Garden Year 2013 in Review- Part I

As the seed and bulb catalogues start piling up in the basket, it seems that this is a good time to review the ups and downs, successes and failures of our gardens in 2013. Where to begin? Well, it wasn’t the best gardening year, nor was it the worst.  Just different. One of the main differences was the absence of a cutting garden. In the past, we’ve had a separate, fenced garden, approximately 65′ long by 25’wide, that was largely dedicated to annually planted cut flowers; dahlias, sunflowers, cosmos, china asters, gladioli, zinnias, larkspur, Bells of Ireland, tall marigolds, nicotiana, and the like. This space was shared by espaliered apples, which line the fence, a fanned peach tree, asparagus, and vegetables that we couldn’t fit into themain kitchen garden. Last year, we rooted cuttings of red, white and black currants, blueberries, wine grapes, raspberries, black berries and gooseberries and these were all planted in that garden, and which we now refer to as the Fruit Garden, along with space-consuming strawberries. This was a great success. We produced loads of delicious jams and jellies, stuffed the freezer with raspberries,strawberries and blueberries, and are now enjoying muffins and ice cream in the dead of winter. This left us with no choice but to plant the ‘cut flowers’ into the borders and in a small, 20′ x 20′ un-fenced annex garden and the results were a dire failure. DEER! They ate everything in sight, all of the annual flowers were chomped down to nothing and many, if not all of the perennials. Deer pressure is reaching epidemic proportions in our neck of the woods and even at 20 feet away, they are fearless. They watch me feed the chickens, turkeys and ducks, they chomp away at the apples in the orchard, maintaining eye contact with me as if I were their friend, and now they’ve discovered the poultry feeders and learned to share! Yes! While the chickens and ducks and turkeys are snacking at the feeders, the deer are right there with them, nibbling away as if they were all one big happy family. The birds appear to have embraced them. The fowl seem perfectly fine with these cloven hoofed behemoths nuzzling their beaks at the feed source. (It’s almost as if they LIKE them, or worse, ADMIRE them)!!!! They gaze up at their eyes, and carefully, nimbly, negotiate around and between their legs with a generous sense of plurality and the cloven-hooved ones respond with gentle, careful movements. Not a peep or cluck or quack of alarm or concern. “Excuse me, but you don’t mind if I just grab this bit of cracked corn, do you”? “Certainly not, please, help yourself, and I hope you won’t mind my having a few of these delicious and nutritious layer pellets”.  ” Oh, not at all, help yourself, there’s plenty where that came from….the bipeds with the opposible thumbs always keep it full and fresh. Oh no, no need to go down that slope to the pond, the fresh water is over here, just follow me”.

Geez! What’s next? Fine, we’re accustomed to the chickens pecking at the front door asking for their treats of Cheerios or Carr’s crackers, but shall I now expect to hear hooves tapping at the threshhold demanding tortilla chips?

So, in short, there were no cut flowers for us this year, and very few roses, for that matter. More in the next post.

Watercolor Day #3

Another watercolor, but wait, here’s a surprise, a dining theme.  (What’s going on here? Perhaps I’m thinking of the old days when I lived in New York and ate every meal in a different restaurant!?) Well, nevertheless, its a theme that welcomes and reminds me to brush up on my hostessing skills and provide future dinner invitations. Thanks for stopping by. Cheers!..and, lest we forget Julia Childs, “Bon Appetit!” (even if this does look like a chinese rstaurant).watercolor_06

Quiet Winter

Gold Bow 1web big

The landscaping and stonework business goes quiet during the winter months, and so, one might think, that I’d be blogging away, casting pearls of wisdom regarding garden planning, maintenance and all things horticultural. Sadly, no. One might even think that since this blog is about our homestead here in Killingworth, CT, that I’d be writing about food, art, projects, etc… Again, sadly, no. These Persephone months are those that generate the most anxiety and pressure for me, and, at the same time,provide the most promising block of time to do what I am trained and compelled and desirous to do ,to which is to make art. This is my only yearly chance to get into the studio and work on painting and design projects that have occupied my mind for months, if not years. I largely abandon cooking, cleaning, and most things related to homekeeping. Asides from the necessary activities of bringing in firewood and venturing forth through deep snow to help Andrew collect sap from Sugar Maples on the Welter Farm, a project that he is engaged in, my time is spent in my studio.  We do like to entertain but this is a rare occurrence during these winter months. And so, I extend my apologies to all who may have looked for gardening wisdom. I will say that this is the time to start many of the cole crops and onions as seedlings.  These are cool weather crops that benefit from an early start. Don’t be seduced into starting tomatoes too early. Let that go until late March; you’ll have healthier seedlings.

I’ll be posting some images and updates of what I’m doing in the studio very soon. Until then, be well, be safe, be inquisitive.



New Stonewell Farm Sign

Stonewell Farm sign

We’ve finally replaced the old sign

Well, we finally got around to replacing the old sign and the new and improved version permits us to add and subtract additional information as needed. In the dead of winter when the hens are slacking off, we’ll remove the Fresh Eggs sign. In the height of summer, when we have an abundance of fresh eggs, organic produce, herbs and cut flowers available, we’ll add those too. Stay tuned…..

Asparagus Season.

Asparagus harvest time


Asparagus harvest

What to do with all the asparagus? This is not a problem and, really, we could never have too much asparagus. Eggs and asparagus are always a tasty combination, and with 24 chickens, 14 ducks and plenty of eggs this is an easy meal option for us. Asparagus omelettes are delicious, as are poached eggs on toast with steamed asparagus.  Last weekend, I made several quiches (combining duck and chicken eggs) with asparagus and shallots (also from the garden) to serve to the participants of the dry stone wall building workshop as snacks and no one complained.

For last night’s dinner I adapted a friend’s salmon and asparagus recipe, substituting shrimp for the smoked salmon and linguine for the pappardelle and it was delectable. I think it would be equally good with only the asparagus.  I’ve included the recipe here:

Linguine in Lemon Cream Sauce with Asparagus and Shrimp

1 lb. asparagus

2 garlic cloves, finely minced

1 large lemon (or 2 small ones)

1/2 lb. shrimp (deveined and shells removed)

1 lb. dried linguine or fettucine

3 tablespoons butter

3/4 cup heavy cream

Trim asparagus and cut diagonally into 1/2-inch thick slices. Mince the garlic and finely grate enough lemon zest to measure 2 teaspoons, and squeeze enough juice to measure 3 tablespoons.

Prepare an ice bath in a large bowl in the sink. Fill a pot with water, boil the asparagus until tender-crisp, about 3 minutes, drain in a colander, and transfer asparagus to the ice water to stop cooking.  Fill a 6-quart pasta pot three fourths full with salted water and bring to a boil for the pasta. Cook the pasta till al dente, timing it so that the pasta is cooked when the sauce, below, is ready.

In a deep 12 inch, heavy skillet cook minced garlic with salt and pepper over medium low heat till fragrant. Stir in the cream and lemon zest and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook till they turn slightly pink, about 3 minutes. Add two tablespoons of lemon juice and remove from the heat. Drain the cooked pasta, return it to its pot, add the shrimp and sauce, add the aspargus, toss to distribute the sauce evenly and add additional salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4 as a main course.

Upcoming Dry Stone Wall Building Workshop in Connecticut

Stonewall Building Workshop
Andrew Pighills, 
Two-day workshop 
Saturday & Sunday, April 27th & 28th,  2019
Tuition: $350

Learn what it takes to build a dry stone wall from A Dry Stone Walling Association–certified instructor. Build a free-standing wall by applying four basic principles and employing a few simple techniques. From “founds” to “throughs” to “copes,” each stage in the construction will be explained and demonstrated. Participants will build a wall using native stone. This is a great chance to try something new or fine-tune skills you already have.

students learn how to build a dry stone wall

On Saturday evening we have a Pizza Party, where participants get to relax with drinks and pizza, cooked in our own outdoor wood fired oven.

20140928_090334                                  Pizza Oven

The workshop is a two-day event, Sat. and Sun. April 27th & 28th , 2019 and will be held at Stonewell Farm, 39 Beckwith Road in Killingworth, Connecticut. All instruction is on an individual basis. Pre-registration is required, as the workshops fill up quickly.

To register, contact:
Michelle Becker, Workshop Administrator
Tel. 860-810-8802