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Showing posts from 2013


Over the past couple of years one section of our garden has specifically been cultivated to become a berry patch. About two years ago we purchased a year old raspberry bush from a local nursery and placed it in the garden. We worked the soil with compost and put it in a sunny location. The plant stretched and sent up thorny arms covered in leaves the first season. We cut the dead branches down to the dirt and pruned the live branches so that they were about three feet tall to force them to branch out the following year. Our second season was filled with late summer berries as the bush casually took up more ground in the garden. During the winter I kept glancing at the patch out of our kitchen window and said to my wife that I was going to add one more plant. She told me to be patient, that I would be surprised how big the plant would eventually get. I decided to take her advice and spent the winter feeding the plant fresh rabbit manure. In its third season the plant erupted from the gro…

Torch Sunflower

As autumn begins to settle into the valley and early morning mist rise from the Susquehanna I cannot help but admire the brilliant red leaves on the blueberry bushes and the soft tones of the sugar maple looming nearby. The naked frame of the butternut tree whose thin leaves were scattered by last week’s storm stands a quiet watch as black cap chickadee periodically make calculated raids on the giant skeletons of the sunflowers in the garden. As the pageantry of fall displays vibrant colors across the landscape like a fading peacock fan there is one flower still standing in our garden. The torch sunflower, also known as the Mexican sunflower, has been providing flowers for bouquets for months now. The plant stands about six feet tall and bushes out to display loud orange flowers that measure 2-3” across. The fuzzy yellow centers provide plenty of pollen for bees, especially late in the season when options are low. I ordered the seeds for this annual from the Seed Savers Exchange. http…

Food Preservation

There are a number of methods for preserving ones harvest. For the sake of this particular article I am going write about those that I have had involvement in in one regard or another. This of course does not mean that these are the only methods worth pursuing. For example I will not be speaking about a root cellar in this article but it would only make sense to do so if the opportunity is available to you. Personally my basement is far too damp to successfully store any item, let alone food. My Great-grandfather, like many from his generation, was a very thrifty man. I remember as a youth going to his house to pick up peppers that had been stored in half-gallon milk containers in the freezer. Fruit was frozen in old bread bags. I like to think of him when I stock the shelves and though I hardly match his output hope that he would proud. One of the first methods of food storage that my wife and I attempted was dehydrating our food. We ended up dehydrating everything from tomatoes to z…

How To Measure Success In The Garden

As the chill damp winds of fall begin to appear in the hills of southern New York I begin to reflect on the success and failures of this years gardens. In truth there are a number of ways to gauge the outcome of a years worth of hard work. Some grow for profit, others to stock the cupboard and freezer for winter. Some grow simply as a hobby, an excuse to dig in the dirt. I'm sure those of you reading all have your own reasons for taking part in the optimism associated with putting a seed in the cold ground each spring.

This year my focused changed a bit. My small plot was rather neglected last year due to politics and similar pursuits. Over the course of the last two years I kept track of nearly every ounce of produce that came out of our garden and compared cost to that of the USDA's going rates. This year though it struck me that I am missing the real reason for gardening. Of course there are a number of financial and health benefits associated with such a pleasurable past…

Book Review (Manifestos On The Future Of Food & Seed)

For my 40th birthday some close friends of mine gave me a gift certificate to an online book store, we should all have such good friends. I have been interested in reading literature by Vandana Shiva for some time so I took the opportunity to purchase “Manifestos On The Future Of Food & Seed” by South End Press ( Vandana Shiva is not the only contributor. Individuals such as the American author and activist Michael Pollan and the founder of the Slow Food Movement Carlo Petrini are featured as well.

I would recommend this book for a number of reasons. To begin with if you are not familiar with Vandana Shiva you should be, she is brilliant, in fact that may be an understatement. She has a bachelors degree in physics, she pursued an M.A. in the philosophy of science and has her Ph.D. in philosophy.

Another reason I would recommend this manifesto is because in America we vote with our dollars. Most people have no idea what they are voting for when they walk int…


Borage which is also known as starflower, bee plant or bee bread is a culinary herb that is rather easy to establish from seed even in northern gardens.

The leaves and flowers of the plant are edible containing a taste similar to cucumber. In our household we use the flowers for a wide range of dishes ranging from rice to salad. Visually it is a nice way to enhance an otherwise bland serving and the flavor it provides is a nice surprise for the taste buds.

Borage has a fair share of vitamin C, a natural anti-oxidant, and vitamin A which is not only good for your skin and vision but is also believed to help the body protect against lung and oral cancers. Starflowers also contains an omega-6 fatty acid that helps with joint health and ones immunity.

As you can see there are a ton of health benefits associated with the leaves and flowers of this stunning plant. Aside from that it is also a beautiful addition to ones garden. Certainly worth a try if you are looking for something new in y…


Some of my earliest memories of gardening revolve around raiding the pea patch. I can still remember the excitement of cracking open a pod and eating the sweet peas within. The sound of the birds and wind traveling through the pines that surrounded the garden still fills my mind with pleasant memories. I can recall lugging the watering can from my grandfathers hose to the pea plot while the cool aluminum struck my thigh every other step as cold water soaked my sneakers. Those days in the pea patch nearly four decades ago left such an imprint that one of the first things I grew in my own garden was a pea patch.

For a number of years I have grown yellow snap peas. This year though I took a different route and dug out a section of the garden for shell peas. Something I have not had in the garden for far too long. I purchased an English dwarf variety from Fedco seeds out of Maine. I have not been disappointed they are wonderful! In fact my oldest daughter told me she thought that they ta…

Book Review (The Gift of Good Land-Further Essays Cultural and Agricultural by Wendell Berry)

“A corporation, essentially, is a pile of money to which a number of persons have sold their moral allegiance.” Wendell Berry
I am fortunate in that I have very generous friends. This winter I turned 40 and two friends of mine bought me a number of books I had been interested in reading as a gift.

I recently finished reading the second book they purchased for me which is The Gift of Good Land- Further Essays Cultural and Agricultural by Wendell Berry. The majority of this 281 page book consist of essays written in the 1970’s. Sadly a large number of the issues covered in this amazing piece of literature still hold true today.

The book consist of twenty-four essays that range from his exploration of ancient American agriculture in the Peruvian highlands that have successfully fed locals for at least 4,500 years to the American Amish farm experience.

There tends to be a common thread to all of his essays. Mr. Berry expresses in no uncertain terms that modern agriculture, or agribusine…

Golden Purslane

A few years ago my wife pointed out the wild purslane naturally growing in our garden. I tried it and found it to be rather mild so continued to eat it whenever I discovered it in the garden with our vegetables. Two or three years ago I found that Fedco Seed ( as well as a small handful of other companies offered seed for golden purslane. I ordered some from Fedco and have been growing more and more of it ever since.

Purslane is an interesting plant. Both Gandhi and Thoreau ate it. Knowing the health benefits of this small succulent I can understand why someone such as Gandhi would have eaten it. It is a good source of vitamin C and B-complex vitamins such as niacin. It is a major source of vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids which are normally linked with eating fish. So if you are a vegetarian or simply do not eat a lot fish this is a great little plant to consider as part of your diet.

I have found it to be reasonably easy to grow. It takes up very littl…

A Peace of Mind on a Piece of Land

A soft rain falls. The lavender bloom of the lilac tree offers a warm contrast beyond my window which frames both gray sky and perpetually wet twig and leaves.

My garden was slightly ignored last season as I explored the shallow world of politics. Fortunately for me it was patiently waiting for my return like a faithful hound carefree of potential abandonment. The solace of my space has taken on a new urgency for a number of reasons this season.

I am currently reading The Gift of Good Land by Wendell Berry. It is a collection of essays both social and agriculture from the 1970's and sadly a number of the concerns expressed still hold true today. It has of course offered inspiration to continue my own ventures though. Reminding me why I garden in the manner that I do. It is for mother nature, health, politics, therapy, pride, self-sufficiency and most importantly for family. It is the flower in the barrel of a gun. The protest of virtue among the bitter fruit of greed. It is pra…

Planting Potatoes

Attached you will find the first in what will hopefully become numerous video entries in regards to our gardens. My 7 year old is filming while my 3 and 5 year olds help out in the garden. Overall I would have to say for a first attempt it came out rather well. It will be fun to see our technique improve over the next few months.

There were a few things that I left out on the video that are worth mentioning. We have been feeding our potato beds for a few seasons with compost from kitchen scraps as well as rabbit and cow manure. Potatoes like well composted soil.

Rather than double up on something that I have already covered I thought that it would make more sense to provide a link from a post I wrote a few years ago in regards to the Adirondack Blue potato.

The other variety that we planted this year is the Yukon Gold. This particular potato is the "gold" standard for mashed potatoes.

As mentioned in the video…

Buy Local

For some buying local is a way of life. For others it is an afterthought. I would like to take just a moment to pursade you to buy more items locally if you are not already doing so.

Those of us who live in poor rural economies depend on the odds and ends that help us get by. Consider buying veggies from a local farmer or gardener, even if they are not advertising you may be suprised to find they have extra items to sell. Think local in terms of what makes your community or state unique. Here in southern New York state we produce some mighty fine maple syrup. Consider purchasing cut flowers from neighbors, eggs from small farms, honey products, meat/polutry, and even livestock are all available. Lets cut out the rather lazy habit of going to mega-stores for something we can get right in our community. Chances are it is fresher and healthier as well.

Gardeners are creative folk in general and tend to have extra harvest available or make items from their own garden. Herbs, goats milk …

When the Sun Shines Bright

On this morning of daylight savings I walk through our woods alive with the brilliance of sound. A downy woodpecker carves a tree amongst the beech, maple, oak and birch. Nearby the early birds of spring triumphantly proclaim that they have returned through manic flight and song as they dash to and fro amongst the skeletons of berry bramble. My young beagle and old terrier, on the leash, parade with tails in the air and their nose to the ground as the frozen forest path serenades them with a banquet of tantalizing smells and sounds. In this moment they are both pups again, alive with possibility of the new season.

Snowdrops begin to stretch their tiny green limbs while yawning from beneath the leftover winter snow. I, like them, turn my face toward the warm sun searching for spring. There is no breeze as I stand among the slowly waking forest, a frame of Mother Nature’s grand picture.

Today, along with my children, I will explore the thawing mud of the garden while plotting …