Archive for August, 2009

Weather Forecast: Dubious

3:50 PM Saturday 8/29.

It’s pouring here in Cushing, Maine. It has been pouring for hours. It seems likely from looking at the radar that it will continue to pour for several hours more. And how does the weather site describe conditions, the very same weather site that has the radar on it?

” 53.3 °F   Overcast”

Overcast? Overcast? On what planet…

Not that it matters, but it does make you wonder.

Cucumbers, Really a lot of ’em, and the World’s Easiest Pickles (or Salad)

“Really a lot” is really the right number because I’m doing a mega-testing of vegetable varieties and Rob Johnston (thanks, Rob!) has given me access to the trial fields at Johnny’s Selected Seeds. Combine that with help from Steve Bellavia, Johnny’s Vegetable Product Manager, and from Vegetable Product Technicians Andrew Mefford and Lauren Saraiva and what do you get? Among many other things, 34 varieties of cucumbers.

Cucumbers in the foreground, peppers (to come) in back

At Johnny's trial fields. Cucumbers in the foreground, peppers (to come) in back

There’s a different variety every 10 feet

and on each plate ( only a few shown here).

and on each plate ( only a few shown here).

Sample slices were taken from large and small fruits, from the blossom end and from the middle. Result in addition to many tasting notes: pounds and pounds of cut cucumbers that needed to be used up right away.

Easy PICKLESALADRELISH to the rescue.

Easy PICKLESorSALAD to the rescue.

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Headline of the Week

in case the front page fare  has got you down:

Nut House Reclaims Mounted Gorilla

Kind of a nice story, actually, about Perry’s Nut House, a time-honored Tourist Attraction on US route 1, just north of Belfast, Maine. From the Bangor Daily News (free stuffed into your mailbox edition of 9/20/09.)

OLD FAITHFUL, The Little Black Dress of Chocolate Cakes

Old Faithful got its name by being a never-fail. It always comes out delicious – even when it isn’t textbook perfect – and it’s very chocolate. I’ve been making it for years and was reminded to put up the recipe when Emma came for an overnight and wanted to do some cooking. Just made one the other day and was reminded again… this may not seem like baking weather but people continue to be fond of cake.

 Emma learning the toothpick guide trick for splitting layer cakes

Emma learning the toothpick guide trick for splitting layer cakes

This person somehow became 16 when I wasn’t looking (or teaching her to cook), so we made roast chicken and chocolate cake, on my theory that armed with these two she would be ready for anything.

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Managing Late Blight Organically

Is probably impossible, but after losing all the tomatoes in New York, we’re trying to see if at least one of the Maine tomato patches ( 2 outdoors, one under plastic) can pull through and produce.

Organic management tools include:



Being There

Being Careful

Being Realistic

Being fond of cherry tomatoes

And perhaps most importantly, Being a procrastinator – at least in our case… If I’d done all the tomato grafting I’d planned to do, there wouldn’t have been any leftovers in the greenhouse.

 Tomato plants in the greenhouse have so far escaped the blight.

Tomato plants in the greenhouse have so far escaped the blight.

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New Site = a few little glitches

That are being worked on.


Setting the bookmark to Recent Articles will land you on the blog itself  instead of the welcome page. Takes Over, Bringing Along an Upgrade

When I started writing this thing I had no idea where it would lead. Still don’t. But I do know it’s high time to make the site more useful and that’s what I hope we’ve* done.

Posts are now filed by general interest in the banner categories, indexed by both subject and title and searchable by keyword, so you can find what you’re looking for quickly or browse to your heart’s content. Labels are self-explanatory except for Eek of the Week.

That’s for products and designs so crashingly ill-advised they do make me want to cry out. Title notwithstanding, EOTW is occasional; if I really saw eekworthy things weekly I’d be too depressed to write about them.

More new features are in the works and will be debuting shortly, so please keep an eye out for them. Glitches galore are inevitable, so please let me know about them. And please feel free to make suggestions. The work I’ve done all my life is known as service journalism and that’s not an idle promise.

* We are me and Drake Creative : Alex Tuller and Dean Temple, the brilliant ( and very patient) designers who dragged me – kicking and screaming – into putting a blog on my original website. They are to this enterprise what Kristi is to the Maine garden: absolutely essential. To say I couldn’t do it without them is the understatement of the Western World.

Blight, Rust, Mold, Rot, Slugs, Snails and Earwigs

are all the wages of a wet summer, but the greatest of these is Late Blight. Our resident mycologist has the scientific perspective – and as he is also our tomato maestro, a very heavy heart. Here is his report on the New York garden, with a full explanation of the disease and how it spreads:


By Bill Bakaitis

I was in Maine when the word came in: Late Blight was laying waste to tomato fields in the Hudson Valley.  Oh, say it ain’t so I pleaded.  Leslie and I had been extra cautions this spring in starting from seed, setting out, cultivating, and protecting our tomatoes, fifty or so plants of some twenty or so varieties, mostly open pollinated heirlooms. They were specially grown from selected seed in our own greenhouse and in another in Maine; some heirlooms were painstakingly grafted onto disease resistant rootstock. The spacing was good. The plants were held up by a twine-between-post well-ventilated system, the ground carefully mulched with bright straw over paper, and all the lower branches were removed so as to exclude the transmission of soil borne pathogens. In addition the plants had been treated with Bacillus subtilis (Serenade tm) to protect against fungal infection. Say it ain’t so I prayed as I piled into the car and raced home through a driving rainstorm, thick as I had ever experienced.

But it was so.

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