CHECK CLIOSGARDEN.COM FOR THE 1ST POST

Hello everyone,

Face book did not publish my first post because it thought I didn’t exist over here. If you want to read all about the London Eye go to cliosgarden.com and you will find it there.

Clio

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50th Salisbury Cathedral

Years ago I saw a picture of Salisbury Cathedral painted by J.M.W.Turner and when I am not using War of the Worlds wallpaper on my screens I use his painting. It is a pastoral scene and does not in any way reflect what is there now but the building is the same and I have always wanted to go there, to be there. Sometimes the ideal and the real come together in a wonderful way. We had the good fortune to attend evensong during the commemoration of the end of WWI. The Royal Legion was there in full regalia, the bands were good, the choir was lovely, the organ was sublime. The Royal Legion is the equivalent of our American Legion and they are very active helping British servicemen and women while on active duty and in retirement. They help children, the injured, widows, everyone in a service person’s family if needed. The RL has the complete support of the government and it is clear that in England they know exactly why the war was fought and what the true price of their freedom is.

It was a Church of England service which was much like the Episcopal service of my youth and they sang the old hymns. All that aside, I was actually there, sitting in the sanctuary, singing…and we sang God Save the Queen which was so much fun. I would have to use a lot of rather flowery language to convey how I felt in that church. All I will say is that my heart was full.  My only concession to my UUism is that I crossed my fingers during the Apostle’s Creed. Hearing it brought me back to standing next to my mother on Sunday morning as the church was full of voices and it was strangely comforting to hear it again. The building is very old and is built upon still older ruins as many of the big churches are. Apparently it was the cathedral of Ken Follett’s ‘Pillers of the Earth’ and ‘World Without End’.  They have a brochure about it but I didn’t have a chance to get one. I will always remember it.

The doves are for peace and are hanging from a net. They look like the starlings going over our property in the autumn, a few above, then many, then a few. On the walls of the cathedral are plaques commemorating dead parishioners and we have them in our church, as well. And seeing them there always makes me wonder if we will have to remove one in a hundred years or so to put up another plaque with the names of our ministers on it. I look at the walls of our little church and rearrange plaques, adding and subtracting as the mood strikes. I haven’t seen any plaques in Salisbury Cathedral that are newer than a hundred years ago. 

Now a word about the roads in England. Perhaps they are not the same all over but so far ….they have roads here that are so narrow it is actually easy to sideswipe the fences on the side of the road, or parked cars or the many mad bicyclists who seem unaware that the cars coming from both directions are going to have to pass. In New England the speed on a country road seldom is higher than 45mph. The same road here has a limit of 60mph. No, I’m not making this up! Curves in the road that  would fling someone into orbit mearly ask one to slow.  We encountered a 14% grade with a 30mph zone directly at the bottom of the hill. And the most terrifying of all is a sign that reads, “Oncoming Vehicles May Be in the Middle of the Road” and another that reads, “Arched Bridge High Vehicles Use Middle of the Road”. Unfortunately there was no way we could stop on the road so I could photograph that sign! I think the most surprising thing is that we have not encountered any traffic accidents. On the other hand, there is a fine of 1000 pounds for texting while driving and a zero tolerance policy on alcohol….not one drink may be had before driving.

In the US one can often pull off a country road onto the verge which is almost always wide enough to pull off entirely. This makes it possible to let traffic get ahead of a slow moving car (us) and also lets people pull off to admire the view. With the narrow roads and no verge at all this is not possible. Another big difference is that there is no clutter, no advertising signs, no strip malls, services are rare outside of the towns and the towns do not sprawl. There is countryside and then there is the town and the speed drops from 50 or 60 to 30 in a few hundred feet but nothing can be seen ahead but the sign. And now I am wondering: how much land do we use in the US  for verges? How many hundreds of thousands of acres rubbled over with gravel for the sole purpose of housing stopped cars?  England does not have the the land to use that way on every road and lane and in this ancient country there is a road going everywhere.

Now, remember that here folks drive on the left side of the road, and Eric is doing all the driving, and I am doing all the gasping in horror. Our first foray out was a terrifying affair.  The tendency is to drive too far to the left in an effort to avoid the oncoming traffic which to us looks like it is on the wrong side of the road and is going to bash us head-on. I was continually saying, “Too far left” and Eric saying, “Thank you”.  He said not one sarcastic rejoinder because he was as grateful as I not to crash into stone walls. My hero. Did I mention that the roads twist like pretzels?

We returned to our room….a FROG (finished room over the garage) which is very nice. It is part of a small, gated estate that is immaculate in every way. We ate a very sparse dinner and fell into bed. And the next day we were up and out one our way to…..

 

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Our 50th Anniversary Trip to England

Hello everyone,

We left our luggage at the B&B and headed for the London Eye as soon as we hit town. We didn’t make our reservation time so stopped for the first food in many hours. Then we found that our time slot was just a serving suggestion and the thing they were really interested in was that we had purchased tickets aforehand so we walked right on. Yes, I am a sniveling coward when it comes to heights but the London Eye is not like roads in the  Blue Ridge Parkway that turn corners against the sky with a thousand foot drop and an outside lane. The LE has no jiggle, no rattle, no herky jerky, no torque and no speed. The gondolas move very slowly and the view unfolds and before I knew it I was up and photographing the superstructure and the river and what all else.

We walked the plaza, clapped for the street entertainers and sat and watched the river go by and finally, when we thought it would never, ever set, the sun went down and we went back to our room. Next day we took a turn through Harrods, still switching time zones and we found a watch for 220, 000 pounds. It was the only one of its kind.   Oh, and a carry-on suitcase for 16, 000 pounds. I kid you not. Really. If I had thought I was enough of a Yahoo to photograph the price tags I would have but I was one hayseed shy.

If you ask, the clerks will tell you about interesting things in the store, they are so helpful. One told us about the Egyptian escalator and said that even ‘tho the entire stair is carved to resemble Egyptian tombs the name comes from the speed of the escalator which is said to be as fast as the flow of the Nile. I asked, “Rainy season or dry season”, but my informant did not know. Pity.

 

Here is a picture of the perfect hat to wear to Elea and Alan’s wedding….only 375 pounds. Sigh. It is in a hat shop just down from our B&B in a very ordinary street. I guess they really like their hats here. 

In 1925 my mother was ten and her family took a trip to California by car. She was given a note book to record her journey but when she got home all she had written was, “Saw a bar of soap in the middle of the road”.  I hope I can do better with witticisms and pithy remarks and a bit of philosophy and, wonder of wonders,  right away I found a bear in Paddington Station. Probably as photographed as the Queen. We got on our train to Oxford to pick up a car and then we were on our way to……

 

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It is Time to Think About Your Seed Order

The old year has not even ended…why should you think about your seed order now? Well, for several reasons. The first is that there has been a resurgence of home gardening to rival the victory gardens of WWII and there are many more people in the US now than then. So you are competing with millions more gardeners. I have found more seeds selling out in the last year than ever before. Those same multitudes of gardeners are also demanding organic seeds and I have found that organic seeds sell out faster than non-organic and GMO seeds. So if you want a special variety in organic now is the time to buy.

Remember ‘tho, if you have left over seed you have time to put some in damp paper towel and see if it germinates. If you put seed in multiples of ten you can determine easily the percentage germination rate.  Or, you can plant the seed in the house so you can get the amount of seedlings you want. In addition, some companies are selling subpar seeds, those without enough plant germ to grow. Those completely flat squash seeds might really be flat so if you see a number of them in your seed packet break open a few and check. I did that and found at least a third had no meat in them, they would never have produced a plant. And, that finally answered my question why some of my plantings in the past produced nothing at all.

Buying organic seed also insures that you are not getting GMO seed. Not all sellers are reputable and are selling genetically modified seeds that no one should be planting in a home garden. (Nor in any agricultural situation but that is another long and fraught story). If you are buying an organic seed by law it (currently) cannot be genetically modified. But organic seed also means that the soil that grows the seed is also organic which means that it has been lovingly cared for and supports the flora and fauna that good soils encourage, everything from bacteria and mycorrhiza, to springtails and worms. The plants that grow the seeds are home to insects of all sorts and the many bees and other insects that pollinate them and the birds that eat them. Things are better downstream as well since there is no toxic run off to poison fish and other animals. And, while this is certainly a minor issue, the farmers and their children do not have to have toxic pesticides and other unpleasant agricultural chemicals on their skin, in their eyes or in their lungs.

Non-GMO does not necessarily mean organic.  You can buy seeds that are in their natural state but grown with commercial pesticides and fertilizers. Everyone must decide for themselves how far they are going to go to keep the food chain clean and pure.  A highly reputable and quite old seed seller breeds all their vegetables and flowers. They do not have any GMO seeds or plants. And they are not inexpensive. It costs time and money to painstakingly breed a new and better variety of cucumber, year after year, until the goal is reached. This not as fast as moving some genes around in a lab and actually harder to protect. Gene mods can be easily patented but something that is bred naturally can be easily pirated.

Then too, when plant germ is patented that usually means that the company made a very small change in the plant, perhaps something unnoticeable, even something that makes no difference in the plant at all. But…this means that the plant germ, which evolved over the years of the earth and was formerly available to all for free, is now the sole property of the company that patented their ‘change’ in the plant germ. In short, they have stolen our common heritage and are now making a profit from that theft. And telling everyone how important the change was and how much it cost them and how good for everyone it is. Read between the lines…the companies that genetically modify plants do not want any seed to have the Non-GMO label just like the companies that sell you foods with GMO ingredients do not want there to be labels saying that the food has GMO and they do not want labels that say the food does not have GMO. In short, your ignorance is their profit.

A word on seed catalogues. Many are wonderful to read and full of information and all of them are costly to produce. So far this year I have received three of the same catalogue from the same company each with a different picture on the cover. You can order on line and save many trees. Buy a book of gardening information and skip the glossy pictures. Besides all of them are available on line at all the companies that send out the catalogues. Or…you can check out Fedco Seeds which company sends a newsprint catalogue, has lots of organics and more every year, lots of plant info, every garden amendment you will ever need and they never, ever knowingly sell anything genetically modified. Oh, and they are a member owned company.

P.S. I’m calling the companies with the multiple catalogues and complaining!

 

 

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A Modest Proposal

 

On August 18, 2020 women in the United States will have had the vote for one hundred years. I propose that from now until then and including the presidential election in November of 2020 that no woman in the United States should vote for a man…for any office at any level. If women run for office at any level…and I suggest that they do, women should vote only for them.

Our government has been run by men mostly for the concerns and businesses of men and women and children have been sidelined over and over. Programs that benefit women and children have a hard time getting enough money to run properly. Women still do not earn what men earn for the same work. Single mothers are not encouraged to attend school. I could go on but the clincher is that women are denied birth control and abortions in their insurance policies. (Viagra is covered, sort of like arming the enemy).

It is time that women stopped pretending that men are doing a good job as clearly they are not. They have squandered whatever moral credit we have had in the world and turned us even more into users and ruiners in the eyes of the world. What have we given the world lately except war, munitions and more and more death. It seems that the only answer to the world’s ills men can conceive is death and destruction.

In view of the policies of the current administration which will harm a great many people and benefit a very few I think it is time for all good women to come to the aid of the people. We are dealing with ruined ground water from fracking, ruined farmland from disastrous farming methods, pollution from myriad unchecked sources like coal plants and manufacturing, gasoline exhausts from many sources, epidemics of diseases that no one is willing to admit might just be caused by the pollution of our food, air and water, medical costs that have remained ruinous (but not in other countries), unlabeled GMO foods constituting the biggest unexamined nutritional experiment of all time, the extinction of species here and elsewhere and, dare I say it, Global Climate Change…and not for the better.

Not too many people think about this but the most important thing we do each year is harvest our crops. The climate change already here is making that less likely. Last year we lost the apples, peaches, cherries and plums in New England due to a warm spell that swelled the buds and a bitter cold stretch that froze them. It has already been very warm here in NE and losing the crops again is a real possibility. We cannot depend forever on Peru, Chile, and Central America to fill our shopping carts, New Zealand is very far away. Climate change has already hit some of these countries hard and as the glaciers melt water sources as old as human history will be gone as has happened already in parts of Peru.

All this has happened while men have run the world. And it has happened while good men have tried to do the right things and have been thwarted by the self interests and greed of other men. I just think it is time to give women a chance to tidy up.

I have the hope that women will run the nation like the good home makers they are, cleaning up after themselves and others, making sure dinner is on the table…for everyone, seeing that everyone gets to the doctor on time, being fiscally conservative since after all, money does not grow on trees, and in general seeing to it that needs are met, the world’s people are treated fairly and nobody gets to put their filthy boots on the sofa.

So, in honor of one hundred years (Only) of Women’s Suffrage I implore you, if the dog catcher position is open in your town run for it. If a select(man) position is open, run for it. If there is a spot on the school board, run for it. If there is any city, county, state or federal position open, run for it. Perhaps our slogan should be, “Run For Our Lives”.
We need to get into office and start making sensible, sustainable, suitable policy.

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Back to Clio’s Garden

Its been a long time since I wrote in this blog….the world was too much with me and other members of my family…but I am back with my fingers tickling the keys.

I have not been idle, however. Eric and I have been ramping up our gardens as we defeat those vicissitudes and we planted as much of our garden as we could. We have been working on renewing a large garden by our willow that years ago we tried to grow raspberries in…they hated it. (Later I heeled in some raspberries in the grape garden and they loved it and have to be hacked down all the time but that is another story). We left the willow garden to the weeds and a fine crop of thistles grew there which alerted us to our foolish neglect. Two years ago we planted beans there and were delighted that the actually grew. This year, after amending the soil using what we call ‘nutrient density protocals’ we planted some squashes. OMG, as they say. The vines reminded me of that old story’ “The Quick Running Squash” and the picture of the boy  atop the huge squash as it took off down the road trailing its vine behind, heading for who knows where. ( MyBook House books, edited by Olive Beaupre Miller).  We grew Waltham butternut and they were shockingly huge: twenty inches and ten or more pounds. Altogether we grew five hundred pounds of squash. Friends, family, Loaves and Fishes, its their duty to consume.

I buy onion plants from a place in Texas (Dixondale) because I run out of space for my seedlings and….gosh, its just so easy. This year I planted red candy ball, which are sweet enough to eat like an apple but don’t keep, Alisa Craig which are huge, sweet and don’t keep but very yummy, white cippolini and red cippolini which sometimes keep and my all time favorite, copra….which keep until Kingdom Come.  In the past my largest copras were the size of baseballs but this year they were the size of softballs. I have never seen the like. Four and a half bushes resulted and reminded me once again of the willing partner Mother Nature is if one treats her well.

We had drought conditions this summer past and because we have a well we could water as much as needed. I think those onions liked the dryer conditions and the deep watering. But they also liked the amended soil. This is something that is quickly gaining acceptance in the farming and gardening world. There are certain strains of bacteria and fungi that, when added to soil, are symbiotic with most plants. (Cole crops, broccoli and the like, don’t react with them). Simply put, the fungi form mats which connect directly, and sometimes within, the roots of plants. Plant roots can grow just so far and fast but when the fungi attatch to them the plant receives nutrients from the soil beyond their reach. At the same time, the plant is collecting nitrogen and carbon from the air and sending nutrients down into the soil.

I just finished reading, “Teeming With  Microbes”, (Lowenfels and Lewis) and it is a short course on what is happening beneath our feet. I also recommend, “The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Acheivements of Earthworms”, (Amy Stewart), which I am reading now. In the world under our feet earthworms are giants, one could think of them as huge whales burrowing through the earth. And, if you have the patience for it I recommend reading Charles Darwin’s book on earthworms, “The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms With Observations on Their Habits”. Why patience? Because he describes all of his years long experiments in great detail but I assure you, for the fastinated it is a compelling read.

Here is an image for you that will turn your head around….plants have their heads in the ground and their, well, their regenerative organs in the air. When you look at pretty flowers you are actually looking at…how to put this…ah!…their privates! Think on that the next time you stick your nose into a fragrant rose.

And with that shocking revelation I shall close, because this missive is just to get in touch with all of you again. Eric and I are attending the Bionutrient Food Association sponsored Soil and Nutrition Conference at Kirpalu in the Berkshires in the first week of December. I’ll write some about that and perhaps entice you to attend the next one.    And, to come, some information about the Grange and its activities.

Clio

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Canning, Freezing, Fermenting, Dehydrating, Root-Cellaring…

After all the planning,  planting, watering, weeding, spraying, praying, and eating now is the time for preserving.  Gardens large or gardens small, they all have a tendency to produce more than we can eat at one time.  Prudence dictates that we don’t toss all that extra bounty onto the compost heap but what are we to do with it?  The answer to that, alas, is far too lengthy to address in a post.  In August I taught what was supposed to be a six hour class on home food preservation that lasted seven hours and twenty minutes and I barely scratched the surface.  Not because I wasn’t talking as fast as I could but because there are so many methods of putting food by that it simply wasn’t possible to cover them all  in depth in that time.

Summer’s bounty ready for the basement….

There are some books, yes, always with the books, that will guide you along the way…

The Ball Blue Book of Preserving….less than $10 dollars is the best place to start if you are interested in canning, either water bath or pressure. Every one who cans should own this detailed and lucid book. I have the $.69 one I bought the year after I got married and several copies after that in an effort to keep up with the latest USDA data but also to see how the books change as the preserving climate has changed.  My first copy emphasized what to plant in order to preserve it, the later copies don’t and I am guessing that the assumption is that people would not be growing the food but purchasing it. I am interested to see what will happen now that people are growing their own again.  During WWII back yard gardens produced 40% of vegetables and fruits in the US.

A note about canning…. please use only a water bath canner when canning high acid fruits and vegetables.  Two other methods are suggested but they are not adequate to the task of heating full jars all the way to the center and keeping them hot for the entire length of the canning process. One of the methods is canning in the oven using a high temperature. Air can get very hot in an oven but air does not transmit heat effectively.  The other method is using a ‘steam canner’ on a counter top.  This appliance heats water in the bottom and the rising steam heats the jars above.   http://extension.usu.edu/files/publications/newsletter/No__002.pdf   This document explains the pros and cons of steam canners…to my mind they are much fussier and less safe than water bath canners and they are used for the same process.

Pressure canners must be used for low acid foods, most vegetables–everything except tomatoes (actually fruits), all meats and seafood without exception, and….mixed tomato and vegetable sauces, salsas, relishes unless you are using a tested recipe that insures high enough acid to be safe. Do not try to put pumpkin or winter squash through a canner.  These are very low acid and very dense and it is impossible at home pressure canner temperatures to get the center of the jars hot enough for long enough to completely kill the botulism bacteria.  You can freeze squash and pumpkin safely or you can just store them in the basement.   Buy the Ball Blue Book and follow the directions.

Putting Food By and Stocking Up are similar.  They cover pretty much all the methods of preserving food.  Most booksellers have them and the on-line sellers have used copies. Either one is good to have around for reference.

Wild Fermentation is Sandor Katz’s best book on fermenting food to keep it fresh. Most of us don’t think about how diligently and continuously bacteria work for us by transforming our food from something that rots to something that is stable and delicious at room (actually colder but not refrigerated )  temperatures. Fermented foods include beer, wine, cheese, natural pickles, sauerkraut, yogurt and sour cream, tempeh, bread and hundreds of other foods eaten all over the world.  It is one of the oldest forms of food  preservation, probably second only to dehydrating. And of course, we are a fermented food also since much of our nourishment comes from the bacteria in our guts breaking down what we eat.  Sandor Katz makes all clear and easy.  Just last night I put up four quarts of sauerkraut in less than an hour using cabbage from my garden. I also fermented, or started the fermentation for, a quart of tomatillos.  Nowhere could I find any mention of fermenting tomatillos but be assured, you can ferment just about anything except ripe tomatoes which turn to mush and greens, also mushy. To ferment food is to engage in a practice thousands of years old, present in every culture and…..very inexpensive.

People always ask me where they can store the food they have preserved, especially  if they live in apartments.  Since canned goods need to be stored in the dark (or dim) they can go in the backs of closets, under beds, under sinks, in high cupboards.  One woman I know makes and cans soup (in a pressure canner only!) when vegetables are plentiful and inexpensive and stores the jars under her bed.

You should all know that I always advise people to put food away for security reasons.  We do not know when snow, ice, wind or rain will shut down supply lines.  One town over people were out of power for two weeks because of snow breaking tree limbs, Canadians were out for up to six weeks in that ice storm a few years back. Remember, every person in your family needs approximately 2000 calories every day and they have to come from somewhere.  Better to have some of them stored in your house than have to count on the grocery store…especially if you cannot even get to it. So….my perennial admonition, dried beans and rice if you will have some way to cook it, canned meats, veggies and fruits, dried fruits and nuts, boxed cereal and powdered milk and so on. A camp stove and bottled water will go a long way to making a long power outage comfortable. But don’t use camp stoves inside-porches only because of the fumes.

Preserving food is fun and easy and rewarding.  You will all do it right the first time.  Imagine bringing your own peach cobbler to Thanksgiving Dinner….not only do you amaze your friends and family but it is delicious.

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