Heave ho, it’s off to work Thursday, Apr 10 2014 

We go.  or something.

I finally re-dug the two slope garden beds, I had essentially abandoned them in situ last November after the frost killed the tomatoes and pole beans and the winter squash were collected.  They are now dug and turned down to the clay.  They aren’t weed free of course, but a first pass on bindweed, bedstraw, and witch-grass has been made. There were still a few chunks of frost in there though.  But being on the slope in full sun they dry out very quickly and so were quite workable.   Unlike the main garden, which is flat and therefore still soggy.  New England hilltops: your choice of clay or rock; mud or drought

Now if I can just fix the fences to manage the elderly horse, who has apparently developed a tendency to run blindly back to the barn on the shortest route….which is through that area.  The question is, does one make the fence more solid or does one make the fence very visible but easily breakable.  I’m going to go with the latter.  He isn’t trying to escape or go through the perimeter fence.  And I’d much rather lose vegetables than have a horse tangled in fencing.

But I have to keep the turkeys off of the area, this is best done with netting.  Horse plus netting? Nightmare.  I am thinking it may have to be creatively done.

Success in gardening Monday, Mar 24 2014 

I think a point in the ‘success’ column ought to be awarded for last night’s supper.  The parsnips overwintered out in the garden quite happily;* the parsley (a main component in the omelette)  came out of the freezer green and crisp; the frozen snow peas from last year also came out tasting, if not like fresh peas, certainly close to it.  I could have used our own onions, but we are down to the last midget sized shallots which are a bore to peel (shallots are overrated, next year it will be just straight onions).  Oh yes, and the peaches in the cobbler? Last year’s crop, canned.

Now about those eggs….  though I think the ham and the potatoes will remain store bought.   As will the milk.

*most of the row is still out there, still buried in the snow, which is ridiculous.

On Vegetable Gardens Thursday, Feb 27 2014 

There are plenty of reasons to have them of course; but one particular point has been on my mind the last few days.

Along about September, I am begging for a frost: the bugs are having a field day, I can’t go away without mutant squash sprouting, there is an overall sense of rot and decay…and the freezer is in decent shape.   But then comes the end of February: the snow is still snowing, cold enough that where it isn’t ice it is drifting, there isn’t a green thing in sight, my car is grey*…and the freezer…

Well, it isn’t just the freezer, it is also the jelly cabinet.  I am charged with shopping and keeping the dinner budget within shouting distance of inflation.  But, the wealth of a garden is beyond measure.  This week I was playing around with some pork chops and chicken thighs.  One night: pork chops braised in a sauce of elderberry jam and mint vinaigrette; another night pork chops in a strawberry/fig (thank you Betsy!) with sage (freshly frozen) and onion; another night, a bit of apple butter, or maybe some tarragon butter for the baked chicken, or maybe a winter squash as a side dish, or some frozen green beans, or some parsley on the the top….  Now the pork chops and chicken don’t come from here, but elderberry jam and mint vinegar?! You can Not buy that.  Not here anyway.

February and the vegetable garden more than answers the need.  Maybe we couldn’t live off it year round; but we certainly couldn’t eat the way we do unless it was there.

*It is grey anyway, but it is Grey-er.

Bulbs! Tuesday, Oct 15 2013 

And more bulbs!

I like planting spring bulbs…possibly because I don’t have to water them? In any event more blue crocus and white daffodils along the fence, pink tulips in the garden, various oriental lilies here and there, and a small smattering of blue chiondoxia and squill here and there.  A promise for the next year in the dying days of fall.  Either very profound or simply very enjoyable depending on one’s whimsy!

oh, and an attempt at garlic.  Have to try everything once!

Peaches! Tuesday, Sep 3 2013 

Because southern New England has a sufficiently mild climate, peaches grow quite well here.  In the Berkshires, peaches grown in the valleys are susceptible to late spring frosts, which will knock out the crop.  This is also a problem with apples.  Consequently most orchards are on the top slopes of hills.  This seems slightly counter-intuitive (higher equals colder) but it is late spring frost which is the threat, not the actual winter temperatures.  The upper slopes of hills generally have more air movement, this helps to avoid the very late frosts which occur in the valleys as cold air settles over night.  The actual meteorology is not something I understand, but it works!

In any case, our peach tree is on the top of a hill and immediately south of the house.  The house’s proximity creates a zone 6 microclimate for it (and two new clematis), since the wall has a fair bit of solar gain and the wind is cut by the surrounding buildings.*

Despite a chronic and severe infection with one of the wilts, which makes picking the fruit less than romantic;* we always get a fair number of peaches.  I don’t have the guts to thin the peaches like I should, so they are always small.  This year, I have frozen three pies, the makings for at least five cobblers, and we canned 6 and half quarts.  Plus eating a number, and there are still plenty left.  Not bad, considering that distractions and poor weather meant we didn’t do as good a job in the picking/canning/freezing as we ought to have.

*Yes, I know they reclassified us as zone 6…and some years we are, and most years a zone 5 and once in awhile zone 4.  Zone 6 plants do not overwinter here unless they are on the south side of the house.  Zone 5 plants do.  I suspect the plants are more accurate than the map makers.

*The peaches that get infected literally turn to balls of mold on the tree.  Fun.

Seasons Friday, Aug 30 2013 

I could never live in the South, and certainly not in the Tropics.  About this time of year, despite the abundance of peaches, beans, tomatoes, squash, garden flowers, etc… I start thinking about the cleansing qualities of a good hard frost.  That veggie bed with the slight pong of decaying vegetation? Clean!

I can’t imagine having to deal with bugs, humidity, fungi, and all that ilk year round.


Vegetable Garden Tuesday, Aug 6 2013 


That is the peach tree with the lettuce box in center of the photo. Our chimney swift colony lives in the chimney which is in the center, a good location for them!

Observations on Squash Bugs Saturday, Jul 20 2013 

Which I am barely staying ahead of… The winter squash patch, which is the patch that is being most heavily attacked, has a couple of hills with the vines sprawling in between and finally beginning to extend out of the borders. It isn’t large, perhaps 4’x5′ in size. All of the plants touch, and earlier in the season I was finding squash beetles evenly distributed on all of the plants. However, I took three extra tomatoes and planted them in the middle. Now, I don’t think those tomatoes are going to produce very much, though they seem to be quite healthy. However, on the squash vines that are in direct contact with the tomatoes…I am not finding squash bugs nor eggs. I find them on the other side of the plant, but not on sections intertwined with the tomatoes.
This, it seems to me, is potentially very interesting. Maybe it is a fluke, or maybe it is a partial solution?

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