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17, 2018 2 | May Home Hudson Valley
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May 17, 2018 Home Hudson Valley
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Oh, to smell like dirt! Keep your tools where you can ﬁnd them By Elisabeth Henry
ardeners and keepers of the lawn, take note. The Robin Redbreast that crashes into the windows of my house heralding a changing season, has been back a couple of weeks. For those of you that use motorized equipment, I confess I got nuthin’ in the advice department. Whenever I look at a motor, I admire its intricacies and wonder how it must be to have a mind that creates such art! But the function of it is concomitant to magic. I wish not to even try to know its secrets. I wish only for that emotional release that happens when I turn the key or pull the cord or push the button. Voila! The sound and the fury! I am no slouch at getting the hidden truths out of my interview subjects, so I went to a very reliable source. My source had a lot to say.
irst, apparently one can never have enough WD40, which, he informs me, stands for NASA Water Dispersal Attempt #40. So stock up. You should have done all the following last autumn, said my source. But he is no naif when it comes to the procrastination that’s human nature. He assured me no one does due diligence in autumn, except, of course, my unimpeachable source. Very well, we shall now start as we mean to continue. Winter dampness rusts your stuff — your metal parts in your engines and your equipment. So, rub ‘em down with “scratchy pads” or steel wool, and then apply the WD40. WD40 will smooth and lubricate so your parts can move as they should. Oddly enough, when my source related these facts to me, none of this sounded even vaguely erotic, but they do now. Please ignore my editorializing. Tune up your chain saw! Sharpen the chain. (Take heart. There are people who do this, and I recommend seeking them out. It sounds tricky, dangerous and annoying to take on oneself.) Check the tension of the chain. (Again, seek help.) Make sure the spark plug is clean. When my source also recommended that “the gap be right,” he was taking me into waters I knew were beyond my depth. After three explanations of what that term means, I still came up baffled. It was as though he was speaking Urdu. At this point, my vote is to just drop the thing off at a place where professionals avail themselves. Perhaps one of them is willing to drop by your place and do whatever it is you were going to do with that very powerful, seemingly emotionally unstable and vicious item. Just sayin’. Change the oil in your motorized lawn mowers (both push and sit types.) Likewise, change the fuel filters and air filters in those things, too. Of course, the mowers are not running when one is doing this, and especially when one is trying to ascertain that all one’s cutting edges are sharp. My source assures me that one can just eyeball the edges, or gently run a cheap sponge across them. Seek professional help to sharpen. (See paragraph above.) Test your batteries in your equipment to see if they need to be replaced. Be sure to clean the battery terminals. Charge up your batteries. Check the air pressure in all the tires. My source made me write in caps the following, but my editor took out the caps: Do not use gas that has alcohol in it for any of your small-engine equipment. The reason for this is that the alcohol will eat the rubber or plastic parts in your small engine.
ueled by the fresh pot of coffee and muffins I had made, my source loosened up and waxed philosophic on gate posts, hinges
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Some tools, no matter their age, are timeless.
and latches. All posts should have an application of pine tar at the soil level to ward off insects, etc. that would eat away at the integrity of the wood. This is especially true for gate posts, which get a lot of wear, swinging as they do. The pine tar will seep in to the ground. Pine tar will not harm your soil or your critters. Check all posts for holding fast in the ground. Winter heaving can affect that. Check all your fencing. Snow load and downed tree trunks or branches may make superfluous your wish to keep critters in or out. Clean and oil your gate latches and hinges and replace if necessary. At this point I would like to add that pine tar will probably not deter a horse that insists on eating your fence rails and posts. This frustrating behavior is not due to an abnormal craving or spite or wishful thinking of escape. It could be due to ulcers, an all-too-often malady of our equine companions. Check the wooden handles on your tools for rot and replace if necessary. Tape your axe handle right below the axe head. That way, if you miss and your handle hits the wood, it is cushioned and does not suffer as mightily as your swing. If you plan to purchase gardening tools, especially those that dig, check with local master gardeners or nursery people for brand recommendations. The soil I wrestle would most easily part for planting daffodil bulbs if I had access to plutonium. I do not. Therefore, I have wasted time
and money on cheap, crappy tools happily sold to me at any number of retail outlets. Each promptly bent like pipe cleaners upon first application. Say what you will about trade wars with China. “Metal fatigue” should not occur so easily or quickly. Since we import so much of our metal products and tools, quality should be as much a consideration as price. Some day I shall relate the tale of how a large building of ours went down under snow load because the metal in the trusses tore like post cards. And another thing. During that teensy-weensy thaw we had in January, I puttered about outside in jubilation. That night, after a hot shower and bath (I am a Cancerian. Water is my element.) I got into a bed of freshly laundered sheets. Halfway through the first paragraph of Five O’Clock Angel, the letters of Tennessee Williams to his muse, Maria St. Just, I felt what I thought was a skin tag on my throat. Nope. It was a tick. In January, where no high grass grows, sans even a light embrace from a deer. Be warned. The bastards are out there. Now would be a good time to pray to some of the many patron saints of gardeners (saints Adam, Dorothy and Fiacre, to name three) or to Persephone the Goddess of the Season That Shall Not Be Named Just In Case. Even if you think all of that may be so much hocus-pocus. let’s face it. We’re all losing it. And how lovely it would be to be kissed by fine, soft air and sunshine.
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17, 2018 4 | May Home Hudson Valley
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Just the thought of Russian author Leo Tolstoy may be enough to temper the heat come summer.
Keeping cool is a breeze But only if you follow these helpful hints By Sparrow
ummer is approaching, and with it the danger of hot weather. How can I effectively cool down my house, you wonder? Relax. You have turned to the right page of this supplement. Studies show that music can cool a dwelling. Sibelius is a particularly chilling musical choice. (I recommend Lemminkäinen in Tuonela.) Miles Davis albums, especially Blue Moods, lower the temperature of an environment. The soundtrack of the movie Frozen is also a logical option. Cold-blooded animals can be wonderfully soothing on a humid day. My recommendation: send your dogs, cats, and hamsters to a friend in
the Southern Hemisphere — where it’s winter — and purchase an anaconda, iguana or a gecko. An ectothermic creature (the scientific term for “cold-blooded”) wrapped around your bare chest is worth two air-conditioners, in my book. Speaking of books, the right literature can decrease the temperature of an oppressive afternoon. For example, Leo Tolstoy’s “Master and Man”: As soon as they had passed the blacksmith’s hut, the last in the village, they realized that the wind was much stronger than they had thought. The road could hardly be seen. The tracks left by the sledge-runners were immediately covered by snow, and the road was only distinguished by the fact that it was higher than the rest of the ground. There was a swirl of snow over the fields and the line where sky and earth met could not be seen … Evaporation is a cooling process. Did you learn that in eighth grade? I did. And you know what it means? Get wet, and you’ll soon be cool. A Southern remedy for heat is a moist, light-colored towel hung in a window. The evaporating water chills the inflowing air.
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Or sleep outdoors! My wife sleeps on our deck on sultry nights. (I’m too “citified” to do so.) Or let the night cool your day! Open the windows at night, close them in the morning, to retain the cool air — then lower the shades of the windows at the south side of the house during the day, to prevent your rooms from re-heating.
ry to attract mosquitoes. These flying annoyances will take your mind off the heat. Ice is one obvious answer to summer heat. Ice sculpture is a versatile, underappreciated art form. We all know about ice swans, but did you realize that praying mantises, pickup trucks, hairbrushes, sycamore trees, razor blades, Batman, armchairs, Buddhas and jewelry may also be constructed from frozen water? When I lived in Gainesville, Florida in the 1970s, I would sometimes visit my friend David Hyduke. “Would you like to see my new ice sculpture?” he’d ask. When I showed interestI degree, he’d push aside the chicken livers and frozen corn in his freezer to pull out an abstract shape he’d produced with a blowtorch. We’d gaze at it for a while, and then David would return the piece to the storage shelf before it melted. Sculpting in ice is always poignant, but in Florida it’s even more tenuous. I suggest you order a large block of ice, sculpt it into a life-size statue of someone you admire — Katherine Hepburn, Frederick Douglass, Paul Klee, etc. — place it in the bathtub, and occasionally remove your clothes, jump in, and embrace your hero. Or save a snowball from winter (in one corner of your freezer) and bring it out on the hottest day of July. Wearing a pair of shorts, place the sphere of snow on your knee, and chant: Snowball, snowball, on my knee — I warm you; you cool me!
May 17, 2018 Home Hudson Valley
Ulster Publishing Co.
tor. Serve to discontented, overheated friends. While you and your pals drink my Ayurvedic beverage, watch terrifying movies! When they give you the shivers, you’ll forget it’s summer. (I recommend Q: The Winged Serpent and Two Thousand Maniacs!) andheld fans were invented in the Far East. The first European fans were imported from China and Japan, and reserved for European royalty. The montures (sticks and holders) of these air paddles were made of mother-ofpearl, ivory, and tortoiseshell, sometimes inlaid with gold and silver piqué work. In the 17th century, feather fans were the style. Eighteenth-century fashion favored silk and parchment specimens — plus the introduction of mechanical, wind-up fans. The 19th century brought more democratic fanning technology, made of bamboo, straw, celluloid, starched lace, corduroy, paper, even candy. My suggestion: hire four servants to fan you. As an exotic touch, dress them as fourth century BC Egyptian laborers: barechested, with a short wraparound skirt — known as a shendyt — belted at the waist. (That’s for men.) But if you’re low on money or socialistically inclined, start a fanning collective. Find a group of friends and sympathizers who’ll take turns visiting each other’s houses and waving fans. Fanning collectives were popular in Costa Rica in the 1920s, until banana plantation owners brutally suppressed them. But don’t let that stop you this summer!
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Remember the ice-bucket challenges from a few years back? They remain a go-to solution for summer’s heat for some. Watch your heirloom snow-orb slowly melt.
Boil a half gallon of water. Place herbs inside. Once the tea has steeped, cool it in the refrigera-
iet can affect internal temperature. Coolness-inducing foods include bananas, yogurt, cucumbers, parsley, asparagus, watermelon, rutabaga, squash, pasta and azuki beans. Begin preparing them, and notice your heat-suffering diminish. My research partner Eli Tapuchi had these suggestions: Turn up the heat all the way to 96 degrees! Or past that, if your thermostat will allow it. Keep it that way for an hour, and then shut it off. See how much cooler you feel now! (It’s similar to what the Bedouins do. To deal with the desert heat: they drink hot tea. It makes them sweat, and cools them down.) Which leads to this theory: Engage in a sweaty, arduous activity requiring physical exertion. The sweat will bring coolness. Speaking of tea, try Sparrow’s Ayurvedic Chillout Punch, composed of herbs that have a cooling effect according to the traditional Indian system of healing. Here’s the recipe:
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17, 2018 6 | May Home Hudson Valley
Ulster Publishing Co.
Water gardens Some things require professional help By Paul Smart
had this bright idea to place a poor man’s pool in my back yard. We’d just moved into a new house with grand views of the Catskills’ Wall of Manitou from our back yard. We’d also just put in a new bathroom and had a spare tub to get rid of. I dug a hole for it in the back yard, positioned to take advantage of the westward-looking view, the better to grab the glory of our sunsets. I dug quickly, not wanting any neighbors to have Hitchcockian suspicions about my character. Within a day, my hillbilly pool was in place and filling with water. The weather was hot, as was I. I went out in trunks, a refreshing summery beverage in hand. I tried with all my might to get in that water, which for all the heat remained as cold as the ground it was in. It’s one thing to jump quickly into a pool, I discovered, and something altogether another to back, butt-first, into an unheated bathtub in one’s backyard. How do you heat a bathtub in the back yard? Or drain it properly without leaving a mudslide? I played with ideas of solar and French drainage systems. I finally decided to see how big I could grow the goldfish my son no longer wanted in his room (too many deaths!). I wanted to set up a sustainable tub-pond. Maybe I could farm some watercress in it while I was at it. One year slipped into the next, and then another. The goldfish disappeared under muck. New plants took hold. We started to worry about mosquitoes. Our cats found nests of baby snakes to play with. We’d somehow created an ecosystem! In awe at my unanticipated success, I started looking at successful water gardens wherever we went. Locally, I found inventive Woodstock back yards where dampness and summer bugs had been the rule until solid engineering allowed for the creation of burbling ponds offset by stone patios, or distant waterscapes surrounded by lawn. Occasionally, the homeowners worked with what was there: a distant streamscape, an occasional watercourse in a gully, a muddy spot, or even a large indentation just begging for a swimming pond. And yes, there are those who consider swimming pools a water garden-like feature.
he Hudson Valley is home to the calming lake-dominated sylvan scenes of Innisfree’s gardens outside Millbrook. There are various formal set-ups at the river-fronting great mansions once called country cottages. Some find the entire Catskills, especially now that folks have started piling cairns of creekstones in several streambeds, a natural garden. Far away, I found great waterscapes throughout Europe, from Rome’s running fountains, Paris and Vienna’s formal fountains. and modernist Portuguese urban oases. I visited Monet’s Giverny
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Many cultures see a backyard water feature, including manicured waterfalls and Japanese-style landscapes, as a magical way of taming the nature around us.
property, burbling British streams with swans, and seaside fantasies everywhere. Mexico City has the magical Xochimilco, with its colorful mariachi-carrying party boats and floating flower gardens and restaurants. Hong Kong used to have the wildly eclectic Tiger Balm Gardens, half kitsch, half repository of every sort of carp and goldfish imaginable. Montreal is filled with public and pri-
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vate examples of the many ways in which places with longer winters than ours manage to create settings with the sound of running water. Looking back into the past, I read of ancient Chinese and Persian gardens that combined floating vegetation raised for specialty-food purposes and for architectural enhancement. Until water pumps were invented during the industrial age, all were based on springs, diverted rivers and streams. Looking toward the future, I can envisage variations on local aquaponic experiments growing fish and various edible greens simultaneously, with plentiful flowers and low energy bills. Urban proj-
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neighbors, and over time he reshaped it. He planted hundreds of trees, cleared meadows. New birds and wildlife came. And then he decided to one-up what he’s already made, and built a sonically-pitched waterway that played different tunes depending on the volume of water he let loose from a contained pond. Even better, he created wide pathways through his private park and wrote an easement that allowed him to drive through his creation in his Cadillac convertible after he had sold all he’d built. Later, George took over an old gas station in the village he’d grown up in, and created another park-like setting with a looping circular stream. I think I was inspired by his creations when I placed that old tub into my back yard. I understood how far I was from realizing such perfection when I rose from its chill waters, screaming. Thank heaven for landscaping professionals.
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ects will move water, disguise wastewater plants, and transform hidden flood-prone structures. But I digress. How does one start building one’s own home water garden? Know what you’re doing. Make plans, including the introduction of electricity, solar or wired, to circulate your water if you’re not working with a spring or existing waterway. Get your materials in place before you start, including stones and rocks, troughs and piping, plants to introduce. And heavy equipment, which is often needed. I’ve seen great ponds put in as a house gets built, and giant mud pits that can never properly hold water. Hire a professional, or at least get one to give you advice. If working big, make sure what you’re planning fits local codes and does not in any way endanger the neighbors, either from flooding or mosquitoes.
ades ago. People had told me about how George Ballantine of Andes, scion of an old local family, had done with the land he’d settled on. He took to moving things at all hours with various bulldozers and other pieces of heavy equipment. Fortunately, he had his own unique valley, out of earshot of
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ou could also just experiment, as I did, if you have the time. I keep thinking back to one of the great properties I was drawn to when first moved to the Catskills several dec-
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Home, Lawn & Garden May 2018 An Ulster Publishing publication
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Editorial WRITERS: Jennifer Brizzi, Elisabeth Henry, Jodi La Marco, Virginia Luppino, Harry Matthews, Chris Rowley, Paul Smart, Violet Snow, Sparrow EDITOR: Paul Smart COVER IMAGE of the White House garden courtesy of whitehouse.gov. LAYOUT BY Joe Morgan Ulster Publishing PUBLISHER: Geddy Sveikauskas ADVERTISING DIRECTOR: Genia Wickwire DISPLAY ADS: Lynn Coraza, Pam Courselle,
Elizabeth Jackson, Ralph Longendyke, Sue Rogers, Linda Saccoman PRODUCTION MANAGER: Joe Morgan PRODUCTION: Diane Congello-Brandes, Josh Gilligan, Rick Holland CLASSIFIED ADS: Amy Murphy, Tobi Watson CIRCULATION: Dominic Labate Home, Lawn & Garden is one of three Home Hudson Valley supplements Ulster Publishing puts out each year. It is distributed in the company’s four weekly newspapers and separately at select locations, reaching an estimated readership of over 50,000. Its website is www.hudsonvalleyone.com. For more info on upcoming special sections, including how to place an ad, call 845-334-8200, fax 845-334-8202 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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17, 2018 8 | May Home Hudson Valley
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PHOTOS BY VIOLET SNOW
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Lounging on lawns The pros and cons of mowing By Violet Snow
admit it — I have a lawn. It came with the house. But the lawn is gradually shrinking in size, much to my gratification, since I believe lawns are not ecologically beneficial. Our addiction to lawns is profound, and the decisions we make about them — even if we don’t do away with them completely — have an
Let a lawn go, and before long one gets a meadow, ﬂowers and all. impact on the environment. So let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of lawns, how to maintain them in environmentally friendly ways, and how to replace them. On the plus side, lawns provide feeding grounds
for birds, prevent soil erosion, filter contaminants from rainwater runoff and absorb airborne pollutants like dust and soot. But then so do other plants. Neighbors are a big reason for having a lawn.
May 17, 2018 Home Hudson Valley
Ulster Publishing Co. When I first moved in and didn’t have a lawn mower, my next-door neighbor raised his shaggy eyebrows at the leggy grass flowers rising up in mid-spring. I went and bought a $60 manual lawn mower, not wishing to pollute the air and promote climate change with the products of combustion.
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or several years, I mowed without motorization, enjoying the swish-swish of the blades but hating the battle with tall clumps of grass that manifested when I didn’t mow twice a week. Finally, I gave in to laziness, purchased a $150 gas-engine push-mower, and never looked back. I offer apologies to the environment, but at least my lawn is small. The back and side yards, which get less sun than the front, don’t get mowed every time, cutting back slightly on the environmental abuse. Short grass is good for running around on, so a lawn is great if you have children. When I asked an expert on native plants if his kids suffered deprivation from having a meadow instead of a lawn around their house, he said the meadow encouraged a different kind of play, with all sorts of plants to study and tinker with, as well as bugs to watch. I asked about ticks, which congregate on tall plants rather than on short grass. He contended that mowing a meadow in mid-May, at the height of tick-breeding season eliminated the tall ROBERT BLOOMER
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17, 2018 10 | May Home Hudson Valley
Ulster Publishing Co. plants they use for egg-laying, drastically cutting them back. During our first spring in the house, I put in a flower bed alongside the driveway and a vegetable garden in the back yard, effectively eliminating two big chunks of lawn. After Hurricane Irene dumped a long moraine of dirt in the front yard, I decided not to re-clothe it with grass. Instead, I planted wild thyme, both by scattering seed and by transplanting plugs from patches of thyme scrounged from other peopleâ€™s yards. I wouldnâ€™t mind having an entire lawn of thyme, which requires infrequent mowing, smells good when you walk on it, and offers up herbs for the cooking pot. On the downside, it took a couple of years for my swath of thyme to fill in. Last winter, a renovation project left a huge region of bare dirt directly in front of the house. Not wanting to wait for thyme to kick in, I bought, from American Meadows, a sack of low-growing wildflower seeds, which I planted after the June 1 frost-free date. It was a joy to watch the mix of annuals in red, yellow, blue and white pop up, one after another, all summer long. (The poppies and snapdragons were especially dramatic.) Supposedly the annuals will self-seed, and the perennial flowers will start to bloom this year. I built a meandering stone pathway through the shin-high plants to get from the front steps to the lawn.
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ne problem with lawns, that of fertilizer, is easily addressed. Commercial fertilizers are made of chemicals that pollute the environment twice â€” once during manufacture and again when you put them on your lawn, whence some of the substances run off into the water system. My solution is not to fertilize. Instead, I leave my grass clippings to lie and decompose on the ground. Sure, the lawn looks a little odd for a few days when the clippings turn brown, but that phase doesnâ€™t last long, and I donâ€™t have to rake. Iâ€™ve lived in the house for 15 years, and my never-fertilized lawn is lush and green. In other climates, the need for watering makes lawns especially wasteful of water resources, but here in the humid Hudson Valley, even during drought years, we rarely have to water to keep our lawns green. But if your lawn does start turning brown, you might want to skip watering it. The vitality of the grass retreats into the roots and will grow new green leaves the next time rain falls in abundance. It takes a long time for grass roots to die. I am not going to recommend one lawn alternative that is growing in popularity. Although it might be appropriate for acutely water-sparse situations, I donâ€™t think any of us here need an arti-
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May 17, 2018 Home Hudson Valley
Ulster Publishing Co.
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17, 2018 12 | May Home Hudson Valley
Ulster Publishing Co.
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ficial lawn. Although itâ€™s said to look pretty lifelike and needs no mowing, synthetic grass heats up in the sun, doesnâ€™t support insect life, and contains toxins that can bleed into soil and water. I have no experience with lawn alternatives such as buffalo grass, which needs infrequent mowing and little water. Sedges are native grass-like plants that come in different varieties in different regions and can be selected for shade or sun. If youâ€™re just starting a new lawn after construction, you might want to try one of these options. If you want to be a purist, which I endorse but canâ€™t quite achieve, just let your entire lawn go to meadow. Thatâ€™s what I did with the formerly grassy region behind my house that the previous owner weed-whacked every few months for his dog to run on. I like seeing what crops up each year â€” dandelions and bright blue speedwell in the spring, dusty pink Joe Pye weed and valerian in the summer, goldenrod and radiant little purple asters in early fall. To keep the meadow from going to forest, I do some weed-whacking myself about once a week in spring and fall â€” not with a motorized whacker, but with a manual one, which provides exercise and is good practice for oneâ€™s golf swing. As for the rest of my yard, the limited mowing keeps the neighbors happy, I have lots of flowers to enjoy, and my carbon footprint is fairly small. What lawn decisions do you make?
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May 17, 2018 Home Hudson Valley
Ulster Publishing Co.
PUBLIC DOMAIN PHOTO
Left, the best shade gardens work with existing trees and other landscape features, highlighted with a mix of annual and perennial plantings; right, Solomon’s Seal is not only a great addition to ferns and hostas in a shade garden, but also according to Chinese medical practitioners a handy tonic for diabetics.
To sit in the shade Gardening without sunshine By Virginia Luppino
he yard of my new house on a small village lot in Saugerties was a monoculture of grass, front and back. Harsh light reflected off the neighbor’s white vinyl fence. Grass to the fence-line, grass to the foundations. No shade. Coming as I was from acres of deciduous woodland, streams and fields, the starkness was abrupt. What had I done? My first goal was to create a hierarchy of plantings for a backyard sanctuary. To realize my visions of an Adirondack-style bench tucked into a shady niche at the back of the garden, I needed a shade canopy. I imagined a place that would beckon on a hot summer afternoon, where the soil remained cool on bare toes. My favorite place in a landscape is the transition zone, that open edge of the deciduous forest where shade is tentative. There, under the open shade of high-limbed deciduous trees or the dappled shade of delicate foliage, many of my favorite plants thrive. The mission was clear. I would create the edge of the woods here in my village back garden. When you have a small yard, deciding on those canopy and backbone plantings can be a challenge. I had too many favorites. I soon discovered that the lawns in my new neighborhood were dotted with dogwoods and cherries, in addition to many magnolia varieties. I didn’t want to include any of them in my plan. I would, instead, enjoy them in my neighbor’s gardens on my walks and drives. Before moving here, I thought of the village as “the banana belt on the Hudson,” where magnolias thrived. The village seems to benefit from temperatures moderated by the proximity of the Hudson River. Looking forward to pushing the colder zone limits of my previous home in Olivebridge (with the Ashokan Reservoir’s adverse weather effects), I took a chance on a mimosa tree, desiring the dappled shade its canopy offered. Unfortunately, that winter proved particularly harsh. Not only did my newly planted sapling succumb, but so did most of the local mature specimens that had provided inspiration. Sigh. That’s the nature of gardening, you win some you lose some. Hedging my bets, I decided that all the woody plant I would introduce had to be well suited to changes in climate extremes. I would go for the proven winners more likely to tolerate unpredictable extreme-weather patterns. Record-breaking heat in the summer and prolonged freezing temps in the winter seems our new norm. Creating a
sheltered retreat from the summer sun seemed the most practical response. I quickly decided on hardy, reliable Amelanchier canadensis, commonly known as shadblow. This harbinger of winter’s end earned its place as anchor of my border with its early spring flowers followed by berries loved by the birds and orangescarlet fall color. A Heptacodium miconioides or seven-son flower added to the canopy layer. With its fountain shape topping out at 15 to 20 feet, a bench near it would tuck in nicely. The fragrant flowers in late summer are followed by an even showier display of fruit and sepal-like calyces in the fall. (Please look the terms up!) The late flowers are a good source for nectar for butterflies adding yet another dimension.
hrubs were next in the hierarchy of my woodland’s edge. The plantings up front included the showy viburnum, hydrangea and dwarf lilacs. This layer, I decided, would be edibles. I incorporated four varieties of high-bush blueberries. The bright indirect light the blueberries received throughout the day would suffice for a good crop, I thought. And so it has. In early spring I watch their buds swell. When the flowers arrive, I’m entertained by the way what look to be small bumblebees hang drunken from the little white bells. Going into the garden in the morning, colander in hand, to collect fresh berries for weeks on end never gets old. Some plants migrated from Olivebridge to Saugerties with me. A bit of Polygonatum odoratum var. pluriflorum ‘Variegatum’, commonly known as Variegated Solomon’s seal, spreads in an ever so civilized way, never bullying. A trowel full of Epimedium x rubrum came from a client more than 20 years ago — a sweet reminder of a very sweet woman. Plant divisions gifted by friends just couldn’t be left behind. I gathered bits of asarum, lunaria, forget-me-nots, aquilegia, irises and lilies. These have all successfully made the transition. They continue as reminders of those who shared them with me in various other garden incarnations. A plant that particularly gets lots of attention when in bloom is Clematis recta. This uncommon
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shrub-form clematis looks like it may be kin to our native virgin’s bower. Small, fragrant white flowers in May and June never fail to brighten a dark corner of the garden.
shade garden is ultimately one of texture. The foliage of plants, long after their blooms have been spent, add richness to the shade. Interesting foliage earns a perennial some real estate in this garden. I’d be hard pressed to name more delicate foliage than a stand of Adiantum pedatum or maidenhair ferns. The un-demanding Tiarella cordifolia or foamflower forms a running tapestry while releasing a heady perfume. I’ve come a very long way from the monoculture I inherited. Diversity now rules on this 50-footby-100-foot lot. Pollinators of all kinds buzz. Birds sing and call. A praying mantis slinks in search of prey. I was even startled by a black snake once, stretched out in all its five-foot fabulousness, sunning itself on my windowsill. Oh, hello there! Spring is here. I’m looking forward to sitting on that bench with an overview of the garden, iced beverage in hand. Garden designer and coach Virginia Luppino obsesses over plants from her Saugerties home.
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17, 2018 14 | May Home Hudson Valley
Ulster Publishing Co.
Too much bounty Is there such a thing as too much zucchini? By Jennifer Brizzi
ith the exception of hideous celery root, in my view, vegetables are generally gorgeous to look at, with their gleaming colors and mix of skin textures. When eaten fresh and properly prepared, there is little better. They’re fun to experiment with in the kitchen and unqualifyingly nourishing. But can you have too much of a really good thing? Too much of a thing as angelic as vegetables? The maligned zucchini is the cliched veg of overabundance, spilling out of home gardens in great quantities, big as baseball bats, is the cliched veg of overabundance. You are advised to keep your car locked during zucchini season lest some gardeners get rid of their extras by sneaking a paper bag full of them into your back seat. August 8 is widely celebrated as National Sneak Some Zucchini onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day. Gardeners grate their supply into breads, cookies and cakes that mask the zucchini’s texture and taste. Zucchini is one of my favorite vegetables, but unlike all other gardeners I’ve never had much luck growing it. Maybe there just wasn’t enough sun in the gardens I’ve had, but I’ve never had a surplus. And when I have been able to grow them, I pick them small and treat them in ways that bring out their mild, nutty flavor and silky texture. More on that in a bit. My late father grew large quantities of organic vegetables in Putney, Vermont, where I grew up, and then later in Fayetteville, Arkansas until my stepmom made him stop due to his failing health. I think my ardent admiration for vegetables comes from the quality of what was laid out night-
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ly on my childhood dining table. My parents never were that interested in canning. When we had too many green beans or corn, they would blanch and freeze them and store them in our chest freezer to enjoy year-round. Thanks to canning, fermenting and other preservation methods, an excess of vegetables — if you have the time to deal with them — is not usually a problem. Everyone knows veggies are good for us; for some it’s a struggle to get that three to four servings a day, for others a joy. But some consume them to excess. Too many vegetables in the diet really can be problematic. Low in calories and a great source of fiber, vitamins, minerals and a bit of protein, vegetables seem like the perfect food. But if you eat too much of them, at the exclusion of other protein sources, complex carbs and healthy fats, your health can suffer.
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eggie addiction is not as bad as other addictions or as eating too much sugar, salt or bad fats. According to bloggers, 25 grams of fiber a day is the recommended amount. If you exceed this amount by too much, you can have problems with digestive issues — from gas to bloating and worse. Too much beta carotene can turn your skin orange. One blogger said that it’s better to seek out local seasonal produce that flourishes in your area’s ecosystem than to load up on heaping piles of random vegetables from around the world. Often, what your body needs is what is available. If you’re in a cold climate in the middle of winter, lots of raw vegetables and salads may not be what you crave, or need for best health. Hearty steaming potages made with local sustainably raised meats, broth made from their bones, and over-wintered root vegetables and greens may be what you need. Dr. Andrew Weil says that extra veggies beyond the recommended three to four servings probably won’t hurt you. But it’s unclear how much they will help. Weil reported that researchers from China and the Harvard School of Public Health who analyzed 16 studies found that eating more than five servings of fruits and vegetables daily didn’t help the subjects live longer. The review found that the risk of death dropped five percent for each additional helping of fruits or vegetables — but only up to five helpings a day. The data also
showed that the risk of death from heart disease dropped four percent for each serving of fruits and vegetables daily. “The result doesn’t prove that eating up to five servings a day of fruits and vegetables was responsible for the decrease in deaths or that eating more than five helpings daily wasn’t beneficial,” Weil said. “It just didn’t recognize any extra benefit for consuming more than five servings a day.” The senior author of the latest analysis suggested that the body may be able to process only a certain amount of produce daily, limiting our ability to absorb additional nutrients if we eat more.
n any case, we’re lucky to have all we need. The catastrophic Irish potato famine of 1845 through 1849, when a late blight destroyed crops, costing the country two million souls, one million by death and the other million by emigration. If you find yourself with too many zukes in your garden, bring out their best by picking them small. Cut them into wedges about two or three inches long, steam them until just barely tender, and toss with a lightly crushed clove of garlic for subtle flavor (remove before serving), your best olive oil, some torn fresh basil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Don’t skip the crusty bread for sopping up the delectable juices. This simple but scrumptious idea comes from my Sicilian ex-mother-in-law Maria. Quality fresh local zucchini is essential. Alternatively, it makes the best frittata and is festive for scooping out and stuffing — vegetarian or meaty (for this, you can use the slightly bigger ones that were hiding under leaves when you harvested them). Use of in-season tomatoes with dishes like zucchini parmesan or ratatouille result in irresistible zucchini treatments as well. Or layer slices into your lasagna. Spiralize zucchini (in full disclosure I haven’t yet tried this), cut it into thin quarter-rounds for salad, or slice it paper-thin lengthwise and make a fancy, lemony carpaccio. Cut it into little sticks and dip it in your favorite dip. Or dust with flour before frying it in generous olive oil. Marinate and grill it. And of course, there’s always zucchini bread. Studded with walnuts and sweet spice, it’s perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up with tea and a friend. I wish for you a bumper crop of too many zucchini!
May 17, 2018 Home Hudson Valley
Ulster Publishing Co.
Taming the wild around us Common critters and how to keep them at bay By Jodi La Marco
he landscape has become enlivened with color and movement. As flowers bloom and animal activity increases, things within us, too, thaw and stir. The same force that draws the chipmunks from their dens lures us back to our lawns and gardens. As humans and critters return to the outdoors, interspecies interactions — both wanted and unwanted — are inevitable. Most of us are accustomed to mice coming indoors to forage and nest, but summer gardens also make a convenient source of food and shelter for rodents. At the bottom of my garden fence, I have attached a length of chicken wire which sits on the ground. Though it has successfully kept out the majority of burrowing animals, it has also created an area that can be tricky to mow. My first attempt at rectifying this problem was to cover the grass growing through the chicken wire with a tarp in an attempt to kill it. At the end of the season, I was surprised (and admittedly, somewhat delighted) to find a network of little mouse paths in the dead brush beneath. The mice had stolen a good portion of my berries and mauled my low-hanging tomatoes. I couldn’t help but be charmed by their secret world. I understood immediately why the mice had chosen to inhabit this borderland between lawn and garden. The area was close to a food supply and hidden from the watchful eyes of flying predators. The dead grass also made for soft, dry bedding. This year, I’ve done my best to discourage mice from pillaging my garden by eliminating nearby hiding places (such as the dead grass I so conveniently provided for them). Besides raiding my strawberry patch, one species of mouse — the white-footed field mouse — is partly responsible for the perpetuation of Lyme disease. Larval ticks bite mice and later grow into nymphs capable of infecting humans. Keeping this mouse species’ numbers in check means fewer hosts for Lyme, and birds of prey do just that. If your home or garden happens to be plagued by rodents, try to avoid poisons that harm helpful visitors such as owls and hawks. Poisons don’t kill mice immediately, leaving plenty of time for them to be eaten by predators. Lethal baits containing anticoagulants are particularly harmful to raptors, which can become sick or die if they eat too many contaminated mice.
ike mice, bats have a tendency to find their way into our homes. Unlike rodents, these flying mammals kill pests rather than carry them. According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, bats eat 20 to 50 percent of their body weight in flying insects nightly. I’ll be honest. Bats freak me out. I live in a rural area near the Ashokan Reservoir, and over the years more than a few have invaded my home. I once disturbed a sleeping pair that had wiggled beneath the screen of my back door, one of which nearly fell on my head when I stepped out onto my porch (ack!). That said, I acknowledge their importance as well as their struggle. Times are tough for our local bat population. White-nose syndrome has literally decimated the population of many native bat species. According to the National Parks Service, this fungal disease has killed millions of bats in the U.S. and Canada since first appearing in New York State in 2006. If you decide to evict the bats that may be living in and around your home, consider providing them with a new place to roost. You can give bats a cozy spot to call home (other than your attic) by installing a bat box on your property. Bat boxes are best hung between 12 and 15 feet off the ground, toward the east or south, and in an area sheltered from the wind. It can take time for bats to take up residence in a new bat box, so don’t fret
Once only American, raccoons have been introduced to Europe and Asia, spreading their nocturnal ways and upsetting trash cans and other manmade attempts to tame nature. if it remains empty for a while. If the box goes unoccupied for more than two years, move it to a different location.
hankfully, black bears don’t set up shop in our homes as bats and mice do. Instead, these heavyweights of the wildlife community prowl our properties in search of food. Black bears need to consume between 15,000 to 20,000 calories per day. The typical bird feeder contains more than half of that in fat- and protein-rich seeds, and bears know it. According to the DEC, “Bear nuisance complaint records reveal that at certain times of the year, bird feeders are involved in over 80 percent of the bear problems around homes.” If you live in an area known to have black bears, leave your birdfeeders indoors until winter. Even sugar water-filled hummingbird feeders can attract bears, so don’t forget to remove feeders once your birdwatching session has ended. If bears aren’t a problem for you, feel free to encourage birds to your yard. Orioles (if you’re
lucky) and bluebirds are back in town, while other species — like goldfinches, cardinals and chickadees — have been here all along. Attract these aerial neighbors to your yard with an all-purpose bird food like sunflower seed. “All birds eat sunflower seed,” says Maureen Wild, owner of the Tillson Birdwatcher’s Country Store (they sell bat boxes too, by the way). According to Wild, hummingbirds have also returned to the north, so now is the time to begin feeding them. Make your own hummingbird “nectar” by mixing four parts water to one part sugar. Hummingbirds need to have fresh food, says Wild, so be sure to change your feeder’s sugar solution at least once per week. As you make choices about visiting animals, be gentle with your little piece of the world. Mice, though unwanted, are still cogs in the balanced machinery of nature (as are birds, bears, and other visitors). Even the bat that wandered into your attic has likely been paying rent in the form of mosquito control. Tread lightly and be nice.
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17, 2018 16 | May Home Hudson Valley
Ulster Publishing Co.
Beware of deer ticks and ash borers For many, summer’s a time of battle! By Chris Rowley
hey’re awake! After winter’s dormancy, the insect and arachnid populations of the Hudson Valley are active once again. If you have a house in the countryside you’re probably well aware of this, because a horde of overwintering ladybugs, marmorated stinkbugs and the scary-looking but harmless Western pine seed bugs, along with assorted flies and a few wasps, have crawled out of hiding places and showed up on the inside of your windows. “Eeeeek!” etc. That problem can often be solved by simply opening a window here and there and leaving the room. The assorted arthropods will head outdoors to begin their active season with hunting, feeding and reproducing. Unless you are growing fruit or sweet corn, these insects will not be troubling you again until fall, when their descendants will seek to reenter your home. Fruit and corn farmers will be grappling with the invasive Asian marmorated stinkbug, especially late in the summer, and super-especially if the summer is long and warm. Said stinkbug has a couple of late breeding periods. Meanwhile, other insects and arachnids are also entering cycles that are of great concern to homeowners, hikers and everyone else.
nseen and unheard, but most definitely dangerous to humans, dogs and even cats (I know, it’s incredible, cats?), ticks are already awake and hunting for blood meals. Ticks are not insects, but a class of arachnids, related distantly to spiders and scorpions. Of the several species of tick that infest the region, the Ixodes scapularis or black legged deer tick is of the most concern. Once rare in the Hudson Valley, this tick has become much more common in step with the gradual climate warming that has occurred over the past 30 years. This tick feeds on mice during its earliest stages, and acquires the Borrelia burgdorfi spirochete that cause Lyme disease. The teensy little tick nymphs, no bigger than a period at the end of a written sentence, in some cases can pick unpleasant parasite diseases like Babesia and Anaplas-
Clockwise from top: Marmorated Stink bug; emerald ash borer, up close; adult deer tick. mosis from the white-footed mouse. Those can be passed to people and pets. All in all, the deer tick is the most dangerous creature in the Hudson Valley. Sure, some people are freaked out by the sight of a native timber rattlesnake, and the black bears do present potential dangers, but neither of these animals will actively seek out human beings. The snakes will ignore you if you don’t bother them, the bears will usually avoid you if they can. Ixodes scapularis ticks, on the other hand, are promiscuous biters of just about anything. They will take any opportunity they can get to hitch a ride on your feet, ankles and legs. Under intense research scrutiny, Lyme disease is revealing itself as a complex of different ailments. Borrelia burgdorfi is a group of as many as 18 “strains” or actual species of bacteria. Some don’t even seem to produce symptoms. Others cause neurological ailments that last for years. Most people have heard the litany regarding ticks. If you’re hiking, either wear light-colored long pants tucked into socks or knee-high white socks. Check them frequently. Pull off any ticks you see crawling up your leg. Ticks usually but not always attach themselves at the foot or the ankle. For added security, spray shoes and socks with deet, which does deter ticks from attaching. After a hike, or just being outdoors, a rigorous “tick check” of one’s body, the kids, and husbands and wives is recommended. To remove a tick that has attached, use narrow-head tweezers to get a grip on the tick close to the skin and pull hard to remove. Sometimes the tick’s mouth parts will remain embedded. To remove those, use a sterilized needle to work them out carefully. It is best not to use slant-head or square-head tweezers, because
you are just likely to crush the tick and push its contents into the wound. Dogs and cats are also vulnerable to ticks. Dogs’ feet should be examined regularly, because ticks invisible to owners’ eyes will lodge between the toes. Pets can wear flea and tick collars, and be treated with products like Advantage to discourage and kill pests. Around your house, on your property, you can take the offensive to reduce the tick population considerably. The Ixodes ticks depend on their first meals, almost always on white-foot mice. The mice have a huge preference for cotton-wool balls when it comes to making nests. They will also shred your insulation or anything with fibers in it. They are astonishingly industrious little things. In the wild they shred bark and old leaves, gather moss, grass and even lichen to make fibrous balls. Commercial products like Damminix Tick Tubes to the rescue! Tubes filled with cotton-wool balls impregnated with pyrethrin insecticides can be found in many hardware stores. Nests built with those cotton balls will kill the approximately 40 to 100 tick nymphs that will attach to adult mice scampering around in search of sustenance. You can also try and reduce the mouse population, but as they say, good luck with that. Humans have warred on mice for several thousand years without much success. You can home-brew your own tick tubes. Buy an assortment of plastic plumbing parts. Get cotton balls and a spray can of pyrethrin insecticide. Place cotton balls in a plastic basin, spray. Let dry. Then, while wearing gloves, stuff cotton into the plastic tubes and then distribute around the property. You will be amazed by how swiftly the mice will remove the cotton balls.
May 17, 2018 Home Hudson Valley
Ulster Publishing Co. Gather the tubes and repeat. Continue to amaze yourself with mouse productivity and kill tick nymphs.
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lso unseen, unheard and certainly not on your windows are the larvae of the emerald ash borers (EAB) that have been eating their way through the living part of ash trees. In spring the larvae, typical white caterpillar-looking things living under the bark, pupate. Over a couple of weeks they convert themselves from simple, tree-killing larvae into little brightgreen, bullet-shaped adults. These will exit the tree, leaving a telltale D-shaped hole, go forth to breed, find other ash trees, lay their eggs there, and continue the cycle. If you’ve noticed your ash trees showing a loss of foliage, you might want to call a forester. It’s likely too late. Sadly, ash trees here are also dying from ash yellows, a bacterial disease that weakens and kills both ash and lilacs. Little can be done for trees infected with that disease, and EAB can be combated only in the early stages. A little background here, in case this is new to you. The EAB is an Asian beetle first detected in the US in 2002. Close to four billion ash trees have been killed since then. EAB has become endemic in the Great Lakes region, and has spread out into Kentucky, Western Pennsylvania, and the Hudson Valley. It is being fought with releases of tiny black parasitic wasps which target EAB eggs. You might consider insecticide treatments, but if the EAB has been at work under the bark for too long the trees are doomed. To avoid transporting EAB larvae and pupae to new locations, the wood should not be removed. Research suggests that insecticide treatments are significantly more effective on EAB-infested ash trees with less than 50% canopy thinning.
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Front-porch worlds Pondering our retreat to back yards and patios By Paul Smart
ome of us are of an age where we can still faintly recall lives lived all summer on front porches. Now more folks have become back-yard patio denizens. There’s been an epochal change. “Most of the houses of the Midland town were of a pleasant architecture. They lacked style, but also lacked pretentiousness, and whatever does not pretend at all has style enough,” reads Booth Tarkington’s under-appreciated The Magnificent Ambersons. “They stood in commodious yards, well shaded by leftover forest trees, elm and walnut and beech, with here and there a line of tall sycamores where the land had been made by filling bayous from the creek. The house of a ‘prominent resident’ was built of brick upon a stone foundation, or of wood upon a brick foundation.” Usually such houses had a front porch and a back porch, and often a side porch, too, continued Tarkington. There was a front hall, a side hall, and sometimes a back hall. From the front hall opened three rooms, the parlor, the sitting room and the library. The library had books. “Commonly, the family sat more in the library than in the sitting room, while callers, when they came formally, were kept to the parlor, a place of formidable polish and discomfort. The upholstery of the library furniture was a little shabby; but the hostile chairs and sofa of the parlor always looked new. For all the wear and tear they got they should have lasted a thousand years.” My parents’ families come from the Midwest, as do my wife’s. Everyone had big front porches with swing and coaster seats, as well as comfortable and uncomfortable rooms inside. Some lived in towns and cities, where you could keep an eye on the neighborhood, including all its kids, while catching a breeze out front. Others lived out in the country, where one could watch cars coming across the prairie for quite a distance before their arrival, which gave people time to ready themselves for guests. Later, as our families dispersed, most stopped spending time out front of their houses, choosing to congregate around grills in the back of their homes. These arrangements became the new norm as America became more suburban. There’s a tradition in American literature where people congregate on porches. Read Willa Cather, Thomas Wolfe and Harper Lee, Sherwood Anderson or Edith Wharton’s rural tales, and there’s always a scene on a porch swing, or porch steps. Shift past World War II and you enter a different age. Neighborly curiosity and communication disappears. Instead, one gets John Cheever’s ‘The Swimmer,’ the decks and gazebos of Richard Russo’s failing old worlds, multiple scenes in Richard Ford’s cars or back yards, and nary a porch rocker in sight, except as a forlorn memory. The old towns and cities of the Hudson Valley offer a contrast with the newer developments or rural mansions. As often as not, the porches that remain are now either hidden behind shrubbery or unpopulated, even while they hint at more communal lives now past. A growing body of writing has picked up on the
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Front porches were once the center of American social life in small towns and rural areas, the equivalent of stoops and street life in urban areas … our form of a “commons.” social and political repercussions of this architectural shift. In the last half-century, “private citizens” have become “consumers.” “When a family member was on the porch it was possible to invite the passerby to stop and come onto the porch for extended conversation. The person on the porch was very much in control of this interaction, as the porch was seen as an extension of the living quarters of the family. Often, a hedge or fence separated the porch from the street or board sidewalk, providing a physical barrier for privacy, yet low enough to permit conversation,” explained Richard Thomas in a 1975 essay, “From Porch to Patio.” “The porch served many important social functions in addition to advertising the availability of its inhabitants. A well-shaded porch provided a cool place in the heat of the day...The porch also provided a courting space within earshot of protective parents. Older persons derived great pleasure from sitting on the porch, watching the world go by, or seeing the neighborhood children at play.” Notre Dame University political science professor Patrick Deneen added to Thomas’ thoughts a few years back at frontporchrepublic.com. “By contrast, the patio reflected both new settlement patterns and the increasing desire for privacy and withdrawal from interaction with one’s neighbors…The patio, it was believed, was a symbol and practical expression of our independence, our liberation from the niggling demands of neighbor
and community.” Front Porch Republic has also been publishing a number of essays and poems by Kentucky-based writer Wendell Berry over the years, including his recent collection of poems entitled “A Small Porch” that he writes while sitting outside on Sabbath days. “What was here that you wanted to change? You changed at first your absence by your presence, having arrived by a hard way over the mountains or along the rivers,” Berry writes in that collection. “Once here, your presence still was a sort of absence, for you learned slowly and late where you were. In ignorance, you destroyed much that was here that you undervalued, much of value that you never knew was here.”
think of my front porches here. Deep in the Catskills, they were a place from which to watch life pass by. Eventually, my porches were home to couches and stuffed easy chairs, a standing lamp or two, a stereo. Later, I moved into a town where I never felt quite at home, I put out a porch swing but found myself spending less and less time out there. Because no one else was out, I guess. Currently living in a city once again, I’ve got a private deck out back. I’m wondering whether I should bring my grill out onto the front sidewalk and start mixing drinks on the stoop so I can join in my neighborhood’s summer fun.
n a microcosm, the forces that led to the decline of the porch as a place of transition between the private and the public realm have eviscerated both those domains of their capacity to educate a citizenry for self-government. The porch — as an intermediate space, even a sphere of civil society — was the symbolic and practical place where we learned that there is not, strictly speaking, a total separation between the public and private worlds. We rarely consider the ways that our built environment – even something so simple as a front porch — constitutes some of the necessary conditions for self-government. Thinking of ourselves in ways that can only be described as simultaneously disembodied (by means of our technology) and wholly embodied (albeit only as monadic individuals), we ignore the way spaces shape us, even prepare us for lives of responsible citizenship, community, and the proprieties of private life. Instead we simultaneously crave a retreat into the purported liberties of the private realm, yet regard the only public entity worthy of our attention to be a distant and inaccessible government. For those who would stand and defend the future of the Republic, a good place to start would be to revive our tradition of building and owning homes with front porches, and to be upon them where we can both see our neighbors and be seen by them, speak and listen to one another, and, above all, be in a place between, but firmly in place. Patrick Deneen
May 17, 2018 Home Hudson Valley
Ulster Publishing Co.
The Ever Curious Gardener Lee Reich’s new book’s another keeper
cate apple blossoms? We can not. In the chapter on stems and leaves, Reich goes into loving detail on how to protect our trees and plants should some diabolical warm spell add to the misery of what we know as Winter:The Season That Knows No Bounds. Reich gives us the inside skinny on compost and crop rotation (page 128), how and why we might want to oil fig fruit (page 84), and “a true crime story on how his plants broke the law” (but did not kill the deputy) on page 135. It’s obvious to both gardeners extraordinaire and unsuspecting, innocent browsers that I am no expert. And yet, this is a book review. How did I get this gig?! I think my praise for this book is as valuable as that of a notable green thumb precisely because Reich speaks to my ignorance with clear language and humor. He reassures that, even though there is a lot to learn, it is knowable. It is a book that meets me where I am, with the promise to take me far indeed. And it speaks to my artsy-fartsy, snowflakey sensibility. I will be dipping back into this book for many years to come.
By Elisabeth Henry
ee Reich’s new book THE EVER CURIOUS Gardener, is for people like me, and perhaps you. Yes, it’s dense. Yes, there are Latin words. Yes, Reich is a renowned master gardener with advanced degrees in horticulture and soil science. Intimidating stuff. But Reich’s writing style is so conversational, so accessible, that this book is a very serviceable resource for people like us. We whose gardening experience has been to purchase a plant at a bigbox store, to remove the plastic tab from the soil, to read the “instructions” (plant in full sun or partial shade eight inches apart), and to do just that! Then we wait to witness the fullness of nature’s beauty unfold. Instead we witness the obvious agony of a plant withering to a desiccated yellow, or dissolving into a gelatinous stub. Betrayed. Long ago my Italian mother-in-law taught me the importance of method, order of operations and technique in cooking. Ingredients matter, of course. But there are far more secrets to an unforgettable meal than mere “secret ingredients.” So, too, with gardening. Reich happily reveals secrets. He’s a generous green genius. His advice is not just about what to do, but also what to see, feel and smell. He encourages us to know gardening as something sensory, and not just visually. It’s a sensual activity. For instance, there is a reason to give your seedlings an attentive touch, stroke or shake. To find out why, I recommend Page Eleven. Here you will also find out the best time of day to do this, and what caressing your seedlings determines in your infant flora. As for more sex, find out how the holly sex differs from tomato sex. (Perfect vs. Imperfect). And don’t think it’s anything like that bad date at Burning Man, or what you think about alone in the sauna. Reich devotes an entire page (42) to teach us how to hand-texture soil. Perhaps we cannot depend on ourselves entirely yet. Perhaps we still need to rely on our Cooperative Extension for confirmation. But we are encouraged that someday we can trust our own perceptions. Reich imparts how to do that. How also not merely to understand that we are experiencing the natural world, but also to know that our perceptions mean things in fact. See page 36 if you are considering the purchase of a building lot, or putting in a garden, and you see buttercups. You will find out what those pretty yellow flowers mean, and how their presence aids your decision making. Reich is highly regarded as a national expert, but even more exciting is the fact that he’s a local! He knows our pain. How can we trust an expert from New Jersey, or worse, someone from California (who is probably just a surfer) with our deli-
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