Hollyhocks, Butterflies, and Starry Skies
Chocolate Box Cottage Diary, Volume 2
Week 31: August 6, 2022
Hollyhocks are surely among the most charming symbols of country life. In former days these blooming spires adorned many an outhouse. When we moved to Chocolate Box Cottage we knew we wanted a row of them in front of our porch. We tried to grow hollyhocks for four years, planting the brown disk-shaped seeds saved from the double apricot hollyhocks my Dad grew by the front door of my parents’ house with zero success. Not a single seed germinated.
This year we gave up and bought fresh seeds. Hollyhocks are biennial plants that bloom the second year; we did not expect any flowers this year. So why is there a stately hollyhock blooming where we did not plant it? We are regarding it as a gift.
Sam and I both have an appreciation for butterflies. This is the first year we have not seen a single Monarch butterfly! I planted a patch of native narrow leaf milkweed collected locally to remedy the shortage – hopefully next year.
What we do have are gorgeous yellow and black striped Swallowtail butterflies and clouds of cabbage whites, a mundane name for pretty little white butterflies. I am so happy to see them, I don’t even mind much sacrificing the fennel, parsley, and kale crops to the hungry caterpillars.
Swallowtail caterpillars eat fennel and parsley, while cabbage whites lay teeny tiny eggs in the undersides of the kale leaves. When the caterpillars hatch they chomp their way through the kale, leaving leaves so holey they resemble lace, but that is okay. There are plenty of other things to eat in the garden just now.
In the garden
We are not spending as much time in the hammock as we would like. It hangs there tempting us, but it has been too hot to enjoy it. Instead we sometimes get up too early and go outside to look at the sky. How amazing are the heavens! How lovely to see stars, not smoke!
Hammock days will come and we will enjoy them when they do. For now, I am grateful for sunshine, and when I go to the garden to harvest a zucchini or a generous handful of basil I remind myself to be present, breathe in the scent of greenery and heady aroma of basil. It is good.
If it weren’t for the leaves, you probably would not believe these ruffled pink flowers are California poppies: Watermelon Heaven California Poppies!
Persian basil, a new favorite with purple and green mottled leaves grows like a weed among the artichokes in the herb garden. We are adding it to grilled meat and vegetables, including yellow crookneck squash, often.
Have you ever watched an artichoke bloom?
A bed of culinary herbs is showing a good crop of sage, Bergaarten and tricolor, soon to be harvested, plus rosemary in the background.
Up and coming laying hens are eating voraciously. The cage Sam built them is moved to fresh greenery every few days.
Gathering daily bunny rations: clover, plantain, self-heal, dandelion, pigweed, curly dock, and chickweed.
Field horsetail, Equisetum arvense, is an interesting plant that grows in moist soil along ponds and ditches in our area.
A volunteer mullein, Verbascum thapsus, that I couldn’t bear to pull. Such a valuable medicinal plant and it’s been great fun to watch it grow by the kitchen door.
It was time to refill the onion powder spice jar. Herbs that we don’t grow ourselves are purchased from bulk bins at Food 4 Less. I bring my old Smucker’s jam jars given to me by my mom to the store. The jars are weighed one time and a sticker noting the weight is placed on the lid so we aren’t paying for the weight of the jar.
My back stock of purchased spices is stored in a plastic shoebox. You may want to stock up now on spices for winter baking.
Last week I shared my method of freezer prepping bread dough using the Ankarsrum Assistent mixer and there were requests for the same recipe made by hand, so here it is. Mix up a big batch of bread dough and freeze it in loaf portions. Over the course of four weeks, thaw, shape, and bake one loaf at a time to keep your family in bread for a month.
You were expecting zucchini to appear somewhere, weren’t you? Here it is. Grated and going into the mixer bowl for a truly divine dessert: Chai-Spiced Zucchini Cupcakes with Caramel Frosting.
More zucchini, nicely grilled by my wonderful grill-master husband, Samuel. Marinated briefly in fresh lemon juice and olive oil, with a shower of freshly chopped Persian basil, zucchini and yellow crookneck squash are delicious on their own or drizzled in Caesar dressing and served with grilled chicken apple sausages.
Our sweet Squirrel. (Yes, her name is Squirrel – Sam’s idea and she lives up to it.)
An oldie but goodie, Stocking Up by Carol Hupping was considered the Bible of more nutritious forms of food preservation that use less sugar.
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Thank you kindly for visiting Chocolate Box Cottage. If you would care to share, I would love to hear what you are enjoyed about your week.