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missing the bees

Seeing first-hand the difference in the garden between having honeybees and not. My hives didn’t make it through the winter, and the backup plan to capture a swarm didn’t work out this spring.

Last year with honeybees on site, virtually all of my vegetables got pollinated and yields were high.

This year I’m seeing about a third of my vegetables withering on the vine unfertilized.

I did get a number of visiting honeybees while the cover crop of crimson clover was in bloom.

During that time, the garden was looking full of healthy veggies.

This winter I’ll order new local bees for the spring. In addition to being cool little animals to have on the homestead, they’ve proved their value for creating a healthy garden.



eggplant flower

First year I’ve planted eggplants. Flowers are stunning!


rainbow garden harvest

Purple cauliflower, carrots, summer squash, broccoli, and garlic. Making a rainbow for dinner….


fruit in the new orchard

These Starkrimson cherries are almost ready. Can’t wait to try them! Many people don’t know northwestern Montana grows some of the best cherries in the world, with dozens of successful orchards surrounding Flathead Lake.

I picked most of the green cherries off the trees I planted last spring. According to the nursery where I got them, the second year the tree should be putting most of its energy into building a strong root system and filling out rather than producing fruit. Figured it wouldn’t hurt to leave a couple of clusters, though.


garlic scapes

When rocambole or other hardneck garlic varieties start the flowering process, they shoot up a central stalk with a bud. If you want a good-sized bulb of garlic to form rather than the energy of the plant going into producing a flower, you need to harvest that stalk once it starts to curl around.

The harvested part is called a “scape,” and it’s delicious. The scape has a mild green garlic flavor, and is great chopped fresh in salads, sauteed in butter, tossed into pasta and stir-fries. Some people like the buds fried in tempura batter like a squash blossom. You can also pickle the scapes if you’d like to keep their flavor beyond the summer. I like them best when they’re lightly sauteed and added as part of a summer dish.

One preparation I hadn’t tried is lacto-fermenting the scapes, so I did that with my latest batch.

Lacto Fermented Garlic Scapes

First, sterilize your canning jar, weight, and airlock in boiling water.

Create the brine by combining 2 tablespoons natural sea salt with 1 quart filtered or spring water. Not chlorinated water, which will stop the fermentation. Stir until the salt is completely dissolved.

Rinse the scapes, and pack into your canning jar — trimming ends to fit as needed.

Add your brine to cover, and place your weight on top of the scapes to ensure they stay completely submerged. Put on your airlock lid, and place in a relatively cool (70F-75F), dark place to ferment.

The mixture should start to bubble within a few days. You can check after 4-5 days to see if you like the resulting taste. The scapes will be slightly tangy when done rather than salty. If it’s still salty, let ferment a couple more days and taste again until done. Once the fermentation is to your liking, you can put in the fridge for up to a few months.

7/19 Update

Fermentation took 10 days for this batch. The flavor is nice — the garlic flavor got nutty and a little sweet, and the added tang is a good complement. The stalk and flower got fairly tough. Next time I’d ferment the tenderest stalks only and cut off the bud. Even then, much of the stalk turned out too tough to chew and swallow. It’s more like a chew and spit the remaining fiber. Still, taste is pleasant.


flowers everywhere…

Explosion of colors in the garden and surrounding forest right now…

Crimson clover planted as a cover crop has temporarily taken over the garden

Nasturtium reseeded itself,  blossoms are smelling sweet

Lupine is carpeting the forest floor

Daisies are coming up around the deck

Borage is blooming prolifically

along with Thai basil

Yarrow is coming up here and there

Scottish bluebells, too

Wild roses are on their way out

and the dandelions have already gone…


peas ‘n’ summer squash

First harvest of the year always makes me happy.

Nothing tastes like the first sugar snap pea of the season…


midsummer garden

I started seedlings later this year than last. Despite the later start, they seem to have caught up and are all doing well so far:

Super Sugar Snap peas

Graffiti Purple cauliflower

Mammoth Red Rock cabbage

Chiogga beets

Black Forest kabocha squash

Cayenne peppers

Gold Star summer squash

Flash collard greens

Rocambole garlics – Siberian Purple Stripe, Montana Giant, Russian Red

Toma Verde tomatillos

Waltham 29 broccoli

Romaine lettuce

Nasturtium, chilies (Hatch, chocolate & orange habanero, Traveler Jalapeno, Christmas Tree), tomatoes (Cherokee Purple, Climstar, Frederik, Kakao, Purple Bumblebee, Black Cherry) are also doing well so far. Dark Star Watermelon and Early Black and Black Beauty Eggplant starts didn’t make it in the main garden — both got eaten by pests soon after planting. The eggplants are doing well in containers, though. Royal Snow Peas are small, but coming along. Chard, carrots, spinach and other plants I direct-seeded are just starting to sprout. Looking forward to the first of fresh summer produce in the next couple weeks….


outgrowing the nest

Baby robins are getting ready to fledge soon. They barely fit in the nest…

June 13th update:

And then there was one…saw #3 fly from the nest this morning. They grow so fast!


green cherries

The first of the fruit trees I planted last spring have fruit — check out the green cherries…



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