Mulberry trees come in white, red and purple fruit. It is a fast-growing tree that withstands poor soil and drought and grows in zones 4 to 8. Its fruit is bird candy. These are a fast growing tree that is great for wild life. Although you may want to protect it from deer foraging by using a tree guard, some suckers may develop. Let the deer come around and enjoy the shoots and leaves of these suckers. They’ll find them delectable. The purple mulberry tends to be less hearty in the Northeast. Red mulberry is a better bet for northern climates. The key to this fast growing tree is to keep it far away from sidewalks and protect your clothes when picking this sweet fruit that forms in early spring. The stains are hard to get out of sidewalks and clothes.
During winter months I spend a small fortune on fresh greens. In years past I’ve started plants indoors. Frankly, I’ve experienced only moderate success. I must admit that I’ve been unwilling to spend lots of money on lighting, seed trays, and dedicate the space in my little house that such efforts require. This year, I am experimenting with a simple cold frame. I found an old window and was donated 6 bales of mulch hay and built my own. It took about 20 minutes to set up. I then poured in enough potting soil to bring the seeds closer to the light. This week kale and lettuce seed will go into the cold to get an early taste of fresh greens. Wish me luck on my efforts to get a jump on spring.
It is winter and very cold in the Northeast. The bird feeders are filled. They are busy with woodpeckers, cardinals, blue jays, snow birds, chickadees, and nut hatches to just name a few visitors. Hestia’s Garden is designed, to not only be a place for people to enjoy, but to also attract birds. To attract birds one needs seeds and insects.
It may not feel like it today, but spring is on its way. We’ll soon be seeing that bug munching on our favorite vegetable, fruit or flower. It is easy to see them as just a “pest.” I’ve had to learn to make peace with that bug. Yes, the summer garden vegetables may show a nibble here and there from an industrious insect, but I’ve learned do less than more—now I just pick off that hungry bug and throw it in soapy water. Ninety-five percent of all bugs do no harm in the garden. Insecticide sprays aren’t selective in their destruction. Toxic sprays are estimated to increase food production by 3%. At a mere 3%, what is the price if we destroy beneficial and non-harmful insects that are a tasty meal for our native birds? Native plants are a feast for the native insects. Native insects are a feast for the birds. I see the birds as partners in the garden. They’ll help me with my bugs if I take care of them.
I am a member of Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology. It is an attempt to better educate myself about the birds visiting the gardens and to become a better steward of native species. The attached video shows how difficult it is to film songbirds in flight. It is amazing to watch the beauty of these little creatures as they migrate across the night skies. For me it was a reminder of their value and the importance of being careful to protect their energy sources.
I had the great pleasure of sharing dinner with Stephen Van Benschoten and his wife Barbara over the holidays. Steve is a master of many things—actor, woodworker, train aficionado, phenomenal volunteer, and to my joy-- a great cook.
Below is Steve’s creation Seafood & Sausage Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce. So, pull out your frozen pesto sauce that you made last summer, make up your own Cajun seasoning, cut the parsley on your window sill or pull out the dried parsley you saved from last summer’s garden and season this delightful dish with your own herbs and spices.
Seafood and Sausage Pasta with Pesto Cream Sauce
Serves 4 or 5
1 pound linguine pasta
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
8 ounces hot sausage, removed from its casings and cut into 1/2-inch pieces or crumbled into frying pan
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin 1-inch strips
1 onion chopped
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 pounds small raw/ or cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1/2 to 3/4 cup of pesto sauce
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 chopped green onions for garnish
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes for dry pasta. Drain in a colander. Return to the pot and toss with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Cover and keep warm while finishing the recipe.
While the pasta is cooking, in a large saute pan, cook the sausage over medium-high heat until browned and cooked through, about 10 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Pour off the fat from the pan.
Heat the oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add the red pepper and onion and cook, stirring, until just soft, about 3 minutes. Deglaze with white wine and cook until almost completely reduced. Add the shrimp and sprinkle with Cajun seasoning to taste (maybe 1 teaspoon). Cook, stirring, until the shrimp are just pink, about 1 minute. (If using pre-cooked shrimp, just warm them up and make sure they get coated with the seasoning). Add the cream and pesto sauce and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring until starting to thicken, about 1 minute. Add the cooked pasta, parsley, and reserved sausage and toss to combine. Cook until the pasta is heated through and well coated, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning, to taste.
Divide among 4 pasta bowls, garnish with chopped green onions, and serve.
*Don’t have Cajun seasoning? Make your own
2 tsp salt
2 tsp garlic powder
2 ½ tsp paprika
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp dried onion
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 ¼ tsp. dried oregano
1 ¼ tsp dried thyme
½ tsp. red pepper flakes (optional)
Mix and store in air tight container
Fall has arrived in the Catskills. It was a beautiful summer with lush perennials, annuals and a bounty of veggies and fruits. Take a stroll with me and view the early fall photos of Hestia’s Garden.
As mentioned in an earlier blog, this year I experimented with planting more herbs. In mid-August Hestia’s Garden hosted The Wonder of Herbs workshop with participants making herb wreaths made with sage, thyme, oregano, and any other herb that struck ones fancy. Want to try making your own herb wreath for soup or a cup of tea? Here is a wonderful site giving directions to make your own wreath as a gift or for your own use. http://www.northeastseacoastunit.org/pdf/Herbal%20Soup%20Wreaths.pdf
Drying my own herbs has taken the place of spending a small fortune purchasing them at the grocery store. So far that has included drying fennel, summer savory, sweet and purple basil, white sage, parsley, oregano, thyme, cumin, anise, lavender and lemon balm.
Hestia’s Garden shop will finish off its first season at the end of October. To all those who stopped by and bought perennials, browsed the shelves full of vintage goods and just whimsy as well as the creations of local artisans, thank you for stopping.
The pumpkins are in! Bring the kids by and help them find a pumpkin. And if you are looking for a fall decoration for your Thanksgiving table, browse for a succulent decorated pumpkin.
I take a daily stroll around the gardens. I pull a few weeds, pick off the potato bugs, and dead head the annuals in containers. But it is Mother Nature’s surprises that I enjoy the most. Enjoy your own stroll through the photos taken yesterday and under the page “Summer Photos”. Yesterday a new born fawn lay for hours in the towering grass as I planted shrubs on the newest berm known as the Daffodil Hill. I snapped its picture. Its mama was near and once I was out of the way, came and rescued her baby. Needless to say, don’t ever touch a fawn lying in the grass. It is there for its own protection.
Also a butterfly, which may be a great spangled fritterer, rested on the kitchen door. Hestia’s Gardens have been designed to attract beneficial insects and lots of birds. Bird houses, feeders, and old oaks and maples and locust trees as well as hundreds of shrubs serve as cover for cardinals, gross beak, red and yellow finches, wrens, tree swallows, blue birds, morning doves, red wing blackbirds, and humming birds and countless others I can’t name.
June 9, 2015
Hestia’s Garden Shop is open. It is full of treasures. It is plants and much more. Look inside the barn; it houses the little shop. There you will find treasures from the turn of the century as well as some whimsy and hand crafted art and one-of-a-kind garden items. We have a lot of talent in the Catskills. Come by and browse.
Yes, it is snowing again (or at least it was last weekend). But the Catskill natives are looking forward to spring. It will come soon!
In preparation plants, art, and just plain whimsical items are being prepared for garden shop. Here are a few items that my daughter Carina has made for the shop. The shop opens Saturday, May 16th. Come on by.
Carina Kats is the designer of Carina’s Creations. Her artistic passion is diverse. She is a creator of sculpture, children’s toys and clothes, unique garden tools, furniture, stenciling, and jewelry. Most recently she sculpted a bronze work for the Curacao library that has been renamed in honor of author Frank Martinus Arion. Carina is a native New Yorker, growing up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Because of her passion for marine biology as well as art, she moved to Bonaire in 2005 and co-founded Progressive Environmental Solutions. Today she continues to live in the Caribbean with her husband Kris and son Fenn.
March 31, 2015
The robins have arrived. I can see them through the falling snow.
As promised here is the garden plan for my largest garden. Click here to view it. It sits in the middle of a large field that enjoys great sunshine. I call it my Mandala. It is in the shape of a simple labyrinth.
After consulting with two dear friends Nancy and Mimi, who are wonderful cooks and knowledgeable about the medicinal and health value of herbs, I have decided to significantly increase the space given over to a greater variety of herbs that will be available fresh and dried in Hestia’s Garden Shop. The choices were made either because of their sheer beauty and wonderful aroma but also because they can make tinctures, dry wonderfully and serve as delectable flavorings in foods.
Have you noticed the price on herbs when browsing the grocery store shelves? The prices take ones breath away! I want to know where my herbs come from and that they are herbicide and insecticide free. Many of these herbs bring beneficial insects into the garden, ward off unwanted plant predators, help fix nitrogen in the soil and/or bring out the flavor of other vegetables.
Much of the herb descriptions below are taken from The All-New Illustrated Guide to Gardening by Reader’s Digest
SOME COMMON HERBS & THEIR USES
Angelica – Tall perennial with green and white flowers – use stems to decorate cakes and pastry. Leaves are good in salads as substitute for celery. Chopped leaves can replace some sugar in fruit pies. Brew seeds into a sweet tea.
Basil – Annual in New York. Use leaves in soups, sauces, salads, omelets and with meat, poultry and fish and as a base for pesto.
Borage – Star shaped flowers of sky blue, pink or lavender. Bees love this plant. Teas brewed with borage leaves are a source of courage. Good companion plant for strawberries and in fruit orchards. It’s repellent to tomato worms. Young leaves good in salads due to their cucumber flavor. Candy flowers may be used for pastry decoration or float in wine or punch.
Caraway – Seeds are supposed to aid digestion, strengthen vision and improve memory, cure baldness, stop a lover’s fickleness and prevent theft of any objects containing them. These tangy flavored seeds are delicious with pork, lamb and veal. It helps reduce the cooking odor of cabbage. Young leaves are good in soup and salads. Older leaves can be cooked like spinach.
Dill – This is a good companion plant for cabbage. Avoid planting near carrots. Use dried or fresh leaves (known as dill weed) to flavor fish, soups, salads, meat, poultry, omelets and potatoes. Seeds can be used as leaves but use sparingly as flavor is stronger. And of course, great in homemade dill pickles.
Fennel – Use in fish, pork and veal dishes as well as in salads and soups. Fennel seeds, because of their sharper flavor, should be used sparingly in sauerkraut, spaghetti sauce, chili, and hearty soups.
Hyssop – This is just a beautiful plant that attracts bees and butterflies. It has a musky odor and flower spikes may be blue, pink or white appearing in mid-summer. Leaves can be bitter. If brewing the tea, best sweetened with honey.
Mint – I will be planting spearmint. It will be placed in a container to prevent it from invading the rest of the mandala. Mints are excellent as a garnish for cold drinks. Spearmint is often used to make a mint sauce or jelly. Dried or fresh leaves can be placed over lamb before cooking.
Oregano – Ancient herbalists used it to aid digestion, stimulate appetite (Oh, no!), and act as a purgative (laxative). Dried leaves are used in Spanish and Mexican dishes, especially in meat and tomato sauces. It is used in salad, stews, stuffings, egg and cheese dishes and with fish.
Parsley – Interplant with roses and tomatoes to enhance vigor of both. Used since antiquity to sweeten breath. Leaves are used in salads, soups, stews, casseroles and omelets. Use as a garnish with meat, fish and onion dishes. It is best to freeze rather than dry to retain flavor.
Rosemary – These are hard to start from seed so best to buy young plants. Good with fish, poultry and meats. Use sparingly in soups, stews, sauces and vegetables. Add to boiling water when cooking rice. Brew for a tasty tea.
Sage – It has been a medicinal herb since antiquity. It was prescribed for ailments of blood, brain, heart, liver and stomach and as a cure for epilepsy and fever and as a preventative of plague. It is a repellent to white cabbage butterflies, carrot flies and ticks. Avoid growing near annual flower beds as it inhibits growth.
Tarragon, French – Best to start from nursery plants. This is a hardy perennial to Zone 4. It is a little less flavorful than Russian tarragon. Chop the anise-flavored leaves for use in soups, salads, egg dishes, stews and soft cheese. It’s excellent with lamb. Serve in melted butter with fish, steak and vegetables. It makes a good flavoring for vinegar when leaves are steeped for 2 to 3 weeks.
Thyme, Common – Great edging plant that has small, lilac-colored flowers that appear in late spring and summer. It attracts bees and makes excellent honey. This is another ancient medicinal herb as it yields an oil called thymol that is used in antiseptics, deodorants, and cough drops. It may repel the cabbage butter fly. Rub the dry or fresh chopped leaves on beef, lamb, veal or pork before roasting. It may be sprinkled over eggs, cheese dishes, vegetables, fish and poultry. It may be added to soups, stews, stuffing and rice. Combined with rosemary and mint, it can be brewed as a tea. Again, it is best to purchase nursery-grown plants.
I am in transition. This is the first year I will have Hestia’s Garden Shop open on a regular basis. It gives me pause. What in the heck am I doing?
For some reason I found old notes from one of my many past life crossroads. It was 1997, and I had decided not to follow my employer to their new home in Baltimore. My decision must have seemed foolish to some. There I was the sole breadwinner with a college age daughter--no job, no prospects and saying “no” to a great VP position and wonderful opportunity in Baltimore.
Yesterday I ran into my reflections at this time of uncertainty. I wrote:
“I envision my life as that of a tree. I am who I am because of my roots are planted in life-giving earth. My roots…are made up of genes, family, friends, experience and faith. These tangible and intangible elements are often hidden from the naked eye but are the bedrock, the foundation on which to grow. I will nurture the roots that are life giving. Nurturing them within myself helps me understand and accept myself and others with more compassion… It creates a world in balance even in the midst of uncertainty.”
Hope this note finds you centered and well rooted.