Things are cooking here at Happy Acres, both literally and figuratively. We are in the grips of another heat wave, with temps hitting 100F yesterday and heading for 102 today. And even though it’s been a hot, dry summer, the garden here is still producing great for us, with over 620 pounds harvested so far in 2010. Our freezer is getting full, which is not a bad thing! And the church garden has been supplying several local agencies with lots of fresh veggies.
These days I’m doing well just to keep up with the garden(s), with little time left to blog about them. We’ve gotten over 100 pounds of tomatoes alone, and those that weren’t eaten outright have been dried, sauced, oven roasted and grilled. I’ve got a pan of them slow-roasting in the oven at this very moment. Some of those will go on pita pizzas for lunch.
The small-fruited varieties like Juliet, Golden Rave, Sapho, Jenny, Flamme, and Black Cherry are great dried but recently we’ve been enjoying them when they’re roasted in a slow (225F) oven for 2-3 hours, until they are shriveled up and the flavor is concentrated. I drizzle a little olive oil over them first and they are yummy!
Another thing we’ve got cooking is the compost pile. Last week I turned/forked over bin #1 into bin #2, sifting out 6 bushels (48 gallons) of finished compost in the process. That will be put to good use around the gardens. I also shredded some brown material that had been accumulating in a pile, plus the 30 or so broccoli stalks from the spring planting, and several wheel barrow loads of trimmings from the giant Rose of Sharon bushes. Bin #2 is now layered in a nice mix of green and brown materials and is merrily cooking away.
I’m too frugal (aka cheap) to buy a compost thermometer, so I stuck an old meat thermometer down in the pile as far as it would go. It’s hitting almost 150F a few days after finishing the pile, so it’s off to a great start. The chipper/shredder has been a great investment for us, and we are now able to use 99% of our yard waste. We still bag a few nasty things like poison ivy and bermuda grass, but everything else gets turned into either compost or mulch.
The Butterfly Garden (aka Wild Garden) is also really cooking now, in a good way. It’s about at its peak, with Tithonia, Zinnia, Salvia, Cosmos, Joe Pye Weed, and Sunflowers coming on just as the coneflowers and daisies are fading. This area is visited by a large number of butterflies and pollinators every day. The Lemon Queen sunflowers are towering over the rest of the plants. They are every bit of 10 feet tall, with many lemon yellow sunflowers now open.
I’m growing the Lemon Queen sunflower variety in order to participate in the Great Sunflower Project. I recently finished the first counting of bees, and I’m happy to report we had a lot of visitors in a 15 minute period. The data collected will help researchers learn about the state of bees all over the US and Canada. I figure our bees need all the help they can get, since we’d be lost without them!
That’s a little taste of what’s cookin’ at Happy Acres in early August.