Archive for October, 2008

Never Too Many Peonies – Just Too Many Choices: tips for making smart selections

Our Hudson Valley house came with a lot of heirloom peonies buried in the weeds and shade, so many huge old root masses that after rescue and division we had enough to string them all along the front borders of the vegetable gardens: 100 running feet of peonies, divided in half by a grassy path roughly 6 feet wide.

I'm standing at the halfway point

I'm standing at the halfway point

It’s wonderful to be able to pick andpick  without making a dent.

Only part of the morning harvest

Vincent ignoring part of the morning harvest

But it’s slightly less wonderful to have the overflow using up a non-trivial chunk of the fenced space that should be devoted to food.

peonies in the vegetable garden

After all, one of the things that’s great about peonies is that deer really do seem to leave them alone. So this year, finally, we’re movin’ ‘em on out. And I’ve bought new different peonies to plant closer to the house. Read More…

Mushrooms of Autumn: The complex Honey

Another in the wild mushroom series from Bill Bakaitis, who is really warmin’ up to this. It’s a little different from the others in that it’s a primer on a mushroom I’m not crazy about, but plenty of other people like them (especially people from Eastern Europe), and a honey mushroom lover sings their praises at the very end of the post.

Mushrooms of Autumn: The complex Honey

story and photos by Bill Bakaitis

Mowing our lawn in New York a few days ago I was impressed by the number of Honey mushrooms that had sprung up. They seemed to be everywhere. Although Leslie and I do not eat them, many do, and from the Poison Control calls that come in at this time of year, we know that they cause problems for a number of people. It therefore seems appropriate to mention them in this treatment of Autumn Mushrooms. Here then part of the complexity of Honeys.

Armillaria mellea, The Honey Mushroom, yellow form

Armillaria mellea, The Honey Mushroom, yellow form

Read More…

“Global warming” – bad; Cream of (wild) Mushroom Soup – good

Another piece of not-exactly amazing news: being physically warmed up – by holding a hot drink, for instance – makes people feel more warmly toward others, more generous, more tolerant, while getting chilled – by holding a coldpak, for instance – has the opposite effect. You can read all about it here or here.

And then you can be sorry all over again that “global warming” has gotten established as the shorthand for catastrophic climate change. Warm is a hugely positive word, as others before me have been pointing out for some time. If you’re trying to sound the alarm about human-caused atmospheric changes that have enormous downsides (flood, drought, and biblically destructive storms, for starters), using a word that’s more or less synonymous with “good” is probably not such a great idea.

Same problem with undifferentiated “climate change,” given that – as you may have heard lately – change can be something desirable.

frost didn't take the cosmos until well into October

frost didn't hit the cosmos until mid-October, two weeks later than usual

Do I have a solution? Not for for the main problem, and not (at least so far) for what to call it. But for the keep yourself feeling warm part, can’t beat

Cream of (wild) Mushroom Soup

Rich in flavor but comparatively light in texture, a redemption of the genre. Also – if you tweak it a bit – a redemption of any recipe that has canned cream of mushroom soup on the ingredient list.

Read More…

Eek of the Week – landscape architecture division

Home Depot,  Rockland Maine

Fortress Home Depot, Rockland Maine

At first this seemed to need no comment but once I decided to give it an eek I realized that anymore I just drive on by, seeing it without seeing it. Not good, really, no matter how self-preservational. If eyesores don’t keep on right on hurting as many people as possible, they’re going to keep right on getting built.

Fall Lawn Care – the Leaf Issue

Useful things to remember:

* Heavy leaf fall must be raked from lawns or the grass will be smothered.

* Chopped leaves make terrific winter mulch for shrubs (whole leaves can pack down and suffocate roots). They also make ideal all-purpose compost after they’ve decomposed. Leaves can be chopped with a lawnmower if you don’t have a garden chipper/shredder.

* Chopped leaves rot more quickly than whole ones but still take quite a while to compost unless mixed with a nitrogen source.

* Grass clippings are very high in nitrogen.

Thing to do:

one-shot mowing and leaf sweeping

one-shot mowing and leaf sweeping

Mow with the bagger on. Read More…

Bringing the Houseplants Back Inside, including the Begonia fuchsioides

I’m lucky – there’s help. Always a good thing and especially a good thing when there are a lot of large plants and rather a lot of window surface.

Window surface?

You betcha. This is not about housekeeping points; cleaner they are, the better for the plants. It’s amazing how much light can be blocked by even a light coating of dust.

Bill clowning around with the equipment.

Bill clowning around with the equipment. ( Myself I wouldn't put the anti-static glasscloth in my mouth. But I would have it in hand - very useful)

It’s also nice to have someone who can do the heavier lifting.

the invaluable Kristi Niedermann's back - and I do mean both

the invaluable Kristi Niedermann's back - yes grammarians, I mean both of them.

The awkward, @ 15 pound pot is about at the height of my chin. I could have dealt with it by myself but I’m glad I didn’t have to.

Kristi and begonia, front view

Kristi and begonia, front view

That’s a Begonia fuchsiodes, named for the drooping, fuchsialike flowers.

begonia fuchsioides in red. It also comes in pink.

begonia fuchsioides in red. It also comes in pink.

Read More…

The Mushrooms of Autumn: Blewits

Much as I love Blewits, one of the greatest wild mushrooms of any season, I’ve never gotten around to doing more than throwing in a mention when talking about fall bulb planting. This omission is now remedied. Our resident wild mushroom expert explains all in


by Bill Bakaitis

In the Northeast autumn leaves start to fall shortly after the equinox. This colorful event takes over a month and a half to complete, during which time the fungi of the forest floor will become increasingly difficult to see. If you are after fall mushrooms you will want to get out now, before they are completely hidden by this new leaf fall.

Early autumn on the mushroom trail

Early autumn on the mushroom trail

In a good year, like this one, autumn will begin with a tropical storm. The organic matter from the previous fall which has lain crisp and dry under the summer’s heat will revive becoming soft, moist and fragrant. In the days after the storm the air will hang hush and humid, languid with the last hot breath of summer.

Read More…

Just Get a Peep at Those Leaves

What’s to say? This is a GREAT year (in the Northeast, anyway). Yesterday’s drive up what might be called the still wonderful part of Mr. Roosevelt’s Taconic parkway – from Salt Point to the end at Highway 90 – was a solid hour of heartstopping beauty, a gift in a hard time. It’s happening everywhere there are deciduous trees; don’t get so down you miss it.

looking north on the Taconic in Columbia county

looking north on the Taconic in Columbia county

Eek of the Week – and a recipe for Prunes in Armagnac.

I love the deep smoky sweetness of prunes – less cloying than dates, more rounded than apricots – and am a sucker for things like devils on horseback (prunes wrapped in bacon), spiced roast duck legs with prunes, and prunes soaked in Armagnac, one of the world’s best instant desserts, especially over ginger ice cream.

But most of the time I snack on them plain, which presumably makes me the target market for

the newest in prune packaging

the newest in prune packaging

Plastic canisters filled with individually packaged prunes, each prune in its own private wrapper. What a brilliant idea! Why carry snack prunes in a dedicated plastic sandwich bag, using it over and over, when instead you could be making a big contribution to your local landfill? As a bonus, you get to pay almost twice as much for exactly the same prunes.

That’s hard to believe, but having been stewing about this for some time I checked again yesterday and sure enough: Bulk conventional pitted prunes from Adam’s in Poughkeepsie, NY –  $3.50/lb. Individually wrapped “Ones” from the Stop and Shop roughly 1.5 miles away – $ 2.99 per container, aka $ 6.83/lb.

Ok. The recipe for PRUNES IN ARMAGNAC, a duo invented in Southwest France, famous for both pruneaux d’Agen and the ardent spirit that could be described as Cognac with balls. Read More…

the recipe for Wild Mushroom and Caramelized Onion “Focaccia”

Cut in quarters and slice to serve

Cut in quarters and slice to serve

Here as promised in Bill’s how to find wild porcini post, is the recipe for Wild Mushroom and Caramelized Onion “Focaccia. ” The quotes are because I’m pretty sure real-deal focaccia is always plain bread with topping and this has many chunks of wild mushroom mixed into the dough. It can also have sundried tomatoes and olives, if you don’t like – or don’t have – mushrooms. Instructions for both after the jump.

Read More…