Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Taste of Vietnam

My favorite site to watch online videos is, and among my favorite videos are the ones produced by the folks at The Perennial Plate.  I came across this short video yesterday highlighting some of the sights and tastes of Vietnam as experienced by the filmmakers and thought I'd share it with my readers because it got me reflecting.

When my family left Vietnam, I was still an infant.  Understandably, I have no memory of what life was like there.  Still, I can't help feeling something stir inside me whenever I see images of the place where I was born.  Two of my siblings have since gone back to visit but I've yet to do so.  I will admit that part me is afraid to make the journey myself.  Since the United States is the only home I've ever known, I'm certain I would feel out of place there to a certain degree (despite the fact that for the first time in my life, I'd walk the streets and see myself in the faces of most everyone around me). Still, I don't think my bucket list would be complete without a trip to where it all started for me.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Greetings from Colonial Williamsburg

I'm in Williamsburg, Virginia for a work conference this week.  This is my first time traveling to this part of the state and I have to say one thing - boy, it's HUMID here!  In any case, I generally don't bring my camera with me when I travel for work.  And in this instance, I am sorely regretting it.  Off all the places to be without my trusty Nikon D60.  Shortly after I arrived yesterday evening, I took a walk around the historical district and was deeply struck and moved by the beauty of it all.  I don't think I've ever been to a place like this before.  Sure, having lived in Philadelphia and Boston, I've seen my fair share of old brick buildings.  But they were always viewed within the backdrop of modern day life.  Here in Colonial Williamsburg, aside from the tourists walking about, time seems to stand still.

I took the picture above with my blackberry phone.  Not great, I know.  Yesterday, I bought a disposable camera and am looking forward to waking up extra early tomorrow morning to take some pictures.  (I was surprised to find that they still made disposable cameras.)  And of course, I will be hunting for the Colonial gardens.  I found one that had artichoke plants that were 3 ft tall (Erin - you are missing out, girl!), shell peas that were 6 ft tall (mine are 6 inches tall in Vermont), wooden cold frames like I'd never seen before, and low tunnels made from bent branches and cotton muslin.  Hopefully I'll be able to get some decent pictures from the disposable camera and post some soon.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Dow Corn - What's to Love?

Here's a great idea - Let's create a corn  that can withstand 2,4-D, a powerful herbicide that was used in Agent Orange during the Vietnam War and may cause cancer and hormone disruption, because weeds are becoming more resistant to Roundup.  Maybe after this, we can create a corn that can withstand Agent Orange itself.

Dow Corn, Resistant to a Weed Killer, Runs into Opposition - New York Times, April 25, 2012

"Short sighted businessmen, ah, nothing lasts for long..." - Joni Mitchell

Dairy Day At Shelburne Farms

Last Sunday, we went to Dairy Day at Shelburne Farms.  The weather was beautiful, and so were the cows.  I'll let most of the pictures speak for themselves.

I might be mistaken but I believe Mount Mansfield is in the background.


Sheep looking freshly sheared


This calf was born the day before.  It's legs were still shaky and you could see the umbilical cord.


The calves loved having their cheeks scratched, and over course, nibbling at our clothes.

Lake Champlain


Brown Swiss cows bathing in the sun

Around 3:30 PM, the cows came home.

We had a great time and will surely come again next year!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fig Tree Update - Fig Mosaic Virus

A couple of months ago, I brought my fig trees indoors to break dormancy early.  I wasn't sure whether there was enough summer here in Vermont for them to bear fruit this year.  Since then, they've grown by leaps and bounds.  My 'Paradiso' fig is already twice as big as it was all summer long last year.  I think my new fertilizer regimen is working. 

My "Black Triana" fig is growing as well.  However, soon after it started to put out new growth, I realized that the central trunk was dead.  It was easy to tell since it had turned light gray.  I removed it and since then the plant has put out several lateral branches at the base, which I'm training to grow upwards. 

I also realized recently why my trees didn't do so well last year.  I'm no fig expert but I think both of my trees have fig mosaic virus, which results in stunted growth, immature fruit drop and leaves that are deformed, have varied pigmentation and brown lesions.

A lot of the leaves look like this...

...and this.

On a brighter note, I did spot a baby fig the other day.  Hopefully it will actually ripen this year.  I guess it's fitting then that the fig cuttings I took in late winter all succumb to mold and never rooted.  Apparently, you should not take cuttings from fig trees that have mosaic virus.

I've read that there is no cure for the virus but if anyone has any advice on how to manage it (if that's possible), do share!   I've been giving my trees aspirin water (to boost their immune system) every few weeks and at the very least, it doesn't seem to hurt.

Kishu Mandarin Tree

Last Friday, I received this little beauty in the mail.  It's the latest addition to my growing potted citrus tree collection, which includes two Meyer lemons, a mandarinquate (I've done away with my non-bearing one), a Kieffer lime, a Seville orange and Bearss seedless lime.  Now I have this lovely little 'Kishu' mandarin, which is supposed to be one of the most prized in Japan.  I'd ordered it from Logee's, where I'd gotten my Kieffer lime, and I must say, I'm really happy with this specimen.  It has a nice form to it and came with a lots of new growth.  Hopefully I'll be able to shape this one into a nice looking tree.

Last month, I purchased some of the tastiest mandarins I'd eaten in a long time at our local coop.  The variety was called 'Pixie' and is available online through Four Winds Growers.  Kishu is supposed to be just as good if not better.  And if my little grafting experiment works out, I'll have more than one mandarin tree in a couple of years.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Warning - Your opinion of humanity will suffer after watching this video.  Here's a link to the article and even more disturbing slide show.

And the fact that some states are considering laws to make it a crime for an individual to seek a factory farm position with the intent of exposing such abuses is just unbelievable.

Growing Ginger - Update

My ginger sprouted.  It took about a month but eventually a small green shoot popped up from the potting soil.

At this point, two of the three rhizomes that I'd planted have sprouted.  I think it takes about a year for the plants to produce ginger of a size worth harvesting.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Spring Greens Growing Ever So Slowly

If we were in Massachusetts, most of my spring greens would be ready for harvest by now, but alas, this is Vermont.

Citrus Experiment

Last month, I came across a sour orange at the supermarket and an idea stuck me.  From what I've read, most citrus root stock is grown from sour oranges - what variety, I do not know but I thought it would be fun to grow my own citrus root stock from seed and then try my hand at grafting.  I've been itching to broaden my gardening skills.

Two seeds have since sprouted.  I think it will be at least a year before this seedling is old enough for me use.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

Tomatoes and Peppers

I think I started my tomatoes and peppers a bit too early this year.  I've never had tomato seedlings grow this quickly before.  Then again, I've never had growing room that provided the kind of warmth and light that tomato plants love.

At the moment, my tomatoes are about two feet tall.  I decided to move them to our unheated screened porch which still gets tons of light from a glass ceiling.  Hopefully this cooler environment will slow down their growth until it's warm enough for me to set them out.

Red Currant Bush

The red currant bush next to our townhouse is blooming like crazy this year.  This variety is called 'Red Lake'.  I was worried that the warm Spring we've had so far coupled with the few nights of frost we've had recently would mean death to the clusters of tiny buds but they seem to be developing unscathed.

The bud clusters look really interesting up close.  I wonder if the flowers pollinate easily without assistance as I haven't seen many bees active yet this spring.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Leek Harvest

I started these leeks last spring and left them to grow in a clump for most of the summer.  Last August, I dug the clump up and set them out individually to grow for a winter harvest.

Because of the move, I never did get around to harvesting them this past winter.  And because of the mild winter we experienced, they continued to grow and thrive unprotected.  Normally, they would have been toast by January.  This past week, I decided to dig them up before the weather got too hot and they decided to bolt.

Not a true first harvest for this year but I'll take it.

Strawberry Jar Update

strawberry jars
My potted strawberries aren't doing as well as I would have liked.  I think I'll transplant them to the community plot in a week or two.
potted strawberries
We did end up getting a few strawberries in April. 

potted strawberries
They were tiny but very sweet.