Petit Pois

28 June 2016 AD

After Pam Baker mentioned how she liked Petit Pois peas in a comment at this blog, I tracked down some seeds and planted one of my raised garden beds with them. Specifically, I planted two rows down the center of the 30" wide bed (x 15' long). The two rows were 4" apart and the seeds were planted 1" apart in the rows. That planting scheme worked very well. It has been noted in my Whizbang Garden Journal, and I'll repeat it in future years when growing "bed peas," (as opposed to trellised peas).

I planted the seeds on March 24. We harvested the peas yesterday. 

It's worth noting that we have had a long stretch of hot and dry weather here, and I did no watering of the plants. Nevertheless, they grew vigorously, produced an abundance of pods, and the pods all matured at pretty much the same time. Had I planted the bed more intensely, I suspect the plants would have had a difficult time getting adequate moisture from the subsoil.

My wife, Marlene, pulled all the vines and brought them to the patio behind our house, where we have shade from the sun. We then picked off all the pods, before commencing to shell them.

We hand-shelled together for nearly an hour and a half.  The pleasure of hand-shelling peas started to wane after about half an hour. I was glad when that job was done.

Marlene will freeze the peas and we will enjoy them through the winter.

I'm wondering if anyone reading this has used a pea-sheller  device of some sort to shell English peas, like these. If so, what kind, and how well did it work?

Hotter Than A July

Dateline: 20 June 2016 AD

It's not July yet but, as Greg Brown sings in his classic down-t0-earth song, "Canned Goods," it's been hotter than a July Twoooooooooo-Mayyyyyyyyyyy-Toe here in upstate New York.

Deliberate Agrarian blog reader, Elizabeth, from out in the future free state of Jefferson, California, reads my Whizbang Gardening Facebook Page, and she saw the recent post I made there about the above YouTube clip. After which she wrote the following...

"Well, I wanted to make a comment about the "Canned Goods" song by Greg Brown, and wanted to make it on your blog...Thanks so much for that touching song. It's almost like my theme song for your blog, Herrick. The song and this blog mean a lot to me. I feel like I'm part of a family, so many names of people who comment have become familiar to me, and precious, as you and your family have become to me as well. That's what that song churned up in me, gratefulness, the good life, relationships!!!"

That's beautiful, Elizabeth. Thank you. I'll get back to writing at this blog soon, I hope.

As for the song, I recommend that everyone watch the YouTube clip above. At 38 seconds into the movie you will see some potatoes in a basement. That picture happens to be of my potato harvest from years ago. I posted it here to this blog. I was so surprised to see my picture there, and that's how I happened to mention it on my Facebook page.

If you like the Canned Goods song, and you want to hear a  long, rambling, version, check out this link: Canned Goods by Greg Brown (the delightful long version).

Strawberry Season

Dateline: 12 June 2016 AD

Berries picked this morning.
(click the picture for a delicious close-up view)

Hello Dear Readers,

I'm not blogging much these days. Life is just too busy. 

But I am keeping the strawberries picked, and we are certainly enjoying them, even if they are a bit on the small side this year.

I hope everyone's summer is off to a great start.

If you haven't yet entered Planet Whizbang Giveaway #3, please go check it out.



Summer Reading

Dateline: 5 June 2016

Nostalgia is defined as a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. The older we get, the more we experience nostalgia. And it is hot summer days that evoke a particularly sweet nostalgia in me. 

I have relatively few truly good memories of my younger days, growing up in a suburban neighborhood outside Syracuse, New York. But there were days in the summer when I would set myself up in the back yard, under the shade of a birch tree, on an old rattan chaise lounge, with a pile of books, and a cool drink, and just read. 

That chaise lounge was like a boat in the ocean. It took me to places where I was not. Just me and my books. I was an avid comic book reader early on. Then came the Hardy Boys and Brains Benton mysteries. From there, I graduated to more grown-up reading interests.

The old chaise lounge came from my stepfather's family. It looked very much (but not exactly) like this one...

The chaise had four old, sturdy purple cushions made with a short bristley fabric. It had wheels just like in the picture. But the arms were different in that they had a rattan cup holder and a place to store reading materials.

When my family moved out of the suburbs to an old farmhouse in the country (I was in 9th grade), the chaise went upstairs into the barn, where it only occasionally was brought outdoors in the summer. 

The fact is, in the suburbs, I had pretty much nothing to do in the summer. I mowed the lawn, but that was it for responsibilities. So I would read for hours on end. There were, after all, no computers or video games in those days. And I am thankful for that.

But when we got to the country, there was so much else to be doing that I never read for hours under the shade of a tree in the backyard like I once did. And I've always missed that about summer.

The old barn at my parent's place gradually fell into disrepair. The roof leaked in places. I would often go up into the barn and check on the old chaise lounge to make sure it wasn't getting wet. Then in the late 1980's a big wind blew most of the roof off the barn and it partially collapsed.

Upon hearing of the damage, I went up to see for myself how bad it was. My main concern was the chaise lounge. Had it survived?

Part of the upper floor where it was had collapsed. And portions of the roof had fallen in. The chaise was buried but it was in a pocket of jumbled lumber pieces, completely unharmed. I considered it's preservation from destruction to be something of a miracle at the time. With considerable effort, I got it out of there and brought it home.

I made space for the antique in my shop. My thought being that someday I would have the time to spend a whole summer day in my back yard doing nothing but reading books. The nostalgia was powerful.

Then, around ten years later, I did something with that chaise lounge that I never expected I would do..... I sold it. I really needed the space in my shop, but, more than that, I needed the money. 

I couldn't find any pictures or information about the chaise online back then. So I listed it on EBAY with a minimum bid of $100. The single winning bid came from a couple in Maine. They drove all the way to central New York to get the piece, and they were delighted with their purchase.

It so happened that they collected and restored antique rattan furniture. They knew the history of the chaise. It was made in Massachusetts in the 1800's (my stepfather's family was from Massachusetts). The man told me it was in remarkably good shape. "They're hard to find in this condition."

I smiled and waved good bye as the nice couple drove back to Maine with my chaise lounge. I regretted what I had just done, and I regret it even more to this day.

Then I went in my house and checked out the web site the couple had given me. It showed several nice houses on the Maine coast that they rented out in the summers. The pictures of the interior of the houses looked like pictures out of a magazine. They showed beautifully decorated interiors with an abundance of restored antique rattan furniture. Ocean views could be seen through the windows. 

I needed money at the time. That couple apparently had an abundance of it. And they also had my beloved old chaise lounge. I felt pretty low.

It was just a piece of furniture. I can't take it with me when I leave this realm. and it would have no meaning to my children. But still.... the nostalgia.


These days, my summers are not for lounging and reading. I typically work at my business, in my garden, on my land, or around my house (I'm still trying to get the roof finished) every day from morning to dark, or until I "hit the wall," as we say around here.

My work is not too laborious, and I take small breaks when they're warranted. But I'm persistently slogging away at several projects every day, until my brain or my body are spent. I like to work. I like to be exhausted at the end of a day. I like it when my arms and hands and back and shoulders ache from use. I feel better about myself, and I sleep better.


So, yesterday, a Saturday in June, I worked in my garden for awhile, before getting my Planet Whizbang mail-orders packaged. Then I worked for awhile at making Classic American Clothespins. Then I worked for awhile on handles for the Whizbang Wheel Hoe kits I sell. Then I hit the wall.

It was late afternoon. Still fairly early. And I remembered that I got an old gardening book in the mail. Marlene's anti-gravity chair was empty in the back yard.....

It's far from a vintage rattan chaise lounge, but close enough. And for a little while I was a kid again.

Mama Kitty likes the anti-gravity chair too

Interview With
Jean-Martin Fortier

Dateline: 1 June 2016

Jean-Martin and his wife, Maude-Hèléne.

Jean-Martin Fortier's book, The Market Gardener, really impacted the way I garden. First, his use of 30" wide permanent planting beds with 18" walkways is the ideal size for me to work with. I had experimented in years past with wider beds and narrower walkways and I wasn't happy with any of them. But 30" and 18" is just right.

And it was Fortier's book that broke down my 30+ year bias against black plastic in my garden. His use of heavy plastic as an occultation cover makes so much sense that I had to give it a try, and I'm glad I did. 

So it's no wonder that the current Planet Whizbang Giveaway is for a DVD documentary of Jean-Martin's 1.5 acre farm in Quebec. There are 6 days left before the contest ends. There will be three winners.

Besides the new documentary, I want to let the avid gardeners among my readership know about the recent interview with Jean-Martin. I highly recommend it. Here's the link:  J.M. Fortier on Six-Figure Farming With The Market Garden.

There is so much for a home gardener to consider in the interview. Jean-Martin discusses his gardening system, including bed/walkway widths, and  the use of occultation plastic. But I learned something new when he discussed the use of a broad fork (his favorite tool). It turns out that the fork is NOT used to turn or seriously disrupt the soil in his garden beds. It is used only to aerate the beds. Check out the interview.

One more thing... The Farmer to Farmer Podcast (where the interview can be found) is an exceptional web site and resource for people who are interested in gardening and small-scale agriculture.

I've listened to several of the interviews at that web site and another good one that I recommend is Karl Hammer on Microbes, Carbon, and The Compost Connection.   That title may sound a bit esoteric but, WOW, I really enjoyed listening to Karl Hammer. He has a way with words and the man is passionate about soil biology, manure, compost, and all of that. 

For those who don't know, Karl Hammer owns the Vermont Compost Company. The compost-based seed starting mix he makes is legendary.