Sunday, August 6, 2017

Company in the garden


Giant Swallowtail
Io moth caterpillar (?) on Carolina moonbeam baptisia

Cabbage butterfly on lavender 

cricket or katydid (?) on a Sweet Sammie daylily


Silver spotted skipper moth on beebalm

Bumblebee on beebalm


Everything sure goes to pot quickly in a garden when you go away for a week. But today wasn't too hot so I hauled tools and receptacles out to a section of the garden and got busy. 

Weeds got pulled, daylilies were deadheaded, spent plants were cut back and add to the compost pile.

I don't mind weeding when it isn't too hot or humid and one side benefit is meeting the creatures who keep me company there. A few, like a monarch butterfly,  were too quick for my camera, but here above is a sampling of who was working along side of me today. I am not a hundred percent sure of my identifications. Feel free to correct me where I may be wrong.

If I am right about the Io caterpillar and if you should also find one, please don't pick it up. The spiky bristles on Ios can cause a sting-like reaction. But they sure are handsome, nonetheless.

It's nice to see more bees this year. They were sparse in 2016, but more pollinators and a greater variety of them seem to be hanging out here this summer. 

What is missing from my garden in 2017 are toads and snakes. I think I have only seen two toads and not a single snake this year. I suspect the two things are related. Garter snakes eat toads and with almost no toads around, I guess there wasn't much to entice the snakes to hang out here.  I don't miss the snakes, thank you very much, but changes in my garden's ecosystem always make me worry and wonder why they have occurred. 

What changes have you noticed this year?


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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Isn't she lovely? The produce of our weekly Malta Ridge CSA











We are lucky to live in an area  where a few farms and small rural agri-businesses are still surviving, despite tremendous development pressures.  Just up the road from us is Malta Ridge Orchard and Gardens.  This spring, I bought a CSA share from them, or more precisely, a half-share.  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. When you become a member of a CSA, you are purchasing a “share” of the fruits and vegetables from a local farmer.  (Malta Ridge also sells egg and chicken shares, but I just bought the produce option.)

In addition to being close and convenient for us, Malta Ridge offers lots of choices, which makes their CSA program work well for me. Because they also have a farm store, I can pop in on "my" day and choose from among the fruits and vegetables on offer. For my half-share, I can take home eight items per week.  "One item" may be designated as three tomatoes, for example, or a bunch of carrots.

So what did I take home this week? 

  1. A large head of lettuce.
  2. A bunch of carrots.
  3. A bunch of radishes.
  4. Two onions.
  5. Three tomatoes.
  6. A head of cauliflower.
  7. Two yellow summer squash.
  8.  A pint of blueberries.
Plus, I still have a few potatoes, sweet potatoes and onions left from last week.

This is week four of my (half) share, which will run until the first week of November. It has taken me a couple of trips to the farm to work out a smooth routine, but I have it all down pat now. 

I carry the produce home in my market baskets, wash and trim things like the carrots, then add the trimmings to my compost bin. The baskets get a quick wash and I am all set until next week. 


Malta Ridge is in the process of selling its development rights, with the help of grants from New York State, Saratoga County, and the Town of Malta. This means the owners are ensuring that someone will always and forever be able to have a farm on those 132 acres. That is quite a blessing for those of us who live near by. 

Fresh, local, healthy, delicious, and forever a farm. What's not to like?


Find the Malta Ridge Orchard and Gardens store at 107 Van Aernem Rd. in Malta. They are off Malta Avenue, near Route 9, not far from Northway Exit 13. Their telephone number is 518 229-1255. They also have a Facebook page.

Want a few other suggestions for Saratoga and Washington County farm-related business you should check out? These are a few of my favorites.

Smith Orchard Bake Shop  (You will never bake another pie.)
4561 Jockey Street
Ballston Spa, NY 12020

Battenkill milk - sold in many places locally. Check their website. It's really good.

And did you know?  ALL of Stewart's milk, ice cream, and eggs are produced locally, from local farms. 

Please comment and share your favorites, too. Let's support our local farms and orchards!





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Sunday, July 2, 2017

A Family Fourth

July 4th, circa 1900, probably near Westmoreland, NY.  My grandmother is the young girl seated in a chair near the center of the front row.
My grandmother, Millie Stebbins, born Westmoreland, NY, 1888
The surviving grandchildren of Millie Stebbins Holmes, 4th of July celebration, 2017, in Londonderry, Vermont. Shown L-R: Barbara Coombs Conner; Laura (Laurie) Kinsley Drinkwater; Katherine (Katie) Kinsley Healey; Royal (Tad) Kinsley; Mary Coombs Cafarelli. (The eldest granddaughter, my sister Ruth Ann Coombs Longley, died in 2013.)


Some of the great-grandchildren of Millie Holmes on the Kinsley side.




















Ida Mae Specker

L-R: Randy Longley, elder son of  our late sister, Ruth Ann Coombs Longley, with Rebecca, Jeanine, and Mary Coombs Cafarelli.

My cousin Tad has owned Jake's Restaurant and Tavern in Londonderry, Vermont, since he was 22 years old.

Londonderry is a small town, and as in many communities in America, lots of folks come out for the annual Fourth of July parade. 

Tad usually hosts a post-parade bash at his restaurant and invites extended family to join the fun, this year once again with the live music of Ida Mae Specker.

On this parade day, all five surviving cousins were there, the grandchildren of Millie Stebbins Holmes. Our mothers, Henrietta Holmes Coombs and Jane Holmes Kinsley, were sisters, close in age and strong of will. All three of these women - grandmother, mother, aunt - had a great influence on us all.  We did a lot of remembering this weekend. 

By the time one reaches the ages we cousins are now, we have all endured some worries and bumps and blips and sadness. But these are the folks that you don't have to explain all that to. They know all about it and they love you and you love them right back. (My cousin Tad gives a world-class hug, by the way. He should bottle it and sell it.)

The tumult of the world right now, the sense of uneasiness that seems to hang over us all, makes a small town patriotic celebration all the more poignant. 

I think our mothers and grandmother would be ever so pleased to know that we cousins and siblings still feel the strength and comfort of the shelter of each other.

Happy Fourth of July, my dears. May our extended, blended families continue to celebrate together in small towns across America for another 117 years. 

xox



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Sunday, June 18, 2017

Happy Juneteenth!



Tomorrow is June 19th, or "Juneteenth", the oldest celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.

This weekend, many cities, including Albany, NY, held Juneteenth celebrations with food, music, entertainment, and other family-friendly events.


The story behind this celebration goes back to 1865.  It was on June 19th that Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that all former slaves were now free.

Want to know more? It just so happens that a close relative of mine wrote a book about General Granger back in 2013. Check it out on Amazon, here.  If you are a history buff, especially if you are interested in Civil War history, you should take a look. 

Happy Juneteenth!



Saturday, June 3, 2017

Garden news around these parts: Tours and sales and hummingbirds in my own backyard (edited)




Overcast! Oh, yes it is, again! So cool and gray this spring has been. Very like English weather. At least in our yard, this has thrown off bloom times. Until yesterday, I had not seen any returning hummingbirds, where as in most years, they would have been here and happily darting about from blossom to blossom by now.

But last evening, I did spot a couple, zooming around in the near-dusk. They seemed frantic, even by hummingbird standards, going to places in our garden where, normally, plants would be in bloom: clematis, trumpet vine, peonies. But although there are buds on those plants, the hummingbirds were finding little to sip there.

I quickly boiled up some sugar water (see how to do that, here) cooled down the nectar, then rinsed out the feeder and filled it up. I hung it out last night, just before 8:00 PM, hoping the hummingbirds would find it in the morning. 

And they have.  Even bleary-eyed as I was making coffee, I quickly noticed their comings and goings at dawn this morning. It took them no time at all to find the feeder. I guess they were hungry. (Sorry, no actual hummer photos: They are too quick and my camera is too humble.) Later edit: Despite my lack of sophisticated camera gear, I was later able to get the somewhat blurry photo, above, of one of my hummingbird visitors this afternoon.

If you have never fed hummingbirds before, please do a little reading before you start. Usually, I only feed them in the spring, as it can be a challenge to keep the nectar from becoming rancid once the weather becomes very hot. But my theory is, now is when they really need the help. By midsummer, there is much more nectar available from natural sources and they don't need the feeder then.


Yeah, about that weather forecast.


Today was supposed to be sunny. Looks cold and gray to me. (Sigh.) Eat up, little hummers, and keep warm as best you can.
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 Alas, the wet spring has been a challenge for sellers of plants this year. But you can take advantage of resulting special deals, such as at Fiddlehead Creek Native Plant Nursery, one of my favorite plant sources in this region. These next two Fridays and Saturdays, they are having a huge sale - all stock is buy one, get one free. The nursery will be open for retail sales for only four more days this spring, starting June 2 and 3, and then June 9 and 10. Their hours are 9-5 all four days. After that, the nursery is open by appointment only.  Find Fiddlehead Creek nursery in beautiful Washington County. Their address is 7381 State Route 40, Hartford, NY 12838.

It is getting to be the season for garden tours. There are two good ones coming up that you can buy tickets for right now. Check out Historic Albany's 2017 House and Garden Tour

Center Square Association, Hudson/Park Neighborhood Association and Historic Albany Foundation are proud to present the annual Hidden City House & Garden Tour on Thursday, June 22 from 5:00 - 8:00 p.m. Every year, this tour brings the neighborhood to life as homeowners open their doors and gardens to the public. Guests are able to tour, at their leisure, the beautiful and historic homes and hidden gardens that make up the Center Square & Hudson/Park neighborhoods. This year we'll also feature Pine Hills.

The link for tickets is here: http://www.historic-albany.org/hgt/ 

And another favorite, the 23rd annual Secret Gardens Tour presented by Soroptimist International of Saratoga County, is coming up on Sunday, July 9, from 11 AM to 5 PM. From their promotional information:

This year, we are featuring an eclectic mix of 11 private gardens in and around Saratoga Springs. From homes on North Broadway, to a cluster of in-city yards, to a handful of suburban secrets, the gardens are a mix of styles and sizes, in both sun and shade, sure to inspire garden lovers of every level.



One cautionary note from me: Garden tours of private homes and spaces may have accessibility issues. You should be aware that there may be stairs, slippery places, narrow and uneven footpaths, lots of walking. Before you set off with your aged aunt or strollers full of wee bairns, you might want to call ahead for advice and details. (Trust me on this.) And please, do NOT bring your dogs.






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