Monday, July 16, 2018

Corn 2018

Corn is a little late this year. The first of the local corn appeared at Jane and Paul's Farm in Norfolk Massachusetts (as usual). I learned last year to go in and look rather than wait for their corn sign. They have corn but their sign isn't out yet!

14 July. Delicious fresh corn!

As in years past, out of desperation, I had tried some corn several weeks ago. Usually our corn around the 4th of July is from New Jersey and..it's universally...awful. This year I got some corn from Virginia which...actually, wasn't bad.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Oh Gnats!

I've been waging war on gnats since last fall. Oh, it started, as best I recall, in September. When..for no reason I can think of, I found some fungus gnats on a potted basil plant in a window. I kind of shrugged it off. It was getting towards the end of the season and while I've wintered my herbs in the window they've never done very well.

But last fall they did especially poorly and I gave up on them. Finally ripped out all my herbs (except my rosemary - they don't seem to have any interest in rosemary) and let the pots dry out. I figured that would be all it would take. The pots were left bone dry all winter long and I figured for sure. No gnats would survive. I hadn't seen a single gnat in months.

I got started in spring with basil, thyme, oregano and cilantro.

And several weeks later...to my horror...I had clouds of gnats!

I tried everything. I tried killing them with a diluted alcohol and mild soap solution. It burned the leaves. I tried yellow sticky traps. I tried the vinegar soap traps (that work so well for fruit flies). I tried watering with diluted hydrogen peroxide. That destroyed the roots of my herbs to the extent they weren't really good for anything. Nothing worked.

I decided I'd just start all over. But rather than start over completely I'd bake my (clay) pots of soil in the oven to sterilize them and then start with seeds and new plants. This seemed to work...but ...not so fast! I'd left behind a couple of cilantro plants I thought were untouched. Only to find ...several weeks later...gnats in my cilantro! I dumped all the cilantro and just hoped hey hadn't spread.

But...no! I found...two gnats on my basil!

Which brings me to the purpose of my post. Sometimes...I'm smarter than I look! I don't want to start over again this late in the season. And I just love my fresh herbs in all kinds of ways. So. I took some cheesecloth...


And I cut up Kleenex sized pieces and tucked them all around the soil at the stems of my basil. Looking at it after I'll bet cotton balls will work too.


The logic here being...if (any) adults can't reach the soil they can't lay eggs (they can each lay 200 eggs!). And further, if the larvae can't escape the soil there will be no more adults. So. An adult trying to reach the soil will get trapped in the cheesecloth. And any larvae trying to escape the soil will...get trapped in the cheesecloth.

Hopefully this works and I'll start over again next spring.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Quntessential Summer

I think gin and tonic is just the most perfect summer drink. That and sangria.

Why does my gin and tonic look like tea?!

My gin and tonic looks like tea because I make my own tonic water! And I don't have big industrial strength ceramic filters like the soft drink companies have. I started making my own tonic water because I refuse to knowingly consume HFCS in any amount no matter how small. And...much to my disappointment, most tonic waters have HFCS. And nevermind the diet versions. I think they taste funny. Whole Foods house brand tonic water uses sugar but I find it's a little sweet. My favorite is Fever-Tree. But it's expensive. And availability is a little spotty.

So. I started making my own! It's easy! There are lots of recipes around the web. This one is probably the most well known. A lot of them have citrus, some have spices. Some even have lemon grass. There's even a kit!

Mine is a very basic recipe. I use Nature's Wonderland powdered chinchona bark and Ball citric acid.
  • 2 tablespoons chinchona bark powder
  • 2 tablespoons citric acid
  • 2 cups water
Combine and simmer gently for 20 minutes in a non reactive sauce pan. Let it cool and let the powder settle. Then I gently pour the solution into a Melitta coffee maker and a mesh cone filter. Being careful not to disturb the mud from the bottom of the sauce pan.


This first filter cycle takes only a few minutes. It's just to reduce the clogging of the paper filter in the next step

Filter the solution again using a paper coffee filter

This filtration will take very much longer. I leave it on the counter when I've left for the day or filter it overnight. Usually this is sufficient but sometimes I filter it a third time.

One and 3/4 cups of filtered solution!

The final step is to combine the solution with sugar to make tonic water syrup. I use 2/3 cup of sugar for each cup of solution.

Now...you mix 1 oz. of tonic water syrup with 2 oz. of your favorite gin in a rocks glass, fill with club soda, add a lime (or lemon) wedge and enjoy!

By the way, I think that ounce if tonic water syrup is about 28 calories.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Sunset

The days have been getting shorter for over a week now. But locally the sun has been setting at 8:26 pm EDT. The sun is rising later in the morning making the days shorter. My perception however is that these are the longest days. Because of the late setting sun.

Today is the last day for the 8:26 pm sunset. Tomorrow the sun will set at 8:25 pm. So now the days will become shorter.

Courtesy of this way cool website. You can search thousands and thousands of locations around the world, you can search by zip code or city name, you can even enter longitude and latitude coordinates and generate a calendar with sunrise and sunset times and all other kinds of settings, civil twilight times, phases of the moon, moon rise and set, and solar noon to name a few. It's quite fascinating! For example, I had no idea the sun sets at 10:23 pm today in St. Petersburg!

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Medfiled Rhododenrons

What a huge disappointment. Visiting the Rhododendron Reservation in Medfield, Ma., has been on my list of things to do for many years now. It's the largest stand of (wild!) rosebay rhododendrons in the state.

It's described by the custodial organization as a 196 acre reservation. Well. That's a little misleading. I expected a near 200 acre wonderland of rhododendron blossoms. It may very well be a 196 acre reservation but 194 and a half acres of that is just walking in the woods. The rhododendrons grow in an area I'd say is about an acre and a half.

It really is a pleasant walk in the woods

The rhododendrons however were hugely disappointing.

They weren't very healthy. Winter is hard here. And the eastern white pines prevent much sunlight from reaching the ground.


There are no flowers here nor is there any evidence of flowers having been here.

This isn't going to bloom...

I saw just a couple of large vibrant healthy bushes. Almost as big as small houses!


It was a pleasant enough walk in some New England woods on a nice day with summer just hours away. And there was a sign posted by the stand. It explained how the area became threatened, the rhododendrons being crowded out by the pine trees and effort was being made to thin out the pines and restore the stand. A deer fence with a gate was put up around the rhododendrons. That was 19 years ago. It looks to me like they were too late. Truth is the deer ate almost every one of them.
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