Saturday, May 27, 2006

Memorial Day Weekend gifts

I have never seen a more reluctant group of oak trees than those that live on this island. They hold back until early June before really risking their leaves. When the leaves do come out they are like tiny baby’s hands, soft and perfectly formed.

The other great gift of Memorial Day weekend (besides and abundant crop of asparagus) is the perfume of autumn olives that fills the air. It is an aromatherapy for the soul. When will blogspot invent “scratch and sniff”?

Autumn Olive (Elaeagnus umbellata)

 Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Young garlic ... young love

Somewhere I was reading about green garlic and decided to “sacrifice” one of the doubles in my garlic bed.  Doubles are when by accident you plant a double clove and it shoots up two not very vigorous plants.  I ended up with two crazy looking little young garlics that cried out for anthropromorphic attention.

garlic girl ... Posted by Picasa

meets garlic boy Posted by Picasa

and they lived happily ever after Posted by Picasa

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Garden Plan 2006 Posted by Picasa

a plan of action

The garden blogger’s dilemma. When it’s raining there’s nothing to write about but lots of time to write. When the sun is out, there’s everything to write about and no time to write. Like the farmer across our field who is also a painter who says when he’s working the farm he sees all these beautiful landscapes to paint and when he’s painting sees all the farm chores yet to be done.

So the newly revised garden plan is outlined above.

Those "tomatoes in waiting" aren’t actually lying in the pathways. I just didn’t want to have to paint all those little red dots again. Timing the tomatoes is trickier this year because I will be away for 5 days next week and can’t decide whether to put them in ground before I leave or after I return. The wind has been fierce, and I only have wall-o-waters for six plants.

The big change this year is the sweet potatoes. The slips arrived on Monday, and I put them in the ground on Wednesday. It’s probably never warm enough to plant sweet potatoes in New England, but I’m showing a daytime soil temperature in the high 70’s. I think they like 80 or above. My plan is to keep the vines trimmed so they stay inside the 4x8 bed. This could mean trimming twice a day. All new territory this crop.

My one year old apple trees are infested with tiny green caterpillars that are eating their leaves. I need to get some Bt out there right away. This is my first year with apple trees, and I need to be more vigilant. Any readers out there have a spraying regimen they follow that I can learn from?

And of course there is the yearly "artichoke experiment." The one I over wintered did NOT make it. I started 12 seeds in February, and I have three plants to show for it. I have planted them in the ground, not in beds and they are so marked by the letter "A" on the garden plan.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

an asparagus eye view of the world Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Water, water everywhere

A friend of mine in high school once said she would stop watching the soap opera “The Edge of Night” when it stopped raining on the program. Six months later it was still raining and she was still watching.

Well that’s how I feel. It’s still raining, and I am still watching … the garden that is.

It has been raining here since last Wednesday. Eight straight days of rain. So I’ve been wondering how I can convey how wet it is here. Perhaps I can try with pictures.

This lobster pot on the porch has filled with water. Can you see it splashing from the rain?

Looking out the front door through the gauze of rain sheeting the glass.

Rain splashing on the deck.

rain dripping from the gutters

and there's more on the way

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The house eating monster ! Posted by Picasa

The Haircut

We have a trumpet vine that forms an arbor over our front entry way. In the summer it is lovely. But behind its summer beauty is a hidden agenda.

It is trying to eat our house. The branches don’t reach for the sun … oh no … they reach for the house. It’s as though they are drawn to cedar shake shingles as some exotic delicacy.

Each spring we go out to do battle with the monster that our trumpet vine has become. It sits out there looking like a cocky rock star with too much gel in its hair.

But after an hour’s work we have it looking like an Army recruit with all of its gnarly locks piled high in the wheelbarrow.

before the haircut Posted by Picasa

after the haircut Posted by Picasa

Friday, May 12, 2006

In search of local food Posted by Picasa

Eat Local Challenge - Part II

My search for locally produced food took me to the Farm Institute last Saturday morning. The Institute sponsors a farm chore morning first Saturdays of the month in the off season, and I had been intending to lend a hand several other first Saturdays, but sleep had won out.

The vegetable garden is under renovation and it is a delightful new design. Beds are mounded, pathways are lowered and filled with wood chips, and there are two “meeting circles” within the garden where the children in the summer program will gather right in the heart of the garden. There is a welcoming, enveloping circular design to the entire garden. I did my part by weeding an overgrown spinach bed.

Later in the morning the volunteers went off to feed the animals and gather eggs. It was here that I met the critters that would help to fill my freezer this May. There are two sheep breeds, Icelandic and Navajo-Churro. The Icelandic flock had just finished its lambing season with the exception of “Izzy” who seemed to be waiting for the full moon or some other natural force to help her out. The chickens being raised for market are a cross between Barred Plymouth Rock hens and Cornish hens. They are pasture raised and move about the field “Salatin style” in portable poultry structures that allow them to forage on fresh grass and bugs.

There was no question in my mind that this was a place to buy local. The farm director, Matt Goldfarb, took me down to the freezer, and I went home with several pounds of last year’s lamb. He informed me that later in the week the staff would be slaughtering its first group of chickens. So day before yesterday I drove back to the farm and pulled two fresh chickens out of the fridge and left my check in the jar.

I have eaten pasture raised chicken from Polyface Farm, so I knew what to expect in terms of flavor. But I must say this chicken that I cooked last night … maybe because it was fresh not frozen, maybe because of the breed … was THE most delicious chicken I have ever tasted.

Local hen wins taste test! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Enjoying the spring ... again

Whew! All my muscles ache and my back feels as if it will stay permanently bent, but it is oh so good to be back in the garden.

Kudos to the spinach which produces sufficiently to feed us every third day. Pleased to see the asparagus is working its way into production. There are about 8 spears nearing readiness. Soon it will be hard to keep up.

I have been amending beds with Harmony and Azomite and have been tweaking the garden plan. Despite my mantra “if it doesn’t grow below, let it go” this year, I still have a nursery FULL of tomato plants. I think I enjoy the fussing almost more than the tasting. But since I will be away for a month in high summer, I need to work on timing things just right.

It has been fun getting to enjoy a second spring. As we drove north along the coast it was like watching the landscape do a backward time lapse on itself. It went from green, to yellow and green, to spaces between the leaves, to hints of red, to just fuzzy. I got to see the red bud come out again, and when I arrived here the shadbush was the only thing blooming.

I had never taken notice of the shadbush until last year. April and May in my “other life” were spent focused indoors. Sadly, I barely knew there was a natural world out there as I prepped my students for their AP exams. But last spring at Walatoola I saw my first “serviceberry” and when I arrived in New England I was delighted to find one blooming on my own property. The folk etymology of serviceberry which is the preferred name in western Virginia comes from the American pioneer experience that when these came in bloom the land had thawed sufficiently to bury those who had died over the winter. Here in New England we call them shadbush because they coincide with the shad run.

The shadbush is one of many living things that has one brief moment in the year when it stands out and announces itself as something different and spends the rest of the year blended in with the surroundings. AND the shadbush is for me anyway a sign that there are new things to learn and see if you make time to look.

It is raining now and will continue to do so for several days to come. It feels good knowing that the roses have been fed, the beds amended and the garlic is thirsty.

early spring harvest Posted by Picasa

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Cod from nearby waters, parsnips and spinach from the garden. (carrots from CA :-( ) Posted by Picasa

What can she eat? ~ Stavri Kyprou, illustrator Posted by Picasa

Eat Local Challenge - Part I

I’ve been inspired by Liz at Pocket Farm to take up the Eat Local Challenge. The challenge is for May this year, and May definitely IS a challenge. I must do my best to eat food that comes from within a 100 mile radius of my home. I used one of the links from the website Liz is using to look at my 100 mile radius.

Whoops! Since 3/4 of my radius is ocean, looks like I’ll be eating lots of fish and seaweed. So the logical first stop was at the local fish market. I asked the owner what was caught within a 100 mile radius. I can eat local scallops, squid, clams and lobsters. And from the fish tray I can eat monkfish, cod, yellow tail flounder and regular flounder. But there’s lots in a seaside fish store like mine that doesn’t meet the local standard. Shrimp, salmon, tilapia, mahi-mahi, grouper, sword, and tuna are all from distant waters. Even bluefish and striped bass, two local staples I have caught myself in the summer, are too far south this time of year.

The swordfish story is a particularly sad one. Not twenty years ago they could be found in local waters. With the introduction of long-lining they were over fished and now a local fisherman has to go out to George’s Bank to bring back any sword. Our local fishermen have kept alive the old harpooning method but just barely and their story is told in a wonderful video called Striker’s Passing. A long-lined swordfish is caught by hooks and is dragged behind the boat and drowned. A harpooned fish is killed instantly and is caught one by one. The difference in flavor is remarkable. It is impossible for a harpooner to compete with long-liner competition. Long-lining creates an indiscriminate killing field that annually snags and drowns over 4 million endangered whales, sea turtles and the like. I won’t order sword that is long-lined.

So looks like I will be “forced” to eat lots of lobster and scallops this May. Poor me.

No, to Sword Posted by Picasa

Yes, to Cod Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

in transit ... heading to the garden ~ Gretel Parker, Illustrator Posted by Picasa