We get by with a little help from our friends.

Through no fault of their own, autistic couple Rob and Mag and their beloved family of plants, cockatiels and hawks may soon find themselves thrust into the hard world of homelessness.

Rob is a dear friend of mine. Please read their story and help out if you can. Thanks.

By the way, some people have questions about keeping raptors: It is important to note that Rob is a fully-licensed falconer, with the proper permits and housing for his raptors. He is a fully trained and certified, licensed by the California Department of Fish and Game and the United States FIsh and Wildlife Service to fly and hunt with raptors. He is also licensed through Sonoma County Bird Rescue Center to operate field rescues and take part in rehab and release of wild raptors. Rob has worked with eagles, owls, hawks, ospreys, peregrines, kestrels, merlins, and many other raptors during his falconry and rehab experience. It is ILLEGAL to keep raptors without the proper training and licensing.

The New Wok

After looking online for a new wok and reading some of the reviews of which type to get, I came across a post that said a wok can be bought in any Asian market far cheaper than online. We went to the local market and got one for $14. I watched a few youtube videos to learn how to season it properly. There are a few ways to do it, I choose the heat in the oven first and finish on the stovetop method.

First, preheat the oven to 425°F.
Scour the wok in hot soapy water to remove the manufacturer’s protective oil layer. Scrub really well.
Wrap the wooden handles in damp wash cloths and covered with foil to prevent damaging the handles.
Wipe the wok inside and outside with any high heat oil. I used peanut oil.
Place the wok in the oven upside down and bake for 20 minutes until the surface is golden brown.

On the stovetop, add a little oil in the wok and stir fry some pungent vegetables like chives, scallions, green onions, garlic or ginger. I used chives and green onions. This step removes any metallic taste the wok might have. It is also going to smoke a bit, so turn on the exhaust fans and open the doors.


Stir fry chives and green onions until charred.

Rub the chives all around the inside of the pan until the chives are charred and the wok is turning dark.
Remove the chives and discard. Wipe out the wok with a clean paper towel and that’s it. A perfectly seasoned wok!


My finished seasoned wok ready to go!

Our first stir fry was zucchini! With onion, garlic and tomato.


Photo Friday! It’s butterfly week in the yard. They love all the flowers. All photos by buzz!

Red-spotted Purple butterfly

Red-spotted Purple butterfly. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one in our yard before.


Tiger Swallowtail on Buddleia

Tiger Swallontail on a Mexican Sunflower

Tiger Swallowtail on a Mexican Sunflower

Another view

Another view

Lots of butterflies, but no monarchs yet. We usually have tons of them. We need to plant some host plants for them.

Today’s Harvest


Oh look! Another zucchini.

The tomatoes are coming in steady now. They’re a little watery tasting from all the rain, but they’ll cook up fine. I made my first Tomato Sandwich of the season with a nice Cherokee Purple. It was awesome. I think tomato sandwiches are a Jersey thing.

I’m not impressed with the Jolly Elf grape tomatoes. Thick skinned, a bit bland and the plants aren’t very disease resistant.
The Cherokees are doing well this year. Very little splitting, great taste and good resistance. This is my favorite fresh eating tomato.
Jersey Devil and San Marzano Gigante are new varieties for me. Both have very good taste but with all this rain, they have some blossom end rot. Both tend toward green shoulders. Once picked, it’s hard to tell these two apart. Devil seems to be a bit more resistant to disease and the end rot. I will probably stick with Devil in the future.
Early Girl was always the main tomato in my small garden. It’s hard to beat the number of pounds of tomato per square foot with any other tomato. If you’re looking for an alternative to Monsanto’s Early Girl, New Girl from Johnny’s Seeds is it. The same prolific early producer, good taste and much better disease resistance. New Girl is performing like a champ!

Today’s haul includes
Grape Tomatoes: 3 lbs.
Jersey Devil & San Marzano Gigante Tomatoes: 5 lbs.
Cherokee Purple: 1.75 lbs.
New Girl: 6 lbs.
TOTAL: 15.75 lbs. of tomatoes!
Zucchini 1 lb.
Green Beans 1/4 lb.

The jars of tomatoes in the photo were made last week and I canned 7 more quarts of tomatoes tonight. Now if only the peppers would start producing, I could make salsa.

I processed and froze the green beans with some I picked the other day.

We planted a bed of carrots yesterday. Today it rained and rained and rained some more. We had downpours for about 2 hours and got 4 inches of rain. I hope the seeds aren’t floating to the top.

There’s something up with my eggplants. The fruit is bright yellow and a bit firm. When sliced, they are bright green under the skin. They were supposed to be Black Beauty. I’ll get some photos and post more.

That’s it for today!

Zucchini Invasion

It’s been a good year for zucchini. What to do with all the zucchini accumulating in my refrigerator?

For breakfast, we had zucchini, onion, garlic and mozzarella omelettes. Zucchini Apple smoothies after working in the garden. No really, it was good. I’ve been stir-frying zucchini all week with various other garden goodies. Tomorrow, I’ll add it to my favorite buttermilk pancake recipe.

There is always Zucchini Bread. I never made zucchini bread before so I went googling for a good recipe. I found this one. I’ll link to it since it’s not my recipe.

The Best Zucchini Bread Ever!

How could I lose? The only substitution I made was increase the buttermilk to 1 cup because I was out of yogurt. Both are basically cultured sour milk so I don’t think it mattered all that much.

It was so good, it needed its own photo shoot.

Zucchini Bread so good, it needed a photo shoot.

Buzz loved the addition of chocolate chips. I think I’ll try walnuts and Craisins with the next batch.

If anyone is interested in the smoothie recipe, here it is.
Zucchini Apple Smoothie. Put everything in a blender and enjoy.

  • Apple half
  • Zucchini-medium sized, cut in chunks
  • Pineapple chunks
  • Red grapes
  • 6 ice cubes
  • 1 T Honey (optional, it really didn’t need it)

Anyone have a favorite way to use zucchini?

Growing Hardneck Garlic, Part 4

Harvesting and Curing

Judging when garlic is ready can be a bit tricky. Generally in early summer, the lower leaves will start yellowing on the garlic plant. When 1/3 of the leaves are brown, it’s time to harvest. Depending on the weather, harvest time can vary each season. Pull it up too early and the bulbs will be immature and shrivel when cured. Pulled up too late, the wrappers are deteriorated and the cloves begin to separate. Both too early or too late harvest will reduce the storage life of the bulbs. Remember, each leaf is a wrapper. A brown leaf is one less protective layer around the bulb, so be sure to harvest before all the leaves are brown.

Because of the heavy rains this spring, it was hard to tell when the bulbs were ready. The leaves didn’t fully died back. I got a lot of leaf tips and center midribs turning brown on most of the plants. So I pulled up the plants as they showed any kind of browning on 1/3 of the leaves.

To harvest, I use a small hand spade around the bulb and pop it out of the ground while gently pulling up the plant. Don’t pull the plants up without loosening the soil around and under the bulb first. it can damage the bulb and shorten the storage life.

Brush any loose soil from the bulbs. I gently drag the roots and bulbs through the grass to clean them up. They don’t have to be spotless, just knock the loose stuff off. Don’t wash the bulbs and make sure to leave the plants whole.

Loosen the soil around the roots and gently pull out of the ground

Loosen the soil around the roots and gently pull out of the ground

You can eat some now if you want, but the bulbs need to be cured if you plan to store it.
Find a cool, dry place with good air circulation to store the entire plant while it cures. I use the basement but it can be done in a garage, shed or outdoors in a covered area. Just make sure it’s sheltered from the sun and weather and safe from critters. Lay the plants out in a single layer. Leaving the leaves and roots attached helps draw out the moisture. This should take about 6 weeks.

When the plant leaves, stem and bulb wrappers are crispy dry, they’re cured. Trim back the roots to about 1/2 inch and cut the stem about 2 inches above the bulb. Clean up the bulbs by removing a wrapper layer or two.

Now is the time to sort the bulbs. Discard any bulbs that show signs of decay or mold. Choose the largest bulbs and set aside for the planting in the fall. The bulbs with the good tight wrappers with no exposed cloves on the bottom will keep the longest. Any other bulbs with exposed cloves are still good but need to be used first. Store in a cool dry place that has some humidity (not the refrigerator). Hardneck garlic should keep about 6 to 10 months if properly stored. Some varieties will keep a bit longer.

The variety I grow will keep for 10 months to a year. Unfortunately, I have no idea what the name of the variety is. It was sold under the name Rocambole, which is a type of hardneck that has many varieties. Rocamboles are not known to be a long storage type, most lasting only 5 or 6 months. So I have no idea what I have, but I am determined to keep it going.

I almost lost this variety once when I broke my leg and didn’t plant that autumn. I figured I’d just buy fresh bulbs the next year. When I called to order the following season, the sales guy said they no longer carry that variety and suggested another. I told him my story and how I was sad to lose it. He asked if I had any bulbs left from the previous year and what condition it were in. I had a bunch of bulbs. They were getting a bit spongy but still viable with a green shoot in the middle of the cloves. He suggested I plant it and see what happens. This garlic was a year and a half old by that point. Fingers crossed, I planted as many cloves that I had that looked like it has any kind of life left. The following spring, the bulbs were small but it grew. It took 3 years to get the bulb size back to where it belonged, but it worked. I now save a few bulbs from the previous year for planting stock just in case of any failure of the current crop.

If you’re planting your first crop of garlic this fall, it’s not too early to start planning. There are plenty of places to buy garlic on the internet, but they often sell-out fast. Get your order in by the end of August and the garlic will be shipped at planting time.

Mid-July Garden Updates

Sorry about the lack of posts, we’ve been busy planning our upcoming bath remodel. But we always have photos for Photo Friday.

All photos by buzz.

The hostas are blooming

The hostas are blooming. This one is called Patriot. It’s one of the plants that came back after the trees were removed.

Some wildflowers from the yard

Some wildflowers from the yard. The sun garden really liked all the early summer rains.

Who wants zucchini? It's piling up in the 'fridge.

Who wants zucchini? It’s piling up in the ‘fridge.

The tomato plants are loaded and starting to ripen.

The tomato plants are loaded and starting to ripen.

O hai! The feeder needs filling. Just thought you should know.

“O hai! The bird feeder needs filling. I just thought you should know.”

Overall, the garden is doing well. The harvest so far is 20 lbs. of tomatoes, 3 lbs. of green beans, 6.5 lbs. of zucchini and 1 little eggplant.

The lettuce and kale were cut back. I’ll let it stay in the ground and see if we can coax a little new growth before I have to pull it up and plant something else.

Something is eating the peppers this year. They look like hell and I haven’t had time to get to the county extension to diagnose it. I suspect the June bugs have passed some virus to it. It’s not looking good for salsa production this year. Sorry, guys.

The eggplants look great! Nice and green and fruiting. They were supposed to be Black Beauty but I think it’s a white variety.

The tomatoes are mostly doing well. The San Marzano has some yellowing leaves that’s moving up the side of one of the plants. But they are producing. The New Girls right next to it seem to be resistant to whatever it is. I need to take a sample of that to the extension agency too. All the others are doing ok. The Cherokee Purples look great! I picked a bunch of ripe ones yesterday. Time to get some soft potato bread and make some Tomato Sandwiches! You know you’re South Jersey… mmm. tomato sandwiches.

The green bean plants are beautiful! I tried a new variety this year on the suggestion from a friend. (Thanks Beanie!) The variety is Jade II and it’s now my favorite green bean. It has nice long beans that don’t get too fat, good disease resistance, open pollination bush type bean. I’ve been picking 1/2 to 1 lb. of beans every 2 or 3 days.

I just pulled up the rest of the onions. All 270 of them are now in the basement curing. I really over planted. These things are huge baseball to softball size. If I plant this variety again, I’ll plant them closer together to get smaller bulbs. It is supposed to be a long storage onion. I hope so. If they look like they’re not keeping well, I’ll cut them up and freeze them.

The garlic is curing in the basement as well. I have a post on harvesting and curing in the works.

The cukes are a bust again this year. The plants died after 2 little cukes. I’ll try planting some more. The zucchini and butternut squash plants are huge and green. I guess they liked all the rain too. I need to find some zucchini recipes.

The carrots will go in within a few weeks. I started cabbage in flats. I’m new at cabbage. I have no idea what I’m doing. I tried direct sowing but it’s too hard to manage with all this heat. I got them to sprout in the flats but they are slow growing and leggy. I’m afraid if I transplant, they are going to wilt and die.

I’d be making the first batch of salsa this weekend if it weren’t for the peppers. I will can the tomatoes instead.

That’s it so far. Happy gardening!

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