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RIVERSIDE GARDEN-LIFE (1980s Chameleon excerpt)



See also Air Anniversaire: Dirt Road Anthology

Afternote: The veggies that were easiest and most dependably prolific were -- any squash, chard, bush beans and peas, cabbages, mixed lettuce, cherry and roma tomatoes, and potatoes. Thyme, parsley and garlic were hardily joyous producers also. Annual petite marigold borders helped to ward off some raised-bed insect predators. Peach and pear trees, cherry bushes, towering black walnut trees flourished amidst daffodils, bush and climbing roses, peonies and wisteria. Undomesticated lands provided copious tiger lilies, violets, wild onions, sweet berries and wet-weather mushrooms. And even diminutive yellow-flowering cactus. Butterflies danced undisturbed over muddily moist beachfront rocks, mussel shells and pastel sands. Hummingbirds drank their fill of the nectar of Sharon's roses spreading in the wilderness sun and rains. Indigo buntings flashed their startlingly irridescent turquoise along generational persimmons outlining the roughly rutted road home. -- jH, 5/14




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... Never having attempted to live organically "off the land," I studied books about companion planting, rotating crops, natural fertilizers of compost and chicken or rabbit manure, and talked with farming people about techniques of seeding and caring for successful gardens. Some followed proscription of the "Farmers' Almanac," which adheres to synchronization with phases of the moon, in addition to warmth of the earth and air. Others, myself included, simply attended to directions for correct seasonal timing.

I dug my first very small garden with a shovel, but thereafter tillers were rented to loosen and turn the soil. Worms are important in keeping it aerated, and roots need frequent watering, natural and otherwise. Swiss chard, snow peas, spinach, turnips, radishes, lettuce varieties, onions, potatoes were rotated in first. They were followed by Blue Lake bush green beans and Silver Queen corn. Peanuts were not a success, as the Shenandoah Valley growing season is too short, and I never tried sweet potatoes or cantaloupe although some neighbors did with good results. Later, there was an herb garden enhanced by the delicate ferns of asparagus, along with thyme, basil, oregano, parsley (a bienniel), rhubarb, and mint spread alarmingly in the yard. It was the catnip variety and felines rolled sensually and playfully in it.

What we didn't eat fresh, I put up in plastic containers, bags, or wrap and kept in a standup freezer from the Arlington house. Vegetables were quick-steamed in a colander inside of a huge covered pot to kill enzyme action and deterioration. Game -- mostly deer, catfish, perch, smallmouth bass, and sunfish, but also rabbit, squirrel, occasionally bear or goose, and once commercially-raised chickens their owner allowed us to catch, a donated lamb, trout, snapping turtle, carp, frogs' legs were butchered or filleted. Once I fixed an eel from cookbook directions but didn't care for it, and cooked groundhog meat which was okay. I ordered quail at a local restaurant, but it's too spare. A neighbor brought dandelion wine, another thick and sweet grape. Farming neighbors allowed me to pick chestnuts for roasting. Fertilized eggs, plentiful and delicious in season, were cracked and lightly stirred for storing. Leftovers went into the compost bin or became animal and bird treats. It was all fairly hard work, including weeding -- with expenses of hunting and fishing, building and maintenance supplies, feed and farm equipment, seed (although I gathered, dried and saved some) and, later, minimal chemical sprays and dust to discourage devouring insects like bean beatles and potato bugs which became rampant over the years.

Loving to cook and enthusiastic about country living, I learned how to prepare game, eggs and fresh vegetables in new and traditional ways through an extensive cookbook collection and talking with farming community neighbors. In addition to standard and show banty chickens, ducks, goats and guineas, we also raised beagle ("rabbit") dogs in a good-sized outdoor area enclosed by us with wire fence, and sold or gave away the pups....



garden photos

Farmers Almanac

White House Vegetable Garden

World War II Victory Gardens

Wilderness Living



New York Botanical Garden

American Farmland Trust

Local Harvest panamerica omnisite

Audubon Explore cams, films, etc.

Heirloom Seed Companies

Whatever Brings You Joy Gardening



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Original material c. A Country Rag, Inc. and/or Jeannette Harris, Jonesborough Tennessee, April 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014. All rights reserved.
















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