Potager / Kitchen Garden

Well, the rapture didn’t happen and the world didn’t end (although I had high hopes) and things have finally heated up, enough to plant corn and cucumbers, basil and tomatoes. We’re enjoying spinach now and lettuce, radishes and dill will make a delicious salad tomorrow. This year we planted strawberries for the first time and they are surprising us with emerging berries.

In the past, we started many vegetable seedlings in the greenhouse in early February. This worked well, for a while. When we began to have losses from disease or damping off or inferior plants from legginess we decided to shift the focus to starting perennial plants (ornamentals for the flower borders) and take our chances with direct seeding most of the vegetables. This is a vastly superior system for us, with the exception of a few heat-loving vegetables, we have much greater success with direct-sown crops. The perennial plants have prospered and we’ve added a cold frame for hardening of cuttings.

We’re experimenting with a new approach to weeds. We flame the beds, (with a torch attached to a propane tank) then rake them, then flame them again, and then plant out the transplants. So far, we’re noticing a big difference between those flame-treated and those that haven’t been. I’ll keep you posted on this situation.  Potatoes are going great guns and we’ve already had to hill them up.  We’ve rhubarb galore so I’m looking for rhubarb recipes.

NY Times Piece Postponed

It seems I jumped the gun in announcing the NY Times article on Andrew’s stonework. The editor at the Times has postponed its publication for another week. Andrew received the following e-mail last night from Sara Barrett, the writer of the piece:

Hey Andrew,
I just found out from the editor that the story is on hold for a
week….Will let you know when she confirm the new pub date.

We’ll keep you posted on any updates!

Fresh, Organic Garden Produce 2011-Vole Revisions


Earlier I posted a Greengrocer page on this blog offering a very limited number of weekly garden baskets of fresh, organic vegetables, herbs and flowers to interested ‘subscribers’. Alas. I’m afraid I have to revise my approach. In the battle with voles, the voles seem to be getting the upper hand. We can neither predict nor state with any confidence that there will be a bounty to share, despite our eternal hopes.

Enter PLAN ‘B’.

We have purchased a very large cooler, which we have placed at the end of our driveway in the same location as  the previous, smaller ‘egg cooler’. Each Thursday I will post a list of vegetable and flowers, if any are available, on the Greengrocer page of the lettersfromstonewell blog. I will harvest the most popular of these vegetables and store them in the cooler on Friday afternoon. If you are especially interested in something or other that we have, you can send me an E-mail  (mb@mbeckerco.com) and I will  make sure to reserve your produce and arrange a time when you can pick it up. We’ll see how this works. It may turn out to be more efficient for everyone involved if I were to simply e-mail those that are interested.

I apologize to those that may be disappointed with this turn of events.

Stone Wall Building Workshop in Vermont

Saturday-Sunday, September 17-18 (Two-day Workshop)

8:30 am-4:00 pm

Instructors: Jared Flynn, Andrew Pighills

Location:   Scott Farm in Dummerston, Vermont

Participants and instructors at dry stone walling workshop

Sponsered by The Stone Trust, this two-day hands-on workshop is designed to teach homeowners and tradespeople the structural techniques involved in building and restoring a historic field stone wall. The outdoor classroom provides the setting for practicing proper dry stone walling methods including safety, batter, hearting, throughs, and coping. Included in the workshop will be the age-old technique of splitting stone by use of pin and feathering. Knowledge gained will prepare students for their own projects and help train their eyes to identify proper walling techniques in all walls.
Cost: $300
To register: contact Zon Eastes, 802.380.9550

NY Times-on Thursday, June 23rd

NE stone patio and walkway...gardens to come.

For those of you who are interested in artisan  stonework, the NY Times is doing a piece on Andrew which will go national and is scheduled to appear in the Home and Garden section of the New York Times  on Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 . We’ve had interesting back and forth communications with,  NY Times writer,  Sara Barrett over the past several months and we’ll be as surprised as you to read the results. Stay tuned………..

Stealing Time in “the Country”

Between running a landscaping business, free-lancing as a grantwriter / grants administrator, tending personal gardens of a certain dimension, housekeeping, tending to 46 ducks and 30 chickens (and too many quail), preparing meals, trying to maintain contact with family and friends, trying to maintain two blogs (Andrew’s and mine), I find little time to do the things that give me a sense of personal achievement and pleasure, ( making good, interesting art and connecting with like-minded people).  Drinking wine and smoking cigarettes doesn’t count as achievement (although the pleasure aspect is there, this would be significantly increased if I were to learn that smoking is a healthy activity and good wine was only $4.00 per bottle.)

My background would label me as an aesthete and an intellectual. Alas, very little of those interests come in to play in my world.  This disturbs me more than I’m prepared to admit to myself.  I know that I waste a lot of time trying to compartmentalize all of the mundane things that I’ve listed above. My baby brother Neal, aged 42, and a Special Ed teacher, believes that we all possess an element of autism, and that it drives how we learn and process everyday living. I believe it! Of course I would like to think that I’m a flexible, open person and yet I know I’m not. I’m disappointingly rigid (with myself) and somewhat rigid people like myself struggle with this.  I nearly lost it tonight, for example, because I couldn’t get the ducks into their respective lodgings and Andrew was at a meeting and I thought of getting in the car and driving back to NYC and camping out on the steps of the Metropolitan Museum. (Really, no kidding). (I’m distracted; the powerful and distinctive smell of celery has been with me for over an hour and there’s no explaining it. It doesn’t go away. What IS that?  Do I smell like celery? ).

On the other hand, and a more cheerful note, the gardens are looking, embracing. The roses are exceptional, the poppies are doing their bursting forth thing, the vegetable garden (no celery) is performing moderately well and, eventually, I will feel that this, too, is an art-form and not just manual labor. In time, I will learn to see the art and aesthetics of what we’re doing here…..in time.


Now that the roses are beginning to flower its important to continue a feeding program. We feed our roses every couple of weeks throughout the growing season, alternating with with an organic granular feed, worked into the top two inches of soil and a liquid fish emulsion which we apply to both the roots and the foliage. Deadheading is also important. I tend to do this in the evening during ‘cocktail hour’ with a glass of wine in one hand and my pruners in the other; it makes the job less onerous.  A couple of weeks ago I stocked up on Japanese Beetle traps. Last year we failed to plan ahead and when the beetles arrived, we couldn’t find traps for love or money.  Happy gardening!


Ducklings first swim.

I’ve got a few scientific questions:

  1. How is it that the fluff doesn’t seem to get wet?
  2. How do they instinctually know how to swim?
  3. How come they’re so cute?