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Special Events Coming Soon

The ground is covered with snow, but we gardeners can feel our hearts beating faster as we sense spring and the special events that will remind us of the delights and work waiting for us. Here are the dates for some enjoyable and instructional special events.

February 17, Wednesday 7 pm – The first event is my own talk on The Making of a New Garden at the Shelburne Grange, Fellowship Hall, 17 Little Mohawk Rd, Shelburne. I’ll be showing photos of the beginnings of my new garden in Greenfield and talk about the decision to leave the house and garden in Heath where we lived for 36 years. The public is welcome and refreshments will be served.

February 20, Saturday 10am – 1 pm – The first spring workshop from Mass Aggie Seminars on Growing and Pruning Grapes, a Hands-on worksop given in Belchertown. Cost $50. Click here for full information about this series of programs.

March 5 – March 20 10am -4 pm – The annual Spring Flower Show at Mount Holyoke College at Talcott Greenhouse has chosen the theme “Emerald Isle.” It is free to the public and wheelchair accessible. Groups welcome with advance notice; call 413-538-2116.

March 5 – March 20  10-4 pm daily – The Annual Smith College Bulb Show. The theme this year is “The Evil Garden”  inspired by a book illustrated and written by Massachusetts resident the late Edward Gorey.  A donation of $5 is recommended. The free opening lecture at the Campus Center Carroll Room on Friday, March 4 at 7:30 pm will feature a talk by Thomas J. Campanella, PhD, FAAR, author of A Great Green Cloud: The Rise and Fall of the City of Elms.

March 19, Saturday  8:45 am – 2:15 am – The Annual Spring Gardening Symposium at Frontier Regional High school in South Deerfield presented by the Western Mass Master Gardeners Association will feature Keynote Speaker Karen Bussolini talking about Survival in the Darwinian Garden: Planting the Fittest. There will also be 14 different other presentations on topics from compost, soil building, hydrangeas, raised bed and container gardening and much more. $35. This program is the first of three symposia, others follow on April 2 and April 9 in the Lower Valley and then the Berkshires.

Master Gardener Spring Symposium March 21, 2015

Master Gardener garden plot

Master Gardener garden plot

Creating Your Own Eden is the name of this year’s fact and delight loaded Western Massachusetts Master Gardener Spring Symposium on Saturday, March 21 at Frontier Regional High School in South Deerfield. I can imagine a garden Eden where all the trees welcome insects to take a modest banquet from their leaves, where birds eat some of those insects, where weeds and flowers grow to provide food for caterpillars, some of which also get eaten, and where butterflies tour different flowers to gorge on nectar. Eden is a beautiful and sustainable garden.

Some of us already are sensitive to the dangers of pesticides and herbicides in our garden. Some of us are trying to do away with our lawns in order to add plants that support the insects, birds and butterflies that add so much beauty to the Eden that we all try to make of our garden. And yet, it can be so confusing. There is so much information. How will we take in all that information so we can use it?

The annual Master Gardener Spring Symposium is the perfect place to get information and have questions answered.

Keynote speaker Kim Eierman is not only a Master Gardener herself, she is a Master Naturalist, and operates EcoBeneficial, her consulting firm that supports the use of native plants and the creation of sustainable landscapes. I will be prepared to take notes when she speaks about EcoBeneficial Gardening: Going Beyond Sustainability, but I have already looked at her website,EcoBeneficial and found information that is clear and specific. For example, most of us do not have a large plot of land so while it is good to know that native oaks support over 500 types of insects and birds, we may not have the space for an oak tree.

The next best tree is the black cherry, Prunus serotina, which offers nectar and pollen to native pollinators and honey bees. The small red or black fruits are a favorite food of more than 40 species of birds and many mammals. It also serves as a host plant for over 450 species of moths and butterflies.

Master Gardeners

Master Gardeners growing food for the hungry

In addition to Eierman’s Keynote speech, an array of workshops is being offered. Morning sessions range from how to sharpen tools, to native shrubs for the garden, how to make a rustic twig trellis and more. In the afternoon Eierman will speak again, this time about Replacing the GreenDesert; – Native Turf Alternatives. Other afternoon sessions include how to make nutrient dense soil, attract pollinators and make lacto-fermented vegetables.

I will be giving an illustrated talk about sustainable roses in the afternoon. I have been growing pesticide and herbicide free roses on my Heath hill for over 30 years. When visitors come to the Annual Rose Viewing in June many of them ask how I grow roses with such clean foliage, and what they should do about the various problems their roses suffer. I am really no help at all in this area, because by chance, and sometimes by design, my roses don’t have disease problems. The fate of the sustainable rose is not in our hands, it is in the genes of the particular rose. I am happy to pass on the news that a new book, Roses Without Chemicals, by Peter Kukielski is now available. I met Kukielski when he was curator of the Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden at the New YorkBotanical Garden, but he is now a part of the American Rose Trials for Sustainability. He is the king of sustainable roses.

A keynote speaker and workshops are not enough to prepare for spring. Vendors and book sellers will be on hand. My book, The Roses at the End of the Road, will be on sale for the event as well.

Registration forms are online and can be downloaded, then mailed in. The form lists all the workshop sessions so you can take your pick. The earlier you mail in your form, the better chance you have of getting your preferred programs. You can also order lunch if you wish. Questions? Email gardensymposium123@gmail.com and Lucy Alman will have the answers.

Between the Rows   March 7, 2015

Greenfield’s Winter Fare – February 21, 2015

Winter Farmers Market

Winter Farmers Market

Greenfield’s Winter Fare is more than a Farmer’s Market. Last month I attended the first  Winter Farmers Market of the year, held at the Greenfield Middle School. I came home with two heavy bags full of apples, winter squash, watermelon radish, golden beets, bread and frozen ground lamb.  And wonderful bread from El Jardin bakery.  Walking into that space was like walking into Ali Baba’s cave full of jewels. A little brighter, but with so much wealth spread out before us – and all local. Greenfield’s Winter Fare is more.

On Saturday, February 21 I will be at the 8th Annual Greenfield Winter Fare which started the whole Winter Farmers Market project rolling. Now Winter Fare is more than the Market, although the vendors will be there in force with vegetables, meat, fruit, honey, cheese and bread, etcetera. There will be the Soup Cafe which opens at 11 am and workshops – and visiting  because everyone will be there. At 1 pm there will be a Barter Fair led by the Valley Food Swap, swapping home-grown or home-made food.

Workshops:

10 am  – Secrets of Winter Garden by Daniel Botkin of Laughing Dog Farm

11 am  – Seven Class Culinary Herbs: Harvest, Cultivation and Medicinal Use with Jade Alicandro Mace of Milk & Honey Herbs

Noon – Simple Dairy Ferments, with Aaron Falbel, fermentation enthusiast

For other events during the week click here.

It seems to me that the success of Greenfield’s Winter Fare and the Farmer’s Markets is one measure of our community’s interest in good food, and the health of our environment. In the last few years the number of CSA  (Community Supported Agriculture) farms and other small farms has grown as has the number of farmstands and farmers markets. The Community Development Corp has a busy food processing kitchen available to entrepreneurs to make their products.   CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture)  is helping farmers with business training and marketing; and Greenfield Community College has instituted a course in Farm and Food Systems. That is a rich bouquet of services to farmers, and those who enjoy good, healthy food.

Will you be shopping at this year’s Winter Fare?  I will.

Winter Fare 2013

Winter Fare 2013

Full Weekend Monday Report – June 1, 2014

Nasami Farm Plant Swap New England Wildflower Society

Nasami Farm Plant Swap

On this Monday morning I can report on a full weekend beginning with a New England Wildflower Society member Plant Swap at Nasami Farm. I brought waldsteinia and tiarella and came home with Jacob’s ladder, an unusual epimedium, more tiarellas, a spicebush plant (very tiny) and an unusual native sedum.

Greenfield Community College Graduation

Greenfield Community College Graduation 2014

There  was a big crowd and a big tent for for the Greenfield Community College graduation Saturday afternoon. Granddaughter Tricia was graduation with honors and an Associate Degree in Accounting. She is very smart, and encouraging to all the students she has been tutoring over the past two or three years. She has been working at a bank while working on her degree.

Tricia in line for her diploma

Tricia in line for her diploma

Tricia and the young woman in front of her are wearing gold stoles to denote their entry into the Phi Theta Kappa honor society.

Tricia and  her fiance Brian

Tricia and her fiance Brian

Tricia and her fiance Brian are both so proud of each other’s academic achievements. He graduated from UMass-Amherst with a psychology degree three years ago, and just finished the pre-requisites he needed to apply for a Physican’s Assistant program which will begin in January. He has been working at the Brattleboro Retreat to pay off student loans since graduation, and trying to save money for the new program.  These two are so smart, and disciplined. They will go far, but a first stop is a September wedding.

Chris and Bibi at work

Chris and Bibi at work

Son Chris stopped by over the weekend to  congratulate Tricia and to help us in the garden. Mowing, raking AND picking up the grass for the compost pile. What a guy!  Bibi, the elderly French bulldog, still has enough energy to supervise and cheer him on.

A great weekend! The garden is starting to look good too.

Gardening with Kids – Fun and Learning

Square Foot Gardening With Kids

Square Foot Gardening With Kids

Gardening with kids is being taken to a whole new level at the HawlemontElementary School. They have received a grant that is allowing them to establish themselves as an AgricultureElementary School. This means that the schoolyard will have a variety of raised vegetable and flower beds, including a story garden that is being sponsored by the school library. But the schoolyard will also become a farmyard with a cow, sheep, goats and chickens. And yes, that means a barn and chicken coop.

Jean Bruffee currently teaches second grade, but next year she will be the Coordinator of the HAY (Hawlemont Agriculture Youth) program. When I spoke to her she said, “Every grade will have an agriculture class every week next year, and children will have chores. We are already putting up hooks for the farm clothes, and they’ll also get a pair of farm boots.” But she explained that studies will also include environmental and sustainability issues. “The barn will have a weather station,” she said.

She also assured me that while the animals will go back to their home farms in the summer, families and teachers are making commitments to care for the gardens during the summer vacation.

Working with our children in a home garden can be a lot of fun, but sometimes it is hard to gauge what children can understand or how far their capabilities might extend. To help parents and friends make a start two new books came out this spring to provide help and inspiration.

Square Foot Gardening With Kids

Those who are familiar with Mel Bartholomew’s unique Square Foot Gardening techniques may be surprised to see how they can lead children not only into a successful garden, but into science and math understanding. Bartholomew’s new book Square Foot Gardening with Kids (Cool Springs Press $24.99) begins with a sensible overview of how to use the book with different age groups, and continues with basic information for all.

Of course, there will be a square foot raised bed box. Immediately we are thrust into a world of fractions. It doesn’t take long to be immersed in a project that requires information, thought, and decisions. The square foot bed needs to be filled with soil, a soil that will provide the nutrition that plants need to thrive. Bartholomew has his own soil mix recipe that he recommends, but on this point I think I recommend loam mixed with a really good helping of compost.

Experienced gardeners are so used to reading catalogs and seed packets, making a planting plan considering the arc of the sun and shadow patterns, maintaining a compost pile, making a trellis or two to save room and deciding what to plant and how to arrange the plants in a rotation, that we forget these acts and decisions require a lot of scientific information that is all new to children. Gardening is not just a physical act, it is an intellectual challenge, there is so much to know and consider. I’m still working on the intellectual challenges in my own garden!

Bartholomew’s book will be valuable to parents, but it will also intrigue children with various experiments, making functional trellises, and even a season-extending plastic dome. A final section gives growing information about the most common herbs and vegetables. Advice to any new gardener, child or adult, is to keep the beginning small so that it does not overwhelm.

Gardening Lab for Kids

Gardening Lab For Kids

Gardening Lab For Kids

While Square Foot Gardening for Kids is mostly geared to school age children, Gardening Lab for Kids: 52 Fun Experiments by Renata Fossen Brown (Quarry Books ($24.99) is designed to help the parents of young children find their way into the garden with a series of discrete projects. A list of the short chapters shows the variety of approaches from Planting Spring Seeds, Make a Rain Gauge, Plant an Herb Spiral, Make a Bird Feeder and Make a Sweet Pea Teepee.

The 52 projects are simple, requiring very few materials. The potato tower is made from old tires, a bug net is a piece of tulle transformed with a wire coat hanger, a nesting material apparatus for the birds requires only a whisk and the materials, and a pollinator palace is made of bricks, pegboard and twigs. Lot of science in all these projects for any age child.

Fossen knows that the value of a garden is not only in the various practical functions it serves, but in the space it provides for imagination and rest. Suggestions are made for a fairy garden. I’m wondering whether great-granddaughters Bella and Lola might think the privacy under the weeping birch is a good place for a fairy garden. Fossen also suggests a place to sit and admire the garden. Sitting peacefully and admiring the garden is something we adult gardeners might need some help with. There is more to a garden than chores.

Fossen is the Associate Director of Education at the ClevelandBotanical Garden where thousands of children come with their classes or with parents to learn about butterflies and pollinators and all kinds of plants so she is familiar with the many tactile ways children engage with nature and a garden.

Do you have kids in your life that you might lead down the garden path regularly, or from time to time? Help and inspiration is at hand.

Between the Rows  May 17, 2014

Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week

Giant Emerald Ash Borer on the Bridge of Flowers

Giant Emerald Ash Borer on the Bridge of Flowers

I just learned about Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week (May 19-23) which is almost over, but I did  want to remind everyone about the necessity to watch for EAB damage.  The Emerald Ash Borer has been found in Berkshire County and most recently (Dec. 2013) in Essex County.  I wrote about the EAB in 2012, before it had arrived here.  The US Forest Service has an excellent website about this dangerous pest that can kill ash trees within three to five years.

Seeking Spring at the Leonard J. Buck Garden in NJ

 

Leonard J. Buck Garden

Leonard J. Buck Garden

I went to New Jersey, the Garden State, to search for spring and found it at the Leonard J. Buck Garden in Far Hills. My brother Tony and his wife Joan took us to the 29 acre garden which was originally part of Mr. Buck’s estate. In the 1930s Buck began working with Zenon Schreiber, a well-known landscape architect, to create a naturalistic garden that incorporated the various rock outcroppings, the sinuous Moggy Brook and two ponds.

I was searching for spring, but she was elusive, even in the Buck Garden which is, to a large extent, a spring garden. Trees were barely leafing out, it was too early for the groves and allees of azalea and rhododendron that would be spectacular by the end of May, and even the large patches of primroses were not blooming. What we did find were certain rocky areas in bloom that seemed to encourage us and remind us that spring was finally on her way.

The stone outcroppings vary in size and height, creating different microclimates. My sister-in-law- Joan and I spent a lot of time that day talking about and marveling at the power of microclimates. For example the primroses in the large boggy sections of the garden were almost entirely without bloom because this garden has also been having a very cool spring. And yet, nestled against the Big Rock stone cliff primroses were blooming happily in the sun.

Growing among the soil pockets were a number of colorful spring bloomers from the delicate red and yellow native columbine, brilliant basket-of-gold, petite iris reticulata, epimediums, barren strawberry, trillium, bluets, familiar creeping phlox, bleeding hearts and small narcissus like ‘Jack Snipe.’

It does not take long for most of us to identify the microclimates in our own gardens, and learn to take advantage of those spots where a plant will be protected from the wind, or where stone might act as a heat collector as well as a wind barrier. In those protected spots we can grow plants that are marginally hardy in our zone, or get earlier bloom.

Hellebores at the Leonard J. Buck garden

Hellebores at the Leonard J. Buck garden

There were various plantings of pink or white Helleborus orientalis or Lenten rose. I first became familiar with these lush early bloomers on the Bridge of Flowers. Last year when I attended the opening of the newly redesigned Monks Garden at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Michael Van Valkenburg promised that this spring the garden would be ‘crazy with hellebores’ which had been planted, along with ferns and shiny European ginger, under the new young trees.

One of the pleasures of visiting the Buck garden is the ability to see closeup woodland plants that you don’t often find in cultivated gardens. There were trilliums, red and white, just coming into bloom, guinea hen fritillarias, and sunny marsh marigolds that shone in a boggy spot.

Another sunny plant that stopped us was a clump of yellow flowers with sharply recurved petals, and mottled leaves. I couldn’t remember their scientific name (Erythronium americanum) but thought they were trout lilies. I pointed out the mottled leaves to Tony and Joan, explaining that they could be said to resemble the markings on brown trout. I thought they were also known as dogtooth violets even though they are not violets and do not resemble dog’s teeth in any way. Of course, later we had to do some research, and I was correct as far as I went. We learned the dog’s tooth refers to the little corm from which it grows.

Trout Lilies at Leonard J. Buck Garden

Trout Lilies at Leonard J. Buck Garden

Later in the day, at another garden, we saw a similar clump of flowers I thought were trout lilies again, but the petals were not curved back. We looked all over for a label, but only found one that said Bletilla striata. More research. These were trout lilies, but we learned it takes strong sun to make the petals curve back. Bletilla striata is a small purple ground orchid. No purple flowers of any kind were in sight. Which just goes to show you have to be careful when looking at plant labels. The plant they refer to may not yet be blooming, or the label may have been moved, but not with any accuracy.

While doing this trout lily research I also learned that every part of the plant is edible. One warning. I can’t anyone would actually manage to eat a large number, but in large amounts trout lilies act as an emetic. However a few blossoms to brighten up a salad will not hurt.

Most of us will never have enough trout lilies to take up roasting and eating the little corms. They are very slow growing. It takes seven years for a plant to mature, bloom and begin to reproduce. Mostly they increase by runners, not by seed. If you find a colony in a damp humusy woodland it is likely to be quite old. I prefer to just admire them because they are so lovely.

New Jersey has quite a number of public gardens that are a part of the park system. After we left the Buck Garden, and refreshed ourselves with a hearty lunch, we went on to Willowwood Arboretum, New Jersey’s largest (130 acres) and longest continually operating arboretum. You will hear more about the gardens there, as well as the trees, in the future.

Between the Rows  May 3, 2014

CSA – Community Supported Agriculture is for You

Winterfare Market February, 2012

For some people the initials CSA are just another of those annoying acronyms that can make our conversations sound like an unintelligible inter-office memo. For some CSA means Community Supported Agriculture which encompasses delicious local food, help for the farmer, and a community of like-minded folk who enjoy fresh food, and enjoy knowing they are supporting farmers and farms, and the very land and environment that surrounds us.

Small farmers never think they are going to get rich doing what they love. They only hope they won’t go broke after a bad season. In the 1980s a new idea came on the scene when the first community supported agriculture farms were first organized. The idea is that people would buy shares in the farm and its harvest at the beginning of the growing year, essentially sharing the risks the farmer would face over the course of the season. Would there be flooding rains? Drought? Would blight kill all the tomatoes? Mother Nature can throw all kinds of disasters at a farmer. CSA members are essentially buying the harvest as crops are planted and becoming a part of a community – a “we’re all in this together” community sharing the risk, the worry and the joys of the farm.

When I first became aware of Community Supported Agriculture some years ago, there were not many CSA farms or people buying shares. The organizational elements were fairly standard. An individual or family would buy a share in the spring, and then as the May and June harvest started coming in they would pick up their weekly boxed or bagged share of greens, beans, radishes and vegetables of every type in season. Because man does not live by carrot alone, many CSAs also included a bouquet of summer flowers.

Now there are many more CSAs in our area. I spoke with Phil Korman, Executive Director of CISA (Community Involved in Sustaining Agriculture) who said that in the three counties, Franklin, Hampshire and Hampden, in 2009 there were about 4550 farm shares sold, but in 2012 that number had increased to about 7300 farm shares sold. Some of those shares were to people outside the three counties. The expectation is that the number has continued to increase but statistics are only collected every five years. Korman pointed out that those farm shares did not include winter shares which are now available.

In fact, there are now many more kinds of CSA shares that people can buy. In addition to the regular vegetable garden shares, there are shares for meat, fish, eggs, flowers, and grain.

The last few years have seen other changes in CSA distributions. Originally, a shareholder paid up, and then picked up that share weekly at the farm. Nowadays CSA shares can be delivered to various sites including schools, retirement communities, and work sites.CooleyDickinsonHospitalallows staff to pay for their share with a payroll deduction, and the share is delivered to the hospital.  Some people share a share with a neighbor

Hager’s Farm Market and Upinngill Farm sell vouchers. The Hager vouchers are dated for use throughout the season, but they can be used at the Market on Route 2 in Shelburne with the shareholder making his own choices, for produce or pies, eggs or yogurt. Upinngill’s vouchers are not dated. Several can be used at one time. In both cases, at the Hager Farm Market and the Upinngill farmstand, the vouchers provide for a discount, so you are saving money, as well as getting wonderful produce.

There are 15 CSA farms inFranklinCounty, inGreenfield, Montague, Gill, Leyden, Colrain,Sunderland, Ashfield, Whately, and Berndarston. Each CSA farm delivers its share one day a week. All of them are now signing up shareholders for the 2014 season.

Western Massachusettshas been “an incredibly receptive community” to desiring and buying local farm products Korman said. The first local, and now longest running CSA farm is Brookfield Farm inAmherst. The first Winterfare was created inGreenfieldby volunteers just a few years ago. Now farmers plant winter storage crops for the 30 winter farmers markets that are ongoing across the state. CISA was the first non-profit organization in the state and created the Local Hero marketing project.

Currently there are 55 Local Hero restaurants using local produce for a total of about $2 million a year. There are also 240 Local Hero farms. They sold between 2002 and 2007 $4.5 million worth of farm products, but that amount has now doubled to $9 million. Food coops account for $16 million in sales. Right now in the three counties between 10%-15% of our food is fresh local food, but CISA’s goal is to have 25% of our food grown and enjoyed locally.

I was shocked that we are eating so little local food, but Korman gently pointed out that the whole population ofFranklinCountyis only half the population of the city ofSpringfield. I can see that it will be a great day when everyone inSpringfieldgets 25% of their dinners from local farms. I have to keep reminding myself that not everyone lives in our beautiful and fertile valley or near a hilltown farm where fresh food is available for a good part of the year.

It’s finally getting warmer. It’s time to think about fresh salads, grilled vegetables and corn on the cob. It’s time to think about the possibility of joining a Community Supported Agriculture farm.

You can find a full listing and information about local CSA farms on the CISA website. http://www.buylocalfood.org/buy-local/find-local/csa-farm-listing/

Between the Rows  April 5, 2014

Cellars and Cave Tour with the Heath Agricultural Society

Sheila Litchfield in the Dell

The Heath Agricultural Society gave us all a chance to  go exploring the cellars and caves of our neighbors  this past Saturday. Root cellars, cider cellars and a cheese cave. Who could resist this opportunity? Over 50 people signed up for this tour, many of them from towns beyond Heath. Even Springfield! I took one group around beginning with Sheila Litchfield who first explained the basics of cheesemaking. Chemistry. Bacteria. Sheila is a nurse so she knows all about bacteria. When Sheila isn’t milking her three goats to make cheese, serving as Rowe’s town nurse, and serving as a member of Heath’s selectboard, she spends ‘her spare’ time canning the produce from the large Litchfield garden. Oh, and she also gives cheesemaking workshops!

Cheese Cave

Sheila built her cheese cave in the cellar. Here, with carefully monitored temperature and humidity, she stores cheese that needs aging.  She explained that she can only have one kind of cheese in this small cave, because the different cheese bacterias will infect each other, to the benefit of neither.

Litchfield Root storage

Our group got a bonus! Sheila showed us how she stores root vegetables, in crocks, on the bulkhead stairs. Not too much left at this time of year.

Andrew at Benson Place Blueberry Farm

Then it was off to the Benson Place Blueberry Farm, where noted artist Robert Strong Woodward  often painted, and where  I often took young grandsons to pick their own low bush blueberries. Andrew and his family have been farming here for three years. When the basement was given a cement floor in the 1960’s a corner space was left unpaved, in expectation of a root cellar. Andrew finally finished the root cellar which now has two cement foundation walls, and two walls built of rigid silvery insulation panels, extra fiberglass insulation and heavy weight black plastic. His root cellar has a window which makes it possible, with the help of flexible ductwork, to bring extra air circulation. At this point Andrew says they buy bulk vegetables from farms like Atlas Farm to store. They also use the root cellar for other foods like yogurt and meat when the refrigerator is too full.

 

Draxler root cellar

Andy and Sue Draxler could not put their root cellar in the cellar because their furnace made that space too warm. They poured a cement floor in their large garage/workshop, but left one corner unpaved to provide the necessary moisture for their root cellar. While Andrew’s root cellar is a little room with a window, the Draxlers built what is essentially a large closet. It is divided in two, with the intention of providing dry cold storage on one side, and moist cold storage on the other.  That has not worked out as they expected, and both sides are quite moist. Sue Draxler explained are working on a fix  for that. They do have their potatoes on one side and apples on the other. These two should never be stored together because the apples produce ethylene gas as they ripen, and this will cause the potatoes to sprout more quickly. Like, Andrew, the Draxlers have very little left in their root cellar at this time of the year.  Sheila, Andrew and Sue all acknowledged that they had some produce loss because of the extremely cold temperatures for an extended period this year, made it impossible to keep root cellar temperatures above 32 degrees. Generally speaking root cellars should be keep between 40 and 55 degrees.

Bob Bourke and his cider press

After root cellars, we went off to explore cider cellars.  Hard cider, that is. Bob Bourke took everyone down to  his cellar to show his equipment  and fermenting carboys of cider. Then we all went up to the porch to see his cider press. Bob  bought his house and property about five or six years ago and was happy that it came with a cider orchard. He has 45 trees of various apple cultivars like Golden Russets, Baldwins, Northern Spy, Gravensteins, Jonathans and others. Good, complex ciders depend on a flavorful mix of apples.  Making cider also depends on controlling the yeasts, which means cleanliness and isolation in air-locked barrels and carboys. Bob explained that it is not really difficult to make cider, but cleanliness is vital. It is also very  timeconsuming when it is time to sterilize the bottles, fill and cap them.  He gave out samples to our thirsty crew.

Doug Mason in his cider cellar

Doug Mason gets most of his apples from Bob. They  do a lot of work – and tasting – together. He has some additional equipment that we hadn’t seen at Bob’s. To cut down on the time required for washing and sterilizing bottles, he has bought several stainless steel kegs, like those that beer  comes in. Much easier to clean a keg than  bottles for an equal amount of beer. He also has a bottling and capping gadget that, with a two man crew, makes this operation fairly quick. He also gave out samples. Warming!  And very nice. This cider cellar is about 50 degrees. Chilly. Doug ferments his cider in the barrel for  about a year or so, then bottles it, and keeps it for another year. Bob’s cellar is warmer, and it takes the cider longer to mature in Doug’s colder cellar. So much to learn.

Lunch!

Back at the Community Hall we could warm up. Hours spent talking about food and drink prepared us for a fabulous lunch, chilis, soups, breads, pies and cider! All prepared for tour participants by members of the Heath Agricultural Society. That is Justin Lively, Society President, in the center rear of the photo. Lots of enthusiastic conversations! The big question? What other kinds of tours can we have in Heath? What kinds of tours might other towns create?

Slow Flowers by Debra Prinzing

Slow Flowers by Debra Prinzing

Slow Flowers by Debra Prinzing is the perfect book to be browsing through on this frigid day. The temperature is only 20 degrees, but the sun is brilliant and the ground sparkles with frozen snow crystals. As I turn the pages of the sumptuously illustrated book, my own summer garden exists in my imagination as it never has before.  Debra’s 52 weeks of bouquets from local flowers from ‘garden, meadow and farm’ are full of surprises and inspiration for those of us who are fearful and reluctant flower arrangers.

Debra always put herself in that class of fearful and reluctant flower arrangers, but the work she did visiting flower farms and farmers for her previous book, The 50 Mile Bouquet written  with photographer David Perry, gave her arranging lessons by osmosis and more confidence in her own skills.  Each two page spread in  the  book includes a photo and description of a seasonal arrangement with a list of ‘ingredients’ like 5 stems of heuchera foliage, 7 stems of Sweet William and 5 stems of mock orange and a 6 inch tall vase with a 7″x3″ opening. There is also always a tip of one sort or another. The Eco-technique note for this handsome arrangement is to arrange the foliage in the vase first to supply the support for the flowers. I never realized that florist’s foam contains formaldehyde which makes it undesirable. I’ll never use it again! No great loss because I never managed it very well, anyway.

Other tips have to do with the latest thinking about preparing and managing cut flowers and shrub branches for the most long lasting life in the vase. Other tips have to do with design like having complimentary colors in the arrangement and with the container. Debra has her 52 arrangements in some beautiful vases and other containers.

Going through the lists of flowers and foliage that go with each arrangement I have come up  with some surprises, and made some additions to my wish list for new plants this spring.  Curly willow! Grape vines. Sedums. Plants with graceful seed heads like northern sea oats and millet. Clusters of cherry tomatoes. Fruiting crabapple branches in fall, not only in spring bloom. Evergreen branches with pine cones.

There seems no end to Prinzing’s creativity as she looks at flowers and creates arrangements with brilliant  spring and summer colors,  the rich colors of fall, and the elegant colors of winter. Of  course, my winter bouquets would never look like her Seattle bouquets, but they inspire nonetheless. My similar white arrangement of pussy willows, Dusty Miller and artemesias, might simply come at a different time of year.

Slow Flowers is an encouraging book. I felt as enpowered after spending my afternoon within  its pages as I did after my session with Gloria Pacosa who gave me a lesson is flower arranging at her studio.

Slow Flowers autumnal arrangement

I would hardly have to add anything to my garden to make an arrangement similar to this. I already have scented geranium foliage, boltonia, and artemesias, I’d just have to add the celosia cristata (crested cockscomb) and apricot cactus zinnias. Debra points out that the different types of  green foliage “are woven together as a textured and verdant tapestry.”

Slow Flowers spring arrangment

I can’t wait to make an arrangement like this. I’ve got everything I need: daffodils, ferns and pussy willows.