How I Got Started

I started Butterfly gardening many years ago. My yard has been a progression over the years, and has made many transformations. Twenty years ago I experienced Hurricane Andrew. My yard and house were destroyed. We decided not to replace the pool screening and open up the backyard and put in some landscaping. That was the official beginning of my love for gardening in South Florida. I added a beautiful water garden years ago, and have been adding host and larvae plants for pollinators, mostly for the butterfly, for as many years as I can remember. I had my yard certified as a Natural Habitat, through the National Wildlife Foundation. To have a natural habitat you need to provide and meet certain requirements: 1. Provide a food source, 2. Provide a water source, 3. Cover, 4. A place to raise young. I try not to use any pesticides in my yard. I vermicompost and recycle as many of my food scraps as possible. If I had more land I would have a huge compost bin to recycle all my yard cuttings. Basically, I try to lessen my carbon footprint on this earth. In my own little world or backyard I try to provide an ecosystem in my water garden, provide birdbaths, birdfeeders, hummingbird nectar sources, feeders, puddling areas, host plants and nectar plants for butterflies and other pollinators. I am hoping to raise everyone’s awareness of the importance of saving our Butterflies, Blooms & Bees. Without them our world and food source will be in trouble. I hope you all enjoy my journey. I am not a Master Gardener, or Master Beekeeper, an Entomologist, or Journalists. I am simply a Backyard Gardener who is trying to lessen her Carbon Footprint of this Earth.

I hope you enjoy my blogs.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

New Additions to the Garden

I bought some new plants for the garden to replace a few that needed some help. I had planted some Lavendula multifida canariense (California Lavendar) which is a type of lavender that grows here in Miami, that is until it just gets too hot and rainy for them to thrive. I love lavender so much that I will plant them for the few months that they can handle our climate just for the shear enjoyment of the plant. I know that they will not last long but I love their smell and beauty. I replaced them with a Florida Native Red Porter Weed. I saw some at Home Depot and I didn’t have any of the red variety so I thought it would be a great addition to my garden.

The second addition to the garden is a lovely Siam Tulip (Curcuma alismatifolia). It actually isn’t a tulip at all, but a ginger (Zingiberaceae). In addition to the lovely pink blooms if you look closely at the picture you will see that there is a lovely little violet that emerges from the bracts that adds so much charm to this flower. The Siam Tulip will go dormant in the winter. It will tolerate plenty of light but no direct sun. Without question it loves humidity and should be kept moist, perfect for our Miami environment.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Marvelous Mangos

It is hard to believe but I am still enjoying Florida mangos. My favorite mango which is the Florida Red is now available. This weekend was the Mango Festival at Fairchild Gardens. I didn’t end up going because the weather was very rainy and I had to go up to West Palm Beach, Florida to see my family. My brother and his girlfriend, Rose, from Norway were visiting and I had never met her. I got to visit with my mom, and sister, and my niece and nephew. My little nephew is like a child prodigy on the electric guitar. He is really amazing and plays every Saturday night so we all stayed to watch him. My brother brought me two canaries to add to my animal menagerie. He also brought me a beautiful Sunflower full of seeds to add to my garden. I brought him some seeds from my Mexican Sunflower. I also made my delicious Mango Salsa for everyone to enjoy.

Mango Salsa Recipe

1-2 mangos diced Red onion diced Cilantro to taste Juice of lime 1 tsp Chile powder Serve with nachos

While I was up there I went to a brew and wine making store “Bx Beer Depot.” I needed to get several items before I started my mango wine. My local brew store in Miami doesn’t have the supplies stocked and I would have had to order them, so I thought while I was up seeing my mom I would check out this shop. It was really nice and well supplied.

My husband and I made the Mango Wine with very little difficulty. We started with 26 lbs of mangos, which I had frozen in the freezer for the last week. Freezing actually helps to break down the cell wall. The fruit produces more juice when frozen. I purchased a very large nylon straining bag to put all the mangos into. I added water and sugar until my specific gravity reached 1.085. I actually heated some of the water to dissolve the sugar and then poured that over the fruit in the primary fermentor. I added several chemicals to the “Must.” The Must is the solution of fruit and sugar and water which you then add your yeast to. I actually “pitched” my yeast this evening, 24 hours after I made the Must. That is because I added Campden which is used to make sure that there are no wild yeasties growing in the fruit that you add. When you “pitch” your yeast you sprinkle it into a small bowl with lukewarm water and let it sit for about 15-20 minutes then you stir it gently. Remember yeast is alive and it multiples very quickly so that when you add it to your Must it helps create a very active and rapid fermentation. Over the next 10-12 days or longer I will stir my Must several times a day until my specific gravity drops anywhere from 1.020-1.040. Eventually I will rack my Mango wine from the primary fermentor to the secondary fermentor. I will do this several times until I clarify the wine and possibly back sweeten it before bottling. This process of racking to bottling could take 6 months to a year before we have drinkable Mango Wine! What a process!! It is so much fun when it is complete and we finally get to drink some delicious Mango Wine!

Mango Wine (5 Gallons)

20-24 lbs of Mangos Approximately 9 lbs of granulated sugar or amount to get starting specific gravity to 1.085 5 tsp of yeast nutrient Pectic enzyme Acid Blend Tannin 5 Campden tablets Water to equal 5 gallons Montrachet yeast

I also decided to make some Afpelwein. It is a German Hard Cider. The recipe is very easy and it is a quick recipe meaning that I could be drinking this wine in a few months. It basically consists of 5 gallons of apple juice, 2 lbs of corn dextrose, Montrachet yeast. All these ingredients go inside a 5 gallon carboy. I made this last evening and today it was fermenting like crazy! I love Woodchuck cider so I am hoping I am going to love this lot. It ferments very dry!

This evening for dinner I made Mango/Pork kabobs on the grill. I used some of my mango chutney. I love the way the mangos taste when they are grilled. Grilling releases their sugars and they actually become crunchy when you eat them. The flavor of mango and pork is delicious.

As you can see the Mango Madness continues. I am so excited that I made Mango Wine again. It had been a very long time. I don’t think the last time I made wine I completely understood the process. I think we had beginners luck. This time I think I understand the process a little better. I still need to have a better understanding of adding sugar to my Must or” feeding my Must” to maintain a certain specific gravity. I am sure that if I continue making wine I will understand the process completely.

On my kitchen counter I have three different wines fermenting. I made Joe’s Ancient Orange Mead on 7/10, and now the Mango Wine, and Afpelwein on 7/15. I have my own little winery going on in my kitchen. Cheers!

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