We seem to still be on a “yo-yo” weather pattern and is wreaking havoc with our perennial, annual and vegetable gardens, as well as lawns, trees and shrubs. I’ve noticed an increase in the number of ants scurrying around my deck and along hoses. I have also noticed that the snakes I usually see almost daily are almost nonexistent in my gardens and I have seen only one since early spring – not that I mind their absence, but they are helpful in the garden. Has anyone else experienced similar increases or decreases of wild life in their yards? Let me know via this paper.

The recent rains have stimulated the dormant lawns and with cooler temperatures, the grass is growing again and it grows very long in a very short time. The hot, dry weather certainly hasn’t stopped the weeds from growing. Some of them in the wild space of my yard are more than 5 feet tall. Weeding is best done after a good rainfall as the ground is softened and you don’t disturb what little moisture is in the soil. Drought-resistant perennials have really have been through the test of hardiness, but should stand the test of this drought-like season.

On Fridays, fresh produce abounds at our own Ellicottville Farmers’ Market with the appearance of broccoli, cabbage, peppers, green and yellow beans, zucchini and yellow summer squash, and fruits such as blueberries and my favorite stone fruit, peaches. Last year, I froze sliced peaches in several airtight bags, mixed only with Fruit Fresh to keep them from browning. What a delight during the winter months when fresh peaches, if available, have little to no taste, are usually hard, are not locally grown and, I feel, barely edible. I can remember my mother canning peaches and we really enjoyed them during the winter months.

If you decide to freeze or can peaches, or other stone fruit, use only unbruised fruit and follow the guidelines available from Ball at www.FreshPreserving.com or you can find Ball Canning & Recipes on Facebook. Ball has a wealth of information regarding freezing and canning fruits, vegetables, meats, and making jams and jellies. Another website is Penn State’s College of Agriculture Sciences at www.cas.psu.edu. I picked up this info some time ago at Cornell Cooperative Extension. It’s extremely important to follow the proper freezing and canning guidelines to avoid and contamination of the foods you are preparing.

If you like to experiment with new tastes, check out www.epicurious.com and look for a recipe for roast pork and plum chutney. The chutney is incredible and is a new favorite of mine. The recipe is too long to include in this column, but try the pork kebabs below. They’re perfect for this time of year.

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