Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Butterfllies in the garden

I finally spotted a monarch today resting on a coneflower in one of the buttterfly beds today.  Since the milkweed has been in bloom for awhile, I had expected to see them sooner and in larger numbers by now.    Swamp milkweed and butterflyweed are two of the vaieties of milkweed planted in my gradens in hopes of attracting monarch butterflies whose larvae feed exclusively on milkweed.

Swamp milkweed (Ascelpias incarnata) is native to moist soils
 throughout WI
Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa) grows
 in dry prairies, barrens and savannahs
Mapping of the monarch migration indicates slower progress across the mid-continent than in past years due to colder than normal temperatures slowing monarch life cycles.  As of the end of July the numbers in our area seem to be down significantly from the last several years.


Below are photos of the 4 stages of evolution of the moarch from egg to butterfly to aid in identifying monarch activity:

Monarch eggs and hatching larvae (caterpillar)

Monarch metamorphosis (caterpillar to chrysalis to emerging butterfly)

I don't believe any butterflies have ever made use of my butterfly house anywhere we've lived, but I carefully pieced the rotting wood back together adding a few stone embellishments to cover some of the biggest gaps last year.  It's such a lovely structure I just can't bear to part with it yet.

If one looks carefully a variety of metal insects  can be discovered scattered among the plants in our yard.

A caterpillar...
...turns into a beautiful butterfly
Another butterfly
A butterfly with glass wings
A hanging butterfly swings in the breeze

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Wreath Factory celebrates 30 years!

Last Wednesday, the Wreath Factory, one of my favorite local garden centers, hosted a party to celebrate their 30th year in business in Plymouth, Wisconsin.   We were fortunate to be on their mailing list to receive an invistation.  We enjoyed pizza baked in their wood-burning oven along with broasted chicken (a Wisconsin favorite cooked in the patented Broaster, a pressurized fryer) and refreshing beverages to quench our thirst on one of the hottest days of the year.

Dancing bears great you as you enter the Wreath Factory
hinting at the playful items you'll find offered for sale
in addition to the large selection of the latest plant introductions
as well as some old favorites.

A unique fountain iconstructed of wheel barrows

Unique floral arrangements adorned the tables scattered
throughout the garden center.  This one had daylilies anchored
with tomatoes in a clear glass vase

The Wreath Factory is located on Wisconsin 5 , northeast of downtown Plymouth.

The Wreath Factory has a second location closer to our home on Main Street in Menasha, with a smaller selcetion of plants, focusing more on seasonal wreaths, floral arrangements and garden accessories.

Do stop by if you're in the area.  They have a real flair for creating unique displays demonstrating the latest gardening and decorating trends that I've been seeing featured in recent editions of my favorite magazines.   (No, I have no vested interest in their success, aside from hoping they prosper and grow in their current locations to continue delighting us with their appealing items for sale and creative ideas for displaying them.)

Inspired by the dylily arrangement at the Wreath Factory, I created this simple arrangement when a few flowers dropped off the plants when I was weeding.

I'll have to learn how to use this container, purchased years ago at a craft fair, for Ikebana arrangements as intended, sometime this coming winter.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Zucchini harvest begins

The zucchini harvest has begun with vines sprawling across the garden beds loaded with blossoms hinting at the bounteous crop we can look forward to.

The first zucchini of the season

Our favorite recipe for using zucchini over the years has to be the zucchini casserole recipe
 from my roommate, Pat,when I was a graduate student at UC Berkeley


1 1/2 lbs. zucchini
1 small onion, chopped
2 T. butter
4 oz. can diced mild green chilies
3 T. flour
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
1 1/2 c. grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 egg
1 c. cottage cheese
2 T. minced parsley
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese

Slice zucchini and combine with onion and butter in a skillet.  Saute until tender.  Mix in drained chilies, flour, salt, and pepper.  Turn into a 9" pie plate or shallow baking dish (1 1/2").  Sprinkle with Monterey Jack cheese.  Mix egg, cottage cheese, and parsley and spoon over top.   Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Bake uncovered at 400 for 20 minutes or until just hot in the center.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Good Earth Farm CSA

For the 3rd year we are purchasing produce shares from a local CSA, Good Earth Farms located in Oakfield, WI.  We pick up our small share every Thusday afternoon during the growing season.

    "Good Earth Farm is a diversified vegetable farm operated by farmers Joe and Nicole Schauer.  The farm grew out of the rural couple’s expanding vegetable garden and a friend’s offer to purchase extra produce in 2004.  Since then, local food-lovers purchasing seasonal shares of weekly delivered farm produce have grown from 13 in 2006 to more than 250 in 2012.  Once “City Folk,” the couple is now firmly rooted as farmers, along with the three children they have “grown” on their farm."

    We are a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm.  We choose to market our produce through CSA for a reason: direct connection with the people who purchase what we grow.   Our members have opportunities to visit the farm, work on the farm, talk with us, and see the operation.   We feel strongly that knowing where food comes from and knowing your farmer are essential to a successfully functioning food system.
    The Good Earth Farm CSA program will feed about 250 families in 2013.  That's over 800 people eating fresh produce grown on 12 acres of land in their own community.  

My CSA Challenge to myself: to use produce from the weekly share to prepare old favorites, new dishes with a special emphasis on exploring foreign cuisine and healthier fare.  I will try to record at least one seasonal recipe we especially enjoyed each week.

!st week of July

Strawberries, summer squash, sugar snap peas, bunched greens, salad mix, purple mini-onions, and head lettuce

Last week of June

Strawberries, summer squash, Asian greens, salad mix, peas shoots, scallions, yukia savoy, head lettuce & broccolI


mixed greens
green onions
strawberry slices
chopped pecans 
goat cheese crumbles
(chicken chunks-opt.)
Maple Grove Farms Fat Free Raspberry Vinaigrette  (or Wasabi Dijon Dressing) 

Late June - Out of Town - No pick-up

First week mid-June

Bok choy, red kale, salad mix, popcorn, flowering onions, herb packs (seedlings to plant)

Challenge for this week was to get the 9 herbs in the herb pack planted outside in my herb garden and in pots inside

Monday, July 8, 2013

Favorite fruits

Looks like the birds have been beating us to the sour cherries
We beat them to the strawberries in time to enjoy
some on strawberry shortcakes (usually use the recipe for shortcake
on the Bisquick box) and some added to a strawberry-rhubarb crisp
I planted a few black currant bushes.  I developed a fondness for blackberry jam on scones
 when visitng my parents during their years in England.

Back in the states, a recipe for Balck Currant Pork Chops discovered in the original
Silver Palate Cookbook became a family favorite when the boys were growing up.


1/2 c. black currant preserve
3 T. Dijon mustard
6 center-cut pork chops, 1-1 1/2" thick
black pepper, freshly ground
2/3 c. white wine vinegar

Mix the preserves and Dijon mustard together.  Set aside.  Brown pork chops lightly on both sides in a preheated nonstick skillet.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Spoon the currant and mustard sauce evenly over the pork chops.  Cover, reduce the heat, and cook for 20 minutes, or until the pork chops are done.  Transfer them to a platter and keep warm.  Remove excess fat from skillet.  Add the wine vinegar, set the pan over medium heat and bring juices to a boil, stirring and scraping up any brown bits.  When the sauce is reduced by about one third, pour it over the chops and serve immediately.

Looking ahead to harvesting the bounty

The zucchini crop looks promising
Not quite sure what kind of squash this will be
Pea pods

Onions, chives, anise hyssop, lemon balm, tarragon, sage
and lemon thyme are among the perennial herbs that spring
up in the herb bed every year. 
"Fried chicken" in the anise hyssop

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Seasons last peonies

Various shades of white, pink, and rose peonies were in bloom throughout the month of June here in NE Wisconsin.

I snipped the last few peonies of the season found in a shadier spot
to enjoy in this simple floral arrangement.
I'll have to try to remember the peony foliage makes a nice addition
to floral arrangements throughout the growing season.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Digging plants for annual Master Gardener plant sale

Last weekend I participated in a Master Gardener dig to gather some plants to be potted for our annual plant sale, our largest fundraiser.   The owners of the property contacted us as they are downsizing their garden beds to decrease the amount of yard work required as they age.  We enjoyed the variety of clever yard art scattered about a yard full of colorful plants and flowers.  Below are a few of my favorite pieces.

A preview of some of the yard art to be seen
 as we tour the yard where we will be digging

Fairy gardens in an old wagon 
Fairy seated by pond
Large pond surrounded by yard art birds and bird houses
to lure birds to the yard
Kayak as a planter