The view from here

The New U.S.D.A. Climate Zone Map

lavender hybrid gladioli in a cutting garden

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.

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New Year, New Microwave

There’s probably somebody somewhere who refers to them as “microwave ovens,” but I don’t know this person. Instead, I know several persons, all of them very good cooks, many of them with quite spacious kitchens, who refuse to have a microwave in the house. And I’m not talking about the health nuts. I’m talking about people who insist that microwaves are at worst the end of culinary civilization, at best yet more kitchen clutter, good for nothing except reheating coffee and making popcorn.

Well Pooey on that, as stepdaughter Celia used to say. I wouldn’t be without one and I’m not particularly gadget prone. In fact most of my cooking equipment is either


vintage stove, with cook

Bill manning the Strand Universal kitchen stove.

Or primitive

wood fired clay bake oven with stockpot and covered roast

The outdoor clay oven. Beans in the pot, pork roast in the pan, coals banked at the back to boost heat for the first few hours of cooking. The wooden door is lined with flashing to keep it from getting burned.

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Cooking Heritage Turkey For the Thanksgiving Feast

ceramic (majolica) gravy boat

A genuine heirloom (i.e. passed down through generations) turkey: my mother’s gravy boat. It has a matching ceramic ladle that broke about 15 years ago and has been in storage awaiting repair ever since. This speaks equally to my tendency to procrastinate and to the fact that said ladle, while cute, does not hold enough gravy to be practical.

In the edible bird department, some givens, about which more below:

1.) Like the proverbial yacht, if you have to ask how much a heritage turkey costs you probably can’t afford it.

2.) Buying a heritage turkey helps keep an endangered gene pool robust, so you get preservation points as well as a delicious dinner (assuming you cook it correctly).

I’m not in the yachting class and am already convinced on the deliciousness front, but I’m cooking two turkeys this year anyway, just for the sake of comparison.

One is a heritage bird from a farm about a half hour north of here, the other is an “organic, free range heirloom,” imported from Pennsylvania (about 5 hours south of here) by a specialty grocery. Although I haven’t cooked them yet, some things are already clear.

Those who simply want kitchen tips can go immediately to Roast Turkey 101.2 for general cooking hints and a recipe for wild mushroom stuffing. Guidance that’s specific to heritage birds is in the second part of  Wild Turkeys, Thanks But No Thanks. 

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Eek of the week: Pumpkin Style Pie Dessert

autumn leaves on forest floor

I would rather show you something that was pleasantly autumnal, so there will be no picture of the equally autumnal Eek. (The link to an easy recipe for old fashioned pumpkin chiffon pie is at the end of the post, should you wish to skip the horror and go semi-directly thence.)

Pumpkin Style Pie Dessert is a mix, brought to you by the folks at Jell-O, aka Kraft Foods, and it came to my attention because my local supermarket featured it on an end cap, exactly at eye level. Boxes and boxes and boxes of it, so it was at everybody’s eye level.

As “Pumpkin Style Pie Dessert” makes clear to the label savvy, there is absolutely no pumpkin – or any other fruit or vegetable (unless you count carrageenan) in it. Whether the non label savvy will be enticed by “flavored with natural cinnamon and ginger” is a near-existential question I don’t feel equipped to answer.

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Eek of the Week – Dyed Blue Orchid

dyed blue orchid

I first saw this thing around Easter time, took a photograph (finding it almost uniquely eekworthy), then realized I couldn’t excoriate it here because I’d forgotten to take a closeup of the label.

And when I went back it had disappeared.

Or so I thought. No such luck. It has returned. The greenhouse/nursery at Adams is a reputable outfit and has therefore posted a warning

warning sign for dyed orchid

But the distributors of this abomination

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Lois Dodd Show at Alexandre

Don’t miss it; it’ll dispel any late winter blues not yet banished by seed lists and garden plans. Admittedly, Lois is my dear friend as well as a major painter, but in this case that’s beside the point.

shadow of painter painting september light (Lois Dodd)

Lois in action, in more ways than one.

Whether you’re already a fan or not, you can learn a lot about how she works from this interview with John Yau (in the Brooklyn Rail), but you can also just cut to the chase and go see the show, at Alexandre Gallery in NYC until March 12.

Image: Shadow of Painter Painting “September Light,” 2009, oil on linen 32 x 50 inches

Eeek of the Week – Nuclear Sludge Toxic Waste Chew Bars

This may be another one of those deals like the single cup coffee pods, where everybody knows all about it but me. Nevertheless –  and notwithstanding some reservations about giving the things any more publicity –  I have to say that a candy bar called Toxic Waste Nuclear Sludge is just a little too ironic, even without its being manufactured in Pakistan.

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BPA- Free Canning Jar Lids

jars of home made jams and catsup

These aren’t they, but next year...

I’m not sure I’m really all that worried about it. Between the bacon and the barbeque we’re no doubt consuming enough carcinogenic material to make it a bit bogus to get all het up about the lids on the catsup – especially since after the jars are opened I  switch to one of my favorite products: plastic reusable caps like the one on the strawberry jam (reasonably easy to find although not, for reasons that elude me, available wherever canning supplies are sold).

Where was I?

About to say something about “better safe,” no doubt. BPA – free canning supplies do exist.

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Tomato Savings Time

farmstand tomatoes

A recent sighting at Schoolhouse Farm, in Warren, Maine

We grow a lot of the food we put by for the winter, so most of the relevant posts here start in our own back yard. But as I was just saying on the radio, you don’t need to have a garden to take advantage of seasonal abundance; there’s plenty of it at farm stands and farmers markets. And it’s a bargain. When the fields are yielding full tilt, locally grown produce is not only far more delicious than the stuff in the supermarket, it’s also far less expensive.

Seasonal, however, is the magic word; if you want to eat well in the winter you have to stock up when the stocking is good. It’s easiest if you have a big freezer but even if your freezer is small and already full of pizza and ice cream, saving great produce for winter is not difficult.

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Obama’s Apple Bowl – and The Apples All Around Us

apples: winesap top, stayman botom, pink lady right

Dear Mr. President, how about these? (Clockwise from top: Winesap, Pink Lady, Stayman

The President’s office has had the requisite makeover, pictures in the NY Post, story in the NY Times, reviews galore all over the net. Expect I’m not alone in agreeing with just about all of them, including both the snarky –  it looks like a business hotel; the rug is a tad obvious – and the sympathetic: it looks restrained and comfortable and anyway he can’t do anything too stylish when there’s a recession on.

He also can’t do anything even remotely interesting or he’ll just exacerbate the out-of-touch-with-regular-folks problem. But that’s neither here nor there. What I want to know is “what kind of apples are in that bowl of same gracing (if that’s the word) the jazzy new coffee table?”

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