Know Your Farmer!

vegetable garden in VirginiaIn Virginia, mister gardener nourished us all summer with the freshest vegetables and fruits from his garden… a true slow food movement in our own backyard. He was also the main chef so the vegetables and fruits he harvested would go straight into the meals he prepared.

That was then and this is now.  He is still the main chef but we have downsized from 12-acres to a small property. mister gardener’s vegetables are now grown in pots and herbs are grown in my flower beds. No room for a vegetable garden, so what do we do? We support the slow food movement at our wonderful Exeter Farmers’ Market, the 2nd largest in the state, where we get to know our local farmers.

Exeter Farmers' Market We always enjoy the live music and bustling marketplace where we chat with farmers and craftspeople, meet our friends and neighbors while shopping for an abundance of local foods and produce. The quality of 100% locally grown produce cannot be equaled and it’s a good feeling to support local agriculture.

We are awed by the fresh veggies, fruits, meats, cheeses, eggs, honey, syrup, beer, baked goods, herbs and other plants, and numerous crafts… and stimulating the senses are savory meals served up hot and yummy.

Here are a few scenes from our most recent market. Click to enlarge photos.

From their website, here is who will be here for Exeter’s Farmers’ Market this week. See you there!

  • Anderson’s Mini-Maples
  • Applecrest Farm
  • Aspen Hill Herb Farm*
  • Barker’s Farm
  • Blueberry Hill: Alternatives for Life
  • Brandmoore Farm*
  • Bucovina Cuisines
  • Coombs Farm LLC
  • Coppal House Farm
  • Diane Louise Paul Handcrafted Leather & Repair
  • Divine Cuisines, LLC DBA Tulsi
  • Etta’s Soaps
  • Figtree Kitchen
  • Forty Five Market Street Bakery and Cafe
  • Heron Pond Farm
  • Hickory Nut Farm
  • Hurd Farm llc
  • Jessica Seaton Pottery
  • Jesta Farm *
  • Karimah’s Kitchen
  • Kellie Brook Farm
  • Leaven Beer And Bread House
  • mckenzie’s farm
  • Meadow’s Mirth*
  • Mona Farm
  • Moriarty’s Greenhouse*
  • New Roots Farm*
  • Riverslea Farm
  • SNAP Seacoast Eat Local
  • Soothey Designs
  • Stout Oak Farm*
  • Sugarmomma’s Maple Farm
  • The Soup Guy, LLC*
  • Throwback Brewery
  • Toni’s Donuts/Lemieux Family Concessions
  • Vernon Family Farm
  • White Cedar Farm
  • White Heron Tea & Coffee*
  • Zach’s Farm

2015 American Independence Festival, Exeter, NH

In your community, you might celebrate American Independence Day on the weekend closest to the 4th of July. In Exeter, NH, it is celebrated on the weekend closest to the date New Hampshire’s Declaration of Independence copy arrived in our Revolutionary-era capital… July 16, 1776. Exeter is fortunate to have that first official copy of the Declaration of Independence, one of only 26 known copies that survive out of about 150 copies printed. It is annually on display during the Festival in the American Independence Museum and, yes, we did wait in line to see it and other rare documents such as handwritten letters by George Washington. Ladd-Gilman HouseExeter’s American Independence Festival is the biggest celebration of the year. The Declaration of Independence arrives on horseback and is read to the public by a descendant of the original reader. Next door to the museum is an artisans’ village with the cooper, the potter, the gunsmith, the cobbler, the basket weaver, milliners, spinners, the blacksmith, and more.

I have watched master potter Steve Zoldak at Strawbery Banke and actually own some of his wares. It was fun to watch him create more masterpieces.

The shoemaker

Peter Oakley:  Shoemaker

The cooper

Ron Raiselis:  Cooper

The gunsmith

Steve Woodman: Gunsmith

Making Flax

Peter Cook: Preparing flax fibers for spinning and weaving linen

Children got into the act everywhere you looked. From music to scavenger hunts and crafts, costumes to junior militia recruitment, the youngsters were involved and entertained. Click to enlarge photos.

Historic Folsom Tavern, c. 1775, was open for the public to tour, watch demonstrations, and for those who chose to imbibe, could enjoy a sudsy brew in the very room that George Washington once savored a breakfast. Click to enlarge photos.

We ended the day with hundreds of other visitors on Swasey Parkway watching battle re-enactments with lots of gunfire and cannon booms. Click to enlarge photos.

Later that afternoon we decided to call it a day and trudged home but not before we bought ‘fried dough’ from one of several vendors that lined the street. Delicious but not nutritious, I’m sure. Although live music and fireworks rocked the night away, we were a little like the lady we spotted in the tent below…. tuckered out and fast asleep from our big adventure. ZZZZZZZ.....

Warm Season Weeds

Last weekend on the hottest day of our summer so far, 8 neighbors came together to clean and weed a border for a resident who needed a little help. Temperatures hovered in the 90’s under a brutal sun, but with steady work the job wrapped up in just 2 hours.

Weeds and BrushThis neighbor’s lawn borders our property so I took a keen interest in what was growing so close to me.  Some of the weeds that we removed are ones that I really love to hate. We saw quite a variety, but here are a few of the worst offenders:

Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana): The plants were small but plentiful. If not pulled out as a small plant, this pest can mature to 8′ and will have a massive taproot that is next to impossible to remove. Worse than that, the weed is poisonous. Songbirds are not affected by pharmacopeia in the berries, however the entire plant, berries, root, leaves, and stems are toxic to humans and animals. Get it out early!

Yellow Woodsorrel (Oxalis stricta): Deep taproots make this weed difficult to pull out intact. I find it easiest to hold the stem as close to the soil as possible and pull very slowly to remove the taproot. Otherwise the root snaps.  It’s a pretty little weed with a dainty yellow bloom, but oh so prolific. For every one I pull, it seems 10 take its place! Often a nursery plant will have the weed or weed seeds in the pot and it will be introduced into a landscape when planted. I am forever weeding them from pots at work.

WoodsorrelSpurge (Euphorbia maculata and Euphorbia supine): These weeds thickly covered the bare spots in the area and were spreading to the lawn. Both prostrate and spotted spurge will form a dense mat over an area. Like all spurges in this huge family, the plant leaks a milky latex than can irritate the skin….just like poinsettia, another spurge. These weeds survive the lawn mower since they grow very low to the ground.

Poison Ivy (Rhus radicans): Here is a plant that loves the suburbs. It thrives on the edge of woods, ditches as real estate development is poison ivy’s best friend. Although we found several plants, they were all small. We decided to spray them with herbicide rather than pull the vine from the ground.

poison ivyNutsedge: When young, these small plants can be mistaken for grass. One ID is the v-shaped crease down the center of the blade. I did not see a lot of this weed on cleanup day in New Hampshire, but, boy, was it a nuisance in my Virginia gardens! We broke the tubers off when we pulled the weeds thus assuring the rest of the tubers and rhizomes will reemerge.

nutsedgeRed Sorrel (Rumex acetosella): This is another weed that will spread in barren areas. The roots are shallow so it’s easy to pull. Sometimes you pull one weed and three more come with it as new plants can grow from one plant’s creeping horizontal roots.

IMG_7293Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea): My worst nightmare is slowly creeping toward our property! It is a dreaded weed in the mint family. You can wage war on this perennial but you will only win some battles. We pulled it up in great long strands but we knew that every rooted node will return as a new plant. Herbicides are not very effective. Landscapers either solarize it or are known to use glyphosate to kill everything, then reseed grass. It’s that tough…

Creeping CharlieThere were lots of other weeds like dandelion and plantain and crabgrass. I think we might have a couple more workdays here….

Free Compost! Come and Get it.

So whadaya think? In exchange for being a bonafide resident of Exeter New Hampshire, we are given free access to the town’s compost at the Transfer Station.  So after purchasing (Yike$!!) two plus cubic yards of compost from a garden center but needing much more with for our clay soil, we decided to check out the ‘dump’ where the compost is free and the reputation is good.

I have read scary stories about compost quality at dumps but after finding plastic forks, tin foil, and bits of other plastic in the purchased compost, could this be worse? If it is done right, the heat from the compost process should cook weed seeds and more. We are using it only in ornamental garden beds.

Check-in was fairly stringent with valid proof of residency and our official sticker on the windshield. After we were given the thumbs up, we backed our SUV close to the pile marked ‘COMPOST.’

Check-inAt first glance, it looked unappealing…. just like gray dirt.

CompostBut once our shovel hit the compost, it turned into black gold.  We filled the tarp lined trunk with almost a yard of compost.

compostIt did have tiny twigs and other organic matter in the compost, but for the most part it looked no different from the expensive compost available at nurseries and garden centers.

Two full days later, it’s been added to the borders and all beds have been topped with over two dozen bags of rich dark spruce mulch… undyed, no recycled pallets or scrap lumber for my gardens! I’ll keep you updated on results of our compost experiment… good or bad.