Harvest by Hillary

Blogging about my journey to living a more sustainable and organic life


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Week 5: Birthday Week!

What a week it has been! This week was especially special because it was the week of my 21st birthday!!!

But, before I get to my awesome birthday inspired section of my post, let’s go over what was accomplished this week!

Monday Emma and I spent most of our time preparing for the freshmen orientation activities fair . We decided to have a herb tasting”station for our booth at the fair. We made three different herb infused olive oils for taste tests. We harvested chives, thyme, and rosemary fresh from the garden and served the oils with fresh-baked baguette pieces for dipping. Check out Emma’s blog to see how we made the oils! http://eatingwithemma.tumblr.com/post/53924838024/herb-infused-olive-oil

For the fair we also had to make a poster, which looked awesome! I will be sure to post a picture of that sometime soon because Emma and I are so proud of our craft skills.

Tuesday was the day of the fair so, I headed down to the student center to set up. To my surprise there was more interest in the garden than expected! I made sure to talk to a lot of people and I found that even though some students didn’t like the physical work of gardening, they loved how the garden helps with good nutrition and sustainability.

I’m hoping through the students’ different views of what the garden means to them Emma and I can work to draw more students to the garden.

Overall this week has been a good week for the garden’s publicity. Not only did I educate the incoming freshmen of the garden and its benefits, but I also gave a garden talk on Wednesday at the Sigma Xi summer research lunch series. The Sigma Xi summer research lunch series is a way for science and math research students and faculty to meet and discuss current research.

I love going to these talks because not only is there free food…BONUS! But, I can see who is on campus and what other science students are doing.

I love going to talks like these, especially when there are biology presentations. It’s a great way to stay engaged in the science world over the summer.

My garden presentation ended up consisting of two-parts. First I discussed the overall garden plans for the 2013-2014 year and then I talked about the cherry tomato research.

Everyone loved my talk and I got asked so many questions. I took this as a sign that my research project is headed in the right direction! I wanted to do research that was relatable for all people and what is more relatable than food, nutrition, and health!

Now, I just need to get my tomatoes going and I will be ready to delve into this experiment!

After, the lunch talk I went down to the garden to clean up some of the pieces of our old fence because WE GOT A NEW FENCE! This fence is supposed to last much longer than the first and it looks a lot more durable. Now Emma and I just need to pick up the mess the fence crew made and the garden will look stunning!

New Fence

In plant news, the baby carrots and jalapeno are beginning to sprout and the row of winter squash popped up the other day along with the row of cherry tomatoes! The garden keeps growing and pretty soon everything will be filled!

Baby Jalepenos

Baby jalapeno

Thursday morning rolled around and when I woke up to this sweet surprise from Emma!

Emma's Present

Being a gardener and healthy eater I sure enjoyed getting strawberries as a birthday surprise! Shout out to Emma for being an awesome intern partner!

I enjoyed the rest of my 21st birthday by hitting the track for a solid workout, working in the garden pruning and weeding, and finishing by going out that night with friends and family for a nice dinner at Old Post Tavern in Fairfield. 🙂

This was my birthday meal:

Pan-Seared Scallops Fava Bean Puree, Sauteed Mixed Mushrooms, and Truffle Tomato-Caper Vinaigrette

Pan-Seared Scallops Fava Bean Puree, sautéed Mixed Mushrooms, and Truffle Tomato-Caper Vinaigrette

It was amazing! I also had a cup of clam chowder before the main meal and after the tavern surprised me with a massive brownie sundae and a little pink specialty drink from the bartender. The brownie sundae was awesome, but the drink…not so much. The waitress said it was fruity, but I could taste no fruit in that to save my life. Let’s just say I’m going to stick with lemon water for now on. 🙂

Overall I had a wonderful birthday and thank you to everyone who made it such a special day!

For this weekend Emma and I are just going to focus on weeding, cleaning, mowing, and watering. Sunday, if weather permits,  Tod and Jen will be coming in the help fill my pots with soil for the research project! I am so excited!

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Week 4: Sunshine, Scapes, and Stakes

What a beautiful and productive week in the garden it has been! We were so lucky to have a solid week of little rain, we go so much done and the garden looks beautiful.

Monday, Emma and I only worked 4 hours and in that time we mowed the lawn, harvested all the garlic scapes and swiss chard, planted the winter squash and cherry tomato rows, and watered all our plants. I couldn’t believe how much we got done in such a short time!

That's a lot of garlic scapes...

That’s a lot of garlic scapes…

The harvesting and planting were my favorite part about Monday. Harvesting the garlic scapes was so fun and easy! All you do to harvest is snap the scape off from the main plant and you are good to go!

For those of you who are unfamiliar with garlic scapes, they are considered the “flower stalks” of garlic plants. Gardeners need to remove the scapes once they mature (become curly) because without their removal the plant will balance their energy to power and grow both the garlic scapes and the ground bulb. If the scapes are removed the plant can put all of its energy into growing the bulb, therefore producing a larger, healthier garlic bulb, which is the intended goal.

A perfectly curled garlic scape

A perfectly curled garlic scape

Many gardeners will simply remove the scapes and toss them into compost, but before you do the same know that garlic scapes are just as delicious as the bulb itself and are often used in cooking.

To see how Emma and I used the scapes in our cooking adventures be sure to read Emma’s blog http://eatingwithemma.tumblr.com/  where you can find a delicious vegan recipe for swiss chard and garlic scape dip! You won’t be disappointed!

Tuesday came and it was the infamous “Lunch in the Garden,” where Emma’s vegan dip made its debut. Only a handful of people dropped by, but everyone who tried the dip loved it! Emma served the dip with some fresh-baked bread from Whole Foods that paired great with the dip.

Now that we have a second “Lunch in the Garden” under our belt Emma and I are trying to figure out a way to attract more faculty, staff, and students to the garden. We agreed having our own recipe each week is a plus and we decided that maybe we will have people come eat and also have an optional garden activity such as harvesting, weeding, or something else garden related. We will have to come up with something extra special for next week!

Before lunch in the garden I decided to stake the tomato plants. This was my first time staking plants, but it was honestly so simple. As you can see from the picture below we have A LOT of tomatoes and there are only going to be more once my research tomatoes and the tomatoes in the row grow. The garden will be bursting with tomatoes…so if you like tomatoes make sure you make it down to the garden during harvest season because let me tell you we will have a ton!

Perfectly staked tomatoes

Perfectly staked tomatoes

After our “Lunch in the Garden Tuesday,” Wednesday rolled around and another bed was planted in the garden. Carrots! We planted both regular orange carrots and two different varieties of purple carrots. Wednesday was a great planting day. The weather was gorgeous and it never got too hot.

Wednesday, we also thinned out the chives. Now the chives bed is full with 12 smaller chive plants rather than 6 large plants. Slowly day by day this garden is transforming and Emma and I are so excited to see everything coming together.

Beautiful Chive Bed

Beautiful Chives Bed

Thursday (today) was a pretty, calm day. We thinned out our beet and carrot sprouts and also moved some of the flowers around in the flower bed so, the bed looked evened out on each side.

The most important thing though that happened today, occurred when I was prepping the last bed. This last bed for a while was left alone because it contained the Song Sparrow nest. But, once the baby…Cow Bird was born they no longer needed the nest, so we got the “go-ahead” to prep away!

As I was cleaning out the bed, I came across the nest and with it one baby Song Sparrow egg that looked as if it was destroyed by the Cow Bird! Horrifying, I know. Then a little while later I spotted two more eggs laying not too far from the nest, that must have been ejected out by the menacing Cow Bird. So sad…the little guys never had a chance.

Here’s a picture of the nest with the three Song Sparrow eggs:

I placed all the eggs back into the nest together so all the Song Sparrow siblings could rest peacefully together

I placed all the eggs back into the nest together so, all the Song Sparrow siblings could be together once again!

Friday, will be another day to check up on the garden and get some more work done! I am so happy the weather has been so great lately! Love it! And most importantly the garden is all prepped and ready to be used for more planting!

Here’s a picture of how the garden currently looks!

Beautiful…I know.

Enjoy the up and coming weekend everyone and happy gardening!


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Animals in the Garden: Slugs

I am so excited to write yet another “Animals in the Garden” post!

This post will especially appeal to all the entomologists out there…the small number of you that there are… But, even if insects don’t appeal to you this post will be extremely beneficial!

Slugs specifically are “animals” that are important for gardeners to be aware of.

Slugs are in a sense “shell less” snails. Slugs are a type of mollusc and have soft and smooth “squishy” bodies. There bodies are not waterproof so in order to avoid drying up to a crisp on a hot summer’s day they bury into wet, damp environments. Where’s a wet, damp environment you can think of that these animals would love? Your garden!

Slugs love to live in gardens, but this can affect your garden’s productivity and health. Slugs not only love to live in garden soil, but they love to eat the garden’s contents. Whatever your garden has growing in it, may it be flowers, vegetables, berries, or seedlings you bet these little guys will devour everything!

The other day when Emma and I were turning over some beds we spotted this little guy creeping around:

Menacing slug in the garden

Menacing slug in the garden

I know it is hard to see ,but if you look toward the center of the photo you can find him. This particular slug is a leopard slug and they are usually between 2-4 inches long. They are called Leopard Slugs because of their distinctive leopard-like color patterns. While it is not crucial to know each different type of slug, for they all will destroy your garden, It is important to know the basic general characteristics of slugs so you can spot them before they harm your plants.

Close-up of a leopard slug

Close-up of a leopard slug

Now I know you must be thinking, so what do I do if I find these little guys? While there are many conventional, strong pesticides that would do the job in a second, if you are running an organically grown garden this way is out of question. I also believe finding other ways of pest prevention is more fun and rewarding, so I researched some organic ways to deal with slugs. This is what I found!

To deal with slugs organically you can:

1. Add a super cool and fancy “water feature” to your garden like a small pond. This will attract an array of slug’s natural predators such as salamanders, snakes, toads, ducks, beetles and turtles

(This way really is not the route to go if you: a) have no space b) have no time c) have no money, but it sounded cool so, I wanted to include it!)

2. Clear you garden of damp, wet, and warm places such as random boards, large rocks, and other debris laying on the ground.

3. Stage a “slug stake-out” night and go out when slugs are active once it turns dark. You can remove them by picking up the slugs and placing individuals in a container of soapy water.

(this way seems the most fun…”late night in the garden” anyone?

4. Pour coffee over them. There have been studies by the USDA that show that caffeine can be deadly to these little rascals.

5. I also read that placing cracked egg shells around new seedlings can help repel slugs away from newly developing plants.

6. Use an organic “slugicide”. They are easy to find online!

(This is the easiest…and most boring way to attack slugs)

Those are 6 ways to help your garden combat a slug epidemic! Those are just my personal favorite ways I found to deal with slugs, but if you search online there are tons of organic recipes for slugicides and concoctions to eliminate slugs. If we notice that the slugs are eating away our plants I will let you all know how we combat our problem!

Also it is important to note that not all slugs will loop like this leopard slug. Slugs come in a shapes and sizes. So if you find something slimy looking, like a snail with no shell, you have found a slug!

To end this “Animals in the Garden” post I will leave you all with this image I found while doing my research:


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Week of Rain and Research

Hello all!

I’m almost to the end of week 3 of my internship and despite the massive amounts of rain this week Emma and I still managed to accomplished nearly everything on our to-do list.

Monday, was a pretty successful day despite the bad weather from hurricane Andrea. Emma and I went down early that morning to meet Jen to prep the upper rows for squash and cherry tomato planting. We laid down the row covers and secured with rocks, while Jen set up the irrigation system for each row. We covered every row, except for the whole first row because we were just short of the covering. So close, yet so far…

Since the weather was so bad Monday afternoon, we figured Tuesday wasn’t looking so good either so we cancelled weekly lunch in the garden. 😦 We had plans to make a new vegan recipe for Swiss Chard and Garlic Scape dip, but now we have to wait until next week. For those of you interested in getting that recipe be sure to keep an eye out for the post on Emma’s blog, http://eatingwithemma.tumblr.com/ .

The next day,Tuesday, was actually quite a nice day! So we could have had lunch in the garden…but better safe then sorry, I guess! With the nice weather we were able to plant an entire bed of jalapenos and another bed with some very important tomatoes.

These “very important” tomatoes are none other than the tomatoes I will be studying for my biology research project! I am so excited to start conducting research and manipulating these little guys!  Right now I am only in the developing stages, caring for the newly planted seeds, but I’m ecstatic things are up and running! The question I built my project on is how can manipulating growing conditions of tomato plants affect the yield and quality of tomato fruits. In turn I want to investigate whether it is more sustainable to grow greater quantities of fruit that lack flavor and nutrient composition or to grow lower quantities of nutrient dense fruit and relate this to food security and health.

I am still in the developing stages of my investigation, but I have some time to decide where my research will go. The best part about this project is that I can take it wherever I please, so the possibilities are endless (within reason of course)!

Another task I completed Tuesday was trimming off the flowers from the herbs. After trimming, my hands smelled like rosemary for the rest of the day, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing! While, I was trimming I began thinking about how herbs have a reputation for having incredible health benefits.

With this thought, I decided to conduct a mini side research project (currently in the works) about natural grown herbs and how they can help improve athletic performance.

Last year's picture of the herb beds

Last year’s picture of the herb beds

As mentioned in my “About Me” page I talked about how I have been a runner for years. Being a runner I am very conscious about what I put in my body. Food is fuel in my mind and I want to eat whatever it is that will make me stronger and faster. Conducting this research has been very interesting and I will be posting a follow-up post about my findings in a week or two, so keep a look out!

Me running!

Me running!

Moving on from research, Wednesday was a transplant day for Emma and I and we thinned our crowded tomato sections in the demonstration beds. We moved the extra plants to a free bed and still had some extras so we planted 11 plants down at the Early Learning Center across the street. I’m sure the little kids will love picking the tomatoes once they begin fruiting!

That brings us to today, which has been nothing but dreary and rainy. I really hope tomorrow isn’t as bad so the squash and cherry tomato rows can get planted. But, for now I will continue with research and cross my fingers for the next week to be filled with sun!


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How to Make Your Own Organic Chamomile Tea

Hi Everyone!

So, I am sure you have been anxiously awaiting this post to learn how to make your own natural chamomile tea.Forget those conventional tea bags cause harvesting your own tea is much more rewarding and fun!

Let’s begin!

The first step to making your own tea is to find Chamomile seeds. I know Home Depot sells them and I’m sure if you go to any garden store they would help you out. The type of seeds that 2012 garden intern, Jesus, planted in the garden was German Chamomile seed, an annual chamomile plant.

Once your chamomile seeds are in the ground, you need to wait until the flowers are in full bloom. From the day of planting until blooming takes about a month.

Once the flowers are in full bloom get ready to harvest! All you need to do is cut the stems of the flowers 2-3 inches down from the flower. Then, bundle the individual flowers with twine and make as many bundles as you desire. What Emma and I discovered is that one bundle that has a stem diameter of about 1-1.5 inches should make about 6-12 cups of tea.

Picking chamomile me

After you bundle the chamomile, hang the bundles in a dark, warm place. We used our garden shed which worked great! Let the Chamomile hang for 1-3 days and wait for it to dry.

Once the Chamomile is dry pop the individual flowers off the plants. Those dried flower are what you will eventually boil to make your own tea!

Store the dried flowers in an air tight container until you are ready to use them.

When you are ready to make the tea, boil the desired amount of tea water in a sauce pan. Wait for the water to boil and then for every cup of water you boil add 1 heaping teaspoon of dried Chamomile. Turn the heat to low and let the sauce pan sit on low heat for 30 seconds. Then, remove the saucepan from the heat and let the Chamomile sit in the hot water covered for however long you like or until the liquid turns a pale yellow hue. Emma and I decided to let the flowers sit for quite a while because we wanted the tea to have a strong flavor and color.

After you let the chamomile seep, strain the chamomile flowers out of the liquid. We did this using a tea strainer, but a normal strainer would work just as well. After this step you are all ready to drink! If you prefer to have it iced, like us, let the tea cool to room temperature, and then pour into a container to store in the fridge to chill. When ready to serve add some ice, sliced lemons, and some local honey to sweeten and you are all set!

Hope you all enjoyed this post and are on your way out to buy your own Chamomile seeds!


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First Day at Work!

Yesterday was my first time on the job for my summer garden internship. We needed to get some basic set-up work done before the end of the semester so when we come back in late May the garden is ready to be worked in!

Basically what my partner, boses, and myself did was take care of the huge leaf pile in the middle of the garden by moving it onto the garlic, zucchini, and tomato beds on the hill. We placed piles of leaves along the beds so the weeds underneath would die. Later, all we will have to worry about will be tilling it all into the soil.

Image

This is a picture of the garden from yesterday, May 6, 2013. That huge pile of leaves is now completely gone! As you can see the garden is still in its early stages of development, but come summer I am confident me and Emma (my partner) will be able to make it beautiful and booming with plants.

We also loosened the fence and mowed underneath the fence, so now the garden’s perimeter is looking good. Jen and Todd (my bosses) showed me and my partner how the irrigation system works, which will be very important come time to plant and water.

I have been trying to think of different plants I would like to plant and while I have not done my research, I think cucumbers, asparagus, brussel sprouts, and beets would be pretty cool additions to the garden. I have been trying to read as much as I can about crop spacing and the basics of gardening, so I am not completely clueless when I come back on May 28th.

Overall, it was nice to begin work and see what my days in the garden are going to feel like. I am so excited to start later this month I can’t wait to come back to campus and get started!

Hillary