Sunday, February 21, 2016


Mailman just delivered my seed order for the new pepper patch. Growing peppers in our northern climate has been hit or miss for us. One year there are bright orange Scotch Bonnets, red cayenne and yellow banana peppers enough to last until next year’s crop. The following year just a few Jalapeños that we used before summer was gone. Being a lover of peppers both sweet and hot, I want a consistent, bountiful harvest.

Since we cleared an area to expand our garden this year, I marked off a six by twelve foot space to designate as the Pepper Patch. I turned soil, digging out stones large and small. I added top soil, compost and cow manure. A blanket of snow is covering the pepper patch all winter so the soil can absorb all the nutrients and be ready for planting this spring. I’ll add phosphorus and calcium to the soil when the seeds are planted to promote healthy growth.

My Pepper Patch varieties will run the gamut from sweet bells to fiery Habaneros, with a medley of varying heat and flavor choices in between. I have Jalapenos that will go into chili and stir fries. My favorite pepper, cayenne, is a little hotter than Jalapeños, and will go into just about everything that calls for a spicy essence. They’ll become the heat in my salsa and chutney. Check out the recipe for Peach Chutney at the end of the post. A new addition to the Pepper Patch is a Poblano that can be used for chili rellenos. At a pot-luck recently, I was served the most delicious rellanos that I
have ever eaten. This made me want to experiment to make my own. Once I get the hang of it, I’ll post a chili rellano recipe. Habanero or Scotch Bonnet peppers are among the hottest around and should be used only for the most daring appetites. Bell peppers are the most useful of all and go into a plethora of dishes.

Even though the weather is cold, my taste buds are hankering for some peppery flavor and heat. I’m looking forward to the time for planting pepper seeds. I’m looking forward even more to pepper harvesting and spicy culinary endeavors.


   8 large peaches, peeled and chopped
   2 inch piece ginger root, minced
   1 cup cider vinegar
   1 cup honey
   1 cayenne pepper, minced with seeds and ribs
                For milder taste, remove seeds and ribs
   ¼ tsp turmeric

Put all ingredients into a large pot
Bring to boil and reduce heat to low
Simmer for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally

Use on just about anything. Bon appétit.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Winter Feast From The Garden

This unseasonably warm, rainy December weather isn’t good news for my friends that make a living with their snow plows. Hey wild Bill, sorry about that idle plow. 

But just a few days before the new year, the temperature is nearly 50 degrees. I went out to the garden without a jacket to get some salad greens from the cold frames. The mache has been growing under the protective cover of the re-purposed windows. Our salads will be garden fresh well into January.

Last night’s rain washed the rest of the snow from the kale and carrot patches. Kale is very hardy and has a sweeter taste after a frost. The carrots were going to over-winter, but with the ground thawed, I was able to harvest a bowl full of small, very tasty carrots. 

Tonight’s dinner will be almost fully from the garden. The mache and carrots from today's garden forage will be in the salad, along with a few mushrooms. The kale, steamed with a little butter will grace our plates. Chicken, from birds we raised this summer, will be on the table. A glass of wine, and voila, a feast.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Garden Season MVP's

It’s September and seasons are winding down. In baseball, it's nearly playoff time. In the garden, some of our veggies have been picked clean, while others are ripening for fall harvesting.

The veterans, both in the garden and on the diamond, have produced with their usual consistency. Swiss chard and arugula are having their typical all-star seasons. The garden’s clean-up hitter is lettuce. The four varieties we planted in succession have been part of our every dinner since spring. We’ll still have plenty to share with our local food bank as the weather cools off.

Players may have an off year from time to time. Such was this season for our onions and summer squash. We’re not ready to cut them from next year’s line-up. We’ll work with them by adding lime to the onion patch and plenty of compost to the squash hills. Hopefully they’ll be back to all star form next season. Our plum tree, usually full of purple goodness, had nothing this year. We expect it to bounce back with it's usual fruitfulness next year.

It’s time to vote for the veggie most valuable player awards. The MVP's this year are basil and tomatoes. With four varieties of basil, pesto has been the star of the dinner table. The tomatoes are having one of the best years we've seen in some time. Lots of off season effort went into getting them ready. Seeds started indoors, with heavy doses of compost and fish emulsion, has them in very tasty form.

Every year we add new players to the Organic Veggie team. Some make their way into the regular crop rotation, while others are one and done. This year we gave yellow beets a try out. They ran away with the veggie rookie of the year award. They'll definitely be in the starting garden line-up next season.

After baseball’s world series, there's winter ball, keeping the season going all year long. Our cold frames are the garden diamond for mache, spinach and other cold-hardy veggies. These mini green houses keep our garden season going long after the end of the typical season. Kale is a winter favorite, having more flavor after a hard frost. We've been known to knock the snow off the kale in winter and steam it or add it to stews and stir-frys in January. 

The veggie spring training includes parsnips, asparagus and fiddleheads, ready to eat early, while the veggie veterans are being planted to get ready for next season’s pennant drive.

Baseball is still active in the winter. Teams make trades and draft players to improve the line-up for next season. The Organic team's personnel directors will be scanning seed catalogs and talking with other gardeners to compare techniques for garden success. There isn’t really an off-season in baseball. The same can be said about our garden.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

My Favorite Things

These are a few of my favorite things. No, I’m not breaking into a punk rock rendition of the classic Julie Andrews song from The Sound Of Music with slide guitar accompaniment.  

These are a few of my favorite flavor enhancing things: garlic, oregano and basil, oh my!

I pulled up the garlic and the fragrant bulbs are laid out to dry in the shed. All except for the one that will be in tonight’s cucumber salad. 

Last year’s garlic crop had braids hanging in the cellar until January. By planting 50 percent more this year, we should have garlic until next spring.

The first batch of basil is thriving. We’ve used it our green bean casseroles. It’s been in our salads and sauces. And the pesto has been fantastic- definitely one of my favorite things. 

We planted four varieties of basil this year. The Genovese basil is especially prolific and will be the star of the pesto show. Genovese basil is the usual variety you find in stores. The large, bright, green leaves are ideal for pesto, among other culinary endeavors.

Thai basil has smaller leaves and a more pungent aroma. This is the tallest variety in our basil patch. With a plethora of pungicity, thai basil livens up a chicken and veggie stir fry. 

The purple basil is just now getting ready to harvest. Same for the lime basil. Can’t wait to see how they spice things up. I'm looking forward to sampling some purple pesto.

We also have a second batch of basil with plants around an inch high right now. They were planted closely together, so a little thinning and transplanting is in order. A perfect transplant spot is the patch the garlic came from. Can’t have too much basil. 

The oregano is a perennial that keeps us in flavor year after year. A trip to the herb garden, a stalk of oregano is cut, and the leaves end up on the cutting board. Flavor is ready to jump into the pan.

Yes, these are a few of my favorite things. Seldom does a summer day go by without garlic, basil or oregano. Well, maybe I will belt out a little Sound of Music tune. Where’s that old guitar? -G.H.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

As Summer Begins, Flowers Spring into Bloom

Maiden's Blush rose
Apothecary Rose
Alba Alba Rose
Yellow Rose of Texas
Stella D'Oro Daylily
Mock Orange
Johnny Jump Ups

What's Happening with the Permaculture Orchard

Getting an orchard started in the woods has been a challenge. This was done a tree at a time as we added only one or two fruit trees each year. For each tree, it took a grubhoe to break through the thin but impenetrable layer of forest floor. Next, a hole was dug, another slow process as roots and rocks had to be contended with. Backfill took a large amount of compost. Each tree typically loved its new place while the roots enjoyed the amended soil. And then, after the first year each one of the trees stopped growing.
Looking down the slope from the grapevines: the fruit trees blend in with all of the other foliage.
So, forest floor between the trees was broken up with a grubhoe, and roots and rocks pried out. Again, lots of compost was worked into the infertile soil. Since, composted manure has been added each year. Using some of the ideas of permaculture, a variety of plants have been put in. 
Bee Balm is looking good.
Different plants are supposed to act as dynamic accumulators, provide mulching materials, or attract beneficial insects. The variety chosen for the area includes shrubs, edible perennials, ground covers, and flowering plants. Click here for a post on the orchard in 2012.

Murphy inspects the orchard from the berm of the swale.
Several years ago I made a swale, click here to read the post. It is now a pathway and a convenient place to toss branches and twigs fallen from nearby trees. Whether it functions as a permaculture swale, retaining moisture from rain and snow melt and gradually releasing it into the soil is anybody’s guess. We can only hope that this happens because it is too far to lug water to the orchard. The trees have to make do with moisture from rain or snow melt.
The pile of rocks from making the swale is now a stone wall.
Happy to say, the orchard is looking better this year. The plants under and around the trees are growing beautifully. No longer stunted, they are now growing to their normal heights. The fruit trees have new growth and their leaves look healthier.
Red clover and catnip look healthy.
Gardening is a process. This year I'm working along the edges of the orchard to try and get some flowers started. More process there's lots of rocks in the way! 
Comfrey is tall and flowering.
It is a challenge to start fruit trees in the woods. You might think they'd be right at home where other trees grow, but that is not the case. It appears that fruit trees are as fussy as garden vegetables. It took years to get those to grow too. Maybe one of these years we will pick fruit in our orchard. We are looking forward to that! -jmm

Sunday, June 22, 2014

You Are Invited!

There are many wonderful aspects to our efforts to pursue a healthy lifestyle. There’s the physical that involves planting, weeding and harvesting a garden. Determining what to grow, ordering seeds and drawing up plans to expand the garden are mental aspects. There’s a spiritual side with meditational walks in the woods with the dog. There’s also a societal role as we share our experiences with friends, and try to set a good example. And now, there is a bit of political activism.
Murphy loves going for a walk in the woods.
Awhile ago Marsha and I were discussing the Green Party and how its message seems to get little media attention. The question arose: “What is the Green Party doing?”  I felt compelled to turn this question around into another one, “What am I doing?” The Green Party is me. Waiting for others to act is not what I want to do. I’d prefer to take responsibility and be an example in both words and deeds.

Last saturday I attended the Maine Green Independent Party State Convention. So many like-minded people to be with! Besides seeing friends from all over Maine, there were talks about clean elections, food co-ops, peace action and other topics. Green Party candidates running for state and local positions spoke about their campaigns.

At the Green Party convention I was asked if I would accept a nomination to the State Party Steering Committee. After first declining due to lack of time, I recalled our conversation about who is doing what in order to promote Green Party ideals.  I decided not to wait for someone else to take responsibility, so I agreed to run. Bottom line; I was elected.

I came home from the convention and changed into my work clothes. I planted peppers and mulched squash. I fed the chickens and took a walk in the woods with our dog, Murphy. And i thought about being active politically. I thought I’d like to start some discussion here in my own town.

So, here’s what I’ll be doing. I’ll be hosting a talk to address the question: “What Is the Maine Green Independent Party?” There is a lot of disenchantment with the two-party system, and I want people to know that a viable alternative exists. If you’re in the Limerick area on July 24th, stop by the library at 7:00 p.m. to join us.

We’ll keep making plans to do more with the  garden. Yoga and meditating will continue to be a part of my daily routine. Nature will keep providing inspiration. And there will be some political activism. It feels like a healthy way to be. -G.H.