Or, why is there a big pile of basil on my counter? They looked so modest when first planted back in May – one stem, a few leaves…who knew that they would turn into 5′ multi-stemmed plants? Well yes I knew, but between one growing season and another that lesson was un-learned.

And another lesson un-learned is that basil leaves needs to be picked regularly. When the plants started to outgrow consumption, it needed to be whacked back. Cutting off half – ore more – of the stems is about right. Otherwise the basil starts to go to seed and the plant’s energy turns from leaf production to seed production.

And if you forget both of these lessons, you’ll end up with a  big pile delightful overabundance of basil on your counter. Next up, what in the world will I do with this big pile?


Hard to believe my Serviceberry tree (Amelanchier laevis) looked like this when it was planted in 2010. As part of  DC’s DOE RiverSmart Home Program, my front yard was BayScaped  which included a native tree planted by Casey Trees

Each year my tree has grown, but this year it GREW! And this year it demonstrated why it is called Serviceberry – we had a delightful overabundance of serviceberries! There was enough to share with the birds (or the birds shared with me). In any case, a long cool spring resulted in beautiful serviceberries by the bucketful (ka-plink, ka-plank, ka-plunk).


Amelanchier  laevis

Delightful overabundance, that’s the term I was looking for to describe when my garden begins to produce just a few too many cucumbers and tomatoes.  I mean, I like cucumbers but think my RDA is two per day and I’m picking four/day.

After giving away what I can to neighbors, etc I still have plenty of produce.  Because the next day there are four more cucumbers and five more tomatoes,

There are plenty of things to do with excess  – I mean a delightful overabundance – of  vegetables. First up, pickles! I was looking for an easy refrigerator kind of pickle and found this SmittenKitchen recipe which served as the foundation. I added other spices – pickling spice from the last time I made pickles, dill weed and seed, hot pepper flakes. A little sugar, some garlic. Now comes the hard part – waiting until they are ready.

Raw pickles

Pickles and cukes








Note:  As you can see, the number of cucumbers has not decreased substantially. While I wasn’t looking, they made more.

An unexpected and prolonged blogging break, but Helios Monroe is open for blogging business again. And what better way to start than this season’s first garden haul.

The first cherry tomatoes were ripe on June 28th – Sungold cherries which are early, prolific and disease resistant :


Fast forward a few weeks –  here comes pepper, edamame, lots of cucumbers and the last of the peas. And tomatoes! And, some bonus volunteer sunflowers:










This Brandywine tomato deserved a photo of its own:










And what to make with this garden bounty? First up, a Turkish Shepherd’s Salad (also known as Çoban Salatası).  Now I have to think of something special for this beautiful Brandywine tomato. Suggestions welcome!




While striking with green markings and a brown dot in the middle resembling a saddle, the saddleback caterpillar (Acharia stimulea) comes complete with a set of spiny horns fore and aft. Spines are also found along the body.

When prodded, the caterpillar arches in such a way so as to bring the maximum number of spines to bear on its attacker. And about these spines –  they are filled with venom both hemolytic (destroys tissue) and vesicating  (blistering) making the sting more painful than a wasp or a hornet.

Which is all to say if you accidentally grab one when putting your hand on a fence post, be prepared for a major “ouch” and a few hours with an ice pack.

While some weevils are destructive, there are also ones that fit under the “benefical” category. Such is the Rhinocominus latipes or mile-a-minute weevil.

As the name indicates, the mile-a-minute weevil’s diet is mile-a-minute, an invasive weed  accidentally introduced in the 1930’s in York, PA and now found in 12 nearby states.

Although it doesn’t quite grow a mile a minute, this invasive weed can grow 6″ a day.  A single plant can produce 2,000 seeds and can quickly cover shrubs and small trees. You’ll know it by it’s light green triangular leaves and sharp barbs along the stem – which is why it is also known as tearthumb.

The Rhinocominus latipes weevil has been used to significantly decrease mile-a-minute cover and seed production. And it is host-specific (only affecting mile-a-minute vines).  A recent story in the Baltimore Sun describes how it is being used in Maryland.

So where can I get my hands on this handy bug?

At least I knew what it was when it dropped out of nowhere onto on my arm and started marching upward towards my green “Christmas in April” t-shirt. I was sitting in the dining room at the farm minding my own business when this happened.  Sure enough, it was a Sycamore Tussock Moth, previously identified when it was making tracks along the top of the picnic table.

Perhaps it mistook the green of my shirt for it’s normal habitat- that being a Sycamore (or Linden) tree.

And when one dropped onto the book Ba was reading in the kitchen, she knew it wasn’t a bookworm but rather an outdoor type of critter that needed to be returned to it’s preferred dwelling. They are interesting bugs, don’t you think?


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