Archive for July, 2016


How to Attract Local Pollinators

Author: Meera, July 24, 2016

Today, I spotted a gorgeous bee, big and black with reddish-brown wings, dipping its proboscis into the lavender wisteria and other blooms in my garden. I was stung by a bee yesterday, but that doesn’t stop me from smiling with delight observing this little pollinator at work in my garden.

 

 

 

A longhorn bee is twice the size of a honeybee

This longhorn bee, twice the size of a honeybee, dips its proboscis (meaning, tongue, nozzle, or snoot) into a bloom.

 

 

I admit I’m a fan of pollinators and enjoy watching them work amid the sunflowers, zinnias, cosmos, wisteria, and other blooms in the bee and butterfly garden I planted earlier this year.

 

 

The flowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies, bumblebees, and other types of bees, including my own Italian honeybees, the stock of bees most favored in this country (Apis mellifera ligustica). See, http://beesource.com/resources/usda/the-different-types-of-honey-bees/

 

 

 

It's easy to grow a variety of annuals or perennials in a raised box

It’s easy to grow a variety of annuals or perennials in a raised wooden box filled with soil.

 

 

 

Honeybees pollinate 90 percent of North America’s commercially produced crops, including almonds. That’s why many Northern California almond growers rent honeybees for use in their orchards during springtime bloom.

 

 

Honeybees love hovering around all types of lavender; here, it's the Spanish variety

Honeybees love hovering around all types of lavender; here, it’s the Spanish variety

 

 

 

The National Academy of Sciences has noted that pollinators are needed to reproduce 75 percent of the Earth’s flowering plants. But there’s been a drop in natural pollinators, in part due to habitat loss and pesticide use.

 

 

Populations of the yellow, black, and brown Western bumblebee, once common from southern British Columbia to central California, have now all but disappeared. To attract bumblebees, plant giant hyssop, milk weed, and nettle-leaf horse mint. See, http://www.wildflower.org/collections/collection.php?collection=xerces_bumble

 

 

Here’s what else we gardeners and farmers can do to attract local pollinators.

1. Avoid using pesticides.

2. Plant bee, bird, and butterfly friendly native plants.

3. Choose plants that flower in varying diverse colors and shapes to attract a wide variety of pollinators.

 

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If you enjoy reading about farmette topics (including gardening, beekeeping, and delicious recipes), check out my cozy mysteries A BEELINE TO MURDER and also THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE in the Henny Penny Farmette series (from Kensington Publishing).

 

 

 

These novels are available through online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, and Walmart as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

See, http://tinyurl.com/hxy3s8q

Now available in mass market paperback, this debut novel launched the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries and sold out its first press run.

 

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

See, http://tinyurl.com/h4kou4g

The second cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 27, 2016

 

 

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What’s Growing in the July Garden?

Author: Meera, July 19, 2016

 

 

This mammoth sunflower towers towers at least four feet higher than the corn

Sunflowers are native to North America and were taken to Europe in the 16th century; however, they date back to  roughly 3,000 B.C. Honeybees love sunflowers.

 

 

Towering above the squash and lavender in my garden are rows of green corn stalks bearing ears of sweet, plump kernels. Snaking along the rows at the base of the cornstalks are vines laden with butternut squash and Armenian cucumber.

 

 

 

heirloom tomatoes taste great

Heirloom tomatoes are flavorful and sometimes exotic looking in terms of shape and color.

 

 

 

There are ripe tomatoes, too, especially the prolific heirloom–Red Beefsteak. I love cutting up some of these fresh, thin-skin tomatoes and combining them with basil, olive oil, grated cheese, and pine nuts as a topping for pasta. Add some grilled, seasoned chicken and you’ve got a quick and delicious summer lunch.

 

 

 

Zucchini and yellow squash sport large, showy blooms and are producing like crazy this month. While you can harvest and eat the blooms, we prefer the squash. Zucchini is delicious grilled or tossed with rosemary potatoes and onions or made into a French lentil and tomato salad (see recipe from last week’s posting).

 

 

sunflowers planted at the end of the corn rows

Sunflowers planted at the end of the corn rows

 

 

Growing on vines trained over a wall and on supports, the green table grapes are beginning to swell. The taste is still a little tart, but will sweeten with the passage of another couple of weeks.

 

 

Our grapes are Thompson Seedless and Merlot

Our grapes are Thompson Seedless and Merlot (the darker purple ones partially obscured)

 

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about farmette topics (including gardening, beekeeping, and delicious recipes), check out my cozy mysteries A BEELINE TO MURDER and also THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE in the Henny Penny Farmette series (from Kensington Publishing).

 

 

 

These novels are available through online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, and Walmart as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

Now available in mass market paperback, this debut novel launched the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries and sold out its first press run.

 

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

COMING SOON: The second cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

 

 

 

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Summer Salad with a Mediterranean Flair

Author: Meera, July 15, 2016

Inspired by a salad made of lentilles du Puy that I recently ate at a Mediterranean restaurant, I decided to create my own version of it.

 

 

The salad combines tiny greenish/brown French lentils with seasonal fresh produce such as heirloom  tomatoes and zucchini . I added a chopped onion (sauteed) and some hard-boiled eggs. Dried mint, crumbled fine, along with a little salt and pepper is the only seasoning you’ll need.

 

 

This salad is delicious served warm. But it is equally tasty served chilled on very hot days.

 

 

 

French Lentil, Zucchini, and Tomato Salad

Ingredients for lentil salad include sauteed onions, heirloom tomato, zucchini, hard-boiled eggs, and fresh lemon juice

Ingredients for lentil salad include sauteed onions, heirloom tomato, zucchini, hard-boiled eggs, and fresh lemon juice

 

 

INGREDIENTS:

 

1 cup cooked French lentils (the small green or brown variety)

1/2 cup cooked Basmati rice

1 small firm tomato, skinned and chopped

1 cup peeled and chopped fresh zucchini

1 medium red or yellow onion, coarsely chopped and lightly sauteed

2 hard-boiled egg, chopped

1/4 c dried mint, crumbled fine by rubbing between your palms

1/2 medium juicy lemon

salt to taste

 

DIRECTIONS:

 

Combine the cooked lentils and rice. Add the zucchini, tomato, sauteed onion, and chopped hard-boiled egg to the lentil-rice mixture. Crumble the dried mint over the salad. Season with salt and pepper. Squeeze the juice from 1/2 lemon over the mixture and combine well before serving. Serves 4-6.

 

*Try pairing this salad with a rosemary chicken or lamb wrap for a light lunch.

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about farmette topics (including gardening, beekeeping, and delicious recipes), check out my cozy mysteries A BEELINE TO MURDER and also THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE in the Henny Penny Farmette series (from Kensington Publishing).

 

 

 

These novels are available through online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo Books, and Walmart as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

Now available in mass market paperback, this debut novel launched the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries and sold out its first press run.

 

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

The second cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

 

 

 

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The Obama administration has proposed new animal welfare standards that ban common practices governing chicken farms. Currently, an organic chicken farm may allow chickens outside to roam on concrete. The new rules specify the chickens  must have access to the outside and to soil.

 

 

 

 

Young chickens free-ranging

Young chickens in the outdoor chicken run on the Henny Penny Farmette in N. California

 

 

Currently, certified organic farms allow chickens to have a specific amount  and quality of outdoor activity. But that doesn’t mean access to dirt for scratching, pecking, and dust bathing that are instinctive behaviors for chickens.

 

 

Under the proposed new rules to be certified organic eggs, the chickens producing them must be allowed 1.5 square feet of space per hen indoors and 2 square feet of space outdoors. Outdoor space must be at least half soil and not have a permanent roof or flooring.

 

 

 

A hen from a neighbor's farmette that flew onto our property.

Egg laying hens are happier when they can free-range forage on grass and dirt all year round

 

 

The new rules means chickens can scratch, peck, and bathe in soil instead of being caged where they do not necessarily have access to soil.  Current egg producers will have five years to implement the proposed changes that also specifiy no de-beaking of chickens.

 

 

Already, McDonalds and other large food corporations have advised that they’ll be making the transition to certified organic along with Walmart.  Certified organic eggs under the new rules will mean more humane and better life for the chickens producing those eggs than for chickens whose eggs are labeled “cage-free.”

 

 

Currently, cage-free eggs mean the chickens producing those eggs do not necessarily get access to the outdoors as the new O’bama administration rules propose.

 

 

There will be a sixty day comment period before the rules can go into effect. But for animal protection advocates and supporters of the organic food movement, the new proposed rules are a welcome change.

 

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If you enjoy reading about farmette topics (including gardening, beekeeping, and delicious recipes), check out my cozy mysteries A BEELINE TO MURDER and also THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE in the Henny Penny Farmette series (from Kensington Publishing).

 

 

 

Both are available through online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Walmart as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

Now available in mass market paperback, this novel launched the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries and sold out its first press run.

 

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

The second cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

 

 

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Blue tomatoes are an heirloom variety and among other old favorites you'll find at the farmers' markets

Blue tomatoes are an heirloom variety among other old favorites you’ll find at the farmers’ markets

 

 

Nothing beats eating farm-to-table fresh vegetables, fruits, and berries. But what if you don’t have time or the room to grow wholesome, healthy foods yourself?

 

 

Our California farmers’ markets offer a dazzling variety of fruits, vegetables, berries, and nuts. These items are trucked or otherwise brought into our communities from local area farms and orchards.

 

 

 

Peaches are perfect this month

Peaches are perfect this month

 

 

 

Many fruits and vegetables are certified organic. That means the farmers and growers are registered and in compliance with state and local regulations designed to protect consumers and ensure food quality and safety.
Annually, California produces nearly half of the nation’s fruits, nuts, and vegetables, according to the California Department of Food and Agriculture. See http://www.cdfa.ca.gov/Statistics/ 

 

 

 

The San Joaquin Valley of central California has earned the moniker of the World’s Food Basket since its crops account for 12.8 percent of all agricultural products from California. https://www.cdfa.ca.gov/Statistics/PDFs/2015Report.pdf

 

 

 

A white bloom in spring heralds the formation of succulent strawberries

California produces 88% of the nation’s strawberries

 

 

 

In fact, California leads the nation in production of figs, dates, plums, melons, nectarines, peaches (Clingstone and Freestone), pears (Bartlett), persimmons, raspberries, and apricots.

 

 

 

Apricots are beginning to turn from green to the reddish orange color of ripeness

California apricots are available May through July

 

 

In the Golden State, you can find dozens of types of fruits offered at 350 farmers’ markets (some open all year long).

 

 

 

Ripe apricots can hang on the tree only so long before they drop

Ripe Blenheim apricots

 

 

 

From the Pacific Coast Farmer’s Market Association, the following list (recapped below) reveals when these fruits are in season in California.

 

 

Apples: January-February; August-December

Apricots: May-July

Blackberries: June-September

Blueberries: May-August

Boysenberries: June-August

Cantaloupe: May-September

Cherries: April-June

Citrus: January-March; November-December

Dates: September-December

Figs: September-November

Grapes: August-November

Kiwi: January-April; October-December

Melons: June-September

Nectarines:May-September

Peaches: May-September

Pears: September-December

Persimmons: September-November

Plums: May-October

Pluots: May-September

Pomegranates: September-November

Prunes: May-September

Raspberries: May-October

Strawberries: February-November

Watermelon: July-September

 

 

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If you enjoy reading about farmette topics (including gardening, beekeeping, and delicious recipes), check out my cozy mysteries A BEELINE TO MURDER and also THE MURDER OF A QUEEN BEE in the Henny Penny Farmette series (from Kensington Publishing).

 

 

 

Both area available through online retailers such as Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Walmart as well as from traditional bookstores everywhere.

 

 

The first novel in the Henny Penny Farmette series

Now available in mass market paperback, this novel launched the Henny Penny Farmette series of mysteries

 

 

 

 

The second cozy  mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

The second cozy mystery in the Henny Penny Farmette series, available Sept. 29, 2016

 

read comments ( 0 )