Archive for November, 2011

“Blessed” is very much part of Southern vocabulary–sometimes with an explicit religious connotation but otherwise simply constituting a recognition of the many things we cannot take personal credit for but that enrich our lives deeply: the extraordinary beauty of our surroundings in Nelson County, the expanding web of friendship we’ve become part of, the  local knowledge and resourcefulness we’ve benefited from, and much more.  And at Thanksgiving this year, we felt blessed not only to have Nic and Alison, Tim and Megan, and my sister Eleanor with us, but be able to share in their impressively interesting and productive lives.

More of a surprise was the bonding that went on between Eleanor and our chickens, whom she was “meeting” for the first time.  Eleanor became the main egg collector, snack provider, and even poopy cleaner-upper for the time she was here, and she shared in the pleasure we take from simply sitting in the chairs alongside the outer pen and watching the antics and machinations of our flock of fourteen hens.

Our Thanksgiving turkey was an organically-raised and free range Midget White from Tall Cotton Farm (not that midget at twenty pounds), a breed we were surprised to learn has not only been rated as the best-tasting turkey by Mother Earth Magazine but was developed by a plant geneticist at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, from which Tim and Megan just received their Ph.D.’s in Computer Science.  We were joined at dinner by two local friends, Mikel and Linda, and it was a lovely time.  Later on, we introduced the kids to Recipe, a card game we’d learned down here from our (93 year-old!) friend and neighbor, Virginia Page, whom we also feel blessed to know.

click here for more Thanksgiving pictures

click here for a photo overview of  our 2011 veggie garden

Here in Virginia, it’s possible to have three consecutive but overlapping gardens:  Spring (March-June), Summer (July-September), and Fall (October-December).  The spring garden began with seeds under indoor grow lights in February, with outdoor transplanting and direct seeding in early March.  Harvesting of lettuce and  spinach began in mid-April and of snap, snow and garden peas, turnips, kohlrabi, swiss chard, collards and cool-weather herbs such as cilantro between mid-May and June.  Twenty-five pounds of seed potatoes were planted in the third week of  March for harvesting in mid-summer.  The spring garden iltself ends around the time of the harvesting of the garlic crop (planted the previous fall) in late June .

With the major exceptions of tomatoes and peppers, our summer garden is mostly planted from seed  in May.   Several varieties of squash, along with  cucumbers, herbs (particularly basil), edamame, Malabar Spinach, parsnips, bulb fennel, radishes, and bush beans are planted first, followed by pole beans once the pea harvest is over and trellis space is freed up.  Tomato seedlings were transplanted in mid-May and pepper seedlings shortly afterward. Garden space freed up by the garlic harvest made way for winter squash seeds in late June.

As summer plants died back in August, freed-up space was planted with a mix of seeds for the fall garden (turnips, kohlrabi, and for the first time, rutabega) and purchased seedlings (lettuce, chard, kale, collards), mostly harvested between October and early December.

What’s missing in the account above are the ways things didn’t always go as planned: rabbits eating all the edamame down to the ground, fungal diseases on most tomato plants which limited their productivity and eventually killed off many, problems with proper storage for the garlic crop, etc.  Taking these sorts of things into account, I’d grade my garden success with about a B for 2011–most things went well, but there were some notable problems.

For details that probably are mainly of interest to me as a record, you can click on the “more” tag below.



We were spared the recent nasty nor’easter that blanketed much of the northeast with snow and (thanks to our country’s antiquated infrastructure) knocked out power for almost three million people.  But a light snow did fall on the Blue Ridge around us, even though we’ve yet to get any where we live.  We’ve had a few light frosts, but no real killing frost yet.  We’re still getting collards, kale, chard, turnips, parsnips, kohlrabi and hardy herbs from our vegetable garden, with rutabega (a new crop for us) coming along.  When our pepper plants died back, our chickens were happy to gobble up the several dozen large but immature peppers still on them.