On a table in my house sits what most people, including my entire extended family, find quite bizarre, something they cannot align with what they know of me. After all, I pride myself on being an ecological gardener who tries to consider the impact of my actions on all the inhabitants of the garden, not just the human sort. I work to restore shrub-land bird habitat and wildlife corridors on the acres we steward, and in this column I yammer on and on about leaving the wild to the wild. And yet, there on that table sits an antique bell jar and inside that bell jar sit seven stuffed songbirds of Vermont. Go figure.
Indeed, the bell jar looks as though it belongs in St. Johnsbury’s Fairbanks Museum, not on my table—perhaps once upon a time, it did live there. I picked it up...read full post »
It's that time of year again--the end of tomato season in Vermont (unless you have a greenhouse), the end of the tender herbs (inless you pot them up and bring them inside), the peppers and lettuces, the eggplant and, yes, the zucchini, for tonight we are expecting our first hard frost and tomorrow night another one to boot. I'm in a predicament. My gardens are quite large, and if I were to be home, I would cover them with garden quilt both nights to see if I could thwart the coming of deep autumn. But I will be on the road and so have to let the gardens complete their cycle.
Today I will pick the rest of the ripe tomatoes for sauce, the green tomatoes for chutneys; the tomatillos and peppers will go in a bag in the fridge until I return home next week and can turn them into...read full post »
Here in the western part of Vermont we missed the worst of the hurricane and so our gardens, while a bit wet, are still intact. The tomatoes keep coming in, the peppers are turning red, the pumpkins and winter squash are maturing, the eggplants finally coming on strong. It has been a wildly fluctuating weatherscape here and we've had to relax and go with Mother Nature.
Now the evenigs are cool--soon cold with the first frosts not far off, and so up go the tunnels to hold off the end of gardening for as long as possible. If I'm lucky, I'll still have lettuces and greens deep into November. And I'm glad this year especially since it has been such a strange summer.
Here's what has grown well:
Cucumbers. They have loved the warm, wet conditions and I have picked more than we can eat. I've made...read full post »
My family jokes about how when my husband heads out on a trip, Mother Nature lets loose. An albino robin appears just before he’s to leave. An owl hangs around in broad daylight, staring intently into the screened-in porch. Bats flit about the house. Birds get trapped in my studio. Coyotes prowl the garden to face down the cats. Ice storms/snowstorms/thunderstorms unleash their fury. I’ve come to expect the unusual.
So I always check the weather forecast before he leaves. And sure enough, as he packed his suitcase last week, we seemed headed for a doozy. A garden-buster of a storm. Irene.
Winds? Rain? How much of which? Who knew? Saturday, after making sure the house and barns were storm-ready, I stared at the gardens, at the orchard, wondering how best to help them. Maybe I should do nothing, let things take their own course, hop on...read full post »
I stopped growing corn a few years back. For good reason. It takes up precious garden real estate and inevitably gets snatched by some clever critter or other the night before I plan to pick it. Just as people line up for local chicken-pie suppers around here, I swear that corn-lovers of the wildlife persuasion sit in the branches of the copse just beyond my orchard garden, patiently waiting for their tasty corn dinner. And if by some miracle they don’t get it, some much, much smaller pest of the wormy sort likely will. With so many competing for that corn, not all of us…i.e. me…will be smart enough to get any. It’s such a simple lesson. One I learned years ago as a young gardener.
And yet, this past winter, when I...read full post »