Things that fall from the sky

One of the many Elecampane (Inula helenium) plants that I started from seed last year, now blooming in Boston.

One of the many Elecampane (Inula helenium) plants that I started from seed last year, now blooming in Boston.

 

I began this post from my steamy bedroom a few nights ago, in the aftermath of the neighborhood’s Roman candle blasts and even louder late night party cackles. Summer, that grand doozy of a season, had spent the whole week sitting on this city, stifling everything and exhausting me as I did anything. I’d go for days in a wilt before some kind soul would grant me a blessing spun with lemon, lime, or watermelon. Naked water sat within me uselessly, my body stubbornly refusing hydration as it tsk-ed me for having such a lousy electrolyte balance.  All was irate and fecund and full of color.

Arthur broke the everlasting sweat with his billions of raindrops, and now I can sit here in the backyard, an umbrella stretched over my little patch of sleepy, breezy afternoon, and feel pleasant and not at all sunstruck.

As I last wrote, June was a month of herbs. I taught several classes at Herbstalk, Allandale, and the Fenway Victory Gardens (of which there is YouTube proof). Herbstalk was especially amazing. I sold hundreds of plants and talked myself hoarse while trading ideas, tips, and techniques for growing and using healing plants with folks from all over the northeast.

Farmside, I sowed tulsi and am now watching it flower tinily, enjoying its fruity, spicy, sacred self as it wafts around the garden center and through the greenhouse.

 

The lovage and elder umbels in my victory garden.

The lovage and elder umbels of my victory garden.

 

In my own garden everything is amazing, or at least vigorous and vivacious. My favorite part at present are the umbels. Those beautiful wheels of infinitesimal blossoms are anchoring the space in the white of elder, the chartreuse of lovage, and the firm red (lightened with sweet little pale centers) of ornamental yarrow. I also had valerian, started from seed and glorious in its tiny blushing blooms, but something—rabbits, I’m sure—trampled it and now it’s tenaciously starting over again, about six inches tall after its towering 48, photosynthesizing and fattening sleepytime roots for the winter and fall.

I’m possibly busier than I’ve ever been before between the farm, landscaping, beekeeping, gardening, and general around-the-house-ing. And occasional socializing. And very infrequent resting. The living madness of my schedule has kept me from seeking out too much wildlife as of late, but I’m seeing tons of it incidentally which, really, is what I prefer.

The best bit of wilderness that I’ve lately encountered fell from the sky, tumbling suddenly into a tray of pots being carried by a coworker. It was a tiny, scowling, perfect fledgling of a swallow. The little bird, only slightly tousled, looked at us as we ogled and oohed, admiring its jaded gaze and amazing wings. Its wings were clearly its best feature. They were  so clearly those of a barn swallow—dark and beautifully preened in an almost violet, parallel tilt that met elegantly in a point.

The tiny thing was clearly startled and shook slightly but its stare was steadfast, so fierce for such a miniature thing. Eventually we set the tray down on the ground, or started to before, without warning, the bird took flight. Its downy self, so squat and crabby, was instantly gorgeous as it flew through the wide open air, taking a pretty, curved path to its nest along the garage. What a pretty Independence Day.

Tiny swallow staredown

Tiny swallow staredown

 

Herbstalk is this weekend!!

Hi all!

It’s been a crazy spring but here I am, ever so briefly, to tell you about Herbstalk, an event that I am very proud to be a part of.

 

Herbstalk!

 

Herbstalk is a magical, nourishing, and delicious event created by my friend, herbalist Steph Zabel of Flowerfolk Herbs. In its third year, this celebration of healing plants bursts at the seams with good food, brilliant teachers, lovely music, and…HERBS! Herbs in every incarnation! You’ll find teas! Green salves! Powders! Smoking mixes! Scrubs for your face and body! Soaks for your tiny toes! There will also be live plants brought to you by yours truly, most of which I’ve started from seed and all of which I’ve grown with love at Allandale Farm.

I am also honored to be teaching a class, Growing Urban Herbals, on Sunday from 11 to 12:30. I’ll be covering all the basics (and many of the more advanced techniques) of growing herbs in the city. There will be useful information for the amateur and experienced gardener alike. To get a taste of what I’ll be speaking about, check out my articles at the Herbstalk blog, like this one that focuses on the ecological benefits of growing herbs in the city (or anywhere, for that matter!), and another on growing healing herbs indoors.

I will also be teaching a class on container herb growing at Allandale on Saturday, June 14th. I’d love to see you there as well! Check out the blurb and buy your ticket here.

As you can see my next few weeks are going to be an herbal whirlwind. I am, however, looking forward to getting back into the blog this month. Stay tuned, and feel free to follow me on twitter (@jennykraut) and instagram (@jennyhauf), where it’s a bit easier to keep up with the world in bite-sized bits. (I’ll be livetweeting from Herbstalk, so even if you can’t make to Somerville I can give you a virtual taste of the party!)

See you soon!

 

 

Summersweet.

ruby-spice-summersweet-86946

Today was Summersweet:

Clethra alnifolia, ‘Ruby Spice’,

Sweet Pepperbush,

Abloom like a bottle brush. Pink and white sorbet. The scent, a customer said, like lilacs;

a fragrance so oiled and heavy in its syrup and nectar

that it recalled May, but thicker

than those heady scents that devour the senses in spring

leaving only the shades of twilight that strike the eye sweetly.

Summersweet, Pepperbush: drinking hole of bees and butterflies,

hunting terrain for eastern amberwings.

Summersweet in the weight of August, its fragrance arresting walkers in their paths,

stopped and turning, searching for the scent that brought them honey and brought them

pink.

Late Blight: cue Mass freak out

Today late blight, the bane of tomatoes, potatoes, and the Irish, was confirmed by UMass Amherst out in Franklin County. This disease, caused by the pathogen Phytopthora infestans, was the microscopic culprit behind the famines that decimated Ireland in the mid-1800’s. While it has the potential of being every bit as devastating now as it was then, we are lucky to have a much more diversified diet than our forebears (though not nearly diverse enough), as well as various lethal weapons like copper sprays and other vicious stuff that stops, or at least slows, the disease in its tracks. However, despite the odds that are in our favor, we’re not quite able to control the weather, and any cool and rainy summer days can ignite a few late blight spores hitchhiking in the wind and rain. After a few get going it doesn’t take much for the blight to cause a major and often heartbreaking infestation.

To illustrate the nature of late blight, let me offer a brief lesson in contrasts. Tomatoes are beautiful–

Heirloom maters

and late blight is not.

More late blight lesions

Late blight lesions on tomato stem, leaf, and petiole

Roma tomatoes affected by late blight

Mugshot of affected Roma tomatoes. Credit: maine.gov. Previous blight photos from umass.edu. Luscious heirlooms from marycrimmins.com.

Like lots of deadly things, late blight is pretty fascinating. Continue reading

Brad Pitt can have his Oscar – I’ll take The Versatile Blogger Award

Hello, dear readers! I took a little bit of a break from the blog – and the internet at large – last week. It was a much-needed reprieve, and opened up plenty of time to see Rachel Ries and Anaïs Mitchell at Club Passim (Amazing, Amazing, Amazing – I’m completely in love with them both). I also read a book (a whole book!), knit up a few afghan squares, and enjoyed some delightful walks in the woods.

During my internet fast I was delighted and honored to receive a nomination for “The Versatile Blogger Award” from Kevin, the Nitty Gritty Dirty Man of the garden blog realm. Hoorah! Kevin’s blog is wonderful – anyone with a penchant for plants, alliteration, fantastic photographs and soil-smudged story-telling should take his blog for a spin. I’m flattered that he chose to single my blog out.

I shall pay it forward by hollering at a few of my own favorite reads. But first, I offer some secrets, as I’m bound to do by the rules.

Continue reading

The Fenway Victory Garden Chronicles – Part One

Across the street from one of Boston’s most beloved and familiar scenes…

my partner and I hold temporary rights to a small parcel of paradise – a plot in The Fenway Victory Gardens.

Source

In anticipation of spring, which can’t be Too far away, I would like to tell the story of our little spot of land. This, of course, is an abridged version – many fruits, blooms, and weeds will go unnamed. I hope to offer a taste of our gardening year, though! Continue reading

News and Gratitude

If you’ve been following Spokes and Petals for awhile, you know that I really have a thing for skunks.

Happily, they occupied the front page of the NYT’s Science Times last week, along with some of their mammalian partners in chemical warfare. Natalie Angier writes… Continue reading

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