The view from here


Leslie’s friends and frequent users of this Blog might like to know of the following developments concerning the archiving of Leslie’s written work and of her gardens.


Leslie’s papers are being preserved at The Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University. The Schlesinger houses the collections Culinary Historians as well as of noted American Women. Here Leslie will take her place alongside Julia Child, Betty Freidan and others. From their records, it appears to me that the Library became interested in obtaining Leslie’s papers as far back as 1985.

In today’s age the term “papers” designates far more than what we assumed in times past. As many writers of her age, Leslie’s words and ideas were recorded by an increasingly complex array of modalities from handwritten entries on scraps of paper, in notebooks and journals, typewritten script, through iteration upon iteration of word-processing machines and digitally processed computer files with differing formats and storage systems, to various email, audio video, social media and associated interfacing programs. Even the website you have accessed here and on which you are reading these words has been ‘captured’ by the Library.

Being an inveterate collector, record keeper and historian, as you might imagine, Leslie saved everything.

Over the past six years, from our two houses, two barns and two sheds, I have been prying these documents from the shelfs, closets, drawers and desks, annotating what I could when I thought it appropriate, and sending the collection off to the Schlesinger. Technologically savvy Librarians from area Colleges helped in condensing the digital records from various computers and hard drives. To date, 27 boxes have been sent off. The annotated inventory record itself runs to 37 pages. For me, it was a help to have previously worked as a research assistant at The University of Chicago Law School Library when it came to making decisions as to what might be worth saving or annotating.

Additional material may be added as it becomes available. If you have personal correspondence with Leslie or other material which you would like to add please contact Kathryn Allamong Jacob, Curator of Manuscripts at the Library.

At the Schlesinger, only a small part of the collected papers has as yet been digitized and catalogued. Those currently available can be found via their HOLIS Search at,contains,Leslie%20Land&tab=everything&search_scope=everything&vid=HVD2&lang=en_US&offset=0


Leslie’s Gardens have been modified and maintained. In both the New York and Maine Gardens, the emphasis has moved from select plots of edibles tested for their hardiness and flavor to perennial plantings with more a sculptural aspect.

Maine, in particular, where excellent organic produce is readily available, has seen the most obvious changes. Following the trends and plans that Leslie initiated prior to her death, the dominant theme here has been to focus on perennials:

Celia and Ursula surrounded by perennial plantings in the Upper Garden

Celia and Ursula surrounded by perennial plantings in the Upper Garden

Everywhere there is more open space, the vistas are longer, more expansive, the view towards the water has opened up.

The Lower Perennial Garden, once vegetables, with vistas toward the St. Georges tidal river.

The Lower Perennial Garden, once vegetables, with vistas toward the St. Georges tidal river.

In New York the emphasis has been on flowers.

New York side garden with Eucomis, canna, and goldenrod set amongst perennial shrubs.

New York side garden with Eucomis, canna, and goldenrod set amongst perennial shrubs.

At times a Mother/Daughter team has run the main gardens here for their Herb and Flower Business. The soil continues to be amended annually via organic sustainable techniques and produces far beyond the expectations of first time users of this garden. Once a railroad bed, the soil is now double dug deep and of a rich loamy composition.

The main New York Garden, south plot. Once a Railroad, the soil is now deep dark and productive, overflowing with flowers.

The main New York Garden, south plot. Once a Railroad, the soil is now deep dark and productive, overflowing with flowers.

The one area which I have yet to resolve is the disposition of Leslie’s private Library. Stretching over 100 linear feet, her collection of agricultural, culinary, and related references represent a highly curated selection which informed her work and life. I am loath to break it up thinking, as I do, that the integrity of the collection is worth more than the sum of its parts, but to date I have not found a home for this resource. I would welcome any suggestions you might have. This website will continue to be maintained.

On a related note, you might wish to know that Lois is doing well and continues to garner wide recognition for her painting. Other artists continue to come by to paint and play in the gardens, and Kristi continues on as my master gardener, knowing much more than I, and retaining a clear memory of what Leslie intended, reprimanding me when I deviate too far from those plans.

As for me, the gardens, the writings, the lives together remain as a clear message and living testament, even as I move on, to what I learned from Leslie: One’s life is One’s work. It is all there is, the sum and substance of our time here on earth. We plant the seeds, separate from the sprout the weeds which rob from the promise, cut away the disease which eats at the heart, where possible prune away the distracting, the disturbing, the untruthful. “Edit,” as she would say. What remains is the essence; the essence of the fruit, of the life – the sole purpose of which, once savored, is to be returned again to the soil as compost for the future. It is a cycle repeated as time itself repeats, for time reveals us all as compost; the green fuse, the fruit forced firm and full, the memories fermenting in the firmament.

Who tends this space?

The wind blows, the bough bends,
Ashes lie in the garden.

Without discrimination,
The summer’s sun pushes both
rose and rust to ruination.

Bill Bakaitis December 2019

Leslie Mann Land, 1947-2013

Leslie Land 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:
Here »
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.

Leslie LandThis 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.

* Separation

— Bill Bakaitis August 18, 2013

Choosing A New Toaster – Need Help!

long slot toaster

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.

Read More…

False Alarm

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.

blooming bromeliads

here are some lovely bromeliads I’m struggling to custom size to our accustomed size.

Lois Dodd – Catching the Light

lois dodd in Maine studio

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.

Read More…

Lois Dodd and Her Students – Firehouse Center, Damariscotta, Maine, August 4th – September 14th


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.

On Starting a Garden

truck garden

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.

Read More…

Magnolias, Maple Syrup and Climate Change

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.

blooming pink  magnolia (soulangeana)

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.

frost damaged magnolia soulangeana

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.

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To Find Ramps

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.

(Allium triquitum) ramps, growing in the woods

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:

  1. Is the worry about over-harvesting* justified? And
  2. Is it possible to formulate a general rule for the ethical enjoyment of foraged wild foods?

Read More…

Building an Outdoor Bread Oven – Part Two

outdoor bread oven

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.”

Read More…