Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Mulberries and Popcorn Disease

Ah, late June and the taste of mulberries and cream. One of my favorite bits of summer. Every day the boy and I go out and pick a big steel colander worth of fresh, ripe black mulberries. Then we put them in the freezer. The next day, we whip them up in the food processor, add a bit of milk and sugar, and voila! Ice Cream (like substance)!

I have been noticing that since last year, there were a lot of fruits that seemed to be turning gray, swelling up, and rotting on the tree. And they were always so huge, it really bothered me. "Why are all the good ones dying?" I thought. So I took to cutting them off and letting them drop to the ground.
Now let me tell you, if you have a mulberry tree, and some of the fruit turns gray/white and large, don't cut it and let it lay on the ground! Apparently, there is a fungus out there (Ciboria carunculoides) that gives the trees a disease called popcorn disease. It is perpetuated by letting the infected fruit fall to the ground! D'oh! So, from next year, all the infected fruit will be collected on a tarp, and burned in a slow fire. And hopefully, after that, it will grow less and less each year.
More info on popcorn disease- apparently white mulberries and hybrids are the most susceptible to the fungus, which overwinters in the soil, and releases spores in the spring to infect the fruit. After it infects the fruit, it replaces the carpels with sclerotia (whatever that means), which causes them to swell well beyond normal size- that is why it looked like only the biggest fruit got it. They weren't supposed to be so big, it was just the fungus.

At any rate, sanitary practices should control my disease from the year after next. And I still have quite a lot of fruit from the tree this year.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fava Beans!

Man, I love fava beans! Here we plant them in the late fall. They grow just a bit during the fall and winter, and take off like rockets in the spring. Our fava bean tops were just black with aphids during May, but thanks to our no spray policy, the ladybugs and lacewings soon took care of the problem. Now they are in harmony.

So we harvested some beans yesterday, shelled them, nicked them, salted them, and boiled them. You wouldn't believe how good they were.

If you have never grown or cooked fresh fava beans before here is a crash course:
1. shell them.
2. nick their "butts" with a sharp knife- you will understand once you shell them.
3. put them in a bowl, add some salt and mix them up well. Let it sit for a while. (I know, so specific. But it isn't brain surgery you know)
4. boil some water, and add the beans and salt. Boil for two minutes and drain.
5. Eat them. Some people take the outer skin off. Some people also drive their cars a mile to go to the gym and exercise. You are not "some people." Eat the whole thing.

Smells like Heaven

The wife has been growing roses in the front of our house for the past five years. We don't like to use pesticides or fungicides, so every year bugs eat the stems, other bugs eat the leaves, they get blackspot and the tops die off. Finally, after five years, we have roses. Man, they smell good!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Hot Mama!

Our Akita Hinai-jidori hen (her name is "Hot" if you recall) has hatched one of the two eggs she has been incubating. Man, that chick is so cute!
Now we are waiting for the next one to pop (hope it does, since a feral cat has eaten all but four of the other chickens).

Monday, June 7, 2010

Ouch! Two Turkeys Down

R.I.P. Thanksgiving and Christmas (two of the turkeys). Now how do I tell Mike that his two turkeys disappeared?
So sad. Went out to the pen yesterday and found that two turkeys and the aurocana pullet were just gone. Then tonight, when I pulled up in Kay, I saw a white and black cat hanging around the pen. I think it got them. So it is time to get a live trap and contact the humane society.

I hate stray cats, and I don't care who knows it.
Don't let cats outside, and for crying out loud, spay and neuter your pets!