I can stop holding my breath!


The rice is back!!!

On about May 15, I soaked the short grain brown rice seed I had saved from last year’s crop, such as it was. I let it soak for about 3 days and then dried it out on a cookie sheet in the sun. It still had the husk on each kernel and all together there was about a cup and a half total.

I was unable to plant it right away and was concerned that after letting it to start t0 germinate, I might have let it sit too long in dried out condition and ruined the seed. So, I’ve been waiting anxiously for signs of life.

Today, on my way out to prepare the beds and photograph the process, I got down on my knees, put my glasses on and there they were poking through. I planted them in short rows this year about 6″- 8″ apart so I could control the weeds. It’s difficult to see in the photo since they are only about a quarter of an inch tall, but is definitely them running in a straight line, broken here and there, from upper left down to lower right in the photo.

This should be my biggest crop so far and this year I’m more on time.

Welcome arrivals…


I’m trying to decide whether it was the conditions of this past winter that made it such a challenge or was it the new name – polar vortex. I never had to use the snow blower, in spite of many storms some well exceeding 12″, because it was always so cold that the snow remained powdery and easy to shovel.

In the beginning we had periods of relief between vortexes but between February and most of March it was pretty much a deep freeze. I have such gratitude for wood heat and so much love for the wood stove that I had to restrain myself from giving it a big hug.

I walk the dogs three times a day for a total of about 2 hours, rain, shine and including those nasty PVs. I’m not big on brand name clothing, but there were many times that I did hug my Head Sokz, a fleece hood worn under all of the other layers. You want to stay warm? Think hands, feet, neck and head! The fleece hood takes care of the neck and head component. Two pairs of sox and cotton garden gloves inside of wool mittens takes care of the rest even in sub-farenheit-zero temperatures. I probably could have survived just wearing a bathing suit as long as those vital areas were well covered… well… maybe not.

Normally, I plant peas and some hardy winter crops right around March 15. Not this year! The deep February snows were basically turned into concrete masses by the cold and stubbornly held their positions, even turning their icy backs to St. Paddy’s day celebrations. I won’t allow power equipment into my gardens, so jack-hammering through ice and soil was out of the question.

I bought some starter soil in early March to get my tomatoes, etc. started and even that was frozen solid. So I got a late start, but finally set up a place in the house for my seedlings and planted about a week ago.

That’s the day when the internet weather promised a warming trend to begin. The days leading up to that change, however were back down in the single digits and the day before was nothing short of brutal with winds over 30 MPH with temps only in the low teens. It’s funny how personal weather can become and that day I would characterize as winter’s final sneer of disdain and perhaps, warning, aimed at the human condition.

It looks like we’re finally beyond all that and though not toasty yet we have remained pretty much above freezing and with several days of rain allowing the ground to finally begin to thaw out. Tomorrow I’m going to attempt to plant those peas, etc.

So today is a sunny, typically early April day, but what really shook the gardener in me awake was the new arrivals in my starter trays! This is now the third generation of saving my own seeds and the varieties I did save are coming through strong.

The word sustainable gets tossed around a lot and rightly so because that is how we should all be thinking at this point, but the idea that I can live out the rest of my life eating vegetables from my garden that I’ve grown from my own seed really gives that concept tangible meaning.

Happy gardening 2104, everyone!

Beyond the fall foliage…


The above photo was taken at the base of Mount Holyoke Range in Hadley, Massachusetts, a few days ago and late in the day on one of our coldest to date this fall. The brilliant colors have muted and the nature of each thing is exposed by the cold and the reticent sun. Some are oblivious, though their time will come. Some are reluctant, while others surrendered early on, without much of a fight. Soon, all will sleep, but in these early days of November all the players meet on stage late in the afternoon for one final farewell party.

Last Fresh Tomato of Summer


The best part about a four season climate is that just at the point of saturation of heat, of dying, of cold and snow, of birth… oh, and of course, of tomato, everything shifts… until we meet again after a long and patient wait. I’ll pass on the store-boughts throughout the late fall, winter, spring and even early and mid summer. Doesn’t matter what you call it. It’s only it, when its time has come. In the meantime, I’ll patiently savor the memory and the expectation.

And finally… Rice harvest 2013

This was not a very satisfying growing season for me, though my garden didn’t seem to mind too much. At one point I thought I had lost the rice and would have to start the process over again next year from scratch.

Then some stalks appeared bearing young grains. The plants didn’t do all that well and were pretty stunted and the smallest ones only bore a few grains, but I had planted quite a bit and eventually it added up to a harvest better than last year.


I’ll know better by how much once it has dried and been threshed and winnowed, but at least I know that I’ll have plenty of seed for next season.

Wheat and Rye

My back yard starts off low and climbs a quick slope to a plateau. Most of the lowlands are wetter and the plateau is dryer. I’ve been growing a seed supply of Wheat and Rye down in the lower yard. My ultimate goal was to move them farther away from the house and into drier conditions. We had a very wet and humid early summer this year which was hard on the wheat and rye.


So, when I went to replant, I dug some new beds up on the plateau. There is a circle of low maintenance plants already established, so I decided to allow the circle to grow in rings of new beds in which I would plant my various grains and beans. So my wheat and rye are now part of a ring outside of the circle. It’s coming along fine even though I planted pretty late in the season.


The rye is much taller than the wheat, so I planted it in the center of this first ring flanked on either side by the wheat. It will be a treat to see it growing up on the plateau. Can’t wait.

Quick tomato cages


When my tomatoes started bearing fruit, they did what tomatoes do – fall over. We had a bad case of tomato blight here in the valley several years ago and each season it would return more or less. I had been using metal wire tomato cages back then and I finally decided to stop using them, thinking they might carry the disease forward.

Last year I cut down several trees to bring in more light, and I cut them up for firewood. This season many of the stumps, cut close to the ground, developed new shoots. Then in early August I harvested them to use as tomato stakes.


There were a lot of plants and as usual, I was pressed for time, so I played around with some ideas for supporting them. Now that everything has died back to expose the frames, I took these photos of what I came up with for my two tomato patches. I just used sticks and string, but it worked well.

Now it might be a coincidence, but there was no blight in my garden this year. I’ll use these for kindling and start fresh next year.