Saturday, June 28, 2014

A Dog Eared Beehive

Western Italian Bees - Apis mellifera ligustica - Honeybees
Western Italian Bees - Apis mellifera ligustica - Honeybees
Why Build A Beehive

This story begins with our being adopted by a colony of Western Italian honeybees.  It was really odd.  We were talking the week before about possibly starting a beehive and the following week we had a swarm building a nest in the hollow bricks of our retaining wall.  We are concerned it will become too hot and they may fly away, so we decided to build a low cost beehive.  First, we wanted to be sure we could keep a hive in the city, so we researched the local Apiary laws.

Lucky for us, we have ample room and based on our lot size we don't require permission to keep a few hives on our lot.  Green light means go!

A Few Dog Eared Planks


To get started at minimal cost and ease for "newbee" keepers, we decided on building a top frame hive, hybridized from a few plans we found online.  Because we want it to be durable and inexpensive to build, we selected cedar dog-eared planks.

While cedar isn't the only choice for making a beehive, it is quite acceptable:
Cedar: Cedar is a beautiful wood, and it smells divine. The natural oils make it less prone to warping, less susceptible to bug infiltration, and less likely to rot than other woods. Though you can paint it, you certainly don’t have to because of its naturally durable qualities. Left untreated it will weather to a lovely, light gray patina. Frankly, were it not for the fact that it’s more expensive than pine, many would use it for every beehive. Many varieties of cedar exist, and depending on where you live, cedar lumber can sometimes be tricky to find. Western red cedar is the most widely available type across the United States.
The planks are about 6', so we trimmed them down to 4' and 2' pieces for making the top frame sides, roof and ends.

Making The Planks 'Right'


We need the sides to be flat and smooth for biscuit joining, so the planks were run across the table saw with the blade at 90 degrees. They look so much better with just the sides smoothed down.

Following the smoothing and flattening, we marked two planks side by side and then used a plate joiner to make cuts for the biscuits.  The biscuit cuts are a bit difficult to see on this sample image, but the transformation of the good 'ol dog ear planks is very cool!  Hard to believe these pieces started out looking like some sad old fence planks...

Cooking With Biscuits


Following making cuts, we used a polyurethane based construction adhesive that is weather-proof and water-proof to hopefully match the durability of the cedar planks.  We selected this method in order to minimize the amount of metal used in creating the hive and to make as seamless a join between the planks as possible.

Clamping It Down


Once the biscuit joins are put together we need to solidify the deal by clamping down the planks.  We exerted force on the top and bottom of the side walls.  We also exerted force across the interior/exterior ends to force the planks flat during the curing process.

We did the same for the end walls.  By forcing the planks to cure flat,
straight and with a seamless join, we are basically creating our 11" sides of the top frame hive.

Checking The Work


We waited 24 hours, removed the clamps and checked the boards to view our work.  It worked!  Very well!  The small Western red cedar dog ears joined together straight and pretty level.

The long side and roof planks turned out just as well, and we're excited to move forward further along with the project!  We just need to sand off the leftover paper towels and trim off the exuded glue.

Putting Pieces Together


The un-assembled pieces came out looking very nice.  The biscuit cuts are set up, the bottom is laid out, the walls are fitted well.  The next part is to do a test fitting and make sure everything will be snug enough to keep the bees safe and everything else out.  So far, so good!


I'm not sure how many times its been mentioned in this blog, but it is hot in Phoenix.  Our winters are pretty mild and our summers are always in the triple digits.  This can make for a hot beehive, so we opted for an open/screened bottom that can be covered during the winter months.  We also opted for a landing board and opening that the bees seem to like with the brick construction they've already moved into (pictured below).  This is somewhat visible at the bottom of the photo on the left.

Considering Smooth Or Rough Interiors


Western Italian Bees - Apis mellifera ligustica - Honeybees - Smoothing block with propolis
Western Italian Bees - Apis mellifera ligustica - Honeybees
smoothing block with propolis
We next considered just leaving the insides of the beehive rough, the texture of the wood.  It seems like it would be a no-brainer, because bees that build nests inside rotten trees often deal with a rough interior.  As it turns out, leaving the interior rough, makes additional work for the bees.  It also clicked on why the bees are swarming around the exterior of the slump blocks they moved into and leaving some kind of residual wax.  They are making it smooth.  Bees actually prefer a smooth interior and will spend an inordinate amount of time to make the living conditions perfect.
The bees often smooth the bark surrounding the hive entrance, and the cavity walls are coated with a thin layer of hardened plant resin (propolis). Honeycombs are attached to the walls along the cavity tops and sides, but small passageways are left along the comb edges.[4] The basic nest architecture for all honeybees is similar: honey is stored in the upper part of the comb; beneath it are rows of pollen-storage cells, worker-brood cells, and drone-brood cells, in that order. The peanut-shaped queen cells are normally built at the lower edge of the comb.
Many people are now recommending that we score or scratch the smooth service of the insides of our hives, forcing the bees to add propolis as they would in a natural hive in a tree. Bees also add wax to comb to give it strength. It is believed by some that house bees use propolis to polish brood cells between brood cycles. 
We really want to encourage a strong hive.  Frankly, we don't know what we're doing, much like many people that build hives and blog about it, so we're just trying to somewhat emulate what the bees already picked out just in wood.  In any case, we decided to leave the wood somewhat rough, but paint the interior with beeswax, then paint a mixture of beeswax and linseed oil on the exterior.  Luckily, I have some yellow wax pellets purchased for making DIY lotions, soaps and shampoos that we can melt down.  Beeswax smells so good! ... It's really no wonder why bees are attracted to it.

Topping It Off


The top of the hive has to sit on the honeycomb bars snugly enough to keep other insects out but loose enough to be fairly easy to remove.  We made the roof line with evenly spaced support bars for the roof planks to rest on, and a top bar with beveled edges to accomodate the 90 degree edge cuts of the roof planks.

Once fitted we braced it all together. Then added the roofing panels and created a top strip to join the roof at the peak.  The underside looks great and is very sturdy.  The design is lightweight and well sealed. The cavity between the
roof and the top bars should be great for insulation.  To ensure water tightness, we added a custom cut top bar to sit on top of the roof peak.

We are getting so close to the end of the project, and we are so ready to finish this project!  It has taken more time than expected... But, more to go...

What Type Of Top Bars?


This was an interesting decision.  Some people fully endorse flat slats with grooves, and others endorsed
peaked slats.  Following an exhaustive research, we decided on the peaked slats.  They provide more area for the bees to fasten the wax, which in turn makes a more secure attachment that can carry more weight.

We ended up cutting the slats at 1" and then added spacers of 1/4" along side each.  This was quite tedious.  A wider board was created to have the ability to shorten or lengthen the interior of the hive, if needed.


Disturbing Beehavior


I read somewhere that constantly disturbing the hive and poking around tends to make the bees more defensive.  Defensive bees are more ready to behave aggressively and defend the hive of minor disturbances.  To prevent this, we ended up cutting an observation window into the south side of the hive so we can make spot checks on hive progress without getting into and disturbing the hive.

Honey bees and wasps are not the only creatures preparing for winter. Colonies in the fall may be attacked by raccoons, opossums, or skunks. Regular visits by any creature—including a beekeeper—may make honey bees more aggressive. ~ Honeybeesuite.com

Getting A Leg Up


After all this work, we put some legs on.  The hive is about hip high after adding some very stable legs.  The legs are doubled up, half-width dog-ear planks with tops and bottoms cut at 20 degrees, to match the sides of the hive.


Putting It All Together


So, we finally got the hive put together.  This project took an unbelievably long time.  Much longer than we had planned on it taking, but we don't expect any swarming activity until next spring anyway.  The bees have been very calm and staying inside their block retaining wall hive and working in our garden quite productively.


Finishing It Off 


The hive is constructed from cedar wood, so we really don't have to do anything to protect it, but we do want to make it water-tight.  For that part, we melted some linseed oil and beeswax together, and painted it down.  The linseed oil and beeswax really brought out the grain of the wood.

Now all we have to do is add lemongrass scent to make it more attractive and wait... Good thing we grow lemongrass and have easy access to the wonderfully aromatic roots to rub down the interior.




Welcome home, bees!  Our board is open!


Apple Blossoms, Companion Planting and Practice Shots

Malus domestica 'Anna' blossoms
Malus domestica 'Anna' blossoms

Apple Blossoms


This year we moved our container grown apple trees (Anna and Ein Shemer) to a different location for espalier training.  The disruption as well as the dryness of June took a bit of a toll on the apple trees, mostly to the Ein Shemer.  None of our fruit trees blossomed much and produced nothing.  This is okay, we expected the energy to be diverted to deeper root development now that they had a chance.
Malus domestica 'Ein Shemer' blossoms
Malus domestica 'Ein Shemer'
blossoms

I was surprised yesterday and today with little flower buds and upon internet inquiry learned that both the Anna and Ein Shemer bloom and produce twice a year.  How fortunate!  So, this is the summer blooming period.  If they do get pollinated and grow a few apples, we will probably remove many to reinforce structure and root development.  We will also need to remove stray branches from the basic espalier structure pretty soon, and energy will be needed for recovery following the trim as well.

Companion Planting

Punica granatum 'Wonderful', Ocimum basilicum 'Red Rubin', Origanum vulgare, Portulaca oleracea
Punica granatum 'Wonderful'
Ocimum basilicum 'Red Rubin'
Origanum vulgare, Portulaca oleracea
In between two sets of our tomato cages, we have a small pomegranate tree, red rubin basil, italian oregano and purslane.  It was a bit of a haphazard companion planting set up, but ended up well.  All are mediterranean plants.

We had loads of blossoms on the pomegranate in spring (top rear), but every single one dropped off eventually.  It may be that it is in the small container, it may be that it was over fertilized.  Hard to say.  I had read somewhere that the pomegranates can be quite fickle.

Red Rubin basil (mid left) is doing much better in the ground than it did in a planter.  The parts exposed to sunshine turn nice red tones, but the shaded portions are more green.  The flowers are a hot pink color, which is very nice.  The taste is milder than italian basil.

The italian oregano (mid right) is much more prolific in the ground than it was in a planter as well.  It harvests well and tastes great, as expected.  The basil and oregano catch overflow from the planters and get a little extra water themselves.

The purslane (bottom front) is a volunteer plant.  It is edible, verified by breaking off some of the stem and the liquid was clear.  If the liquid was milky, it would have been yanked. It has grown quite rapidly and will help with retaining moisture in the ground.

Apis mellifera ligustica drinking from water dish
Apis mellifera ligustica drinking from water dish,
Note 3, Camera FV-5 apk
Practice Shots

I've been practicing taking photos with the Note 3, Camera FV-5 apk.  I really like the macro shots I see on the G+ groups, but just can't make myself buy an expensive camera for what is just a hobby and documentation tool. So, I'm working the phone, and made a minor investment in a Lesung®4 in 1 Magnetic Detacheable Lens Set.
The lense hasn't arrived yet, but I got a few shots in.  We set out some shallow blue dishes with cleaned off yarden rocks to provide the much needed water to honeybees during the summer. They are strategically placed to catch some of the water from the garden system, so the water is refreshed 2 to 3 times a day. They seem to like it!

Formicidae - Fire Ant on
Borago officinalis, Note 3,
Camera FV-5 apk
Another photo was a capture of an ant on one of the borage flowers.  It turned out well, after adjusting the colors.  I don't like adjusting colors, but the initial photos looked very faded out.  Apparently this is due to an exposure setting on the apk.  Practice, practice, I guess.  In comparison to the last photo, taken with the Samsung WB250F, it seems to lack crispness and details.

Sweat bee - halactidae in Cucurbitaceae flower, WB250F
Sweat bee - halactidae in
Cucurbitaceae flower, WB250F
This morning I broke out the digital camera for comparison of the images.  I haven't yet decided if I will forgo the digital camera over the note 3.  More tests are needed when the 10x macro lens arrives and I have time to practice.  I really do like the simplicity of taking photos with accurate colors and not having to fiddle with a lot of stuff.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Edible Bonsai Trees

Bonsais In The Yarden


Olive bonsai tree, details unknown
A few years ago I bought an Oleo europaea (vague name) olive tree from Gurneys, and then forgot I bought it (delayed delivery due to the season it was ordered).  I then bought a Oleo europaea 'Manzanillo' olive tree from Peaceful Valley after having a renewed interest.  Then, during the same season I received two olive trees.  The Gurney's tree was noticeably smaller than the Peaceful Valley and I decided then that I would make it a Bonsai.

I ordered the book Bonsai4me: Bonsai Basics quite some time ago, and Amazon.com reminded me that I had already ordered it when I tried to order it again this evening.  Amazon is so good like that.  In keeping with the Bonsai timing, it is now a year plus later and the small olive tree is quite scraggly and out of control, but it has a great windblown lean to it.  It even has a few olives.  It's sad to think that I'll have to take some drastic measures on the little tree.  I'm not ready yet...

What, Exactly Is A Bonsai?

According to Wikipedia, Japanese Imperial Bonsai trees can be up to 80 inches tall.  This is very workable. There are different styles to contemplate when forming your bonsai. According to the Bonsai4me author, bonsai trees are meant to be grown outside as much as possible and inside only as a protective seasonal option  or for shows which last a short duration of time.

Caring For Your Bonsai
"Driftwood" (Conocarpus erectus)

I'm just starting out, so I have no good information myself.  There are many books available, the bonsai community bonsai4me, and many blogs that provide helpful tips on how to care for and start your Bonsai.

This is a very exciting hobby to embark on.  Now that we're digging into the actual details of the hobby, I'm looking at my avocado sprout a little harder.  They make for great bonzai trees too!

If it works like the espalier training does, it could cause the trees to produce fruit earlier and in larger quantities (for the size).  Let's keep our fingers crossed!

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Yarden Haul

Fresh From The Yarden


We were able to pick a very nice selection of fresh veggies from the garden today.  Each and every item is so wonderful to eat fresh!

We have the light skinned armenian cucumber, a recent pick of two zucchini, our great green onions, a little peter pan squash, lancinato kale, yellow pear tomatoes and little red principe borghese tomatoes.  Just lovely to pick these in the morning during the watering process.

Avocado Sprouts


We tend to sprout our avocado seeds.  Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't.  We've had some good luck recently with the Costco Hass avocados.  Hass avocados have a very dark green alligator like skin and are very popular.  An interesting fact is:

All commercial, fruit-bearing Hass avocado trees have been grown from grafted seedlings propagated from a single tree which was grown from a seed bought by Rudolph Hass in 1926 from A. R. Rideout of Whittier, California. At the time, Rideout was getting seeds from any source he could find, even restaurant food scraps. The subspecies of this seed is not known and may already have been cross-pollinated when Hass bought it. ~ Wikipedia

When dicing up the avocados, I tend to look for the seeds that have a root growing in the fruits, and then stick some toothpicks in the seeds and suspend them in water.  Avocado seeds are kind of egg-shaped, and the rounded, larger end should be under water. Detailed instructions are available at thehungrymouse.

The roots are the first to appear.  After some time, a sprout forms at the top of the seed and quite some time later the leaves show up.  It requires patience. Not only for the seed to sprout a little tree, but if you plan on eating the fruit a seed-grown avocado tree will produce after 5 years. For some reason, it is believed that home grown fruits are inferior to the avocado trees purchased from nurseries.  Perhaps it could be due to grafting.

I peeled the brown casing from the seed and planted it in a recycled self-watering wine bottle planter.  These seeds can stick out above the soil a bit.  The little seedling will grow quite high pretty quickly.

In Phoenix, Arizona, these little trees will not develop bark to protect them from the relentless sunshine and must be grown indoors for the first few years.  Otherwise, the leaves aren't enough to shade their tender trunks and prevent burning.  Once successfully growing the tree, it may not bear fruit for you.

If you know the variety of avocado you’ve bought -- such as a "Hass" avocado (P. americans “Hass”), a common market variety -- you have no guarantee it will grow true to the parent, particularly if it has been grafted to another rootstock, which is common in commercial avocados. Choosing a complementary variety to guarantee pollen is problematic if you don't know the variety of your window-grown tree. Providing you actually have a "Hass" avocado, can meet its cultural needs and afford a large water bill, it will need five to seven years before it starts to produce. At the end, the odds that your tree will produce fruit are small -- but you’ll have an evergreen ornamental tree and a story to tell. ~ SFGate

I guess good intentions only go so far.  If you want guaranteed success with a smaller growing tree, the Wurtz Avocado tree may be the one for you.  We need to finish up our garden before we buy more trees. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Incredible, Recylable, Compostable Egg

PSA For The Many Benefits Of Eggs


We consume a lot of eggs.  I should clarify...  We personally consume a lot of egg whites.  We compost the yolks, cartons and egg shells through a few different processes.  After purchasing a nice 5 dozen eggs a week from Costco, we separate the whites from the yolks straight away.  We set aside half for whatever we may want during the week and use half to make nice goat cheese, jalapeno and onion muffin frittatas cooked in our Cast Iron Muffin Pans (better than silicone)!

The Breakdown

Plastic Wrap

We put the plastic wrap in our recycle bin.  Unfortunately, we haven't found any use for previously used shrink wrap... any ideas?

Cardboard egg crate seed starters
Cardboard egg crate seed starters

Cardboard egg crates

These are awesome!  We trim them down to start seedlings.  We tear them up and put them in the compost bin for eventual decomposition. Whether straight to the compost bin or composting under the roots of a newly planted seedling, these end up in the same place.  And these cardboard egg crates are very attractive to earthworms.

Our seedlings have always loved these seed starts.  We put them in the 10 Plant Growing Trays (No Drain Holes) - 20" trays and water into the trays rather than on top of the seedlings.

Compost your egg yolks
Compost your egg yolks

Golden yellow egg yolks

The bad rap eggs get are mostly due to the lovely, cheerful, golden yellow egg yolks.  Prevention posted a nice infograph on the nutritional values of the whole egg versus the egg yolks.  The comparison is between a small whole egg and a large egg white.

For eggs, we're primarily interested in the protein value and stick with the egg whites when we cook.  For the yolks, we throw them into the compost bin.  Many gardeners believe that we cannot compost the egg yolks.  However, for the hot-bin composting, it is okay, and here's why:
Hermetia illucens - black soldier fly larvae in compost
Hermetia illucens
black soldier fly larvae in compost
As long as your bin is working between 40-60C [104-140F], and you add some shredded paper and bulking agent (as normal with food waste) the egg and yolk will be broken down and ‘invisible’ within a few days. ~ HotBin Composting
Another reason why the golden egg yolks are great for the compost bin is for the black fly larvae.  We never put them in there ourselves, they are just naturally attracted to our hot, not too stinky veggie and protein rich compost.  This is great for us, they compost our waste products faster than earthworms, but not so much for the paper products or eggshells.

Grinding up the egg shells

Until this last year, I had no clue what was going on with egg shells.  We just threw them into the compost bin along with all the other compost-safe stuff.  But, I ran into an article about making silver powder for facial cleansing and was impressed that grinding up eggshells yields decent calcium carbonate for no extra costs!

Another article discusses the benefits of consuming DIY egg shell calcium carbonate as a calcium supplement.
1 tsp. contains approximately 800-1,000 mg. of calcium. Consume by mixing in a small amount of water with a meal. Consume 3/4 to 1 tsp daily, divided in 3 servings with meals. Don’t consumer more than 1 tsp a day as it can irritate sensitive digestive trac[ts]. ~ Mamma Natural
And finally another solution provided by eggshells is banishing the dreaded blossom end rot seen on tomatoes, eggplants, squash and zucchini.
When you plant your tomatoes add a few crushed eggshells to the planting hole. This will add calcium to the soil - P. Allen Smith
So, we have a lot of great reasons for grinding up our egg shells.  Since we have the 5 dozen egg shells, we process them all at once.

5 dozen eggshells, after separating yolks and whites.
5 dozen eggshells, after separating yolks and whites.
After separating the yolks from whites, the egg shells are rinsed off and shaken out.  Shaking out the eggshells makes them nest in columns of shells.  We need these to be separated so they can dry more quickly and air out any trace of residue.  Some people bake them, we just set them out in the hot sun and they pretty much bake dry after 24 hours.


Egg shells, crushed for processing management
Egg shells, crushed for processing management
We bring them back in after 24 hours and crush the shells.  I basically grab a handful and squeeze them, to reduce the size and make the grinding process more manageable.  Hard to imagine this is the remnants of 5 dozen eggshells.  We grind them in our KitchenAid Blade Coffee Grinder, which has removable stainless steel grinding cups. This particular model also has a KitchenAid Spice Grinder Kit if you want to keep eggshells separate from coffee or spices.

5 Dozen egg shells, partially ground
5 Dozen egg shells, partially ground
The eggshells are ground up a bit, which reduces their total volume.  This gives us room to stuff in more of the cracked eggshells.  In the end, all 5 dozen eggshells fit into the one coffee grinder bowl for grinding.  The particles became smaller the longer they were ground up.

5 Dozen egg shells, completely ground up
5 Dozen egg shells, completely ground up
Grinding up the eggshells is quick work and the resulting powder takes very little space.  It measured up to about 1 full cup of ground egg shells.  This means each eggshell reduced to just over 3/4 teaspoon (4/5 to be exact).

Now that we have this in hand, we'll be prepared like scouts to add calcium to our newly planted edibles, and even create some eggshell tincture to feed our plants for a quick calcium boost.  What do you do with your egg waste?  We'd love to know!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday Finds In The Yarden

Desert Spiny Lizard - Sceloporus magister
Desert Spiny Lizard - Sceloporus magister

Sunday Finds In The Yarden

Desert Spiny Lizard

This was a very interesting find... to find one alive, that is.  These guys have protective scales that are spiny and work great for protection, however these same spines work against them in our bird netting.  Luckily, when I went to collect some green onions, I spotted this one flailing around in the netting just about ready to hang itself.

This one is male, indicated by the bright blue coloring at the throat and the two patches of bright blue scales that seem to say "my lungs are here".  When live, these lizards are very colorful and interesting with the contrasting black, yellow and blue coloration.

Desert Spiny Lizard - Sceloporus magisterThe only reason I found this lizard is because it was bound up in the bird netting.  Otherwise, they are quite good at dodging and hiding and are amazingly fast.  I was unable to get a ground picture once this one was released, he ran off so quickly.

According to the Reptiles Of Arizona website, I should have seen a pair of these lizards together as they normally travel in male/female pairs.  We welcome these lizards to our yarden, because they eat a variety of yarden pests including ants, beetles, caterpillars, spiders, centipedes, small lizards, and some plant material (I wonder if these are the ones eating our lettuce).

These lizards are mostly active during the daytime, and hibernate during the fall and winter months.  After capturing a sufficient number of photos, he was released and I washed my hands.  When handling reptiles or amphibians, always wash hands before doing other things.  We don't want salmonella.

Armenian Cucumbers And Green Onions

Cucumis melo - Armenian cucumber - Green onion flowers - Scallion - Allium Flower
Cucumis melo - Armenian cucumber
Green onion flowers - Scallion - Allium Flower
We were surprised this year with a medium green skinned Armenian cucumber that has a very "curly" shape.  We normally buy seed and grow the light skinned variety, but may have gotten this variety by accident or purchasing seeds that had cross-pollination.

We sliced it up and the scent was noticeably sweeter than the light skinned version of the Armenian cucumber.  We did a quick taste test and we very pleasantly surprised by the flavor and texture.  If you are looking for a melon that tastes very much like the cucumber bought in the store, this is the one.  It had a very slight lemony taste which was very enjoyable.

Cucumis melo - Armenian cucumber Green onion flowers - Scallion - Allium Flower
Cucumis melo - Armenian cucumber
Green onion flowers
Scallion - Allium Flower
While slicing this up for a salad to have later today, I also trimmed off the little green onion bulblets for a little visual variety.  While we were making frittata muffins, I rolled some goat cheese into the onion bulblets and it tasted super!

Green onion flowers Scallion - Allium Flower
Green onion flowers
Scallion - Allium Flower
The green onions were diced up, the bulbs separated from the flower stems and set aside for salad.

Two Types Of Tomatoes

The weather has been so hot, it's delayed the ripening of our tomatoes.
Tomato Lycopersicon lycopersicum 'Principe Borghese' - Tomato Lycopersicon lycopersicum 'Yellow Pear'
Tomato Lycopersicon lycopersicum 'Principe Borghese'
Tomato Lycopersicon lycopersicum 'Yellow Pear' 
 Today, however, we were able to pull in a small haul of our two smaller varieties; Yellow Pear and Principe Borghese.

Both of these tomato varieties are small.  Yellow Pear being smaller than the Principe Borghese.  Yellow pear is excellent for eating fresh, in salads or whatever tomatoes are normally used for.  Principe Borghese are more for sun drying, which is when they become sweeter.  When the Principe Borghese are eaten fresh off the vine, there isn't much flavor... much like a roma tomato.  We're still waiting for the larger Black Krim and Brandywine Reds to turn color.

Lagenaria siceraria, Bushel Basket Gourd Female Flower
Lagenaria siceraria, Bushel Basket Gourd Female Flower
We are looking forward to more fresh hauls like the bushel basket gourds for making bowls and decorations.

The flowers remind me of old lace and are quite attractive to look at in the mornings.  They open up in the evenings and attract moths with their luminescent white petals, then fade and die off in the heat of the following day.

We haven't had much pollination luck to this point.  Hopefully these gourds will pick up production in
Lagenaria siceraria, Bushel Basket Gourd Female Flower
Lagenaria siceraria,
Bushel Basket Gourd Flower
the next few months.

At the end of the day, we really enjoy our garden and our occasional garden hauls and all the life we support with our endeavors.  It is such a pleasure to see all the goings-on that we can't see or understand from the produce aisle at the local grocer.