categories: Cocktail Hour / Getting Outside


ready for the 4-H sale

The garden’s a grocery store, this time of year. One of my great pleasures is to make meals that involve nothing but a trip down the hill, 100 feet or so and into the wild zone. I’m a chaos gardener—flowers and weeds and veggies and herbs and compost pile and big rocks and lots of sticks and a tall ribbon pole all coexisting with the million insects and a toad or two, plenty rodents, plenty slugs, a couple of snails and at least three snakes.


Elysia is the garden girl, and if it’s not too hot she’ll spend hours with me, digging, planting, mulching, weeding, and at last harvesting.


Hurricane Irene knocked the popcorn over, but we’ve propped it back up and it should recover—the ears are well in place, and well along.  The sunflowers went down, too (it’s not always a plus to be tall).

Yesterday we pulled the first watermelon, and the first we’ve ever grown that wasn’t a sugar baby: almost twenty pounds. The muskmelons are on the way, hooray, along with various berries and new apples, there’s dessert.

I love nothing more than preparing a meal completely pulled from our soil. Add the eggs from our hens and you can get through weeks without visiting Hannaford’s, the dominant grocery store hereabouts.

The other day, for example, I made stuffed zucchini in yet another edition of the ALL-GARDEN CHALLENGE.  You blanch halved zucchinis, maybe medium size at best (the bigger they get, the less flavor). Then scoop out the flesh leaving boats. A mash of fava beans and potatoes flavored

a girl and her new garden fork...

with sage and parsley and oregano and thyme, plenty of chopped celery, chard, and kale, chopped cherry tomatoes, chopped eggplant, and garlic, lots of garlic (the tiny red Russian type–we grew four kinds this year) , and several chopped scallions, an onion, several shallots: awesome filling, which you bind with three or four deep-orange egg yolks (and that’s it for oil, if I’m being a purist, maybe a little Maine canola if not). I like the very hot Thai peppers, or serranos, or Hungarian hot wax (all having a good year) but bells and Jimmy Nardellos work, too (I can always make one boat for myself, hot as north Texas has been this summer, wildfires and duststorms). Bake at 350 for half an hour or so, top with chopped basil and cucumber and tomatoes as a sauce.


Salads, of course. Twenty kinds of lettuce and various mustards and tatsoi and shredded golden and/or red beets and carrots galore (in five colors) and broccoli rabe and Thai basil and various other herbs (dill prominent) and pole beans and tomatoes and chopped hard-cooked egg and scallions again and a little roquette if there’s any left. Dressing of apple cider vinegar, tiny touch egg white, cucumber juice, tablespoon maple syrup from the trees in our woods.


I don’t make the wine, but. Nor the salt and pepper. Nor cumin. And you really can’t do without a good block of parmesan.  And etc.

Back in April--look how stiff still, 3 months after my neck surgery, and my wings bare as a the cherry trees

Luckily I’m not often a purist, so: add some olive oil and bread and so forth to the mix. I’ve found some local rye flour and mix it with wheat to get a nice, dense rye bread complete with caraway seeds. And I’ve finally figured out (this is ten years trying) a sourdough baguette that actually crackles out of the oven.  And I can’t really get along without lemons and limes for long.  And avocados.  Shall I keep going?  No, you get the idea: the garden’s a treasure, but we don’t live in this world alone.

And what was that about wine?

  1. Tommy writes:

    Wow, Bill! What a cornucopia!! The Nearings (Scott and Helen) have nothing on you! I’m impressed you can grow Melons that far North. My cucumbers (in a garden the size of a full-size pick-up bed) are being taken down by aphids. I need to brew some garlic oil…

    • Bill writes:

      Scott and Helen Nearing are dead, so it’s not hard to compete with them! I’ve been reading Eliot Coleman’s book “Four-Season Harvest,” and really enjoying it. He lives on part of the old Nearing farm and is an awfully good writer. In my post I don’t mention the various struggles of this year’s garden, but every year some new challenge comes–bugs and weather and weeds, woodchucks and chickens and weather again. And that photo of me in April, wow–that’s just a few months after my surgery and you can see how stiff I am. Also quite a bit heavier, I’m glad to say–been losing weight as I come back to life. Anyway, the garden has been a real emblem of recovery… It’s pretty big, same garden spot for probably 140 years, 30×40, and another bed up by the house. The melons are a fast-setting breed and they do like the long insolation up here. I count all the work as writing.

  2. George de Gramont writes:

    Wonderful essay and photo of you & Elysia (especially when enlarged). You look quite proud of her. Does she know Hadley.GdG.

    • Bill writes:

      Thanks, George. Elysia and Hadley have met, yes. They are actually the brains behind this operation.