Signs of Progress: A Garden Update

The handsome fellow pictured here is Jerry, my cat. He’s prowling through the lemon grass, blueberries, and hollyhocks while I do some basic garden maintenance. Jerry is probably just as curious as I am about who has been nibbling the flowers off of my squash.

I hadn’t planned on doing a garden update so soon. I figured it would be a monthly thing, but then we had a lot of sun followed by a lot of rain and more sun. Those things led to major transformations. I’ve started to get some ripe cherry tomatoes, and I’ve got one tomato plant so huge it will be taller than I am before long. I can’t even imagine the size of the fruit that will come off of it later this summer.

I also got some trellises and tomato cages to try and contain the squash. A trip to my favorite nursery also yielded some sugar baby watermelon starter plants. Of course, there’s not much room in the beds so I put them in the strawberry patch and just outside the raised beds. I also took a couple of seeds from a spaghetti squash that I cooked and planted them. Now I’ve got a couple of sprouting plants. I think I may have to relocate one of them.

It’s really amazing to watch your food come to life. I keep thinking about being a little girl when McDonald’s used to hand out seed packets with Happy Meals (it’s almost too ironic to handle, I know). One year my mother and I planted pumpkins and watermelons. I don’t think the watermelons went anywhere, and the pumpkins got infested by bees. But here I am, probably 25 years later, with a veritable produce section in my backyard. Continue reading

To Do or Not to Cockadoodledoo: Backyard Chickens

For quite some time now I’ve dreamed of having chickens. (Blame Barbara Kingsolver.)

Before I’d even closed on my house my mom told me that chickens were illegal in my town. It didn’t matter much since my yard is quite small and I wasn’t about to give up a whole corner of it to chickens. But I hadn’t been in my neighborhood for long before I started hearing the distinct cockadoodledoo of a rooster.

I thought this was strange. Many owners of backyard chickens will tell you that, as long as your neighbors are OK with your chickens it doesn’t matter much what the law says. But the one sure fire way to tick off your neighbors is to get a rooster. As far as I can tell, the rooster owner doesn’t even have hens.

He’s not very loud, and too far away from me to be much of a bother. I only really hear him when I’m outside, but I do wonder what his neighbors think. But, if he can get away with having a rooster, something tells me my neighbors won’t mind a couple of hens.

Paper Products, Germaphobia, and You

These are an abomination.

Last night I was watching television and I saw a commercial that made me downright angry. It was for the Reynolds wrap non-stick pan lining paper, which is right up there with disposable hand towels for your home bathroom on the scale of horrifyingly wasteful products.

If you stepped into my kitchen right now you’d find some tinfoil that I’ve kept to reuse, and perhaps a paper towel that I’m keeping to get one more use out of. I use these things sparingly — and in the case of tinfoil, I try to recycle it. I once had to lecture a roommate about the different uses for paper towels and regular towels. Paper towels are for cleaning up messes, I told him, and regular towels are for drying your hands and dishes. He honestly seemed as if this had never occurred to him before.

Don’t even get me started on paper plates. Continue reading

Monsanto’s Franken-foods and Patent Infringement

After my “Food: Preventative Medicine” post, I just had to weigh in on this story from NPR:

A New York federal court today dismissed a lawsuit against agribusiness giant Monsanto brought by thousands of certified organic farmers. The farmers hoped the suit would protect them against infringing on the company’s crop patents in the future.

The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association and several other growers and organizations do not use Monsanto seeds. But they were betting that the judge would agree that Monsanto should not be allowed to sue them if pollen from the company’s patented crops happened to drift into their fields.

Well, those farmers were wrong, now weren’t they? Continue reading

Lions, and Bobcats, and Bears, Oh My!

When I’m not obsessing over my decorating plans for the new house, I’m obsessing over mountain lions because…well…we got ’em. In case you haven’t heard the exciting/depressing news out of Connecticut, here’s a little synopsis: People in Greenwich reported seeing a Mountain Lion and eventually managed to get pictures and a big kitty stool sample to prove they weren’t mistaking bobcats or the neighbor’s golden retriever for a Cougar. Then, a few days after it was confirmed that there was, in fact, a mountain lion stalking the wealthy people of Greenwich, one was hit by a car on the Wilbur Cross Parkway in Milford (really pretty far from Greenwich).

Can you imagine looking out your window and seeing this?

Continue reading

Four Seasons

By David (MK), Flickr Creative Commons

As I was slip-sliding my way from the car to my house the other day, I started thinking about how much I couldn’t wait to see green again. I don’t hate the winter like many people — despite the dry skin, shoveling, and general inconvenience — and I can not imagine living in a place that did not have four distinct seasons. As I was cursing the ice, I was thinking about my favorite flower: the tulip.

I associate the tulip with the beginning of Spring. Sure, the crocus comes up first but it’s so low to the ground it’s easy to miss. The tall, showy tulip is out of its element in Connecticut — that’s for sure — but for me, it screams SPRING IS HERE.  Continue reading

A Good Way to Ruin a Saturday

I made the mistake of finally watching The Cove today.

I say “mistake” because it’s the kind of movie that leaves you feeling helpless, and full of despair. When you watch a movie like Food, Inc. at least you can change the way you eat and feel like you’re doing a small part. But if you don’t eat dolphin meat or visit dolphinariums, what is the average person supposed to do after watching a film like The Cove? Donate money, I guess. But before I do that, I’ve got to write about it.

It’s easy to romanticize dolphins (or whales, for that matter). They save lives, learn complicated sign-language, and are majestically beautiful. Dolphins, though, are part of a food chain like the rest of us. Most of the time, they’re at the top of that chain. But animals eat other animals and that’s the way it is. Orcas have been known to attack and eat baby blue whales during migration, and it’s hard to watch but it’s part of survival. Dolphins have even been known to kill other dolphins–though not for food. Continue reading

Ode to autumn…or fall…or whatever…

I always get reflective at this time of year. New England in September is, in my opinion, just about the most beautiful place on earth. The weather is as close to perfect as it gets: country fairs abound, farms scam you into picking their produce for them, and if you’re me you head down to the Old Cider Mill to stuff your face with apple fritters.

Usually, my friends, family, and the occasional blog reader are the only ones who have to listen to me wax poetic about my favorite season. This year, though, I got to harass WNPR listeners with my thoughts about sweaters and my beloved fritters thanks to my pals at the Colin McEnroe Show.

Sell Your Stuff! Buy a Tiny House!

bpf_original_playhouse-exterior_cover-horizontal_h-jpg-rend-hgtvcom-616-462I admit it. I’m a bad blogger… at least in my personal life. Between the full-time job, freelance assignments, and my side-projects it can be hard to muster up the energy (or subject matter) to post here regularly. But I can usually count on NPR to give me a little kick in the writing pants. This time it came in the form on “Tiny Houses.”

I have been on a “Stuff Boycott” for almost a year now. Basically, I have begged and pleaded with my friends and family not to give me what I refer to as “crap.” This includes but is not limited to: candles, books I won’t read, and knick-knacks. I have torn through my closet and dressers. I’ve gotten rid of clothing, old dishes, an arm chair and more stuff I just didn’t need. There are people all over CT getting use out of my old junk.  Continue reading

Can the Canned Sauce

Despite the blight I have got a ton of tomatoes; they aren’t mine, but I’ve got them. The other day my mom was at work and her farmer friend came in and said, “I have a few tomatoes for your daughter. I put them in your car.” She went out at the end of the day to find about 3 baskets of red, juicy tomatoes piled in her backseat.

The farmer probably doesn’t know this, but he’s basically saving my life. I’m convinced that if you ingest enough tomatoes, blueberries, and green tea that you’ll live to a ripe old age with vitality. The problem is, so many of these things are…well…gross come mid-winter. Fruit and veggies getting shipped across the country to Connecticut in January are less than appetizing, so one of the ways I combat this is by making tons of tomato sauce with the over abundance at the end of summer. This year, though, I’ve barely had enough tomatoes to make a single pot. Continue reading

Rocks Started the Civil War!

When I was in high school, I had a teacher who theorized that rocks were the cause of the American Civil War. His idea was simple: Northern soil is filled with rocks (hence all those stone walls you see everywhere) and therefore less suitable for farming. This caused the North to switch to an industrial economy as soon as it could, leaving the South to be the farmers, using slave labor.

Today, my mother, grandmother, brother, and I rototilled a little plot of land in my yard, and planted cutting and vegetable gardens. We also pulled enough rocks out of the ground to build low stone barriers around the garden. My poor brother was down in the  dirt with a shovel, pulling up rocks of all sizes for hours…and this was just for a small plot. Imagine plowing hundreds of acres with a mule and a shovel. No wonder people preferred to go to work in textile mills. Continue reading

Moving on up!

I am a restless soul…and therefore, I move a lot. I don’t always move far; I just like a change of scenery once in awhile. The problem with moving, though, is packing. It is just awful!

I’d love to be one of those people who can fit everything they own in their car (though I have to wonder where those people sleep…or even sit) but I’m just not. During the course of packing I’ve come up with three boxes, and a bag of stuff to donate. Once I’m on the other end of the move, I’ll probably get so frustrated by the stuff, I’ll find another box or two of crap to get rid of. Continue reading