Oxalis the weed
Oxalis the weed

I have a weed that’s very pervasive in my cultivated beds (not the woodlands, for some reason) and looked it up in a weed database.  Oxalis or wood sorrel.  I remembered my father showing me this weed and saying it was an indication of acidic soils, typical for New England.  So all weekend I pulled the stuff from my garden beds.  I also finally got to cleaning the very sad looking pansies out of the deck boxes and planting the – very stressed from being in too small pots too long – Art Deco dahlias.  This should have been done during our last heat wave but frankly, I was cowering in the AC and watching Tour de France on TV.

I needed something to fill the rest of the boxes and stopped at Applefield Farm , a favorite place for annuals.  The supply is smaller but the prices go down now.  I found a couple of colorful coleus and I needed something smaller for the center box with two dahlias at either end.  I saw this leafy plant with a pretty blend of pink, yellow and pale green and checked the tag for light requirements.  It’s Oxalis!  A Proven Winner’s selection called Molten Lava.  And yes, I bought it and brought it home to plant.  You just have to laugh.

Oxalis the annual
Molten Lava Oxalis, the annual

When I looked deeper into Oxalis, this represents many very pretty varieties as well as my prolific weed.  Some people even complain for lack of ability to grow them!

Updated picture with dahlia Art Deco blossoming.

Deck boxes
Deck boxes

Canna at Applefield Farm

I have every intention of writing a more complete blog article about Applefield Farm in Stow, MA, one of my favorite, maybe THE favorite, of my 117 commute.  However, within the last weeks, I’ve had a couple of different conversations about their use of Canna in container arrangements.  A picture being worth many of the words in those conversations, I snapped a few shots on my way home from work.  Call this a “lick and a promise” as far as telling you about the farm market goes.

If you don’t know Canna, they are the tall plants with the banana-shaped leaves.  The flowers come in an incredible array of colors as do the leaves.  As you can see in these pictures, they make a very nice height component in a container and the effects last all season if you choose a variety for its leaves.  One of my favorites is “Bengal Tiger” (not shown here) but it’s day-glow orange flowers and chartreuse striped leaves don’t go with everything.  One of the nice things about this farm market is that you can buy the plants and combine them yourself, or they will create a beautiful container for you.[oqeygallery id=15]

It smells so GOOD!

In 2009, I heard that cherries were being dumped in the West Coast of Michigan, where I hope to retire, because there were so many that they couldn’t sell them.  I had done tours and tastings for Nashoba Winery for a few years between full time jobs and I knew what really good wine sour cherries can make.  What a shame!  It came to me that the ability to make a decent fruit wine might come in handy in that (completely hypothetical at the moment) day when I retired. 

So I bought a box of cider apples for $4 from Bolton Springs Farm in the fall of 2009.  After 18 months, and the third racking, it’s clear and smells like apple pie.  It tastes like apples, too; although a bit sour.  Fermentation uses up the natural sugars.  I didn’t have the right tool for racking so I threw away a more than I liked when I moved off the clear wine.  I put in an order for some stuff that prevents added sugar from fermenting, a stabilizer.  (And the rigid tool that I should have had during racking to control the siphoning process better.)  I’ll sweeten it and bottle it shortly. 

The first picture is before the first racking.  The second and third are from today’s process.  I wish it were a bit lighter in color but wouldn’t want to mess around with the flavor.

After first fermentation
Apple wine, after fermentation
Trying to filter the end
Racked wine
Racked apple wine
Racked apple wine

The wisdom of buying locally

Reading some interesting discussion about the local foods movement, pro and cons.  An article where economists discuss some of the issues with over-doing it, based on well recognized economic principles  http://www.econlib.org/library/Columns/y2011/LuskNorwoodlocavore.html

And another study that counters that to some extent.   I have not read the book yet but intend to download it.  http://www.communityfoodenterprise.org/news/test

 What strikes me right away is that the economists in the first model have not included self-sufficiency as an economic factor.  What happens to Esther’s food supply if Boston is hit by  a tsunami?   Therefore, what is the ongoing  economic value to Esther of her local (say West of 128 belt) sources that could still provide her with locally grown food when the regional transportation system was crippled.  What should she be willing to pay over the cost of comparable food, shipped from a distance.  Especially the farm that’s within walking distance.  Even more so, when we put a dollar value on the produce from our own gardens or greenhouses, how do we factor this in?

This is fascinating to me because I have to grapple on a daily basis with the fact that we often don’t factor risk into econimic and business decisions.  Information system security adds costs, I hear.  But not if the worst happens.  Then it saves money.  Security analysts work with risk assessments that try to factor in the probability and impact of that “worst” to include appropriate costs/spending for prevention or mitigation.  It can be a hard sell.

Thank you to the web site http://www.biofortified.org/ for presenting multiple viewpoints on this and other issues related to our food supply.

Local farmstands – Bolton Spring Farm

I came from the midwest and before I’d visited Massachusetts, knowing the stats on population density, I’d envisioned that the east coast looked a lot like the I-94 corridor around Chicago.  I was very wrong.   Trees and brush are allowed to grow right up against the historic, meandering roads and public lands like water reservoirs and state forests create natural, untouched green spaces in the most densely populated suburbs of Boston.

My commute, while too long, takes me through miles and miles of farm land, some of it very near to historic places like Walden Pond.  Most of it is on a two lane highway, Route 117.  In this blog, I’ll feature some of the places that I visit to augment produce from my very small garden.

One of the few seasonal farms that’s still open is Bolton Spring Farm, although probably not much longer this year.  They open late in the summer and feature their own orchard products.  I had the only realy ripe Mutsu (also called Crispin) this year in a bag that I purchased a couple of weeks ago. 

Although they stock a broad variety of vegetables, gift products and home made baked goods, I think what makes them special is the many varieties of local apples that they grow and stock.  They clearly mark what’s locally grown.  This time of year, they sell Christmas trees and greens, too.

Local farmstand
Bolton Springs Farm