Everyone in the Saint Louis area is enjoying the mild weather we have had lately but it isn’t really good for the farmers. For one, we need the hot sunshine for the more typical summer crops to multiply and ripen. We love cool weather as much as anyone else but we prefer to have it when our spring crops are in the midst of growing. Instead, our tomatoes, green beans, cukes, zukes, eggplants, okra and melons are begging for the heat and aren’t getting it. Sure, you can grow tomatoes in Michigan in the summer, but you can’t get the volume we are interested in producing in order to make sauces and ketchup and the like! Those types of endeavors are best made using 15-20lbs of ripened fruit per batch which means nearly that many per day! Ripen, darn it, ripen!Besides the lack of heat, we are horribly dry here with nary a rain shower since the infamous wedding weekend (4 weeks ago now!) when we had rain galore! I mention this very shyly since we would be about the only Saint Louis-ans who are currently complaining about the weather! We are watering steadily and watching the weather reports with not much precipitation predicted for another week at least. This seems so contrary to the national reports of flooding in our area, but do remember that the flooding is from all the rains and snow melts from up river, and not so much of what we have experienced here.
Despite the Debbie Downer report, we are still ahead of the game since a recent farm report from Dave tells me that at 840+ pounds of harvest YTD, we are 263% above last year at this date. No wonder we are running out of refrigerator and freezer space! But the fact that blueberries are outweighing tomatoes by 6 pounds at this juncture is quite telling! Uh oh, the broccoli is also still making bundles of edibles. And the birds are all on their second batch of hatch-lings! These three wee robins took off from their nest a couple of days ago and the barn swallows are not far behind with their second batch of the year. Dave is nearly finished digging potatoes but with one more row to go, he is just shy of 200 pounds. They are gorgeous and tasty as we can attest from our recent first tasting of the year. It will be nice to clear the potato patch since it was getting weedy and we will gladly till that area under so as to plant another fall crop in its place at the end of next month. (The potato patch also seems to be the source of some of our recent chigger bites- ugh!)
We have enjoyed many veggie filled dinners and hope the friends who have picked up the fruits of our labors feel the same. Our onions aren’t as sweet or large as the ones in the grocery, but they caramelize nicely and compliment our other dishes.Here is one of our faves. A simple zucchini/onion sautee on very, very low heat in the pan with quality olive oil and fresh pepper and salt. A little thyme at the end of cooking finishes this dish nicely with extra flavor from the herb garden. We will fix this again tonight! The peach crop in our area was devastated by the winter cold and a late snap. We aren’t affected to the same degree as the big orchards since our trees are so young and frankly, it isn’t our bread and butter crop. But, here are some of our ripening peaches. The norm for picking in our area is usually the third week of July…but we will not hit this mark this year. Also indicative of the cooler weather, we have apples that are turning red already! Understand, this shouldn’t be read as a complaint, but this isn’t the normal, seasonal order of things!But when all else is wacky with the world, take a moment and look at what the bees are doing! Here is another interesting article in the NYTimes editorial section last week.
Our area has had an exceptional honey harvest this year, (despite all of the negative reports about bee health) Jurgen and Helen’s bee yards are productive to the point of being overwhelmed. For me, this translates into a great first year as an apprentice. I feel as if I’ve had quite the education so far and last week was no exception. Jurgen and I spent Thursday and Friday evenings pulling off the second, mid-season honey harvest in terms of 22 honey supers from 3 bee yards. This is an energy and time consuming thing to do but we got into a rhythm and were able to deposit 22 honey supers into their garage after two days…ready for extraction this past weekend. When we pull the honey supers away from the hives, the bees are rather curious as to where their hard work is going. Here are some of the honey supers in the back of our truck, under the towels, waiting to be carted away for extraction. The bees continue to cling to the sweet boxes of honey. We have to make a mad dash away with the honey, trying to keep the bees from following us. Jurgen and Helen extracted all day Saturday and took away 12.5 buckets full of honey which hasn’t been weighed yet but should be the most of the season yet. Bravo! They are marketing at several locations in town but would probably send some off in your direction if you want some of the best honey around!
Despite the fact that the bee report is usually last, I’m interrupting this tradition to report on a little thank you luncheon that I hosted last Friday for the gals from Garden Savvy (with Mary Ellen Hetenyi at the helm) who helped with so many of the landscape details and beyond during the wedding preparation time. It was really good for me to stop my daily chores and prepare a special thank you lunch with fun treats and lots of wicked laughter. I learned from my dear mother how to set a pretty table and enjoyed using some of the dishes from my grandmother. We feasted on Seven Oaks fruits and vegetables in the form of Roasted Cherry Tomato Pizza, Bibb Lettuce Salad with radish, green pepper, blueberries and my home made vinaigrette, followed by a fresh blueberry fruit cup dessert. One of the guests, Tammy, brought flowers from her garden in a lovely arrangement that she showcased when returning one of the vases from the wedding tables. These made the table all the more special!After a wonderful champagne toast to a successful endeavor, we all agreed we need to stop more often and gather to enjoy the moments like these!