Cheat Sheet: Best & Worst of Fall Activities

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This time of year in the Northeast you can’t go far without coming across farms and orchards running a host of Fall activities. It can be a high pressure time of year – there’s only so many nice weather weekends to fit everything in and feel like you’ve got your Autumnal-fill. Here is my handy guide, ranked worst to best, of the season’s main activities:

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What Makes a Vegetable an Heirloom?

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It seems like ‘heirloom’ has become a bit of buzzword in recent years, (see also ‘farm-to-table’), with Heirloom Tomato salads popping up on menus all over the place. There are a lot of pretentious menu phrases out there – haricot verts (its string beans), aioli (mayonnaise), aubergine (eggplant) – but an heirloom vegetable is something special and not just for tomatoes. Continue reading

Local Field Trip: Wick House & Garden at Jockey Hollow

There is a very neat bit of history in the nearby area of Morristown, New Jersey. Morristown National Historical Park commemorates the sites of General Washington and the Continental Army’s winter encampment of December 1779, where they survived through what would be the coldest winter on record. The Wick House (built in the 1740s) served as officers quarters during each of the Continental Army’s encampments in Morristown.

My favorite part of the park is the Wick House Kitchen Garden – the garden is set up to recreate a kitchen garden during the American Revolution. The plants are labeled with what their traditional use would have been, with notes on some letting you know they aren’t actually effective.

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Wick House…built in the 1740s

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Kitchen Garden

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Field Trip: Portland’s Rose Garden & Japanese Garden

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Strolling Garden

shinrin-yoku | “forest bathing”

A short, leisurely trip into a forest or natural space to experience the restorative effects of spending time in the stillness of nature.

I came across this term while researching the Portland Japanese Garden, and understood the meaning immediately. To me it’s that moment when you breathe in the fresh woodsy air, and can’t see houses or hear cars on the road anymore. I’ve experienced this as nearby as the hike & bike trail in my town (once you pass the part next to the highway of course), and as that first step out of the car after a road trip out of the city/suburbs.

I had an expectation of Portland as a ‘hippie-paradise’, but it was a lot more a standard city, in my opinion. (Not that I didn’t appreciate the convenience of Whole Foods & Starbucks as many of the quirky chain stores were closed for the holiday weekend.)  If you’re looking for hippie-paradise, by the way, just travel south of Portland a few hours to the city of Eugene.

A short and inexpensive ride on the light rail brings you directly from the city center to the perfect forest-bathing spot – Washington Park.  Washington Park encompasses many attractions – the Portland Zoo, the Portland Children’s Museum, and the Hoyt Arboretum among them. Being a garden junkie, I opted for the Portland Japanese Garden and International Rose Test Garden. (I did make a brief stop at the zoo to check out an adorable baby polar bear named Nora.)

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Spring Garden Update

The first day of summer is nearly here (also known as Midsummer, Summer Solstice, or St. John’s Day, alternatively), so I thought it would be a good time to do a garden check-in. Planting a spring garden (aka planting cool-tolerant crops that will be ready before the main summer veggies) wasn’t in the cards for me this year, but those that did should be reaping the reward of lettuces, carrots, radishes, cabbages & more.

A little background – my garden is an allotment in a community garden. It’s my first year at this community garden, so my garden plot was randomly picked, sight unseen, and I had no idea what condition or set-up I would be inheriting. This was the first time I got to check it out, back in February:

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February 2017 – ‘Yikes’ moment

I did have a ‘Yikes’ moment, but it didn’t turn out to be so bad…

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Field Guide: Wildflowers of Oregon

I recently went on my first trip to the Pacific Northwest – to the super green state of Oregon! I’m a wildflower addict, so it was amazing to see the different species out there – in meadows, roadsides, and forests. I couldn’t help but photograph as many as I could to make my own little ‘field guide’. I’ve tried to identify them as best I could with my own knowledge, some helpful placards, and an actual (and awesome) field guide by the National Wildlife Federation. Without further ado –

Lupines!

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Large-Leaf Lupine (Lupinus polyphyllus) – along the Columbia River Gorge.

I knew lupines were a common wildflower out west, but they seemed about as common as dandelions are in my neighborhood in the North East. They come in all sorts of colors, but I thought this bluish purple was very striking against the green.

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Community Gardens: From Thrift to War to Urban Activism

My first exposure to community gardens was as someone growing up in a city, and later as a suburban apartment-dweller that refused to accept I wouldn’t be able to garden. You might think of community gardens as a recent invention brought about by more people living in cities, but the concept of community gardening dates way farther back! From local cities battling the effects of economic depression, to the government encouraging gardening as a patriotic act during wartime, to modern urban activism, community gardening has brought people together for the good of the community and farther afield.

Way Back When:

The first community gardens began in the 1890s, in Detroit. ‘The Panic of 1893’ brought about an economic depression that lasted about 4 years, and inspired the mayor of Detroit to turn vacant lots into gardens where unemployed workers could grow and sell food.

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Smithsonian Gardens – ‘Community of Gardens’ exhibit

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Minimalism: It’s Not About Owning the Least Stuff

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How much I’ve packed so far for a house move in 1 week..there will be lots more

There is nothing that makes you take stock of everything you own so much as moving house. I have been moving every couple of years, and it does help immensely reduce the amount of clutter I own. I remember during my last move, I made the rookie mistake of leaving the kitchen for absolute last. I figure it would only take a few trips up and down the 3.5 flights of stairs to get everything out. WRONG. Already exhausted by moving everything else, I just didn’t have it in me to make that many trips. A fair amount of baking tins, dishes and more were left behind, and I wonder if they are still in use today by the proceeding tenants..

There are minimalist social media ‘celebrities’ out there, because of course there are. There is a trend among them of doing a show-and-tell style video showcasing the absurdly few amount of possessions they have (“Everything I Own – 30 Things”). As someone who considers herself a minimalist, I find this ridiculous on several levels.

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