Ocracoke has been our favorite place to get away from it all for many years. As week one draws to a close, I want to share a sampling of pictures taken of various birds during our kayak trips. We've really been lucky with the weather, and the birds have been quite cooperative!
Though my blog has been relatively quiet of late, it doesn't mean that I've been idle - although part of my activity has been taking a bit easy after what was a fun - and hectic and continually busy - gardening season. Things may be slowing down on the active gardening front, but are heating up with regard to preparations for activities surrounding the release of my book. What's nice about it is that there is so much to learn - going through this for the first time, each phase has been interesting, challenging, and new - from working through the contract, forming the Table of Contents and Proposal, through the part of actually writing the text, planning for the photography, to the frequent back and forth of editing. I've actually enjoyed each part of the process, mainly due to the wonderful support and care coming from Carleen, Carolyn and Matt from Storey Publishing.
The garden is, alas, in its twilight. I've actually turned off the motion detector Water Scarecrow deer dissuading devices, which has led to some munching in our side garden - and that's fine with me (just diseased, no-longer-producing bean, tomato and squash plants that seem to be quite delicious to Bambi). All tomato plants are now gone - the last dozen or so pulled today, including some tomatoes that are finishing the ripening process on our kitchen counter. The last to go were Dwarf Arctic Rose, Dwarf Kelly Green, Dwarf Beryl Beauty, Sean's Yellow Dwarf, Matchless, Stump of the World, Halladay's Mortgage Lifter, Cherokee Chocolate, Giant Syrian, Little Lucky and Arkansas Traveler. I don't believe I've had tomato plants make it into October before!
A few eggplant looked so ill that I put them out of their misery, but at least 15 plants are still thriving and producing a harvest. The peppers are for the most part looking really fine, and they will probably make it to near the first frost before kicking the bucket, though I may do a driveway clean up well before then.
All that seems to be left to the process to my first book, Epic Tomatoes, are last minute wording tweaks, items caught by the proof readers (an effort for which I am grateful!). It is soon to be off to the printers, and expected to show up in bookstores and websites on December 10, last I've heard. I am beginning to hear of acceptances to garden shows; I was very excited to receive such a letter from the PNW Garden and Flower Show, and will be giving two workshops at that event in Seattle in mid-February. My travel schedule in support of the book is just at the beginning of formation, and that is something that will keep me busy over the coming months.
We will be at Ocracoke for our annual fall escape with dogs and kayaks for the next two weeks. Aside from unwinding, I hope to be starting on my second book for Storey, on straw bale gardening. I have many garden projects that I hope to work on in addition to that book - including assessing progress on the Dwarf Project and deciding what comes next, and producing early drafts for my workshops at the Seattle garden show. Of course, sunny, calm weather will induce us to jump into the kayaks, which means less time on the laptop (always a good thing when on vacation).
I will also be thinking through what next spring - and next year's garden - may look like, especially if my winter and spring travel schedule fills up. Book support activity will definitely impact how much I will be able to bite off next spring - I can envision a smaller garden and less seedlings. But that's many months away, and there is lots to do before I have to think about it in detail.
It is hard to believe that last week at this time I was only a few minutes away from giving my second workshop at the Monticello Heritage Harvest Festival. Where has the week gone? No complaints about the weather, that's for sure. Though not my favorite task, the lawn is now mowed, and I picked a bag of hot peppers for the freezer. I spent some of the week removing some unhappy plants, and will do a bit more today. Here is where things stand:
Side yard garden - the front row indeterminate tomatoes are done and will vacate the premises this afternoon. The pesty rabbit did a number on the beans, and they are mere skeletons; ditto worms on the collards. The rear squash actually look good but lack of sun (the angle is now so low that the garden gets but a few hours each day) and bees (very few honeybees and butterflies this year, sadly) led to a pretty poor squash and cuke yield. All of the rear garden tomatoes in bales are kaput. Essentially the garden is finished and I will be removing all dead plants and weeds in preparation for the thick layer of shredded leaves that will cover it once they start falling.
As far as planting it with greens for the winter, the lack of sun would make this a waste of time, sadly.
Driveway - most of the tomatoes were removed earlier this week, but a few hardy souls remain. I continue to pick from a few dwarfs (Arctic Rose, Sean's Yellow Dwarf, Kelly Green, Jade Beauty and Beryl Beauty fight on), and there are promising green tomatoes on Cherokee chocolate, Stump of the World, Little Lucky, *not* Arkansas Traveler, Matchless and Mortgage Lifter. Yesterday we ate an amazing late season Brandywine. Tomatoes in late September is pretty unprecedented for me.
All of the peppers and eggplant remain, and are thriving and continuing to set fruit - they are therefore receiving regular watering and feeding. We are really going to miss them; I am waiting for the eggplant to fatten up so we can make some breaded slices for freezing.
I do want to plant some pots of winter greens for growing in the driveway; lettuce, collards, kale, spinach, arugula - maybe some beets - so that we can have some home grown salads throughout. The only issue I've experienced with this in past years are digging squirrels!
Happy autumn, everyone!
The Harvest festival formally ended last night, but the vacation didn't quite end for Sue and I until we arrived home a few minutes ago. After a nice relaxing breakfast at the Cottage at Albemarle Ciderworks, we took a peaceful walk through the apple orchard, "borrowing" a few delicious specimens. We packed the car, make our apple purchase, said our goodbyes, and struck off to find some local breweries.
The two that we tried, Wild Wolf Brewing and Devils Backbone Brewing Company, were very enjoyable. We sampled three brews and had an informative tour at the former, and pints of stout with an amazing lunch at the latter. We will be sure to visit both again when we are back in the Charlottesville area.
And so, with countless pleasant memories swirling in our brains, tired from the long ride but happy to be home to reunite with our four legged friends, we reenter the "real world"....whatever that is!
With many thanks to so many people - all those who attended my tomato workshops, familiar faces and new friends, our lodging hosts and all of my Monticello gardening friends who made us feel so pampered - we find ourselves a bit tired, a bit overwhelmed, and quite a bit humbled.
We attended a fascinating workshop on Herbal Syrups and Elixirs, given by Heather Wetzel, which included many samples, some of which were made during the class. Some were meant to raise our moods, others to calm us down. I am not sure which one won the battle, but it was a perfect preparation for my talk on the History of Tomatoes in America that followed. We actually squeezed in an impromptu tomato tasting at the end, making good use of the props that I brought along from our garden.
The weather cooperating, we then headed up to the food, music, and demo part of the day, and managed to tour Jefferson's home as well - we'd not done that in years, and it still astounds. After a long walk through the Monticello garden - always inspiring - we headed back for the car, and are now winding down and getting ready for our reentry into the "real world" tomorrow.
As always, I've added just a few pictures that Sue captured from the day. And no, that is not Sue and I sneaking a bit of shuteye this afternoon - it captures perfectly how we were feeling at the moment, however!
And so, to Tom, Anne, Charlotte, Rock, Chuck, Pat, Eleanor, Peggy, Barry, Susan, Rosiland, Ira, Aaron, Linda, Caryl, Phil, Emily and Joe and countless others - thanks again, so much - we hope to see you again soon.
Today was wonderful. From the cooperative weather (a bit cloudy, comfortably mild) to a late night conversation over a bottle of cider, it just couldn't have been better. A few things learned thus far in the excellent workshops that we've attended: the "fuzzy pink slipper" test for locating your kitchen garden (thanks to Christine Giovai in her Permaculture workshop)....and "sometimes plants just drop dead" (words of wisdom uttered by Ira Wallace.) I was so gratified to present my tomato workshop to a full house late this afternoon. Following an inspired keynote lecture by Aaron Keefer, Culinary Gardener of the French Laundry restaurant in California, we were off to Montalto for the best grazing meal we've ever had.
The whole day was special and memorable. Here are just a few pics that Sue snapped during my afternoon workshop and the evening dinner. Can you tell that I am fading a bit in that last shot (just before we got back on the bus to the parking lot!)
This is the view from the "back yard" of Montalto. Sue and I attended inspiring gardening talks by Rosiland Creasy and Ira Wallace this afternoon at this wonderful venue. Afterward, we tasted some amazing ciders at the Ablemarle Ciderworks. We started the day with a morning walk at nearby Walnut Creek Park. So far the weather is cooperating (though today was a bit warm and muggy, tomorrow is supposed to top out in the mid 70s; may not be as lucky on Saturday).
The festival's main events begin tomorrow, with a day of interesting gardening seminars, ending with dinner on Montalto. I look forward to sharing my tomato stories through my workshops on Friday at 4:30 and Saturday at noon.
Sue and I took a nice drive today north on 86 from Efland, then into Virginia and north on 29, arriving in Charlottesville just a short while ago. We are excited to be attending the Heritage Harvest Festival at Monticello again this year. We are so pleased to be hosted by Albemarle Ciderworks at The Cottage at Rural Ridge along with some other festival participants. What fun!
Though the festival take place mainly on Friday and Saturday, tomorrow we will attend the Edible Landscaping session given by Rosiland Creasy and Ira Wallace. On Friday I will be talking about Tomatoes for the Southeast, focusing on colors, flavors and stories of varieties that I've accumulated and enjoyed over the years. I will be trying something totally new on Saturday, focusing on the history of the development and improvement of tomatoes in America up until the time hybrids became prevalent, mainly between 1870 and 1950. The new talk gives me an opportunity to share many scans from my old seed catalog collection.
The Friday schedule is here, and Saturday here.
Between talks, Sue and I will be attending a variety of gardening talks and walking the Monticello grounds. I will share some of the things we hear about and learn, and pictures from the days, in a series of blogs to come. Be sure to find me if you attend - we can talk tomatoes!
My editor sent a note this morning seeking a very few tomatoes that we seek better examples for the photography. If any of you have partially ripe (1/4 to 1/2 ripe) of the following that look really good (minimum of cracking, blemishing), please let me know. I would reimburse you for them - and then send them off to my publisher.
Lucky Cross, Lillian's Yellow Heirloom, Nepal, Mortgage Lifter/Halladay, Little Lucky, Dwarf Mr. Snow,
Dwarf Rosella Purple, Livingston Magnus
If you can come through on any of these, drop me an email at email@example.com and we can work out how to make it happen.
On the home stretch now! Thanks so much.
My garden friend, Niki Jabbour, is hosting me for half an hour to talk tomatoes - the link is here
Click the listen live button at the upper left at the link.
Our discussion will likely touch upon tomato diseases. Here are two very useful links.
Cornell site on tomato diseases, here
Specific link to Late Blight info here.