Photo Friday: Baby Bluebirds

This will be short and sweet today, but I have exciting news to share. After several unsuccessful attempts this year, our bluebird pair has finally hatched babies! It is a big deal because Eastern Bluebirds (Sialia sialis)are fairly rare in our area. Loss of habitat and competition for nesting sites from introduced species like starlings and house sparrows has contributed to their decline over the years. But they are making a comeback, and we have had them around Happy Acres since we moved here in 2007. I also had nest boxes at my old place, and I have been putting up nest boxes for them for over 30 years now, including many I made myself out of wood.

baby bluebirds

baby bluebirds

The nest box is made of PVC pipe stained to resemble a tree, and the size and shape is intended to discourage house sparrows from nesting. Sparrows are a problem here, and have been known to kill other bird babies and trash the nest. I’m keeping my fingers crossed and hoping they will not be a problem, but I will be on the lookout for them. I have the nest box mounted on a metal pole, with a squirrel baffle mounted on it to deter snakes and other predators from climbing the pole.

PVC nest box on pole

PVC nest box on pole

The babies will grow rapidly with both parents feeding them. Bluebirds typically leave the nest somewhere between 16-21 days after hatching. I will continue to monitor the nest carefully, and try and stay away from the nest box since the parents tend to be protective and will swoop us if they think we get too close or tarry nearby too long. I’ll keep you posted on their progress.

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Harvest Monday July 25, 2016

Welcome to Harvest Monday, where we celebrate all things harvest related. Much of the U.S. is suffering from a heat wave, and HA is no exception. Yesterday afternoon my weather station recorded a dew point of 83°F and an actual temperature of 95°F, which gave us a feels-like heat index of 121°F. Despite all the heat and humidity I still love this time of year, when the garden starts giving me the long-awaited summer veggies. Tomatoes are a favorite here like they are in many backyard gardens, and the dependable hybrid slicers I’m growing like Better Boy, Celebrity and Jetsetter are starting to ripen now. I also got the first of the University of Florida bred Garden Treasure tomatoes, which is the big one in the below photo. It’s a tasty tomato, with the first one weighing in at just over 10 ounces, and I look forward to tasting more of them in the future.

hybrid slicers

hybrid slicers

I also got enough of the small fruited tomatoes to make a batch of Slow Roasted Tomatoes last week. That’s Juliet in my hand below, which is just now starting to ripen. When I have more of them I’ll be dehydrating some of them and using it for sauces too.

Juliet tomatoes

Juliet tomatoes

My pole beans are just getting started setting on, but I got enough last week for a couple of meals. The Gold Marie, Musica and Trionfo Violetto all came in first this year in the pole bean races. Rattlesnake wasn’t far behind and showed up in the basket a few days later, and Fortex is now setting on too. The vines are growing lush and it looks to be a good year so far, though the Japanese Beetles are enjoying the leaves. To help control them I take a cup of soapy water with me to the garden and encourage them to go swimming.

Musica, Trionfo Violetto and Gold Marie pole beans

Musica, Trionfo Violetto and Gold Marie pole beans

I’ve been cleaning up and weighing the garlic as it is cured. That’s Xian in the below photo, a turban type that made a great showing last year and this year too. The early results look like it was a good year for garlic, even better than last year, so I am tickled for that. Now if I could just learn to grow onions that well!

Xian garlic

Xian garlic

We’ve still got quite a few sweet potatoes in storage, and they are holding up rather well. A few are sprouting, but most are not, which is not bad after almost 10 months in our basement pantry area. I used one of the Purple variety to make a batch of Rancho Gordo’s Rio Zape and Sweet Potato Salad. There’s a lot of homegrown goodness in there, from the Manoa lettuce on the bottom to the sweet potato, fried sage leaves and the chopped chives.

Rio Zape Sweet Potato Salad

Rio Zape Sweet Potato Salad

I also used our sweet potatoes to make some kale and sweet potato hash. For that I used one each of the orange Beauregard, the white Bonita and a Purple. It makes a tasty and colorful side dish, which I served along with some grilled salmon. To make it I cube the raw sweet potatoes and cook in olive oil with a few chopped onions until tender and browned, then add in blanched and chopped kale. The kale was Prizm, a hybrid curly kale that continues to impress me.

kale and sweet potato hash

kale and sweet potato hash

Speaking of Manoa lettuce, most of the crisphead lettuce I planted last month is bolting and has been pulled. But Manoa, Sierra and Slogun have held up better than the others, and I harvested the last of them last week. None really made good heads, but there were lots of big tender leaves, and the ones in the below photo wound up on sandwiches a couple of times recently.

crisphead lettuce leaves

crisphead lettuce leaves

I got the first of the Tromba d’Albenga squash (aka Tromboncino). It’s hanging out with Shikou eggplant in the below photo. I grilled the eggplant for a side dish, one of my favorite ways to prepare eggplant.

Tromboncino and Shikou eggplant

Tromboncino and Shikou eggplant

I used the squash in a frittata I made one day for lunch. I julienned the Tromboncino, then sauteed with onions in a little olive oil. After adding in the eggs, I placed leaves of Corsican basil and slices of tomato on top before popping the skillet in the oven to finish it off.

frittata with Tromboncino, basil and tomatoes

frittata with Tromboncino, basil and tomatoes

The tomato I used is an Artisan Seeds variety called Marzano Fire. It’s my first time growing this one, which has San Marzano and Speckled Roman tomato in its ancestry. It’s more juicy than many of the Marzano types I’ve grown in the past, and so far not a single one has showed BER, which has been a problem with them here for me. The pointy end on the left one sure reminds me of a Marzano tomato!

Marzano Fire tomatoes

Marzano Fire tomatoes

In other squash news, the Early Butternut squash is certainly living up to its name. I got the first three ripe butternut squash from it last week. They are hanging out with another Tromboncino in the below photo, one that was hid from me and got huge! It was still plenty edible though a bit bigger than I usually like to let them get. It’s my wife’s turn to cook next week so she will get to use that one!

Early Butternut and tromboncino squash

Early Butternut and tromboncino squash

Harvest Monday is a day to show off your harvests, how you are saving your harvest, or how you are using your harvest. If you have a harvest you want to share, add your name and blog link to Mr Linky below. And be sure and check out what everyone is harvesting!



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