What’s for Dinner: Strawberry Pizza

Last year we installed a huge strawberry garden, 800 plants or so in a 1,600 square foot space.  And then I got pregnant with Violet and found myself unable to help with any of the farm maintenance.  Our strawberry patch became overrun with waist high weeds and most of our plants didn’t make it over the winter.

I think it’s important to try everything 3 times before thoroughly giving up, so this spring we replanted 90% of the patch.  It is now a medley of varieties we picked up from a few different garden centers.  Some are June bearing, some are ever bearing, which means we are still picking berries right now!

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This is us planting strawberries in May.  Shhhh!  The baby is sleeping!

Food & Wine Magazine posted this strawberry tart last week: https://www.instagram.com/p/BH7Wpchhao-/ which inspired us to make Strawberry Pizza for dinner at Pretty Bird Farm.  It was my idea, but really John did all the work, since he’s the one that has mastered the perfect pizza crust.

Strawberry Pizza

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Ingredients:

For the Toppings

For the Crust

  • Antimo 00 flour
  • a few pinches of sugar, salt, and a splash of water
  • 1 package dry yeast: I also think it is worth mentioning, that when you buy packaged yeast, make sure the ingredients just say yeast!  I don’t know who came up with the idea to add artificial flavors to packaged yeast, but it just isn’t necessary.  Good thing John reads food labels!

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 500+ Degrees F

The Crust: John has never written down the recipe for the dough and it comes out a bit different each time he puts it together, but here is a rough idea how he does it:  First, mix a packet of yeast, a pinch or two of sugar, salt and water.  Let the mixture double or so in size. Then slowly mix in the flour – a bit at a time until the newly formed ball of dough is elastic and moist but no longer wet.  Allow the dough to rise and when you are ready to make the pizza, remove from the bowl and work it with a bit of flour on the pizza board. Be sure not to add too much flour or it will dry out. Roll or press out the dough into the shape of a pizza. The dough at Pretty Bird Farm isn’t an exact science, so take your time. Making a good dough takes plenty of practice and the good news is that even if it isn’t perfect, it should be delicious.

Toppings:  Cut the green tops off the strawberries and chop them up a bit.  Sauté about ¾ of the arugula in olive oil. Crumble or roughly chop up the cheese into small chunks.

Assembly:  Roll out the dough on a floured pizza board and slide it onto a preheated pizza stone.  Cook until the crust barely sets and then take it back out of the oven.  Drizzle a bit of olive oil over the crust and spread it out with a basting brush. Spread the toppings evenly over the crust: sautéed arugula, chopped strawberries, cheese chunks.  Top with the rest of the fresh arugula and cook until you see the crust start to brown and/or bubble – and make sure the cheese melts!  Drizzle with balsamic vinegar glaze (and I like to add salt and hot pepper) before serving!

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Optional: Enjoy with a cold glass of sparkling wine!

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Bon Appetit!
Tiffany & John

 

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Pretty Bird Farm’s Top 10 Plants for Attracting Butterflies to the Garden

It’s mid-July and I must admit our flower gardens are really looking pretty.  We have had the perfect balance of sun and rain and it is as if overnight all the butterflies in town have flocked to our gardens.  There are plenty of plants to pick from when planting a garden to attract pollinators, but here are just a few of our favorites out there in bloom now.

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Perennials:

  1. Coneflower (Echinacea): Any variety will do, and these days there are so many colors and habits to choose from.  This easy to grow perennial likes a lot of sun and is also drought tolerant.  If they can handle being planted along the medians on the highway, surely they are easy enough to grow in your garden!  And if you like bringing the garden indoors, they make a pretty good cut flower!

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    Swallowtail on Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit’

  2. Bee Balm (Monarda): This is a vigorous perennial that comes in an assortment of colors ranging from red to pink to purple.  Bee Balm is prone to getting unsightly powdery mildew on its foliage but there are new varieties available today that more resistant.  We planted ‘Marshall’s Delight’ which is supposed to be more resistant.  While it didn’t have mildew last year, the frequent rains we’ve had have led to a light outbreak.  Still, the flowers are pretty and the butterflies are happy.

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    Tomato Hornwom Moth on Bee Balm ‘Marshall’s Delight’

  3. Catnip (Nepeta): This isn’t one I expected to include on this list, but when I stepped out in the yard to snap some photos today, I couldn’t help but notice these cabbage lupers thoroughly enjoying themselves on the flowers.  There are annual and perennial varieties to choose from and you should note that it can self-seed and spread aggressively in your garden.  If you want to keep it under control, plant it in a pot on your patio and remove spent blossoms after the butterflies have enjoyed them but before they go throwing seeds all over the yard.

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    Cabbage Luper on Catnip

  4. Milkweed (Asclepias): There are a lot of different varieties of milkweed out there.  We have a wild one that Monarchs laid their larvae on last year. They get a white fragrant flower, and this year we picked up a new one with vibrant orange flowers that the butterflies are loving!  Milkweed is a perennial that tends to spread via fluffy white seeds.  This is plant that is critical to the monarch butterfly’s lifecycle and we highly recommend planting it and not pulling out volunteers when they come up in new places in your yard.

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    Asclepias Butterfly Milkweed

  5. Butterfly Bush (Buddleia): Butterfly bushes are the gift that keeps on giving. As old blossoms fade, there is always a new set of flower buds behind them.  While this woody shrub is low maintenance and will still continue to grow without help, if you prune out faded out flowers, the new ones will bloom faster.  Do note that some varieties of butterfly bush are invasive, and some can also get enormous!  I wanted a lot of variety in our butterfly garden so we chose the compact varieties ‘Black Knight,’ ‘Buzz ™ Magenta’ and ‘Cranrazz.’20160719_150030s_resized.jpg

Annuals:

  1. Zinnia: Every year I plant more and more zinnias, and I still feel like there is room for more. Zinnias are an annual in our zone.  I grow most of mine from seed, but I am very impulsive when I see a healthy flat ready to bloom at a garden center.  My all-time favorite variety for cut flowers is Benary’s Giant, but this year we are also growing Oklahoma Mix, Cut and Come Again Mix, Peppermint Stick and a really beautiful bicolor one called Zowie! ™ Yellow Flame.  I could probably write an entire blog post about why zinnias are so amazing.  Stay tuned for that one!

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    Monarch Butterfly on Zinnia ‘Benary’s Giant’

  2. Petunia: Petunias are another group of flowers where there are so many varieties to choose from, but honestly my favorite have always been Wave Petunias.  The wave Petunia collection has so many colors and sizes to choose from and what’s great about them is that you never have to deadhead!  They are great in containers and in the ground and are so low maintenance.  Once established (and watered a few times) you can even plant them in places where you know you won’t remember to water them and they will still look great until frost hits them in the fall!

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    Wave Petunias: Shockwave Rose, Easy Wave Yellow & Shockwave Denim

  3. Marigold (Tagetes): Marigolds are one of the easiest annuals to grow and the butterflies love them!  Most people plant them in their vegetable gardens because their pungent fragrance helps discourage bugs and other critters.  They also make a great cut flower once they start stretching tall in the summer sun!

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    Swallowtail Butterfly on French Marigolds

  4. Nasturtium: We plant nasturtium every year because I delight in feeding it to anyone that happens to come over and visit our garden. It is a beautiful edible flower that adds a colorful peppery flavor to any dish.  It is one that is sure to attract butterflies to your garden as well.  You can pick up plants at a garden center or you can grow it from seed.  The seeds are a little tricky to germinate because they require scarification.  Scratch them up with an emery board or soak in water the night before you plant to speed up sprouting!

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    Nasturtium

  5. Verbena: There are a lot of verbenas to choose from, some are short and compact or trailing and great for containers, and there is even a new one out that is great for landscape beds that doesn’t get mildew. This year we planted the tall verbena, Verbena Bonariensis, sometimes called South American Verbena, and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the habit or flower power.  I picked up a flat of leggy plants from our local garden center and it didn’t take them long to explode with color.  Our Verbena patch is a very busy hub for pollinators and you can see bees, butterflies and moths out there hitting on the nectar all day long!  This is listed as a tender perennial in zones 7-10, so it I have it listed here as an annual for our zone 6B garden.

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    Verbena Bonariensis

I think we can officially call our garden a butterfly breeding ground.  In case you missed recent the video we posted to Instagram, here is a link of Monarch Butterflies having a great time in our garden!

There are so many more flowers out there that are sure to attract pollinators to your garden, this is just a short list that is easy to grow, and is in bloom in our garden right now.  Each year we are adding more and more!  Have some recommendations for us?  Let us know in the comments below!  Tiffany

 

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Adventures in Pumpkin Farming

Before this week, we were rather inexperienced at growing pumpkins.  Last year we planted 100 seeds of the Small World of Color Pumpkin Mix super late in the season and after weeds, disease and the local wildlife took most of the crop, we grew two beautiful blue pumpkins.  We have also grown a number of rogue Jack Be Littles that were volunteers from pumpkins we had tossed out in the yard.  This pumpkin patch certainly is a new adventure for us!

After talking about it for more than a year, we finally committed to planting a dedicated place exclusively for pumpkins.  We measured out an area roughly 20’ x 80’ adjacent to our new strawberry patch (that’s another story) and tilled the grass under.  We’re pretty happy with how straw has been keeping the weeds down in other areas of the garden this year, so we elected to continue using it for weed control in the new pumpkin patch.

20160626_105739_resizedWe’ve never grown pumpkins on this scale before and we debated how best to go about it.  Should we plant them in hills as suggested on the seed packets?  That would be a lot of hills!  Or, plant them in raised rows created by a plow?  We don’t own a plow.  John voted to just plant them in a flat pumpkin patch, since that’s how you find them when you go pumpkin picking.  After consulting my friend Scott (who knows how to grow just about everything) my idea for some sort of raised bed was ruled out as impractical.  He assured us that farmers just plant them in the ground.  So, I think we are farmers now!

Since our space was so large and we planted so many different varieties, we didn’t really follow the rules on how far to space the plants apart.  Instead, we accepted that we were likely to lose a few plants to natural causes and we spread the plants out evenly along the length of the patch.  Survival of the fittest right?  Just as we were getting started to plant, our neighbor Duke (who by the way grows great cut-your-own Christmas Trees at The Rosemont Tree Farm) dropped by to check out our progress and offered to help.  I watched Violet snooze in the shade, and Duke and John planted two nice and even rows of pumpkins down the center of the pumpkin patch.6019_resized_1

What kind of pumpkins did we plant?  From seeds we grew Ornamental Fancy Gourd Mix, Jack Be Little Pumpkins, Small Sugar Pumpkins, Early Sweet Sugar Pie Pumpkins and Jack O Lantern Pumpkins.  We picked up Wee B Little Pumpkin plants and two unlabeled surprise pumpkins from our local garden center.

6028_resized_1And so begins our pumpkin growing adventure!  If all goes well we will be offering our best fruits for sale this fall.  Wish us luck!  Tiffany

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