Tag Archives: Agriculture

A New July Fourth Tradition — Picking Blueberries

Blueberries are worth getting soaked to the skin. My friend Pat invited me to pick blueberries with her at The Berry Patch in Cleveland, Missouri., early on the morning of the Fourth of July. It was fun, despite the rain.

My friend Pat invited me to pick blueberries with her on July 4th at The Berry Patch, in Cleveland, Missouri, which is about 20 minutes from where we live. I’d heard about the farm years ago, but had never visited so I was glad for the invitation.

The forecast called for rain, but we decided to go anyway.  Rain started as we drove, but optimistically we continued, thinking that at least we’d have the place to ourselves. Wrong.  There were about fifty cars parked there when we arrived at 7:25 a.m. The farm opens at 7 a.m. For some, picking blueberries on Independence Day is a tradition. Since blueberries are only available for a few months — several types of blueberries are planted to stretch out the season — July 4th is a good reminder to get to the farm.  You can rush home with your blueberries to add them to a red white and blue dessert.  Pat said that because of the rain, the crowd was actually quite thin.  When it’s sunny, you have a lot more competition for blueberries.  There are many bushes, however.  The Berry Patch is the largest berry farm in Missouri.  There are 30 acres of blueberry bushes and four acres of blackberry bushes. A store sells jams, syrups and baked goods, and there is a playground area for kids, and picnic tables for picnic lunches.

Thunder crashed when we got out of the car, but fortunately we didn’t hear much thunder or see lightning afterward.  It did rain a lot, though. After a while, you forget the rain as you pick pick pick those blueberries.

The Berry Patch provides white buckets with a plastic bag liner.  They provide twine so that you can attach the bucket to your waist so you have two free hands to pick.  After about two hours of picking, I picked almost six pounds and Pat almost nine pounds.  She had two buckets.   I bought some blueberry jam and blueberry syrup, too.

As we climbed into the car, we were soaked to the skin, but I was so glad we ignored the weather report. I hope to make blueberry picking a July 4th tradition. I may even go again this summer to replenish my supply.  I’ve already eaten two cups of blueberries today.

Thank you, Pat, for a fun morning.

 

The Berry Patch Facebook Page

The Berry Patch Website

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It’s Tea Time at Charleston Tea Plantation

A sign shows the distance to other parts of the world where tea plants are grown.

A sign shows the distance to other parts of the world where tea plants are grown.

What sounds perfect on a rainy chilly day?  Hot tea!  We’d set out from Kiawah Island in late February (2015) to visit some notable outdoor sites in Charleston, South Carolina, but the morning rain persisted so we saw little more than gift shops (where we could stay dry).  As we returned to Kiawah, we turned off at the Charleston Tea Plantation, which is about twenty miles south of Charleston on Wadmalaw Island. We could stay dry in a trolley as we rode around the plantation.  And there was plenty of free hot tea in the gift shop!

Guests tour the Charleston Tea Plantation on one of two trolleys. This one was purchased from the Kentucky Derby city of Louisville, Kentucky, and still retains its name of "Man of War," a famous race horse.

Guests tour the Charleston Tea Plantation on one of two trolleys. This one was purchased from the Kentucky Derby city of Louisville, Kentucky, and still retains its name of “Man of War,” a famous race horse.

It was overcast and a little misty when we arrived, but no umbrellas were required.   My hair was already frizzed out by now anyway.  According to the plantation’s website, “Wadmalaw Island is in the heart of South Carolina’s Lowcountry…Wadmalaw provides the perfect environment for propagating tea. With its sandy soils, sub-tropical climate and average rainfall of 52 inches per year, Wadmalaw possess idyllic conditions for the Camellia Sinensis plant. This plant is currently used to produce both black and green teas and exists in over 320 varieties on the 127 acre grounds of the Charleston Tea Plantation.”

Here are two kinds of American Classic Tea -- Charleston Breakfast Tea and Governor Gray, flavored with bergamot, one of my favorites.

Here are two kinds of American Classic Tea — Charleston Breakfast Tea and Governor Gray, flavored with bergamot, one of my favorites.

Owned by the Bigelow Tea Company, the plantation grows the tea sold under the brand name American Classic Tea. The Charleston Tea Plantation is the only working tea plantation in North America and is open to the public for tours of the grounds and factory and for hosting private events. Every year the plantation also hosts the First Flush Festival celebrating the beginning of the harvest season.  The name, First Flush, means the new leaves that are beginning to grow on the tea plant bushes that are ready to be harvested for production.

The tea Plant, Camellia sinensis, needs a lot of moisture, but doesn't like wet roots, so good sources of water, as well as good drainage are required to keep the plants healthy.

The tea Plant, Camellia sinensis, needs a lot of moisture, but doesn’t like wet roots, so good sources of water, as well as good drainage are required to keep the plants healthy.

Since 1987, the American Classic Tea brand of the Charleston Tea Plantation has been the official tea of the White House.

Plenty of rain is what Camellia sinensis likes, so at least the tea plants were happy!  There were several types of hot tea waiting for us to try, which we happily drank while waiting for our $10 trolley ride. Our trolley was called “Man of War,” named after the famous horse. Our driver told us that the plantation bought the trolley on ebay from the city of Louisville, the Kentucky Derby town.  We stopped along the way at the state-of-the-art greenhouse, where tea plant propagation takes place. The tour is narrated in a recording by William Barclay Hall, founder of American Classic Tea and world renowned Tea Taster, as well as by the very knowledgeable driver.  The plantation was only started in 1960, although other southern plantations had tried to grow tea plants previously.

The leaves are processed at the plantation factory, but the final product is packaged in Connecticut. We were there during the off-season, so we didn’t see any harvesting or processing.

Experimental tea plants at Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina.

Experimental tea plants at Charleston Tea Plantation in South Carolina.

From Wikipedia:  “In 1799, French botanist, Francois Andre Michaux brought the Camellia Sinensis  plant to the United States and gave it to Henry Middleton. They planted the tea at Middleton’s plantation. The tea seemed to thrive in areas like Charleston and Georgetown.  It took many attempts by multiple companies and individuals to successfully establish a tea company without an early failure. These failures included plantations in Georgetown, Greenville and Summerville, the longest of which lasted less than twenty years. The Thomas J Lipton Company decided to give it a try.  In 1960, they bought the failing tea plantation in Summerville and in 1963 they moved out to Wadmalaw Island  and operated a research station for about twenty-five years. 

You can't visit the Charleston Tea Plantation without taking home some tea! The plantation website also links to shops where the tea is sold.

You can’t visit the Charleston Tea Plantation without taking home some tea! The plantation website also links to shops where the tea is sold.

The Charleston Tea Plantation, as it is known today, was established in 1987 when Mack Fleming and William (Bill) Barclay Hall bought the land and the research station from the Lipton Company. Mack Fleming, a horticultural professor, had been running the plantation for the Lipton Company and Bill Hall was a third generation tea tester from England.  Along with establishing the plantation, they created the American Classic Tea brand. ”  The R.C. Bigelow Company in Connecticut bought the plantation about a decade ago.

Charles Tea Plantation Website.

Wikipedia: Charleston Tea Plantation

Bigelow Tea Company.

Health and Beauty Tips Using Tea!

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Filed under Drink, Gardening, History, Photography, Tea, Travel

Salt Pans of Maras, Peru

Peruvians have been harvesting salt from these salt pans near Maras, Peru, since before Inca times.  The beautiful salt pans have become a tourist attraction, too.

Peruvians have been harvesting salt from these salt pans near Maras, Peru, since before Inca times. The beautiful salt pans have become a tourist attraction, too.

We were near the end of our visit to beautiful, amazing Peru, with a free afternoon.  My family and I had visited Cusco and Machu Picchu (too briefly) and now we were in Ollantaytambo, a town in the Sacred Valley of the Inca, where the Inca had won a battle against the Spanish.  In the morning, we’d climbed the ruins overlooking the city, the site of this battle.

We were walking to the Plaza in Ollantaytambo, deciding what to do and see during our afternoon, when a taxi driver approached us, saying the magic words “Moray, Salineras.”  Soon we were in his car for an hour-long taxi drive to the spectacular terraced salt pans, called Salinas de Maras, high in the Andes Mountains, and later to Moray, an Inca agricultural site. The trip with its stops took about four hours.

You can find salt harvested from the Moray salt pans available for sale at the market at the salt terraces.  The salt is available in a variety of flavors, such as basil, garlic and cumin.

You can find salt harvested from the Moray salt pans available for sale at the market at the salt terraces. The salt is available in a variety of flavors, such as basil, garlic and cumin.

Halfway there, we left the paved highway and drove on a dirt road that bisected pastures where shepherds watched flocks, where a rainbow arched across the valley after a rain shower, under the towering snow-capped peak of Ch’iqun (Chicon), which stands at 18,1400 feet.  In the distance, smoke curled from pastures being burned to renew the grass.  (Ranchers burn pastures in the Flint Hills in my state of Kansas, too.)

The driver stopped the car at an overlook, where we first saw the 3,000 beautiful multi-colored terraced pools of the Salinas de Maras (Salineras) stretching down a hillside in a valley fed by spring water.

Peruvians have been gathering salt from the terraced salt pans near Maras, Peru, since before Inca times.  Salty water originating from the Qoripujio spring is carefully channeled into shallow man-made pools. The water evaporates, leaving behind salt, which is harvested by the 600 area families that own the ponds. There are markets at the entrance, where you can buy food, woven goods, pottery and other souvenirs, as well as salt, both plain and flavored, harvested from the site.

The salt ponds are near Maras, which is 25 miles (40 kilometers) north of Cusco, in the Cusco Region of Peru. Cusco is the ancient Inca capital.

More than 3,000 salt evaporation pools in terraces spill down a valley near Maras, Peru. Peruvians have been harvesting salt from these ponds since before Inca times. The unpaved, narrow mountain roads don't stop tour buses and taxis from bringing many tourists to see this beautiful place.

More than 3,000 salt evaporation pools in terraces spill down a valley near Maras, Peru. Peruvians have been harvesting salt from these ponds since before Inca times. The unpaved, narrow mountain roads don’t stop tour buses and taxis from bringing many tourists to see this beautiful place.

A woman waits in her shop, selling food, woven goods, salt and souvenirs at the market at the salt pans, near Maras, Peru.

A woman waits in her shop, selling food and souvenirs at the market at the salt pans, near Maras, Peru.

 

We were inspired to visit Ollantaytambo and other Peruvian sites by Terri and James Vance, who write a wonderful travel blog at Gallivance.  Here is one of their many fascinating Peru posts.  Ollantaytambo, a Living City of the Inca. Here is a listing of their Peru blog posts: Gallivance: Peru

Here are some posts I found from other travelers who visited the salt pans near Maras.

The Sacred Valley of the Inca — Moray and Salinas.

A Visit to the Salt Pans of Maras

Off the Beaten Track: A Visit to Salinas de Maras

Wikipedia: Maras, Peru.

 

A sculpture in the center of the Plaza in Maras, Peru, displays some of the sights in the area, including Salineras and the Moray Inca agriculture circles.

A sculpture in the center of the Plaza in Maras, Peru, displays some of the sights in the area, including Salineras and the Moray Inca agriculture circles.

Salty spring water flows into the terraces of the salt pans  near Maras, Peru.

Salty spring water flows into the terraces of the salt pans near Maras, Peru.

Salt Pans of Maras, Peru
Salt Pans, Maras, Peru
Photograph by Catherine Sherman
Salt Pans of Maras, Peru
Man with a Harvest of Salt, Maras, Peru
Photograph by Catherine Sherman

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Taro — It’s What’s for Dinner

These taro fries from Tropical Taco in Hanalei, Kauai, were delicious!

These taro fries from Tropical Taco in Hanalei, Kauai, were delicious!

Taro, known in the Hawaiian language as kalo, is the Hawaiian people’s most important crop. They brought it with them in their voyaging canoes when they migrated to the Hawaiian islands at least by 1,000 A.D. and possibly as early as 200 A.D. Kaua’i was the first inhabited Hawaiian island and is where most of Hawaiian taro is grown today. Seventy percent of the taro is grown in Hanalei River Valley, which includes the 917-acre Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge.  The 917-acre refuge was established in 1972 to provide nesting and feeding habitat for endangered Hawaiian water birds, including the Hawaiian duck (koloa maoli), coot (‘alae ke’oke’o), moorhen (‘alae ‘ula), and stilt (ae’o).

The Hanalei River was designated an American Heritage River on July 30, 1998. The major bridge across the river (still one lane) is on Hawaii Route 560, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in Hawaii.  When you’re waiting to cross the bridge to the town of Hanalei, you can see the taro fields beyond.

A taro field in the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge in northern Kauai.

A taro field in the Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge in northern Kauai.

A tractor prepares a taro field in the Hanalei River Valley.

A tractor prepares a taro field in the Hanalei River Valley.

Water flows from a taro field in Limahuli Garden in northern Kauai. The rock walls you can see in the background are part of an important archeological site and are about 700 years old.

Water flows from a taro field in Limahuli Garden in northern Kauai. The rock walls you can see in the background are part of an important archeological site and are about 700 years old.

The rock walls surrounding the taro fields are estimated to be about 700 years old in the Limahuli Tropical Botanical Garden in north Kauai west of Hanalei. The rock walls were part of an irrigation system that diverted some water from the Limahuli River to grow taro.

The rock walls surrounding the taro fields are estimated to be about 700 years old in the Limahuli Tropical Botanical Garden in north Kauai west of Hanalei. The rock walls were part of an irrigation system that diverted some water from the Limahuli River to grow taro.

I've never eaten a McDonald's pie before, but we couldn't resist trying this taro version at a McDonald's in Lihue, Kauai. It tasted like pineapple, which was likely an added flavor, because our taro fries didn't taste like pineapple. Anyway, it wasn't bad for a fried fast food pie.

I’ve never eaten a McDonald’s pie before, but we couldn’t resist trying this taro version at a McDonald’s in Lihue, Kauai. It tasted like pineapple, which was likely an added flavor, because our taro fries didn’t taste like pineapple. Anyway, it wasn’t bad for a fried fast food pie.

You can see the taro fields on either side of the Hanalei River.  This is also a wildlife refuge.

You can see the taro fields on either side of the Hanalei River. This is also a wildlife refuge.

Limahuli Garden and Preserve in northern Kauai.

Limahuli Garden and Preserve in northern Kauai.

Terraced taro fields are in the Limahuli Garden and Preserve.  The rock walls you can see in the background are part of an important archeological site and are about 700 years old.

Terraced taro fields are in the Limahuli Garden and Preserve. The rock walls you can see in the background are part of an important archeological site and are about 700 years old.

Here are some traditional Hawaiian foods, including taro, dried coconut and dried fish. We tried these foods at a Hawaiian ceremony in a park on the Kona Coast of the Big Island on February 2011.

Here are some traditional Hawaiian foods, including taro, dried coconut and dried fish. We tried these foods at a Hawaiian ceremony in a park on the Kona Coast of the Big Island on February 2011.

About Poi, Poi to the World.

Wikipedia: About Taro.

Here’s an excerpt about taro in Hawaii from the Wikipedia Entry for Taro: In Hawaii, taro, or kalo in the Hawaiian language, is a traditional form of food sustenance and nutrition, known from ancient Hawaiian culture. The contemporary Hawaiian diet consists of many tuberous plants, particularly sweet potato and taro. Some of the uses for taro include poi, table taro, taro chips, and luau leaf. In Hawaii, taro is farmed under either dryland or wetland conditions. Taro farming in the Hawaiian islands is especially challenging because of difficulties in accessing fresh water. Taro is usually grown in pondfields known as loʻi in Hawaiian. Cool, flowing water yields the best crop. Typical dryland or upland varieties (varieties grown in watered but not flooded fields) in Hawaii are lehua maoli and bun long, the latter widely known as Chinese taro. Bun long is used for making taro chips. Dasheen (also called “eddo”) is another “dryland” variety of C. esculenta grown for its edible corms or sometimes just as an ornamental plant.

The Hawaii Agricultural Statistics Service puts the 10-year median production of taro in the Hawaiian Islands at about 6.1 million pounds (2,800 t; Viotti, 2004). However, 2003 taro production in Hawaii was only 5 million pounds (2,300 t), an all-time low (record keeping started in 1946). The previous low, reached in 1997, was 5.5 million pounds (2,500 t). Despite generally growing demand, production was even lower in 2005: only 4 million pounds, with kalo for processing into poi accounting for 97.5%. Urbanization has driven down harvests from a high of 14.1 million pounds (6,400 t) in 1948, but more recently the decline has resulted from pests and diseases. A non-native apple snail (Pomacea canaliculata) is a major culprit in the current crop decline. Also, a plant rot disease traced to a newly identified species of the fungal genus Phytophthora now plagues crops throughout the state. Although pesticides could control both pests to some extent, pesticide use in the pondfields is barred because of the clear opportunity for chemicals to quickly migrate into streams and then into the ocean.

Important aspects of Hawaiian culture revolves around taro cultivation and consumption. For example, the newer name for a traditional Hawaiian feast, luau, comes from the taro. Young taro tops baked with coconut milk and chicken or octopus arms are frequently served at luaus. Also, one cannot fight when a bowl of poi is open. By ancient Hawaiian custom, it is considered disrespectful to fight in front of an elder. One should not raise the voice, speak angrily, or make rude comments or gestures. An open poi bowl is connected to this concept because Haloa (Taro) is the name of the first-born son of the parents who begat the human race. The ancient Hawaiians identified so strongly with taro that the Hawaiian term for family, `ohana, is derived from the word `oha, the shoot or sucker which grows from the taro corm. As young shoots grow from the corm, so people grow from their family.

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100 Years of the Kansas State Fair

Gourds form the heads of these prize-winning scarecrows at the Kansas State Fair, September 2012. The scarecrows are modeled after artist Grant Wood’s famous painting, “American Gothic.”

I’ve lived in Kansas most of my life, but this is the first year I’ve visited the Kansas State Fair, which happened to be the 100th fair. My daughter-in-law has visited with her family every year since she was a small child, and she and her family always find new things to see and do. I barely scratched the surface. As the fair motto goes: The Fair “Never Gets Old.”

Here’s fair fare — a carrot cake funnel cake on the top and a corn dog on the bottom — at the Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

According to the website, the fair’s mission is “to promote and showcase Kansas agriculture, industry and culture, to create opportunity for commercial activity, and to provide an educational and entertaining experience that is the pride of all Kansans.”

More than 350,000 people from all 105 Kansas counties and several other states visit the fair each year, which begins the Friday following Labor Day and lasts for 10 days at the Kansas State Fairgrounds in Hutchinson. Many thousands of those visitors seemed to be there the day we visited, the first Saturday. It was busy! There are more than a thousand commercial vendors, including those wonderful funnel cake and corn dog stands. There are about 30,000 entries in various competitions. There are lots of musical acts from local to national, including “Boston” and “Heart.” I didn’t see any concerts, unfortunately, but I did try some carrot cake funnel cake. Delicious!

I’ll let my photographs do the talking. The Kansas State Fair website.

Sculptor Sharon BuMann is creating a train and cars from 450 pounds of butter. The cars carry the Kansas icons of Dorothy wearing her red shoes and her dog Toto.

Check out the movie “Butter,” starring Jennifer Garner, Hugh Jackman, Alicia Silverstone and Olivia Wilde. Two women battle in their town’s annual butter carving competition. "Butter" movie.

A girl, who has already enjoyed a face painting session, plays with the grains in the wheat fountain. A volunteer warned me that my photograph might be “grainy.”

A little girl meets a dog available for adoption at the Hutchinson Animal Shelter booth at the Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

A family watches chicks at the Kansas State Fair, 2012.

Judges examine pumpkins at the Kansas state Fair, September 2012.

Holstein Cows, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

Scarecrows, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

The sunflower is the Kansas State Flower, so it’s only fitting that sunflower seed heads have a special category at the Kansas state Fair.

Judges measure the longest gourd at the Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

What a sunny face!

No visit to the Kansas State Fair is complete without a trip on the train.

Prize-winning needlework, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

Fruits and Vegetables, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

Children play on the giant sunflower fountain at the Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

Clothing Display, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

What is this bird? It’s in the 4-H Poultry Exhibition at the Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

Kansas fish are displayed in the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism aquarium at the Kansas State Fair, September 2012. You can see the Sky Ride gondolas passing overhead.

Sorghum, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

Mini Donkey Show, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

The Tin Man and Scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz greet visitors to the Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

Quilts, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

Note the sign of the Peterson Farm Bros, who are Kansas farmers. Check out their very popular video at the bottom, “I’m Farming and I Grow It.”

That engine is hot! A Ford pick-up truck is now a barbecue pit, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

Ferris Wheel, Kansas State Fair, September 2012.

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Saving Bees

These honey bees are finding nectar on wildflowers in a park.  Bess find fewer places to find food as more areas are developed and mowed.  These wildflowers were mowed a few days later, leaving no flowers for the bees.

These honey bees are foraging for nectar on wildflowers in a park. Bees are finding fewer flowers for food as more areas are developed and mowed. These wildflowers were mowed a few days later, leaving no flowers for the bees.

My garden is a hang-out for bees of all kinds — honey bees, native bees, carpenter bees.  I love watching them going about their business and am glad to help out keeping them fed.  Bees are important pollinators.  Pollination is essential for most of our food crops. 

The honey bee population has dropped dramatically in recent years, and scientists are trying to find the causes.   They’ve discovered a number of reasons.  Below is a link to a New York Times article with comments about the bee situation from entomologists and beekeepers.   (There haven’t been many butterflies this year in the Midwest, which I’ll write about later. )

Room for Debate: Saving Bees: What We Know Now. — Lessons from the battle against colony collapse disorder, which is still decimating hives. Also check out Monarch Watch and Pollinator Partnership in my blogroll.

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Filed under Agriculture, Biology, Entomology, Environment, Gardening, Insects, Life, Nature, Science

Kansas – The Nation’s Breadbasket

For years I've seen these signs along the highways in Kansas.  This sign is along Interstate 70.

For years I've seen these signs along the highways in Kansas. I convinced my husband to stop as we were speeding by the third one I'd seen, and I ran through the thick plant growth and took this photograph. This sign is along Interstate 70.

I was born in Virginia, but I’ve spent most of my life in Kansas.   Even though I’ve always lived in cities, I’ve never been far from fields of wheat, soybeans and corn. 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture , Kansas is the top wheat producer in the United States.  (We’re number one!  We’re number one!)  This year, Kansas farmers harvested an estimated 360.8 million bushels, up from 356 million bushels last year.  Kansas farmers harvested 8.8. million acres this season, about 100,000 fewer acres than a year ago but achieving an average of one more bushel an acre in yield this year. 

Hurrah for the Kansas farmer and for Mother Nature for glorious weather!  Hurrah for farmers everywhere.

This wheat field  is in the city limits of Overland Park, Kansas, the largest city in Kansas, and part of the metropolitan Kansas City area.  It's surrounded by commercial development and is for sale, so eventually, you'll see cars here instead of crops. Too bad. I like seeing farm fields.  Last year, it was planted in soybeans.

This wheat field is in the city limits of Overland Park, Kansas, which is the second-most populous city in Kansas, and part of the metropolitan Kansas City area. It's surrounded by commercial development and is for sale, so eventually, you'll see cars here instead of crops. Too bad. I like seeing farm fields. Last year, it was planted in soybeans.


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