Wednesday, December 22, 2010

how green is your Christmas tree?

I know, why is a nice Jewish girl like me blogging about Christmas trees? An interesting article in last week's New York Times caught my eye and investigates this question.   Living in a small town, where agriculture and related business are pretty much the only game in town - I've been hearing lots about this lately.  Our town might possibly have the highest number of Christmas tree farms per capita in the state.  I don't know that for sure, I'm totally guessing but just drive down the one major state road here and you'll see signs up for at least a dozen.  So I guess the answer is, if you live here (or near a Christmas tree farm) the answer is a real tree is more environmentally friendly.  If you live in Hawaii the answer is a fake tree - and really if you live in Hawaii, I don't feel bad for you at all (it's been in the 20's here most of the week).

video via Kitchen Gardeners International

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Just in case you felt like buying me a holiday gift....

I'm totally kidding by the way.
It's called Botanicalls... and it will Tweet you when your plants need to be watered.  On a side note, is "tweet you" correct?  I can't seem to understand Twitter, even though my brother and others have explained it to me many times.  Regardless - clearly we as a human race are not smart enough to stick our finger in the pot and see if the soil is moist or not.  Okay, maybe I shouldn't make that assumption.

I'm a notorious hater of house plants*.  This doesn't make sense to most people as I love plants, right?  But I really, really detest them.  You will not find a single one in my house.   When someone brings me one, I end up killing them.  I stick them in a corner in the living room, or some other room where it looks nice and promptly forget about it.  Hey wait... maybe I do need this gadget?

*House plants does not include indoor forcing bulbs.  Which I love, you can bring me some any time!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

the future of farming?

Meet George Jetson, Jane his wife... Remember that old cartoon?  The early 60's vision of what life would be like in the future - including eating all meals that popped out in pill form from a contraption called the Food-A-Rac-A-Cycle. Feel like having turkey and mashed potatoes for dinner, just type it into the computer.  Tofu with roasted vegetables, oh wait... that didn't exist it the Jetson's utopia.

Two articles caught my eye this week regarding the future of food production in our world with rising population rates.  The first from The Economist, concerning growing plants hydroponically in a skyscraper like tower. Interesting, unlikely I think because of the sunlight issues mentioned within.  However towards the end of the article, they suggest the more practical solution of using the flat roofs of large retail buildings as growing space.  In the suburbs at least, imagine your average Whole Foods or regular supermarket for that matter growing food upstairs all year round.  One stop shopping for those who want to buy local, but find the time constraints of having to shop at both farm or farmers market and a supermarket difficult.  It's interesting to think about.

The second find regards the FoodTubes UK project.  An idea that has underground tubes propelling food and other goods around the UK (and eventually the world) at a significant reduction in cost and carbon emissions.  An idea that probably (at least it seems so to me) needs a lot more work, but at least someone is thinking.  Thinking about solutions that will ease the burden we are putting on the planet with our global need for stuff.  I have to say, this is an idea that really does sound like it came from Orbit City - maybe this was what Spacely's Space Sprockets were working on?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

garden writers get a shout out in the gray lady

From this Sunday's  New York Times Book Review

"Anyone insane enough to dig holes, pour money into the ground, wait to see what happens and then sit down at a computer to tell us about it has earned the right to a little respect."

Hmmmm.... I'm going to ponder this for a while today.

Here's the full list.

I'm particularly excited that this was included as one of the best of 2010. I couldn't agree more.

Missing from the list - a beautiful book and full of gardening lessons handed down through generations of a family.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

not really breaking news

Earlier this week, the Senate somewhat surprisingly passed the Food Safety and Modernization Act (S510) with the so-called Tester Amendment to protect small farmers from FDA scrutiny for the most part.  Those of us who've been following this bill on it's long journey rejoiced.  Unfortunately there is still a long way to go in terms of funding and one Constitutional screw up that needs to be sorted out.  This map shows the breakdown of how the votes went down.  Frankly, I'm still in shock that it passed by such a large margin considering all the lobbying that was going on at the last minute funded by Big Ag.

I've been trying to write a concise and informative blog post on this for several days now, but this blog post from the Connecticut chapter of the Northeast Organic Farming Association does a much better job than I ever could.

Living in an agricultural community, it was really important to me that the small farmers (according to the new amendment any farm with revenues less than $500,000 and who delivers only within 250 miles of the farm) be protected so that I can continue to buy my eggs locally and have no worries eating raw cookie dough.  I mean really people, priorities!

Monday, November 29, 2010

moving on...

Holidays and other miscellaneous personal stuff have prevented me from having the time to write much lately.  The details aren't important, but let's just say it's been a little crazy around here.

Somehow in my (clearly) weakened mental state I allowed this to happen.

Yes that is a satellite dish in the middle of the garden, in the front of my house.  I say the garden, instead of my garden as it doesn't really feel like mine yet, especially this section which I haven't touched at all.  Now why, you ask is the dish located on the ground, instead of on the roof?  Well according to our neighborhood covenants that's not allowed (okay lawyer friends, I know, but it's really not worth the effort).  We like our new neighborhood, so we'd rather not make a scene.  So I guess the landscaping in this part of the yard is going to have to get real creative with the plant placement.  At this point I'll have to console myself that having access to so much football makes my husband very, very happy.  And I will be sure to remind him how happy it made him when I need to shlep 40 pound bags of compost around the property, rip out large deep rooted shrubs, etc.

In the meantime all of the leaves have finished falling too.  I've been thanking my lucky stars that we have someone to pick up all those leaves, because if it were left up to me, it would never happen.  Who cares about the lawn anyway?  When we bought our house last winter, one of the things that appealed to us was the woods and rock face that would provide us with lots of privacy. In the summer, it was impossible to see  with all the dense vegetation and was difficult to pass through.  But now, everything is brown and dry, well except the Christmas Ferns (Polystichum acrostichoides), and it's beautiful to walk through.

I keep thinking we might see a mountain goat up here one day.  Not such a stretch, as there are actually goats living on the other side.

Now this is clearly on our property, so I'm not trespassing.  However I sure am wondering why the prior owners put this up?

Friday, November 19, 2010

time for penance

Following yesterday's all alcohol related post, I give you the following, via Bettina at The Lunch Tray

Thursday, November 18, 2010

when life gives you lemons...

The changing of the clocks is always difficult for me (not the extra hour of sleep part).  When it gets dark at 4:30, I find it really depressing, and the days very long.  One of my friends likes to say, "I'm solar powered and I only work when the sun is shining" and that seems about right to me.  Oh, and I also hate the cold.

So for the last few weeks I've been plotting my plan for these long winter months.  What will I do with those precious moments of sunlight of every day?  Winter pruning, definitely, but not until February and March when the trees are dormant, but not that far from bud break.  Writing, hopefully, but will I have enough ideas to keep going through the whole winter?  Baking, probably, I could easily do that every day. But then I might not be able to move around the garden by the time spring comes along.

So I was in Whole Foods the other day, and organic lemons were on sale.  I'd had the idea to make my own limoncello for at least a year now, and hadn't done it.  So it seemed like karma, life gives you lemons, make limoncello...
It's feeling more summery in here already!

There's not much work required, lemons, alcohol a jar, and some simple syrup about a month from now, after all the flavor has been infused into the vodka.  Oh, and when I say vodka, I don't mean Grey Goose or Absolut or whatever you have around the house.  Every limoncello recipe I found calls for 100 proof vodka, which honestly I did not know existed.

Formerly one of my grandmother's pickling jars (you'll have to wait for next summer for a post on my family's famous pickles) it even has lemons imprinted in the glass, so maybe it was another sign that I was on the right path.
Wow, the smell of that vodka cleared my sinus for sure.  Who actually drinks that stuff?

I'm now starting to 100 proof wonder if this was a good idea.  I'm a notorious light weight when it comes to drinking, (2 glasses of wine and I'm toast) so I'm thinking that when this is done (about 30-45 days from now) it will need to be given away to others.  Maybe I should've made lemon cake instead?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

need some help in your yard?

Maybe you could hire this group?  If only, that were possible!

I was fortunate to attend Horticulture school at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx.  While it took all sorts of crazy gymnastics to get there a couple of times a week, and I was relieved when I was finished - now I miss being there a lot (uh-oh, more school in my future).

This weeping Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) is just outside the academic building at the Garden's 250 acre campus in the Bronx.  It's a beautiful tree all on it's own, but one of it's best attributes is it's smell.  No, it doesn't have showy flowers with a beautiful fragrance in the spring or summer.  In the fall it smells like cotton candy, seriously.

What's crazy, for all the work put in to moving it as shown in the video (a few familiar face there, hey guys!) they only moved it about 25 feet.  There must have been a reason, I'd love to know what it was.

If you've never had the opportunity to visit the New York Botanical Garden, I can't recommend it highly enough.  I'll even give you a tour, because lord knows I've criss-crossed those 250 acres on foot more times than I can count.

Monday, November 8, 2010

More hero vegetables

First it was zucchini.  Now butternut squash?  Seriously?

Store Customer Uses Squash To Stop Robber - News Story - WMUR Manchester

let it snow?

Nothing like a little white stuff on the ground to remind you how much still needs to be done in the garden.  It's the first week of November, and it snowed this morning.  Early and a bit of a fluke here in Connecticut, but pretty much the kick in the pants I need to get things done.  Like plant bulbs.  Definitely not too late (bulbs can be planted until the ground is frozen) but it would be good if I actually would place a bulb order, and get them here.  Then they might have half a chance of getting in the ground. I've been stalling, because my bulb order is going to be so large this year.  Bulbs are usually the gift that keeps giving - you plant them, and they keep coming back every year with very little effort.  At our old house I would just add a handful of new ones each year, to replace the ones that had peetered out, or had been eaten by various animals.  This year, I'm starting from scratch.  There is not one bulb on our entire 3 acre property, not one daffodil, or crocus, really. So I'm thinking my bulb order bill might rival my mortgage payment this month.  Little known fact about bulbs (and corms, rhizomes, tubers) is if they are planted the wrong way they will turn themselves as they are sensitive to gravity/sunlight.  This seems like a silly piece of information - until you look at some and they seem to have roots growing out of both ends, like this...
Crocus sativus via SRGC Bulb log

The only bulbs I have managed to get in the ground is my garlic.  When you look up garlic in catalogs, it always says, "garlic seed"  but it's not tiny little seeds, just heads of garlic, looks like what you would buy in the supermarket.  The heads get separated, and the largest and best looking get planted.  I chose a hardneck variety as these are the only types that send up a "flower" known as a garlic scape. Prized find at farmers market each spring, they make an awesome pesto.

German Red Rocamble Garlic
These get rejected, since they have a little green growth already (probably from the random warm days we had this fall, when the bulbs were in the gararge.)

And in they go...

Friday, October 29, 2010

Could Mother Nature please knock it off?

The sudden warm temperatures earlier this week have sort of put a damper on my planting plans.  Or rather it just screwed me up entirely.  The raspberry bushes are in and even pushing out a few last pieces of fruit.  I decided not to plant any arugula and spinach, because I was feeling too lazy to have to go and cover them up every night when the temperatures were quite low in mid-October.  Plus you know there would've been a night that I forgot and had to go outside in pajamas at midnight to cover them up (who am I kidding, I would've made my husband do it, he's from Wisconsin, he likes the cold).  Then this week, we had crazy warm temperatures - if I had planted the darn leaf lettuces a few weeks ago we would've been halfway to harvest rarely ever having to cover them. ugh.

Then the garlic became an issue too.  Garlic is planted in the Northeast in the fall, just like tulips, daffodils and other bulbs.  The sudden warmth and warming of the soil this week is not good for planting garlic, because it starts putting out too much top/green growth.  Normally the last week in October is the perfect time for planting garlic in Connecticut.  This time my laziness paid off, as if I had put it in last weekend as I had intended, the garlic may have been shot.  Next week the garlic has to go in for sure.

So the lesson learned here is? Um, I'm not really sure... laziness is good some of the time?
I know what you're thinking that raspberry bush is a little scraggly.  Here is the cool thing about the newer varieties of raspberries, they get cut down every winter (more about winter pruning later, in the winter, when there is nothing else to write about) and put out fruit on all new growth in the summer, this way the plants don't get humungous and take over your whole garden. Anyone who has wild raspberries growing in their yards knows what I'm talking about.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

It's 6 am on a Saturday...

I'm outside with the dog when I hear rustling in the woods that is definitely made by footsteps of something large, not a squirrel or a woodchuck.  It reminded me of this.

Anyone who has ever grown zucchini knows that they can get extremely large seemingly overnight.  This is the "weapon" used in the bear attack mentioned in the article.  Good thing the homeowner hadn't made zucchini bread yet!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


When I found this news article via The Lunch Tray - I was very upset.  What is the point of having students involved with growing their own produce if they aren't actually going to be able to eat it?  Something tells me that this is not something that is unique to Chicago.

Now if Chartwells, the food supplier, made the argument that the food coming in from school gardens was inconsistent, 10 pounds of tomatoes one day, then 2 pounds of peppers the next I could maybe see their point of not being able rely on veggies grown in the school garden.  But to suggest that the school gardens are using conventional pesticides and fertilizers is insulting to every parent and teacher, many of whom do this on a voluntary basis, that help organize and run school garden programs.  Does anyone know of a school garden that is using anything but compost to fertilize?  What school garden even has the money to buy fertilizer?  Most school gardens are funded by either grants or fundraisers.  They are using the money to buy only the complete essentials.  Pesticides are definitely not on that list.

What's worse is that Chartwells is purchasing conventionally grown produce as superior to the school grown.  Conventional produce is obviously way more "sprayed" than anything the school could grow as farmers have access to pesticides and fertilizers that homeowners and schools do not.  But somehow, that's better.  Is it just me, or is this completely backwards?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

done and done

Structure is complete...

Drip lines have been run, and my last minute change of adding another spigot has been accommodated.

Raspberry bushes were purchased at the feed store (seriously) and will be planted tomorrow.  Garlic is in my garage and goes in next week. 

Oh, and I did this in between... behold my canning masterpiece!

Everything ready...
Spicy Apple Chutney in the works

and it's done!

I couldn't be more pleased with myself.  Now who will be coming over for Thanksgiving leftovers with apple chutney?  If you're interested in canning I'd suggest the book  Put 'em up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton or just ask me, because now I'm an expert! (just kidding)

Monday, October 18, 2010

weekend madness

I hate it when a whole weekend goes by without getting my hands dirty.  Especially since now it's a bit of a sprint to the finish line to move perennials, plant bulbs and new shrubs before the weather gets too cold to bear.  Plus, the whole foliage thing is starting to kick into high gear, and I find myself doing a lot of staring.

The craziest thing that happened this weekend amongst the soccer, horseback riding and birthday party craze was apple traffic.  That's right, apple traffic.  Our no traffic light town is inundated with apple pickers taking advantage of the end of the season.  I've heard that Christmas tree season is worse, better remember to leave more time when trying to get to aforementioned activities.

I managed to squeeze in some time for a canning class at Sport Hill Farm with Sherri Vinton, local author and canning expert.  I have to admit that her book has been sitting on my shelf for several months, with me, totally intimidated and afraid to give it a try.  She made it look easy and (I think) later this week I'm going to give a shot.  More to follow on this...

Oh. And this also happened this weekend.  I would've posted pictures of the eating, but that just would have embarrassed everyone involved.

Once again, demonstrating that I do not have the proper lighting to take pictures in my kitchen.  Must get on that pronto!  Or after one of the eight million other things that needs to get done around here.

Friday, October 15, 2010


It's like an addiction in this country, but not one that's bad for you.  You can't go anywhere without seeing people carrying water bottles, can't go to any sort of store, event or gas station without being able to purchase it.  And well, water is good for your right?  It's good that people are drinking more water than ever.  Isn't it?  And if tap water is good, then bottled water is somehow even better, and more pure.

It's been years since it came to light that many of the most popular and available bottled waters are simply tap water.  I actually thought this might cut down on our population's consumption, but it hasn't seemed to even make a dent.  And while millions of people on our planet are denied access to safe and clean water, our thirst for a bottle with a snow capped mountain on the label has not been quenched.

I know what your first question is, because every time I get into a (let's call it) discussion with someone about bottled water they say, "and you've never bought a bottle of water, right?"  And the answer is, of course I've bought a bottle of water before.  Of course I've been caught someplace longer than expected with whiny hot kids that want a drink.  That's it though, it's the exception not the rule.  I don't buy cases of water at Costco for every day consumption.  I don't put out bottles of water when we have a party.  I do embarrass my kids and husband by making them take reusable bottles to school and work.  Really, it's not that much of an effort to make that happen, and the kids haven't gotten beaten up yet.

The video The story of bottled water has been making it's way around the internet and Facebook for some time now.  So chances are, you've probably seen it.

For Blog Action Day 2010 I thought I'd share with you this video.  It's from a campaign early this year, but I think it does the perfect job of getting the point across!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

lots of progress

Question of the Day- Why is reclaimed wood so ridiculously expensive?
Now that it's starting to look like something, I'm getting really excited.
Chicken wire on the lower portion to keep the little critters out.

There was a lot of backlash last year about people spending a lot of money to set up gardens vs. what the actual yield from such gardens is worth.  So let me clarify, it's not necessary to do things this way. This is just the way that I want it done, which will work into a larger design plan of the entire yard. If you think you don't have the space to have a productive veg garden, check this out.

"Easy Bloom" Update

In case you are following along (or if not and you need to catch up) I wrote last week about the Black and Decker Easy Bloom now renamed Plant Smart Digital Plant Care Sensor (that's quite a mouthful).  The sometimes irreverent and always entertaining ladies of Garden Rant have tested it out and posted their review.  Guess what?  It sucks.  So just get your hands dirty and figure it out people.  Especially you people in Sweden who are driving a ton of traffic to my blog everyday.  Who are you?

This picture has nothing to do with this post at all.  I took it, and I like it, so thought I'd share.  It's a Japanese Painted Fern (Athyrium niponicum I don't remember which variety) if you care.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Mystery Solved!

Colony collapse disorder mystery solved!

Um... just kidding.  Is anyone surprised at all by this?

UPDATE - I (well not me personally, but bloggers in general) have been verbally spanked by Linda Chalker-Scott of the Washington State University Extension Garden Professors Blog.  I admire the writing of this blog a lot, it's definitely for the plant nerds (myself included) who read my blog, and there are a few of you I know....

and we're off...

Today is day one of my little building project.  The beds have been laid out - and some really awesome and strong guys are doing the hard parts.  I'm just supervising.

Ripping out the turf - my most hated gardening chore.

Three-foot beds around the perimeter - not too far to reach across, but wide up to have climbers growing up the fence and something else planted either in front or below.

One of the nice things about starting from scratch is being able to have things exactly how you want them (or how much your budget will allow).  One of the great things about our new property is this mostly flat and out of the way spot which happens to get full sun all day.  Okay, that's not a coincidence.   During our house hunt I rejected at least 20 gorgeous houses because the property wasn't right, yes my husband is quite patient.

I was thinking this morning about how much my vegetable gardening has changed over the years.  Back before we had this kind of land, and back before I was involved with a large community gardening project everything I grew was in pots, on the decks of various houses and condos we lived in.  It's actually quite efficient.  If you hate weeding, growing veggies in pots is the way to go.  I wish I had pictures of them all, but this is one example of the production out of a 3x3 container (and this was back when my kids actually used to help).

A few weeks later, peas, cherry tomatoes, beets, carrots and spinach all sharing space

Now that vegetable gardening has become hip (the one and only time I have been ahead of a trend) there are so many fabulous and gorgeous new options - check this out, courtesy of Gardeners Supply

Swiss Chard, basil and nasturtiums (edible flowers) growing in a self-watering pot.  And no, that doesn't mean they actually self water.  These are so nice, I think I might have to order a few during the winter sale - just in case my new vegetable garden doesn't have enough space :)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Is it just me?

Gardening to me, is about as low tech an activity as it gets.  Most people enjoying gardening specifically because they can unplug from their everyday chaotic lives and just dig in the dirt and be creative right?  Okay, even if your idea of gardening is just keeping the yard and lawn just neat enough for a neighborhood barbecue or touch football game are computers really necessary?  Black and Decker seems to think so...

Behold the Plant Smart Digital Plant Care Sensor
This device will tell you if your yard is sunny (in case you can't figure that out yourself) and if you need to water (here's a hint, if it hasn't rained and you haven't watered then you need to).  Their website also mentions measuring soil fertility, however does not explain how or what it measures.  Knowing what I know about agronomy (excellent soil science professor to thank for that) I'm not really sure how it's possible for a sensor to measure soil fertility, it's just not how soil testing works.  

When Black and Decker first released this product it was called the "EasyBloom" and has since been renamed and rebranded.  Half of me wonders if there were some crazy lawsuits brought by people who's gardens didn't miraculously bloom easily with the use of this product.  But what I love best about their website is the assertion that, "the EasyBloom Plant Sensor helps any ailing plant AND gets you the garden of your dreams."  Wow, I guess I've been doing it wrong this whole time.  And really, could it get less realistic looking, as if this thing is going to blend in against your plants.  That is, unless you have fake plants (you are out there and I know who you are!).

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Feeling so fortunate these days

When we decided to move to our new town, we knew we had chosen a small town with a long and rich agricultural tradition.  That made me happy.  The house was found, the deal negotiated and plans were made in the late winter.  We drove by what would be the kids new school to see it's location and were impressed.  It was a new building, only a few years old, and constructed to look like an old barn to reflect the history of the town.  Impressive, but not all that surprising.  Spring turned to summer, we moved, and went to register the kids for school, and boy were we shocked.  Across the entire front lawn of the school, was planted a large corn field.  Several of the other green expanses of lawn had been tilled and planted with broccoli, cabbages and pumpkins.

An agreement had been struck between one of the local organic farms (Sport Hill Farm) and the town for a lease of what was basically unused land.  The kids helped plant in the spring, and upon the harvest a percentage of the proceeds was donated back to the school for enrichment programs.  Sounds kind of perfect, huh?

This past week my kids and I were fortunate to help out the folks from Sport Hill... and even my kids who generally do not like to help me do this kind of work (they're spoiled, they've never known any different, planting and harvesting is not a novelty to them as it is to most kids) had a lot of fun.

Broccoli growing, with the school in the distance.

Loads of pumpkins, that will be sold at Sport Hill Farm and decorate the school for fall.

Searching for corn

Time to make reservations!

Just reconfirming what all of us already know... chefs are in agreement too!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

It's Complicated

Did you see last year's movie It's Complicated with Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin?  In the film, Ms. Streep's character plays a pastry chef with issues in her love life - but on the side she has the most unbelievable potager kitchen garden.  Boy, if I had a dollar for every time someone has said to me, "if I had a garden like that, I could..." or "if you lived with me and took care of it I could have a garden like that."

Well here's the thing, that garden wasn't real.  You can only have a garden like that with a full time staff and a greenhouse full of extra plants on hand to swap out anything that doesn't look perfect.  Sorry to burst your bubble.  Also who gardens in clothes that need to be ironed? And who stays that clean when they are gardening, where is the mud?

However, what you can have is a dirty, authentic yet still beautiful and productive vegetable garden.  Now is the perfect time to start planning a vegetable garden for next year.  If you wait until spring, then it ends up being rushed and does not end up the way you want it to.  Been there, trust me.  The fall is the perfect time to build beds, put up fences, and most importantly prepare the soil.  Starting this week the kitchen garden at my new house is going to be installed... pictures to follow.

The before shot... goodbye ugly grass.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

completely mind blowing!

I love when this 11 year old says, "don't even get me started on CAFOs".  Really? You are 11, if you've got it figured out, how come so many adults can't?

Monday, September 27, 2010


I'm coming clean and admitting that I made an absolutely ridiculous mistake in my garden this past week.  No matter how much gardening experience (lots) and how much schooling (also lots) there is just so much room for error.  I think I'm going to turn my complete sloppiness into a science experiment however, just so I can feel better about myself.  Let me backtrack....

When we moved to the country this summer we left behind a great house in a much larger city, with fabulous gardens that I had spent countless hours creating and maintaining.  Most unfortunately (stupid economy) that house is still for sale,  so this past week I went to go steal some plants I wanted to keep with me (however, it's not really stealing, we own the property after all).  I only had a couple of empty pots handy, so I figured I take the Hakonechloa macra (Japanese forest grass).  It's a brilliant little grass, Perennial Plant of the year in 2009, super easy to care for, and tolerant of a variety of conditions.  It's only downfall is that it can be a little slow to get going, and when you purchase them at a nursery they always seem to be tiny.  The most amazing thing about this plant however, is that when it's planted in a bed, it always seems to grow (in a prostrate fashion) in the directions that it should in relation to the other plants, i.e. towards the front of the bed.  How it does this I don't know, but if you think that plants don't talk to each other google plant communication some time.  So here's a perfect example of what they do...
The grass with the yellowish leaf on the left center and upper center are very mature specimens.  Gorgeous though, huh?  And here are the little plants that I dug up last week.

They are all leaning one way, which was towards the front of the bed before I dug them out.  The largest of them all barely fit in the pot that I brought, but I shoved in it anyway, knowing they wouldn't be in the pots too long.  I ran home with them and quickly shoved them in the ground - hoping to minimize the transplant shock.  So conventional wisdom would say that the plants should be planted in the same direction they were before, so that they "laid down" towards the front of the bed, right? Ummm, right, that's why I planted the largest one backwards.  I could've just dug it up immediately and fixed it, but I feared causing more damage to the already fragile root system.  So now they science experiment begins.  This plant won't get cut back until late winter.  When it emerges again in the spring, will the foliage be facing the right way or the wrong way, only time will tell....
Backwards, for now.  Anyone else have any gardening mistakes they'll freely admit to?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

School lunch explosion in our midst

It started with blogs like The Lunch Tray and national press exposure of Alice Water's Edible Schoolyard program. The public consciousness was really heightened with Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution tv program.  All of the sudden, everyone has school lunches on the brain.

The Child Nutrition Act has been floating around Congress for a while now, and is due to expire next week.  While the bill itself does not provide the financial support for making the sweeping changes that are truly necessary to overhaul the school lunch program, it is a step in the right direction.  The Senate passed their version of the bill in August (Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act) however, they funded the program by cutting money from food stamps.  Does that make any sense at all to you?  It sure doesn't to me.

In the next 7 days the House will be considering their version of the bill, I urge you to contact your Representative to ask that they not only pass the bill, but do so without cutting other nutritional programs.  This link will take you to a site that will automatically fax your representative (why fax, paper wasters) with either a prepared message or one you can personalize yourself.

It just takes a minute to voice your opinion!  While this may seem slightly off topic for me - as someone who grows their own food, and forces my kids to eat lots of vegetables (it's working with one, not so much with the other) I'm very concerned about the status quo when it comes to school lunches.

Things are heating up at the White House and not just in the kitchen.

[via The Lunch Tray]

Friday, September 24, 2010

more tomato news

Thanks to the ladies of Garden Rant for sharing this recipe.  The weekend hasn't even started and I now know what I will be doing and eating all weekend.  Good thing I bought 5 pounds of heirloom tomatoes this morning from one of our local farmers.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Not your grandmother's canning project

I'll admit, I've been reluctant to join the canning craze that seems to be the new "in" thing with the sustainability, eat local, and okay hippie groups I usually tend to associate with.  It's been called "granny-chic," there are blogs about it like Punk Domestics, and books on the end displays at every big book store.  Even though I'm fairly competent in the kitchen, I've been too scared to try this out on my own.  In the past I've always either frozen left over produce, cooked with it then frozen, or given extras to friends.

Two days ago, I had a revelation courtesy of the New York Times.  With a few left over peaches from my CSA box, italian plums from our local farm stand, and raspberries (bought at whole foods, as local berries are out of season now-note to self, make this in August next year) I decided to take on this little project for rum preserved fruit and really it couldn't be easier.

Layers of berries, sugar, rum and peaches

Plums and more rum added - and it's done.  Into the basement for 12 weeks, and I'm realizing now they will be ready just in time for my birthday.  Perfect!

Monday, September 20, 2010

You say tomato, I say toe-mah-toe

Here in the Northeast, last summer was a disaster in terms of the tomato harvest for both home gardeners and farmers.  Plagued with an outbreak of late blight (or phytopthora infestans if you want to be technical about it) there are farmers that faced either losing their entire crop or fighting the pathogen with lots of nasty chemicals and still in many cases losing the battle.  Many home growers who were giving it a first try were seriously discouraged. There was lots of finger pointing as to the cause (I'm looking at you, Dan Barber) with the holy grail of tomatoes, the heirloom, holding center stage.

This summer it's a whole different story. While there was an early in the season confirmed case of the blight here in Connecticut, the early July heatwave knocked the pathogen down without issue.  Since then it's been so hot and dry that tomatoes are thriving and tasting better than ever.  The heirloom tomatoes, that is.  There is a reason why heirlooms have become so popular with chefs and regular folks alike - they just taste so much better.

We were having dinner the other night with friends when I was asked why heirloom tomatoes are so much more expensive than "regular" tomatoes, was it the seeds that are more expensive?  For those who are seeking very rare heirlooms that may be the case - but in general not so.  For farmers there is a much higher rate of loss on heirlooms.  First there are many fruits (and yes, they are) that end up not sale-able because they are so ugly, cracked, etc.  Also heirloom tomatoes are susceptible to a whole host of plant diseases, so there is a higher loss of plants in general.  The tradeoff is the hybridized tomato, they are perfect looking and have been bred to resist disease but what suffers in the process is taste and texture.

A hard killing frost is probably just a few weeks away here in CT unless we get really lucky... so go out and get some heirloom tomatoes while you still can (and think about growing your own next year!).

Gorgeous Ox Heart Tomato, one of my favorite heirlooms.