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Chives

April Flowers-Chives

 

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

They are the smallest species of the edible onions.  A perennial plant, native to Europe, Asia and North America  A. schoenoprasum is the only species of Allium native to both the New and Old Worlds.

We have this beautiful plant growing in our garden, thanks to the previous owner, but we didn’t know what it was.  We finally settled on chives.  Another friend told us that we can eat the purple bulbs, preferably sauteed in olive oil, but only before the bulbs flower.  But, according to a book I found in our library, The Complete Book of Herbs, by Lesley Bremness, you can sprinkle the florets on salads for a mild onion flavor.

We have eaten them several times now, and they are delicious, with a nice, mellow onion flavor.  They are a lovely, interesting garnish for sauces, vegetables and meat.

Chives can be frozen successfully, but are not suitable for drying.  Wash the freshly picked chives, cut off or remove any undesirable parts, carefully pat dry, and freeze in small plastic freezer bags in amounts you would use at one time.  The thaw quickly so add them directly from the freezer to the food you are cooking.  (Canning, Freezing and Drying, Sunset)

 

ChiveBlossoms2

Chives are a commonly used herb with many uses.  They are a bulb-forming herbaceous, perennial plant.  The bulbs are slender, conical, 2-3 cm long and 1 cm broad, and grow in dense clusters from the roots.  The scapes are hollow and tubular, up to 50 cm long and 2-3 cm in diameter, with a soft texture.  The leaves, which are shorter than the scapes, are also hollow and tubular and slightly tapering.  Both the bulbs and the scapes are edible.  The flowers are pale purple and star-shaped with six petals, 1-2 cm wide, and produced in a dense inflorescence  of 10-30 together; before opening the inflorescence is surrounded by a papery bract.  The seeds are produced in a small three-valved capsule, maturing in summer.  The herb flowers from April to June.

Useful definitions:

Herbaceous-a plant that has leaves and stems that die down at the end of the growing season to soil level

Perennial- a plant that lives more than two years

Scapes-stems

Inflorescence- a group or cluster of flowers arranged on a stem

                                                                                 ChiveBlossoms3

The growing plant has insect-repelling properties that can be used to control pests, and the juice of the leaves can be used for the same purpose, as well as fighting fungal infections, mildew and scab.

Its flowers are attractive to bees, which are important for gardens with an abundance of plants in need of pollination.

Chives are rich in vitamins A, C and K, calcium,iron and folate, contain trace amounts of sulfur, and are  reported to have a beneficial effect on the circulatory system and mild stimulant, diuretic and antiseptic properties.

They are also cultivated for their ornamental value; the violet flowers are often used in ornamental dry bouquets.

The Romans believed chives could relieve the pain from sunburn or a sore throat. They believed eating chives could increase blood pressure and act as a diuretic.  Romanian Gypsies have used chives in fortune telling.  It was believed that bunches of dried chives hung around a house would ward off disease and evil.

When harvesting, the needed number of stalks should be cut to the base. During the growing season, the plant will continually regrow leaves, allowing for a continuous harvest.

Sources:

Wikipedia

The Complete Book of Herbs, Lesley Bremness

Canning, Freezing and Drying, Sunset

 

 

ChiveBlossoms

 

 


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Wildflowers

The Glide Wildflower Show was this weekend–Saturday and Sunday.  Bruce and I dropped in for an hour or so,  just to see how it all came together for the public.  We spent many, many hours behind the scenes as volunteers, helping to put it together.  We had a lot of fun, learned a bit about flowers and botany, and met some really wonderful people.

Last Sunday, Theresa, Patty and Sam came to our farm to collect some wildflowers.  Theresa is on the council which plans and organizes the show.  Patty is a first year volunteer, and Sam is a botanist who very generously volunteered many hours of his time toward identifying the plants.

So, Bruce, Sara and I set out with the others and started at the upper pond.  We found quite a few specimens including the rare Golden Eggs, (Camissonia ovata).

Golden Eggs, Camissonia ovata

I was told that they are found in only three places in Oregon.

We also found some Meadow Foam or Poached egg plant (Limnathes douglasii ssp. douglasii).  This plant has just started blooming on our farm, but it’s all over the neighbor’s pasture and it looks very pretty with all the yellow buttercups that are also out there.

April Flowers-Meadowfoam

This is White water buttercup (ranunculus aquatilis), found in the upper pond

Ranunculus aquatilis, leafy water buttercup

Theresa knew the general areas where all the flowers were going to be found, and she and Sam identified them, and Patty put them in baggies with a floralife solution.  They were then placed in coolers to keep them from sagging in the sun.  I haven’t figured it out yet, but some plants were collected by digging up the entire plant and others just by taking some clippings.

We found this interesting plant nearer to the house:

Scorpion Grass

It’s called Changing forget-me-not (Myosotis discolor).  It has a coiled array of tiny flowers at the top of the stem.  The flowers change color from yellowish-white to deep blue.

After lunch, we ventured out to the untamed forest between the house and the road.  We had to watch out for poison oak and also ticks.  We found a few ticks, but they weren’t a big problem.  We also found some nice flowers:

Idaho blue-eyed grass, Sisyrinchium bellum
Idaho blue-eyed grass (sisyrinchium bellum)

 

Hooker's Indian-pink, Silene hookeri
Hooker’s Indian-pink (Silene hookerii)

 

 

April Flowers-Great Camus Blue
Great camas (Camassia leichtlinii) in blue

April Flowers-Great camus White

and white

 

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Prairie Star (lithophragma parviflorum).

 

April Flowers-Cat's Ear, Calochortus tolmiei

Cat’s ear or Oregon mariposa lily (Calochortus tolmiei)

_MG_4126

and the iris.  It grows all over the front area of the farm in various shades of purple.

 

We also found some interesting critters–

April Flowers-Goldenrod Crab Spider

I thought this was a flower, until it started moving.  It’s a Goldenrod Crab spider (Misumena vatia)

“This species of spider uses camouflage as its primary defense as well as offense. It will bite to protect itself as well. Goldenrod Crab Spiders are able to change their coloration over the course of several days in order to blend in better with their surroundings.

They are an ambush spider, jumping on their prey. They do this instead of spinning webs and waiting for something to get tangled. They sit in the center of a flower, preferably a Goldenrod flower which are yellow, and wait for a bee or butterfly on its way to collect pollen to wander in close enough to grab. It uses its very long front pairs of legs to grasp the insect prey then bites it to immobilize it. They are able to grab insects much bigger than themselves with these strong legs.”

http://www.insectidentification.org/insect-description.asp?identification=Goldenrod-Crab-Spider

April Flowers-Tree Frog

Pacific tree frog (Pseudacris regilla).  We must have a lot of them, because they are very noisy at night.  They grow to only 2 inches in size and are “identified by a black or brown stripe that runs from the nose, across the eye and back to the shoulder”.  Wikipedia

 

These are just a few of the plants we found in the three hours or so that we were out hunting them and it’s just a tiny fraction of all the plants that were in the Wildflower show.

I volunteered for the show from Wednesday through Friday.  Bruce missed Thursday, due to his work with the Master Gardeners.  On Wednesday most of the flowers came in from various sites and were roughly identified, mostly by their family name.  There were tables set up in rows with all the numbered family names.  Our job as runners was to put the plants in the correct areas according to their family name.  We made sure they were all watered and doing well.  The next day we sorted out each family and took the plants to either the botanists to identify, or if the botanist had already identified them we took them to the “vasers”, who arranged them nicely in vases.  There were hundreds of vases to choose from and I’m sure it got to be a tedious job towards the end.  On Friday, we finished up from Thursday and arranged the vases to show off the flowers in the best way possible.  At the end of the day we gave each plant a nice laminated card.  All the plants and cards were later checked by Jeanne, who put us all to shame with her tireless work, considering she is, I believe, in her eighties.  She is the only remaining member of the earliest council members and still going strong!

I only had a small part in making the show happen, but it was exciting to be a part of it.  I was amazed at all the work that was done behind the scenes in so many various areas–there were even volunteers who made lunch for the volunteers!

Next year is the 50th anniversary of the Glide Wildflower Show and if you’d like to attend or read about it and its history, here is the website:  http://www.glidewildflowershow.org/

Happy Hunting!

 

 April Flowers-Rabbits

 


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Asparagus

April2014Asparagus9

Asparagus officinalis

  • Asparagus is a member of the Lily family.  ( *Correction: This has been changed to the Asparagaeceae family–Wikipedia)
  • Asparagus spears grow from a crown that is planted about a foot deep in sandy soils.
  • Under ideal conditions, an asparagus spear can grow 10″ in a 24-hour period.
  • Each crown will send spears up for about 6-7 weeks during the spring and early summer.
  • The outdoor temperature determines how much time will be between each picking…early in the season, there may be 4-5 days between pickings and as the days and nights get warmer, a particular field may have to be picked every 24 hours.
  • After harvesting is done the spears grow into ferns, which produce red berries and the food and nutrients necessary for a healthy and productive crop the next season.
  • An asparagus planting is usually not harvested for the first 3 years after the crowns are planted allowing the crown to develop a strong fibrous root system.
  • A well cared for asparagus planting will generally produce for about 15 years without being replanted.
  • The larger the diameter, the better the quality!
  • Asparagus is a nutrient-dense food which in high in Folic Acid and is a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C, and thiamine.
  • Asparagus has No Fat, contains No Cholesterol and is low in Sodium.

Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board

 

Asparagus has been used as a vegetable and medicine, owing to its delicate flavor, diuretic properties, and more.  It is pictured as an offering on an Egyptian frieze dating to 3000 B.C.  Still in ancient times it was known in Syria and in Spain.  Greeks and Romans ate it fresh when in season and dried the vegetable for use in winter.  Romans would even freeze it high in the Alps, for the Feast of Epicurus, in the autumn.  Emperor Augustus created the “Asparagus Fleet” for hauling the vegetable and coined the expression “faster than cooking asparagus” for quick action.  A recipe for cooking asparagus is in the oldest surviving book of recipes, Apicius’  third-century A.D. De re Coquinaria, Book III.

Water makes up 93% of asparagus’s composition.  Asparagus is low in calories and is very low in sodium.  It is a good source of Vitamin B6, calcium, magnesium and zinc, and a very good source of dietary fiber, protein, beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin K, thiamine, riboflavin, rutin, niacin, folic acid, iron, phosphorus, potassium, copper, manganese, and selenium, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into the cells.  The amino acid asparagine gets its name from asparagus, as the asparagus plant is relatively rich in this compound.

Asparagus is a useful companion plant for tomatoes.  The tomato plant repels the asparagus beetle, while the asparagus may repel some harmful root nematodes that affect tomato plants.

Wikipedia

 

So, we are awash in asparagus!

Our thanks go out to the former gardener of this farm who planted the asparagus.

Bruce picked the first stalks on Sunday, April 6th and they were so delicious and unbelievably sweet.  We were away for three days and when we returned we had a bumper crop of asparagus!

April2014Asparagus April2014Asparagus2

April2014Asparagus5 April2014Asparagus6

We ate some more, and then Bruce thought since we had so much that we should freeze it.  Well…that’s something we’ve never tried before.  I got out our trusty book, Sunset’s Canning, Freezing & Drying,  and it said to blanch the asparagus for 2-4 minutes, cool them, place them in freezer bags and put them in the freezer.  Okay…well, we’ve never blanched anything either.

So…we either have the world’s supply of inedible asparagus, or a nice start to having asparagus for the whole year.

The good news is that the Master Food Preserver’s class starts this week and I’m thinking they will teach us this stuff.

(Edit: 3/22/2015; we have pounds and pounds of asparagus in the freezer.  We froze them in one pound batches after blanching.  They are edible after blanching and freezing, but not wonderful.  If I chop them up and stir fry them until they are browned, they are not too bad.  Maybe this year we will eat more asparagus and then try to freeze without blanching.  We know a lot more people now, so they may end up being the recipients of more asparagus than they can handle.)

April2014Asparagus7

 

Keep bees and grow asparagus, watch the tides and listen to the wind instead of the politicians;

make up your own stories and believe them if you want to live the good life.

Miriam Waddington   Driving Home: Poems New and Selected,’Advice to the Young’.

 

 


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In The Weeds

The weather forecast called for rain this afternoon, so I got out early to take on the weeds in the flower beds.  I noticed yesterday that they are now much easier to pull out.  The first time I went out to weed, about three weeks ago, the ground was like concrete and I spend two days with very little to show for my efforts.  But today…

Weeds

Now that’s a huge pile of weeds!  I was outside for five hours and it never did rain.  After a couple of hours I was kind of wishing it would.

Here’s the flower bed I worked on the first time I went out to weed in early March:

_MG_2881

The cleared area in front is what I spent all day on, which is about a quarter of the entire bed.  The weedy area in the middle is what the front area looked like pre-weeding.  It is just one solid mass of weeds.  I thought I might have to make friends with the weeds and call them wildflowers, but now, I think Round-up may become my best friend.

To be fair, it’s not that bad being outside pulling weeds.  Roseburg got 4.75 inches of rain for the month of March which for us (former) Californians is a whole lot of rain.  Most of the days have been too rainy or cold to go outside for very long, so when a nice, warm, sunny day comes along it calls to you to be outside enjoying the sun.  Plus, who wouldn’t like enjoying the balmy weather while listening to the geese, all kinds of birds, turkeys, and cows?  It’s nature’s symphony.

“A good garden may have some weeds.”
– Proverb

 


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The Game is Afoot

We’ve had quite a few unusual animal visitors to our farm this last week.  It seemed that every day held a new surprise for us.  It’s difficult to get anything done when we’re always looking out the window to see what’s out there.  But if we weren’t looking,  look at what we would have missed–

Ring-necked Duck

We get a lot of different birds on the upper pond, but it’s difficult to get clear photos of them.  This one is a Ring-necked Duck (Aythya collaris).  The male has a black back and breast; purple-glossed, black-appearing head; pale gray flanks; vertical white mark on the side of the breast.  The bill is pale gray with a white ring.  The high angular shape of the head and white ring on the bill is what distinguishes this bird.

April-Mallard

Mallard Duck (Anas platyrhynchos) Male has a green head, white neck ring, chestnut breast and grayish body.

 

March-Elk at Upper Pond3

Yesterday morning when I woke up and looked out the window I saw a large herd of Elk or Wapiti (Cervus elaphus) at the upper pond.  That was quite a treat.  They stayed around the area for about a half hour and then jumped the fence into the adjoining pasture.  As you can see from other photos they came up quite close to the house.  Do you see Bruce’s daffodils growing by the pond?

 

March-Elk at Upper Pond2         March-Elk at Upper Pond1

 

March-Elk at Upper Pond5          March-Elk at Upper Pond6

March-Elk at Upper Pond8

 

 

March-Jackrabbit

One morning we saw this jackrabbit sitting right outside the back door.  It looks like something was chomping on his ear!

 

Red Shafted Flicker

This is a good shot of a Red-shafted Flicker (Colaptes auratus).

 

March-Beaver    April-Beaver

Perhaps the best animal we saw this week, and certainly the most surprising was this beaver.  He was just hanging out in the upper pond, swimming back and forth.  Bruce was out checking the pond and looked down at the drain pipe and saw him.  We’ve seen him a couple of times this week, but we thought for awhile that he had gone over to the creek.  We’ll have to keep a watch on the water flow over there.

We’re busy here, still getting moved in, taking care of a myriad of details, taking classes, getting the garden ready for planting, but we are never too busy to stop and watch the fascinating wildlife.  For now, that’s our most important project.