July 5, 2004
Today is overcast, and we had some rain last night so everything
in the gardens is looking spectacular.
Lara and Azure both were able to give me a hand hoeing and
weeding one day last week so all the beds are free from weeds
and the flowers, fruits, herbs and vegetables look great.
In the tomato garden, the Enchantments have set
many fruits already. Nothing yet from the San Marzanos,
but the Polish Linguisas have funny looking sausage-shaped
fruits. After I'd planted the tomatoes, I had about four
left over...plants that weren't quite as good looking as
those I'd put in, but I saved them for emergencies such as
bunny buffets. One of the rejects was a potato-leafed tomato
so I know it was a stray seed from one of the packets because
all of the tomatoes we're growing this year are traditional
leafed ones. The potato leafed tomato, though, really, really
wanted to live. Watered only occasionally, knocked over at
least once and very flopsy, it continued to grow in its 4" pot
and stayed green. I felt sorry for it and one day Lara and
I put it in at the end of the Italian pepper bed where there
was a bit of room. We plucked off the lower branches and
buried it so that only a bit of the top showed above the
soil. A month later it's huge - it takes up at least a square
meter already and has sent up secondary shoots. I'm quite
curious to see what it turns into, this monster tomato with
such a will to live.
It's far more common than one would hope that the wrong
seeds show up in a packet. For years the Giant Marconi seeds
that I got from Parks would include yellow peppers along
with the red that I had ordered. It's annoying, but not too
problematic with seeds. It's exceptionally annoying when
it comes to trees. My Damson plums take seven years to set
fruit. The first four trees came from a commercial nursery
that identified them as "Shropshire Damsons." By
the time I harvested fruit and knew I loved them and needed
more plums, that nursery stopped selling to small growers
like us, selling only to large fruit growers. I tracked down
other vendors of Damson plums through the seed savers' exchange,
finding only Henry Fields selling to small farmers. I've
planted several every year in the last seven.
Some years the trees were branched, other years I planted
sticks. In general, the Damson is a lovely tree, well-branched
and willowy with small leaves. As the trees grew, I noticed
that some were stouter than usual, with larger leaves. Last
year one of these stout trees at last produced fruit.....but
it wasn't a Damson plum. It was a "pear-plum" -
redder than the deep blue Damson, and shaped like a pear.
I saw some at the market and bought some to taste. They actually
taste better than a Damson (since Damsons are grown simply
for preserves) but I'm still disappointed. It's hard to get
your money back after seven years, and if I replant, it will
be another seven years before I get more fruit!
I've learned something else about buying trees via mail-order.
Each year I'd put in about five trees and there would be
a difference in quality. Some trees would have stronger root
systems than others, some would be better branched. This
year I ordered just one tree to replace one that never leafed
out last year. It is the most beautiful Damson plum I've
ever planted. Exquisitely branched, vigorous, it is already
bigger and better shaped than some that are older. I've named
it "Annabel" after the granddaughter of my friend
and mentor, Ron Prokopy who died this spring. The only other
tree that went in this year is a Seckel Pear, in
honor of Ron himself.
In the Italian pepper bed, the Giant Marconis are
growing so tall we've needed to cage them already. The Italias
are producing little fruits already. As I expected, the heirloom Corno
di Toros are the weakest of the three varieties we are
trialling, although there are individuals that are on par
with the Italias.
The chilies, cayennes and jalapenos are also setting fruit
already. The habaneros provided some meals for the bunnies
and were set back, but Ralph covered them with netting and
I gave them a boost of fertilizer and they're coming back
The strawberries are all harvested, and the raspberries
are on deck (as they say in baseball). This gives me a chance
to get started on this season's vinegars and so far I've
begun with French
Tarragon, Rosemary, Lavender and
Garlic. The latter is made from the flowering shoots
of the garlic and is a super way to get intense garlic flavor
into a dish. Cutting the shoots in June also allows all the
plant's energy to go the great bulb, increasing its size.
We'll harvest all the garlic by August 1.
We've added another event to our fall line-up. I'm not sure
how we'll manage it, but we'll be at the beautiful Tower
Hill Botanical Gardens in Boylston, MA for their Autumn Weekend
events October 9 and 10.
The animals are all fine, enjoying the beautiful summer
that's neither too hot nor too cold. Teddy, especially, is
happy to have his Newfoundland/Chow coat trimmed for the
summer and is often merrily rolling about on the grass. Rosie
and I are talking our daily walks through the woods where
loggers have recently made more roads. A young fawn ran ten
feet in front of me yesterday and was completely safe because
at that moment Rosie was happily splashing away in the brook.
The gardens are lovely, the animals happy, markets are beginning
and life is good!