Friday, May 30, 2014

Blackberries and Onions are Ready for Harvest

It is that time of year (last week of May) to harvest both Onions and Blackberries.  This garden journal post is a record, from start to finish, of planting and harvesting them.

We planted the Onions in late winter (mid-February).  They can withstand freezing temperatures.  We planted 4 "bunches", about 4 inches apart - I stagger the holes.  We purchased red and yellow varieties.  I use an old large magic marker to make the holes in the dirt before putting each onion in and filling up the hole.

This is the garden in early March after a rain.  We had two weird weather events prior to this - the strangest was the temperature dropping over 60 degrees in one 24 hour period to below 20 degrees.  All the vegetables in the garden were "burned".  It was the first time we ever lost broccoli and cauliflower.  The Onions made it but they were definitely impacted (foreground).

These are the Onions in April.  They overcame the impact from the super cold temperatures and are growing well now.

The Onions are beginning to fall over (3rd week of May).  When most of them have fallen, that is the time we pick them and lay them out to dry.

Harvest Day - May 30th.

After picking the onions, we lay them outside on tables and chairs (on the back porch, out of the rain) to dry out for a week or more.   When the greens dry up, we cut them and the bottom roots off the onions and single layer the onions in newspaper to keep in a laundry basket in the pantry.  Onions will typically keep through winter.

We cut down half of our Blackberry bushes this year and replanted the front half of our Blackberry patch.  The front half was originally planted with the thornless variety.  We were not happy with them.  The berries were smaller and there was less yield.  We replaced them with thorned varieties.  The bad part is we will only get berries from the existing bushes in the back this year.  It cut our yield in half.  Our Blackberry patch size is about 80 feet long, enough room for 10 bushes.  This picture is from February 2014 before everything greened up.

The bushes in the back are loaded with blooms in April. It will be a good berry season.  It is too bad that we only have 4 existing bushes.

 We weeded and mulched the Blackberry patch.
 Lots of berries - on 4 bushes.

First days harvest on May 23, 2014.  Enough for 2 pies.  There are still plenty of berries out there - Hopefully I can freeze enough for several pies and cobblers.  A pie/cobbler recipe takes 4 cups of Blackberries. 

I will freeze some of these berries.  I just wash them in cold water and place 4 cups in quart size plastic bags, then vacuum all the excess air out.  Make sure to date the bag before you place in them freezer.

Blackberry Pie Recipe:
Preheat Oven:  375 degrees
4 cups blackberries
1/3 cup of flour
1 cup of sugar
1 tbs of cinnamon
1 tbs of butter.
Mix ingredients and place in 9" double pie crust. I cover the edge with foil to prevent burning.
Bake for 45 minutes.
You can also make the pie and instead of baking immediately, freeze it.  When you are ready for a fresh pie, bake it then!

The pie smells wonderful! 

March 30th Status Update:  I pick berries every day.  So far I have picked 6 quarts (enough for 6 pies/cobblers) and there are still plenty out there.

Monday, May 19, 2014

BEE SWARM and Other Happenings in the Garden -

On May 18th we had something new happen around here - a Honeybee Swarm!  The swarm size was approximately 10" x 18".  It stayed in our bald cypress tree for about 24 hours and then moved on.

I found the following information on the Texas A & M web site:
"One of the most interesting honey bee colony behaviors is known as “swarming.” Swarming is the method used by honey bees to start a new colony.  A swarm is merely a honey bee colony in search of a nesting site. A swarm generally consists of a mated queen bee along with hundreds or thousands of accompanying worker bees."

I remember about 5 years ago my next door neighbor had a very large swarm of honeybees build a nest in the wall in her garage!  What a big expensive mess.  They had to hire a beekeeper to come tear out the drywall and insulation and vacuum the bees.  Actually it was a 2 day job, the bees had to be vacuumed the next day as well to catch the ones that were out the day before.  I remember they had several large bins full of perfectly shaped honeycombs just dripping with honey that had been pulled out of their wall.  I am always wary and watchful now for honeybees might decide my house is a good place to build a nest as well.

I had several other visitors as well.  We have had quite a few hummingbirds lately visiting the red Salvia Greggii. 

I also saw a lovely female Cardinal.

Male Cardinal on the roof.


Pink Primrose wildflower in my yard

 White Primrose wildflower in the yard.

The grapes are doing great now - they loaded with little grapes.

The blackberries are still loaded as well and are starting to change color.  The new ones are in the front - we won't get any berries from this this year.  But check out the ones in the back - they are huge now.

The Red Yucca is also blooming - hummingbirds love this as well for a nectar source.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Mid-May 2014, New Visitors - Including A Roadrunner - Louisiana Iris is Blooming Now

We had excitement in the neighborhood.  See the Mockingbird in the distance?  He's watching the Roadrunner in the foreground.  Just for the record - I have lived in this neighborhood 12 years and I have never seen a Roadrunner before this year.  I see them occasionally in other areas of North Texas however.

The Roadrunner is starting to cross the road - notice the Mockingbird starting to crouch.

And - the Mockingbird attacks the Roadrunner!

We have lots of blackberries this year - a terrific year for them.  This is a Blackberry flower.

Just waiting to turn Black!  I see plenty of Blackberry pies and cobblers in my future this year. 

Red Cascade antique rose.  The fence is six feet tall.

This bush has also turned into a monster.  The flowers are very small, like a miniature rose.

A Mourning Dove sits on our roof a coos.

A Crab Spider sitting on a rose.  I have never seen one this color before.  They are usually yellow or a darker green around here.  This one is almost turquoise.

I have three colors of Louisiana Iris.  All are blooming now.  This area is behind the swimming pool and has dappled shade.  I planted a couple of violets in this flower bed because they like this type of light condition too.  They are on either side of the iris.  Can you see their heart shaped leaves?

The Caldwell Pin antique rose is in full bloom now.  This is a excellent variety - it will only get 3-4 feet tall and has minimal problems with black spot.  I ordered it from the Antique Rose Emporium.

The Confederate Jasmine vine is very hardy and looms profusely every spring.  You can smell it quite a good distance away.  This vine has climbed up at least 10 feet.  I highly recommend this climbing vine!

Question Mark Butterfly.  I do not see these butterflies around here as much as other varieties.  In fact, I had to "identify" it.  I noticed that their caterpillar host plants are Elm and Hackberry.  We have Hackberry trees at the back of our property.

Some of the Daylillies are also blooming now.  The two varieties below (yellow and orange) are the new hybrids that bloom most of the summer.  I put them in the same category as Knock Out Roses - they do a great job for color with no fuss.  My regular old fashioned daylillies (with the more unique colors) have not begun blooming yet. 

This is a Smoke Tree.  I saw a large beautiful one in full bloom at a friend's house several years ago and I knew I had to get one.  Of course, they are expensive so I started with a small one (I think it was a 2 gallon size).  I planted it 3 years ago and it is about four feet tall.  This is the first year it has bloomed well for me.

 This is a close up of the blooms.  See the seeds?

The Spineless Prickly Pear has new pads coming out.  To the right of it is Lemon Balm - a very strong lemony herb.

And finally - I noticed this interesting "Purplish-Blue Cricket Hunter" wasp on the flowers of my Jujube fruit tree today.  After I realized what they ate (we have too many crickets!), I decided I love this wasp!  By the way, this fruit tree is covered in blooms this year.  I'm going to have a lot of Jujube fruit.