Friday, September 4, 2015

Apple orchards and cider mills are opening

Apple orchards and cider mills in Oakland County 

Ashton Orchards, 3925 Seymour Lake Road, Ortonville, 248-627-6671. 50th year. Open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday, through Oct. 31. Shorter hours through Dec. 23. Apples, cider mill, doughnuts, pies, baked goods, seasonal produce, playground equipment.
. Diehl’s Orchard & Cider Mill, 1479 Ranch Road, Holly, 248-634-8981, Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Nov. 22. Apples, cider mill and doughnuts. Hayrides and corn maze start late September.
. Erwin Orchards & Cider Mill, 61475 Silver Lake Road, South Lyon, 248-437-0150, Orchard open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through Oct. 31, plus Friday Night Haunts and the cider mill is open 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Oct. 31 and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 1-8. Already picked and u-pick apples, u-pick raspberries, cider mill, petting zoo, corn maze, seasonal produce.
. Fogler’s Orchard & Farm Market, 3979 Rochester Road, near Gunn Road, Oakland Township, 248-652-3614, Open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Apples, corn, tomatoes, peaches, melons, u-pick raspberries, pumpkins and hay rides.
. Franklin Cider Mill, 7450 Franklin Road, Bloomfield Hills, 248-626-8261, Open 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. daily and 8 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekends, Sept. 5-Nov. 29. Cider mill, doughnuts, pies, apples, pumpkins.
. Goodison Cider Mill, 4295 Orion Road, Oakland Township, 248-652-8450, Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily Sept. 5 through November and weekends in December. Cider mill, apples, caramel apples, doughnuts, pies and pistachio nut bread.
. Long Family Orchard Farm & Cider Mill, 1540 East Commerce Road, Commerce Township, 248-360-3774, Apples, cider and fresh produce. Open noon to 6 p.m. daily.
. Paint Creek Cider Mill, 4480 Orion Road, Oakland Township, 248-656-3400, Open all year, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Cider mill, doughnuts, ice cream, cafe, located by Paint Creek Trail.
. Parmenter’s Northville Cider Mill, 714 Baseline Road, Northville, 248-349-3181. Open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily, Aug. 29 to Oct. 31 and 10 a.m.- 7 p.m. through Nov. 22. Cider mill, doughnuts, pies and other food products and wine from the Northville Winery, across the parking lot.
. Rochester Cider Mill, 5125 N. Rochester Road, Rochester Hills, 248-651-4224. Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily through November. Cider mill, doughnuts, pie, apples, produce,
. Spicer Orchards, 10411 Clyde Road, Fenton, 810-632-7692, Open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, May to Dec. 31. U-pick and already picked apples, raspberries, and seasonal produce, playground equipment, winery and ice cream.
. Yates Cider Mill, 1990 E. Avon Road, Rochester Hills, 248-651-8300, - Open 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., weekdays, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekends and Labor Day, open through November. Cider, apples, ice cream, fudge, Dearborn brand hot dogs and knackwurst, pony rides, petting zoo, river walk. Yates hours are the same at Yate’s Canterbury Village store, 2369 Joslyn Ct., Lake Orion.

Apple orchards and cider mills near Oakland County 

Blake’s Big Apple Orchard, 71485 North Ave., Armada, 586-784-9710 and Blake’s Orchard and Cider Mill, 17985 Armada Center Road, Armada, 586-784-5343, Open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. through Dec. 23.
. Hy’s Cider Mill, 6350 37 Mile Road, Romeo, 810-798-3611, Open Sept. 12, weekends.
. Middleton Cider Mill, 46462 Dequindre Road, Utica, 586-731-6699, Open Sept. 8 to Thanksgiving, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. September and October, 9 a.m.- 5 p.m. November.
. Miller’s Big Red Apple Orchard, 4900 32-Mile Road, Washington Township, 586-281-3555. Upick raspberries, apples, cider mill, corn maze. Open 9 a.m.-7 p.m. daily.
. Historic Parshallville Cider Mill, 8507 Parshallville Road, Fenton, 810-629-9079, Opens 9 a.m.-6 p.m., Sept. 5 through the season.
. Porter’s Orchard Farm Market & Cider Mill, 12060 E. Hegel Road, Goodrich, 810-636-7156, Hours are 11 a.m.-6 p.m. weekdays and noon-6 p.m. weekends through season.
. Stony Creek Orchard and Cider Mill, 2961 W. 32 Mile Road, Romeo, 586-752-2453,, open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. through season.
. Verellen Orchards, 63260 Van Dyke, Romeo, 586-752-2989, Open 6:30 a.m.-6 p.m. daily all year.
. Westview Orchards & Cider Mill, 65075 Van Dyke (M-53), at 30 Mile Road, two miles south of Romeo, 586-752-3123,, open 8 a.m.-6 p.m., upick opens at 10 a.m. and there are wine tasting hours.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Preserving fruit and vegetables

Whether to can, freeze or dry produce, depends on what vegetable and how much effort and time a person wants to devote. Freezing vegetables is the fastest. Canning takes longer, but is better for maintaining vegetable texture. Canning is definitely best for salsa and pickles. Drying might be the easiest, but it has limited use, such as for herbs, mushrooms and fruit.

Easy freezing
It’s easy to freeze vegetables and fruits. Some don't require cooking or blanching. For celery and rhubarb, just wash, chop, bag in serving sizes and freeze. To freeze zucchini for making bread: shred or grate and freeze without blanching. For peppers, just cut out the seeds, wash and let dry, then freeze in bags.The quality and texture is reduced after freezing, but they still have that garden fresh taste when used in cooking.
BlueberriesBlueberries can be put in the freezer with very little preparation. Remove stems and bad berries, wash in cold water, drain, pack in freezer bags. Label and freeze.

For apples wash, peel and core apples. Slice, cut into chunks or quarter. As you prepare apples, dip the cut pieces in a solution of 1 tablespoon each salt and vineqar to 2 quarts of water, to prevent darkening. Drain well, rinse and drain again. Then you can either pack plain, with sugar or with syrup. Leave a ½ inch headspace for pint containers and 1 inch for quarts. When using liquid, place a piece of crumpled paper or plastic wrap on top to keep fruit under the liquid. For syrup, mix 1/14 cup sugar and 5-1/2 cup water top yield cups. Thaw fruit in refrigerator or bowl of cool water. If cooking, thaw only enough to separate.

Most other vegetables and fruits require blanching, which is pretty easy. To blanch vegetables, you need:
a large porcelain or stainless steel pan with basket strainer and lid, 2/3 full of water
large bowl in the sink filled with ice water
bags or plastic containers and a permanent marker
Bring the water in the saucepan to boiling. Meanwhile, wash and trim the veggies. Place the veggies in boiling water, close lid and time. See chart below. Then remove from the pan and drain quickly. Next, place in ice water for the same amount of time as boiled. When the time is up, remove and drain well in a colander. To remove more moisture, place clean towels on the counter and lay the veggies out for a few minutes before bagging in labeled freezer bags and placing in the freezer. Here are blanching and cooling times for vegetables:

Vegetable blanching times - equal time in boiling water, then ice water, (Except for corn on the cob, most vegetables should be blanced 2 to 3 minutes).

Broccoli, 3 minutes
Cabbage, 3 minutes (cut into wedges)Corn on the cob, 6 to 10 minutes
Green beans, 3 minutes
Peas, 1 to 2 minutes
Swiss chard and other tender greens, 1-1/2 to 2 minutes (avoid matting leaves)Zucchini slice, blanch 3 minutes

Tomatoes taste better when sliced in half, and baked or roasted on a cookie sheet, (350 degrees for 30 minutes for large tomatoes). Or you can blanch them for 30 seconds.

Do not freeze too much at one time in your freezer. It could raise the interior temperature. Leave space between packages so air can circulate freely until frozen.

Can if you can
Canning takes some time. It’s more fun when you can with friends or family, plus it’s less work. You will have the sweet, or sour rewards all winter long, so much better than store-bought. You will thank yourself and your canning buddies. Hot water bath canning is good for high acid foods, like tomatoes, pickles and relishes. It’s also good for sugary spreads, jams and jellies. You need to buy jars, lids and a big stockpot with wire canning rack. The pan needs to be 3-5 inches deeper than your canning jars. For other foods, like green beans, a pressure canner is needed.For further information, get the Ball Blue Book Guide to Home Canning, Freezing & Dehydration. It is a very good, easy-to-reference guide, and it under $10. It is available

For a good salsa recipe, see my recipe page on the right or click here,

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The need to weed, or not

I may be crazy, but I like to weed, it's therapeutic. You can solve some serious problems in the zone of weeding. It's also good for when I'm mad at, not you.
Unfortunately, weeding is not good for my back so I'm always open to new ways to cut down on the Need to Weed.
Here are some ways to reduce weeding and ease the weeding experience.

1. Mulch to prevent weeding. You can use a number of items. I am heading out to the garden this morning to rake water weeds from the pond for mulch. Other materials you can use, to avoid buying expensive bags of mulch include wet newspapers, straw, grass clippings, leaves, aged manure and aged compost. Manure should not be fresh.
2. Cover it up. Place cover down where you aren't growing anything, like in walkways and borders around the garden. We laid strips of old carpet one year. Black plastic with mulch on top, is good for the walkways. Rototilling between the rows is efficient for keeping the weeds under control, but it needs to be done every three weeks. If you use want to use weed block or landscaping cloth, don't bother buying the cheap woven kind, the roots of the weeds get stuck, creating more work. There's a bonded type, if you want to spend the money.
3. Hoe hum. Hoe the little weeds, that are less than once inch and pull the larger weeds. Hoe 3 to 4 inches deep. I really don't like to hoe, so I usually wait until the weeds are big enough to pull.
4. Weeding is Zen. Weed when the soil is moist or water beforehand and wait a few hours. Remember to water after you weed. I take a tool and loosen the soil before pulling weeds. A tool like the hula hoe which looks like a hoop on a stick or the mini rake or a pronged tool can help loosen the soil. You can use a hand trowel to dig up the big weeds. I do my best thinking while weeding.
5. Garden yoga. My friend Mickey told me her trick to weeding includes the three yoga poses of weeding, (no kidding). Bend over and pull. If you do that too many times, you'll feel it for a week. Squat down on your haunches. I can only do this for a few minutes. Kneeling. This works great until you need to move.
You can add various yoga poses, like crossing your legs while stretching over to pull weeds, maybe meditate a bit too while you're down there. You can spread your legs and do a leg stretch in between weed pulling as well. The main thing is to change positions to prevent continuous repetitive motions.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Farmers markets are open in Oakland County

There's a market open in the county, every day of the week except Monday. The most popular day is Saturday.

Oakland County farmers markets

Birmingham Farmers Market, 660 N. Old Woodward Ave., Parking Lot No. 6 N. Old Woodward Ave., north of Harmon St., open 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Sundays, May 3 to Oct. 18, 248-530-1200,

Clarkston Farmers Market, 6558 Waldon Road, in the front lot of the Renaissance High School/Community Education building in Clarkston. Open 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Saturdays, June 6 to Oct. 10, 248-821-4769,

not open yet- Clawson Farmers Market, Clawson City Park, 1080 N. Custer open 10 a.m.- 2 p.m. Sundays, July 12 to Sept. 27, 248-435-6500,

Farmington Farmers and Artisans Market, at Walter E. Sundquist Pavilion, 33113 Grand River Ave., at Grove St., open 9 a.m.- 2 p.m. Saturdays, May to Nov. 7, 248-473-7276 ext. 13,

Huron Valley Farmers Market, 300 W. Livingston, Highland Township, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays, May 2 to Oct. 3, 248-755-1195,

Downtown Lake Orion Farmers Market , 93 S. Anderson Street, two blocks south of Flint Street and one block east of Broadway, near Children’s Park. open 2 -7 p.m. Wednesdays, June 17 to Oct. 21, 248-390-1653,

Lathrup Village Farmers Market, 27400 Southfield Road, Lathrup Village, open 2-7 p.m., Wednesdays, June  to Oct. 14,

Milford Farmers Market, on East Liberty Street between S. Main Street and Union Street open 3-8 p.m., Thursdays, May  through Oct. 15, 248-496-7056, 

Northville Farmers Market Northville Downs Track, 7 Mile and Sheldon, open 8 a.m.-2 p.m., Thursdays, May to Oct. 29, 248-349-7640,

The Novi All Seasons Market (formerly the Novi Farmers Market) is 9 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays, May 2-Oct. 24 at the Novi Civic Center Campus, 45175 Ten Mile Road. There is also a mid-week market at the MSU Extension Tollgate Education Farm is 4-7 p.m. Wednesdays, June 17 to Oct. 21 at 28115 Meadowbrook Road, Novi,, 248-347-0588.

Oakland County Farmers Market, 2350 Pontiac Lake Road, Waterford Township. open 7 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays, May to December and Saturdays year-round, 248-858-5495,

Ortonville’s Beets, Beats and Eats, 395 Mill St. Crossman Park, downtown Ortonville, open 6-9 p.m., Fridays, June 12 to Aug. 28, 248-240-0907,

Oxford Farmers Market, Northwest parking lot of M-24 and Burdick, behind the Funky Monkey, open 2-7 p.m. Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays, May to mid October,

Rochester Farmers Market, E. Third and Water Street, open 8 a.m.- 1 p.m. Saturdays, May - Oct. 31, 248-656-0060,

Beaumont Hospital Royal Oak Farmers Market: 3601 W. 13 Mile Road, Royal Oak, at the entrance to the South Tower of the hospital, open 8 a.m.- 2 p.m. Thursdays through Oct. 1, parking, in the south parking deck, across from the hospital, is free, 248-898-3031,

Royal Oak Farmers Market, 316 E. 11 Mile, open 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Fridays, May to December and Saturdays, year-round. 248-246-3276,

South Lyon Farmers Market, downtown at Pontiac Trail and Liberty Street, South Lyon. Open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays, May to Oct. 24,  248-437-1735,

 Springfield Farmers Market, 12000 Davisburg Road, Davisburg, open 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Sundays, June 21 to Oct. 18, 248-846-6558,

Walled Lake Farmers Market, 1499 E. West Maple, Walled Lake, open 7 a.m.-1 p.m. Wednesdays, May through October, 248-624-4847,

Wixom Farmers Market, at Sibley Square Park, 48900 Pontiac Trail, Wixom, 3-8 p.m. Thursdays, June 4-Aug. 13, 248-624-2850,

not open - Auburn Hills Farmers Market, not open 2015 season due to city building construction,  3308 Auburn Road, 248-504-8102,

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Ortonville Beets Beats & Eats is Friday nights in the park

Kimberly Pendygraft of Howell with her produce and products visits with shoppers Greg and Sue Belik, soon to be Ortonville residents.

Ortonville’s Beets, Beats and Eats offers entertainment and meals 6-9 p.m. Friday nights through Aug. 28. The opening night was June 12 with live music. Taco meals, hand-made items, canned goods and produce were available for purchase. The market is held at Crossman Park, 395 Mill St. Crossman Park, downtown Ortonville. Admission is free. For more information, call 248-240-0907, or visit

Saturday, June 13, 2015

It's strawberry season in Michigan

Stacy Janiga, co-owner of Middleton Berry Farm
The strawberries are ripe for picking at Middleton Berry Farm of Ortonville. The official start date for the U-Pick farm is Tuesday, June 16. The hours vary, call (248) 831-1004 or find them on Facebook, Middleton Berry Farm.

Strawberries are $1.80 per pound. It is recommended to bring your own container and have it weighed before picking. The farm is charging $1 for large picking boxes or $.50 for quart boxes.

Stacy Janiga said when the berries are ripe, they will nearly fall off when you pick them.
They recommend washing the berries with the stem on, this prevents water from getting inside the berries, which loses the flavor.
Sisters, Stacy and Carrie Janiga purchased the farm in 2014 from longtime residents Bill and Barb Middleton. The Janigas are working to keep the farm going, while maintaining full-time jobs. They have hired help who previously worked for the Middleton couple.
"Last year we were just getting started. This year, we're a little more prepared," said Stacy Janiga.
She said they are trying to be as environmentally friendly as possible.
"Our strawberries are grown using IPM (Integrated Pest Management). This means we use minimal chemicals and use organic solutions when possible, including hand weeding of all fields."

Middleton Berry Farm
4790 Oakwood Rd, Ortonville, MI 48462
Phone: (248) 831-1004
Directions: Go five miles east of Ortonville Road between M-15 and M-24. From I-75 take Exit 84 (Baldwin Road). Go north on Baldwin Road 10 miles to Oakwood Road, turn left. Farm is one mile on the left.
Facebook: Middleton Berry Farm

Updated with first name correction in photo.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Plants that deer and rabbits don't eat, as much

First of all, deer absolutely love hostas. If you like watching deer in your backyard, plant a whole bunch of hostas.
Sometimes, it's hopeless, because deer will eat nearly anything growing in your yard. The plants that have the best chance of surviving the foraging of deer, are flowers and plants that have a pungent scent; fuzzy, coarse or spiny leaves or an unpleasant or bitter taste. Deer don't usually eat herbs because of their pungent scent.

Flowers that are usually left alone by deer, most of these are perennials
Alyssum - annual
Amaranth - annual
Black-eyed Susan
Butterfly bush
Butterfly weed
Cone flower
Cosmos - annual
Evening primrose
Four O' Clock
Hen and chicks
Marigold - annual
Morning Glory
Salvia - annual
Snapdragon - annual
Zinnia - annual

Deer resistant herbs
Marjoram, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Spearmint and Thyme

Deer resistant vegetables
I have found that deer will eat jalapenos when hungry enough, but that's not their first choice. They don't usually eat onion, potato, squash and tomato plants or parsley or other herbs.
Their favorites as I know from personal experience, are green beans, Swiss chard, spinach, lettuce, carrots, peas and broccoli, beets and other greens.

Renee's has a list of deer resistant plant varieties, Also check with the Michigan State County Extension office

Rabbits are attracted to most of the same things as deer. One of their favorites is young tulip shoots. In the winter, rabbits nibble on landscape plants, roses, raspberries, apple, cherry and plum trees.
Yesterday, I noticed some damage on phlox which is most likely from rabbits. 
Deer leave torn leaves with jagged edges, while rabbits and other rodents will make a clean cut, often at an angle. Sometimes you can see deer or rabbit tracks, or rabbit excrement to pinpoint the perpetrator.
Deterring small and large (deer) rodents is not easy. We have a joke about deer bathing with Irish Spring soap at our house, but it seems to keep the bunnies away if I cut it in pieces and spread around the plants. I planted marigolds around the perimenter of our garden and that helped throw rodents off the scent of our vegetables. Our garden which is also fenced, was not disturbed by rodents that year. There are also products available to repel deer, called "Deer Away" and "Hinder."

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Picking herbs and greens

Trimming herbs and greens is helpful to the plants and encourages renewed growth. For spinach, just pinch leaves at the base of the leaf. Leaves should be at least four inches long. Like spinach, the best way to pick parsley, and many herbs and leafy vegetables, is to snip the whole leaf and stem at the stock. For Swiss chard, you can twist the leaf's stem and pinch off near the ground.
Basil's a little different. You should cut the stock or branch, just above leaves, yet below the leaves you want to harvest. Picking in the morning is the best time of day, especially for greens and herbs.
Pick leaves often to prevent the plants from bolting, or going to seed. Because once they go to seed, many of the plants lose their flavor or stop producing leaves.
For Rosemary and sage, cut five inch branches and hang to air dry or chop and freeze herbs in ice cube trays or clumps in a freezer bag.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Rhubarb recipes

Rhubarb Bars
3 cups rhubarb, chopped
1 ½ cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 ¼ cup water
3 Tablespoons corn starch
1 ½ cup rolled oats
1 ½ cup rolled flour
1 cup brown sugar
½ tsp. baking soda
1 cup butter
½ cup nuts
Combine rhubarb, sugar, vanilla, cornstarch and water. Cook on stove until thick, cool slightly. Combine oats, flour, brown sugar, soda, butter and nuts. Mix until crumbly. Put ¾ of mixture into 15 1/3 x 10 ½ jelly roll pan. Spread rhubarb mixture on top. Cover with remaining crumbs. Bake at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes.

Rhubarb cheesecake
¼ cup corn starch
1 cup sugar
½ tsp salt
½ cup water
2-1/2 cups rhubarb, cut in ½ inch pieces
1 unbaked pie crust, regular or graham cracker

1 package 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
In a saucepan, combine first 3 ingredients, then the water and rhubarb. Bring to boil, stirring often until mixture thickens. Pour into pie shell and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes. Protect edges of crust with aluminum foil. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Turn oven down to 325 degrees.
Meanwhile beat topping ingredients until smooth. Pour on top of pie. Bake for 35 minutes in 325 oven or until set. Chill and garnish with whipped cream, and sliced almonds or strawberries.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Asparagus recipes

Grilled or baked asparagus
Rub olive oil on spears, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes or grill for 5-10 minutes, depending on temperature and thickness of asparagus.

Ham and Swiss, asparagus spirals
Pre-fry asparagus spears in olive oil, then lay on a slice of ham and cheese, dollop with Dijon mustard and roll up with the asparagus in the middle. Slice into spirals 1-1/2 inches wide. Dip in seasoned bread crumbs, insert toothpick to hold each spiral together, and fry in oil.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Is it safe to plant?

It's always a gamble with when to plant fair weather transplants. The weather was warm early this year, then it cooled down again with frost advisories every other night.
I always wait until Memorial Weekend to plant tomatoes and peppers because they grow slower when it gets too cold at night. Besides I'm lazy about covering them at night. Normally I plant beans and squash seeds around May 15, but I was out of town and it's just as well, since they wouldn't have made much progress with these cooler temperatures.
All is not lost if it does frost. If you have plants or flowering trees that are frost sensitive and you didn't get them covered before a frost, go outside before the sun shines on the plants and spray water on them, rinsing off the frost. This works for a light frost, but not for a hard frost or freeze.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Annuals and more offered at Oakland Technical Center campuses

• Spring Plant Sale is 8 a.m.-2 p.m. May 13 at Oakland Technical Center-NW Campus, 8211 Big Lake Road, Clarkston. Annual and Perennials, vegetables and unusual plants. Greenhouses are open 8-10 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday to Friday, May 14-29.

• 43rd annual Garden Center Sale is 8-9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, through June 10 at Oakland Schools Technical Campus Southwest, 1000 Beck Road, Wixom, 248-668-5634. Also open Mother’s Day weekend, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. May 9-10.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Farmers markets are opening with plants and more

• Birmingham Farmers Market opens May 3 at Birmingham’s Public Parking Lot 6 on the east side of North Old Woodward, Birmingham. Fresh produce, baked goods and flowers, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., Sundays,, 248-530-1200.

• Oakland County Farmers Market, 2350 Pontiac Lake Road, Waterford Township. is open 7 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays May to December, 248-858-5495,

• The City of Walled Lake’s Park & Recreation Commission Farmers Market begins May 6 and runs Wednesdays, 7 a.m.-1 p.m. through the end of October at the Walled Lake City Event Field, 1499 E. West Maple Road Walled Lake, 248-624-4847,

• Milford Farmers Market to kick off season of fresh produce, live music, family actiivities, May 7 on East Liberty Street in downtown Milford. The market will meet 3-8 p.m. Thursdays through Oct. 15. Decorate your own cupcake free at Milford Baking Company’s cupcake station, May 7,

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Those dirty worms make the garden better

1. To start a worm farm, get a wooden container that has holes. Small holes can be drilled into the container, but not big enough for escapees. Plastic containers aren't a good choice because they keep the worm farm too wet. You also need a lid to keep the rain out.
2. Add bedding material like dead plants, leaves and/or newspaper clippings and some soil.
3. Add green material like household fruit and vegetable scraps and egg shells.
4. Just add worms. You can dig them up in your yard. (A great place to find worms is under dead wood in moist areas. Don't dig them up from the garden though, leave those there. If all else fails, you can buy them at various places. The best composting worms are Red Wigglers, according to several reports. I saw Gurney's is selling them in their garden catalog.
5. Periodically, add more bedding material and scraps.
This article tells all about worm composting:

Having worms in the garden has many benefits, such as aerating the soil to allow better water flow and breaking down organic matter. For composting outside the garden, the benefit of worms is in their excrement. But if you don't want to compost with worms, there's a Waterford man who has bagged worm waste for purchase at Walmart. His company is called Earthworm Castings Unlimited and the product is Earthworm Castings Soil Enricher.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Attracting butterflies and bees

I was reading about flower and plant selection for the yard. I don't usually spend much time on non food-producing plants, because it seems like a waste of money and time.
But with the Colony Collapse Disorder affecting bees,  it's a good idea to plant flowers that attract pollinators to improve the success of crops and increase the local bee and butterfly population.
Common flowers that are attractive to pollinators are poppy, lupine, viola, wallflower, black-eyed Susan, Butterfly flower, Calendula, Dahlia, Amaranth, Marigold, Salvia, Sunflower, Zinnia, Portulaca, Lavender, Foxglove, Cosmos, Coneflower and Echinacea.
Anybody who has run barefoot in a yard knows that clover attracts bees. It is a great ground cover plant too.
Garden plants that are highly attractive to bees and butterflies include parsley, cilantro, thyme, dill, basil, chives, peas, squash and pumpkin. So I will plant as much of these as I can.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Upcoming gardening activities

• Ugly garden sweater themed, Ladies Night Out event is 6-9 p.m. April 17 at Heavenly Scent Herb Farm, 13730 White Lake Road, Fenton, free event, 810-629-9208,
• The Raising Rochester 3rd Annual Big Build is 9 a.m.-5 p.m. April 18 and noon-5 p.m. April 19 at the City of Rochester Hills Department of Public Services facility, 511 Auburn Road, Rochester. At the Big Build, they will build new raised beds and kits, email
• Invasive Plant Workdays is 2-4 p.m. April 19 and April 22, plus future dates through May at Seven Ponds Nature Center, 3854 Crawford Road, Dryden, 810-796-3200.
• Community Garden Sites are available for seniors, 50+ at the Troy Farm at Beach Road and South Blvd., in Troy. Plots measure approximately 20’ x 20’ and are limited to one per household. The ground is tilled and water is provided. The fee is $70, NR $80. Gardens are available for planting beginning May 1. Call the Troy Recreation Department at 248-524-3484.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Finding the right seed and planting time

There are many different types of seeds available. Not only are there different varieties of the same plant, there are different ways the seeds are produced. There are cultivar (cultivated variety which can be a hybrid or open-pollinated); genetically engineered; genetically modified; open-pollinated; hybrid; heirloom and of course organic. For more information on this, visit

Here's some of the top seed and nursery catalog companies: seed and nursery nonprofit heirloom seeds since 1881 seed and nursery since 1907

In Southeast Michigan, it is time, actually past time, to plant peas, potatoes, lettuce, onions, radishes and parsley, and of course the greens: spinach, Swiss chard, kale, etc... 
The plants aforementioned can actually be planted outside as soon as the ground is workable, usually in mid-March, this year it was late March.
Broccoli, cabbage, celery, kahlrabi, Brussels spouts and cauliflower plants can be planted outside at this time.
But it's best to wait until mid-May to plant beans and squash seeds outside.
Then, wait until late May to plant the eggplant, peppers and tomato plants. It seems if you put these plants outside while it's still cold, the plants will grow slowly until it warms up and be wimpy, defeating the early planting.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

6 steps to start growing indoors

It was so cold for so long, that it's just now feeling like spring. Every year, I think about starting seeds indoors and most years, I don't get a round "tuit."  This year will be different though. Rather than think about it and talk about it,  I am going to just do it. Wait, I'll post this first...

6 steps to growing indoors:
1. For containers, use plastic cell containers with covers or egg cartons with holes poked in the bottom and saran wrap on top. (Or reuse the annual flats from last year.) You can also use wood pulp pots or peat pellets. Whatever you use, make sure it has drainage.
2. Fill with potting soil, preferably a mix with sphagnum peat moss. Moisten the soil. 
3.Plant a few seeds, not many, about 1/8 inch deep and pat the soil lightly. Then cover with plastic and place in a very warm place, out of direct sunlight.
4. Keep watered. Once the seeds sprout, move the pots to a bright spot, a south-facing window is best. Water often, but not too much or too fast. The plants are fragile. If they get too big for their containers, move them to bigger pots. 
5. When it gets close to planting time, it's time to harden them by placing them outside during the day, to get used to it, but not in direct sunlight at first. Bring them in every night.
6. When it's warm enough at night, transplant to the garden. Dig a hole slightly deeper than the pot and put the plant in, supporting it with your fingers. Firm the soil gently around the stem. Water carefully.

For tomatoes, it takes 6-8 weeks before they'll be ready to transplant outside. We always wait until Memorial Day to put tomatoes and peppers out, because you don't gain any growing time by putting them out too early. The plants grow much better when it's warmer at night. Besides, I don't like covering plants in the garden every time there's a frost warning.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

It's time for maple syrup

We are tapping maple trees and right now, boiling down the watery sap for maple syrup in the Blake kitchen.
The process is pretty straightforward, but you need a little bit of equipment and clean buckets or milk jugs to collect the sap. So if you drive by trees that have jugs hanging on them, you can bet they're being tapped for sap. 
The next step is to strain the sap with mesh strainer and then boil it down to syrup. It takes a lot of sap to make a little syrup, but it's delicious. Here's a link with step by step instructions, maple syrup.

There are maple syrup events happening in Oakland County this weekend and next weekend.
For Indian Springs Metro Park in White Lake, call 248-625-7280 to register. It's $5 per person plus park admission (if you don't have a pass) to attend. Huron-Clinton Metroparks

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Get your garden soil ready

It feels like spring and most greens can be planted right now: lettuce, parsley, Swiss chard, kale, spinach and peas, to name a few.
But first, it's necessary to prepare the garden soil. After clearing the garden or a space for a new garden, work some aged manure or compost into the soil before planting with a pitchfork or rototiller. If you want to be scientific, you can get your soil tested at the Oakland County Extension office,
There are a number of places that sell manure, such as horse farms; Be sure it is aged and wear rubber gloves when handling it. Do not use raw manure. Cook's Farm Dairy in Ortonville sells cow manure.
Commercially packed manure is pre-composted, and can be purchased at most garden centers.
South Oakland County Recycling Partners sells screened compost at a very reasonable price.
To make your own compost, see the page on this blog about organic farmers' solutions. 3 challenges of organic gardening
If possible, let the garden rest a day or two before planting.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Sprouting til spring

It's that time of year when the Gurney's and Burpee catalogs have sent their first wave of catalogs and the coupons have expired. I could order seeds, but I haven't even thought about gardening. It's way too early to order plants, in case they send them too soon. Michigan is in Zone 5 and most catalogs will have a map of the United States by zone. In our zone, we can plant spinach, Swiss chard, parsley, kale and other greens as soon as the ground can be worked, mid-March, that's a month away! I better place my order.
While I wait, I have taken to sprouting Mung beans for my gardening and fresh produce fix.
For more information, visit