Wednesday, August 24, 2016

West End Fair 2016

It is West End Fair week in Monroe County, PA, providing evidence that the farm culture is alive and well in the part of the world I now call home. The mural on the building housing the flower exhibits declares, "The Earth Laughs in Flowers," -- Ralph Waldo Emerson. The quotation is in English and in Pennsylvania German, usually called Pennsylvania Dutch, reflecting the heritage of this region. The language was brought to PA by immigrants from SW Germany and Switzerland between 1750 and 1815. The fair was born in 1920 with the purpose of holding an annual display of farming products. Today, it is so much more: exhibits of flowers and vegetables, home-made goods, farm animals, children's activities, carnival rides, chainsaw carving, tractor pulls and demolition derbies, concerts, and vendors of everything from furniture to food. Oh yes, the food is great!  "The West End Fair is a fine, old-fashioned annual community event " said yesterday's editorial in the Pocono Record. So very true.

I'm happy to be part of the fun again this year although it entails a lot of work. I was fortunate to have the help of grandson, Jon, again. He is a teenager now, so I'm pleased he still wanted to assist me. We entered twenty-eight flowers and herbs, one vegetable (beets) and our pickled beets in the canned goods section. Of our thirty entries, twenty-nine received awards, with six blue ribbons including a 'Best of Show' plus twelve second place ribbons. Three of our flower entries were 'shelf displays.' These are small displays to fit on a shelf no larger than 12'' deep x18" wide. Each display must include at least three items one of which must be an arrangement of fresh flowers. Jon and I chose three categories: Ethnic Display, Patriotic and Nursery Rhyme. The shelf displays are the most fun for us.

One area of shelf displays. There is always a lot of competition.
Our 'Ethnic' display celebrated Queen Elizabeth's 90th birthday. It took 2nd place.
Gold flowers for the ethnic display: zinnias, marigolds and rudbeckia

First place for our 'Patriotic' shelf display.
 Red, white and blue flowers of course for the patriotic category: red zinnias, red snapdragons, white phlox, white yarrow 'the pearl,' and blue lobelia.

For the nursery rhyme display we chose Old Mother Hubbard which was very appropriate as my name is Hubbard (I'm New Mother Hubbard, however.) We named the dog 'Duke,' printing it on his kerchief and on his dog dish. The local residents who grew up with my husband enjoyed this as H.H.'s nickname is 'Duke.' By the way, the judges don't know the names of any entrants when they are judging. Old Mother Hubbard took 'Best of Show.'

Nursery Rhyme Display: Old Mother Hubbard.
Mixed colors: zinnias, campanula, mint, petunias in a 'doggy' mug given to H.H. by grandson, Mateo, last Christmas.

In the 'specimen flowers' categories, Hydrangea 'Pinkie Winkie' took a blue ribbon for a second year.  

Hydrangea 'Pinkie Winkie'

'Pinkie Winkie's' blossom is white, gradually turning pink as the summer progresses. I entered it as a pink hydrangea.

I started gaillardia from seed (indoors) for the first time this year. I'm pleased it took second place.

White phlox also took second place.

We had a very hot summer with long periods without rain and I was away from home on three occasions for as much as a week at a time. While I have a quantity of vegetables, Jon and I decided the quality just isn't there this year. We entered red beets, of course, and they took a third place.

Lots of competition in the vegetable section.  Our beets are third from the left on the bottom.

In the herbs section, my borage, sweet woodruff and yarrow 'the pearl' took first places.

How I love borage and it didn't let me down.

Borage against the picket fence in the kitchen garden.

Jon and I examined all the exhibits and decided this scarecrow was our favorite:

Finally, as always the Monroe County master gardeners did a wonderful display that took first place in its category. Here is just a small corner of it ...

The West End Fair has a website for more information. Click here.  You can read my postings about previous fairs by clicking the year:

The weather is beautiful and I'm missing another great Fair day. Must dash.

Pamela x

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Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Kitchen Garden Update

It's been a good year for my kitchen garden in spite of the extreme heat, humidity and almost daily thunder storms. I planted 'tried-and-true' vegetables - nothing new - and had a good harvest; some veggies still producing. I grew bush beans, pole beans, snow peas, peppers, egg plant, tomato, red beets, zucchinni, cucumbers and onions. Of course, I grew annual flowers from seed and placed them near the vegetables to encourage pollinators: zinnias, marigolds, sunflowers, borage, morning glory and gerbera daisies. There are various milkweeds at the bottom of the garden. In addition, over the years some perennial flowers (purple cone flower and phlox) sneaked in from the cottage garden border on the other side of the fence. Consequently, August is a very colorful month in my kitchen garden.

One of my most successful veggies this year is the snow pea. As a cold-season plant it is usually completely finished by July. This morning I picked yet another handful to steam and add to H.H.'s dinner plate. I froze several pints last month.

 'Mammoth Melting' Snow Peas -- Annie's Heirloom Seeds

I purchase only organic vegetable seeds and use organic methods of gardening.

'Mammoth Melting' Snow Pea

I'm experiencing a superabundance of cucumbers. Usually I press zucchini on all my friends, neighbors and family, but this year they are trying to escape my cukes. I should have counted the dozens I've picked. I've put them in salads, made cucumber-dill sandwiches and freezer pickles -- we'll be eating freezer pickles until next summer. Good thing we love them.

'Straight Eight' Cucumber -- Annie's Heirloom Seeds

I bought one tomato plant from a friend's farm stand. He didn't have it labelled so we took a chance. It is loaded with tomatoes but they are really slow to ripen, so we've only picked four or five so far. I sliced them and made our favorite Caprese salad with mozzarella and basil. I have the BEST basil this year.

Tomato (unknown) and Tagetes erecta Marigold "Moonsong'

We have an excellent feed store owned by our friend Mel who supplies us with hay and all we need for my miniature horse and goat. She even took care of them while we were away recently. Mel sold me a set of onions that are becoming fat and full of flavorsome promise. (How's that for alliteration?)

Yellow onions

The 16  squares of red beets I planted (I use the square-foot gardening method) produced many more than I expected as I was sure the sparrows had eaten most of the seeds. Grandson Jon and I already canned several pints including one labelled for entering at the West End Fair. Our pickled beets took a blue ribbon last year.

'Detroit Dark Red' beets in front of Zinnia 'Cut and Come Again.'
Shelf of pickled beets in the jelly cabinet.

 More flowers in the kitchen garden ...

Pink phlox and 'Giant Cactus' zinnia.
My first attempt at growing gerbera daisies from seed.

 Every morning I examine the milkweed for Monarch Butterfly larva. I've seen none this year. The dill plants, however, have hosted several Eastern swallowtail butterfly caterpillars and I saw one on the parsley.

Eastern swallowtail butterfly caterpillar on dill plant.

 The herb garden on the patio flourished all summer with parsley, basil, sage and lettuce. I also planted Swiss chard there. Around the patio I placed containers of canna which provide a sense of enclosure and privacy. Canna 'Striata' is especially lovely for its gold striped foliage which seems almost translucent when the setting sun shines through.

Patio herb garden and giant pots of Canna 'Striata'

 Another new plant this year is my dwarf Joe Pye Weed. I'm really pleased with this choice because I don't have room for the regular sized one. It is a bee magnet.

Eupatorium dubium Joe Pye Weed 'Baby Joe'
Volunteer morning glory, orange flower of the canna and hydrangea 'Pinky Winky'

Lobelia siphilitica 'Great Blue' Lobelia
Lycoris squamigera Surprise Lily

 Finally, a peep into Serenity, the shade garden that is no longer in full shade since we removed the silver maple. I hate the openness and strong sunlight, but have switched out some plants and it's looking better. The lawn, destroyed by sawdust, is slowly greening again with the addition of some nitrogen.

Less serene Serenity Garden

Hakenechloa macra Japanese Forest Grass 'All Gold' in front of Red Twig Dogwood 'Pucker Up!'

 We hosted another picnic and garden tour this weekend. Some of the young guests had great fun giving Dude a new 'do' by braiding his mane. He very patiently allows many indignities. When I took his picture this morning I saw that most of his braids had fallen out. He still looks cute.

I'm linking to Carol's blog, May Dreams Gardens, for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day -- a day late (sorry, Carol.) I'm picking red beets as my must-have plant for Diana's Dozen at Elephant's Eye on False Bay -- also late (sorry Diana.) Red beets are not pretty like Diana's Dombeya, but I have to have them. Do check out these two excellent blogs!

How is your kitchen garden this year? I hope it's doing as well as mine.

Happy Gardening!

Pamela x

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