Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The December DC Dump

Let it snow ...

Let it snow

Let it snow !!!!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Christmas Cactus

Every Christmas I marvel at this cactus. It came to me a as a gift from a friend and colleague at least a decade ago. I have re potted it twice. When it starts to bloom I give it cactus food. But the rest of the year ... well, neglect would be a kind word to describe how I treat it. In May I put it on a shaded back deck to face the trials of a Washington summer with nothing but the rain God chooses to bestow upon it. In November, when I return, I rescue it just before the frosts and without the least bit of prompting from me, it starts its Christmas show.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tuesday, December 08, 2009


Years ago Kurt Vonnegut wrote an observation of the seasons that divided the year into six rather than four seasons. Winter was a season of two months -- January and February. It was flanked on either side by the two new seasons. November and December became the season called "Locking" and March and April became the season called "UNlocking." The idea is that nature needs a time of shutting down before the onslaught of winter and a time of opening up slowly before the fruition of summer. It actually makes good sense when you think of it. It places Fall squarely in September and October where it belongs and Summer in July and August.

So true to Vonnegut's new scheme I have been going around "locking" things up in the garden. I have made a new iteration of deer fencing for my young apple trees. I also set up the wall-o-water around my rosemary to help it over winter. I do that by trimming it back and placing a plaster bucket over it and slipping the wall-o-water over the bucket while I fill its sleeves.This form of overwintering has worked for rosemary, so I tried it last year on my artichokes and it failed. But last winter was particularly harsh, so I am trying it again though admittedly with a less hardy variety of artichoke. These are Green Globe. And I adjusted my game a little. I let them grow into the light frosts of November December. Then I cut them back to 12 inches of leavesand then I mounded them with grass clippingsand finally added the wall-o-waters.I harvested the last of the rutabaga, carrots, greens and Brussels sprouts. I will leave the parsnips in the ground for spring dug parsnip chowder when I return.And last, but not least, I removed the dead asparagus ferns to the brush pile.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Late November Gifts

I have returned to the garden for a few days to shut things down for the winter. Much of my energy has been spent reorganizing the shed. But these next few days I will settle into garden care. High on the list is the prep of the artichokes. Maybe THIS will be the year when the combination of a milder winter and the right covering will lead to successful overwintering. Meanwhile the garden continues to give. Here are some potatoes, carrots and Swiss chard.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Judgement at Nuremberg

While wandering through the outdoor market in Nurmeberg, Germany last weekend I spied these unusual cabbages and JUDGED them to be the most unusual I had ever seen.
Then my eyes fell on these lovely pinkish tinged hard necks and I JUDGED them to be worthy of import. Move over, Place Monge ... make way for Nuremberg Red.

Friday, October 30, 2009

A Garden Pause

I celebrated my last night on the Vineyard with a little tomato that had ripened on the windowsill. I seasoned some olive oil with a special balsamic vinegar brought by a friend, sprinkled some salt and pepper, and decorated with the very last basil I had.Forgive the photography ... the cameras were all packed and I was using my phone.

I will return to put things totally to bed in early December. But for now I need to say goodbye to this season. It is hard to let go this year. I guess it is the disappointment of the tomato crop and the harvest that never really peaked. I never had too much of anything really, and maybe one needs a little harvest fatigue in order to feel OK about taking a rest from it all.

If someone told me I could come to southern Florida and plant 80 tomato plants right now, I would consider it. I just did not get enough this season.

I am off for a few weeks for a tour of Eastern Europe. I MAY get to post on the travel blog ... we'll see.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Today's Poem

Today's poem was right up my alley

The First Artichoke

by Diane Lockward

Though everyone said no one could grow
artichokes in New Jersey, my father
planted the seeds and they grew one magnificent
artichoke, late-season, long after the squash,
tomatoes, and zucchini.

It was the derelict in my father's garden,
little Buddha of a vegetable, pinecone gone awry.
It was as strange as a bony-plated armadillo.

My mother prepared the artichoke as if preparing
a miracle. She snipped the bronzy winter-kissed tips
mashed breadcrumbs, oregano, parmesan, garlic,
and lemon, stuffed the mush between the leaves,
baked, then placed the artichoke on the table.
This, she said, was food we could eat with our fingers.

When I hesitated, my father spoke of beautiful Cynara,
who'd loved her mother more than she'd loved Zeus.
In anger, the god transformed her
into an artichoke. And in 1949 Marilyn Monroe
had been crowned California's first Artichoke Queen.

I peeled off a leaf like my father did,
dipped it in melted butter, and with my teeth
scraped and sucked the nut-flavored slimy stuff.
We piled up the inedible parts, skeletons
of leaves and purple prickles.

Piece by piece, the artichoke came apart,
the way we would in 1959, the year the flowerbuds
of the artichokes in my father's garden bloomed
without him, their blossoms seven inches wide
and violet-blue as bruises.

But first we had that miracle on our table.
We peeled and peeled, a vegetable striptease,
and worked our way deeper and deeper,
down to the small filet of delectable heart.

"The First Artichoke" by Diane Lockward

Saturday, October 10, 2009

More Vegetable Love

They met during the sweet potato harvest ... he spied her across the curing rack

It was love at first sight

So they went to the preacher

And lived happily ever after

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Garden Update

No, I am not trying for some kind of absentee record ... cannot explain my absence from here ... but since the last post the garden clean-up has gone quite well. Perhaps the most stark contrast is this before and after of a tomato bed.
So bed by bed things are neat and tidy ... the pathways are another story. I may break down and just let it go to grass and keep it trimmed with a trimmer next season. I need to save my weeding muscles for tasks more closely linked to crop production.

And while in my heart of hearts I do not believe it, there IS more to a garden than a successful, lingering tomato crop, I am still getting green beans, Swiss chard, spinach and potatoes. Meanwhile, butternut squash, carrots, parsnips, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts and rutabaga lie in waiting. So there is still reason to revel in the garden and its production.

On Monday I prepared one of my garlic beds with plenty of composted lamb manure. I laid it out in a 6x8 inch grid and on Tuesday I planted six varieties of hardneck. A total of 112 cloves. The second bed is still housing sweet potatoes, but I shall harvest them this weekend. I took a peek in there last weekend and it looks to be an adequate crop. So I recommend to New England gardeners who are trying to make maximum use of garden space to consider interplanting sweet potato slips in a garlic bed on Memorial Day. You can harvest the garlic without disturbing the sweet potato vines and you can have your bed back by Columbus Day in time to plant next year's garlic. ( I KNOW I should rotate, but I have never had disease, and I like using these beds because they are outside the garden fence and garlic is deer resistant ... although sweet potato vines are not and I did use some Bobbex on them in the early summer when they were getting started.)

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

September Resolutions ~ One Bed a Day

In some ways, September is more the start of a New Year than is January. So it is not without logic that I feel a renewed sense of commitment to the garden.The weeds in my garden got OUT OF CONTROL this summer. But now the weather is cooler and I feel as though I can take this task on. My commitment is one bed a day. Yesterday I only took an AFTER picture of my pitiful shallot bed. So this morning I wised up and took aBEFOREand AFTER pictureincluding a basket full of treasures I found in that tangled mess.

Chicken of the Woods

"Look, I have this HUGE Chicken of the Woods. We ate as much as we could for dinner last night, and we're going off island tomorrow, do you want it?"

"I'll be at your house in 15 minutes."

So I had a big round of it last night. Sauteed it with some shallots and garlic and thyme from the garden. I started using butter ... but it is a thirsty little mushroom, so after half a stick of butter I switched to chicken stock. YUM !!!Had I known I would be so lucky, I would not have bought a bag of shitakes yesterday at a roadside stand. So this morning I had fried egg over shitakes with a side of Chicken of the Woods.Note: In my original, pre-edited post, I had used the term Hen of the Woods ( Latin name: Grifola frondosa) to describe this mushroom. It is, most likely a Laetiporus cincinnatus often referred to as a chicken of the woods. It is a reminder that mushroom hunting is not to be done lightly or in an uninformed manner. Thanks to comments from Andrea for that reminder.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Tomato High Season

Imagine a tomato big enough and succulent enough to fill an entire tart pan. This was the glorious final act of my blue ribbon tomato. I have take to keeping some bacon in the fridge on the grounds that there is nothing more glorious than the BLT during tomato high season.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

OLS ~ Week #13 Roasted Lamb Shanks with Cranberry Bean Ragout

So here it is the end of OLS for 2009. Many thanks to Virginia who edited the New England section, and to all the editors for their attention to our meals and to helping us share. And here is a shout out to Liz in Maine, who started this ball rolling in the summer of 2006. Good ideas have a way of sustaining themselves.
The bean that has 100 names, the one I call October Cranberry Bean (harvested in August ...go figure), has been arriving in profusion in my garden. It is a beauty.

I decided to pair it up with some local lamb shanks from the Allen Farm for a special OLS meal this week. ALL of the non meat ingredients, except the Morning Glory celery, and (of course) the olive oil, came from my garden.The thing I like about this recipe is that it can be done inside the outdoor grill, so you do not have to melt your house on a hot August afternoon. But be advised: It takes a minimum of 3 and a half hours to slow roast these shanks, so start early in the day.

I take my inspiration from Chef John at He has become the new voice in my kitchen. Here are the lamb shanks:

And to finish it off, Chef John suggests a white bean ragout in which I substituted the cranberry beans.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Back to Fundamentals

Prize winning tomatoes come from enriched soil. While the carousel pumped out a merry tune from the Fair grounds this weekend, I went about the hard work of building new soil for next year's tomatoes. Using fresh manure from a nearby farm (lamb), and grass clippings from my lawn, with a little rock phosphate and Azomite thrown in for good measure, I began layering and "cooking" the raw manure in an open bin.
That was Saturday. Today the compost thermometer registered 140 degrees. When it starts to cool, I will turn the pile into an empty bin and watch it heat up again.

Immortalizing the Champion

Before the "Special Award" "Blue Ribbon" Brandywine becomes the main ingredient in a Tomato Tart, I decided to make a little watercolor of it for posterity.