Friday, June 29, 2012

Time for Tea

I’ve been thinking about friendship lately. How the people who come into our lives as children, teenagers, young adults, and not so young adults shape and enrich our lives. Some come and go; some we meet early and don’t see often, but always feel connected to; others come into our lives later in life and we feel an instant affinity with them. I became friends with Linda Hampton Smith relatively recently (seven years ago), not because we were thrust together in a classroom or college dormitory, or because we faced the challenges of parenting young children together. Strong friendships are often born of these shared experiences, but as we progress in life (in other words, grow older), they’re more often born of shared interests.

Linda and I met at les Boulangers, a French conversation group that used to convene on Saturday mornings at the Bristol Bakery. It still meets regularly, but has since relocated to Middlebury. This eclectic group gathers together under the guidance of Simon Barenbaum, a très gentil Frenchman and retired French professor who entertains us all with stories from past adventures and shows ample patience with our flawed French.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Lakeside Picnic

When people from out of state think of Vermont, skiing, cheese, and maple syrup usually come to mind—and by extension, Vermont’s inspiring mountains and rolling farmland. Many people forget about majestic Lake Champlain that runs the length of the northern half of western Vermont, providing the lifeblood of the fertile Champlain Valley.

The lake is edged dramatically on its New York side by the Adirondack Mountains, which provide spectacular sunsets for us Vermonters gazing west. On the lake’s eastern edge, the gentler Green Mountains rise more gradually out of rich farmland.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Strawberries and Cream

Nothing announces the beginning of summer quite like fresh, local strawberries. These succulent jewels bear little resemblance to the tasteless gargantuans that tempt from produce shelves all winter long. It’s always a disappointment to give into that temptation. Better to wait for these few short weeks in June when strawberries taste like the real thing.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Putting in the Garden, Part 2

Seeds fascinate me. How a living plant is contained within a tiny capsule, sometimes no bigger than a pinprick, is truly mind-boggling when you stop to think about it. With a little water and sunlight and the right kind of soil, a whole plant, even a tree, can grow from this miniscule speck.

Some of my garden vegetables I purchase as plants, as I described in my post last week, but the ones I can start from seed right in the ground are even more satisfying.  I’ve tried different seed companies, but am most loyal to The Cook’s Garden. They started out as a family-owned mail order company based in Londonderry, Vermont, but have since been bought up by Burpee. While the catalogue has gotten glossier, I haven’t noticed a decline in the quality of their seeds. They still offer an excellent selection of organic seeds, European and American heirlooms, and their signature seed blends, such as their Provencal mesclun.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Putting in the Garden, Part 1

Ahhh, the garden. Dirt under my fingernails, the smell of soil, sweat, and sunscreen, and a soreness that lasts for days. It’s a wonder that I love it as much as I do. But I do love it, the whole process, from the time I order my seeds in late winter all the way up until I harvest the final Brussels sprouts around Thanksgiving. It’s my little corner of the world that I can control, to some extent, and beautify; my playtime and therapy all rolled into one.

The key to a healthy garden is of course the soil. When I started gardening twenty years ago after we bought our house, our soil was ok: previously neglected, but not in terrible shape because the yard used to be a horse pasture. Over the years, we’ve added lots of kitchen compost as well as composted cow manure, so the soil is now wonderfully fertile and friable.

Measuring  just fifteen  by nineteen feet, my garden is not very big. Each year when I put it in, the space always feels too small, but as the season progresses I’m amazed at the amount of vegetables it produces. It’s framed on the left by an unruly perennial bed and along the back by a pergola that Chris and I built around ten years ago, using cedar from a row of spindly trees we took down on the property.