Michael Phillips: Holistic Orcharding

The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way, by Michael Phillips
The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way, by Michael Phillips

For several years I’ve been absorbing holistic orcharding and gardening wisdom from Michael Phillips. I no longer recall how I came across the pied piper of organic, non-toxic fruit tree propagation, but it’s quite possible that my first introduction was an article in Mother Earth News titled, “Organic Apple Growing: Advice From Michael Phillips“.

If you’re uninitiated, Michael Phillips is the owner (along with his wife, Nancy, and their daughter, Gracie), steward, and chronicler of Lost Nation Orchard in New Hampshire. His book, The Holistic Orchard, is the bible for organic apple growers. Here’s a trailer for the companion DVD, Holistic Orcharding.

The book is outstanding. As is The Apple Grower: A Guide for the Organic Orchardist. And I’d also recommend this YouTube playlist of Michael Phillips’ organic orcharding videos.

Holistic Orcharding Tips

Whether or not “Organic Apple Growing: Advice From Michael Phillips“, the article in Mother Earth News, was my introduction to Michael Phillips’ ideas about holistic orcharding, there are some great takeaways that I’ll highlight here:

Q: How big of a hole do I need to dig for planting a tree?
A: The size of the tree hole needs to be large enough to accommodate the roots without bending them. A 3-foot diameter hole generally fits the bill. (Source: MOTHER EARTH NEWS)

Q: A friend told me I should buy a mycorrhizal product to boost the growth of my trees. Does such a product have any worth?
A: Plants have developed an incredible symbiotic relationship with certain fungi to help get nutrients from the soil, as well as to ward off pathogenic organisms. An apple tree has specific mycorrhizae that interact with its roots in the humus layer in these ways. You can inoculate your soil by finding a healthy wild tree and then bringing a few scoops of the soil beneath its branches back to your ground. Ecosystems adapt to the needs at hand without our necessarily having to buy a packaged product. (Source: MOTHER EARTH NEWS)

Q: Some bug is tunneling into a lot of my fruit when it’s just the size of a nickel. What’s up?
A: We deal with two “petal-fall pests” in the eastern half of the United States that easily could be your culprits. Plum curculio larvae get their start in a crescent-like scar the female weevil makes to prevent the growing fruitlet from crushing her egg; European apple sawfly larvae first scratch the surface of a pea-sized fruitlet, and then go on to eat the seeds in another three or four fruitlets. (Source: MOTHER EARTH NEWS)

Q: What’s up with the new kaolin clay spray?
A: Those petal-fall pests identified above can be held effectively in check with a nontoxic white clay covering applied over the entire surface of the tree. The kaolin clay panicles confuse the insect adults and prove incredibly irritating… Application begins as the blossoms start to fall and needs to be thorough. It takes two or three initial sprays to build up a thick enough base to repel these insects. Renew the clay weekly for the next month. (Source: MOTHER EARTH NEWS)

Q: Why did my grandparents hang open jugs of vinegar and molasses out in the orchard?
A: Such homegrown traps usually target adult fruit moths such as the codling moth. Unfortunately, all sons of bugs end up drowning in this brew, some of which might have been beneficial allies. I prefer to control codlings moths with well-timed sprays of Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a biological pesticide stomach-specific to caterpillars. Others have had some success wrapping corrugated cardboard around the trunk of the tree, where the larvae crawl to continue their development. Then at the end of the summer, the cardboard is removed and burned. (Source: MOTHER EARTH NEWS)

Q: When do I hang those red sticky ball traps?
A: Apple maggot flies (AMF) are the culprits drawn to these effective traps. The new generation emerges from the soil beginning in late June, with females seeking fruit in which to lay eggs throughout July and August. The sticky balls mimic the best apple to be found in the orchard. The female alights on the trap and stays put because of a layer of sticky goo called “Tangletrap” covering the red sphere… Two to four traps per tree generally suffice to keep AMF larvae from ruining a good harvest. I set out traps on early maturing varieties by the first of July, then scrape off the dead flies and renew the sticky material when moving the traps to later-maturing varieties in early August. (Source: MOTHER EARTH NEWS)

Books by Michael Phillips

The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way, by Michael Phillips
The Holistic Orchard, by Michael Phillips
The Apple Grower by Michael Phillips
The Herbalist's Way: The Art and Practice of Healing with Plant Medicines, by Nancy and Michael Phillips
The Herbalist’s Way, by Nancy and Michael Phillips
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Essex Horse Nail Company in Essex, New York

I’m perennially on the lookout for Rosslyn and Essex artifacts. Most we have showcased on Essex on Lake Champlain, the community blog for Essex, New York. I’m especially intrigued by artifacts that offer a window in bygone buildings such at the Essex Horse Nail Company which once stood proud and productive on the site of present day Beggs Park. I have curated the following collection of Essex Horse Nail Company artifacts with the hopes filling the visual void. If you are aware of additional Essex Horse Nail Company artifacts that I’m missing, please let me know. Thanks.

Essex Horse Nail Company in Essex, New York
Essex Horse Nail Company in Essex, New York

The Essex Horse Nail Company was located on Beggs Point… It manufactured nails for horse shoes… for almost two decades until the factory was destroyed in a fire in 1918.

“Later 19th century industry on Beggs Point included Essex’s only factory building, first occupied by the Essex Manufacturing Company to 1877, then by Lyon and Palmer blind and sash manufactory until 1879, followed by the Essex Horse Nail Company Limited from 1880 to 1918, which in 1885 employed 60 or 70 hands.” (Essex on Lake Champlain by David C. Hislop, pg. 55)

As the factory was only in operation from 1880 to 1918 that dates that photo to some point in or between those years. After the fire the area was barren, and in the 1920s the area was landscaped into Beggs Park which remains public green space today. (Source: Vintage Photo: Essex Horse Nail Factory | Essex on Lake Champlain)

Essex Horse Nail Factory in Essex, New York
Essex Horse Nail Factory in Essex, New York

Essex Horse Nail Factory… burned in a fire that destroyed the factory in 1918 (which date the photo to that year or prior). After it was gone the area was turned into Beggs Park which remains today. Learn more about its history here. (Source: Vintage Photo: Horse Nail Factory | Essex on Lake Champlain)

Essex Horse Nail Company Factory in Essex, New York
Essex Horse Nail Company Factory in Essex, New York

Robert Hammerslag: ECHO and/or the ECHS did an oral history project back in the 70s. It was headed up by Betsy Tisdale. One of the tapes was a recollection of the fire. I am sure the tapes must be available. I can see the Fire Dept, Ross Store, Community Church and maybe the Noble Clemons House at the upper left.

Todd Goff: Bob, a quick search shows c. 1973 tapes of, “Rev. Stephen F. Bayne of Essex, N.Y. talks about the horseshoe nail factory fire in Essex in 1918.” are in Potsdam Library and Blue Mtn Lake. I will look up at HSX. for them too. Thanks for the heads up. It would be good to digitize them.

Robert Hammerslag: Yes, unless it has already been done, it would be good to digitize those old cassette tapes while it’s still possible. They could be forty years old!

David Hislop: The Essex Heritage Center featuring the Essex Town Historian Office which…has had this audio tape of the Reverend and visuals playing on a feature loop. Stop by to see it and learn more! (Source: Vintage Postcard: View from Steamer of Essex, NY | Essex on Lake Champlain)

Essex Horse Nail Company Factory in Essex, New York
Essex Horse Nail Company Factory in Essex, New York

Another postcard was submitting to us by Todd Goff after he saw us share the above postcard. Thank you very much for adding to our digital collection!His postcard reads, “Steamboat landing of the Lake Champlain Transportation Co., at Essex on Lake Champlain, N.Y.” This postcard shows us an alternate view of the same scene. The photo is looking north up the lake and we can see the side of the Horse Nail Factory in the center of the image along with other facets of this section of the Essex waterfront at this time. (Source: Vintage Postcard: View from Steamer of Essex, NY | Essex on Lake Champlain)

Essex Horse Nail Company Factory in Essex, New York, circa 1909.
Essex Horse Nail Company Factory in Essex, New York, circa 1909.

According to the back of the postcard the photo was originally published by “J.S. Wooley, Ballston Spa, NY.” In the center of the photo we can see the old horse nail factory that burned down in 1918. Take a look at other postcards featuring this factory for a better look and to learn more. This building being present here tells us the photo was taken before 1918. As “25.8.09” is written on the face of this postcard we can assume that this may have been the date (August 25, 1909) the postcard was created or possibly the date it was sent… (Source: Vintage Postcard: Essex from Lake Champlain (1909) | Essex on Lake Champlain)

Essex Horse Nail Company/Factory located where Beggs Park is today.
Essex Horse Nail Company/Factory located where Beggs Park is today.

Dianne Lansing: That’s the Horseshoe nail factory on the right…one of several in the photo that are no longer there…

Katie Shepard: This Essex lakefront view does have the old Horse Nail Factory to the right, which burned in 1918 and the location is Beggs Park today… The postage mark is a little hard to make out but I believe it matches the date written out, which reads: “9/22/09.” […] The back of the postcard also tells us that the publisher is “W.H. Cruikshank” in Essex, NY. The name has appeared as the publisher on several of the old postcards that we’ve shared on the blog. (Source: Vintage Postcard: Essex Lakefront Scene | Essex on Lake Champlain)

Essex Horse Nail Company Factory (Source: Susie Drinkwine via Essex on Lake Champlain)
Essex Horse Nail Company Factory (Source: Susie Drinkwine via Essex on Lake Champlain)

The church steeple in the center is the Essex Baptist Church and to the far right the tall object (tower? pipe?) is part of the Essex Horse Nail Company‘s factory. Both are now absent from the town due to fire which destroyed the church in 1943 and the factory in 1918, which dates the photo pre-1918. (Source: Vintage Photo: Essex Waterfront with Nail Factory | Essex on Lake Champlain)

Essex Horse Nail Co. Factory in Essex, NY
Essex Horse Nail Co. Factory in Essex, NY

This week we’re happy to share this black and white photo dated to about c. 1900-1910… I believe I see the part of the old Horse Nail Factory on the far right of the photo. Do you agree?  (Source: Vintage Photo: Essex Waterfront | Essex on Lake Champlain)

Rosslyn bathhouse, boathouse, and the steam yacht, Kestrel, are center foreground, the Old Dock is center background with Essex Horse Nail Co. Factory at far left. (Source: Shirley LaForest via Essex on Lake Champlain)
Rosslyn bathhouse, boathouse, and the steam yacht, Kestrel, are center foreground, the Old Dock is center background with Essex Horse Nail Co. Factory at far left. (Source: Shirley LaForest via Essex on Lake Champlain)

Although Rosslyn’s bathhouse, boathouse (and the Kaiser family’s steam yacht, Kestrel) occupy the center foreground, the Essex Horse Nail Co. Factory’s smoke stack is just visible at the far left of the Old Dock (center background).

Horse Nails and Crate from Essex Horse Nail Company / Factory (Source: Dianne Lansing via Essex on Lake Champlain)
Horse Nails and Crate from Essex Horse Nail Company / Factory (Source: Dianne Lansing via Essex on Lake Champlain)

This photograph popped up in my Facebook feed about a week ago, posted by my neighbor Dianne Lansing with the following description.

“A special gift from a very dear friend. It’s an original box of horseshoe nails made at the Essex Horseshoe Nail Factory which was located at what is now Beggs Park.” ~ Source: Diane Lansing, Facebook, March 14 at 9:16pm

Situated on a commanding promontory overlooking Lake Champlain, the Essex Horse Nail Company occupied the site of several earlier industries. The Essex Horseshoe Nail Factory burned long ago, so it’s veiled in a bit of mystery. (Source: Essex Horse Nails | Essex on Lake Champlain)

Envelope from Essex Horse Nail Co., Limited in Essex, New York, circa 1898.
Envelope from Essex Horse Nail Co., Limited in Essex, New York, circa 1898.

I spied this intriguing artifact in an eBay auction. It’s a canceled envelope for a letter, invoice, something… sent from the Essex Horse Nail Co., Limited in Essex, New York on August 16, 1898 (year cited in eBay auction, though I’m unable to verify) to Mr. D. J. Payne in Wadhams Mills, New York. (Source: Essex Horse Nail Company and Wadhams Mills » Rosslyn Redux)

My "doodlebomb" of the Essex Horse Nail Company including the enterprise's logo (top center).
My “doodlebomb” of the Essex Horse Nail Company including the enterprise’s logo (top center).

While researching and illustrating the Essex, New York Architecture: A Doodler’s Field Guide I “doodlebombed”several vintage images of Essex landmarks including the Essex Horse Nail Co. Not much of an artifact? Sorry!

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Storm + Screen Doors

Kevin Boyle Installs New Screen Door
Kevin Boyle Installs New Screen Door

Good friend and skilled carpenter Kevin Boyle built screen doors for Rosslyn’s exterior mudroom entrance and pantry entrances, and he installed them this past Sunday and Monday.

My bride had leaned on him to squeeze the installation in between two rounds of houseguests, and Kevin was gracious enough to accommodate her by working on a weekend day that I’m certain he would have preferred to spend motorcycling with his wife.

Thanks, Kevin!

Storm + Screen Doors

Kevin joined Rosslyn’s finish team back in about 2007 or 2008, and his legendary preservation and carpentry skills are evident throughout. He’s continued on-and-off ever since, tackling sensitive projects as they arrise, and he has always, always met or exceeded our exacting expectations. We consider ourselves extremely fortunate that Kevin has invested so much in rehabilitating Rosslyn.

Kevin built and installed a similar screen+storm door for our front entrance years ago, and it has performed admirably.

We actually schemed up these hybrid screen+storm doors years ago, but some other project has always gotten in the way. At last they rose to the top of the punch list.

My bride and I dallied altogether too long disagreeing about the design, but we finally agreed that they should echo the design of exterior doors they would accompany. We had agreed from the get-go that the ideal design for screen doors would allow us to swap out the screen section for glass when autumn becomes chilly, and Kevin handily accommodated our wish. (It’s worth noting that he had built and installed a similar screen+storm door for our front entrance years ago, and it has performed admirably.)

Newly Installed Storm + Screen Door
Newly Installed Storm + Screen Door

Accoya: A Better Wood

I believe that Kevin fabricated our front screen door out of red cedar, but this time around he encouraged us to consider another material with which he’s been very satisfied for exterior doors called Accoya.

I have been using Accoya wood for several years for applications just like your storm / screen doors. Its stability is superior to any other species I’ve used so far. It finishes well with paints (doesn’t stain well with transparent finishes)… [and offers] good durability. ~ Kevin Boyle

The explanation above was received via email, and Kevin included a link to Accoya’s lengthy product description that includes the following highlights.

By significantly enhancing the durability and dimensional stability of abundantly available certified wood species, Accoya® wood provides compelling environmental advantages over scarce slow growing hardwoods, woods treated with toxic chemicals, and non-renewable carbon- intensive materials such as plastics, steel and concrete. In comparing Accoya® with other materials, it is necessary to take the full life cycle into account, from ‘cradle to grave’. (Source: www.accoya.com)

Accoya® wood waste can be handled in the same way as untreated wood. Accoya® wood is non-toxic and does not require any special disposal considerations. Given its long life, multiple applications and non-toxicity, Accoya® wood is suited to re-use and recycling. (Source: www.accoya.com)

It seems to check all of the most important boxes!

Compared to Kevin’s elegant, functional storm + screen doors, the factory manufactured design falls short.

Kevin actually installed a third screen door, a second story access from the master bedroom to a small balcony that overlooks the barns, meadows, and Adirondack sunsets. But this was a door that we had manufactured offsite, long ago (almost a decade?!?!) when we were first renovating Rosslyn. It’s a full width, floor-to-ceiling screen door with only a slim frame around the exterior. After deciding to postpone installing it once upon a time, we opted to try it on for size. And the conclusion? Compared to Kevin’s elegant, functional storm + screen doors, the factory manufactured design falls short. But… the view and airflow are addictive! So we’ll use the current screen door for the duration of the summer, and then Kevin will build us another custom storm + screen door that he’ll [hopefully] install in the autumn. He might even squeeze in a pair of customer storm windows to flank the door.

I’ll close with an inside-out look at the mudroom’s new storm + screen door. Thank, Kevin!

One of Kevin Boyle's new storm + screen doors.
One of Kevin Boyle’s new storm + screen doors.
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Beautiful Broccoli

Catherine Seidenberg, our now-year-two vegetable garden guru, has once again aced the Broccoli Bonanza. That’s right, my bride and I have been devouring 100% organic, pest-free broccoli fresh out of the garden for a couple of weeks now. Quickly steamed, it’s packed with flavor, and oh-too-sexy to resist!

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How to Use Tanglefoot (And Why Fruit Trees Need It)

It’s time for a follow-up to my Organic Orcharding post, specifically a look at using Tanglefoot as a non-toxic pest inhibitor in a holistic fruit tree orchard.

Tanglefoot, Pre-Goo & Post-Goo

Here’s a glimpse at the first two phase of Tanglefoot installation. This first photo was taken just before the sticky goo was lathered onto the corrugated paper.

Tanglefoot Installation: wrap trunk with corrugated paper
Tanglefoot Installation: wrap trunk with corrugated paper

So tidy, right? Not for long! Here’s what it looks like after the sticky Tanglefoot is installed.

Tanglefoot Installation: lather ultra gooey Tanglefoot on the corrugated paper wrapped around tree trunk.
Tanglefoot Installation: lather ultra gooey Tanglefoot on the corrugated paper wrapped around tree trunk.

Yuck! Hopefully the noisome critters that like to climb up the fruit tree trunks agree.

It’s a messy installation process, but it seems to work pretty well.

How to Apply Tanglefoot

I’ll prologue the most important part of this post by saying two things:

  1. Applying Tanglefoot to fruit trees a messy but relatively straightforward task.
  2. Better instructors have already explained application, so I’ll defer to their able guidance rather than overlook something important.

One of the best step-by-step Tanglefoot installation videos was made by San Diego master gardeners Carol Graham (you can watch the video here and learn more about Carol Graham here.) Similarly thorough written instructions are provided by the products’s manufacturer, Contech-Inc:

We recommend using 4” wide wrap of waterproof paper or tape on the trunk of the tree and applying Tree Tanglefoot over the wrap. Tree Tanglefoot is oil-based and the oils will soak into the bark. Banding material eliminates staining of the tree and offers quick, complete removal of the sticky material. In addition, Tree Tanglefoot will remain sticky longer when applied on top of a surface resistant to oil. For rough bark trees it may be necessary to plug the gaps between the tree trunk and the banding, this can be done by using insulation or other materials.

Apply Tree Tanglefoot Insect barrier in a uniform fashion. It can be applied in a heavy or light coat. Heavy coats are approximately 3” wide and 3/32” thick. A heavy coat is used when the insects to kept from the tree foliage are large or numerous, or when there is little time available to maintain the band. Light coats are 3” wide and 1/16” thick. A light coat is good as a general barrier against smaller or less numerous insects, or when the band can be maintained regularly.

Generally, Tree Tanglefoot will remain sticky and effective until it is covered with insects, dust or other debris. A build-up of debris or insects will create a bridge for other insect to cross. This debris requires removal and possible re-application in spots. If an area is unusually dusty or the surface of the barrier is stiffened, Tree Tanglefoot can be rubbed around to expose a new sticky layer beneath. Remove bands at end of season. (Source: Tree Tanglefoot Insect Barrier Products – Contech Inc)

Still a little uncertain? (Or just procrastinating to avoid making a gooey-sticky mess?) Here’s another resource I’ve also relied upon for amazing step-by-step Tanglefoot guide with photographs. Here are the simple, straightforward instructions.

Using a putty knife or a cake decorating spatula. If you choose a putty knife be very careful with the edges and corners as they are very sharp and can easily damage the bark of the tree. I recommend using a cake decorating spatula because they have rounded edges at the tip.

1. Wrap your tree in plastic film

2. Soften up a glob of Tanglefoot with the spatula

3. Work it into a smooth lump without strings back to the bucket

4. Apply the product in a thin 1″ wide band a few inches from the top of the plastic all the way around the tree creating a complete circle

5. Drag your spatula in the same direction that you wrapped the tree  with the plastic. If you go the other way you’ll just pull the plastic right off

6.Make another band of Tanglefoot a few inches down from the first band. This creates 2 barriers that work together to stop the pests from walking up your tree (Source:  How to Use Tanglefoot – Backyard Food Growing)

I use the paper “tape” version and have not yet tried the plastic film, but I’m intrigued. However this post made me wary.

I got some Tanglefoot this year for my apple trees, had a lot of problems with ants last year. I tried attaching bands of saran wrap around the tree trunks and applying the Tanglefoot that way. That was a complete disaster/mess, so I called the Tanglefoot manufacturer and asked if it would harm my trees to apply their product directly to the bark. They said that other than a dark ring/stain around the tree, no, it should not harm the tree at all to be directly applied. So, that is what I did. Did it about a month ago. No signs of any tree trouble yet. (Source: Putting tanglefoot on trees directly – GardenWeb)

I decided to ask the author, Stacy, the about plastic wrap vs. paper banding.

Great post, and the photo play-by-play is the best resource I’ve found online! Thank you. This is my first foray into fruit tree pest tangling (wrangling?), and I’m curious about your preference for plastic wrap instead of the paper/cardboard option proposed by the manufacturer. I’m guessing you’ve tried both and decided that the plastic wrap works better? Would you be willing to explain the pros and cons of plastic instead of paper? Hoping to get this right the first time! Thanks.

Stacy answered my question the very same day (Wow! Thanks, Stacy.) as follows:

Thank you! I’m happy the pictures are helpful for you. You’ll do just fine, the hardest part is keeping it off of yourself and your clothes! I have a few reasons for the plastic.

The method that I show here (with the two stripes/plastic/cotton balls) was the way I was taught during my first experience with Tanglefoot, I didn’t even know about the cardboard at that point. It wasn’t until I started working in a retail nursery a few years later that I found out about the cardboard wrap.

I think the cardboard wrap could be good if your tree is perfectly smooth, as it leaves gaps that the bugs can walk under unobstructed. It might work ok if you put cotton balls under it and secure it tightly to close those gaps though.

Also, I don’t choose the cardboard because I live in a very rainy climate and the cardboard would disintegrate in no time at all. If your area is less rainy then it would probably be ok. I prefer the plastic too because it holds tight to the bark and stays put for the month or two that it’s on there.

I’ve just continued to use the plastic/cotton balls method because it was simple and used items I already had at home, there wasn’t an additional product that I needed to buy.

It’s just important to get the plastic off when the season is done or when the Tanglefoot becomes ineffective, the plastic allows no airflow for the bark. This would be a benefit to using the cardboard. (Source: backyardfoodgrowing.com)

Thanks again, Stacy.

Needless to say, I still haven’t tried the plastic film. Three years of installation with paper “tape”, and it seems to be working. So, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it!

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Radishes and Radish Greens

On this technicolor Tuesday I present to you one of our flashiest May garden treats, French Breakfast Radishes.

French Breakfasts Radishes: The peppery-but-sweet taste of spring.
French Breakfasts Radishes: The peppery-but-sweet taste of spring.

Field and forrest foraged veggies — like stinging nettles, wild ramps, and fiddleheads — are nature’s charitable reminder that winter has once again yielded to spring. Then our vegetable gardens begin to awaken with asparagus and spinach that spoil our palates with succulent, vitamin packed hints of warmer days.

Radishes celebrate precocious summer’s spicy return with vibrant, bye-bye-mud-season colors, a super satisfying crunch, and tastebud reviving explosions of peppery sweetness.

French Breakfasts Radishes: The peppery-but-sweet taste of spring.
French Breakfasts Radishes: The peppery-but-sweet taste of spring.

And radishes aren’t just crunchy eye candy for the crudités. Radishes are nutritious. Especially the radish greens!

My ever-curious, ever-creative, ever experimenting mother introduced me to cooked radish greens a year or two ago, and I’ve been a fan ever since.

French Breakfast Radish Greens: Don't compost this nutritious spring green!
French Breakfast Radish Greens: Don’t compost this nutritious spring green!

Radish Greens Recipe

This evening’s sautéed radish greens were prepared by my bride, a far more gifted cook than she willingly admits. I pulled about nine large French Breakfast radishes from the garden, scrubbed them up and separated the bulbs from the best greens. The second and third photographs above show you what my wife inherited.

Preparing sautéed radish greens is quick, easy, and delicious. I’ll offer you the steps I offered my bride, but duplicating the perfectly peppery and garlicky side dish she served is up to you.

  • Clean radish greens and soak in cold water
  • Lightly chop greens and remove any “woody” stems
  • Heat olive oil in a sauté pan
  • Crush 1-2 garlic cloves; add to olive oil
  • Brown the garlic and add radish greens
  • Stir gently with a splash of white wine
  • Add balsamic vinegar and/or soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

My bride chopped and sautéed a yellow bell pepper with the radish greens which added a subtly caramelized nuance (and intriguing texture variety) to the radish greens. It was delicious!

Radishes (and Radish Greens) are Nutritious

[Note: I won’t pretend to be an expert in matters nutritional, especially when it comes to Raphanus sativus. But I’ve stumbled upon an inspiring article from Full Circle that helps fills in some gaps. I’ve excerpted some of the best below.]

As a cruciferous vegetable like broccoli, radishes have a host of health benefits but are typically under-appreciated… However, for both their health benefits and amazing array of flavors radishes top our list of foods to start paying more attention to and eating on a daily basis… here are nine reasons to “eat your radishes!”

  1. Naturally cooling Radishes are… highly regarded in eastern medicine for the ability to decrease excess heat in the body…
  2. Sooth sore throats [Radishes] can help eliminate excess mucus in the body and… help clear the sinuses and soothe soar throats too.
  3. Aids digestion Radishes are a natural cleansing agent for the digestive system…
  4. Prevents viral infections … regular consumption of radishes can help prevent viral infections.
  5. Eliminates toxins [Radishes] break down and eliminate toxins and cancer-causing free radicals in the body.
  6. Protects against cancer … radishes contain phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals that are cancer protecting.
  7. Relieves indigestion Radishes… can help relieve bloating and indigestion.
  8. Low in calories, high in nutrients [At] less than 20 calories in an entire cup, radishes are a great way to add nutrients, fiber and tons of flavor to your meals…
  9. Keeps you hydrated With a high water content and lots of vitamin C as well as phosphorus and zinc, radishes… can help keep your body hydrated… (Source: Full Circle)

Cooked Radishes

I’ve been hearing more and more about cooked radishes. Not radish greens. Radishes. So far I haven’t tried grilling or roasting radishes. Have you? I’m looking for advice…

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Organic Orcharding

Apple Blossom, Spring 2016
Apple Blossom, Spring 2016

For the last few years I’ve made brazen claims about holistic, organic gardening and orcharding. No pesticides. No way; no how.


No exceptions.

I’ve refused to spray our fruit trees to inoculate them against all of the baddies that lurk in an orchard’s tender places. I’ve refuted the discouraging oracles who assure me that I will fail; that a successful orchard requires, requires, pesticides and fungicides; that neighboring fruit tree growers will consider my bad judgment not only an ill-informed mistake but a dangerous threat to their own trees.

Apple Blossom, Spring 2016
Apple Blossom, Spring 2016

I’ve soldiered on, resolved to make Rosslyn a toxin-free, organic, healthy environment. I’ve poured over alternative gardening, lawn maintenance and orcharding resources. And I’ve experimented. Sometimes successfully, sometimes unsuccessfully. The orchard alone has required about a 5-10% replant rate over the last 3+ years. Which is discouraging. And frustrating. But it’s also remarkable that most of the trees have survived and thrived!

But I am slightly evolving in my thinking. Less dogmatic. More informed. And my black and white “Pesticides: No Way, No How” line in the sand is yielding to alternative, non-toxic, but considerably more proactive approaches to fruit tree growing. (Much credit is due to Michael Phillips (Grow Organic Apples: Holistic Orchard Network) among other holistic orchard mentors. Thanks, Sir Phillips!)

Last summer I added three new “tools” to my orcharding, and I’m going to focus on each of the three in separate posts in order to keep the topics focused and useful to others exploring the realm of healthy, non-toxic fruit tree propagation. Here are the three:

Organic Plum Trees in Bloom, Spring 2016
Organic Plum Trees in Bloom, Spring 2016
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Bobcat Sighting

Bobcat Sighting on January 2, 2016 in Essex, NY.
Bobcat Sighting on January 2, 2016 in Essex, NY.

This handsome bobcat (Lynx rufus) was photographed with game camera in one of our meadows on January 2, 2016. Friend and Essex neighbor John Davis mounted the camera about a month ago. In addition to photographs of deer, turkeys, and rabbits he discovered four images (from two separate occasions) of this healthy bobcat. In fact, he thinks it might possibly have been two separate bobcats.

“What joy to have such lovely creatures on our lands!” ~ John Davis

It truly is absolutely wonderful. I can’t believe that this sly feline has been slinking around in our back woods/meadows, and yet I’ve never one spied him/her. Not even a footprint. I look forward to other surprises over the course of the winter.

Thanks, John, for another Rosslyn safari installment!

Bobcat Behavior

Wondering about the elusive, rarely witnessed but apparently [increasingly] common bobcat? I did. I do. How does Lynx rufus traverse our wild (and not-so-wild) places without being more frequently documented?

The bobcat is crepuscular. It keeps on the move from three hours before sunset until about midnight, and then again from before dawn until three hours after sunrise. Each night it will move from 2 to 7 mi (3.2 to 11.3 km) along its habitual route. This behavior may vary seasonally, as bobcats become more diurnal during fall and winter in response to the activity of their prey, which are more active during the day in colder months. (Source: Wikipedia)

[Update: I revisited this post on the Essex on Lake Champlain community blog with a few evolutions including

Crepuscular is a cool (but decidedly un-onomatopoetic) word for the gloaming. Twilight. Cocktail hour… And this, neighbors, might have something to do with the bobcat’s invisibility. Although cocktail hour also seems to be the most oft reported Champy sightings, so maybe my logic is off! Maybe the peripatetic… behavior of Lynx rufus is a more likely explanation for infrequent sightings. Always on the move. Sly. Stealthy. (Source: Lynx rufus (Bobcat) Sighting in Essex)

Hoping to learn more about the habits of our local bobcats, and possibly (fingers, arms, and eyes crossed) we’ll even get lucky and report another bobcat sighting…

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Why Are My Cucumbers Orange?

Yellow-Orange Cucumbers (Photo: virtualDavis)
Yellow-Orange Cucumbers (Photo: virtualDavis)

Why are my cucumbers turning orange? Yellow-orange, to be precise?

We have more productive cucumber plants than ever before, but the enormous fruit are turning yellow and orange before we can eat them. Here’s the reason why.

Cucumbers turn orange when they grow excessively ripe before harvesting, explains Veggie Gardener. The cucumbers first turn yellow, and if left on the vine, they quickly develop a vibrant orange hue. This happens because chlorophyll levels decrease past the point of peak ripeness. Orange cucumbers are very bitter and unsuitable for human consumption. (Source: Ask.com)

Bitter. It’s true. I taste tested just to make sure they were no longer suitable for human consumption. They aren’t, though our caretaker assured us that his wife can still turn them into pickles. I encouraged him to take all he could haul!

Green, Yellow, Orange Cucumbers (Photo: virtualDavis)
Green, Yellow, Orange Cucumbers (Photo: virtualDavis)

Our yellow and/or orange cucumbers are an unfortunate result of this extended heat wave and drought we’ve been enduring. It’s true we may have overprinted. But our beautiful cukes growing, greening and spoiling before our eyes. What to do?

The only way to prevent cucumbers from turning yellow and orange is to harvest them at the proper time. Ripe cucumbers have firm flesh with a medium-green rind and feel heavy for their size. Most varieties ripen between 50 and 70 days after planting. Size is also an important indicator of ripeness. Each cucumber variety has a different optimal size and quickly develops a bitter flavor if allowed to grow larger. Some cucumbers, such as those used for pickling, are naturally smaller than other varieties. Consequently, gardeners must know what type of cucumber they have planted and the target size for ripe specimens in that category. The most common cause of orange and yellow cucumbers is over-ripening, but the discoloration is sometimes a symptom of the Cucumber Mosaic Virus. According to Gardening Know How, the Mosaic Virus produces soft, mushy cucumbers with mottled patches and curled, withered leaves. This incurable virus also affects peppers. When a cucumber displays symptoms of the Mosaic Virus, the best course of action is to remove it from the garden. (Source: Ask.com)

The good news is that we don’t have Cucumber Mosaic Virus. But the bad news is that our compost is becoming overwhelmed with yellow and orange cucumbers!

Green, Yellow, Orange Cucumbers (Photo: virtualDavis)
Green, Yellow, Orange Cucumbers (Photo: virtualDavis)
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Snakes, Swiss Chard & Automobiles

Rattlesnake decoy among the Swiss Chard to deter the White Tail Deer
Rattlesnake decoy among the Swiss Chard to deter the White Tail Deer

A week ago today was a day for snakes. Though – sadly, I must add – it was not a day for living snakes…

Rattlesnakes and White Tail Deer

Let’s start with the good news. Or at least the benign-if-slightly-amusing news. To set the stage, imagine yourself walking across the still dewy lawn south of the carriage barn. A light morning mist still hangs in the air adding a slightly bluish, fuzzy aspect to the vegetable garden, orchard, and meadows beyond.

Your eyes would suddenly, inevitably notice a coiled rattlesnake in the middle of the Swiss chard!

Approaching the southeast corner of the vegetable garden your eyes would be drawn to the delicious, spicy radicchio growing in the cedar raised bed at the corner. Next your eyes would dart to the bright orange nasturtium sprawling alongside. Perhaps you would bend over and pick a succulent, young leaf to munch on. The flavor drifts somewhere between the subtlest peppercorn and cinnamon stick.

As you wander along past two varieties of beets interspersed with a fresh crop of radishes your eyes would suddenly, inevitably notice a coiled rattlesnake in the middle of the Swiss chard!

But don’t panic. It’s not real. More precisely, it’s not a live rattlesnake. It is a lifelike rubber decoy. Before I explain to you why this rubber rattlesnake is coiled, rattle raised and head drawn up and back with fangs bared, here’s a quick backstory.

Rattlesnake decoy among the Swiss Chard to deter the White Tail Deer
Rattlesnake decoy among the Swiss Chard to deter the White Tail Deer

Duck Doodoo

Back in May Lake Champlain water levels were low and dropping. But June brought rain, rain, rain. The lake level went up, up, up.

Doug called to say that two ducks were cuddled up asleep with the rubber rattlesnake…

The shoreline shrank, so the mallards decided that our dock was the perfect place for snoozing, eating, and… evacuating the rather rich byproduct of their rather rich diet. This stinky mess created an undesirable obstacle course for accessing the boat. So we hosed and scrubbed. But within a few hours the situation repeated itself.

After many weeks of duck waste remediation (DWR) I suffered a small stroke of genius. We needed a decoy predator! I researched and discovered that others had found that a coiled rubber rattlesnake deterred ducks, geese, seagulls, even pelicans. Perfect.

I placed the order and chuckled my way down to the dock on deployment day. An hour or two later Doug called to say that two ducks were cuddled up asleep with the rubber rattlesnake…

White Tail Deer Decoy

What to do with a worthless rubber rattlesnake? A few silly pranks came to mind, but before I could regroup and execute, I discovered that Doug had transferred the rubber rattlesnake to one of the Swiss chard patches in our vegetable garden that the white tail deer have been devouring. Good idea!

It’s too early to determine for certain whether or not the rattler is going to dissuade the deer, but I’ll update you if there’s any news.

Corn Snake Roadkill

In sorrier stories, this unfortunate sight caused me to pause during a recent bike ride.

Is this unfortunate snake spotted on Willsboro point at the end of July 2015 an anerythristic corn snake?
Is this unfortunate snake spotted on Willsboro point at the end of July 2015 an anerythristic corn snake?

I pedaled past this exotic roadkill on a Willsboro Point bike ride, and circled back to try and identify the unfortunate fellow. Aside from the always disturbing sight of roadkill, this snake instantly reminded me of the mystery snake I spied in the rhubarb a few years ago. In fact, I’m almost 100% certain now that is the same species I failed to identify then.

A quick search online suggests to me that it might be an anerythristic corn snake. Check out the photograph below and decide for yourself.

An anerythristic corn snake (Source: Wikipedia)
An anerythristic corn snake (Source: Wikipedia)
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