afternoon the kale was looking normal again and is not giving up that quickly.  We cooked a big pot of kale soup yesterday.  Of course it had a lot of other vegetables and beans in the soup.

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I left a half-dead turnip in the ground earlier in the summer and while I was not paying attention it grew big.  The leaves are looking a little tired at mid-day, but this made some nice soup, earlier this week.  You can tell we eat a lot of vegetable bean soup!

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The brussel sprouts also don’t mind a little frost.

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I have been cutting of 6 or 7 sprouts every time I make soup, but there is a lot more to eat all the way up the stalk.

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Frosty turf grass.  We used the mower to mulch up all the leaves on the grass and got the compost pile heaped up again.

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The little bluestem grass, a native grass, turned red/orange recently and has been capturing my attention.

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The ‘morning light’ miscanthus grass must have been about 5 feet tall this year.  The seed heads are red now.  We have two of these large plants in our yard.  They add privacy, beauty, and provide straw for paths and the strawberry bed in the spring.

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The sparrows decided to move back into the bluebird house again.  One of the bedding materials they love are the seed heads of the zebra grass, which are quite soft.  The sparrows perform some interesting acrobatics bending the grass stalk and trying to break off a bit of the fluffy stuff to carry away.  The zebra grass is probably 7 or more feet tall.

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Sparrow gathering zebra grass seed head for nest.  They don’t seem interested in the crabapples.

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The squirrel was interested in crabapples though.

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Sparrows feed on burning bush berries.  One day I was sitting at my office desk and heard a scratching sound.  I was curious enough to pull up the shade and I found a flock of sparrows gobbling up the red berries on the burning bush – Euonymus alatus.  These plants are somewhat invasive locally, so I really want to get rid of them, but have not gotten around to it yet.

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I noticed this black swallowtail caterpillar, that did not look like it made it, on my parsley this week.  However, I was listening to “Nature” this week on TV and heard about caterpillars in the arctic that freeze and thaw for 7 years before they are finally ready to turn into moths, so I wonder about my little guy.  If he is dead I hope a bird had a good meal.

Winter Vegetable Hoop:  I probably won’t be putting the hoop up when the snow flies.  The kale that was under the hoop last winter has grown large and is spreading over the lawn, so I don’t think I can corral is back to the area where I put the holes for the stakes for the hoop.  Still, we will see what happens.  I might just throw the plastic over the kale and hold it down with some rocks to keep the kale edible for as long as possible.

Feasting From The Garden

A big goal of our garden is to feed ourselves.  We have been eating a lot of lettuce recently, but now the spring vegetables are coming to and end, and the summer vegetables are getting going.  As far as berries go, the strawberries are mostly done, but all the other berries are abundant.

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This is a picture from about a week ago, so we still had quite a few strawberries.  Today I picked a bowl of serviceberries, mulberries, raspberries, and a few blueberries.  We usually add them to our oatmeal in the morning, but sometimes I eat them in the evening with a little ice cream…  The view from the kitchen window shows you the change from those winter snow pictures!

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Juvenile robin in the serviceberry bush – Amalanchier laevis.  There were several robins in the serviceberry bush having a great snack this morning.  Now that the bush is becoming a tree, and there are a lot of plants near the base, it is hard for me to harvest all the berries without getting eaten by mosquitoes.  Anyway, I am glad to share this abundance with the birds.

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The neighbor’s raspberries are ripening and I am getting a handful each day.  I eat the ones on my side of the fence and sometimes reach over for a few on the other side if they don’t seem to be eating them!

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The vegetable garden is getting crowded now.  I need to clear out some of the spring vegetables to make more room.  In the patch in front that was covered by the hoop over the winter we are still eating a little of the kale and some lettuce, which is starting to bolt.  I have planted a cantaloupe, and if it takes off I will clear out some of these old plants and let the melon take over.  In the main garden you can see how tall one of the tomato plants is already.

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Looking closer in the garden you can see the two tomato plants to the left of the path.  I did not plan very well this year and the zucchini is already blossoming and filling up its spot to the left of the tomatoes.  It is going to be a challenge to get in there to harvest!  I plan to clear out the turnips and lettuce on the right of the path soon.  I am thinking of making a turnip salad, sort of like potato salad, and see how that goes!  On the front left are brussel sprouts and in the very far back the cucumbers are blossoming and getting going.

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Tokyo cross turnips.  It looks like I’d better get these harvested!

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The other day I brought one of these big turnips in for Dan to cook along with his kale and collards.  When I started washing it, four little earwigs crawled out. So we always have to watch what we bring in the house with us.

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Here is a sink full of bok choy we sautéed up with some garlic and soy sauce the other night.  It looks like an earwig or spider was on the back of one of the leaves on the left, too.

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I thought I had bought a nine-pack of collards this spring, but when I got home I noticed the little cauliflower label I had missed earlier.  We ate the leaves as collard leaves for a month or so, but now are leaving them as a little protection for the cauliflower that is developing.  Some of the plants have white cauliflower that looks ready to eat pretty soon.  I have never grown this before, so I need to do some research.

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I planted my pole beans on the usual green teepee poles I have used the last few years.  But every year the teepee gets too heavy and it all starts falling over, so I bought some large stakes and we put up additional material for the beans to grow on.  The incrediball hydrangea is looking great right now.  In the back you can see the orange butterfly weed, which had a visit from a monarch butterfly today.

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I planted a lot of bush beans, that are yellow wax beans.  There are a lot of bean flowers and little beans developing now.  I like these little yellow marigolds, too.

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I was hoping to put some compost on the vegetables this weekend, but it was not quite ready yet, so I turned it and with the coming hot weather it should be ready before long.

Chinquapin, Catalpa, and Berry Season

Trees help take up carbon from the atmosphere and are such a great habitat for wildlife.

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Our chinquapin oak has been growing about 2 feet a year, since we planted it in 2009.  The branches grow so quickly in the spring that they were hanging down to the lawn.    We may have to trim off more lower branches, but we like the low branch look.  We are zone 5B and this is a zone 6 tree, I think, but with global warming and a protected backyard it seems to do well.

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This week when we looked out the kitchen window we noticed that the catalpa tree was blooming in our neighbor’s yard and the flowers all over the tree are so stunning.  This tree is very fast growing – maybe four feet a year – but won’t be long lived like the oak.

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One or two baby robins seemed to have hatched in the robins’ nest and she is busy feeding them now.  The nest is in the crabapple tree outside our kitchen window, but we can see the babies a little from our upstairs bedroom window.

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Robin in the birdbath on a hot day.  The beautiful dark green chinquapin leaves are in the background.

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The raspberry tart viburnum bush is in full bloom and attracting a lot of bees.  On the right is an arborvitae bush.

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The mulberries are just starting to ripen.  I had some for breakfast in my cereal with strawberries and the first serviceberries.

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I try to pick the serviceberries before the birds get them all.

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We have been picking a bowl of strawberries most days now.

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The beautiful yellow yarrow is blooming around the garden now.  Here it is next to turnips and loose leaf lettuce, that we are eating as fast as we can before the weather gets too hot.

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Potato flowers blooming.  In the back is the blooming clematis and the tomato cages.  I was straightening out one of the tomato vines the other day and the smell was wonderful.

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I was looking at the parsley plant to see where the caterpillar was and I noticed this familiar looking plant sticking out of the container.  Then I remembered that for some crazy reason I put potatoes in the bottom of the crazy cornflower container.  I guess I won’t be able to get the potatoes out for a few months, but I don’t think it will hurt anything.

Tree stories:  Our church was planting trees to replace ash trees they had to cut down.  We purchased an American sentry linden tree – Tilia Americana – to add to the new line up and helped shovel in a little dirt today.

Also, we found a hickory tree growing in a corner of our garden and moved it into a new place to see if we could get it to grow.  After one week it is not looking too good, but we will keep babying it to see if it will take root and grow.  I think it is a shagbark hickory.  It had a long tap-root and we heard these are hard to transplant, though it was only about 18 inches tall.