As the weather starts to cooperate with some sunny, warm weather -finally!- we are starting to see things turn around in the fields. We actually turned on the sprinklers the last couple of days in order to water! Dave had to buy another sprinkler head since we do seem to wear them out after the aggressive watering of the last two years. It seems the ones that fail will still spout water but they quit oscillating and tend to have other leaking issues that new rubber gaskets don’t seem to fix. So Dave added one, upgraded, ‘turbo’ sprinkler to the mix today. We also decided to re-install some of our soaker hoses from 2012 in the blueberries beds.
Here are the Roma Tomato plants just laden with fruit and waiting to ripen!
I picked blueberries again yesterday and would say that only one variety still has much to offer for the summer crop but I’m not surprised since we are coming up on a month of harvesting and have had reasonable results on such young plants. We lifted all the nets and mowed the perimeters yesterday and I weeded one of the five sections as well. We think our netting seems to be doing the trick, but I observed a bird yesterday as he was trying desperately to find a way into the netted areas.
First, he scouted from above by landing on all of the 5 foot tall posts which the netting is resting on. He seemed to be ‘casing’ the joint! Then he hopped down to the ground level and looked for a way in from that vantage point. I watched as he methodically hopped around the perimeter of one bed and even went back to a couple of possible spots to see if he could gain entrance under the net. In a man vs. bird moment, I wondered who would win but alas I found that he managed a way in! I guess I didn’t do the best job of re-securing the netting after I had picked? Of course I charged out to the patch in attack mode but the problem lies more in the getting ‘out’ than the getting ‘in’ since he started to panic at my arrival and flew at the sides of the netting. He struggled and got entangled from time to time since the netting is really easy to get caught up on. (I’ve stopped wearing clothes with exposed buttons when I’m out there for this same reason and am reminded of The Tale of Peter Rabbit and ole Mr. McGregor, every time I do get caught on a button.) So, with my help, the bird eventually escaped but not without a good lesson on the consequences of trying to get into my blueberry patch! He was not the only curiosity seeker tho. I found this lovely dragon fly inside the net as well.
While I’m on the subject of insects, (before talking of pizza making!) the Cicada Killer Wasps, Sphecius speciosus, have also returned. I had never heard of these flying insects until we experienced them here the last two years. The idea that they kill Cicadas is interesting…a part of the cycle of nature…but with a name that has ‘wasp’ in the title, we were a bit put off at first. In the end, there is little downside of the presence of these insects to us since the cicadas do more damage to our trees than the wasps do to our fields.
These very large wasps burrow into loose soil (our plowed fields) and deposit their larvae in the burrows. They provide food for their larvae to eat as they develop, by stinging (the females have the stinger – the males lack one – wouldn’t ya know!) and paralyzing cicadas which they then take, as captives, down into their burrow as a food source for their larvae to feed on. Here is a pic of this transaction.
We are not particularly harmed by these wasps but they are a bit unnerving due to their size. Dave just came in from the field in the late afternoon and said they were not currently active but they were abundant during the heat of the day. Here is a pic from the internet showing some scale.
Hope you didn’t read this right before dinner!
We are delighted to be preparing our favorite ‘summer’ pizza tonight for the first time since last year. (Our ‘winter’ or ‘off season’ pizza uses our home canned tomato sauce for the base instead of the fresh cherries.) The key ingredient for the summer pizza is our fresh, roasted, cherry tomatoes. We find the home grown kind to provide the best flavor. The pizza we make with our cherries is not original to me so I will share it here. We have tinkered with the recipe over the last two years and I would encourage you to do the same. For instance, I use my own version of pizza dough and prefer it to the one given. We will often add a stray topping or two but I would recommend trying the basic recipe first, before getting too inventive.
Here is the link to the recipe. http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Roman-Style-Pizza-with-Roasted-Cherry-Tomatoes-365180
And here are some photos showing how simple it is to make. You cannot really ‘ruin’ home made pizza and once you get the hang of it, you will find it is practically easier (and always better!) than ordering it when out. If you are so inclined, you should certainly try putting the base on the outdoor grill for a change up, but we like it in the oven as well. Home grown ingredients make it all the more special but just about anyone with a back yard can plant cherry tomatoes and basil!
First you make your dough and set it aside to rise. I make mine in my Cuisinart and let it sit on my bread board under a glass bowl to rise. Your dough doesn’t require a timer….it can be made in the morning and sit all day or mixed together a bit later. I like to let it rise at least two hours, but the current thought is the longer is better. While the dough is rising, you can roast your cherry tomatoes. I put them in a very hot oven with just a bit of olive oil and salt and pepper. They look like this when done. Unctuous!
Then I roll out the dough and put it on one of our circular pizza pans. Rolling out the pizza dough doesn’t require any skills, oils or cornmeal on the bottom. I roll my dough and put it directly on the pan and it never sticks.
Okay, so then, I smear the surface of the dough with a really nice olive oil. Use a special one if you want some added flavor but it is not necessary. Then, add fresh, minced garlic! In my opinion, use plenty and spread it generously on top of the oil!
Then, layer your fresh, grated, Parmesan cheese, then the roasted tomatoes (including any juice from roasting) and top, lightly with some more cheese. I’ve used many varieties, including feta, mozzarella, etc.
This is best left alone without too many other ingredients so that the crust can bake and not be too heavy, but don’t let me stop you from experimenting. I slide this pie into a very hot, 500 degree oven (hotter if you have the capability) on the bottom most rack and cook it for 10 minutes or a bit more. After it comes out of the oven, I have at the ready some of our basil leaves to sprinkle on top.
Serve with generous amounts of extra, grated Parmesan cheese and of course lots of fresh ground pepper!