Now, where did I leave that?

Monday, April 8, 2013

I, Robot

Okay, I have disabled the word verification, but am blocking anonymous users. Let's see if this works better....

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Fragaria, aka Marshall

Sweet, textural, fleeting, delicate, teasing to the nose and the tongue, sensual...No one serves up champagne and apples in romantic scenes, and a banana dipped in chocolate just doesn't take us to the same place. Does any other fruit, nay--any other food at all-- carry the same tantalizing juxtapositions of love and lust, innocence and decadence, sweetness and daring, as that small, bumpy red berry with the come-hither curves and flirty green cap we familiarly call strawberry?

There are numerous varieties, something for every palate and time frame, from early producers for those seeking instant gratification to strawberries that bear fruit until nearly Fall for those who can't get enough of a good thing. We love them at our house--strawberry jam, sorbet, ice cream, sliced & sweetened over pound cake or nibbled fresh, their red flesh yielding with just a hint of coquettish hesitation.

And so, my beloved declared this the year of the strawberry on our little would-be homestead. She wants to experiment with two ways of growing them--in soil and hydroponically, but we're going vertical. Yep...up and down, eye to eye, reach for the sky. We have 200 plants on order, four different varieties--Earliglow, Tristar, Honeoye and Mara de Bois. We know this first year the yield will be small, but hopefully we'll get enough to taste test and savor.

Ah....but wait...there's more! To be accurate, we're planting two hundred and TWO strawberry plants! And two? you're asking yourself, puzzled (okay, maybe not so much, but humor me). Why and TWO?

Well, let me tell you about the Marshall Strawberry. I'm quoting here: "The Marshall strawberry -- once deemed by James Beard, the father of American gastronomy, as the tastiest berry ever grown -- was on Slow Foods' most endangered foods list just 5 short years ago." I first read about the Marshall on the Beekman 1802 blog. I was fascinated by the story of a strawberry we nearly lost, and enraptured at the idea of playing some small part in keeping this rare, reputedly extraordinary strawberry alive. I went to this site to learn more, and began making my case to Linda. She agreed, perhaps a little reluctantly at first, but then at the last moment, I reconsidered. This tiny treasure isn't exactly a dime a dozen. One of 'em takes a whole lotta dimes! Perhaps another year, I thought.

But the Marshall story tucked itself into my brain. Followers of this blog know we're small farm supporters. We choose organic and heirloom vegetables and fruits when we can. We understand the need to honor and preserve our agricultural history at a time when pollinators are disappearing and the forces of Monsanto are waging war against us.  And hey, we rescue cats, dogs, chickens,'s not that big a leap to strawberries, I suppose.  When Linda declared her desire to be a strawberry farmer and we ordered our two hundred plants, Marshall called out to me again. How could we, in good conscience, grow all those strawberries but not choose to help save an heirloom, not help protect and foster it, not play some strawberry-seed-sized part in its renaissance? And so, without further ado, I give you:

These two arrived today; they arrived wearing sweet mesh bags and silver tags stamped with # 200 and # 201. They won't be joining their compatriots in Berry Towers; we will love them and pet them and name them George (sorry, Bugs Bunny reference--who here remembers that?)...But seriously, this year they'll be potted, pampered and protected. While we hope to savor a few sweet gems, we'll mostly pinch off the blossoms to help them grow bigger and stronger, and put out more runners for the future. Our true  reward this year will be knowing we played a tiny role in saving the Marshall, preserving a fragment of agricultural heritage and purity, having the slightest hand in keeping this once endangered fruit from extinction. You know what? I can live with that!

There were 600 plants available this year. The Marshall website has a nifty map that allows you to track where in the country these strawberries are going (we'll be on it as "Catskill Mtn Mamas" in NY when the map is next updated). If the Marshall story whispers your name, you can check out the options for ordering here. We'll keep you posted on our plants' progress, complete with photos, of course!

And hey, if growing a Marshall isn't the right thing for you now, that's okay. Leah Gauthier is making a difference in a big way, one strawberry at a time, but each of us has the power. In the last few years, heirloom vegetables &fruits, and their seeds, have become so much easier to find. Grow a Brandywine or Cherokee Purple tomato or two. Support the local farmer who is growing heirlooms. Extinct is forever; it's scary stuff to think about it, but there's hope. We can all make a difference; we just have to want it a little bit...

That Robot Thing

I regret to say that due to extensive spamming of this blog in the past few days, I'm going to reinstate that "please prove you aren't a robot" word verification thing. Really, really hate doing that to everyone, but the sudden spam attack is kind of nuts. Please don't hesitate to let me know if it's a hardship; I don't want to lose readers as a result and would revisit it.

Curious--is anyone else suddenly having similar problems?

Hope it's warm and sunny wherever you are today!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Still Here!

Thank you to Willow for popping in & reminding me that I've been out of touch; it's a lovely thing to be missed! All is fine....but do you ever feel like time is seeping out of every seam, a steady dripping away like water from a soaker hose? That's how it feels right now.

--Critters are well and happy! Pip will be a year old this month--impossible to believe! Linda brought Pip & her four siblings home to foster on April 12 last year; they were only 3 or 4 days old. Keeping Pip, which was totally unplanned, was one of the best decisions we've ever made.

She is probably the most loving cat I've ever known, and between us, Linda & I have had some serious lovebugs. Her favorite place is on the couch, laying on both of us; she always wants to be touch us both. She wants petting and kisses, but not in a needy way. She's also a...well, a pip, always looking for mischief. Yeti's plumey tail is a toy, as are Lola's legs. But despite our initial worries about Lola and Pip, it's all worked out.

Chickens--doing well, laying huge eggs; sometimes I look at them and just think ouch! TuTu, Octavia and Julia are glad for the warming temperatures but want to know when there will be grass to forage in!

Bees--we were deeply saddened to discover we'd lost a hive due to mice. Linda had a mouse guard up, but somehow it got pried open enough that mice invaded the hive. This was the original hive, so all the more sad. Two hives survived Winter, and she just got two more last week. This is a tough time of year to get them through, but she's feeding them daily.

Planting! We've begun kale, chard, peas, arugula, spinach, thyme, marigolds, snapdragons. A weekly planting calendar is in place, along with extensive plans on what gets planted where, and when we need to build what; for example, we're not starting tomatoes from seed, but instead will buy them from Catskill Native Nursery in mid-May, so we know that in early May we need to build platforms to set tomato containers on between the rows of our younger grape arbor, and by mid-May will need to build the bean & edamame trellises. We're aiming to turn a chunk of yard into a no-mow zone; this year's biggest effort in that direction will be a huge stretch of sunblower beds! We're looking to bring whimsy and joy into our yard along with functionality and (eventually) easier maintenance.

The endless battle with food--a little over a year ago, on orders from an acupunturist/TCM practitioner, I went on a gluten/sugar/processed food free diet because of chronic hives, and stuck it out successfully for about 5 or 6 months. It didn't affect the hives, which went into a remission this past October and then began rebounding last month. It did cause me to drop 16 lbs and become far less bloated. Eventually I returned to all my bad habits again, and last week stepped on a scale at the doctor's office and felt nauseous at the number.'s Monday morning, the first day of a new month, and I've rejoined Weight Watchers (online)--hey, Jennifer Hudson still looks great! It's been successful for me before, and I seem to need the regimentation. Doctor told me I must start exercising, and broke it down to as minimal as possible--10 minutes a day, three times a week to start out. Even I can manage that!

We've had hints of sweet Spring, warm sun and blissed-out birds, grazing deer, geese flying over the house by the hundreds, heading north all at once as if they all got the email at one time. The quince is blushing, the Japanese maple is sporting delicate buds, daffodils are peeking out. The season is pregnant with promise, each day a new discovery, and today I feel optimistic and excited about the days to come.

I've missed all of you, and will be making the rounds of blogs this week; I look forward to catching up! And I'll be back posting at the end of the week to talk about....some very special strawberries. Wishing you a week of joy and anticipation in the season!