August 28, 2015

Pickling at Skylands

I always love this time of year when I can start pickling the delicious cucumbers from my gardens.

I remember pickling with my mom, Big Martha - she was a fabulous preserver, following the traditions established by her immigrant mother, Yadviga Ruskowski. Mom made garlic dills and sour dills and soft dills and crispy dills, all in six to eight gallon earthenware glazed crocks. She made bread and butters and piccalilli and cauliflower pickle and relishes.

I try to make a few of a lot of different pickles each year, but since my eating habits don't include so many meats and sausages as formerly, finding a use for so many different pickles is sometimes challenging. But I do find that everyone likes pickles, and providing a dish of homemade delectable pickles with a sandwich or a main course can be a delightful and welcome offering.

Earlier this month, while I was at Skylands, my home in Seal Harbor, Maine, I spent some time pickling. I used several recipes, which I wanted to share with you here. They include:

Emeril’s Homemade Sweet and Spicy Pickles Open Crock Dill Pickles

Food.Com Polish Dill Pickles Made in A Crock

Cooks.Com Crisp Bread and Butter Pickles

I also used a delicious “Bread and Butter Pickles” recipe from "Joy of Cooking" by Irma S. Rombauer and Marion Rombauer Becker.

Pickling is a wonderful project to do with friends and family - I even got to pickle with Chef Geoffrey Zakarian. And, I can’t wait until Jude and Truman are able to make pickles with me too.

August 27, 2015

Propagating Snapdragons from Stem Cuttings

I always enjoy growing my own plants, but there’s something even more exciting and gratifying about propagating them - producing plants by dividing, grafting, or taking the cuttings from existent stems. It’s an interesting and very easy-to-follow process.

Recently, while up in Maine, I was given a beautiful collection of snapdragons, Antirrhinum majus. These blooms were so magnificent, I was eager to bring the stems home to my farm, where my head gardener, Ryan McCallister, could root new plants from their cuttings. With so many different varieties of snapdragons, certain types are harder to come by - they may be heirloom varieties that have not been as well-preserved. For some, propagating snapdragons from stem cuttings has been very successful - I can’t wait to see how these cuttings do.

Here are some photos…

August 26, 2015

Repurposing Felled Trees at My Farm

Recycling felled trees into valuable, usable lumber is always a good thing, and is one of my priorities on my farm.

Dominic Arena, who works at my farm, keeps his hydraulic Wood-Mizer sawmill on one of my back fields. Dominic enjoys lumbering, but he also shares my passion for recycling and repurposing as many natural resources as possible. I feel sad whenever I lose a tree, but it is comforting to know the high-quality wood from that tree gets reused in many ways - first as lumber for stakes and other building materials, then as compost for my garden beds, and finally as mulch or firewood.

Dominic was at the sawmill controls yesterday, making good quality wooden stakes from a felled ash tree - here are some photos from that process.