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Five Things to Love About Blueberries

Highbush blueberries

Highbush blueberries

There are more than five things to love about blueberries, but these are my top five things to love.

First blueberries are hardy and really easy to grow, especially in Heath where the soil is suitably acid. Blueberries require a pH between 4 and 5.5. I never tested the soil in the berry patch, but my highbush blueberries are  healthy, big and productive. And have been for 30 years. This year I am getting a bumper crop. Blueberries need two cultivars for cross pollination, and two or more cultivars can spread ripening time over a long season. Nourse Farms near us offers a dozen cultivars from very early like Patriot to mid season like Blueray and Bluecrop to  late season like Jersey. Just remember if you are going to get a good crop you will need to net the patch, something to consider when you are planting them. Mine grow in a line, but I do think a square of berry bushes is easier to manage. It is tough to get  a net over  a 30 foot row of bushes. And make sure you aren’t wearing any buttons while you wrangle that  black netting.

Two. Blueberries don’t all ripen at once and they hang on the bush happily for a few days until you can get out and pick. Nor are they susceptible to damp or rain like raspberries that need to be picked every day in season. Blueberries are very considerate of  busy gardeners.

Three. They are incredibly nutritious. They are not only rich in Vitamins C and K (important in blood clotting) they are rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants  protect cells from the damage caused by free radicals (oxidation) that thus possibly setting the scene for disease. Blueberries are among the foods highest in antioxidants – and so delicious. A list of these foods shows  the wisdom of the motto Eat Your Colors.

My blueberries

My blueberries

Four. Blueberries are easy to preserve. Just pop them into a freezer bag and into the freezer. My own blueberries come in over a long season so it is easy to  always have fresh blueberries on hand, but I also buy a 20 pound box of local lowbush blueberries every year. It takes me about half an hour to put them in bags and into the freezer. Naturally, I also have many berries of my own to freeze.

Five. Blueberries are delicious. You can eat them out of hand or in your breakfast cereal. Fresh or frozen you can use them in pancakes, muffins and pies. You can combine them  with peaches, plums or raspberries in a colorful and delicious summer fruit crumble. We eat a lot of summer fruit crumble. Have you grown blueberries?

Elderberries, Chokeberries and Good Health

Elderberry bush by a Heath roadside

Elderberry bush by a Heath roadside

Elderberries and chokeberries are not as beautiful or familiar as spring’s strawberry, but these small dark berries that ripen in late summer pack a nutritional wallop. I’ve know the elderberry (Sambucus canadensis) since childhood, but the chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) is fairly new to me.

Whether you call the elderberry a tree or a bush, it is having a very good year. I seem to see elderberry bushes everywhere I go. I can easily identify the bushes with large flat clusters of creamy flowers that can be as much as eight inches across as I drive along Route 2, or down the wooded roads of Heath. An elderberry that usually grew by the road at the bottom of our hill seemed to disappear but this year it has returned in full bloom.

When we first moved here in 1979 our 83 year old neighbor, Mabel Vreeland gave us a Heath welcome by sending up a bushel basket filled with carrots and parsnips from her own garden, and a bottle of elderberry juice made from the elder by the side of the road. It was definitely not elderberry wine! Mabel was tee total, and she drank this bitter juice for its nutritional and healing benefits. Elderberries are more nutritious than blueberries which are much touted these days for their health giving benefits. In fact, in addition to the nutritional benefit of the berry, every part of the elder bush was used for medicinal purposes in ancient times when our pharmacopeia was more dependent on plants.

I have never been particularly interested in making elderberry juice or wine. Elderberry jelly, made with a substantial addition of sugar, is of more interest to me. Mostly I have just been happy to know that the birds love elderberries, and probably appreciate the nutrition as much as we do.

Elder has a history of being useful in many ways when we used to concoct our own tinctures and remedies. Crushed leaves rubbed on our skin or hat was thought to repel flies, and an infusion of fresh leaves rubbed on skin was considered a mosquito repellent.  With all the moles and voles I have had recently I am tempted to try making an infusion that I could pour down their holes to send them on their way.

Natural dyes for wool fleece and yarn are enjoying a new popularity. Elder bark and roots make a black dye, but the leaves combined with alum will make a green dye. Elderberries and alum will make a violet dye, while combining the berries with salt and alum will create a paler lavender shade. I suspect that it takes a real recipe to make beautiful dyes.

I went looking for local elderberry bushes last fall when I was making a ‘bee box’ that would attract native pollinators. I also used slim bamboo sticks from my daughter’s garden. Native bees will lay their brood in hollow stems, or in stems of plants like elderberry that have a soft pith that the bees can remove.

Harry Potter got his magic wand in a shop, as I recall, but anyone can make their own. Elder wood is the traditional wood for magic wands, and is known to grant wishes. As long as the wish is not a selfish wish.

I confess that I don’t make much practical, or magical, use of elder, but I like having it in the neighborhood because it is a native plant, has lovely flowers and feeds the birds.

Nature Hills Nursery and Raintree Nursery offer a selection of elderberries, Sambucus Canadensis, and Sambucus nigra which is used for more ornamental purposes. Both need another bush for cross pollination to bear fruit. They also sell aronia bushes.

Elderberries have been familiar to me for most of my life, but another new native berry, the aronia berry, sometimes called a chokeberry, is becoming popular for many of the same reasons. It is highly nutritious, and the Washington State University Extension explains that the current interest in aronia berries is because of the “very high levels of anthocyanins and flavonoids, five to ten times higher than cranberry juice, with beneficial nutrients such as antioxidants, polyphenols, minerals and vitamins.” However, like elderberries, it is also bitter and best used in jams or mixed with other fruit juices, or it can be made into wine. Europe is way ahead of the US in finding palatable ways to use aronia berries.

I want to stress that chokeberry is a totally different plant from chokecherry!

Aronias resemble elderberries in other ways as well. The hardy bushes grow up to eight feet tall, produce white blossoms in spring and attract birds to the berries in fall. They also make a good landscape plant because of the spring flowers and brilliant red autumn color. Neither bush has insect or disease problems making them low maintenance. Aronias can tolerate a damp site, and are suitable for rain gardens.

Are elderberries or chokeberries a possibility for your edible, ornamental or native garden?

Between the Rows   July 19, 2014

Autumn Crocus and Other September Surprises

Autumn crocus

I was surprised to find these autumn crocus in bloom right out in front of the house next to the wisteria trunk. And under overgrown lemon balm. I keep promising to move them to a better spot, but invisible as  they are in July when that move should occur it never happens. Maybe next year.

Montauk daisy

Since I have not been out to weed or care for the garden in what seems like weeks, there were other surprises like the first bloom on this Montauk  daisy. A couple of weeks ago I was visiting a friend in Connecticut and her Montague daisy wasn’t blooming either. Isn’t it late for this to just be starting?

Cotoneaster berries

Another surprise was the berries on this cotoneaster, name lost, that grows in a tangle with a more ground-hugging cotoneaster. This is what happens when you plant something with no idea how it will spread.

Blue Princess holly berries

Last year there were almost no holly berries, but look at this year. What a happy surprise.

Lisianthus

The other happy surprise has been the survival of pale pink lisianthus. My photo doesn’t begin to do it justice. Lisianthus is not easy to start from seed, and I bought a six pack of tiny seedlings. It took a long time for them to get growing and definitely could have done better growing in a container. Maybe next year.

ADDENDA – I want to thank Julie, a close reader, who corrected me. I have MONTAUK daisies growing in my garden. I appreciate all such corrections and clarifications.

 

Walk on the Wildside with Sue Bridge

Wildside Cottage

How would you plan your retirement if you had already received a degree from Wellesley College, earned a further degree in Russian and Middle Eastern Studies, hitchhiked to Morocco, lived in Paris, worked for the United Nations, as well as in the cable TV world, and for the Christian Science Monitor newspaper?

Sue Bridge, with the urging of a Northampton friend, bought eight acres of hilly land in Conway. For the past seven years her retirement project has been to create a sustainable, self-sufficient home and landscape where she can live off the grid. The house she designed is energy efficient, well insulated with electricity and hot water provided by solar panels. It is also beautiful, inside and out. The sunny main living space is comprised of a kitchen, dining and living areas. French doors form the south wall of the living area which opens out onto a stone terrace with low stone walls overlooking terraced gardens and across to the hills beyond. The house is small but there is no sense of being cramped, only of spacious comfort.

For help in creating a sustainable landscape she turned to Jono Neiger of the Regenerative Design Group. Neiger and his group are proponents of permaculture systems. Bridge confesses she didn’t really understand what that meant when she began. Neiger came several times to visit; he’d walk around, make notes and walk around some more. Finally, after he had walked the land for several months and not a single spade of soil had been moved, she asked him if his crews were very busy. Did he have any idea when work would begin?

Then Neiger had to explain that work was well-begun. He had been building a scientific portrait of the land, how the sun, wind and water moved across the hill, and over the season.

It was not until Neiger invited Bridge to his own garden that she began to understand what permaculture is. On the appointed day she arrived at his house and garden before he did and was very confused. “Where’s the garden,” she asked when he drove up. The truth is that permaculture gardens do not look like the beautifully arranged flower gardens or orderly vegetable gardens that most of us are familiar with.

I was in the same position she had been with Neiger. I could see why she had named her place Wildside. I needed to have the garden explained. “This is not traditional farmland, but it is incredibly productive,” she said as we walked across the broad terraces  carved into the hillside. “Terraces are a permaculture trademark.”

The terraces help keep the soil from eroding, even in severe storms. “We had 17 inches of rain during Irene, but there was no erosion,” Bridge said.

To the east the living room terrace is an herb garden. One of Bridge’s specialties is five-herb tea. The terraces on the south hillside are first planted to vegetables that are harvested during the summer, the next terrace on the slope is for perennial vegetables like sea kale and Jerusalem artichokes, and the third is for pollinators, bee balm, garlic chives and other plants that attract pollinators.

Productive sweet potato vines in greenhouse

At the bottom of the slope is a small greenhouse where she grows sweet potatoes in the ground, harvesting more than 100 pounds of nutritious sweet potatoes, as well as ginger, and turmeric plants good for the digestion, and pain relief. The garden outside the greenhouse is mostly storage vegetables, beets, carrots, potatoes and squash. Of course, if you raise enough of this kind of vegetable you need a root cellar and Bridge has built a small one behind her house. Other edible crops are canned or dried.

Wildside rice

We walked past the path to the orchard with apple, peach, pear and plum trees and to the rice paddy in the Wet Meadow. It took heavy digging, but Bridge is growing rice!

The land rises slightly beyond the Wet Meadow. We walked through a stand of overgrown Christmas trees, planted by the former owners, then came into a sunny meadow where nut trees, including chestnut have been planted. The surrounding evergreens help protect them from high winter winds.

Mountain mint with Monarch butterfly

Bridge said she learned that eastern slopes are ideal for fruit trees and berries. On her eastern slope she grows persimmons, pawpaws, quince, Asian pears, shadbush, blueberries, elderberries, and black chokeberries. http://www.millernurseries.com/ sell chokeberriess. Chokeberries are not very sweet, but they are extremely nutritious and do make good jelly. Bridge has also tucked mountain mint and other plants for pollinators everywhere on this east slope.

I was fascinated by the “fertility bed” a long row of comfrey, bush clover and switch grass which Bridge cuts down twice a year and uses as mulch or compost.

Bridge has come to love Conway where she has found a great community with lots of grass roots action. “This is a friendly environment for me,” she said.

A broad community has found Sue Bridge to be very friendly, and inspirational. Her gardens have become a model of sustainable food production. Students from Wellesley and Smith Colleges, the Conway School of Landscape Design, Greenfield Community College and others come to see what she is doing and learn about the science behind what she is doing.

When I asked if she had intended to launch such an educational project in her retirement she said no. “I did not intend, but I do not resist.”    

Between the Rows   August 24, 2013

Black Raspberries – Thorny and Thirsty

Black raspberries

Black Raspberries

Black raspberries are delicious and make great jam, but they will take more care than blueberries or red raspberries.

To begin, black raspberries, sometimes called blackcaps, need a site that gets full sun, and has access to watering. In my own experience I have found that regular watering, two inches a week, is essential. I lost most of my first two crops because of the lack of watering. The berries were small and almost instantly dried up. I feared disease, but all they needed was regular and generous watering. This is actually a problem for me because my water comes from a well, and in a dry season like last year, there is not much water to spare, even for the edible gardens.

Black raspberries need the same type of soil as red raspberries, well drained and rich in organic matter. Digging in compost and some lime when preparing to plant is good practice. I did not test my soil before planting my black raspberries, but they do best with a higher pH than blueberries. I have seen recommendations between 5.6 to 6.8.

Black raspberries have much longer and thornier canes than red raspberries. This means they should be planted farther apart than the reds. Unfortunately, I skipped over that bit of information in the excellent planting directions provided by Nourse Farms where I got my plants. Instead of spacing them 2 feet apart,  I planted them about 16 inches apart. The plants are doing fine, except that they are crowded, which makes harvesting a little more difficult, especially when you consider how thorny the canes are.

It is especially important to trellis these wilder and thornier canes. The first year canes, primocanes,  get very long and require summer pruning. First they should be cut back to about 36 inches, and the lateral branches that develop should also be cut back later in the summer to provide a larger harvest.

If the canes are not cut back they will grow so long that they will touch the ground and take root. This is fine if you are interested in propagating more plants. Those newly rooted plants are easily cut from the original cane, dug up and replanted. My first summer with the black raspberries, I watched them grow tall, then gracefully bend until the tip touched the ground and began to root and produce a new plant. Most of them seemed to be bending in one direction and I had visions of the bushes marching across the garden from year to year. This must not happen. Back to the directions. I seem to be one of those people who has to make mistakes before really understanding what I should be doing. Luckily for me plants are usually very forgiving.

Like the red raspberries, the canes will die back after bearing and should be removed. At the same time you can also prune out any spindly canes, or other canes to keep the plant manageable. These are hardy plants, and I have not had any trouble with disease or pests. Many people have trouble with Japanese beetles on their raspberries, but since putting down Milky Spore disease powder years ago I have had no trouble. It is only the amount of pruning, that was a surprise to me, that makes them a little more work.

I have mulched with cardboard and woodchips on either side of my single black raspberry row. I fertilize with compost in the row, and also sprinkle a little lime in the fall to keep the pH level up. I cannot emphasize enough how important irrigation is.

Ribes – Currants and Gooseberries

A berry I have longed to grow is the currant. Red currants are a beautiful clear red berry that makes a wonderful jelly, and black currant juice is essential for making that elegant drink Kir Royale. To be accurate, Kir Royale is made with champagne and cassis, the cassis being a black currant liqueur.  Since I cannot drink alcohol I make a faux Kir Royale with Sprite and black currant juice which is sometimes sold as Ribena. It is a beautiful drink, with cassis or Ribena.

Unfortunately, growing currants and gooseberries which are all members of the ribes family, are forbidden by state law to us in most of Franklin County, as well as to over 100 other towns in Massachusetts. The reason is white pine blister rust.

White pine blister rust is a disease that requires two hosts to complete its lifecycle. Ribes fruits are the other host. Because we have a mixed woodland that includes white pine which we have had logged,  I am very aware of the danger to our trees. As much as I love currants, I am content to continue buying jars of currant jelly and bottles of Ribena.

It seems that more and more people are interested in growing some of their own food. The idea of permanent food plants is certainly very appealing. Fruit trees and berries fall into this category, berries being by far the easiest to manage. I also like having berries in the freezer for a really quick and healthy fruit crisp for dessert.

Between the Rows   August 3, 2013

Blueberries and Raspberries, Easy, Delicious and Nutritious

 

Blueberries ready for harvest

Blueberries and raspberries  are easy food crops that can save you money and are amazingly nutritious.

Berries are expensive in the market because they require so much labor to pick, are perishable and need to be shipped quickly. Yet it does not take much time or trouble to go out a pick enough for a family.

Blueberries

I think blueberries are about the easiest berry to grow. Blueberries are hardy, a native plant that loves our acid soil, are long-lived, and do not need to be picked every single day.

We planted our blueberries our first or second year here. Thirty years plus and those bushes still bear heavily. What I wish I had thought of then was to plant them so they could be ‘caged’ easily to keep the harvest from the birds. A planting of four or six bushes, planted in two rows, with plants four  feet on center in the row and at least six feet between the rows is ideal spacing and easily protected by a cage. We now have a cage consisting of pvc plastic piping around the perimeter, covered with black plastic netting when the berries begin to ripen at the end of July. The cage and netting come down after the harvest, and are stored until next July.

Highbush blueberries are available in early, mid and late season varieties. I have Blueray, early midseason, Bluecrop, midseason, and Herbert, big blue berries that begin to ripen after Bluecrop. All of them are delicious.

I did not test my soil, assuming it was acid enough (and it was) but since blueberries require a soil that is not much over a pH of 5, it is a good idea to have a test before planting.

Do not plant too deeply and do not fertilize your new bushes at planting time. In future, fertilizing should only be done in spring or very early summer. I have done little fertilizing over the years, no more than occasionally shoveling on compost or rotted manure. It is important with any new planting to water well, and keep them watered while they get established.  I have not managed to mulch very well, but it is a good idea. Nourse Farm suggests using aged woodchips, not sawdust.

The third year the plants are in the ground you will be able to start harvesting blueberries. We just started our annual harvest which will continue into September. No pest or disease problems, except for the birds. I prune out any winterkill in the spring, but that is the extent of necessary maintenance.

By now we all know that blueberries are rich in antioxidants and Vitamin C. I remember that when two of my grandsons were living in California their school had a curriculum program called Eat Your Colors, pointing out that richly colored fruits and vegetables like blueberries and raspberries, as well as carrots, sweet potatoes, beets, tomatoes, red bell peppers, purple cabbage, kale and green beans were highly nutritious.  What a delicious way to get our vitamins, anthocyanins, resveratrol and other unpronounceable things that will keep us healthy.

Raspberries

Raspberries ripe and ready for picking

Red raspberries are very expensive in the market because they are so delicate. It takes a lot of daily labor to harvest them, and they must be shipped carefully and quickly.

Unlike blueberries they require annual pruning because after a floricane fruits it dies and needs to be removed. Even so, raspberries, early, midseason, late, are very little trouble. I have had no problems with disease, and the birds are not interested so they do not require netting.

However, a permanent but simple trellis is a very good idea. T-posts at either end of the row with two sets of wires along the sides are all you need. I have my wires set at about 12 and 24 inches to support the canes, and provide me the guidance I need  to keep the number of plants controlled and in a straight row.

As with any new planting the soil should be prepared by cultivating with compost. Raspberries require a higher pH than blueberries, between 6.5 and 6.8. I do lime my raspberry patch periodically to sweeten the soil, but I admit I have not tested the soil.

Red raspberry plants should be planted slightly deeper than they were in the pot, with 12 to 18 inches between each and watered well. They will grow slowly the first year. They should be watered when the weather is dry, at least an inch of water a week. Watering is very important for raspberries. Mulching the berry rows is not recommended, but I do mulch the path between my rows with leaves and sawdust. You will get your first harvest the second year.

As the canes start to fruit, they will also start to dry up and die. Prune out those canes as soon as the harvest is finished. Fall is also time to take out thin canes or those that are growing outside the desired area. You can dig those canes of course, and give them to a friend. You don’t want to overcrowd the row because that can cause shading of some plants resulting in smaller berries. Limiting the number of canes I allow is very hard for me, but this is one of those cases where less is more in terms of an easy and good harvest.

Next week I will write about black raspberries. What kind of berries do you grow, and what tips would you give a novice?

Between the Rows  July 27, 2013

 

Cranberries in the Garden

As I was baking cranberry bread yesterday, I remembered an interview I did  with Wil Kiendzior and his wife Louisa Sapienza about their cranberry beds. Cranberries are another perennial crop that can be added to your edible garden.

Wil Kiendzior started gardening when two things converged in his life.  His two daughters were born and he started teaching high school courses on ecology and the environment, using Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring as a text. His first gardens grew out of his concern about the dangers of chemical pesticides and herbicides, and concern for his daughters’ health and safety.

His daughters grew up and the gardens continue to grow.  Since his retirement last year from the Mohawk Trail Regional High School, where he taught environmental science courses for 33 years, he has spent a lot of time expanding his Buckland gardens.

Kiendzior and his wife Louisa Sapienza, whom he married in 2002, are trying to become as self sufficient in food as possible. In addition to the vegetable gardens which include such perennials as horseradish, rhubarb, comfrey and other herbs, Kiendzior and Sapienza have planted fruit trees, raspberries, blueberries. They have a sunroom which acts as a greenhouse where they can grow greens through the winter, and start seedling in the spring. They also keep bees and harvest honey.

Sapienza said they are always working on soil building, liming the soil, digging in compost, manure, greensand and rock phosphate.

About six years ago, Sapienza, who loves cranberries, saw them listed in a catalog and suggested they grow some. Kiendzior was skeptical, but thinking about the benefits of another food crop and her enthusiasm he finally agreed.

It was a surprise to me to learn that it does not take a wet bog to grow cranberries.  In fact, they do not like saturated conditions, requiring just about as much water as any vegetable garden. What they do demand is full sunlight, and peaty, acid soil with lots of organic matter.

Kiendzior understood that perennial crops like cranberries need good soil preparation. He said he dug in lots and lots of peat moss, sand and fertilizers.

The official recommendation for 8 plants is a bed that is four feet wide and 8 feet long, allowing sufficient room for the cranberries to send out runners. The bed is prepared by digging out six inches of the soil and replacing it with a mixture of equal amounts of peat moss and sand. As you make this mixture of sand and peat moss you have to keep watering the peat moss which absorbs water very slowly. Patience is a necessity.

To the peat and sand add two cups each of bonemeal, blood meal, Epsom salts and rock phosphate and mix in well.  These will provide the essential nutritional requirements potassium and phosphorous.

Kiendzior’s first bed was a large block, about ten feet square.  It has filled out so it is totally covered with productive plants, but he quickly decided that additional plants would be planted in rows that would be easier to care for.

The root ball of the young plant should be placed slightly deeper that the soil surface. Like any newly planted seedling, the cranberry bed should be well watered after planting and throughout the summer. Peat moss needs to be kept moist to the touch.

Cranberries like nitrogen and should be fertilized with fish emulsion during the growing season.  Keep the beds weeded.

Each plant will begin to send out runners so the plants form a mat.  After two years the bed should be sanded, that is sprinkled with a half inch of clean sand in early spring before new growth begins. This encourages the production of upright berry bearing branches.  Sanding should be done every three years to rejuvenate the plants and control disease and pests.

After three years the runners can be trimmed back and the older uprights pruned back to keep the plants productive.

Once the plants are four years old they will start to bear. Cranberries should be harvested by hand before there is the threat of a killing frost, usually in late September when the fruit is a deep red.

Cranberries are a hardy evergreen but they must be protected from the cold. They should be covered with a mulch of pine needles or leaves.  You can even cover them with a rowcover or sheet of opaque white plastic and then layer on the mulch.  Don’t remove the mulch until the spring when there is no danger of frost.

I was interested to see that the Cranberry Experiment Station in East Wareham suggests putting mousebait under the mulch to prevent rodents from making a cozy nest and destroying the plants over the winter.

For people like Kiendzior and Sapienza who want to feed themselves through a long winter, cranberries are an ideal crop.  First they are extremely nutritious. They are full of vitamin C and other antioxidants.

Second they can be bagged up and thrown in the freezer with no processing.  They will also keep for a very long time right in the refrigerator.

And finally, this native berry is  delicious. Sapienza cooks them up with a little water, brings them to a boil and cooks them for a couple of minutes until they pop.  Off the stove she adds a little maple syrup to sweeten them and chopped up orange, or pineapple. “I have them as a breakfast fruit, or a snack, or with dinner. I love them anytime,” she said.

Cranberries do not need cross pollination but Ben Lear is an early variety with large burgundy berries, Stevens is a mid-season berry with large red berries and Howes is a late season variety with small red berries.

Sources: Cranberry Creations, www.cranberrycreations.com;  Fedco Seeds  www.fedcoseeds.com; Gurney’s Nursery, PO Box 4178, Greendale, IN 47025-4178, www.gurneys.com; Miller Nurseries, 5060 West Lake Rd, Canandaigua, NY, 14424-8904 www.millernurseries.com.

Cranberry Bread

Between the Rows  May 24, 2008

Cindy’s Mosaics

Shelburne Mosaic

Saturday was a big day in Shelburne Falls, home of the Bridge of Flowers. There had been events at the Buckland Shelburne Community Hall for Cider Day but there was also a dedication of the 12 vitreous glass mosaics created by Cynthia Fisher of Big Bang Mosaics in cooperation with students from the elementary and high schools, as well as members of the community. Ten of the 3 x 3 foot mosaics depict iconographic aspects of the ten towns in our area. Two slightly larger mosaics honor the Native Americans who lived here, and the Deerfield River which tumbles over Salmon Falls in the middle of the town.

Cindy and Jayden of BSE school

Three towns supplied the full amount of requested funding and so as the students worked on the main mosaic they  also made a smaller one that will remain in the school. The Buckland Shelburne School was presented with their mosaic at the dedication. The sturdy frames that hold the mosaics were designed and fabricated by the students at Franklin Technical High School.

Ideas for each mosaic were generated by the third graders in each town. With students’ help Cindy drew the template and then older students during art classses cut (nipped) the glass tiles and glued them in place.  Heath is famous for its lowbush blueberries, the acres of sunflowers being grown for fuel to run farm machinery, historic farms, and, of course, the Heath Fair. We have a drawerful of Heath Fair t-shirts, a different design each year.

You can see all the mosaics, and learn more about the project by clicking here.

That’s my Three for Thursday.  Check out Cindy MCOK at My Corner of Katy and see what other trios abound.

Robert Dane Loves the Blues

Robert Dane's Blueberry Bud Vases

Bob Dane loves the blueberries Heath is famous for. He also loves the blueberry fields where they are grown which is why he has donated these sweet blueberry bud vases to the Franklin Land Trust to use as a gift for all those who donate $250 or more to the FLT and ear mark that gift “The Benson Place” to support the Agricultural Preservation Restriction (APR)  and trail easement that has been awarded to the Benson Place Blueberry Farm in Heath. These covenants will ensure farming and passive recreation on that land for years to come.

Robert Dane's Tutti Frutti Goblets

Heath is famous for blueberries, and Bob is famous for his blown glass. His tutti frutti goblets, beautiful and whimsical, are one of his trademarks.  He sells his work, and that of the country’s most noted glass artists at the Dane Gallery on Nantucket. Hillary Clinton has shopped at the Gallery when visiting Nantucket!  His wife Jayne, is co-owner and Director of the Gallery.

But Bob is not  only an amazing  and skilled artist, and supporter of land preservation (he is on the Board of the FLT) he is a gardener! His tiny vegetable garden is right outside the back door adjacent to the stone terrace.  He needs to keep it small because of his work schedule.  It contains winter squash, kale and beets that he doesn’t have to worry about until late in the season.  On the other hand, his second planting of arugula is coming along nicely and he continues to enjoy stuffed zucchini blossoms – as well as the zucchini squash. Bob is a great cook, too.

Tiny thyme

All of us in Heath have a good time in the summer, but we can feel we are on a tight schedule. Time is always an issue.  However, Bob says he has “‘lots of thyme.” Between the stone pavers on the terrace he has wooly thyme, creeping thyme, tiny thyme and regular common thyme. I’ve been feeling the need for more time, but Bob has shown me how to have more thyme.  Thanks, Bob.

A Berry Blue Summer

Blueberries on the bush

Netting the blueberries was the big garden task of the weekend.  Between the heat, the thunderstorms, adventures with visiting grandson Tynan, picking raspberries and preparing to host the  Heath Gourmet Club on Saturday night, this job kept getting postponed. Finally, on Sunday, with the sun shining and a deliciously cool breeze blowing, we set to. The berries are just starting to  ripen here at the End of the Road, but the birds are starting to circle.

We planted our blueberry bushes at least 27 years ago. For many years we just threw nets over them to keep the birds away, but we finally got smart and built a PVC pipe cage. The cage covers the five bushes that are planted in a straight line. If we had thought of the necessity and practicality of a netted cage we would have planted the bushes in a block.

Black plastic netting goes over the pipe supports and is tied in place with twistees.  In the photo above you can see that two large bushes live outside the cage, providing a few early berries for us, and many berries for the birds. I may not supply the birds with sunflower and thistle seeds, but I do provide a good supply of blueberries.

The netted berries supply us with a long season of freshly picked berries that do not have to be picked daily the way raspberries do. They are the most considerate of berries, hanging on the bush for days without rotting or spoiling. In fact they are considerate of the gardener’s labor as well.  Once these bushes were planted in our naturally acid soil, they have not needed any other care.  I occasionally cut out small dead branches; that is the only pruning required.

I pick my blueberries at my leisure and enjoy the these healthiest of fruits in the summer, and through the winter, pulling bags of them out of the freezer. At my leisure.