Saturday, July 30, 2011

Customer Satisfaction

One of the things I enjoy most about our farmers' market is the interaction with our customers.  It took several years to develop a clientele.  But, now we have quite a few people who seek us out.  One of these is an older woman named Jill.  She always wears a big brimmed hat as protection from the sun.  For a couple of years, we just knew her as the "lady with the big hat".  We aren't too good at remembering names, especially if we are having a really busy day.  So, it may take several times for someone to introduce themselves before their name imprints itself on our brains.  But, at some point, we came to know Jill as Jill.

As I said, Jill is an older woman who lives alone.  She has some family or acquaintances in Switzerland because a couple of years ago she asked us to babysit her African violets while she went on a 2 week trip to Switzerland.  I was pretty nervous about this because I'm not that good with houseplants.  If they survive my care, they can probably survive anywhere.  At any rate, she brought them to the market with her one Saturday and we took them home.  I set them on my kitchen counter by the window and checked them every day, worrying that I would water them too much (or not enough) or that they would be attacked by insects or disease while they were in my care!  I breathed a sigh of relief when the 2 weeks were over and I was able to return them to their rightful owner none the worse for wear.

Jill has certain favorite items that she buys.  She loves sweet peppers, especially banana peppers, and she likes parsley.   One of the reasons I've been so frustrated about my parsley not producing this summer (see July 18th entry) is because I hate to let Jill down.  So, whenever I am able to harvest a bag full, then I save it for her.

As I mentioned in the July 18th entry, we are having the hottest summer in decades.  Days and days of 100 plus degree temperatures.  The last few years it has gotten to where I have a hard time tolerating the heat.  This must have been very apparent a couple of weeks ago when Jill was at our farmers' market booth.  I usually wear t-shirts and shorts in hot weather.  Jill, noticing my attire, told me I shouldn't wear t-shirts because they were too hot.  She pointed to the cotton blouse she had on and said it was much cooler than a t-shirt.  I told her I'd have to see about getting some of them, but promptly forgot the conversation after she left and we got busy again.

You can imagine my surprise when the next week, she brought the following item to the market and gave to me.

Needless to say, I was very touched by her kindness and concern for my well-being.  And, I wore the blouse the next week.  Sure enough, it was a lot cooler than a t-shirt!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Friday Night Date with Basil

At this time of year I am up to my ears in basil.  I mainly grow Genovese (sweet) basil to sell at our farmers' market.  I harvest it on Fridays, usually in the early evening.  I harvest it by grabbing a bunch of it in my hand and cutting the bunch off with a pair of scissors.  Then, I stuff it in a plastic bag.  I continue on in this manner until I've harvested all the plants in my herb bed.  I usually end up with 2-3 bags full.

Harvesting it is only half the work though.  After that, I bring it inside and package it to sell.  Here is what my kitchen table looked like last night.

Most of it goes in sandwich bags like this.

These will keep for several days in the refrigerator if you put a folded paper towel in the bag to absorb extra moisture and then mash most of the air out of the bag and seal it.

I also like to take some of the basil with longer stems and put it in cups of water like this.

Several of our local eating establishments give free plastic glasses when you buy a drink.  These fit nicely in a dish pan and are just the right size to hold a nice bunch of basil.

Here is what my basil harvest looked like after I was finished.

If I have an extra large harvest, then I put the extra in Walmart bags (or other brand) and sell it "wholesale" to people who want a large amount with which to make pesto or to dry.

It makes for a pleasant evening's work to drink a glass of wine and listen to music while packaging up the basil.  Plus, the kitchen smells heavenly.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Death Valley Days

The title of this blog entry aptly describes my feelings about this summer.  We've had almost 30 days of high temperatures over 100 degrees with very little rain and there is no relief in sight.  This is taking a toll on our garden.  Here is some mint that I had growing in a tub.

Tom has exhausted the water in his big 1500 gallon water tank in which he catches water from the garage roof.  It was full and running over this spring.  We have a well, but we have to be somewhat careful about watering from it for fear of running it too low and picking up sediment.

Our tomato plants look pretty good, but they are not producing any fruit to speak of because, even though they bloom, the blossoms will not "set fruit" and form tomatoes above 95 degrees.

Of course my basil is doing fine.  It loves hot weather, although I think it is getting a little tired of this extreme heat too. 

Most of the other herbs in the herb garden have gone dormant and probably will not start growing again until cooler weather arrives this fall.  However, I am perplexed about my parsley.  It should be producing better.  Here is a picture of what it looks like.

Even though I water it, it just sits there.  So, I rigged up a shade cloth over it thinking that if I can keep it a little cooler, then it might be happier. 

I'll keep you posted on whether or not this works.  

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Caterpillars in Parsley Heaven

I have a parsley plant that is flowering.  Parsley is a biennial which means that you plant it in the spring of one year and it survives the winter to flower the next summer.  The flowers will produce seed and the plant's life cycle starts over again. 

Here is a picture of the flowering parsley plant.  It is huge compared to the small plant that I harvested parsley from last year.

You can't see them very well in this picture, but there are hundreds of very small flowers that grow in clusters.  If each of these flowers produces a seed, then I'll have plenty of seed to start new plants from next year.

But this blog entry is not just about parsley.  If you look closer, you will see that a secret world exists inside the plant and the Black Swallowtail Butterflies love it. 

This is a the caterpillar of a Black Swallowtail Butterfly.

There were several of these caterpillars on the plant that ranged in size from small to large.  I even found a chrysalis that one of them had formed.

 You can read more about the life-cycle of the Black Swallowtail Butterfly at this site:

The caterpillars share the parsley with a wide variety of other insects.  In fact, this plant is a hive of activity. There are tiny flies and grasshoppers like this one that frequently visit it.

There are also a variety of wasps that use the plant for food as well.  Here is one of them.

I enjoy watching the life cycles of the plants, like this parsley plant, and of the insects, like these Black Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars, that inhabit my garden.  I hope by sharing them with my blog friends that you can enjoy them too.