Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Creating Your Own Wildflower "Crown"

I received my latest issue of Family Fun and read with interest an article on making the CUTEST wildflower crown. As my son was off to day-camp, I decided this would be the perfect "something special" for my daughter and I to do - OK who am I kidding Gabby didn't do a whole lot except for picking out the flowers then modeling the final project. She's the cutest little model though (IMHO)!

Here's a video tutorial on how to make your OWN wildflower crown:

Name That Berry...

My daughter and I (OK mostly me!) spent the morning picking luscious "black berries" this morning - Two buckets worth of the gems! Actually my benefactor Steve (who is allowing me to forage on his property) says they are blackberries. The berries I harvested a few weeks back were apparently black raspberries...

The trouble is, one of the local Ann Arbor foragers in the area mentioned the end of last week that blackberry season is over. The berries I harvested today seem to just be beginning to ripen and will likely produce the majority of their load within the next two weeks - Provided they don't dry up!

These berries are a luscious deep black color that shine in the sun like the prettiest black pearls plucked from the sea. They are about the size of my thumb nail, although not every one of them gets that large. They have the typical thorns on the plants and the leaves look much like other types of raspberries - the berries themselves are plucked WITH their stems attached (unlike when a raspberry slides off of the plant leaving a small hole in the berry.). Generally they are clustered on stalks in large bunches, that often cause the laden heavy plant to droop to the ground...

So what are they exactly? Anyone want to chime in??? Gabriella sure has been enjoying them regardless...

Photos: by Tammy Mayrend. Photo 1 taken early July.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Upcoming Cheese Making Class - August 2

After taking my cheese making class this spring, I had several of you mention that I should let you know when the next cheese making class is. Kimberley sent me a message - The next class is Sunday August 2 in Linden, MI (48451).

For more information or to register, you can reach Kimberely at 810-210-4458 or Kimberleyemmert(at)aol.com.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

As I am sitting here, my youngest is screaming bloody murder - Loud enought that I'm CERTAIN if any neighbors overheard they'd be dialing 911. I'm also wondering what to do with the lovely blackberries that have begun to get ripe.

We actually ran across them today while picking wild black raspberries - There were only a few ripe today maybe a pint, but I would guess within the next two weeks they'll come in more and more. Looking at the patch I would guess we may be able to harvest 10-20 quarts of the buggers... I couldn't believe how many there were.

At any rate, I began looking for berry recipes and with the above-mentioned fit-throwing, thought this one might be appropriate.

Blackberry Mojito

4 Blackberries
4 Mint sprigs
3 Lime wedges
1 1/2 ounces rum
1 Lime wedge
1 Mint sprig
Lemon lime soda

To Prepare:
1. Muddle together the blackberries, 4 mint sprigs and 3 lime wedges in a highball glass.
2. Once thoroughly bruised, add rum.
3. Fill with ice and top with lemon lime soda.
5. Garnish with 1 lime wedge and 1 mint sprig.

Sit back and enjoy... I know I will - Before the police arrive...

The Perfect Storm: Powdery Mildew

Against previous traditions, I BOUGHT zucchini plants this year. I was getting a late start on things and thought I'd get a head start. I wanted to have the first zucchini on the block and I wanted lot of it. Nothing like bribing neighbors with fresh produce!

In buying my plants however I can't say for sure if the seeds were well taken care of or the plants started properly... I also bought a 4 pack and planted all 4... And no, I didn't plant them 12-24" a part as they are in my raised beds... Some of you will know what this leads to and others will say "so what".

The so what is that this year I seem to have powdery mildew growing on my plants. It has even spread to my acorn squash that's growing in the garden nearby... Squash that can not properly breath with adequate air circulation, and even late day waterings can all add up to nastiness, as it did this year for me.

So what is powdery mildew?

Powdery mildew is a white/grayish white fungus that can grow on many varieties of plants and grasses. It rarely causes the death of plants, but can cause an off taste. Optimum conditions for powdery mildew are moderate temperatures with high humidity. Shade and poor air circulation along with overcrowding increase the chances for powdery mildew.

In other words, I have the perfect storm for powdery mildew - I got too far ahead of myself and in the attempt to have the FIRST zucchini, and lots of it, I caused powdery mildew in my garden.

In years past, before my kids, I may have used a spray on fungicide to kill the beast, but now I try more organic substances first. So today I mixed up a batch of 1T baking soda, 1t liquid dish soap and 1 gallon of water. I then sprayed the plants, and removed the leaves that were the most infected. I have also heard that a milk/water mixture can kill powdery mildew, so I may try that next...

On a positive note, there are no squash beetles effecting the plants this year - that's what typically gets my zucchini!!!

photo: Monroe County MSU extension

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Chickening Out...

I suppose it was inevitable - I should have known from the moment that we got comments about our girls - "Will they make a lot of noise?" "When they get stinky move them up-wind." or even "Why don't you move them to the other side of the house." But I didn't get it. My naivete that neighbors would WANT fresh eggs, or that if they had a problem they would come speak to me directly BEFORE the "girls" became pets to my children. But noooooo, that wasn't the case.

And so it is that we are giving up the fight... No more Mrs. Nice-Guy neighbor though. I won't be outwardly hostile or anything, that's not my way. I simply won't give up ANY of my summer produce no matter how much I have in abundance.

If you've read earlier posts, the Homeowners Association sent us a note, which we responded to since "caged birds" were not considered as part of the "rules" we had to live by. I'm guessing they had no leg to stand on and called the township offices. (I READ all of the ordinances about homes before getting the girls, I would never have guessed to read about "farms" in the township though.) Then late last week we received a note from the township that said we were "farming" and that farms in the Township needed to be 5 acres or more, and we couldn't have a "chicken farm".

I had a friend tell me that the township MAY have done us a favor by saying we were a "farm" since there is a law on the books (The Michigan Right to Farm Act), but I've run out of steam and am going to roll over and take it - As much as it pains us, we'll give up our girls.

OK I haven't completely exhausted myself, I just can't afford the emotional drain or legal ramifications of sticking it to the man. Maybe I DO have the right to "farm" chickens for the health of my family, however the township only gave me 6 days to remove the girls before we'd see fines. We're JUST getting back on our feet with my husband finally getting work, and I don't think legal fees and fines are the smartest thing to do right now...

Instead we have an offer of $100 to take the $325 coop & run, the chickens and their feed off our hands. So we'll take what we can get, with an awfully expensive lesson in raising backyard chickens.

It kills me though that Ann Arbor and surrounding municipalities are beginning to allow backyard birds, yet some righteous neighbor has deemed otherwise for our family. We weren't bugging her (oops I mean "whomever" since I can't officially say WHO it was that complained) or anyone else who could have possibly seen or been disrupted by 4 hens that were kept in a clean coop/run, next to our home, IN OUR YARD!

Stepping off the soapbox now. I need to console my children who have been hysterical all morning about loosing Penny, Princess, Peeps and Beakie...

If we could get just 1 $300 egg before next week... Start squeezing them out girls...

Area Municipalities that Allow Backyard Chickens:

Ann Arbor City
Ypsilanti (pending - The Council's notes have not yet been approved for publication indicating the status of the fight. The ordinance would allow for backyard chickens and bee hives though!)

I'd like to keep this list going for anyone in the Ann Arbor area who may be interested in back-yard birds. So, please send me a note or add a comment about additional Ann Arbor area city/townships that allow for backyard birds!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Who knew!?

Of course Mulberries are on my brain... OK, maybe in my case, it's more correct to say they are on my fingers and toes (as previously mentioned in the blog!). But did you know there are a TON of really good nutritional benefits that includes essential amino acids, fiber, Calcium, Phosphorus, potassium and Magnesium. And while I can not attest to all of these, Mulberries are knows to help in these ways as well:
  • Enhancing the body's immunity.
  • Strengthens eyesight.
  • Improves digestion.
  • Mulberries sooth the nerves.
  • Mulberry helps in containing hypertension.
  • They strengthen the liver and kidney.
  • Mulberries are helpful in treating constipation.
  • Can suppress carcinogens.
I realize all this Mulberry talk goes off on a tangent, but picking this ripe summer bounty is fun for the entire family and provides us with fresh nutritious meals. OK so this next recipe we adapted may not be considered "nutritious" but it sure was a GREAT recipe to try with our Mulberries...



  • 3 cups mulberries
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 Spice seasoning
  • 1 pie pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon milk


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix berries with sugar and flour.
  3. Prepare pie crust as recommended for a double-crust pie, or use a frozen pastry crust.
  4. Place berry mixture into bottom pie crust and sprinkle with 5 Spice season mix.
  5. Dot with butter and then cover with top pie crust.
  6. Crimp edges, cut slits in upper crust, and brush with milk.
  7. Let pie rest in refrigerator for 30 minutes.
  8. Bake pie in preheated oven for 15 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350 degrees F and bake for an additional 30 minutes.
  9. Remove pie from oven and let sit on wire rack until cool.
  10. ENJOY!!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

More Mulberries...

Grandpa is here visiting us for a few days so we took him out to pick more Mulberries and check out how the raspberries were coming along. We ended up with three large buckets of Mulberries and a quart of black raspberries or wild blackberries (whichever one there were they tasted awesome!).

We used the same technique of shaking the tree but were smarter about not standing, kneeling or walking in the berries - Or so we thought! Gramps got the messiest, followed by me, then the kids. But what does one DO with so many berries? We made a bunch of jam that last go around... So I began the search!

I actually found a really good Bisquick scone recipe - and substituted Mulberries into it. They look, smell and more importantly taste REALLY awesome. It is actually a really easy recipe too:

Mulberry Bisquick Scone Recipe

3 cups Bisquick
2 tbsp. Sugar
1 cup fresh Mulberries
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs

For Glaze:

1 egg, well beaten
2 tbsp. Sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In medium bowl combine the baking mix, 2 tablespoons sugar and the berries.

Pour milk in measuring cup. Add the eggs to the milk and mix well with a fork . Stir the liquid into the baking mix until moistened. (Dough will be crumbly - I even debated adding a tad more milk and may do so with the next batch.)

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured baking sheet and pat into a 9 inch round. Brush the dough with the beaten egg, then sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar. Cut the round into 12 wedges. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until golden. (I actually had to add another 5 minutes for the right "look". That could be my oven or it could be the moister berries.)

I actually needed to re-cut the circle after baking since it baked "back together" too...

Serve immediately with butter, jam or the more traditional clloted cream.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Apparently I am a farmer? Did you know that? A FARMER!?

Tonight when we got home from being out all day to find a note taped to the front door. It was from the townships ordinance officer. I'm guessing that our Homeowners Association couldn't deny that our backyard chickens were indeed "caged domesticated birds" so they called the township for an official ruling. I had read the ordinances before keeping the girls, and didn't find anything specifically about chickens - I never read the ordinances specific to "farming" though, WHY would I, we're not living on a farm! HOWEVER in order to get us to remove the girls they are claiming that we are farming and as a "farm" we are breaking ordinance rules by being on less that 5 acres.

As of next Wednesday, if the girls are not removed the fines begin - $100, $250, $500, etc...

So is the next door neighbor, who likely began this whole mess, "Farming" since she is raising a FARM CROP of corn??? Too bad the ordinance officer isn't fining the homes in the neighborhood that are considered blight, or the VERY LOUD neighbor's dogs that bark incessantly... This is persecution I tell you!!! We're being singled out for sure...

*Sigh* so much for the kids learning experience - I was HOPING for eggs before we'd need the girls gone but that hasn't happened yet. Any time now... So we'll be looking for a home for the girls, I'd love it to be a temporary thing but i doubt it. I don't think we can jump on the new Ypsilanti Chicken permit thing - since we're in the Township and not the city. But I'll be looking into that as well. Not sure I can work that fast anyway...