Archive for July, 2013

Non-chemical Strategies to Prevent Insect Damage on Eggplant and Zucchini

My eggplant leaves are a little crumpled from pressing up against the row cover, but there is no sign of the flea beetle damge that usually weakens them so much in the spring.  The cover needs to be removed when they flower, for pollination.

My eggplant leaves are a little crumpled from pressing up against the row cover, but there is very little sign of the flea beetle damage that usually weakens them so much in the spring. The cover needs to be removed when they flower, for pollination.

Last summer I experimented with using row covers to combat flea beetle on my eggplants and squash vine borer on my zucchini (see this post).  The eggplant experiment worked well but the zucchini on found that the row covers were ineffective.  This summer, I used the row covers for the eggplants again with the same excellent results and have tried something new with the zucchini.  While perusing the seed catalogs, I came across a zucchini that was self-pollinating (no insects required) and decided to try it, even though it was not organic seed.  I planted the seeds under a large row cover and am now getting zucchini.  They seem to get very woody if they are allowed to get large, but I like to pick them small, so it hasn’t been a problem.  I’ll update this at the end of the season.

Here's my tented zucchini.  It looks a little weird, but if I get good zukes all summer, it's worth it.

Here’s my tented zucchini. It looks a little weird, but if I get good zukes all summer, it’s worth it.

This is the self pollinating zucchini at about 6" long.  I will keeping it under cover to try and combat the squash vine borer.

This is the self pollinating zucchini at about 6″ long. I will keeping it under cover to try to combat the squash vine borer.

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Situation in my Garden Shed

How did all this stuff collect in my little garden shed?

How did all this stuff collect in my little garden shed?

How did I let it get so bad??  I had washed all the pots I used to start the plants for this year’s garden but I couldn’t put them away as I couldn’t even get into my shed because of all the equipment, etc., I had pushed in there.  What is it with flower pots?  Do they breed behind my back?  I can’t imagine where they all came from.  I could see my late son, Pete, chiding me from heaven.  He had built me this shed for Mother’s Day several years ago and it had gradually become more and more disorganized.  Spurred on by Pete spirit, I took everything out, swept it out and I even replaced the eight worst linoleum tiles.  At least two-thirds of the flower pots are scheduled for recycling.  Two days later, it is all put back and tidy.

Order Restored

Order Restored

Pete is smiling down on me now.

Pete, right after he finished the shed (this was at a party in the yard, hence the name tag and beer.)

Pete, right after he finished the shed (this was at a party in the yard, hence the name tag and beer.)

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Far From Home: Red-Billed Tropicbird in Maine

Carver's Harbor, Vinalhaven

Carver’s Harbor, Vinalhaven

For the past several years a Red-billed Tropicbird has been reported around Seal Island in Maine.  After some necessary planning well in advance, we went out there last Sunday with some friends to see if we could get a look at this bird, normally resident in tropical waters.  We had seen the bird before, but in the Galapagos Islands, part of its normal range.  Its presence in Maine is a mystery.  We took a ferry from Rockland to Vinalhaven and there chartered a lobster boat which took us out to Seal Island.  The bird spends its days foraging at sea, returning to Seal Island at about four p.m.  The trip out was filled with terrific bird sightings too, Gannets, Black Guillemots, Manx Shearwaters, Great Cormorants and Bald Eagles, to name a few.  Once we got to Seal Island, we went around it, seeing many Atlantic Puffins (the island is part of the Puffin Restoration Project), Common and Arctic terns, Razorbills, Common Murres and many gulls.

Red-billed Tropicbird

Red-billed Tropicbird

Almost on the dot of four, a sharp-eyed member of our group (not me!) spotted the Tropicbird.  It came streaming in like a jet fighter, upsetting all the terns, who flew up and scattered.  We watched for an hour while he dive-bombed the terns, over and over, calling “Kek kek kek kek kek!!!” as he dropped out of the sky.  This seemed to be play for him as he did nothing to harm them (although the constant disruption must take some toll).  The terns went after him in return and he occasionally lit on the water with his long streamer of a tail cocked out behind him.

Arctic Terns in Flight

Arctic Terns in Flight

Sated with Tropicbird, we returned to Vinalhaven for the night.  The vivid memory of this day still brings a big smile to my face, five days later.

Owl's Head Light, on the Way back to Rockland on the Ferry.

Owl’s Head Light, on the Way back to Rockland on the Ferry.

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Broccoli Soup from Broccoli Stems

These broccoli stems made a delicious cold soup.

These broccoli stems made a delicious cold soup.

“Waste not, want not.”  That familiar family tradition in our Yankee household was put to good use when I froze fresh broccoli florets from the garden the other day.  I trimmed them from the stems and then used the stems to make a cold soup for our lunch.  I used the blanching water from the florets and boiled the stems until tender.  My hand blender turned the stems, fresh herbs (parsley, dill) and blanching water into a soup base.  I seasoned it with salt and pepper, and after it cooled, added some light cream and a generous amount of chopped chives.  I had already frozen the tops of the broccoli, but if you think of it in time, a couple of the larger florets would have made it even better.

It was a welcome cold lunch during this abnormally hot weather.

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Garden Update

Mulched and ready for summer

Mulched and ready for summer

The garden is now (relatively) weed free and mulched for the summer with a six-inch deep blanket of salt hay.  It’s been very hot here for the last few days so we’ve been out at about 6:00 a.m. and are back in the house and into the shower at about 9:00 a.m.  I even got the pots and trays washed.  The peas and early lettuce are over and the initial broccoli raab has gone to seed.  I picked all the first heads of broccoli and froze most of them along with a gallon of green beans.  Summer squash and tomatoes are just beginning.  I’m trying (yet again) to defeat the squash vine borer, this year by planting self-pollinating zucchini seed.  I’ll let you know how that goes.  See archives for July, 2012 for last year’s efforts in this battle.

Clean pots!

Clean pots!

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Trip to Hog Island

Hog Island Audubon Camp

Hog Island Audubon Camp

We’ve just returned from a few days at Hog Island Audubon Camp in Bremen, Maine, directed by Dr. Steve Kress of Puffin fame.  The session we took was the Art of Birding which included (for me) drawing with Julie Zickefoose, writing with Scott Weidensaul and (for my husband) photography with David Brown.  There were also sessions on book binding and song writing which we didn’t have time to try.  A great pleasure of the camp session was the group of about fifteen teenagers whose youthful enthusiasm for the natural world spread a joyful sense of hope for the future over my stay.  If only more kids could put aside their computer devices and see where the real action is!

Young and old(er) campers discover the treasures of the intertidal zone.

Young and old(er) campers discover the treasures of the intertidal zone.

We birded or investigated the shoreline in the mornings, had “classes” in the afternoons and an informative program every night.  A highlight for me was a sketching session where we sketched birds from Hope Douglas’ “Wind Over Wings”, an outreach program where birds that can no longer survive in the wild are used to educate people about birds and conservation.  This program has recently relocated from Connecticut to Maine.  We miss Hope in Connecticut but I was happy to see her still carrying on her important work.  We spent one morning out in Muscongus Bay, traveling out to Eastern Egg Rock to see the Puffins (for more on EER, see my post from last summer)

Hope Douglas with Skywalker, a Golden Eagle whose wing has been amputated because he was shot intentionally.

Hope Douglas with Skywalker, a Golden Eagle whose wing has been amputated because he was shot intentionally.  It took Hope more than two years to condition him to captivity.  See the bond between them.

Time away from phones, Wi-Fi and the computer?  Heaven.  Here’s a short essay I wrote in the writing workshop about my experience on Tuesday morning:

                              

                                     Hog Island Music at Dawn

Drowsing between sleep and wakefulness, [if I get up now and wash my hair, it will be dry by breakfast] I heard the ring of three sweet notes.  Song Sparrow, I thought, and checked my alarm clock- 4:10 a.m.  I heard no more from Mr. Sparrow until 4:24 when he tried again, his full song this time, the three sweet whistles followed by a jumbled cascades of notes.  This time he was answered by a Phoebe, whose raspy FEE-BEE came from right under my window.  The Phoebe was answered from somewhere deep in the woods behind my room in the Porthole building.  A Northern Parula chimed in with his ascending buzz and soon the air was filled with so much birdsong that I could no longer identify the individual songsters.

I like to think the birds are greeting their neighbors:  “Did you sleep well my friend?” but science has shown us a darker meaning.  They are thought to be challenging their neighbors:  “I’m defending my territory!  Keep off!” These are confrontational songs, retracing and confirming the boundaries of each little patch of Hog Island.

By 4:55 all the skirmishes were settled and the dawn chorus was over.

I got up and washed my hair.

Hermit Thrush Nest

Hermit Thrush Nest

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