Sunday, August 27, 2023

Grape Jam


I planted a concord grape vine three years ago. This year for the first time -- grapes!      Lots of grapes! 

About two weeks ago they started to ripen. Click to enlarge.

Now they are sweet and juicy. I made jam. There are 8 cups of grapes here. Squeeze each one and the green inside pops out of the skin. Chop the skins and simmer them with 1/4 cup of water for 10 minutes and they will soften. In a separate pot, bring the pulp to a boil then simmer over low heat until the grapes lose their shape-- about 10 minutes. Put the pulp through a food mill to remove the seeds. Mix the skins and the pulp. Add 3 cups of sugar. Add the juice of half a lemon. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring, until it gels -- mine took about 10 minutes.

Behold. It's not clear like jelly. It has the consistency of apple butter.

And it is profoundly delicious.

Sunday, August 20, 2023



A monarch butterfly on a buddleia flower. Click to enlarge.

And a silver-spotted skipper butterfly.

And haiku by Japanese poet, Kobayashi Issa (1763-1828).

a butterfly deigns 

to come and dance...

summer flowers

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Picking Peaches


There are few things as summery as picking peaches in August. I went peach picking this week at my favorite farm in Mullica Hill, New Jersey. Click to enlarge.

The garden writer, Jean Hersey, once said: "August is ripening grain in the fields blowing hot and sunny, the scent of tree-ripening peaches..." I haven't seen any ripening grain lately but I agree about the peaches.

South Jersey is famous for delicious yellow peaches and the state usually ranks among the top five peach-producing states every year.

I'll be making peach jam soon -- little pink orange jars of summer to open throughout the coming cold seasons. This is one of the last of the 2022 batch.

So... I had one of these peaches in my hand but I felt like I'd like to have a pear. I said as much and somebody handed me another peach.

That was a joke. Pit-iful, right?

Sunday, August 6, 2023



Zinnia is a genus of flowers that is in the sunflower tribe of the daisy family. There are more than 20 species of zinnia. A person with a camera in a zinnia patch can find seemingly endless interesting subjects.

A zinnia flower is what's known as a composite flower made of many individual florets of two kinds: ray florets like petals and disk florets that make up the central yellow ring of this flower. Click to enlarge.

Zinnias come in white, green, pink, orange, red, yellow and purple, with various levels of saturation, and can be more than one color and might be speckled, streaked or patterned.

They come in shapes like buttons, pompoms, dahlia look-alikes, with single or double rows of rays, and even with their rays rolled up quill-style like this "cactus" zinnia.

The genus Zinnia is named for the 18th century German botanist, Johann Gottfried Zinn.

They originated in Mexico. Their native range includes parts of the American southwest.

They are drought-tolerant, able to grow in nutrient-poor soil, and are easy to garden. They make beautiful, long-lasting cut flower arrangements.

They attract pollinators like bees and butterflies and even occasional hummingbirds. Here's my favorite bee, the golden northern bumble bee, visiting a zinnia.

I feel lucky every time I see one of these pretty plush teddy bear bees!

Removing zinnia flowers when they are spent encourages others to grow. They bloom from early summer until the first frost. They will fill your flower vases all through the summer.

And another thing... they can grow without gravity! An orange zinnia flower bloomed on the International Space Station while it was orbiting the Earth. Click here to see it's picture on NASA's website.