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Seattle Fling 2011

Garden bloggers meet in Seattle in 2011

The Road to Thanksgiving

The road to Thanksgiving

The road to Thanksgiving

The road to Thanksgiving leads from our house to our daughter’s house. We were trying to beat the big snowstorm but we met it on the way. Fortunately, the snow did not get beyond pretty by the time we arrived.

The makings of Thanksgiving

The makings of Thanksgiving

Our assignment for the Family Feast was to bring a farm fresh turkey, cranberry sauce and cranberry bread and my famous Green Apple Mincemeat Pie. Still a lot to do before the rest of the family arrives tomorrow.

Happy Thanksgiving to all! Be well. Eat well.

Thinking About Our Gardens

 

Thomas Affleck Rose

Thomas Affleck Rose

As I‘ve worked  to put my gardens to bed this fall I’ve also been thinking about gardens and how they came to take this form, and how any garden takes form.

Some people plan a garden in one fell swoop. Or have someone do it for them. But I think for most of us we begin slowly and one step follows another. Which is a good thing because we learn about our site, and about ourselves as we move through the seasons.

Still there are some basic things to think about when we plan, or plan again.

First we have to consider the site. Do we have a lot of room or a confined space? Where is the sun on the site? Where is the shade? How does the shade move over the course of the season as the sun’s course across the sky changes? Is the soil sandy, or clay? Is it very dry or damp?  Does the site slope and is it exposed to wind? The answer to each of these questions will help determine how to proceed. The answers will guide us as we search for the right plant for the right spot.

The second consideration is how each gardener will use the garden. We each have different desires and needs. I’ve needed a vegetable garden, but I’ve also wanted flower gardens. I want to be comfortable in my solitude, but I also enjoy eating outside, and entertaining friends in the garden. I like to stroll through the garden, but some like to admire the garden landscape from a deck or from inside the house.

Beyond the practical ways we use the garden, I think we have to examine how we want to feel in the garden. Do we want to feel sheltered? Do we want to feel we are in a private woodland? Or do we want to feel like a Jane Austen character strolling through the estate shrubberies with a dear friend?  What is your fantasy?

One element of your fantasy might be a season of constantly blooming flowers. This will mean gaining knowledge of the many beautiful annuals that can bloom from spring well into the fall.  On the other hand, you might have a fantasy of a serene green garden where it is the shades of green and foliage textures that please.

For myself, my mostly-achieved fantasy is that of a mixed border. It did not happen all at once. Inspired by my mentor Elsa Bakalar I once tended a 90 foot long perennial border. Many perennials were gifts from Elsa, and many were bought with careless enthusiasm when I saw them at the garden center. I could not maintain such a garden for long.

It was only about 16 years ago that we planned The Lawn Beds. These are mixed borders, which is to say in each bed I have evergreen and deciduous trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals. Because the shrubs take up more room than flowers, these generous beds are much less labor intensive than that 90 foot long border. I still have perennials which will bloom for three or four weeks in their season, but there is room for annuals that will give me bloom all summer long.

Ghislaine de Feligonde whose orange-apricot buds open to cream

Ghislaine de Feligonde whose orange-apricot buds open to cream

Of course, I have The Rose Walk. This began as my fantasy of growing lush fragrant old roses. Thirty two years ago I planted the first two roses in the middle of the lawn. I don’t know why I chose that spot. Those two roses ultimately forced the creation of the Rose Walk. I have mourned (briefly) the roses that did not survive, and enjoyed adding new roses every year. I loved my early summer morning walks along the Rose Walk thinking of the centuries that roses have bloomed on this earth, and the ladies that have cared for and enjoyed them in their modest farm gardens or on great estates. The Annual Rose Viewing., our annual garden party was a further natural outgrowth. The Rose Walk is proof that a complete plan is not necessary to begin.

A garden will inevitably attract wildlife.  Some wildlife like deer are not welcome, and it behooves us to be aware that some plants are very inviting to deer and rabbits, and others less so. Lists of these are available. I never plant hostas because of deer, but thought my herb garden was safe because they would not dare to come so close to the house. I was wrong. They tramped across the Daylily Bank (totally unnecessary) to eat the parsley in the herb bed.

Other wildlife, birds, bees and other pollinators like butterflies are very welcome. Birdwatchers have told me that the sound of moving water is the most dependable draw for birds. The burble of a fountain, especially if it is near some sheltering plants is especially inviting.

Pollinators are attracted by the many plants that are native to our area. Bee balm, asters, rudbeckia, and even our fields of goldenrod attract the pollinators that will keep our vegetables and fruit trees productive.

Finally, when planting we have to remember those basic considerations like allowing for growth. A small shrub in a small pot bought at the garden center will not stay small. When planting allow for that growth, how wide and how tall will it be in three years?  Or five years?

Soil needs annual attention with applications of compost, and mulch. Where will the compost pile go?

One very important question is how much time can the gardener realistically expect to devote to garden chores?

Are you thinking about your garden this fall? How might it change? How does it need to change? We gardeners must always be thinking. ###

Cold and Ice on Wordless Wednesday

View from the Bedroom Window  November 17, 2014

View from the Bedroom Window November 17, 2014

By the time we had ice on the trees and landscape we had already had our first snowfall – one and a half inches of the white stuff. But that weather all felt like a heat wave. This morning the temperature was a record breaking 16 degrees! AND the Farmer’s Almanac predicts a  much colder winter in our part of the world!  The firewood is almost all stacked.

For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

Intervale Center – Still More Projects

 

Intervale Center Food Hub

Intervale Center Food Hub

My visit with my cousin, Travis Marcotte, at the Intervale Center in Burlington, Vermont stunned me with the varied ways an organization could support farmers, the vitality of their conservation effort, the size of a marketing project like a food hub, and the excitement and involvement of a large community.

Last week I described two of the IntervaleCenter’s programs: the Farms Program which allows farmers to lease land and equipment at reasonable rates; and the Success in Farms program which brings expert advice to farmers all across Vermont. The interconnectedness of all things is clear in the goals that run through every Intervale project. Sustainable farms provide a living for farmers, protect land and the environment, and provide healthy local food for the population.

Interconnectedness is the theme of the online Food Hub. Most of us have become familiar with CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farms which allow consumers to buy a share of a farm’s produce at the beginning of the season and then get a weekly pickup all season long. Travis said “there are models of the Food Hub all over the country. At the Intervale consumers order online. “Our food hub consists of 45 farms and food producers who send us their order every week. Volunteers box orders up and deliver them to nearly 50 pickup locations in Burlington. The several colleges in Burlington, and private businesses get direct deliveries, but there are also a number of other delivery sites. The FletcherAllenHospital which participates in the Healthcare without Harm program gets food from the Food Hub for their hospital kitchen and for their employees.”

Travis pointed out that while everyone knows the physician’s Hippocratic oath says “First do no harm,” they don’t know that it also says “I will devise and order for them the best diet, according to my judgment and means.”

The Food Hub building, a renovated barn, includes a huge refrigerated room that holds all the produce and products like cheese, yogurt and meat that require refrigeration delivered by the 45 farm participants, and space for boxing the orders.

Beyond providing a stable market for the farmers, and deliveries of good food for the consumers, the Intervale website states that the Food Hub “provides ongoing technical assistance and support, enabling [farmers] to grow and process more food, diversify production, develop specialty products and push the limits of Vermont’s growing season.”

Intervale Center Conservation Nursery

Intervale Center Conservation Nursery

 The big greenhouse of the Conservation Nursery was empty but dozens of crates filled with hundreds of tree seedlings in growing tubes were ranked in the adjacent open area. I wondered where Intervale got all their plants. I quickly learned that this project begins with collecting seed, making cuttings and growing on about 30 varieties of native trees and shrubs. Thousands of plants go to landowners, farmers, and watershed organizations as well as municipal agencies.

Intervale also hires seasonal planting teams that work full time for six weeks in the spring and fall. These crews go all over Vermont usually planting varieties of willow and dogwood. These rugged native plants are fast growing, tolerate summer droughts, and winter cold. The focus is on riparian restoration, planting along riversides to make the banks stable and capable of capturing sediments and pollutants before they reach the water. Lake Champlain has a high level of pollution that is caused by runoff from the various rivers and waterways. After Irene Intervale gave away 15,000 trees to repair damage done by the storm.

Intervale Gleaning and Food Rescue. This program works to get fresh healthy food to income eligible families. Gleaning is the ancient practice of letting people go into the fields after harvest to take up that portion of the crop that was left. At Intervale volunteers work with local farms to rescue food that would be lost, and sign up Farmer’s Market vendors to donate produce leftover at the end of market day. The Community Farms offers free CSA shares to income eligible families and social service organizations. Several of the farms at Intervale, including the Community Farm, welcome gleaners weekly as the harvest proceeds.

The 350 acres of the IntervaleCenter include biking and hiking paths. Up to a thousand people come to enjoy the Summervale gatherings every Thursday in July and August, for free music, and great local food sold by a variety of vendors. This is community involvement at its most joyous.

Do not think that I have given a full description of IntervaleCenter here. It has a large and far reaching scope. Yet, when I think about what we have in our own area I can count a growing number of small farms; CSA farms; Just Roots Community Farm, lively farmers markets; food pantries that work with farmers, gardeners and the farmers markets; CISA (Community Involved in Sustainable Agriculture) that provides support and training for farmers; food producers like Sidehill Yogurt, South River Miso and Warm Colors Apiary, and many more!

Vermont is a rural state, but Burlington is a metropolis. My cousin Travis likes to look a models. He knows different areas will need different models. He has access to a population of 200,000, and we have a fraction of that. Still, we all benefit from knowing about and understanding the workings of many models.

Between the Rows     November 8, 2014

First Snowfall of the Year

First snowfall November 14, 2014

First snowfall November 14, 2014

This morning I woke to the first snowfall of the year. Just over an inch. Thirty degrees and breezy. A pretty preview of what is to come.

Yellow Birch at dawn

Yellow Birch at dawn

Surprises on Wordless Wednesday

Forgotten pansies

Forgotten pansies

This pot of pansies was all but forgotten until the sun shone on it this afternoon.

Chrysanthemums

Chrysanthemums

This large clump of chrysanthemums is still blooming so energetically that it refuses to be forgotten.

For more Wordlessnes this Wednesday click here.

Fall Cleaning on the Daylily Bank

Daylily Bank in August

Daylily Bank in August

The Daylily Bank is beautiful in August. It is also  the best idea we ever had for this steep bank right in front of the house. I started planting it from the top down and it took about three years to cover the whole bank. And there is still room for these clumps to continue to increase. For the most part I have chosen gentle colors of pale yellow, peach and pink, but some red crept in I don’t seem to be able to stop myself.

. In November the Daylily Bank  doesn’t look anything like this.

Daylily Bank in November

Daylily Bank in November

The fall weather has alternated between cold and very warm so I have been out today continuing to put the Daylily Bank to bed. I work both from the bottom up, and from top down. I  cut back the dead stems and foliage and then do some rough weeding with my Korean hand hoe. There are a few plants in the middle that I have not yet reached.

The Daylily Bank is about as low maintenance as you can get. They grow so vigorously that it is hard for weeds to take hold – but not impossible. I think fall weeding is easier than spring weeding. Somehow weeds don’t have the same tenacity that they do in the spring.  A couple of more nice days are predicted. I might get this job finished this year.

Intervale Center in Burlington Vermont

Cousin Jennie with Travis, Hale and Serein at Intervale Center

Cousin Jennie with Travis, Hale and Serein at Intervale Center

Intervale:   n. Regional. A tract of low-lying land, especially along a river. 

The Intervale  Center in Burlington, Vermont has three goals: to enhance the viability of farming; to promote the sustainable use and stewardship of agricultural lands; and to ensure community engagement in the food system.

Last weekend my husband and I went to Vermont to visit some of my cousins who grew up on a dairy farm in Charlotte. My father also worked on that 300 acre farm with Uncle Wally at different times, and all my other cousins spent part of our summer vacations on the farm. As a child I had a (very) few farm chores, but I have always given credit to The Farm for my ending up in Heath with a flock of chickens.

The Farm of my youth is gone, but my cousins still hold a tract of land, fields and woodland, where family gatherings continue to be held on the stony beach. On this trip we got to spend time with my cousin (once removed) Travis Marcotte whose journey from the University of Vermont and the University of California-Davis where his studies in community, international and economic development led him to several years working in Central America and the Caribbean. About nine years ago he returned to Burlington and the Intervale Center where he is now the Executive Director.

In 1988 Will Raap, founder the Garden Supply Company, with an interested group of citizens began establishing the Intervale Foundation, making and selling compost on what had been wasteland. Now, under the name Intervale Center, it manages 350 acres of land within the Burlington city limits. From establishing the Community Farm, the first CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in Vermont to establishing an incubator farm program and a host of other programs the Intervale Center works to protect land and water quality, and find ways to bring good fresh food to everyone.

Cool  and damp at the Intervale Center's greenhouses

Cool and damp at the Intervale Center’s greenhouses

It was wonderful on that very cool day to walk around the Intervale with my cousin Jennie, Travis and his two boys. We took the wooded hiking trail along the  Winooski River where some restoration work is being carried on. We passed joggers and then turned away from the river and out into an open area, a kind of street lined with large hoophouses. Some are owned by Intervale, and some are owned by businesses who lease the land they are built on. This is where the Farms Program begins, and support for farmers becomes infrastructure.

The first farm here was the 50 acre Community Farm founded about 25 years ago. “This is a very traditional CSA,” Travis explained. “Members come here to pick up their shares, but they have an interesting model. The 550 consumers own the cooperative. When they want to expand they borrow money from themselves at a very low rate of interest. After all, they are not interested in making money here, they just want to get the next job done.”

Intervale leases the land to the Community Farm which then has access to all the equipment like tractors, and washing equipment for the produce. “Three hundred people have signed up for Winter Shares. Farmers all over Vermont are working to have a four season year,” Travis said.

Ten other farms lease land from Intervale Center, including the tiny two acre Half Pint Farm. Three of these are incubator farms who lease land for five years. . “Being able to lease land and equipment makes it possible for new farmers to get a start without a heavy outlay of money,” he said. “We also help them with business plans and can provide them with referrals to other services in the state.” In addition new farmers get help and encouragement from mentors at the rooted farms. They are not isolated with their worries or lack of experience.

Ben and his chickens at the Intervale Center

Ben and his chickens at the Intervale Center

We met Ben who is in his second incubator year raising about 1000 chickens for eggs. “Ben came to us with a business plan and a lot of ideas. He needed a place to test them out. Now he can’t keep up with the demand for his eggs, most of which go to the City Market Coop in the center of town,” Travis said.

Ben’s chickens live outdoors on pasture and in shelters three seasons of the year, and in two greenhouses during the winter. Next month he will cull the non-layers and be ready for new pullets in the spring. He told us that he’ll slaughter a few birds for his own use, but will sell the rest back to the producer for a very small amount of money.

Another program is called Success on Farms.  Business plan and consulting services are available to farmers all across Vermont. Farmers need to know about more than growing crops or raising animals. They need to know about efficient production systems, good financial planning, and markets.

We were surprised when Travis explained that a lot of their funding comes from the quasi-state agency, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board. “About 25 years ago Vermonters decided they didn’t want to lose this great way of life. They wanted to conserve the beautiful countryside, but they didn’t want it to be an exclusive place. That meant they needed to insure affordable housing.”

When Travis returned from his work in Caribbean nine years ago, he said he had a dream of working part-time in Vermont. He had worked as a cook in a million restaurants he said. He could do that. Instead he saw an ad for a job at Intervale Center and cooking was forgotten.

He took on the job of travelling around Vermont helping farmers with their strategic and financial planning, advice on creating value added products, amd expanding their markets. Success on Farms was his goal.

Next week I’ll talk about other Intervale Center programs. The Food Hub. The Conservation Nursery. Gleaning. Summervale! We have many of these services and opportunities in our own area, but it was absolutely stunning to find them all under one roof.

Between the Rows   November 1, 2014

View from the Bedroom Window – October 2014

First hard frost - October 6, 2014

View from the Bedroom Window – First hard frost – October 6, 2014

The view from the bedroom window shows that I have been working out in the Lawn Beds, and not picking up after myself, and the arrival of the first hard frost.

View from the Bedroom Window 10-13, 2014

View from the Bedroom Window 10-13, 2014

The weather warmed up but there was another lighter frost on October 13. The gingko trees are slowly turning gold, color has nearly all left the rest of the distant landscape.

View from the Bedroom Window October 28, 2014

View from the Bedroom Window October 28, 2014

Since the 13th we have had about 7 inches of rain in three rainfalls. There has been time in between to cut back and divide perennials and and put the garden to bed. It has been wet and cold, but the gingkos are golden.

For more (almost) Wordlessness this Wednesday click here.

School Gardens – Innovation and Discovery School

 

Discovery School Garden

Discovery School Garden

When I arrived last Thursday afternoon the scene at the school gardens of the  Discovery School at Four Corners were enjoying controlled chaos. Several teachers were staying after school to divide and pot up perennials from the butterfly garden.

“Is this Echinacea or a rudbeckia?” one teacher asked and her spade bit into the center of the clump.

“Don’t pot the dill! It an annual,” another shouted.

“Are you sure these are all bee balm?” another asked looking at a huge clump of wilted and frost-blackened stems.

All of the newly potted plants, as well as kale and potatoes from the garden, were to be sold at the Harvest Sampler the following day. Funds raised would go to the school gardens.

I have visited many school gardens, but never have I visited a school where the garden was a driving force in the curriculum. The DiscoverySchool at Four Corners (K-3) was one of the first Innovation Schools created by a program instituted by Governor Deval  Patrick in 2010. Innovation schools have a theme; the teachers and parents who came together to design this new program chose gardening, with a broad environmental focus.

Kathy LaBreck, one of the teachers who was a moving force in getting the Innovation designation said that the nine acre site of the school was a big inspiration. “We thought the kids would be very interested in plants and that would be a great benefit. We see the children are so proud of their very concrete achievements, and their pride is a validation of the program.”

On the day I visited several of the raised garden beds were nearly finished and ready for the final harvest. Others already showed a sturdy growth of winter rye, a cover crop that will be tilled under in the spring to fertilize the soil and add organic matter.

My neighbor, and teacher at Four Corners, Kate Bailey told me the kids love the gardens, and the harvest. She has her own reasons for loving the gardens. “It is very easy to integrate the gardens, and cooking the produce, into the curriculum. When we planted the rye we talked about grains. When we cook, and we’ve made a lot of muffins with our harvest, we need many skills. To cook you need to read, follow directions, and of course handle lots of fractions,” she said.

For the Harvest Sampler Bailey said each grade made dishes with their own vegetable. She had to explain that the kindergarteners had been studying apples in particular so they made apple recipes. The school also has a dehydrator and making dried apple rings has been very popular

The first graders have been studying tomatoes. Lots of salsa has been made.

The second graders have been studying carrots which leads to carrot salads, muffins and cakes.

The third graders have been studying potatoes. Potato chips!

Bailey explained that volunteers from Just Roots, the GreenfieldCommunityGarden who helped set up the garden in the beginning, have been coming in every week to talk about Healthy Snacks.

In fact the desire to teach children the importance of a healthy diet was one of LaBreck’s goals. “Children who work in the garden, and grow their own vegetables are more willing to try new foods,” she said.

Teacher Anne Naughton stopped potting up plants long enough to tell me how excited she is about working with children in the garden. “The kids love the gardens, and they love the butterflies, and all the insects. They are so curious and interested. Their curiosity leads us into our lessons. We follow life cycles of plants and insects, and seasonal cycles. The first scientific skill is careful observation,” she said.

Suzanne Sullivan, the school principal, said the whole nine acres are used for instruction. The vegetable beds are producing, as is the strawberry bed, apple and pear trees have been planted, and pollinator plants help provide the insects needed for study. There is even a nature trail created by an Eagle Scout Patrick Crowningshield in 2011. “The goal is to foster an environmental awareness in the children, even beyond the gardens, she said

“The teachers have been very collaborative,” Sullivan said. “The students have been responsive and are so engaged.  We do focus on very hands-on learning.”

At Friday night’s Harvest Sampler, held in the school yard near the gardens, it was clear that there is great support for the program. A huge turnout of parents arrived bearing their own contributions to the Sampler, more apple, tomato, carrot, and potato dishes. Who imagined learning could be so delicious?

The Massachusetts School Report Card shows students the DiscoverySchool at Four Corners have high levels of proficiency or better English Language Arts and Mathematics. It’s clear the teachers at the DiscoverySchool at Four Corners all get high marls themselves.

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The 2015 UMass Extension Garden Calendar is now available. This excellent, and beautiful, calendar contains excellent information about plants and garden chores throughout the year.  To order send $12 payable to UMass, to Garden Calendar, c/o Five Maples, 78 River Road South, Putney, VT 05346. Add $3.50 for the first calendar and $2.00 for each additional calendar. Think of all the gardeners in your life you could make happy.

UMass Extension Garden Calendar 2015

UMass Extension Garden Calendar 2015

Beetween the Rows   October 25, 2014