Holiday greetings from Connecticut

There will be no postcard-style Christmas snow covering Connecticut this holiday season.

This year my snow shot is from the archives … the day after Christmas 2010.

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2011’s photographic holiday cheer is of the indoor sort.

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Now, with holiday hype done, it’s time to take a breath and remember what’s really important.

It’s not presents under the tree.

It’s family. It’s friends. It’s good health, or at least the ability to awaken and greet each day with wonder.

This is the wonder that greeted me this morning …

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Mother Nature’s gift to me. My gift to you in thanks for reading my words … for letting me into your lives.

I hope you take time to relish your wonders, to truly enjoy the gift of a child’s smile, a friend’s hug, a thoughtful glance from a significant other, a happy memory of a loved one no longer with you, and the beauty of the great outdoors.

It’s these wonders that make life worthwhile.

 

 

A Look at Young Farmers

It stands to reason that the growing popularity for organic produce – preferably locally grown – equates to a rising number of organically run farms. A recent piece on National Public Radio (NPR) provides a glimpse at a crop of young farmers gathered for the Young Farmers Conference in Tarrytown, New York. Follow the link and read or listen to the report. Here’s an excerpt.

Ben has been running his own farm in Tivoli, New York, for ten years now. He says that the great thing about farming is that it’s a really practical form of idealism. “It’s all well and good – and important – to have political opinions, and protest, and things like that. But when you’re farming, you get to live your values, and farm the world that you want to see,” he says.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA As a backyard vegetable grower, I’ve always had the utmost respect for people who choose to grow food for others. As an Accredited Organic Land Care Professional (AOLCP) I have even more respect for those who commit to farming organically.

We need to understand where our food comes from and what it takes to grow the fresh food we desire. Farming is difficult work but, thankfully, there are people willing and ready to learn from past farming practices and investigate new innovations in small-scale farming.

These are practical, resourceful, down-to-earth individuals who remind me of the farm-practicality my Grandmother learned as a child and passed on to her grandchildren.

In contrast to all the negative press blasted at us on television, radio, print and the Internet; the rising sense that big business is far more important than the public; and the paralyzing inability of Congress to work together to get anything done, organic farmers provide a positive, public-oriented, tangible service.

They feed people while helping to preserve the land for future generations.  They work hard, with limited capital, to keep farming. They seem to embody all the peace/love/respect-the-planet aspects so many in my generation professed during the 60’s while embracing the positive aspects of current technology.

Watch here to understand their drive, their vision, their desire to work in a truly meaningful profession.

 

They deserve our respect and our appreciation. They give me a powerful gift … they make me hopeful for the future.

Note: Many thanks to Alicia Ghio at  local food rocks for bringing NPR’s Who are the farmers of Generation Organic? to my attention … I must not have been listening the day it aired on All Things Considered.

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Boxwood Blight: A New Connecticut Worry

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station (CAES) recently reported a new-to-Connecticut boxwood disease, a fungus called Cylindrocladium pseudonaviculatum. Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? Wait till you learn more.

According to facts and photos in the boxwood blight fact sheet prepared by Dr. Sharon M. Douglas, of the Department of Plant Pathology and Ecology at CAES, the disease is as ominous as it’s Latin name sounds.

Early stages of boxwood blight first appear as dark or light leaf spots or lesions, often with dark borders. The spots grow to cover more of each infected leaf causing leaves to turn brown or straw colored. Defoliation is likely to occur shortly after leaf symptoms develop.

Infected stems show dark brown to black lesions, sometimes with a diamond-shaped pattern. Lesions run from the soil line to the stem tip.

The fungus does not appear to affect boxwood roots but, as the plant sends up new growth in response to defoliation, new growth becomes infected from remnants of the fungus. Repeated regrowth and reinfection weakens and eventually kills.

Check out the disturbing photos in the boxwood blight fact sheet of all disease stages or watch this YouTube video.

Boxwood blight spreads rapidly in warm, humid conditions – think greenhouses and hoop houses. It loves temperature ranges of 64 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit (77 being optimum) but can die after seven days at 91 degrees Fahrenheit. It may also live up to five years on decomposing boxwood leaves.

Boxwood blight spores spread by wind, wind-driven rain and water splash and, since the sticky spores easily attach to clothing, boots, tools, and animals, spores can also be spread via human and animal movement.

So, what can one do? Since the disease is newly identified in Connecticut CAES recommends we

  1. Buy disease-free material from reputable nurseries and carefully inspect all plants before purchasing.
  2. Isolate newly purchased plants for at least one month and preferably for several months.
  3. Space plantings to maximize air circulation.
  4. Avoid overhead watering and working among plants when they are wet.
  5. Remove boxwood leaf debris from around plants.
  6. Become familiar with symptoms by studying images of the disease in the links above.
  7. Inspect for symptoms each week. If detected, immediately pull and remove entire plant and dispose of infected material in plastic bags. Do Not Compost.
  8. Stay in touch with CAES for the most current information on control. Of note: Boxwood blight has been common in England and other countries for years and has not been controlled by fungicides.

If you suspect boxwood blight follow these instructions for submitting samples to CAES for diagnosis.

The disease has been found in Hartford, Middlesex, Fairfield and New London counties in Connecticut. Since one of these counties is mine and I already have a fair number of boxwood planted in my deer-accessible gardens (boxwood are one of the few shrubs my local deer don’t yet eat), I’m going to watch my boxwood closely.

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