Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Harvest Meal - June 28, 2010

Yesterday, I made an awesome lunch for my family, all from our farm and garden. We had a pork tenderloin from last winter's hogs, Swiss chard, baby beets (for Liam), mixed salad greens, blueberries, sugar snap peas, shallots and garlic.

I roasted the pork tenderloin on a cedar plank along with the baby beets for 1.5 hours. When finished, the tenderloin medallions were topped with blackberry liquer sauce. I sauteed the shallots and homemade bacon and baked them in skillet cornbread. I cooked the Swiss Chard, sugar snap peas, and garlic with pine nuts and raisins for a delectable side dish. After all that cooking, the blueberries were simply eaten straight from the bowl with a splash of yogurt. Good food, straight from the farm.

Chicks - Week 8

It's hard to believe it's almost July. This batch of poultry has been out to pasture for four weeks now. I prepared the brooder house for our next round of turkeys, which we will raise for Thanksgiving. At this point in time, I would be planning to butcher Cornish Rocs. The Freedom Ranger Broilers have gained considerable weight, and some could be ready to butcher in a week or so. I plan to butcher all of them by the middle of July, when they are 11 weeks old. They love to forage, much more than Cornish Rocs do, and have eaten a great deal of grass. I'm also impressed with the foraging capabilities of the ducks. Along with the turkeys and the broilers, they are all keeping me busy with moving their fence. I move them to fresh pasture ever other day, now.

Liam loves feeding them every day. He's almost as tall as the 42" fence.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Jorene's Perennial Gardens - June 27, 2010

The big news this week is that our friends came over while we were out tending to our other vegetable garden and picking blueberries, and they fixed our broken gutter. This is great for a couple of reasons. First, the thunderstorms will no longer erode erode the good soil from my shade garden's flower beds. Second, we can now store the rain water that runs off the roof into our huge rain barrels/cisterns located in the back of the lodge, and I use this water to water my gardens during droughts. I am so thankful for their help. After we discovered their surprise, DH hauled up 4 loads of compost to help me fill in the large holes that had eroded during the Spring thunderstorms. Then, he helped me mulch it all over. Eventually, I would like to build a dry creek bed down the middle of it, so I have left space for that. I am not positive if that will happen this year or not because we will be very busy with our vegetable gardens and guests at The Ponderosa Lodge until November. Nonetheless, I am really happy with the way the shade garden is starting to look.

The dark pink astilbe is blooming in the shade garden, and the color of the blooms really pop against the light green leaves of the frances williams hostas located directly behind them. Astilbe are medium sized plants that grow approximately 24" tall. They produce a big airy plume in the Summer, although my dark pink astilbe do not produce as puffy a plume as the light pink ones. They are an excellent choice for the shade garden because they are care free, deer resistant, and long blooming. Astilbe is also available in white, peach, red, and purple.

I also have my very first big hydrangea bloom on a hydrangea that our friend Doug in Northern Virginia gave me this Spring. Hydrangeas are a staple in many Summer gardens, but this is the first hydrangea in my garden that I have managed not to kill. I am pretty happy about that. My hydrangeas are fairly short in stature this year because they are newly transplanted, but they will eventually grow to 4 or 5 feet tall. The mother hydrangea plant is located in Doug's neighborhood, Fairlington Villages, in Arlington, VA, and nearly every beautiful hydrangea in that neighborhood was started from that one plant. I really hope that Doug's good luck with hydrangeas rubs off on me. So far, so good.

The other big news this week is that all of the day lilies on the property are in full bloom. I have orange, yellow, and red orange varieties. They were all on the lodge property when we purchased it, or gifts from friends, or transplants from my townhouse in Northern Virginia, so I am unaware of their species. There are a large variety of day lilies commercially available in nearly every color of the rainbow that bloom in June, July, and August. All of mine bloom about the same time (mid to late June). As an aside, I learned this week that daylilies are nearly 100% edible because you can eat the tubers, the young leaves, the buds, and the flowers which means that this perennial provides you with beauty and bounty all in one.

In my naturalized garden, the white ox-eye daisies are no longer blooming. Pink Asiatic lilies, orange day lilies, and red and maroon Jacob's Cline Monarda (bee balm) have taken their place. The Monarda, which started out a few years ago as small plants, have been fabulous growers in the garden. They are a superb choice in this type of naturalized bed that gets full to part sun because they are care free and deer resistant. Moreover, the beautiful flowers, which are uniquely shaped spheres with finger-like projections shooting out, are very attractice to butterflies, bees, and hummingbirds. The leaves can be used to make a delicious herb tea.

The hostas and ferns that were transplanted to the part shade to full shade beds located on the guest side of the lodge have settled in nicely. One of the clematises did die off, so I will have to replace it. The purple lobelia (cardinal flower) and a yellow chrysogonum pierre (a ground cover) that I purchased from Blue Stone Perennials appear to have survived their transplants. The lobelia appears to be growing which is a nice sign. I am not sure if it will bloom this year, but, hopefully, it will produce some nice color next year. One experiment I tried this year was to plant annuals in a few bare spots in this bed this year. I thought this would produce season long color and make for a prettier bed, but for some reason, the annuals did not survive the transplant. In the future, I will probably only plant annuals in the flower boxes, so I will need to find another perennial to fill in the bare spots.

The thread-leaved coreopsis in the part shade to full shade beds are blooming, and the black-eyed susans planted with them will bloom soon. Both of these plants are care-free, deer resistant, and spread readily. They should continue to bloom until frost.

I sheared the salvia in the friendship garden as I stated that I would in my last blog. The red-orange and orange day lilies are currently in full bloom while the yellow brown-eyed susans are just getting started. I also discovered one gorgeous double blossom orange day lily which has beautiful ruffly petals. When I look at this bed, all I can think of is all the work that it is going to take this Fall to thin it out. It is amazing how quickly the perennials in it have grown, especially along the edges, in part because DH puts our wonderful rabbit manure in this garden twice a year. Since the flowers are all fighting for space, I will mark about half of the day lilies and Japanese iris that I want to transplant, shear them all to the ground in the late fall, dig out the ones I have marked, and then transplant them to a different spot on the property (most likely on our front hill)
. The double blossom day lily.

Last but certainly not least is my full sun bed. There are currently six perennials blooming in the full-sun perennial bed: veronica royal candles, nepata walker's low catmint, spiderwort, purple clematis, Russian sage, and shasta daisy. This photograph is a close-up of the full-sun perennial bed. It contains, from left to right, low-growing ajuga, viola, and lamb's ear in the foreground with white clematis, spiderwort, russian sage, and blue star in the background.

As an aside, blogging about the perennnial gardens has allowed me to keep a very good track of the sequence in which my perennials bloom, and it has also allowed me to see where I could place more effort. For example, there is not a great deal of color in this full sun bed in mid-Summer. Although the flower boxes that contain annuals make up for some of the lack of color, it also clues me in that I should start researching perennials that bloom mid-summer so that I can add them to this bed in the Fall or next Spring.

The purple clematis and spiderwort are at the end of their bloom cycles, but they still look lovely.
This photo is a close up of shasta daisy and delphinium which are no longer blooming. The delphinium, which I wrote about in-depth in my last blog, will drop its seeds soon. Then, I will cut the flower stems and leave the green plant part. The shasta daisy is another beautiful mistake. Although this perennial fits the purple, blue and white them of this bed, I thought that I had transplanted all of the shasta daisies to the front of our driveway.

If there were only two perennials that I could have in my garden, they would be this veronica royal candles and nepata walker's law catmint. While they do not produce the most magnificent blooms, their flowers are deer resistant and last for over a month which counts for a whole lot in my book. Hope, our English bulldog, snuck into the left side of this photo; she's always trying to steal the show!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Chicks - Week 6

The chicks sure are growing. They love being in the fields now and spend most of their time grazing. I bought a kiddie pool for the ducks today. They say that you don't need a pond when raising ducks, but I thought they would enjoy playing in the pool. They took to it like ducks to water. Even the turkeys got in the pool. Enjoy the pictures.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Jorene's Perennial Gardens- June 13, 2010

This is a side shot of the front flower beds and the hanging pots I've just put up. The front flower beds contain boxwood in the back, day lilies in the middle, and green and white hostas in the front. The day lilies are just beginning to bloom. The day lilies throughout our property were given to us by our friends in West Virginia and Northern Virginia; some were also transplanted from the townhouse in Northern Virginia. Therefore, I don't know the species of each day lily. However, I do know that most of them are the typical orange variety that is native to this area. They are often seen growing wild on the side of the road at this time of year. I cannot wait for these day lilies to fully bloom. Once that happens, I will replace the photograph on the lodge's web page with one of the day lilies in full bloom.

The hanging pots contain white trailing petunias, yellow gerber daisies, and yellow-green sweet potato vine. Every year, I try to mix up the annuals I choose for the hanging pots because it keeps the view interesting.

This is a close-up of the front bed with the green and white hostas in the front and the reddish-orange day lily beginning to bloom in the background.

These dark pink and light pink astilbe in the shade garden are just beginning to bloom. Astilbe are medium sized plants that produce a big airy plume in the summer. They bloom for several weeks, and they are also available in white, peach, red, and purple. DH has promised that he will fix the gutter this week so that I can fully mulch this bed. It should look pretty nice by then because most of the perennials are settling in quite nicely.

This photograph is a close-up of the friendship garden. The purple and white japanese iris, pink peonies, and bearded iris are no longer blooming. Only the purple salvia, which I discussed in-depth in the last blog remains. The purple salvia located in the back of the bed is currently being crowded out by day lilies and japanese iris, so I will definitely have to thin this bed out later this fall. The orange day lilies and yellow brown-eyed susans are beginning to bloom and this bed should be full of them by next weekend. Since purple and orange don't contrast well with each other, I will shear the salvia next weekend.

This is a close-up of the budget gardens that I started last year. I am quite happy with the way it is turning out. The only items that were purchased for this bed were the itea virginica henry plants in the background, which I purchased at a discount price from a seller on ebay; the dark green "big blue" liriope; and the edging in the front of the bed. I transplanted the light green liriope from the townhouse, and the lamb's ear and hostas from another site at the lodge. A few of the hostas were gifts from friends.

This is the naturalized perennial bed. The purple native phlox and japanese iris are no longer blooming, and the white daisies are near the end of their bloom cycle. The bright colored perennials of summer, including orange day lilies, yellow gloriosa daisies, and red bee balm, are beginning to take their place. I have a half dozen pink asiatic lilies in this bed that are just beautiful, but I will probably transplant them this fall or next spring because the pink color does not contrast very well with the other summer flowers.

This is a close-up photo of the orange day lilies and white daisies that are blooming in the naturalized perennial bed.

There are currently seven perennials blooming in the full-sun perennial bed: scabiosa butterfly blue, veronica royal candles, nepata walker's low catmint, spiderwort, purple clematis, delphinium, and a wayward asiatic lily. This photograph is a close-up of the full-sun perennial bed. It contains low-growing aster and lamb's ear in the foreground. The aster will bloom later this fall. Tall white delphinium, a cottage-garden favorite, are located in the center of the photograph, and a flower box with white and purple petunias, yellow-green sweet potato vine, and a blue annual are located in the background. DH purchased the delphinium for me shortly after we purchased the lodge, and it has done well. I recently purchased blue delphinium to add to this bed. The plants are still living, and, hopefully, they will grow as tall as the white ones next year. Delphiniums produce large spikes of elegant looking flowers. The taller varieties, such as the ones pictured here, require hooping or staking. Otherwise, the tall stems will break during summer thunderstorms.

This is another close-up of the full sun perennial bed. Left to right, there is dark purple clematis blooming. Below it is purple spiderwort; the locals around here call it "Job's tears." This perennial forms dense spreading clumps of erect narrow strap-like leaves. This perennial was one of the few that was here when we bought the lodge. In fact, it inspired the colors scheme and design of the entire full sun perennial bed because I didn't want to disturb it. The dark-purple three-petaled flowers bloom for a few weeks at the beginning of every summer. The interesting little flowers close up every afternoon, but they reopen every morning. It is a carefree perennial that comes back every year. Tall Russian sage is located in the center of the photograph. It as supposed to be a medium height plant, but it must be very happy because, as you can see, it is growing taller than the window boxes. It will bloom later this summer. Finally, in the right of the photo is nepata walker's low catmint. This plant does not produce the most beautiful flowers, but I love it because it is such a long bloomer. It really helps to carry the perennial beds through weeks when few other flowers are blooming, and amazingly enough, my cats don't bother it.

Last but not least, I completed this little project a couple of weeks ago. I absolutely love sempervivum (hens and chicks), and I have a difficult time resisting purchasing them. I saw these 2 varieties at a local garden tent that sets up shop for a few weeks in the Spring in a Giant grocery store parking lot in Falls Church, VA. The "hens" were just humongous, so I had to have them. However, I really didn't have any place to put them, so I filled this little wooden wagon with them.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Delicious Red Berries!

Here on the farm, we love strawberries. They have always been my favorite fruit. Jorene loves them. Liam is following in his parents step. Even Hope likes strawberries. So, to have enough for the four of us and our guests, we grow a lot of strawberries. I have two 4' x 10' beds of Junebearers, and started 4 more beds last fall. Next week, I will be planting 3 beds of Everbearers (Ozark Beauty). Did I mention that we love strawberries?

Our two established beds started ripening on Monday. We had been snacking on them the past several days. Friday, it was time to do some serious picking. I picked 12 lbs. of beautiful red berries, leaving the pink ones to pick later this weekend.


What will I do with all of these strawberries? Well, I use some in the fruit salad for our guests at the lodge. Next, I made Strawberry Sorbet.

Strawberry Sorbet

1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
4 cups fresh or thawed frozen strawberries
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Combine sugar and water in heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer until all sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, place in refrigerator and cool completely. Puree strawberries; add lemon juice and sugar water.

Start ice cream maker and pour mixture through hole in lid. Freeze until desired consistency or the unit stops.

4 cups of fresh strawberries, ready to be pureed.

Finished sorbet, ready to freeze.

I also like to freeze whole strawberries for baking later. I pick the best looking berries, wash and remove the stems, and lay them on a cookie sheet. I put them in the freezer until they are hard and won't stick together. Then, the berries can be put in a quart or gallon freezer bag.

Since I had the food processor out, I decided to mix up some batches of Strawberry Ice Cream.

Strawberry Ice Cream

1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup fresh strawberries
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk

Chop the strawberries in a food processor by pulsing a couple of times. This makes nice bite size bits of strawberry. If you want a smoother ice cream, continue pulsing until the fruit is pureed.

Combine sugar, lemon juice, and fruit. Stir until well mixed. Stir in cream and milk.

Start ice cream maker and pour mixture through hole in lid. Freeze until desired consistency or until the unit stops.

A smile on my son's face is all I ask for.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Chicks - Week 3

I apologize for writing this update late, but we were swamped this past week with guests at the lodge. So, the chicks are a little more than 3 weeks old now, and it was time to move them to their field pen. There, they can get exercise, sunshine and eat fresh grass and bugs. This saves on my feed bill by as much as 40% and produces a healthier bird.

Here they are in their field pen. The pen is 4' x 8', enough space for them to roam around inside without being too crowded. I'll keep them confined for a couple of days to get settled. Then, I will allow them to free range behind an electrified poultry net. I would also like to provide a small water pond for the duck to use for bathing. For now, I move their pen twice a day to give them fresh grass to eat and to lay on.