Thursday, December 17, 2009

bitter cold, grab the camera

a quick wreath from homegrown bay laurel
is this what they call 'winter interest'?
once a year to prove to myself i can do it..clean off bench in shed and give it some oil..
brussel sprouts with mountain view
YES, something is growing in the hoop house!!

Everyone scurries at their own pace but this time of year finds even the most lackadaisical among us doing more than usual. Lots of prepping, list making, decorating and, now that the bitter temps have reached us, doing all those things we do to stay warm. I send up some gratitude for the woodstove and wish I had two or three more!
We've guests coming up for the holidays so it'll be a full house and I look forward to it. Great meals are planned accompanied, I hope, with some fun outdoor stuff.

And again, snow is not for everyone, (blessedly, or they'd all live here), but only the most jaded among us can't see the beauty of it. It keeps blowing my mind year after year!
Ours is a secular household so I send my 'holiday' best out into the ether of the interwebs.....

Sunday, December 6, 2009

it begins

This is the time of year I seem to turn my attention from growing things to making things, holiday gifts, modest and homemade. But the arrival of seed catalogues keeps my attention and has me highlighting and list making and spinning thoughts of a MUCH better gardening year in 2010. 2010, yikes!
Before this, our first real snow, I puttered about and launched a few outdoor experiments...if anything comes to pass I'll let you know. But for me this begins a quiet time. Snow does that to me. I love it, though not to the extent it prevents me from bitching about it ad infinitum when it interferes with simple daily chores.

Again, I've neglected this blog, a month slipping by in the blink of an eye. Trying to get comfy with a balance of healthy discipline and actually having something relevant to say. Ack!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

my premier crop and seed storage method

the best method I've found...just store the seeds, the seeds you've successfully dried that is, in a container that rodents cannot breach and keep the whole mess out in the shed..none of this seed in the fridge business for me. Of course the great outdoors is pretty much a freezer so it's all good. If you live in Florida pay no attention.

I challenge anyone to show me a better rock crop..this is the second bunch of stones pulled out in attempts to prep these little raised beds. The rocks get dumped/heaved more or less on the stone walls or in my mini quarry where the little tiny chain gang of my mind is busting them up!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

transition time

It's official; time had fallen backwards.
Gathering up enthusiasm for the final push of chores before the ground is covered with snow. The problem is that everything seems to conspire to distract me this time of year. But what an exquisite distraction. I could spend a spare lifetime just looking at frosty milkweed.
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If I have learned anything about gardening, at least in northern New England, it is that anything one can do in the autumn to lessen the work required in the spring is a very good thing indeed. Needless to say I don't believe it can be done completely but theoretically one must at least take a stab at it. And, as the old adage goes every little bit helps. Here, where most of the winter we have about 3' of snow, even how I leave things in the out buildings have to have a sort of order of what I'll need first in the spring when things get cracking again. I'll experiment trying some four season stuff this year but for all intents and purposes I garden, if lucky, only two and a halfish seasons. I've yet to estasblish a satisfactory cold frame/poly tunnel set up that truly fits the bill but I live in hope, (at least as it concerns improving my gardening knowledge and practical skills).
If I can claim any success this year it is in the area of gathering data and gettin' ideas. The future: bigger, better, lusher...lusher? is that a word?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

what, a nor'easter you say?

Well, we dodged a weather bullet here in northern New England the last few what better time to zip up to Maine to check out the surf? It's always great when the beaches are all yours.

But now it's home again, home again jiggity jig. Normally taking a few days away this time of year might be problematic but one thing about having a lousy harvest is there's less to do at this normally labor intensive time of year. But heaven know there's still a ton to do. Time to hop to it.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

last minute mowing and the once & future vegetable garden

We've got some weather coming our way and today, I must admit, was the first time I really felt the cold.
I have alot of lawn to look at...well, alot of grass mixed with other stuff that passes for 'lawn' and that's fine with me except I'm no fan of mowing. I've hayed fields and mown more than my share of landscape and it's not just the noise and using fossil fuels that bugs me. I don't get into the 'meditation' of it. I don't hate it, I'd just rather allocate the time for other gardening matters. Luckily it only falls to me about half the time.
But today I felt an urgency as we are expecting some white stuff and even if it doesn't stick it's psychological impact is strong. Anyhoo, I keep raking to a minimum so the leaves get mulched into the lawn, that's it for my fertilizing. Seems to work. So a final buzz cut. Hope is that much of this area will have vegetables growing on it in the not too distant future. The good news is that it was a veg garden in the past so it'll be relatively rock free. The bad news is it's a very wet area so some serious raised beds would be needed. But whatever is decided my mantra is to not bite off more than I can chew. (Good luck with that one, Randi)
So, the woodstove is pretty much on full time duty now and I find myself hunting down hearty recipes. I've got a fava bean chili going at the moment. Could be interesting.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

another day in Vermont

Well, El put a bee in my bonnet the other day when I read her post on legitimately, (that is: knowing what she's doing), foraging for wild mushrooms. I, on the other hand, know nothing about fungi. BUT! I've had a ball looking around the last few days on my walks and have begun at least to read a bit on the topic. Tried to find the variety of that bright orange monster but am still looking. If you know fill me in please. So today, Sunday, a day in nature worthy of worship... here it is.

Friday, October 9, 2009

quintessential aromatherapy

Walking in October with Effie, Egil and Cabot is a treat.
Walking is a treat and breathing in and out is exquisite when the air is so clean and it's about to rain and the earth is fecund and so spicily perfumed that it is not to be described but to be inhaled.

I should not consider it, (daily long tramps), an indulgence. I should and do consider it my health care insurance. We did our 4 mile loop along the river and I dillydallyed today, taking time to stare at the shrooms, lichen, leaves, fungi and on. But deep breathing was at the root of it. I noted that were I able to bottle and sell said aroma I would be wealthy. So, another day, more gratitude, woodstove going, baked squash and apple pie from the fallen apples. Not for a second today will I not be conscious that Life is indeed good.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

end of's and were they thinking what I've been thinking

At the end of some things now. Basil has it's finale. Still smells great..the last hurrah to fresh pesto for the season. Hurrah!
And putting seed away...which means drying and separating seed from's where I got to wondering if 'they', (by they I mean the thousands of generations before me of mostly women performing some version of the same task), thought as I did while seed cleaning. My crude, no machines except me, method requires alot of shaking and blowing with assistance from the prevailing winds. It's sorta fun, sometimes meditative and occasionally induces one to involuntarily inhale clouds of stuff should you get distracted or the wind gets the rascal in her.
My seed harvest is pretty measly this year, not much atall in the way of veggies but I've managed a few odds and ends and already am mentally cheerleading my way into next year with some 'the odds must be with me' calculations. Calculations means hope. Ha!
But hey, autumn provides the most scenic backdrop for deep thinking. Double HA!

Monday, October 5, 2009

day tripping

some days in the autumn are just for roving about...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

light frosts, reflections, gettin' ready

I've not posted anything for a bit because, like everyone else, I've been busy. Unlike the many I admire here I've found nothing terribly instructive or amusing to yak about. I am still very much a student and glean what I can from those who've been immersed in the 'gardening/farming sustainability game' longer than I have.

We've had a few light frosts that've killed off the leaves on things like the squash plants but have left other things still struggling on. I check them out and work around them. I gather seed and from all the wonderful blogs I read I also gather priceless info. If for no other reason I will be forever grateful to the interwebs for such a cornucopia of knowledge.

Additionally, it's also the time of year to do alot of other chores, i.e., painting/staining things that the literally endless rains of summer prevented me from tackling earlier. So it's hurry up time now.
Anyone who lives in the country, or even quasi-countryish living, especially this far North, knows how much lugging, lifting, storing and preparing for the weather to come entails, even for me who is still lightyears from true sustainability. One is forced to think ahead...maybe that's the crux of the whole philosophy of sustainability, thinking ahead, what a novel notion! Wouldn't it be a kick if our politicians did such a radical thing?!

After this rather unsuccessful season growing my own has taken on a tremendous significance. I suspect that for many of us it's a stab at counterbalancing that utter feeling of powerlessness one has with every glance at the headlines. There is an undeniable political aspect to this notion of self reliance and in my daydream world I fantasize all those wasted suburban lawns and vacant city lots turned to healthful production. Where kids actually got the connection about where their food actually comes from..ah me. Unlike many I read who are naturally more optimistic than I, I don't envision such a thing happening until the trucks that roll no longer do so, and the shelves where the twinkies calcify are empty and the fryers of MacDonalds are cold will we see true change. And though I'm a world weary cynical old crone in my more even moments even I dare to hope a little.
Imagine this country not chronically ill from eating garbage and sitting sedentary all day. Can you? If so please let me know, I need a lift.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Euchaetes egle, I presume

aka milkweed tussock caterpiller or milkweed tiger any event some serious munchitation is taking frost yet but there's a nip in the air, leaves begin to turn and chore lists shift to autumn mode.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

One of the good things about

sweet annie, love lies bleeding, edamame
pole beans
an only slightly disorganized tableau

from an only slightly disorganized gal

One of the good things about getting old, (I'm 57 to put it in context), is that you care less and less any rodents ass what others think of you. Truly it's one of the few blessings of waddling toward decrepitude. So while taking these snaps I felt none of the 'if only my projects weren't such a mess' feelings. I'm gathering seed, drying stuff and potting tenders up. It's messy.
So I got to thinking about housekeeping and design and that led me to thinking about the sort of aesthetic I've always admired. I love spare, uncluttered, simple motifs in most things. I have always pretty much held this sort of appreciation and YET I live as most others do who find themselves in what passes for the country these days; overflowing with interesting doodads, aka cluttered. Stuff accumulates. Some of it is useful or might be useful down the pike. Or there might be an object that is aged and deserves respect simply for making it this far despite the dings, nicks or long faded patina. Am I talking about an old metal rake or am I talking about me?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

since it's raining anyway

Unsettled weather. Moist. Again. What else is new?

It went into the high 30's here the other night so I'm already holding my breath to see how long we can last before first frost. We certainly deserve an Indian Summer but who knows? I've managed to do some freezing, canning, seed collecting, blight bagging as well as some dreaming and scheming for next years foray. I've made a tomato curry chutney inspired by Grow The Change, Calendula Lip Balm inspired by Fast Grow The Weeds, jalepeno blueberry jelly inspired by 'What to do with all these berries?'.

Truly that's the beauty of growing one's own. It's so dashedly hopefilled. Dashedly? (I also use an over-the-top fakey Cockney accent when addressing one of my neighbors who I affectionately call 'Guvna'. I think it's hilarious EVERY time. He is of old Yankee stock and remains, I believe, nonplussed.)

But back to the gardens. So much beauty, so many small dramas. The blue jays begin their annual Bacchanalia on the blueberries. They wait all year for this chance to get even louder as they tie one on. Apples on the old trees fall for the deer. And everything scrambles to go to seed. Who can not be moved?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

the everlivin' gall

Several goldenrod plants were so blemished I noted on my walk today. Seems there are parasitic critters who enjoy a bit of boring and breeding, I'm thinking Gnoremoschema gallaesolidagnis. I'll inspect further tomorrow.
But hey! Good news citizens! There are some days that are so deliciously exquisite in their simple beauty. Today was such a day for me. Quiet, lovely, relatively productive but with a large helping of free time to wander and ponder and sing Lou Reed's 'Perfect Day'.
What a great day!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

blueberries and blight

I have yet to resort to making a castor bean stew to end all my travails!
this 'thing' is a melon, that, if it reaches maturity before first frost, will stun me!
antique blueberry/cranberry rake...don't use it on my bushes but am sometimes tempted to speed up the process.
one day picking
blighty refuse to be bagged

Yes, we've been hit with the plague and it's not pretty. I hold at least some scant hope of a bit of a harvest but the longer I wait to pull entire plants and bag them the more the spores spread, especially with the humidity we are experiencing. The tomatoes themselves are secondary to my fears of what may lurk in my soil for ever after so I research and hope the cold of winter and a less seasonally insane summer next year will take care of the problem.
How did the funk get here? Clearly my bad. I grew 90+% of my tomatoes from seed here but did buy a few heirloom varieties from small, local nurseries where I was assured the plants were grown on site. But I work in a nursery and we, along with all the others buy in ornamental plants from other states and I know that some of trucks that delivered to us also delivered to box stores so the epidemic spread like wildfire. Of course I, along with all other growers, would have loved to have known earlier but Pandora's box cannot now be closed. Argggggghhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!
I do have some tomato plants that haven't been hit because they are some distance from the main growing area. My left overs, default plants...Snort!
(Randi takes a cleansing breath).

However crappily most of my efforts have been this year there is one thing that remains carefree and abundant. The highbush blueberries here are over 30 years old and produce happily for us as well as the birds! I've been living on them for a couple weeks now and I begin to take on a slightly bluish tinge. I'll be freezing most and making some sort of jammy jelly stuff as well.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

homegrown anguish

Edvard Munch eat you heart out ~ just makes you want to scream!
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Sunday, August 2, 2009

It's August Already!

Digitalis ferruginea has become a favorite of mine, begun a few years ago from seed. Once established they make a terrific upright stand. Group 10 or 15 plants together for impact.
Finally harvested some of the default cucumbers, actually it's been a fun experiment growing these other than reminding myself to water and fert regularly.

There are sloping perennial islands here created in areas where ledge had nudged it's nose above ground making mowing around them impossible. Planting perennials around the stone has been a great solution. The beds have grown through the years without much thought to design. Over the last couple of years I've had a bit more time to move things about and shovel prune to my hearts content. That being said my perennial beds are still packed. I have always planted tightly so I begin to seriously cut back/deadhead this time of year. If I waited any longer I'd have to be doing it into January. A few things are allowed to go to seed, some are left for the much ballyhooed 'winter interest, (which is pretty meaningless here as we have 3 ft of snow through most of the six months of winter),' and some years I am neglectful and wait until Spring. But I've learned the hard way it's best to begin clean up in a timely fashion.
Add to that a year where the plants have stretched for non existent sunshine and been beaten down daily by rainfall and the flopping has reached record proportions.
So I'm weeding/cutting back yesterday and suddenly it felt as if someone dropped something on my back. Not painful, just distinct. I keep snipping away at the daisies until I discover a nest with three eggs. I put it together and felt terrible for exposing a gaping hole in what used to be a pretty well disguised jungle. In all my years landscaping I'd never come across a nest like this. Later I come back and discover mom on her nest. I give her props for divebombing me, what instinct! I don't even want to think of the odds for survival especially with the feline population hereabouts.

Friday, July 31, 2009

When Will I learn?

Flash Flood Watch in effect....apparently even mentioning a few hours of sun or heat tempts fate. I waddle over another philosophical gardening hurdle. I settle in. Let's not call it resignation let's call it achieving a sort of zen. Yeah, that sounds good. Zen.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Apres Moi, Le Deluge

16 year old Shamus getting stoned in what's left of the catnip patch
wood finds it's place
daylilies finally have a bit of sun

Ceci n'est pas une pipe - it's my homemade cuke holder upper, don't think I'll be marketing this design right away
And hall of loojaws, those are my peaches! Now mind you two Reliance were put in this Spring and only this one has fruit, and no, these peaches will never be as sweet, large and juicy and those south of here but I am tickled just to have any. Coincidentally I visited a long established orchard a couple days ago not too far from me and they were selling these very same peaches and I checked out their mature trees. Seeing is believing.

The good news is that though we have our daily rains we finally have some heat to go with it AND there seem to be longer stretches between each downpour.

So here I sit, chased in by freshening winds turning the leaves inside out and the increasingly greying skies BUT at least it's not cold! I hear rumbling too, just a matter of time so blog quickly before the power goes out.