The view from here
Leslie’s obituary in the New York Times was written by her longtime friend in the publishing world, Denise Martin, with assistance by Charles Klaveness, her favorite editor at the Times and can be found here »
The obituary prepared for the Camden Herald in Maine was written by Nancy Harmon Jenkins with assistance from Sandy Oliver, two thirds of The Penobscot Bay Lady food Writers Association and can be viewed here »
At the time of this writing two articles of her passing have been published:
and here »
At least one other is being prepared for the Camden Herald/Village Soup.
In response to the Press Herald blog post, the root above, I responded with the following:
Indeed Leslie did live more in a day than even I, her husband, was aware. Together, for a quarter century, we shared the daily rituals of food, gardening, mushrooming, philosophy, politics, taxonomy, struggles with the various illnesses which have plagued our bees, our tomatoes, and crops in general. And yet, she continually surprised even me. Life with her was profoundly rich.
She was luxuriant, perhaps even extravagant with her approach to both food and gardening. She always wanted enough in the garden and refrigerator so that she could experiment, plan, compare and develop beyond the ordinary. Just as Americans in general have the most expensive pee in the world, thanks to our copious vitamin intake, I think Leslie may have had the most expensive compost.
There was an abundance to her life which filled our houses and lives to the fullest. In our New York (winter) home we have two freezers, two refrigerators, a cold room, greenhouse and several pantries which overflow with food that she has gathered from the garden, collected from the forest and field, or purchased from local and exotic purveyors. These ingredients are, of course, the raw materials and colors from which she created the ever increasing richness of her preparations. And yet, at base, it was always fresh, pure, and simply satisfying. I believe it was Edgar Alan Bean, another food writer who years ago described Leslie as having ‘perfect taste’, comparing her to musicians who had ‘perfect pitch’.
Even now that she has passed our houses and gardens overflow with her presence. In one distant corner of our NY garden , for example, are three tomato plants grown from seed which for the past three years has been collected and grown out from the best of the ‘long keeper’s’ of one particular and tasty variety. This is but one of the 30 or more varieties of tomatoes she grows and tests every year, both in New York’s Hudson Valley and Coastal Maine – so that she can compare the interactions of micro-climate and variety on taste, texture, and overall plant health.
As it was with food and gardening, Leslie applied the same lawyerly analytics and tender sensibilities to everything she approached and, as Sharon so accurately captured she filled the pages of her books and blog with wit, wisdom and insight. She was always a hard act to follow. Bright, honest, caring, loyal, the brightest person I have ever met and best friend one could ever have.
She will be missed by many.
This Website and Blog will be maintained for the resource that Leslie intended it to be. In time I will attempt in some minimal way to learn enough to ‘manage’ it, although I will never know enough to do it with the richness you have come to expect.
Between here and there, however, there are her gardens in the Hudson Valley and Coastal Maine to see through to harvest; weeds to be pulled, tomatoes picked, savored and processed, corn to be guarded, flowers dead-headed, mushrooms gathered, records kept.
With her passing, the words of the poet W.S. Merwin* flood my being:
Your absence has gone through me
Like thread through a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
— Bill Bakaitis August 18, 2013
Behold our beloved old toaster.
“Beloved.” Not an adjective I’d have used until about a week ago, when I started trying to find another one like it.
As even the blurry photo shows, age has cracked the top and dulled the plastic, so although it’s still fully functional it isn’t exactly a thing of beauty. Never was. But it’s not exactly ugly, either. And more to the point, it’s very well designed.
or more accurately, false alert.
My struggles to learn how to post from my ipad seem to have resulted in the publication of a test post I did not intend to publish. So I unpublished it. Unfortunately, not before the word went out there was something new to enjoy. Please stay tuned for an exciting report from zone I think it must be 10 down here.
here are some lovely bromeliads I’m struggling to custom size to our accustomed size.
I see Lois Dodd’s back a lot. Light comes into her barn studio through the same door I do, so she’s very seldom facing it.
Portland, Maine: Last evening was almost balmy, this morning, not so much and tomorrow here comes the snow, more of it back down in the Hudson Valley than up here right by the coast, if the forecast proves accurate.
What am I doing in Maine in the winter, after so many years away? I’m taking a small part in the opening festivities for my neighbor Lois’ retrospective at the Portland Museum of Art.
The show’s title, Catching the Light, is a good description of her skill, or perhaps more accurately her very raison d’etre. But years of watching her at work, preparing to work, knocking off for the day and otherwise living the daily life of a painter have me firmly convinced that she wouldn’t be interested in catching it if it hadn’t caught her first.
It’s going to be a humdinger – as anyone who knows Lois and her work, as a painter and as a teacher, will have no trouble believing. There are probably thousands of artists who have profited by her influence. This show, at the Falcon Foundation’s Firehouse Center, is a selection of work from forty (40!!) of the best, including sculptors as well as painters, just to keep things interesting.
Our garden is big. Yours doesn't have to be to yield lots of great food and flowers
I did not hear this in person. Bill did (on Marketplace Money on NPR last Friday). But he couldn’t resist telling me about it, chortling loudly the while.
As well he might. According to him, a garden advisor – whose name he didn’t catch – had pronounced that “if you can’t keep your room swept, you shouldn’t try to garden.”
This struck me as so wildly improbable I thought he must have heard wrong, so I looked it up.
No news that the weather is pretty strange lately and that includes in the Hudson Valley, where we’re amassing broken records at a record-breaking pace: the hottest March, the hottest first quarter, and most recently, the hottest April 15th, when it was 91. Another all-timer (at least at our house) is the annual magnolia trashing, this year the earliest by a country mile.
Magnolia in usual late April mode
The pattern itself is always the same: 1) multi-week warm spell, 2) magnolia blooms, 3) seasonally-appropriate frost comes, 4) flowers turn brown. But it used to happen between late April and early May. Then the whole sequence moved back to April.
In 2012, all March. Bloom started around the 10th and was thoroughly whacked when the temperature dropped to 25 degrees on the night of the 26th.
April 18th, three weeks and change after the frost - just a few late-opening dots of pink.
Meanwhile, the combo of February and March was the 3rd driest on record and April is not shaping up well.
I could go on, among other things airing the usual caveat that this is weather, not climate. But I’d rather cut to this not-climate’s effect on the maple syrup industry, as described in the crop reports written by Arnold Coombs, a seventh generation maple syrup producer and packer in Vermont.
Or not to find ramps – that is the question. More accurately, since simply finding them is fine, should one or should one not harvest them and if the answer is “Yes, they’re delicious!” at what point, if any, does the answer become “No, they’re endangered!” or again more accurately (and the reason for all this dithering), “No, they’re in danger of becoming endangered if people keep picking them at the current rate.
Ramps (Allium tricoccum) at home in typical habitat
We regularly hunt for and pick them, trying to be responsible about it. We frequently cook and eat them in season, trying not to be too piggy about it. And I, at least, have two sub-questions:
- Is the worry about over-harvesting* justified? And
- Is it possible to formulate a general rule for the ethical enjoyment of foraged wild foods?
In some ways this is really Part One, because although Bill’s set of instructions for building your own wood burning oven is thorough enough, the inspirational ovens of his childhood got only fleeting mention when he wrote it.
Now, thanks to the comments section, the story has its start. A simple query (from a fellow Lithuanian) has summoned those missing memories: of the outdoor brick ovens built by the southern Italians on Bill’s mother’s side, and of his apprenticeship with Willie Orban, his Lithuanian Godfather, who ran “the largest and the best bakery in town.”
Zone 6 zone denial tip: standard hybrid gladioli are reliably hardy only to zone 9 - or 8b, maybe - but if you have well drained soil, plant them 5 or 6 inches deep and mulch heavily in fall (in this case before the ground freezes), there’s a good chance they’ll come back.
By now you’ve probably gotten the word: the long awaited, massively updated USDA Climate Zone map, the first revision since 1990, has finally arrived. And – insert giant snarky “this is news?” – it shows large swaths of the country have moved up at least a half zone.
In 1991, when I got together with Bill and began gardening in the Hudson Valley, I could joke that my new life didn’t net me a single climate zone, even though the NY garden is about 300 miles southwest of the one in Maine. Until a couple of weeks ago, they were both in zone 5b. Now, while New York remains 5b – by the skin of its teeth, from the looks of things – Maine has been promoted to 6a.