Tuesday, July 3, 2012

shades of red

Each gardening season I've experimented with a plant I've never grown before. This year there are actually a few new faces in my garden.
Here is one: meet miss asparagus pea.
Several things about this plant have been a surprise. For one, it is neither an asparagus nor a pea, but it is a legume and will add nitrogen to the soil. It does not climb as much as sprawl, and its flowers are deep red, resembling tiny sweet peas. It takes forever to grow so I'm glad I started them indoors.
I bought the seeds while attending the Chicagoland Flower and Garden show with my buddy Barb this past March. And now, here she is in bloom. I'm advised to pick the pods when they are very small, less then 2 inches, 1 inch preferred, or they will be tough. I'll be checking them twice a day now, as this heat is making things pop. A little steam cooking, and melted butter and I can't wait to let you know if they'll be a regular in my garden from now on. They are very pretty.

Here is a view of the vegetable bed facing east. With diligent watering in this unremitting sun and high temperatures, everything is coming along nicely. The deep grass mulch has really cut down on the weeds and a daily walk through the aisles pulling those few that break through keeps things nice and tidy. I usually do this when the bed is in the shade of our gorgeous pine in the late afternoon. Often then there is also a little breeze. With the chickens for company just a few feet away to the right in this photo, it's a heavenly task.
Another red that's showing itself right now can be spotted in our new raspberry bed. I have been carefully collecting the grass clippings, precious few in this heat and drought, to cover this new bed and keep it weed free and moist. As we did under the tomatoes, first I laid down a layer of newspaper then the grass clippings. I think the new canes should be able to break through this ground cover as they emerge, but I'm hoping the weeds and grasses will not. In the days ahead any grass I mow will be collected for these beds.
In the June/July issue of Organic Gardening there is a recipe for Raspberry Shrub. Though my own plants will not be producing enough this season, my good friends Lovina and Eli will have much to sell. I plan to buy and freeze some and also make a batch of this.The recipe is as follows:
Raspberry Shrub
1 cup cider vinegar
6 cups raspberries
1. In a nonreactive bowl, pour vinegar over raspberries. Let stand, covered with a clean cloth or cheesecloth, for 24 to 48 hours (the mixture will become very strong smelling.) Strain with a fine mesh sieve, carefully pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. discard seeds. Measure liquid (there should be 2 cups.)
2. In a medium saucepan, add liquid and for every 2 cups liquid, 1 scant cup of sugar. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 20 minutes. Cool, pour into glass jars, and cover tightly. As it ages, the shrub will take on a syruplike consistency. Keep in a cool dark place until needed. Raspberry shrub will keep for months if refrigerated.
3. To serve: In a tall glass filled with ice, pour 2 tablespoons shrub. Fill glass with cold water, seltzer water, lemonade or ginger ale.
It does sound delicious, no??

Last evening when I put the chickens to bed I spotted a family of raccoons walking across the orchard and my heart quickened a bit worrying about the hens. My friend down the road lost some of her chickens to raccoons. Lately I've found some evidence of raccoons (they just love to dig in pots or the ground where I've recently used or added my favorite potting mix.) I spotted a lone adult a few nights ago, but seeing this whole family made me hope they were just passing through and haven't taken up residence in the wreck of a barn on the edge of our property.  (you can see that wreck on the far edge of the middle photo above.) Handy, my fruits, vegetables, and chickens so nearby, who could blame them.



  1. Your vegetable plot looks amazing! You have done so well. I must try that raspberry shrub recipe. It does sound rather delicious. I hope that the racoons soon move on and leave you and your chickens in peace!

  2. Oh, I do hope those raccoons stay away from your chickens!! Your garden is beautiful and neat - in fact, your whole farm looks beautiful, as much as I can see in your photos and wonderful new header!! And I know that is due to your attention and hard work, Sharon. You have a lovely place.