This is a journal of my vegetable gardens. Skippy was my first dog and he thought the garden was his, even though I did all the work. But Skippy always stood by me and was a great friend. Now Suzie and Charley follow in his footsteps and garden with me. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot, a backyard vegetable garden, fruit trees and berry bushes, chickens and bees. I use sustainable organic methods and do my best to grow all of my family's vegetables myself.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving

table
turkey cooking
food pie
family beja

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

traveling south ....

Well, this gardener is heading south. The ground here is frozen, the garden is sleeping. Its a good time to visit family, hang out and reminisce a bit.

I'm feeling lucky to have a sister in Tempe Arizona. She may regret her recent move to the desert southwest, as my extended family is gathering at her house this holiday weekend.

My contribution for the big turkey dinner will be a potatoes and greens casserole with vegetables I grew. Silly enough, the vegetables are packed in my luggage for transport across the country and assembly on Turkey Thursday. That, plus a nice loaf of squash bread made with zucchini I froze midsummer.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

late November fields

late November fields
skip me and skip

The late November fields really are beautiful. These are photos from the walk Skippy and I took behind the gardens on Sunday. Temperatures were in the mid 20's. Brisk and windy. But we both had good coats on. It was nice.

Monday, November 24, 2008

horse manure for the garden

horse manure pile

Someone leaves manure from their horses once a week at our community garden. All the gardeners scramble to collect this and dump it on their gardens. Today I joined in. I shoveled a wheelbarrow full and brought it to my frozen garden. I spread it out in the center. It needs to compost, but should provide good nutrients in the spring.

Only problem is Skippy. I don't know what is so exciting about horse manure to a dog. Bllaagghhhh. Oh yuck... I may need to skip the horse manure thing next time.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

garden is frozen

frozen lettuce

Well, my garden plot is through for the year. Everything frozen solid. All the vegetables are gone. We've had a week of weather with highs in the 20's, lows who knows where out in the open field. Down under the mulch, there is a bit still alive, but unless there's a serious warming trend, that won't last long. This past week has been unusually cold for us.

I just told my sister I had all sorts of vegetables to bring for Thanksgiving. Well, I have none from the garden now. :( I do have a some storage veggies in the house. We won't go hungry.

My sister lives in Tempe Arizona and I am looking forward to a quick visit to the desert southwest. It will be exciting to have a change from the drab NE scenery and nice to see family.

playing with Skip

skippy rounds the corner
runnin' tuggin'
wrestlin' playin'

Skippy gets very frisky in the cool weather. Today he was at his best. He ran and ran. He wrestled and played. What fun! The frozen garden is a good open spot for us.

Skippy enjoys "wrestling" with me when I wear leather gloves and heavy clothes. He knows just what he can get away with. He attacks my pants. And my sleeves. All with ferocious growling and lots of deep barking. If anyone heard us, they'd think Skippy was winning for sure. I get such a kick out of this.

Because Skippy is actually very good. If I say "wait" he'll sit and wait. And then he'll attack again with new ferocity. With all of the wrestling we did today, he didn't do any damage to my clothing. (Occasionally he rips my sleeve.)

I remember reading somewhere that its often not a good idea to wrestle with your dog. May I add, it can be really tough to wrestle and take photos at the same time!

posts about Skippy

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

local furred and feathered wildlife

sparrow
female cardinal squirrel in the leaves
ducks redtail hawk

These are the "wild" things Skippy and I came across today. I can identify most but not all. Top is a house sparrow - of course. These guys empty my feeders instantly. Since they do good work in my summer garden, I refill. All are fluffed up with the 20 degree weather this week.

The next is a female cardinal who blends very well in the background of leaves. A lovely bird. She's very shy. Next is one of the squirrels who frequents my backyard. They're finding the sunflower seeds I've strewn under the leaves we need to rake tomorrow.

Next is a pair of ducks at the big pond nearby where Skippy and I walk. I don't know the type. Finally, an enormous red tailed hawk by the pond.

garden birds (Hortus Aves)

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Friday, November 21, 2008

radish taste test

three radishes
Misato Rose radishes misato rose radish sliced on a plate

I have three types of radish in my fridge now, so we did a side-by-side taste test. From left: my home-grown salad radish (var. Easter egg mix), Daikon radish (CSA grown) and the pink is also CSA grown - a winter radish called Misato rose. The lower photos are both the winter rose radish.

Winter radish are larger and slower growing than the standard salad varieties. And they keep longer.

Our taste test results: they all taste like .... well, radish.

The salad radish has the sharpest flavor, Daikon a bit milder and Misato rose the mildest. Misato rose is also the most crisp, Daikon a bit less so and salad radish the least crisp. (Of course, the salad radish here is an end-of-the-year, two-week-in-the-fridge one. I bet a freshly pulled spring radish would compare better.)

I would like to try to grow a few winter radish next year in my garden. I tried a round black winter radish from the super market last year. Very nice. I was not successful in getting any seeds of this variety to sprout, but will try again. I'll try Misato rose and black round winter radish. Just a few of each for salads and martinis.

The Daikon is very nice, but its a bit scary to have so much radish in one place. Too big. I'll skip this one.

CSA (Community Supported Agriculture)

radish (Raphanus sativus)

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TGIF

two martinis

Ahhhh.....

This is a nice one. A winter radish, variety Misato Rose. It was grown at my local CSA farm. A variety I've never heard of and would like to try in my garden next year. It tastes like a regular radish, but milder, crispier and much more colorful. Really nice when it freezes in the cold gin.

Topic: martini

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

greens with potatoes and onions

cassarole
celeriac casserole ingredients

I made a terrific casserole yesterday. All veggies from my garden or my recent CSA distribution: collard and beet greens, celeriac, potatoes and onions. Next time I'll make more, as this is really good the next day too.

Its a good warm dish for a freezing cold night. Its about 20°F outside now. I'm doing my best to avoid going out at all but the warmest times of the day. Bbbrrrr!

The recipe is adapted from my basic vegetable cooking resource: Marion Morash's Victory Garden Cookbook.

Greens with Potatoes and Onions:
5 Tbs butter
2 C chopped greens
salt and pepper
1 1/2 C sliced onions
Béchamel sauce (below)
2 C sliced cooked potatoes and celeriac (or potatoes only)
2/3 C grated cheese (your choice, I used cheddar and Parmesan)

Preheat oven to 370°F. Peel celeriac and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Cook celeriac and potatoes until tender - celeriac about 8 minutes, potatoes about 20 minutes. Make Béchamel sauce (below). Melt 2 Tbs butter in saute pan. Add chopped greens and saute until moisture is evaporated. Season with salt and pepper and set aside. In same pan melt 2 Tbs butter and saute onions until lightly browned. Butter 9" square baking pan. Smooth some Béchamel sauce into pan and then layer on potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Layer onions on top, and then spoon on the remaining Béchamel. Sprinkle on half the cheese and cover with greens. Sprinkle on remaining cheese and then dot with butter. Bake in preheated oven 30 minutes until heated through and lightly browned on top.

Béchamel sauce:
2 1/2 Tbs butter
3 Tbs flour
2 cups milk
1/2 tsp salt
pepper

Melt butter, add flour, and whisk to remove lumps. Cook 2-3 minutes until flour is golden. Remove from pan, add milk and beat vigorously until smooth. Bring to boil and salt, simmer at least 5 min to remove four taste. (Simmering longer will improve flavor.) Season with salt and pepper.

Variations:
- Marion suggests using turnips, but I really dislike these. Use at your own risk.
- Or make recipe using leftover mashed potatoes.
- Or top with buttered breadcrumbs.
- To omit bechamel - place well buttered greens on the bottom, cover with whipped potatoes beaten with butter, milk and and egg yolk. Dot with butter and bake.
- These flavors go great together. I bet lots of variations will work well.

Skippy's vegetable recipes

potatoes (Solanum tuberosum)

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

rusty old garden tools

rusty old cultivator
garden tools tools

I came across some abandoned garden tools yesterday. A cultivator, a hoe, two edging tools and a nice shovel. Looks like they've seen better days, but these will be great for my community plot. And nothing like free tools.

I found these tips on-line for refurbishing rusted tools and will give it a try some day this winter:

# Remove rust by securing the tool in a clamp and then cleaning with a wire brush, sandpaper and steel wool. Penetrating oil will help with the more stubborn spots.

# Sand down splintered handles and then rub with linseed oil to restore to a smooth finish.

# The important thing is to oil garden tools, coating them heavily when storing.

"slow gardening"

I didn't know slow gardening was a new movement.

My problem is I leave to go to my garden and say "back in half an hour". Two hours later I come home. And no one's surprised I took longer than I said. I always do.

Its hard to know all the garden chores that need to be done until you are in the garden. Weeds can grow surprisingly fast. Tomatoes all of a sudden need staking or basil flowers need picking. Harvesting and washing a nice big crop takes time. And as the cold comes, arranging the mulch to protect the last greens takes time.

But my real problem is I don't plan for being awed by the beauty of the next day in the garden. I forget that each day the sunflowers get bigger and the potato foliage more lush. I forget how good the sun (or the rain) feels on my back. I forget how sweet the birds sing in the morning. Skippy sprawls out on the warm soil and I look for a few more weeds to tend to. Sometimes it just takes more time than I planned to soak it all in.

So, yes, that's me. I'm a slow gardener. I'm glad to hear I'm part of a new movement.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

2009 seeds already

seed packets

Yesterday I found a box of seed packets at my door step. New seed packets for spring 2009 already! How exciting. I didn't know next year's seeds were available already.

The seeds are from one of my favorite companies, Botanical Interests. They sent a selection for me to try.

The varieties are: carrot carnival blend (a mix of purple, red, orange, yellow and white carrots), pumpkin Jarrahdale (an heirloom ribbed gray with 6-12 lb fruit), a red mesclun lettuce mix called Valentine that includes 6 different varieties, hyacinth bean vine, a purple violet poppy and a sunflower I have long admired called Goldy Honey Bear ("a fully double radiant beauty"). I look forward to trying these in my garden.

The poppy packet (Lauren's Grape) suggests planting in the fall for early spring color among spring bulbs. I don't know if our zone (6A) is too cold for this, but I always enjoy an experiment. There are lots of seeds in the packet so I'll plant a few next time I'm in the garden and see what happens. I'll save the rest for spring.

Monday, November 17, 2008

drab fall colors at the community gardens

november at belmont victory gardens

The light is dimming and the colors are drab at the gardens now. The leaves are off the trees. Not much left growing. My lettuce is gone - the last few heads were killed by the cold. Today I harvested escarole, arugula, beets and radish. In the next few days our temperatures are forecast to plummet to the mid 20's (F) at night. Bbrrr.

Skippy and I had a nice walk today after gardening. We met a super playful, 9 mo old golden - Australian Shepard mix (Cassie) and her friendly owner. Skippy and Cassie raced through the garden paths and fields. Then they tumbled and wrestled in the fading light. They played more than an hour. Skippy loved being herded by a cute young female. He'll sleep well tonight.

The other day, I was asked by our community garden coordinator to help with organization. I'm looking forward to this. The main work will be to organize and run the garden clean up and plot assignment day in mid April. It would be nice to add another group event to the schedule too.

today's harvest

rocket arugula
harvest escarole

When I harvest now, I need to reach down under the thick salt hay cover. The best crops I have still growing are arugula, escarole, kale and radish. Not many beets left and the lettuce has been killed by the cold. I harvested as much as I think we can eat as cold weather is coming.

radish (Raphanus sativus)

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Skippy's new collar

Skippy's new orange collar

We went camping in the backwoods of New Hampshire this past weekend, so I bought Skippy a new collar. Bright day-glo orange - since its open deer season. I like the way it stands out again the drabness of the November landscape.

It was Skippy's first time tent camping and he did a good job. He hiked in the woods, guarded the camp site and then slept soundly. He had his own mat next to me in our cozy 4-season, two-"man" tent. Not the best weather to be outside. About 40F with a steady down pour all night. Good sleeping weather.

posts about Skippy

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Friday, November 14, 2008

happy fall

barbara ann's card
I received this lovely hand made card in the mail the other day. A stamped pick up full of pumpkins with button wheels and autumn colors. It has fall greetings inside. Thanks Barbara Ann for the great card!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

march to november 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

krinkly kale leaves

tuscan kale
winterbor kale red russian kale
mulched winterbor kale mulched kales

I've been admiring the krinkles and colors of my kale leaves. They seem to get prettier by the day. Hard to choose between kale soup and more kale photos. As they say: you can't have your kale and eat it too ... (I do actually have enough for both.)

The varieties here are Tuscan kale (thin blue leaves with dinosaur like krinkles), red Russian kale (giant ruffled leaves with purple/pink stems) and winterbor kale (very very curly blueish leaves).

Kale (Brassica oleracea, Acephala Group)

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on Veteran's Day

mum

... to pay tribute to all of those who have served our country!

This is a late fall mum that is beautiful in my parents garden now. Its a great salmon color, with daisy type flowers and a loose natural form. Hardy and comes back every year. I'd love to get a big bunch of these for my garden. The name is Sheffield Pink and links I found are Burpee or Triple Oaks Nursery.

Monday, November 10, 2008

garden photos

garden aerial
plot aerial

Here are photos I took yesterday of my two vegetable garden plots. The top one is my home garden and the bottom is my community plot.

Not much work going on in the community garden. I brought home the last of my garden tools and pulled a bunch of carrots yesterday. I still have several crops growing: broad leaved escarole, snap peas, Chinese greens, arugula, kale, lot of beets and radish.

I got my home garden winterized yesterday. I heavily mulched my kale, parsley and gnome (poor gnome). If the winter cold is as brutal as the Farmer's Almanac predicts, gnome will be glad. I also took down my tomato poles, dead plants and plastic mulch - finally. And I spread some more winter rye cover crop seed.

The area at the bottom of the top photo is where I will make a nice (I hope) decorative garden next year. I'd like to find a piece of "garden art". And a couple interesting rose varieties. I have a New Dawn climbing rose, two herbaceous peonies and a big tree peony waiting to be planted here. I hope this area will look better in next year's photos.

This summer, I grew sunflowers and gourds in this plot next to the house. I got 5 nice big birdhouse gourds from this area (these are BIG plants!). I hope I can dry these during the winter and have some new birdhouses in the spring. We'll see.

In this photo, this plot is filled with debris from my front yard - our foundation planting project, which is now complete. The stumps of 5 or 6 BIG shrubberies are dumped here for now. Some day I'll get around to posting photos of our new front yard. It looks nice, if I don't say so myself....

November harvest - carrots

carrot harvest

Yesterday I harvested a big bunch of carrots. My only harvest this week. I still have so many vegetables between my gardens and my half winter share from Belmont CSA. My vegetable drawer is full to overflowing. We eat a lot of veggies, but there's a limit. The nice thing is how well most of the winter vegetables keep.

I noticed these carrots are kind of hairy. This can happen in soil that is too fertile (too much nitrogen) or waterlogged (not recently). Hmmm. I thought my N was low - guess not.

carrots (Daucus carota)

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Dear President Obama - how about a Portuguese water dog?

skippy types
Topic: A PWD in the white house? The First Portie?

Dear President Elect Obama,

My name is Skippy and I’m a Portuguese water dog. First, may I say that you have made my family very happy by winning the job of President of the United States of America! How awesome!

But I write on a personal issue. I heard your family is deciding on a type of dog to get. I heard that your daughter is allergic and I heard one of the breeds you’re considering is a PWD! And I heard this is your first dog. All of these are just like my family, so I’m writing to tell you about ME.

Since this is not a time to be modest, I’ll tell you that I have a fantastic coat and great personality. People say “chenille”, “velveteen” and “beautiful” when they walk by me. I’ve gotten used to hearing these words on my walk and then my owners say “Thank you” even though no one’s talking about them! People usually stop to pat me and say “He’s so soft!” Well, I am. And I don’t shed so there’s no fur in the house and no one is allergic to me. I’m a wavy-coated PWD, with loose curls. My fur is black as night. I get clipped every 6 weeks, bathed every week, no other coat care. I walk with a gait people comment on. Spirited and loose, with elbow and ankle joints that move with a flourish and big webbed paws. Well, I’m so proud of the attention and I hold my tail high!

But my personality is my best quality. Books say I’m intelligent, loyal and spirited. Yup, that’s true. I’m smart; I was potty trained by 7 weeks; I learned quick not to chew on furniture; I learned where I’m allowed to go and where I shouldn’t go and lots of other rules. And I’ve learned lots of words. If I could speak, I’d say many things.

Loyalty means I’m a family dog. Don’t like to be away from my pack. I have a special bond with my owner and I am happy when the whole pack is together. I do NOT like to be left behind.

The spirited part means sometimes I decide to do what I want to - just for fun. (My owner usually laughs, but sometimes not...) Sometimes I play keep away just to see what will happen. ;-) Well, why not – its fun to be a dog!

My breed is an old breed. My ancestors worked hard with fishermen in Portugal. I’m strong and solidly built and would be happy to work all day. But I’m not a fishing dog - my job is to be a companion. I take my family on walks; I protect the house and garden with my strong bark and deep growl. I worked nearly 50 hours last year as a therapy dog visiting hospitals and schools. I did tricks for elders and jumped up on hospital beds to snuggle with kids in rehab. My owner enjoyed this so much it made me very proud!

People say my breed is “high-strung”. Well, I’m pretty calm. That’s ‘cause I spend almost all my time with my pack, I run an hour a day, my family pays a lot of attention to me and I do projects (like therapy work, agility and obedience classes). Oh, plus I have my own door I use day and night, my own fenced yard, good food, lots of treats and toys (… spoiled….).

By the way, Mr. President Elect, you can talk to the excellent Senator from my state, Mr. Ted Kennedy about my breed, too. He has a pair of really cute Porties (Sunny and Splash). I hear they go with him on business sometimes and liven things up (well why not!).

Whatever dog you decide on – I wish you and your pack the greatest happiness. My owners have no idea what the life of a President is like and a Portie may not be the dog for you. But, I have also heard them say they’re really happy to have ME in the family!

Woof to you!

Skippy

more pictures of Skip
slide show of Skippy
Skippy's breeder (Clio is his Mom!)

PS. Maybe you could rescue a PWD? I hate the thought of an unwanted Portie pup! PWDCA Rescue and Relocation Program!

posts about Skippy
first Portuguese water dog

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Wednesday, November 05, 2008

autumn roses

november rose
white november rose skippy by the roses

There's not really much to do in the garden now, so Skippy and I were out admiring the last of the roses. There is something special about an end of the season rose blossom. It gets that delicate crinkly look to the petals. Against the dying foliage, they look ethereal - an out of context reminder of summer.

These roses are a planting in a park in Cambridge where Skippy and I walked this afternoon. Probably a variety of hardy shrub roses. Very pretty.

Over the past few weeks my husband and I, with a lot of help from my parents, removed all of the big old shrubbery from our front yard and replaced them with new varieties. I have a very sunny area that's still empty where I'd like to plant some roses. I think the colors shown here are my favorites - a delicate shell pink and a white English rose. It will be fun to pick a couple nice ones in the spring. I always like the Austin hybrids.

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