Friday, November 24, 2006

The Final Garden Gifts

All of the pathways have been covered in pine needles and it's almost time to tuck the garden in for the winter ...

but it is still giving gifts of ....

potatoes and lettuce




and even some flowers

Thursday, November 23, 2006

A Happy Thanksgiving to all ! Posted by Picasa

the carrot harvest

I planted five varieties of carrots last spring. Imperator, Nantes Fancy, Atomic Red, Purple Fancy and Shin Kuruda. The Imperators have been huge ! The two colored carrots have been thin and short but tasty. All of them have benefited from the recent frosts.

I will be bringing the “orange” to Thanksgiving dinner today: carrots, rutabaga and sweet potatoes, all from the garden. The rutabaga will benefit from some maple syrup and dried cranberries, but the other two veggies will speak for themselves. They have a special sweetness all their own … no need to sugar them up.

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

the gospel according to Joel

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It's all starting to come together

I experienced a rare treat Friday night. Joel Salatin from Polyface Farm came to speak at the Ag Hall. During the winter months I am lucky enough to have access to Polyface products at my local farmer’s market in Virginia. I’ve been eating Joel’s chicken for 7 years. The Smithsonian Magazine did a special spread on him 5 years ago and he is something of an icon in the Shenandoah Valley.

Then this summer he was catapulted into the national limelight when Michael Pollan’s Ominivore’s Dilemma highlighted the integrity of his operation at Polyface. So it was a great closing of the circle for me to be seated in the Ag Hall here on the island and to hear Joel live for the first time. There were about 100 locals there to hear the gospel according to Joel. It is a bit like sitting through a lively sermon about “Holy Cows and Hog Heaven” as you get rolled along through his slides and his unbounded energy to the only conclusion you can manage. We have GOT to shift the way we raise animals for food in this country.

For me it was a return to a message I have been getting closer and closer to over the past few years. Arriving at a commitment to these principles is a recursive process. I credit so many of the blogs I read, particularly Liz at Pocket Farm for solidifying my own journey. What impressed me about this particular moment in time is how ready the island is to hear this message. We have three new organizations and one old one pushing this trend. This night was sponsored by the newly formed Island Grown Initiative, Slow Food MV Convivium, The FARM Institute, and the long established (1859) MVAg Society. These new organizations have only been around a few years and they represent a coalition of consumers and farmers who are acting on a set of common principles to bring about change here locally.

It also struck me as I looked around the room that this change is also being empowered by a new generation of farmers here on the island. In a place where construction is the driving force of the economy, island families have been under tremendous pressure to break up the parcels that make this such a rural paradise. It is a great act of faith, commitment and personal courage to use this land for agriculture, and I admire these young families and their willingness to stay the course.

There was talk this night of working Joel’s principles into the Island Plan. There was talk of establishing an island slaughterhouse. There were young girls curious to know if they could use the “pigerators” in their horse stalls. There was talk of how we only need to use 7% of our 64,000 acres to become fully self-sufficient.

It is an exciting time here.

Friday, November 17, 2006

preparing to take down the rose bush Posted by Picasa

the new trees in place Posted by Picasa

Worrying about the trees

Trees are something that happen naturally on this landscape. Nature gives us all we need and more. However, over the years we have planted trees to offer privacy, and last year we planted six dwarf apple trees. One of the spruces we planted 12 years ago has been damaged by an invasive wild rose bush. As much as I enjoy the fragrance those 2 weeks in June, it really had become a nuisance. So we took it down in September and arranged to have two white spruce planted in its place.

damage from the rose bush

There is a tree farm the next hedgerow over from us, so the landscaper was able to scoop the tree out of the ground and put it in the planting hole here in one simple operation. Mother Nature has been very cooperative with the rain since they were planted and they seem very happy in their new home.

moving the trees into place

The apple trees are my big worry right now. There are three issues, the first and most controllable actually are the deer. During the warmer months I rely on Bobbex, and chicken wire laid on the ground, because the deer don’t like the feel of the chicken wire on their hooves. But in the winter I like to fence them in to keep the deer away. I have put 8 foot tall bamboo poles in the ground and will use them to hold the 8 foot tall deer netting. The second problem is “cedar apple rust.” This area is full red cedars and there is a blight that passes from apple to cedar and back again. I have avoided the impact of it by planting resistant varieties, Freedom, Liberty and Jonafree. I also have a non resistant Arkansas Black in the mix just for fun.

But it is the third worry that has me awake at night. It is the winter moth (Operophetera brumata). Soon the moths will be laying their eggs and in the spring their larvae will climb up the trunks of my trees and wiggle right into the blossoming flowers. They are particularly hard on blossoming trees in this way. Their greater local damage is to our oak trees which are attacked by the larger caterpillars in late May and early June. Last spring we were dripping in caterpillars and the infestation shows no sign of abating for 8 – 10 years! This is scary!

This scariness has captured the imagination of some local artists who created this version of the winter moth called the “Vineyard Scareapillar: eating the island one leaf at a time.” It stands nearly 10 feet tall outside of the General Store.

the Vineyard Scareapillar Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 16, 2006

winter light Posted by Picasa

The garden continues to give

As I type this, the aroma of cooked Georgia Jet sweet potatoes and butternut squash are filling the house with fall smells. Last night I made a pizza topped with cooked leeks and garlic from the garden. See other garden gifts below.

lots of leeks Posted by Picasa

huge carrots are still coming out of the ground Posted by Picasa

These Brussels sprouts may LOOK bare ... Posted by Picasa

....but each evening just before dark I am able to pick a pocketful for dinner. Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 10, 2006

evening reflections ... Posted by Picasa

The Landscape Shifts

My how the landscape rushes to darkness these days. What’s the hurry?

I’ve been away from the garden for two weeks. Part of the journey involved stopping off in Virginia, my home state, and voting. I feel so powerful … like I turned the Senate around single-handedly.

There has been a distinct shift from fall to winter as you can see below.

The leaves are off the trees .. Posted by Picasa

the trumpet vine is bare Posted by Picasa

the hammock has no shade Posted by Picasa

the asparagus has turned yellow from the frost... Posted by Picasa

... and holly berries! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 05, 2006

"but the air's so appetizin' and the landscape through the haze of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly mountain haze is a picture that no painter has the colorin' to mock ..." Posted by Picasa

"... when the frost is on the punkin' and the fodder's in the shock" Posted by Picasa

selecting the seed stock Posted by Picasa