What’s your favorite color?

Is it possible that I am the only one who thinks this is a ridiculous and perplexing question? I’ve been asked this question many times and never from a client who has engaged my professional services as a designer.  Sometimes it’s employed as device to change the subject from something terrifyingly confrontational, like politics or religion, or vegetarianism, but I’ve noticed that it’s most often used, mistakenly, I might add, as a sort of lighthearted, upbeat, conversational ‘ice-breaker’ and usually among women. (I’ve never overheard men asking this question of other men). As a painter and a colorist, it would be the equivalent of asking a parent, who’s your favorite child. In fact, I find the question to be confrontational in the extreme. Imagine asking, What’s your favorite race? What’s your favorite ethnic group? Yes, okay, perhaps I’m going too far there, but even so, I’m beginning to realize that I have a deep distrust of people who think that that sort of question is an ‘ice-breaker’. More like an ‘ice-maker’! Yes bring on the alcoholic beverages, please, make mine a double!

As a designer I often ask clients if there are any colors that they are adverse to. This, I believe to be a legitimate question, and one which will generate far richer insights into a person’s aesthetic than anything else. (“I hate yellow. My stepmother painted my room that color the moment she moved in without even asking me.). I never ask about their favorite color. (I assure you, if they have one, they’ll make it known well before any serious, thoughtful design work takes place to the detriment of any serious, thoughtful design work).

Frankly, I can’t see the purpose of the question. Let’s say someone has a favorite color. Blue is a common answer. ( Oh yes, I’m an eavesdropper. Make note of that.) What then? How does one reply to such a statement?  “Wow! Then you must really like the sky!”, or ” Do you visit the Caribbean often?, vacation in Greece? Embrace the democratic party?” The favorite color thing is exacerbating. but I have plenty of stories to vent on this subject so you may see more posts in the future about this. Be forewarned……


In 2009 we planted the espalier orchard in what we then called the Liberty Garden. We researched apple varieties and began with a very long ‘Wish List’ that had to be pared down to 14 whips. Whips are small, single stemmed, usually year old trees, that are grafted onto a specific rootstock. (If they have branches, they’re called feathered). In our case, we wanted a dwarf or semi-dwarf rootstock as the trees were to be trained on wire against a fence, as espalier, with the intention of creating a decorative, six or seven foot high, living fence, as the trees matured. When we bought the property, we acquired a tiny, disorganized, and long neglected ‘orchard’ of six apple trees, three pear trees, a peach tree and a cherry tree. The apple trees were in a terrible state, uncared for, unpruned and suffering from Cedar Apple Rust, a disease that afflicts both cedars and apples but only shows deleterious effects on the fruit trees.
At the time, the roadside frontage of the property was lined with a long row of 12 very tall (30’ high or so) eastern white cedar trees. These had clearly been planted to create a privacy screen but, as they matured, and their branches rose to six and eight feet from the ground, that purpose had ceased to function. They were neither beautiful nor aesthetically suitable but we hesitated to cut them down simply because they were mature trees and seemed to have attained some sort of merit by that fact alone. Yes, they were hosting and perpetuating an unsightly disease that manifest itself in our apple trees with rust spotted leaves, shriveled fruit and premature defoliation, but we couldn’t bring ourselves to cut them down.
Cedar wood is a traditional material used for fenceposts as it is amazingly resistant to rot and decay. When we created a rustic fence for the Potager, we crafted it with what was on hand, hardwood saplings, knowing full well that it would last only a couple or few years. Well, to make a long story short, in 2011, the planets aligned and guided our chain saw firmly into the trunks of those emminant cedars, an event that coincided with the rapidly deteriorating Potager fence and the discovery that Cedar Apple Rust can kill young apple trees. It was liberating. The cedars were cut up and dressed into appropriate lengths and configurations for future fenceposts and the grateful apple trees responded with tremendous blossoming, lush, green growth and persistent foliage, and a bumper crop of fruit.
Two nights ago I made an apple pie and served it to a very fussy ‘foodie’. He raved about it, and as he headed into the rapture, asking for my secrets, I guided him over to the recycling bin, pulled out the packaging for the IGA brand prepared Pie Crusts and said “its all about the apples”. Which were they? Who knows? My guess is that they  are Rhode Island Greenings, but the identity of that particular tree, with the tart, crisp, yellowy-greenish, dry apples, (the ones I give as treats to the ducks) will remain a mystery in the mists of time.

Planning the Kitchen Garden

In my experience, it’s relatively easy to establish parameters for oneself by committing to a 20’ x 20’ plot and limiting the plantings to fit within those confines. It works in writing and on graph paper. If, however, you’re a dreamer like me, seduced by fantasies of abundance and variety, it doesn’t work all that well, especially after the hibernation of a dark season of long winter evenings spent reading seed catalogs, with a glass or two of wine, a highlight marker and a block of post-it notes. It’s very easy to slide into the 20’ x 35’ plot, or the 30’ x 50’ plot or the 50” x 85’plot, so easy that it’s almost inevitable.

I offer the following example. The first year that we started our vegetable garden, our seed bill was $27 dollars. The next year it was $74 dollars. The size of the garden didn’t alter.  So, what changed? A desire for greater variety; we wanted three kinds of beets, not one, seven different tomatoes, not three, four kinds of squash, not two, etc…

Shakespeare knew something  when he wrote: “Know thyself and to thine own self be true”. But here’s the rub: as a home-gardener, I don’t need 45 zucchini seeds. I need 4, or, if I’m going to sow successively, I need 8, or maybe, at the limit, twelve. The cost of seeds isn’t that expensive but it does add up, especially if you’re like me and want to try all sorts of things.

The fun and economical solution/idea is to share. Get together with other gardening friends during the winter months. Call or e-mail your gardening compatriots in October/November to make sure that they are receiving the same seed catalogues that you are (and e-mail them the links to your favorite seed suppliers if they’re not). Set up a potluck buffet-dinner evening in mid-to-late January to come together and prepare a group order. This will work for either a large Community Garden group or a Rag-Tag band of home gardeners. You could be admirably well organized and list the categories of produce for which you seek seeds for your garden, i.e., tomatoes, corn, squash, lettuce, cucumbers, beets, spinach, etc… You might even use the various catalogues’ categories and headings as a guide. No matter how you do it, remain focused and have a designated someone to keep track of everyone’s shared orders.  If you’re going to be professional about it you could purchase very small ‘Ziplock’-type bags or ‘glassine’ envelopes (in future, you will be directed to a resource link for such products) to divvy up the seeds once they arrive. This is yet another excellent opportunity to share shoptalk with other gardeners and will likely lead to long lasting horticultural friendships.

In future, more to come about Kitchen Gardening.


People. What’s up with calling our gardens ‘yards’?   Why? Can we aim a bit higher? Honestly. Every time I hear the word ‘yard’ I think of train depots or industrial sites and conspiratorial guys saying, “yeah, we’ve got that; it’s back in the yard.” Maybe it’s an American thing but I don’t see why we can’t call a garden a garden. Is it too much of a commitment?  For god’s sake, is it that much of a challenge to treat your ‘green-space’ as a garden?  Let’s try it out: ” oh yeah, the kids have  a jungle gym, it’s out in the ….garden? yard?”, or this, “Oh, I can’t wait to plant a hedge of peonies in my ‘yard’…” garden?.

I know what suburban (or even urban) folks mean by ‘yard’. It’s defines the green space, usually quite limited, that comes along with the house. I get it.  But why not call a spade a spade and refer to the green space as it ought to be referred to: the “Garden”,. Go ahead, call me a snob, but I feel that any , even a tiny bit of land, can be treated with a sensitivity towards aesthetics and that that patch of lawn could become any of several things; a perennial garden, a vegetable garden, a shrubbery, a rock garden?

Lawn isn’t the best thing since sliced bread. There are many more, environmentally responsible, things that we can do with our ‘yards’ and I encourage you to explore all of the options.

Got Eggs? Apologies. Not many.

Apologies to those who may have stopped by looking for eggs and found the cooler empty. Most of the hens are moulting, which means that all their energy is going into the production of new feathers, to protect them during the winter, instead of egg production. With 23 hens, we’re only getting about six or seven eggs a day; not the usual sixteen or so.

To save yourself an unnecessary trip either call us or log on to this site, scroll to the bottom of the page and hover over the duplicate image of the one you see above. Text will appear indicating whether or not we’ve got eggs.