Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Only Good Japanese Beetle Is a Dead One

So there I was, resting in my living room chair, drinking a Hansen's Mandarin and Lime soda (made with cane sugar, not high-fructose corn syrup), minding my own business.

And then I see it: something black flits by the window.

"Shit!" My sudden exclamation startles my husband. Not because I'm cursing--I do that a lot--but because it comes out of nowhere. "I bet it's a Japanese Beetle," I explain.

I get out of my chair and walk to the window, where I spy several black things buzzing about. For a moment, a very brief moment, I try to convince myself they're flies. But I know they aren't. They are Japanese Beetles, the scourge of the trees. And bushes. And garden plants.

In fact, I can't think of a single thing they are good for besides breeding and drowning. And for another fact, as you can tell from the picture, the damn things are already having kinky bug sex in my trees. (You are witnessing a menage a trois in this picture.)

Last year, we tried spraying the trees and shrubs with a cola concoction. It may have slowed them down a bit, but they came back stronger than ever. According to all the literature I've read, traps don't really work and, in fact, attract more Japanese Beetles to the neighborhood. The only thing that works is to go out in the early morning or late evening and knock the creepy crawlers into a bucket of soapy water and drown them. Apparently, the more Japanese Beetles you have, the more they attract. Their bug pheremones are powerful aphrodisiacs, so the only way to keep the population "under control" (I use quotation marks here because truly there is no controlling these beetles) is to kill off as many as possible.

So, for the next couple of months, guess what I'll be doing?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Let Us Talk Lettuce and Radishes

Thanks to all the rain we've had, the lettuce is really starting to fill in. The spinach (left) is still a bit sparse, but that's okay.

I really need to get into the garden and weed, lay down newspaper and grass clippings, and decide which volunteer tomato plants I'm going to keep--and stake those--and which I'll cull. As you can see, the volunteer tomato plants are growing right out of the middle of the lettuce patch.

The rain has also been good for the radishes. I plucked most of them out yesterday, and ended up with a very nice batch of radishes for salads! Some have some scarring on the outside, and a few had splits. The ones that were badly split I tossed into the compost bin. According to the University of Illinois Extension's article on radishes, the cracking and splitting may be caused by pulling radishes when they are too old (although they don't seem spongy), or because we had a dry spell followed by a moist spell (more likely, in my opinion).

Our weather has turned very hot and humid the last couple of days. It was 89 degrees earlier, and so humid that the heat index was over 100! I felt like I was suffocating this morning when I went to the downtown farmer's market. I didn't find much there other than what we've already gotten from our CSA and garden (greens, greens, and more greens, and radishes), so I ended up purchasing a rhubarb pie (not the best I've had) and a Tuscan Parmesan loaf of bread from Great Harvest.

Now, let's have some dry days in the 70s with low humidity so I can get some work done in the garden!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Off to a Slow Start

I'm having a really difficult time getting the garden started this year. On the days when it is not raining, I have no energy or am out of town or have appointments or errands to run.

When I'm ready to rains. Or the ground is still too wet from the previous rain to do anything with.

The 1/3 of the garden that I planted seems sort of, well, sparse. As of June 2, the lettuce was coming up pretty well, so I think I'll have plenty of that to eat. The spinach wasn't doing as well, but the radishes (not pictured) are flourishing. I'll have radishes very soon. Beets (also not pictured), I'm not too sure about yet.

I have a lot of volunteer tomato plants in this section of the garden (which is where the 40+ plants I had last year lived), and I suspect they'll bear pretty well this year, too. I've decided to let them live in this part of the garden--a little "chaos gardening," if you will. A garden shouldn't be too neat; let Mother Nature have a bit of her way! (Maybe she'll be kind to the neater parts if she feels appeased by the chaos.)

Another 1/3 of the garden is ready for planting...if the rain will stop. The final 1/3 of the garden still needs to be tilled, but I think our tiller died. We have some checking to do before we know for sure.

Today, June 8, I picked up our weekly CSA share, which included three heads of lettuce, one bunch of beets, one bunch of garlic scapes, one head of broccoli, one healthy bunch of cilantro, and a few sugar snap peas. We still have all the greens left over from last week's pickup, so we are up to our ears in greens!

As a result, we ate our very first fresh salads of the season tonight for dinner--a mixture of lettuce, beet greens, and arugula from last week's CSA pickup, along with some radish slices, broccoli pieces, and some crumbled feta cheese, topped off with an asiago-peppercorn dressing.
One or more of the beets will end up combined with carrots and apples as juice, and the rest will get cooked and diced for salads or snacking. The broccoli is likely for snacking (not quite enough yet to cook f or two people for dinner), as are the sugar snap peas. The cilantro is currently in the dehydrator; the dill it replaces is now in jars, ready to be used on seafood or perhaps in some garlic-cheese biscuits.

I am really enjoying the CSA. We're eating foods we wouldn't have otherwise tried (or even thought to try), and I'm learning a lot about them. Each week, Henry's sister, Terra, sends out an e-mail that tells us what foods we are likely to be getting, provides us with some background on the more unusual foods, and serves up recipes as suggestions for how to use the produce. I wouldn't have even thought to eat beet leaves--I've always dumped them into the compost pile. Now the compost worms only get the stems; we eat the roots and the leaves! I'm looking forward to experimenting with foods a lot more this summer.

Now, if I can only get my own garden moving...

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Who Knew Our CSA Was Famous?

Well, maybe Henry's Farm isn't exactly famous, but Terra, Henry's sister, has written a book titled The Seasons on Henry's Farm: A Year of Food and Life on a Sustainable Farm. I purchased a copy of the book today when we picked up our CSA produce, and both Terra and Henry were gracious enough to autograph it for me!

Last week's timing for CSA pickup wasn't good--hubby and I went out of town for a couple of days and then spent a couple of days recovering while the produce wilted in the refrigerator. The two bags of spinach were all that survived, so I washed it this evening and boiled it in salted water for a few minutes. I'll add it to some pasta and maybe even to an omelette or two this week; the rest will go in the freezer for another day.

This week, we ended up with a lot of greens: two heads of lettuce, a head of broccoli, a bunch of radishes, some huge green onions, some beet greens (some with a bit of beet on the bottom--an added bonus), a choi of some sort, and some cilantro.

I also learned that apparently the farm has two other CSAs: a meat CSA and a fruit CSA! Henry's farm must be enormous. I'm just delighted we were accepted for the veggie CSA. Watching it unfold and seeing what new items we get each week is fun, and it's wonderful to be eating healthy, pesticide- and herbicide-free foods while my garden is just getting started!

An added bonus at today's pickup: strawberries for sale, fresh from the field! I bought 3 pints and cleaned them. Until you have tasted a field-ripe strawberry, picked that day at its peak of freshness, you haven't eaten a strawberry! The strawberries trucked in from California can't begin to compare. Plus, knowing that they are chemical-free is important to me, since berries purchased at the store are usually laden with chemicals farmers have sprayed on the fields.

I spent the evening processing the foods; I can't wait to begin eating them! It looks like we have a lot of wonderful salads in our future. Now, if I can just get some goat cheese at farmer's market this weekend...