December 4, 2020

A la Carte: Welcome December With a Wonderful Winter Entrée

Lee White

Many decades ago, we spent a New Jersey weekend with my husband’s friend, a radiologist. I call him my husband’s friend because, once my husband died, I exited that friendship because I basically detested him.

In any case, this man talked about his radiologic partner and noted that he couldn’t stand the partner’s wife. Always curious, I asked what his wife was like. “A bitch,” he said. “Did she work,” I asked. “Nah,” he snorted. “She baked muffins or cookies. Something like that,” I then realized that she was, indeed, Rose Levy Barenbaum, one of the finest pastry chefs in the world and author, at that time, of “The Cake Bible,” the first cookbook that garnered a million dollar advance

Rose and I became friends and are, to this day, very close. Her books line my bookshelves. If you have used any of her books, you can’t miss with her careful recipes, which not only include what to do but what not to do. For a few of her cookbooks, she has asked me to test recipes.

I hope someday she will meet my new friend, Richard Swanson. Richard works at The Day and, if he decided to write cookbooks, all his recipes would be as perfect as Rose’s. He writes every recipe and reworks with every ingredient multiple times. He has entered food contests and wins!

By the time he gives me something to taste, he has probably done the same three or four or 20 times. You will love his wonderful winter entrée. 

Pork Cider Stew with Rutabaga, Potatoes and Cabbage
From Richard Swanson, Waterford, CT

1 ½ pounds pork loin
Olive oil or canola oil
1 ½ cups Vidalia (or sweet) onions
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups diced rutabaga2 cups diced russet potatoes
1 small bag Dole shredded coleslaw mix with carrots (about 4 cups)
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
4 cups apple cider (unfermented)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon caraway seed
½ teaspoon white pepper

Place 1 tablespoon oil into a Dutch oven and brown pork loin over medium heat (or on the sauté function if you are using your Instant Pot).*

Toss onion and garlic around pork and continue to cook covered until translucent, then pour chicken broth and braise the pork loin for 20 minutes covered.

Remove pork loin and place aside. Pour water, apple cider and spices into the pot and add rutabaga, potatoes and cole slaw mix. (Rich does not add the dressing packet.) Simmer uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes until rutabaga and potatoes are almost fork tender.

In the meantime, dice the pork loin add it to the pot to reheat the meat. To thicken the broth: at the end of the cooking, pull about a cup of the veggies mix out of the mix and blend them with a little bit of broth in a blender or immersion stick blender to make a thick paste. (Lee: I might mix this with a tablespoon of cornstarch and add it to the stew at high heat.)

Add the paste back into the pot and stir. Salt to taste and serve.

*Instant Pot option: you can use the pressure cooker function on the Instant Pot to completely tenderize the pork and cook the vegetables until tender, but be careful you don’t turn the potatoes and rutabaga into mush.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.

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Reading Uncertainly: “Tales From the Ant World” by Edward O. Wilson

Are ants far more important than we humans?

Probably!

That’s my conclusion after reading the latest from this illustrious Professor Emeritus of Harvard with some 33 books to his credit, many of which relate his life-long interest in these creatures

Ants, or the study of myrmecology using the proper scientific terminology, have existed on this earth for some 150 million years, 10 times longer than Homo sapiens. They are survivors of ice ages and hot spells. They operate on this globe in both extreme heat and cold.

Significantly for these times, they are not disease carriers.

They create societies in which females are in complete control (“benevolent matriarchies.”) Males are second-class citizens, primed to exist for one act of reproduction and then depart this life. Ouch!

And, like us, they have traveled from Africa to almost every other spot on earth. They are also “virtuosos of chemical communication,” working together soundlessly. To top it off, they will probably outlive our species by another 50 million years, or at least as this earth exists.

“Ant colonies possess superb resiliency,” suggests Professor Wilson, arguing that we humans should study them more seriously. Compared to the bulk of a human body, an ant is tiny but “ … all the living ants weigh about the same as all we living humans. We don’t go to war against ants, nor do they war against us.”

To Wilson, this proves “an important principle of parasite biology … that the most successful parasite is the one that causes the least damage.” But they are vicious warriors among themselves … very similar to human beings.

Yes, they do travel: ants are great navigators. They manage to move about, “by direct light of the sun and dead reckoning (“dead”  product of “deduced” reckoning) by the spatial gradients of polarized light, spectral composition of light, and the radiant intensity that form cover across the entire vault of the sky.” I do wish I had those capabilities when I navigated my U. S. Navy refrigerator ship across the Pacific some 60-plus years ago!

Can studying ants give us some ideas about the future of human beings? Females in total control — but the “queen” is effectively a slave of the entire colony? Incessant warfare with other colonies? But ultimately, ants are survivors, outlasting us by millions of years.

Read Professor Wilson for some challenging questions.

Editor’s Note: “Tales From the Ant World” by E. O. Wilson was published 2020

Felix Kloman

About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008).

A 20-year resident of Lyme, Conn., he now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction, a subject which explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there.

For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and now serves as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farm Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His late wife, Ann, was also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visited every summer.

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A View from My Porch: The ‘Aristocrat of the Silent Screen’, the ‘Bee & Thistle’ … and Other Thoughts

Plans have been announced for the former ‘Bee and Thistle Inn’ to become the new home of the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center. But do you know how this gracious residence ever came to be an inn?  If not, read on …

The recent announcement that the Connecticut Audubon Society had reached an agreement to purchase the Bee & Thistle Inn, and plans to renovate it as the future headquarters for the Roger Tory Peterson Estuary Center, piqued my curiosity regarding the Inn’s history.

This essay briefly reviews the life of an individual who was fairly instrumental in its founding, the talented and infamous Elsie Ferguson. Note that I had originally written “notorious,” but I believe only one woman in our recent history is deserving of that descriptor. My goal with this essay is to provide readers with something light, given the dismal news regarding the COVID crisis, but please read to the end as I feel obliged to return to that topic there.

Known as “The Aristocrat of the Silent Screen,” this (Public Domain) photo shows Elsie Ferguson in 1913. Image by Herman Mishkin – The Theatre, Vol. 18, July 1913.

Ms. Ferguson was considered by many as the leading Broadway and silent screen actress for much of the first half of the 20th century. She made her debut as a chorus girl in 1900 at the Madison Square Theatre in the musical comedy “The Belle of New York.”

She then starred, or was a cast member, in a remarkable number of productions on Broadway and in London, becoming known as one of the most beautiful and talented women ever to appear on the American stage. She became “the aristocrat of the silent screen”, partly because so many of her roles were elegant society women, and also for her utterly arrogant attitude. 

During the first world war, several Broadway stars organized a campaign to sell Liberty Bonds, both before performances and at events occurring at important New York City venues. Ms. Ferguson once sold $85,000 in bonds in less than an hour, which is about a million and a half today!

After appearing in “The Merchant of Venice” in 1916, she signed her first movie contract with Paramount Pictures, and in a 1917 release, made her silent screen debut in “Barbary Sheep.” After some 25 films made between 1917 and 1929, she made her first and only “talkie”, “Scarlet Pages”, in 1930. 

She was definitely “divaesque” and working with her was difficult. She actually dabbled in socialism in the 1920s, and once stated in an interview, that “… people are struggling and fretting their lives away over questions of food and education. When a man has accumulated more than, say, a million, the moneys made should revert back to those who have contributed to the amassment.” This was ironic, because she was very well-compensated for her work, and had “amassed” a large fortune.

Her personal life was marked with some turmoil; and she was even involved, albeit on the periphery, in events that triggered the murder of architect Stanford White, an utter scoundrel; the news of those events contributed to the novel and eventual Broadway musical, “Ragtime”.

Connecticut:

In 1934, the then 51-year-old Elsie Ferguson married her fourth husband, the wealthy Irish “sportsman” Victor Egan. They bought a farm in Connecticut that same year. They also maintained a home on the French Riviera, splitting their time between the two. 

The Ferguson Farm:

A “Profile” of Ms. Ferguson, published in 2013 by the Florence Griswold Museum, tracked her life to some “welcome seclusion” on that scenic 100-acre estate in East Lyme, “White Gate Farms.” She told a reporter from “The Milwaukee Journal” that she sold 150 of her farm’s eggs each day to the Government. The reporter described the surroundings as “bucolic and luxurious.” During her tenure at White Gate, she was known only as Mrs. Victor Egan. 

When the World War II theater blackout on Broadway lifted in 1943, she made her final appearance, at the age of 60, in “Outrageous Fortune”, which was written by an East Lyme neighbor, Rose Franken. She told the reporter covering her return to the theater that “once people [in Connecticut] recognized her, she would have to be very careful about how she looked; hair and all that sort of thing.”

Victor Egan died in France in 1956, and ‘Widow Ferguson’ spent her remaining years in Connecticut.

The Bee and Thistle Inn:

Her friend and contemporary, Henrietta Greenleaf Lindsay, a Hartford designer, had opened a shop in Old Lyme, and lived nearby in a large home just north of what is now the Florence Griswold Museum. She was also a widow, and rented a few extra bedrooms to guests. Ms. Ferguson suggested that Ms. Lindsay formalize her guest room business and convert her gracious home wholly to a hotel. 

Ms. Lindsay followed that advice, and opened an Inn to the public. In recognition of her friend’s encouragement, the Ferguson Clan’s crest, which included a bee on a thistle, gave the inn its name.”

Elsie Ferguson died in November, 1961, aged 78, at Lawrence & Memorial Hospital in New London with no surviving heirs. Her will directed that her $1.5 to $2 million estate be divided primarily amongst several animal welfare organizations, including NYC’s Animal Medical Center, Bide-A-Wee Home, the ASPCA, and Orphans of the Storm.

She is interred in Old Lyme’s Duck River Cemetery and her grave marker includes the first few lines of Byron’s “She Walks in Beauty.”

Some Final Thoughts

I began this piece on Nov. 19, when we had just passed the one-quarter million mark of Americans dead from COVID-19; and were looking forward to a very “low-touch” Thanksgiving. 

My next essay, “A Primer on Vaccines and Vaccination,” will be the first, in a series focusing on our response to COVID-19; and each successive column will be a thoughtful analysis of the implications of the data published in LymeLine and other media and as such will be the “color commentary.”

We have a massive public health problem, and it’s worsening daily. As I complete this essay on Monday, Nov. 23, We’ve reached 260,402 dead Americans; and yesterday, there were 142,732 new confirmed cases. The seven-day rolling average of 170,856 new cases per day grew nearly 50 percent from two weeks ago. The prediction of a “dark winter” is playing out.  

We are fortunate, however, because vaccines are approaching distribution; but unfortunately, the still-current president remains unwilling to even acknowledge this crisis and model behaviors in front of his constituency that will assist in curbing the further spread of the disease. 

There’s finally some good news regarding the election. Despite the unrelenting and outrageous interference, the states have all certified the election results, and the recalcitrant GSA Administrator has finally checked her math and enabled the formal transition. So, the President-elect finally really is the President-elect.

John Cleese couldn’t have scripted a more ridiculous theater of the absurd than the “The Bad Loser’s Guide to A Peaceful Transition,” which has been shown nearly constantly in primetime before and since the election. 

I pray that Americans’ trust in the election process has not been irrevocably damaged, and that there has been no damage done to the new administration.

As always, God save the United States of America.

This is the opinion of Thomas D. Gotowka.

Tom Gotowka

About the author: Tom Gotowka’s entire adult career has been in healthcare. He’ will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK.

A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.

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A la Carte: From Lee With Love — Thanksgiving Recipes Galore!

Editor’s Note: We are running a selection of Lee White’s recipes today to give readers a chance to savor her favorite Thanksgiving recipes in one place!

For more years than I can remember, I have been writing about turkey at Thanksgiving. I get every food magazine every month and every single month, in October, a turkey is on the covers.

My mother never cooked a turkey. We had Thanksgiving at an aunt and uncle’s home in Kinderhook, New York. There was no gravy and no stuffing and the sweet potatoes were stuffed into oranges, which made the sweet potatoes taste like oranges.

The first Thanksgiving with my husband and daughter was in Houston, and I ordered turkey and sides from a restaurant. The gravy was white. In following years, I made turkey and sides by myself, sometimes for 20 or more friends and family. The first few times, I called the Butterball Hot Line for help.

Some years later I stopped using the throwaway aluminum pans and bought a $200 roasting pan, which I still use for every kind of roast I have ever made. It was one terrific buy.

Over the years I brined turkey in a huge cooler. I bought organic turkeys. Last year I went to a friend who made a heritage turkey. I made all kinds of stuffing and once placed slices of bacon on top of the fowl. A few times I put buttered cheesecloth on the turkey. But these days I buy the least expensive turkey I can get and buy it frozen.

I make my stuffing the night before and put it in the refrigerator in an enormous plastic bag. The next morning I stuff as much dressing as possible into the thawed (but cold) turkey’s cavity. I put the rest in a casserole and when the roasted turkey come out of the oven, I add some juice to the casserole and bake it.

Forget all those other “new” ways to make turkey for Thanksgiving. Here is my favorite recipe. 

Turkey

1 14- to 16-pound turkey
salt
1 stick butter
½ (one-half) cup good white wine

Gravy

¼ (one-quarter) cup all-purpose flour
cold water
Gravy Master (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Remove giblets from turkey (I don’t use them; instead, I boiled them for the kitties, less bones). Rinse and dry turkey inside and out. Rub salt inside cavity of bird. Fill cavity with cold stuffing made the night before or early morning. Place bird in a rack (or upside glass pie pan) atop a large, heavy-duty roasting pan. Place in a 350-degree oven.

Add butter and wine in a saucepan, bring to a boil, then simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Open oven, pour wine-butter over turkey and close oven. Every half hour baste liquid over turkey. Bake until turkey is done (when the thermometer plunged into the thickest part of the thigh registered 175 to 180 degrees, 10 to 12 minutes per pound if not stuffed or 12 to 15 minutes stuffed).

Turn off the oven, remove turkey from the oven, Place the turkey on a platter and spooned the Stuffing into a bowl; cover each with aluminum foil and return both to still-warm oven. (Extra stuffing can be heated in a casserole dish; it is not as tasty but if you spoon some juice on the dish before heating, it’s pretty good.)

Remove grease from roasting pan. and place the pan on the stove. Turn heat to medium. In a large jar, add all-purpose flour and about 2 cups of water. Screw jar cover and shake. When the brown bits are hot, add flour-water mixture and, over medium-high heat, whisk constantly. If you need more water, add some. Once the gravy is ready, add and stir in Gravy Master to taste (optional). Add salt and pepper to taste.

Roasted Grape, Apple and Cranberry Sauce

From Cooking Light, November 2018
Serves 12

Cooking spray
2 cups seedless black grapes (about 10 ounces)
1 and three-quarter cups chopped Honeycrisp apple (or Gala or ????)
2 tablespoons chopped scallop
1 cup fresh or frozen whole cranberries
1 and one half tablespoons unsalted butter
3 and one-half teaspoons pure maple syrup
One-eighth teaspoon kosher salt
One-quarter teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or sprigs (optional)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly coat a rimmed baking sheet with spray. Place grapes, apple and shallot on prepared baking sheet and lightly coat with cooking spray. Bake until shallots begin to soften, about 5 minutes.

Add cranberries to baking sheet. Bake at 425 degrees until cranberries burst, apple is tender and grape skins are beginning to burst, about 20 more minutes. Remove from oven and transfer mixture to a medium bowl. Stir in butter, maple syrup and salt. Cool completely, about one hour. Sprinkle with thyme, if desired.

Stuffing

I make the stuffing at least the day ahead,, because it should be cold when you put it in the turkey, which is also cold. This is probably more stuffing you will use. You can put the rest in a casserole and bake for Thanksgiving, or freeze it for another turkey or chicken dinner.

I large Pepperidge Farms herb-seasoned stuffing mix
6 to 8 tablespoons butter
1 cup onions, minced
1 cup celery, minced
1 small can of diced mushrooms
1 cup walnuts, chopped (I chop it with my hands because I don’t want it chopped fine)
salt and pepper, to taste
Bell’s seasoning, to taste

Make Pepperidge Farms stuffing according to package instructions.

In a skillet, add butter and melt over medium heat. Add onions, celery, mushrooms and walnuts. Saute for about 10 minutes. Add salt, pepper and Bell’s seasoning to taste. Add to stuffing mix and stir. Refrigerate until cold (I often put the stuffing in a large plastic bag and put it in the porch, since I rarely have much space in my refrigerator.)

Old Fashioned Spice Cake


Adapted from Linnea Rufo of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Yield: serves 10 to 12 people
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 10-inch tube pan.

1 cup sugar
one-half cup (1 stick) butter
one-half cup currants or raisins or dried cherries (optional)
one-half cup candied ginger, chopped
2 eggs
2 tablespoons molasses
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
one-quarter teaspoon cloves
one-half teaspoon ginger
one-teaspoon salt
1 cup milk

Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease a 10-inch tube pan.

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, blending well after each addition.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and salt. Stir dry ingredients into egg mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with dry ingredients.

Pour batter into prepared tube pan. Set on the middle rack of the oven and bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until cake pulls away from sides of pan and a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Cool cake in the pan, set on a rack, for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and spread on icing at once, while cake is still warm.

Espresso Icing

1 and one-half cups of confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon of espresso (use a teaspoon or so of cold coffee)
1 tablespoon milk

Whisk icing ingredients together.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.

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Gardening Tips from ‘The English Lady’ for November — ‘The Month of Last Red Berries, First White Snows’

The final leaves of fall. Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

We have been fortunate here in New England to have the pleasure of a lovely summer – not too hot with adequate rain. Followed by a warm fall with more than enough rain into November to encourage healthy root growth for a vibrant spring next year.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that this weather foretells a mild winter – we can only hope, but then again this is New England.

Planting bulbs

This year, due to the warm fall, the soil is still soft and warm for digging, which brings to mind, spring bulbs. Wear gloves when planting Daffodil bulbs, as these bulbs cause an irritation called a ‘lily rash’. Make sure you plant the bulb at a depth of at least three times the size of the bulb with the pointed end up and add composted manure around the planting holes.  Daffodil bulbs need to be at least nine inches into the soil below the frost line for optimum bloom. 

Dig a trench for the bulbs and scatter them in the trench.  Bulbs can touch one another without a problem and by planting this way you will produce full dramatic show in spring. 

Tulip bulbs should be planted twelve inches down to get them out of harm’s way as tulips are the caviar of the rodent family. I offer a suggestion to avoid this problem before planting by soaking them in an organic deer repellent then allowing them to dry in the sun. This will deter critters from eating them.

Another protection is to line the planting hole with gravel.

In the spring when the bulb foliage is about four inches tall, sprinkle more composted manure around all the bulbs you planted. 

Other tasks for November

I hear you saying, “Okay Maureen, I’m ready to plant the bulbs but what else is there to do in the garden”? Folks, there are a number of things to get you out in the garden this fall. 

The most important task is to apply a few inches of composted manure on all planted borders with a light layer of natural brown mulch on top. By doing this you will continue to build the humus component in the soil.

Before the snow flies, any construction projects that you have in mind can be accomplished. This includes stonework and carpentry, building decks, and mending fences. Building dry laid stonewalls, walkways, patios and digging ponds. This is definitely labor-intensive work, but at this time of year you won’t be uncomfortably hot. Make sure to stretch, take breaks and drink lots of water.  

When the weather is inclement, work under a construction tent when building walls, decks or digging ponds.  Or build trellises, pergolas, and arbors and fences in a shed or garage. The added advantage to the hard labor is that it keeps one in shape, especially with those fattening holiday meals looming on the horizon.  

If you are not able or do not want to do the work yourself, now is the time to call in a professional to do the work so that the project is completed before you plant in spring. 

Each year, harsh winter wind damages much of the foliage of broadleaf evergreens. Rhododendrons, mountain laurel and azaleas are particularly vulnerable as cold wind drains them of much-needed moisture. Broadleaf evergreens with their shallow root system need a good store of water going into the winter. We have had reasonable rain but need more this fall; the rain helps the broadleaves survive, as they will continue to lose water vapor through the cold months.  

Many of you have said that you notice the harsh winds of the past two winters caused the foliage on many rhododendrons to become brown and brittle. This happens when the soil freezes so that plant roots, cannot take up water to make up for moisture lost from water vapor. Dehydration is the result causing brown or wind burnt foliage.  

I do not go overboard with wrapping evergreens with burlap in winter. My white pines, Colorado blue spruce and Fraser firs are at least 50 years old and well-established so no worries about damage. However, there are exceptions, with plants that require a burlap wrap. Among those are evergreens planted in September. Among those is the Dwarf Alberta Spruce, so prone to wind burn.

The Albertas should be covered with one layer of burlap, loosely wrapped.  

If the evergreens are planted close to a road and exposed to salt spray from the snow trucks and ploughs, burlap three feet up from the base may help.

The best idea  however, is not to plant them close to the road or plant salt-tolerant species like Juniper.

At the base of all evergreens, spread a three-inch layer of leaves or fine bark mulch, composted manure and peat around the base of the trunk.  Following a heavy snowstorm when evergreen branches are weighed down with snow gently brush the snow off with a broom.   

The leaves of the deciduous trees fell fast this fall due to the recent storms. Either you or a nimble person should climb a ladder and remove leaves from gutters and drainpipes. Water from clogged gutters and pipes falling onto foundation plantings causes damage to the plants below.  

Peonies and Perennials … and Vegetable Gardens

Now in November, following the first hard frost, cut Peonies down to within six inches from the ground, adding just a small amount of composted manure around the base.

I leave up my spent perennials until next April. The soft grays browns and yellows compliment the muted hues of a winter landscape and our feathered friends enjoy the seed heads. 

Any leftover vegetables in the vegetable garden should have been turned into the soil.  Add a light application of manure to the vegetable garden and plant a cover crop of buckwheat, alfalfa or white clover, to minimize erosion. In spring, turn the cover crop into the soil as green manure.     

Power Tools, Irrigation Systems & More

Take any of your power tools that require repair or sharpening into the shop now.  The repair shops are less busy now than in the spring.  Clean your tools off in a bucket of sand, the roughness of the sand will help clean off soil and debris, then oil and grease wooden handles to preserve them and prevent splinters. Hang them neatly on hooks in the garage or shed and not just “higgledy-piggledy” in a pile   

If you have an inground irrigation system, blow out the lines or have this done professionally. Also coil your hoses and store in shed or garage, and shut off outdoor faucets.

Put a bag of potting soil in the corner of the garage or basement, it will come in handy for repotting houseplants, bulb forcing or starting seeds in the spring.  A supply of peat, composted manure, sand and vermiculite is also useful.  Also put a bag of topsoil and some mulch under cover so that you can cover the shallow roots of evergreens if they push above soil surface due to frost heave.  

Houseplants

The best time to transplant houseplants is during the growing season beginning in April. However, if you need to repot some houseplants that have outgrown their container, transplant to a clean pot only two inches larger than the original as plants like to be compact; add new potting soil and water.  

Container geraniums and begonias brought indoors should be placed in a sunny window to be enjoyed. In February, cut the plants down to about six inches from the soil surface and water them. 

Water houseplants, early in the day; not in the evening, as plants do not like to have wet feet at night.  Water them only when the top four inches of soil is dry to the touch. Once a month stand them in the bathtub or sink and spray the leaves with lukewarm water to remove any dust, dirt, white fly or aphids.  Do not get allow water to get on the leaves of African violets.  

Bulbs for forcing

Paper white Narcissus bulbs are great for forcing. I force these bulbs in pebbles, but you may use potting soil if you wish and keep the pebbles or soil moist. Put the Narcissus bulbs in tall containers. I use tall clear glass vases, which help support the stems. I anchor the bulbs with pebbles, keep the pebbles moist and place the containers in a cool dark place. As soon as you see root growth and some leaf growth, which is in about a month, bring the bowls into medium light, keeping the pebbles or soil moist at all times. 

I force about a dozen bulbs at a time and the remainder I store in the vegetable keeper in the refrigerator in a brown paper bag away from food. I bring them out and pot them up a few at a time so that I have a succession of fragrant bloom throughout the winter.  

Herbs

Grow pots of parsley, dill, basil and other herbs in a sunny window, delicious fresh herbs for cooking and salads through winter. 

Roses

Remove any dead or diseased leaves from Roses and pick up any Rose debris off the ground.  If you notice disease like black spot in the debris, do not put it in your compost pile; throw it away in the garbage.  Mound soil, composted manure and mulch around the base of the Roses. The mounding helps maintain a constant temperature around the Rose. 

If the Roses are grown in an exposed area, which makes them vulnerable to drying winter winds, cover the plant with one loose layer of burlap or use a rose cone.  Make sure all climbers Roses and other Vines are securely fastened to the fence or trellis.  

Bird feeders

Set up your bird feeders where you are able to enjoy seeing the birds. Preferably place the feeders near to some low shrubs or small trees sheltered from the wind; birds like to flit from these protected spots to the feeder. Offer a varied menu for different birds.  Birds enjoy a recipe I received from my stepmother in England; a lump of suet embedded with peanuts or hollowed out pinecones filled with peanut butter.  

To prevent squirrels from raiding the feeders, set up a baffle and sprinkle cayenne pepper in the birdseed and on the suet feeders; the heat does not bother the birds and squirrels will stay clear.  I am aware that hungry squirrels can jump vertically five feet; but don’t worry if you happen to be a squirrel lover; they always manage to get food from some feeder.

This is the time of year when we gardeners can pause and with the previous season still fresh in your mind, say, “this worked,” and “that I will never try again.”  It is worthwhile to take a leisurely stroll around the garden before the snow flies in the next few weeks.

Look at the garden, squarely and soberly, making notes as you go to plan for next season. Plan as you stroll, writing down your impressions, making sketches and lists, and saving them for your winter armchair gardening. 

Enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday and I’ll see you in your garden next month.

Maureen Haseley-Jones is “The English Lady.”

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones is a member of a family of renowned horticultural artisans, whose landscaping heritage dates back to the 17th century. She is one of the founders, together with her son Ian, of, ‘The English Lady Landscape and Home Company.’ Maureen and Ian are landscape designers and garden experts, who believe that everyone deserves to live in an eco-conscious environment and enjoy the pleasure that it brings. Maureen learned her design skills from both her mother and grandmother, and honed her horticultural and construction skills while working in the family nursery and landscape business in the U.K. Her formal horticultural training was undertaken at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in Surrey.
Contact Maureen at maureenhaseleyjones@gmail.com

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A la Carte: Chicken Soup for the Soul … and so Many Other Things!

Lee White

Sometimes you make something so easy, and so often, you assume everyone does it, too. That is me with chicken soup.

I do buy those quart-sized cartons of chicken soup for the pantry. Sometimes it is low-sodium (which is often a little more expensive) or low-fat (even if we are not sure how low fat is really low).

But my mother never bought canned soup, primarily because she only made two kinds of soup—chicken soup from scratch or cabbage soup, made with water. The smell of the house when she made cabbage soup made be gag. 

I grew up drinking chicken soup. It was one my mother made regularly.

She probably added salt and did not skim up the fat. It was a long time ago and I don’t remember anyone talking about a low-salt or low-fat diets and we didn’t even know the word “cholesterol.”

In our house we drank it “neat,” as if it were scotch. My father and I fought over the warm, left-over carrots. My mother made chicken sandwiches for us the next few days. It was pretty bland, but the only herbs in our kitchen were salt, pepper and paprika.

I began making chicken soup when I married my husband. Like my mother, I use a fat 3 ½-pound chicken. The ingredients are simple. I added more carrots because I love the left-over carrots, cold, still tasting like chicken soup. I add a little salt but more pepper, because I love pepper.

My husband thought the leftover chicken was bland; of course it was, all the flavor was in the soup. But I like chicken sandwiches with mayonnaise, which is a bit salty. I also make chicken salad with onions, celery, dried mustard and garlic salt. I also make enchiladas or tacos with the left-over chicken.

The soup is bland, too. All it tastes like is chicken soup.

But here’s the thing: The soup becomes the stock or broth for all the other soups you make. Taste that home-made soup; then taste the stock from that can or carton. Isn’t that amazing?

So make this soup.

I still eat it “neat.” But you can add chopped chicken to it, or add rice or noodles or more fresh vegetables. The ones you cooked the chicken with are dreary; dump them out, unless your pets like it with their kibble.

I put the soup through a sieve twice. Then I freeze it for all the soups, stews, braises or for the liquid in your Instant Pot.  

Chicken Soup and Broth
Adapted from “Italian Holiday Cooking” by Michele Scicolone (William Morrow, New York, 2001)

Serves 6 to 8 (makes about 3 quarts of broth)

You can use this recipe as a base for any soup or stew you wish or as the liquid in your braise or Instant-Pot. Photo by Jad Limcaco on Unsplash

1 chicken (about 3 ½  pounds, a big one is okay if your pot holds it))
1 pound (about) chicken legs and thighs
4 to 6 medium carrots, cut into big chunks
2 celery ribs, cut into big chunks
2 onions, peeled and quartered
6 sprigs flat-leaf (Italian) parsley
6 to 10 peppercorns
salt to taste (I begin tasting and salting about 1 hour before the soup is done)

  1. Remove the liver, gizzards for another use. Rinse chicken and chicken parts well. Place in stock pot at least large enough to hold 6 quarts of liquid. Add 4 quarts (16 cups) cold water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Lower heat and cook for 30 to 60 minutes, skimming off the foam and any fat that rises to the surface.
  2. Add vegetables, parsley, peppercorns and a little salt. Cook for 2 hours. (If you’ve skimmed off the foam during the first part of the cooking, you’ll hardly have to pay attention during this two-hour period.) Let cool slightly. 
  3. Strain broth. Remove chicken from bones, discarding skin and bones. Pour the soup into a sieve twice. If you are serving the broth as soup, return to rinsed pot and add chicken, sliced fresh carrots, celery and onion and simmer until tender. If you only need the broth, reserve the chicken meat for another use.
  4. Let soup or broth cool slightly, then cover and refrigerate for up to three days. When ready to proceed, scrape fat off surface if you like. I, however, don’t. Soup can be frozen for up to three months.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.

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A View from My Porch: A Letter to President-Elect Biden

An Open Letter to President-Elect Biden:

Why do you even want this job?

To the best of my knowledge, you don’t play golf or enjoy tooling around in a golf cart. I feel that, if you did play, you would probably walk the course, anyways. I doubt that you even anticipate weekends and evenings off. 

When you communicate with us, please use the spoken word, which appears to be one of your strengths; many Americans don’t tweet. I know that, given your family’s sacrifice, the words “suckers and losers” would never, ever come from your mouth. Further, always be truthful with us; let’s reassign some “fact checkers” to productive research. 

Your White House transition doesn’t seem to be moving as fast as it should at this point.

I remember President Obama’s welcome to the then incoming electee just about four years ago. You need to build your team and come up to speed on security issues. 

This is a critical time, and if the current president continues to undermine the election result, it could be a dangerous time. 

I feel that the current president’s post-loss dystopian behaviors and attempts to discredit voters are embarrassing to the United States.

You have identified that getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control is your highest priority; and you’ve already announced that team. As you certainly know, we recently experienced a pandemic-high 126,000 new COVID cases in a single day, nation-wide. We have surpassed 240,000 dead Americans, and well over 10 million infected. Those numbers are increasing across the country as I write this letter.

You will need to rally the many thousands of recalcitrant and selfish Americans, who have been encouraged by the Executive Branch to ignore the recommendations of scientists, and many governors on how to best control the spread of this disease. Fortunately, there are vaccines on the horizon.

You may be presented, if both the current president and some of your former colleagues in the Senate are successful in invalidating the ACA, with the loss of health insurance by millions of Americans — without any replacement plan.

You need to convince our governing bodies that their zero-sum posturing. (i.e., if you gain, I lose) is destructive to the United States. Of course, you have promised that you will be President for all Americans. 

I know that you recall that Majority Leader McConnell demanded in 2010 that Congressional Republicans unite by stifling President Obama on everything, even things Republicans support, saying, “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” Kind of ironic.

Perhaps his attitude will change after your inauguration. Can we expect agreement on anything? Or at least agree that a hierarchy of governance should be, “What’s good for America,” first and foremost; not, “What’s good for the Party,” and never, “What’s good for me.”

Isn’t he also majority leader for all Americans?  

I am comforted that you have been raised with a strong faith and a strong moral code; and that you can rely on those values and your family in times of difficult decision- making.

I am even comforted that Champ and Major will accompany you and the First Lady to the White House. 

We are counting on you and your team to return America to its former greatness; to regain our status as a world leader, and as a country that stands by its promises and agreements. 

God save the United States of America.

Sincerely,

Thomas D. Gotowka,
Old Lyme.

P.S. The Associated Press (AP) just reported that, after hearing two hours of oral arguments yesterday (Tuesday, Nov. 10), the Supreme Court seemed highly likely to leave the Affordable Care Act including protections for preexisting health conditions and subsidized insurance premiums largely intact.

Both Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, who sit among the Court’s conservative justices, were again unwilling to strike down the entire law a Republican goal repeatedly failing in Congress and the courts. This is regardless of the original Law’s now weakened individual mandate, or statutory requirement to purchase health insurance.

The AP estimated that the Law affects 23 million Americans.

This is the opinion of Thomas D. Gotowka.

Tom Gotowka

About the author: Tom Gotowka’s entire adult career has been in healthcare. He’ will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK.

A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.

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Legal News You Can Use: Why CT Motorcyclists Should Never Pass on a Helmet

Photo by Sam Balye on Unsplash.

Experienced motorcyclists possess a high level of skill that helps keep them safe during each trip. Yet no matter how skilled a rider may be, there is also some element of luck that helps motorcyclists avoid a negligent driver when they are riding on Connecticut’s highways.

When luck is no longer on your side, wearing a helmet may help prevent serious injuries or death.

Do motorcyclists have to wear a helmet in Connecticut?

Helmets are not mandated in Connecticut. Only passengers and riders under 18 and those with motorcycle learner’s permits must wear a helmet. Even though there isn’t a rule that forces you to wear a helmet, there are plenty of reasons why you should.

How will a helmet help me?

Recent data shows that wearing a helmet has meant the difference between life and death, time and time again. Here are some specific examples from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • Nearly 5,000 individuals died in motorcycle accidents in 2018
  • The most recent CDC data suggests helmet use saved the lives of 1,859 people and could have potentially saved 802 more lives
  • Helmet use reduces the risk of death by 37 percent and the risk of a head injury by 69 percent

Instead of pressing your luck and relying on skill alone, it’s essential to add an extra layer of protection whenever possible. In an instant, your whole world can change if you cross paths with a motor vehicle operator, who is negligent or distracted.

This is a sponsored post by

Editor’s Notes: i) Suisman Shapiro is located at 75 State Street, New London, CT 06320. Their mailing address is 2 Union Plaza, P.O. Box 1591 New London, CT 06320.

ii) If you are involved in a motorcycle accident, the attorneys at Suisman Shapiro can assist you. Visit their website or call 800-499-0145 — lines are open 24 hours a day.

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A la Carte: Zucchini Cake For Now … or Later (It Freezes Beautifully)

Lee White

Sometimes, I wish I had a garden, but I don’t like dirt or insects. My late husband’s family always had vegetable and flower gardens. My parents could have had a garden, but they didn’t even know what a trowel was, never mind seeding, weeding, picking or cooking vegetables. 

When I married my husband and we bought our first house, one with a small yard, we had a little vegetable garden. When we moved to Charlton, Mass., we had one that was about a quarter of an acre. That was way too much. We grew everything, from potatoes and onions to carrots and corn (the raccoons loved corn and they enjoyed it best by pulling the stalks down to the ground, opening up all the ears and eating just a little out of each.)

We grew zucchini, too. Lots of zucchini. So I grated zucchini, let it sit in a colander for a while, then squeezed them with tea towels, packed it in plastic bags and froze the packages in our big freezer. Then came Hurricane Gloria. We lost power for close to a week. Even thing in the freezer thawed.

When we moved to Old Lyme, my husband made four garden beds and that was just about perfect. Zucchini and yellow squash were not our list. 

I still have zucchini recipes I like. I love them stuffed with meat and rice and I love them just with breadcrumbs and herbs or spices. But zucchini and summer squash are always available in supermarkets and are always reasonably priced.

I just bought a few small ones and made this cake. I might ice it with a cream cheese frosting. I have also made it in a Bundt cake (at 325 for an hour and a quarter) and serve it with some sorbet or ice cream. The cake freezes beautifully, but not if power goes out for a week.

Zucchini Cake
Created by Carol Cornwell of Wolfe Island, Ontario.
Yield: 2 cakes

2 and one-quarter cups all-purpose flour, and extra for dusting pans
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
7 cups grated zucchini, squeezed and drained for around 30 minutes
1 cup granulated sugar
½  pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
5 eggs
1 teaspoon coffee espresso powder (or 2 tablespoons brewed coffee)
1 and ½ /teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon chai powder (optional)

Adjust oven rack to center position and heat oven to 350 degrees.

Generously grease and flour bottom and sides of two 9-inch by 1 and one-half inch or 9-inch by 2-inch round cake pans. (I use cooking spray.)  Invert pans and rap sharply to remove excess flour.

Wisk flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in large bowl; set aside. Toss grated zucchini with 1 cup granulated sugar in colander set over large bowl; drain for around 30 minutes. Meanwhile, melt butter in large skillet over medium-low heat, stirring frequently; cook until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes.

Transfer to large bowl; cool for 10 minutes, then whisk in remaining granulated sugar and brown sugar. Add eggs one at a time, whisking thoroughly before adding the next; add coffee and vanilla. Add flour mixture, stirring until almost combined then add zucchini.

Divide batter evenly between pans; smooth surfaces with rubber spatula. Bake until cake feels firm in center when pressed lightly and toothpick inserted into cake center comes out perfectly clean (40 to 50 minutes.)

Transfer pans to wire racks; cook for 10 minutes.

Run knife around perimeter of each pan, invert cakes onto rack, then turn over. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.

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A la Carte: How to Bake an Election Cake!

Lee White

According to Walter Woodward, PhD, Connecticut’s Historian, years ago there was a Connecticut Election Cake Recipe. 

The newer recipe I found, “A Modern Election Cake Recipe,” looks like a half birthday cake, half fruit cake. It calls for yeast, some butter and buttermilk (the latter of my favorite add-ins for all cakes) vanilla, eggs, and so on. Like a fruit cake, you add golden raisins and a quarter cup of dried fruit. And, like a yeast bread, the batter must be allowed to rise for 1 ½ hours in a Bundt cake.

I kept thinking how difficult it would be for that yeast to do its job, rising with all that heavy fruit pushing it down. Also, like a fruit cake, it is topped with a glaze. 

I am not terribly fond of fruit cake. I think about that joke about fruit cake: you know, there is only one fruit cake and it just gets re-sent every year. 

I do love the idea of an election cake these days, what with a wild election, a pandemic and more time spent in the kitchen. Also, Adam Young, of Mystic’s Sift Bakery, will be judging a non-partisan cake contest. We will find out who won on Nov. 2, but I will guess that it won’t be the election cake Amelia Simmons wrote about it in 1796, in Hartford.

In any case, for your Nov. 3 election get-together (social distancing and masks, please), why not make any cake you like, glaze it or frost it with five-minute or chocolate icing or perhaps a decadent buttercream?

I like the recipe below, from Southern Living. I would drizzle it with dark chocolate. You could make it as cupcakes. If you frost it, you might use a pure extract in the frosting, like almond or pecan.

Or, what the heck, it’s your house … paint the frosting blue or red!

Decorate your Election Cake red or blue … or both!

Million Dollar Pound Cake
From Southern Living magazine

Yield: serves 10 to 12

1 pound butter, softened
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour (White Lily if you have it)
¾ cups milk
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy and lighter in color, 1 to 7 minutes depending on the power of your mixer. Gradually add sugar, beating at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating just until yellow yolk disappears.

Add flour to creamed mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour. Bear at low speed until mixture blends after each addition. (The batter should be smooth and bits of flour should be well incorporated to rid batter of lumps. Stir gently with a rubber spatula. Stir in extracts.

Pour into a greased and floured 10-inch pad. (I use Pam cooking spray with flour; it is in the blue can at the supermarket.)

Bake at 300 degrees for 1 hour and 40 minutes, or until a long wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from pan and cool completely on a wire rack.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.

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A la Carte: Mushrooms by the Million? Soup is the Solution!

Lee White

This weekend, friends from Lyme offered a pound of freshly picked shiitake mushrooms for eight dollars a pound. I asked if I could get two.

So this is a very short paragraph … I am going to give you two mushroom soup recipes, both of which are incredible. You can use shiitake mushrooms (whose woody stems should be discarded), cremini, or other varieties.

One is easy; one takes a little longer. With the easy one, once cool. puree it, if you like. You may double both recipes and they freezes beautifully.

Mushroom soup is always delicious. Photo by Dose Juice on Unsplash

Easy Mushroom Soup

Yield: 6 Servings

2 tablespoons butter
½ pound sliced mushrooms
¼ chopped onions
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ freshly ground black pepper
2 cans low-salt chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half cream

Cook on medium-heat mushrooms and onions until tender, about 10 minutes.

In a small bowl, mix flour, salt, pepper and 1 can broth; stir until smooth and add to the mushroom mixture. Stir into until smooth. Add the other can of broth and bring to a boil. Cook until thick, 2 minutes. Reduce heat, add cream and stir until flavors are blended, 15 minutes.

Potage Crème de Champignons

From Charles Virion’s French Country Cookbook (Hawthorn Books Inc., New York, 1972)

Yield: serves 8

5 cups canned chicken consommé or stock
1 small bay leaf
4 sprigs fresh parsley
1 sprig thyme
1 ½ cup fresh mushrooms
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small onions, chopped fine
3 tablespoons flour
3 egg yolks*
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon Madeira wine (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley (for garnish)

Simmer stock with bay leaf, parsley and thyme for 10 minutes. Remove herbs. Set aside.

Slice mushrooms (I buy them sliced and they are already cleaned). Saute mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter until mushroom liquid evaporate. Do not scorch the mushrooms or the taste will be bitter. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Clean skillet with a paper towel; over medium high heat, saute the onions in the remaining 4 tablespoons of butter.

When onions are tender and transparent, add flour and stir constantly s that the butter is well blender with the flour.

Cook mixture slowly for 3 or 4 minutes, then start adding the stock, a little at a time, until you have a smooth white sauce. Add mushrooms and cool (I keep a few mushrooms aside to garnish the soup.) If you think the mixture is too thick, add a little bit more of the stock.

After the mixture is cooled enough, put the entire mixture through the blender until smooth. (Only pour enough of the mixture into the blender until is it one-half full; if necessary, do this in batches.)

Beat together the cream and the egg yolks. When soup is ready to be served, reheat it gently. When very hot, but not boiling, add the egg yolk-cream mixture, stirring until well blended. Season with salt and pepper. 

You can now add the optional Madeira, if you wish. Pour soup into bowls and garnish with parsley and reserved mushrooms.

*I mixed the cream with the whole eggs, forgetting to use only the egg yolks. It didn’t seem to make a difference.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.

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Gardening Tips from ‘The English Lady’ for October — a Month of Soft Sunshine, Consummate Color

The stunning colors of fall Photo by Dan Freeman on Unsplash.

Welcome to October everyone.

I love gentle breezes of all and soft sunshine and the foliage colors are breathtaking. The soil is still warm and you can plant until the first week of November.  In fact, early November is a great time to plant spring bulbs.

You also have time over the next few weeks to divide summer blooming perennials, which have been in the ground for three years or more. Dividing perennials gives them a new lease on life and encourages more prolific bloom next season. The rules on transplanting also cover dividing.

Fall planting with soil remaining above 40 degrees gives plants a head start on those planted in spring.  This is especially true, when we have a late, cold, wet spring, which has happened in recent years. However, evergreens will have to wait until next spring, as they cannot be planted after September; the reason being is they have shallow roots and need time to establish young roots before the heavy frosts.

Early spring blooming perennials such as Iris can be divided up to the second week of October; the soil should still be quite warm and with adequate moisture there will be enough root growth to anchor these divisions before frost heave becomes a problem.

When dividing Iris cover the horizontal root divisions (the rhizomes) with just enough soil so they do not topple over, any deeper and they will not flower, of course add composted manure around them when planted.

PLANTING AND TRANSPLANTING PLANTS

In fall the soil remains warm enough for planting through October and this year even into mid November. When planting a tree or shrub, dig la hole at least one and a half times as wide, not deep, as the root ball.

Another cardinal rule: Do not plant the tree or shrub any deeper than it is in the container or balled burlap. Or when transplanting any plant, tree, and shrub, perennial do not plant any deeper than it was originally in your garden as planting too deep can be the death of plants.

If you are unable to dig to any depth for your plant in the case of ledge in your garden, berm up the soil on the ledge and plant so that part of the root ball is above the soil grade, mounding soil around it.

Handle your tree or shrub by its root ball, not by the trunk or branches.  After planting and transplanting add composted manure and, one part compost to three parts manure. If you do not have compost, manure is excellent.  Water deeply, slowly and thoroughly when planting and at least twice a week through the fall until the first hard frost, which in this part of New England is usually about the second week of November.

The following trees are not good candidates for fall planting: Birches, Larches, Gingko, Oaks, Magnolia, and all flowering fruit and flowering trees as well as the Eastern Red Cedar.  These trees have fleshy root systems and their feeder roots are  not large when young and take time to establish, therefore are susceptible to frost heave.

Also some perennials that do not like to be planted in fall are Artemisia, Lambs Ears, Foxglove, Penstemon, Anemone, Campanula, Kniphofia, Lupines, Scabiosa, Ferns and Grasses.

Plant garlic! Photo by Lobo Studio on Unsplash.

Plant garlic this fall – garlic is the antibiotic of the garden. Plant it under fruit trees to avoid scab and root disease, next to ponds or standing water to control mosquito larvae or pour garlic water into ponds, bird baths and fountains to deter adult mosquitoes.

At this juncture I want to speak as to what Franklin D Roosevelt said in 1937 that,  ‘The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself’. America has not heeded that warning. Precious soils in this country and around the world are being destroyed by dangerous practices in industrialized agriculture and poisonous chemicals, which completely disrupts our eco system and poisoning all living things.

THE HUMUS COMPONENT

The Humus component – good news for organic gardeners – in your own garden you can build and retain a rich growing environment by building the Humus component. We are all carbon-based creatures as is all life on earth. Not only humans but also our soil microbes need carbon to flourish.  To attract carbon from the atmosphere needed to build the humus component.

To begin the process of humus – add composted manure three times throughout the year  – early May, July and October. Manure builds soil structure and provides a rich planting environment for the following season by encouraging the millions of soil animals down below to manufacture nutrients for the roots of the plants.

Plus add mulch in the form of natural brown fine bark mulch or wood chips that you produce from your garden – aged wood chips with a combo of leaves, twigs and branches.

With manure and fine bark mulch, you are building the humus component.  The manure and mulch attracts carbon from the air, which builds the richest organic planting environment – the humus component.

Mulching the garden and in particular any plants planted, divided or transplanted this fall with two inches of fine bark mulch, after the ground begins to cool in late October, will keep warmth and moisture in the soil and protect the roots of your plants through the winter.

You are probably asking what are the benefits of humus?

Firstly, humus acts like a sponge and holds 90 percent of its weight in water

Then, because of its negative charge, plant nutrients stick to humus with nitrogen, calcium, phosphorus and other elements, which prevents these from washing away, so humus acts as nature’s slow-release fertilizer.

Humus also improves soil structure making it loose and friable, which helps plant root in the soil and makes for better access to nutrients, water and oxygen. It also helps’ filter’ toxic chemicals from the soil, mulch like carbon-based water filtration systems filter toxins from your water.

We cannot control industrialized agricultural practices – but in your own garden you can make a difference.   Grow the soil and the soil will grow the plants.

Mulch and peat, which provide the acidity, are particularly important for any newly planted broadleaf evergreens installed in September. As mentioned previously, evergreens are shallow rooted, and can heave above ground in hard frosts.  I suggest that you store a few bags of topsoil and mulch in the shed or garage.  When you see exposed roots from frost heave, cover them with the soil and mulch until the plant can be resettled next spring.

THE VEGETABLE GARDEN

Now let’s look at what should be done now in the vegetable garden focusing first on cover crops.  Next week I will cut down the finished crops and dig them lightly into the soil.

This year, my choice for a cover crop in one area of the vegetable garden, this year is Alfalfa, which has 3.4 percent nitrogen content, and on the opposite side of the garden, I will plant Buckwheat, which has 1.4 percent nitrogen content and also provides nectar for beneficial insects.

White clover is a good cover crop.

I will then cover the seeds with organic composted manure. There are many cover crops to choose from; I use white clover and rye grass in alternate years.  In spring when the earth is workable not too wet or cold, the cover crop is turned into the earth as ‘green manure’.

There is nothing better than your own homegrown organic vegetables – good for you and for the environment.

The less hectic pace of fall provides an opportunity to rethink your gardens. The garden’s pre-winter grooming can wait for a few weeks.  You may feel that you would like a professional design, having thrown good money after bad and nothing looks right.

If that is so then contact someone that you trust to work with you to create a plan in the fall and winter, which can be phased in beginning next spring.  Engage someone who will listen to your wants and stays within your budget.  My son, Ian of Landscapes by Ian, always says, ‘It is not what you do in the garden, but how it makes you feel’.

SPRING BULBS 

October is the time to plant daffodils.’ Photo by Sarah Mitchell-Baker on Unsplash.

Daffodils – choose early, mid season and late blooming Daffodils, which will give you a succession of bloom.  Be adventurous this year and go for masses of a single color for the greatest impact. No matter how small your planting area, it is the intensity that counts, with two or three dozen red Tulips or a hundred Daffodils planted on your woodland edge.

Buying daffodils in large numbers in less expensive, it’s true the bulbs are usually smaller but that is not a problem because daffodil bulbs grow in size each year they are in the ground. Even though many say that the bulbs should be spaced six inches apart, there is no reason they cannot touch.

Apply some composted manure or bulbs food on the soil where bulbs are planted.  Wear gloves when you plant bulbs as they contain a skin irritant, which may cause a rash.

The general rule is to plant bulbs about three times as deep as the bulb is tall and with the pointed end up.  This method is appropriate for most bulbs although tulips should be planted about twelve inches down if you want to have bloom for a second year. Daffodils should be planted no less than nine inches down, which is below the frost line.  Don’t plant the bulbs singly for the most colorful impact– plant in groups of odd numbers, 5,7 or 9 bulbs (odd numbers are harmonious in nature).

Small bulbs like crocus, can be tossed gently into a shallow trench with composted manure on the bottom of the trench, about three inches deep and plant them where they land, pointed side up. For larger bulbs like tulips and daffodils dig a trench about nine inches deep and three or four feet long also of course with composted manure on the bottom and scatter these larger bulbs in the trench, also with the pointed end of the bulb faces up!

Personally, I treat tulips as annuals because their first year’s bloom is the best, after that first year the bloom is never as full and vibrant; the only exception to this is the parrot tulip, which flourish for years.

Tulips are the ‘caviar’ of the bulb family. The best method to prevent them from becoming a tasty item on the rodent’s menu is to soak them in an organic deer repellent, which also repels rodents. Allow the tulip bulbs to dry before planting.

If you are unable to plants your bulbs immediately when purchased, keep them in a cool, dry place in paper bags.  The best time to plant spring bulbs in the Northeast is in mid- November.

Observe Mother Nature; plants in nature do not grow in straight lines but in gentle curves that connect harmoniously with the earth.

TREE WORK

Choose a licensed arborist. This work is much less expensive to have done in the fall after the foliage has fallen, then the arborist is able to see more clearly what needs to be done and the work goes faster – meaning less labor time and less expensive.

Choose a licensed arborist to tend to your trees. Photo by Faye Cornish on Unsplash.

If you have deep shade and want more sunlight in an area, ask the arborist to thin out the tree’s canopy and prune lower branches to make for a sunnier area, this will give you more choice of plants, that grow in dappled rather than deep shade.

If you have a badly damaged tree, meaning over 50 percent damaged or diseased then have it removed, which allows for a sun garden or perhaps the vegetable garden you have always wanted.

PERENNIALS AND ORNAMENTAL GRASSES

I do not cut down my spent perennials in fall, leaving them up so that I can enjoy the browns, grays, and yellows and faded greens, which blend gently with winter’s muted landscape. Also the seed heads of the perennials are wonderful snacks for the birds. And in the dead of winter, what better sight than a red cardinal on the Winterberry bush in the snow.

Also wait until next April to cut down ornamental grasses; their graceful foliage is lovely to enjoy with the icicles on them shining in the pale winter sun.

Any spent perennials that show disease should be cut down but if the plant is more than one third diseased it should be dug up and discarded. The diseased material cleaned up and discarded it in the garbage not in the compost. Clean up any fallen plant debris from the soil and only if it is disease= and weed-free, can it be added to the compost pile.

SIGNS OF FROST

You can foretell a hard frost when you notice the afternoon temperature falling fast under a clear sky.  Assess the wind, by taking a long strip of plastic, like a shopping bag from the supermarket, and hang it from a tree branch. As long as the bag flutters about a foot in either direction, you do not have to worry about frost, but if it blows vigorously then frost is on the way.  If you still have plants in the garden that are of concern, cover them with salt hay, newspapers or light weight old quilts and put a brown paper bag from the grocery store over smaller plants like herbs, anchored down with rocks.

Your houseplants should be indoors by now. Following their summer sojourn outdoors. Wash the pots thoroughly and add fresh potting soil.  Then replant the plant at the same depth it was at originally and put in the sink or shower and allow water to wash the foliage and water the plant well.  If the plant has outgrown its pot, transplant it to the next size clean pot, only one and a half inches larger.

If you have any gardening questions, feel free to email me at MaureenHaseleyJones@gmail.com and I will see you in your garden in November.

Maureen Haseley-Jones

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones is a member of a family of renowned horticultural artisans, whose landscaping heritage dates back to the 17th century. She is one of the founders, together with her son Ian, of, ‘The English Lady Landscape and Home Company.’ Maureen and Ian are landscape designers and garden experts, who believe that everyone deserves to live in an eco-conscious environment and enjoy the pleasure that it brings. Maureen learned her design skills from both her mother and grandmother, and honed her horticultural and construction skills while working in the family nursery and landscape business in the U.K. Her formal horticultural training was undertaken at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in Surrey.
Contact Maureen at maureenhaseleyjones@gmail.com

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A View From My Porch: Make America Safe Again, A Primer on Herd Immunity 

Is herd immunity the answer to the current pandemic crisis? Photo by David Todd McCarty on Unsplash.

A lot of people recently started saying, “Herd immunity.”

So, to get up to speed, I reviewed some of my old textbooks and learned (again) that “herd immunity” occurs when a substantial portion of the population (i.e., the “herd”) has, at least in our contemporary medical era, been vaccinated (e.g., MMR.)

This eventually provides protection for vulnerable individuals because, as the number of vaccinated (and presumably immune) persons grows, the likelihood that a susceptible person will come into contact with an infectious person drops; and the chain of infection is broken. 

In the last few weeks, it has been reported (e.g., NYT, WAPO) that the White House has apparently embraced a strategy of enabling deliberate infection of Americans to achieve herd immunity. Campaign rallies?

This approach was proposed in early October in “The Great Barrington Declaration” by a group of “pseudo-scientists”, who argued that government authorities should allow the virus to spread among young, healthy people, while, “in some way”, protecting the elderly and the vulnerable.

So, only people who are at high risk of dying from the disease would be, “somehow”, protected from infection. In other words, achieve a state of “herd immunity” via massive infection, rather than a vaccine. 

The “Declaration” states that those at lower risk of death from infection can, and should, resume normal activities, socialize in crowded bars and restaurants, and gather at sports and other events; and thus, facilitate a rebound of the economy. There is no mention of masks, physical distancing, testing, or tracing.

The “Declaration” was sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research, whose past work has denied climate change, denied the importance of face masks during this pandemic, and supported personal freedom and limited government. 

Note that, as I write this, the COVID test positivity rate is 38 percent in South Dakota, where personal freedom appears to reign over community safety.  

The White Huse may be aligning itself with this particular “herd immunity” strategy because it supports their false portrayal of mainstream public health experts as supportive of very harsh restrictions, and argues against any and all COVID-related limits on Americans, including face masks. 

Public health and medical professionals do not support this strategy. Dr. Anthony Fauci emerged from exile and called the concept “total nonsense”. 

Others, including the World Health Organization, have stated that the strategy is especially dangerous because it would be nearly impossible to shield those who are medically vulnerable. 

In a letter recently published in The Lancet, 80 scientists stated that “the idea that the public can infect its way out of the COVID-19 pandemic is a dangerous fallacy unsupported by the scientific evidence”. They acknowledged that pandemic restrictions have led to demoralization, but stress that controlling community spread of the virus is the best way to protect the population and the economy until vaccines and treatments are developed.

The scientists continue, “Any pandemic management strategy relying upon ‘immunity from natural infections’ for COVID-19 is flawed.” They add, “Such a strategy would not lead to the end of COVID-19, but result in recurrent epidemics, as was the case with numerous infectious diseases before the advent of vaccination.”

Both the New England Journal of Medicine and The Lancet have published editorials highly critical of the White House’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic in the United States. This was unprecedented for these two prestigious, peer-reviewed medical journals.

COVID-19 cases are increasing in several Connecticut hot spots, and deaths are rising at near-apocalyptic levels across much of the United States, with new cases frequently exceeding 50,000 per day. Public health experts have been warning for months that fall and winter could lead to a spike in cases, and the United States remains unprepared and without a common national strategy. 

Let’s put the idea of natural and uncontrolled infection-based herd immunity behind us.

I believe that safe and well-tested vaccines are on the horizon, maybe by early to mid-2021.  There is also significant activity in the development of therapeutics that could be available for widespread and economical use across the population.

Until then our primary public health strategy remains one of mitigation — slowing the spread now that the virus is so firmly established within the population. 

Continuing restrictions will probably be required in the short term. These non-pharmaceutical methods are simple … you already know them!

Wear a mask and observe physical distancing protocols.

Wash your hands frequently and disinfect work surfaces.

Avoid densely packed crowds, especially indoors.

Expect that some capacity restrictions will remain in place for the foreseeable future.

And for goodness sake, get your information from reputable public health sources. 

And finally, God save the United States of America.

This is the opinion of Thomas D. Gotowka.

Tom Gotowka

About the author: Tom Gotowka’s entire adult career has been in healthcare. He’ will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK.

A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.

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The Movie Man: ‘Tis the Season for Scary Movies, ‘The Changeling’ is an Oft-Overlooked Classic

Though this image is subject to copyright, its use is covered by the U.S. fair use laws.

If I were to inquire among the public what they consider to be one of the scariest films ever made, I would hear countless familiar titles: The Exorcist, Alien, Jaws, The Shining, The Silence of the Lambs … each one terrifying in its own manner.

But there is one horror film that will linger in the viewer’s mind well after completing it, and it lacks a reputation akin to the films I listed above, which it truly deserves.

This movie is 1980’s The Changeling. I discovered it many Octobers ago when I was seeking a list of new scares for Halloween season and came across a list of scariest horror movies compiled by Martin Scorsese, who listed it as among his top 11 terrifying movies. To my luck, I found that it was easily accessible on YouTube in its entirety.

And to my surprise, it was the first movie to scare me in years. I had watched countless horror flicks as a teenager and college student, but I was always unfazed, as I was aware they were simply movies. This brought me back into the world of genuinely believing whatever I saw before me, as if it were happening to me.

George C. Scott stars as John Russell, a composer who relocates across the country for an academic career after his wife and daughter are killed in a road accident. Needing a place to live, he is hooked up with a home by the local historic society that once belonged to an influential local family. Upon moving in, Russell is harassed by the poltergeist of a young child, who seeks justice from beyond the grave.

The Changeling can be summarized in one word: creepy.

The supernatural root comes from the ghost of a child, who perished during the Progressive Era of our nation’s history, which, in my opinion, is the creepiest timespan in our history. Just looking at the black-and-white portraits that depict people not smiling (as early cameras took greater lengths of time to take pictures, try holding a smile for nearly a minute), in addition to the fashion that was in style back then. This goes on top of taking child-friendly themes that tend to border on creepiness to begin with.

It is perfect fertility for a ghost story.

Its horror is unique compared the movies I listed in the beginning of this essay, which tap into our fight-or-flight instincts (likely flight for most of us). The fear in those films is driven by survival instincts, whereas this film involves cooperation with a being that we cannot see.

Val Lewton pioneered the idea in filmmaking that it is not what we see that scares us, but what what we cannot see, and we are constantly terrified following an occurrence that we experience every day that was caused by something from the great beyond.

There is a sense of mystery, as Russell seeks to uncover the identity of the ghost and why it is haunting him, which leads him on an investigative trail that uncovers a scandal that had been buried for decades, which blends the feel of films akin to All the President’s Men, Spotlight, and Erin Brockovich.

Here is the YouTube link to the movie and I implore every reader to watch it when they have a chance during the remaining two weeks of October. You will not be disappointed. Trust me. It even has the approval of Stephen King, and that should be the ultimate authority!

Kevin Ganey is ‘The Movie Man.’

About the Author: Though no longer a resident of Lyme, Kevin knows he can never sever his roots to the tree of his identity. When not attending to his job in Boston, he is committed to ensuring a better grasp of current (and past) releases of cinema to his home community as he strives to leave his own mark in the same field that has always been his guide to understanding life. If you enjoy his published reviews here on LymeLine.com, follow him on his new website at ‘The City of Cinema and read more of his unique insights into entertainment.

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Reading Uncertainly? ‘Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security’ by Sarah Chayes

What happens when you see blatant corruption first-hand?

Is this the world we now inhabit?

Sarah Chayes, a former NPR correspondent, entrepreneur and foreign policy specialist, now with the Carnegie Foundation, has seen it all and has fought it, not always successfully.

She describes her personal experiences in Afghanistan, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Uzbekistan and Nigeria, with further stories from Europe, England and the United States.

Corruptions (including shakedowns, extortions, favors, subsidies, graft, “lubricities,” and those famous “services” of Don Corleone) are the stimulants of inevitable upheavals. Yet many warned us against its practice: Machiavelli, William of Pagula, and Abu Hamid Muhammad al-Ghazali, among others, but we never listen.

Others write that “corruption” is an inherent, genetic inclination of our human brains. Francis Fukuyama, in Political Order and Political Decay, suggests “reciprocal altruism” enabled our species to work together for growth and progress.

Yet that “altruism” is easily subverted into “patronage, clientelism, and the creation and extraction of rents.” So Chayes concludes: “acute government corruption may in fact lie at the root of some of the world’s most dangerous and disruptive security challenges.” The anger at blatantly corrupt “systems” often leads to radicalizing young people.

Revolutions result.

She describes three levels of corruption:

  1. functional (“small-scale palm greasing”)
  2. higher-level (at middle and top levels of government), and
  3. predatory (practiced by police and the military).

The latter may be the most insidious.

A uniform often “removes a person’s individuality; its wearer becomes a faceless member of a mass movement . . . “ easily led by other lemmings. That is why “military-to-military relationships” are so potentially corruptible.

Have we inadvertently drifted into this problem here in the U. S.? Are we being “bulldozed by an over-weaning military?”

Chayes notes our “almost instinctive reflex to lead with the military in moments of international crisis.” Government may be both the cause and the solution to corruption. The Founding Fathers warned against a standing national army, yet that is exactly what we have now.

The religious connection is also present: “the link between kleptocracy and violent religious extremism wasn’t just an Afghanistan thing. It was (is – my italics) a global phenomenon.”

And the visibility of corruption stimulates an inevitable response: “the visible daily contrast between ordinary people’s privations and the ostentatious display of lavish wealth corruptly siphoned off by ruling cliques from what was broadly understood to be public resources.”

But Ms. Chayes’ suggested “remedies,” at the conclusion of her polemic, fall short.

Charters, laws, and an independent judiciary, all of which may have worked in the past, can be co-opted “by some tight-knit network, intent on its own enrichment.”

She lists 10 “tools” we can use (anti-corruption policies, independent regimes for dispensing funds abroad, new laws, cost-benefit analyses, cautious military aid, and flat refusals to pay bribes overseas), but too many of these have already proven susceptible to gaming.

The best, I think, continues to be complete transparency: the access of an independent press and an open Internet. In the end transparency may be our best tool to “forestall extremism that is born of desperation,” a desperation and frustration at the corruption, which is a part of our human nature.

Editor’s Note: ‘Thieves of State: Why Corruption Threatens Global Security’ by Sarah Chayes is published by W. W. Norton, New York 2015.

Felix Kloman

About the Author: Felix Kloman is a sailor, rower, husband, father, grandfather, retired management consultant and, above all, a curious reader and writer. He’s explored how we as human beings and organizations respond to ever-present uncertainty in two books, ‘Mumpsimus Revisited’ (2005) and ‘The Fantods of Risk’ (2008).

A 20-year resident of Lyme, Conn., he now writes book reviews, mostly of non-fiction, a subject which explores our minds, our behavior, our politics and our history. But he does throw in a novel here and there.

For more than 50 years, he’s put together the 17 syllables that comprise haiku, the traditional Japanese poetry, and now serves as the self-appointed “poet laureate” of Ashlawn Farm Coffee, where he may be seen on Friday mornings. His late wife, Ann, was also a writer, but of mystery novels, all of which begin in a village in midcoast Maine, strangely reminiscent of the town she and her husband visited every summer.

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The Movie Man: Sandler Has Done It Again in ‘Hubie Halloween’

Adam Sandler being interviewed in 2018. This screenshot was originally uploaded on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lc9jYc07e54&t=45s) under a CC license.

Adam Sandler has done it again.

No, he didn’t bring in a stunning performance to follow up Uncut Gems, but rather he has brought us another stupid movie that we can love: Hubie Halloween.

Ever since his movie career began in the 90s, Sandler has brought us countless flicks that have ridiculous premises, but lovable characters, who deliver humor that can be described as none other than guilty pleasure. From Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Waterboy, and Big Daddy, countless laughs have been produced from first watching these films to quoting them in front of our friends.

And like all of Sandler’s films since the 90s, they include tributes to the iconic characters and jokes from those name-making movies.

Hubie Halloween proves no different, as we see references to the O’Doyle family, Orderly Hal played by Ben Stiller, and cameos from star after star after star that he has collaborated with in the past.

Hubie Halloween follows its title character, Hubie Dubois, a zealous idiot with a heart of gold, despite being the constant object of ridicule from people he’s known his whole life in his hometown of Salem, Mass.

Although he is an idiot, Hubie happens to possess stuntman-like skills and a trusty thermos that can assist him in any situation, and it might as well have been made by Q in the 007 franchise. When trouble breaks out on Halloween night, Hubie must win the trust of his neighbors in order to solve the mysterious disappearances of townsfolk.

Hubie appears to be along the likes of one of Sandler’s earlier characters, Bobby Boucher from The Waterboy; however, this character does not match the potential when it comes to humor and lovability. It starts off slow, but there are plenty of laugh-out-loud moments as it progresses.

It does dabble in the sentimental though as it also presents cliched, but true, life lessons. 

Sandler should not be dismissed as a one-trick pony for this ridiculous movie. We must remember he has delivered repeatedly with Punch Drunk Love, Reign Over Me, and most recently Uncut Gems (one viewer was so impressed that he personally called Sandler to share his satisfaction, and that was none other than Daniel Day-Lewis).

But why does he continue to produce his name-brand humor when he could be collecting award after award and potentially collaborate with greats like Scorsese? I can only speculate one reason: he likes to do it.

From a critic’s perspective, this movie fails at artistic achievements (though not as badly as Jack and Jill). It’s just another Adam Sandler movie, but that’s good enough for me.

This will not be added to any special lists by the American Film Institute, nor will it be included in the Criterion Collection.

No, it will just remain on Netflix to be selected whiled scrolling through the selections whenever you and your friends are simply seeking a good time.

Kevin Ganey is ‘The Movie Man.’

About the Author: Though no longer a resident of Lyme, Kevin knows he can never sever his roots to the tree of his identity. When not attending to his job in Boston, he is committed to ensuring a better grasp of current (and past) releases of cinema to his home community as he strives to leave his own mark in the same field that has always been his guide to understanding life. If you enjoy his published reviews here on LymeLine.com, follow him on his new website at ‘The City of Cinema and read more of his unique insights into entertainment.

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A la Carte: Meatballs are Perfect for (Small) Pandemic Gatherings

Lee White

Feeding small groups of people during the pandemic is a problem.

For our fundraiser for Democratic candidates (you knew I was a Democrat, didn’t you?), I decided to make meatballs and red sauce. As I learned long ago, everyone’s favorite “ethnic” food is Italian and, even though I have not a whit of Italian blood, I make lots of foods from Italy. 

So, the question was: how could I make sauce and meatballs at home, get it into a slow cooker, get it plugged it outside our headquarters and allow people to get their own portions without using a ladle, or big spoons and giant forks, because of double dipping. The answer, I decided, was toothpicks and a lot more meatballs than sauce.

I make a killer marinara that is ready by the time pasta is al dente and wondered if it would hold long enough for the tiny meatballs to cook thoroughly. They did. The other problem was getting the meatballs tender enough so they were soft but still tasty. They were.

I used a new recipe that I found on the internet, once again from a “blog” called Kitchn. I doubled the recipe, made the meatballs smaller and used panko instead of bread crumbs. They were incredibly good and the sauce made the meatballs so much better than had I roasted them in the oven.

One problem: they were so tender that the plastic toothpicks turned the balls almost to shards.  As it turned out, I wound up using a fork to put them on small paper plates.

When I got home, I had some left in the fridge so I boiled a small pot with ditalini (tiny pasta cylinders) and realized that the sauce may have been the best “meat sauce” ever.

Below is the new recipe for meatballs, followed by quick red sauce, which I use with most all of my red sauce recipes, although I change the herbs, spices, a bit of vodka (for vodka sauce) and a bit of heavy cream depending what I have on hand.

That sauce recipe is great when making lasagna or chicken parm.

The ever-popular meatballs in red sauce. Photo by Fidel Fernando on Unsplash.

Meatballs

Adapted from Emma Christensen, Kitchn, August 20, 2020

Yield: makes around 40 1-inch meatballs

1 cup fine, dried breadcrumbs (I use panko)
1 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
½ cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
3 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 to 2 ½ pounds ground meat (I used ground beef, or a mix of pork and beef)
1 cup freshly chopped onion (or grated on the large holes of a box grater)
2 cloves garlic, minced

Combine milk and breadcrumbs in a small bowl and stir to combine. Set aside while preparing rest of the meatball mixture. Breadcrumbs will absorb the milk and become soggy.

Whisk egg, salt, pepper, parmesan and parsley. Add ground meat and use your hands to thoroughly mix together. Add the onions, garlic and soaked bread. Mix them thoroughly together with your fingers. Try not to overwork the meat; pinch the meat between your fingers rather than kneading them.

Form the meatballs, again gently. I then take the meatballs into the simmering sauce and cook them for at least 45 minutes, stirring every ten minutes or so. 

Perfect Marinara Sauce

Yield: serves at least 8 to 10 people; sauce freezes beautifully with meatballs or alone

1 cup chopped onions
3 to 4 garlic cloves, minced
2 to 3 28-ounce cans good canned tomatoes (I use only Muir Glen)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a very large skillet or a Dutch oven, saute the onions and garlic over low heat, until the vegetables are soft and translucent, but not browned. Add the canned tomatoes (I buy whole canned tomatoes and puree them quickly before adding them into the pot). Bring to a nearly bubbling boil, Add salt and pepper to taste. You can simmer the sauce for just a few minutes, or add meatballs or sausage for up to an hour or a little less, until the meat is done. Stir every five or 10 minutes.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.

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A View from My Porch: Great Leaders, Great Speeches; The Finale: Collapse of the Soviet Union.

Editor’s Note: This the sixth and final part of Thomas Gotowka’s series titled “Great Leaders and Great Speeches.’ The previous four parts can be found at these links:

A View from My Porch:  Great Leaders and Great Speeches, Part 1: Washington’s Farewell through Theodore Roosevelt

A View from My Porch:  Great Leaders and Great Speeches, Part 2: Nazi Aggression through “A Rain of Ruin from the Air” on Hiroshima

A View from My Porch:  Great Leaders and Great Speeches, Part 3: The Cold War 

A View from My Porch: Great Leaders and Great Speeches, Part 4: The Cold War Heats Up

A View From My Porch: Great Leaders and Great Speeches. Part 5: Cold War “Visual Aids” 

I will wrap up my Cold War treatise with a review of the events that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union, and apparent end of the Cold War.

I think that Madam Editor is cooling on Cold War nostalgia, and my wife, Christina’s, “Sounds great!” is less enthusiastic. So, I am going to lay this out as an annotated timeline of many of the key events that track the Soviet Union’s progression towards its dissolution and get right to a conclusion. 

I change focus in the next column to works by or about the denizens of our waters.

On Nov. 4, 1956, Soviet tanks and troops invaded Budapest to crush a national protest that began a few weeks before. The protesters had demanded a more democratic political system and freedom from Soviet oppression. 

Prime Minister Nagy was arrested and executed two years later. The Soviets put Communist leader, János Kádár, into the “vacated” position, where he remained for 32 years. Nearly 3000 Hungarians were killed or wounded, and 200,000 fled as refugees. 

The West was shocked by these actions. Earlier that year, Nikita Khrushchev had pledged a retreat from the Stalinist policies and repression of the past. 

In August,1961, the German Democratic Republic (i.e., Soviet-occupied East Germany) erected the Berlin Wall to keep “Western fascists from undermining the socialist state.” The wall mainly served to prevent mass emigration from East to West. Note that the Wall was not funded by West Berlin.

In October, 1962, as noted in an earlier essay, the Soviet Union was compelled by President Kennedy and United Nations outrage to remove their missiles and offensive weapons from Cuba. They then began a massive nuclear arms and military buildup to reach parity with the United States. 

On June 26, 1963, JFK spoke in West Berlin in support of West Germany. His “Ich Bin ein Berliner” address is widely regarded as one of the most powerful anti-communist speeches of that Cold War period. “Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect. But we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in; to prevent them from leaving us”. 

“While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system, we take no satisfaction in it; for it is, an offense, not only against history, but against humanity.” 

“All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin; and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.’”

On Oct. 15th, 1964, Nikita Krushchev left office, and was replaced by Leonid Brezhnev, who remained as general secretary for 18 years. In 1968, he introduced a new foreign policy, the “Brezhnev Doctrine,” which asserted that “any threat to socialist rule in any state of the Soviet Bloc was a threat to all, and justifies military intervention.”

During the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Czechoslovaks carry their national flag past a burning tank in Prague. Public domain photo from “CIA Analysis of the Warsaw Pact Forces: The Importance of Clandestine Reporting” For more information, visit the CIA’s Historical Collections page.

On Aug. 20th 1968, Soviet-controlled Warsaw Pact military forces invaded Czechoslovakia to suppress the “Prague Spring” political reforms initiated by Alexander Dubcek, First Secretary of the Communist Party of Czechoslovakia. He was arrested, and then resigned. The invasion force included 200,000 ground troops and 5,000 tanks. Warsaw Pact troops seized control of television and radio stations.

Journalists at Radio Prague refused to surrender, and more than 20 were killed before it was finally shut down. Some stations went “underground” and succeeded in broadcasting for several days before their locations were discovered and brutally shut down. Much of Czechoslovakia’s intellectual and business elite fled to the West.

On Sept. 7,1978, the Western world witnessed another tool that has been used frequently since then by Soviet successors to stop resistance. 

Georgi Markov was a dissident novelist and playwright in Bulgaria. He had defected to the UK in 1968, and worked as a broadcaster and journalist for the BBC World Service, Radio Free Europe, and “Deutsche Welle.” He used those media to criticize the Bulgarian Communist regime. 

In an incident worthy of a spy thriller, Markov stood waiting for a bus on Waterloo Bridge in central London, on his way to the BBC. He was stabbed in the back of the leg by a man wielding an umbrella with a sharpened tip, who then ran off. Markov became very sick and was rushed to a hospital, where he died a few days later; the autopsy revealed that the cause of death was poisoning from a tiny pellet filled with ricin, an extremely potent toxin. 

Just recently, Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was released from a Berlin hospital, where he was being treated for Novichok nerve agent poisoning. 

German Chancellor Angela Merkel had facilitated Navalny’s transfer to a Berlin hospital for treatment, and stressed, “In view of the findings and his prominent role in the political opposition in Russia, I urgently call upon authorities to investigate this crime in full transparency.” The G-7 countries condemned Navalny’s attack.

Note that this was the same agent used to poison ex-Russian spy (and “double agent”) Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the UK in March 2018. Amazingly, both ultimately survived after extended hospital stays. That attack was actually developed into a BBC thriller “The Salisbury Poisonings.”

On Dec. 24th 1979, Soviet troops invaded Afghanistan to preserve the collapsing Communist government that had been established there in the early 1970s. 

Soviet Intelligence remarkably under-estimated the fierce resistance they would face from the mujahideen warriors who defended their country.  

The Soviets were ineffective in their use of conventional tactics against the well-trained and highly-motivated Afghan guerillas.  The tide of the war turned against the Soviets when American shoulder-launched infrared-homing missiles were introduced. The Stinger missiles enabled the mujahideen to shoot down Soviet planes and helicopters almost at will. The invasion evolved into a war of bloody Soviet attrition, although their military remained there for 10 years.

The United States and many allies boycotted the Moscow Summer Olympics in July, 1980 in protest against the Soviet invasion. Some countries, including Great Britain, participated under the Olympic flag rather than their own national flags.

On March 8, 1983, President Reagan, speaking to a religious convention in Orlando, Fla., referred to the Soviet Union as an “evil empire” and “the focus of evil in the modern world.” He had already alluded to that theme the year before in a speech at the British House of Commons, where he also declared that, “The Soviets must be made to understand that “We will never compromise our principles and standards.” The term “evil empire” was inspired by the movie, “Star Wars”. 

In July, 1984, the Soviets and 13 allied countries retaliated by boycotting the Los Angeles Summer Olympics, which was, of course, in President Reagan’s home state.

Mikhail Gorbachev. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

On March 11th 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev became leader of the Soviet Union, and began a withdrawal from Afghanistan, which then continued through early 1989. More than 15,000 Soviet soldiers were killed, and about 35,000 wounded. Two million Afghan civilians were killed in that decade-long conflict.

Note that the war also created a breeding-ground for terrorism and the rise of Osama bin Laden, who founded Al Qaeda in 1988.

On April 26th 1986, an explosion at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine resulted in the worst nuclear disaster in history. Scientists have indicated that the disaster was the product of a flawed reactor design that, against Western standards, was both poorly staffed and maintained. 

Almost 80,000 square miles were contaminated; including some 8,000 square miles of Europe. Although Soviet officials initially put the number of fatalities at just 31, the United Nations estimated that several million people were ultimately affected. 

The Chernobyl disaster had other consequences: The disaster has been estimated to have then cost some $235 billion in damages. The economic and political toll hastened the end of the USSR and fueled a global anti-nuclear movement. 

In June, 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev announced his intention to follow a policy of glasnost – openness, transparency, and freedom of speech; and perestroika, the restructuring of the government and economy. He also advocated free elections and ending the arms race. That same month, President Reagan had called for Gorbachev to open the Berlin Wall: “If you seek peace, if you seek prosperity, if you seek liberalization: Come here to this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Gorbachev’s policies relaxed centralized control of much of the Soviet economy, and farmers and manufacturers could now determine what and how much to produce; and what to charge for products. Although Gorbachev had instituted these reforms to accelerate a sluggish economy, they had the opposite effect. Market prices soared to unaffordable levels, Government spending and Soviet debt skyrocketed, and worker demands for higher wages led to dangerously high inflation. 

In 1988, he announced to the United Nations that Soviet troop levels would be reduced, and that the USSR would no longer interfere in the domestic affairs of other countries. 

The Collapse: The Soviet Union was increasingly viewed as a rogue nation by the West. Their economy could not sustain the huge costs of their nuclear weapons buildup, the Afghan Occupation, over 30 years of distant warfare that began in the early 1950s, and Chernobyl. 

President Reagan had actually refused to provide Gorbachev with Marshall Plan-type economic support (similar to the aid provided to rebuild Europe after WW2). 

Then, in the late-1980s, and certainly inspired by the failed perestroika and glasnost reforms, independence movements began to swell in the Soviet sphere; and then, the speed of the collapse of communist rule in Soviet satellite countries stunned the “Free World.” 

On Dec. 25, 1991, Gorbachev resigned and the Soviet Union was dissolved and divided into 15 separate and independent countries. Russia (i.e., formally the “Russian Federation”) was considered the successor state of the Soviet Union, which meant that it kept almost all of their nuclear weapons and the seat on the Security Council of the United Nations. 

The collapse also resulted in the rise of the “Russian Oligarchy”, which, probably too simply, is almost a parallel government of powerful individuals, who accumulated enormous wealth during Gorbachev’s market liberalization and the period of dissolution. 

The failing Soviet state had left ownership of the State’s assets in question, and allowed for “informal” opportunistic deals with former Soviet officials in Russia and Ukraine as a means of “distributing” State property.

The conventional political wisdom (at that time) was that the Cold War ended with the fall of the Soviet Union.

Some Final Thoughts: Unfortunately, Brunhilde never sang. (i.e. “it ain’t over ‘til …”) 

The Cold War only paused after the 1991 Collapse. The battlefield and rules of engagement changed, but, otherwise, it’s the same thugs under a new flag (I apologize for “thugs”, but it seems appropriate.)

Vladimir Putin has served as either Prime Minister or President since 1999, in both the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation.  His key cabinet members and senior department heads largely came with him from the Soviet Union. 

A brilliant tactician, the Stalinist Putin is former KGB, and popular with much of the Russian citizenry, many of whom resent the collapse and the apparent change of Russia’s international standing. He has been described as “the Despot’s despot.”

In his annual address to the Russian Federation in 2005, Putin said ,”The collapse of the Soviet Union was the major geopolitical disaster of the past century. Millions of our co-citizens and co-patriots find themselves outside Russian territory.” He pledged to turn the economy around and restore their status in world affairs.

Putin had already “deked” the West in 2003 by allowing Paul McCartney to perform before thousands of Russians in Red Square, his first-ever concert in Russia. The Beatles had been banned in the Soviet Union in the 1960s, declared to be “an enemy of the Soviet people” by Nikita Kruschev; their music “caused delinquency, alcoholism, vandalism, and rape”. 

I am absolutely certain that my eighth-grade math teacher, Sister Thomas Ann, was unaware that she shared Mr. Kruschev’s opinions on rock music. In Sir Paul’s own words: “The Ukraine girls really knock me out, they leave the west behind; and Moscow girls make me sing and shout, and Georgia, …”.

The Reboot of the Cold War

Hacking and leaking: It is widely accepted and reported by our Intelligence Agencies that Russian agents have interfered in democratic elections across Europe and in the United States. Besides offering assistance to the 2016 campaign of one candidate, they also gained access to voter rolls in two Florida counties. This last breech was revealed by the Florida governor in May, 2019. 

Even more concerning is one conclusion by the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee that former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort appears to have been directly connected to the hacking operations conducted by the Russian agents, which exposed large files of internal emails belonging to the DNC.

On Aug. 31, the CIA published an assessment of Russian efforts to interfere in this November’s election in their CIA Worldwide Intelligence Review. CIA analysts compiled the assessment with input from the NSA and the FBI. 

The assessment provides details of the activities of a Ukrainian lawmaker to disseminate disparaging information about candidate Biden to lobbyists, Congress, the media and contacts close to the President. 

Some good, old- fashioned provocation: In late August, USAF  F-22 fighter jets, supported by KC-135 aerial refueling aircraft, intercepted three groups of two Russian Tu-142 patrol jets that entered the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone.

In early September, two Russian jets flew within 100 feet of a USAF B-52 bomber in an “unsafe and unprofessional manner”, while the pilot was conducting routine training over international waters in the Black Sea. 

In his recent address to the UN’s General assembly, Putin stressed the need for multilateral cooperation against the pandemic. He also argued that ending “illegitimate sanctions” against countries like his could boost the global economy and create jobs.

I am going to conclude with something that might give you some comfort: A short time ago, in a video conference with elected heads of the Russian regions, President Putin called for “an agreement between Russia and the United States to guarantee not to engage in cyber-meddling in each other’s elections. He called for a “reset” between Russia and the United States and said he wanted an agreement between the two countries to prevent incidents in cyberspace”. What’s done is done?

God save the United States of America.

The era did produce a new literary genre; and, if you have the interest to re-visit those years in fiction, I recommend the novels of John LeCarre’. Len Deighton, Ian Fleming, and Nelson DeMille.

This is the opinion of Thomas D. Gotowka.

Tom Gotowka

About the author: Tom Gotowka’s entire adult career has been in healthcare. He’ will sit on the Navy side at the Army/Navy football game. He always sit on the crimson side at any Harvard/Yale contest. He enjoys reading historic speeches and considers himself a scholar of the period from FDR through JFK.

A child of AM Radio, he probably knows the lyrics of every rock and roll or folk song published since 1960. He hopes these experiences give readers a sense of what he believes “qualify” him to write this column.

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A la Carte: Hold on to Summer, Make Your Own Luscious Ice Cream, Sorbets

Lee White

Last week I missed getting the last peaches available at Whittle’s. This made me sad because, even though it is late September, I guess I am not ready for fall.

In any case, I did find delicious peaches at Big Y and made two crisps (like cobblers but made with nuts, oat, butter, flour and sugar). Of course, I gave the desserts away because, once I have a portion at home, the rest of it disappears … into my tummy.

Instead of making a dessert for myself, I ate two Lindy’s ices, which I keep in my kitchen freezer. The ones I have now are orange and taste like a popsicle, At 110 calories, they keep my cravings at bay.

But I realized I can make my own ices, sorbet and ice cream and used to do so. My late husband loved to have an ice cream sundae after dinner—any flavor, chocolate syrup, whipped cream and a shower of salted peanuts.

I am not likely to make ice cream too often, but if you want to make ice cream, I have included a wicked recipe from Al Forno, too.

I will, however, make sorbet and ices soon. I just ordered an inexpensive ice cream maker from Amazon and it may be here this week. Both these recipes are splendid.

Berry Sorbet

(From Jack Bishop: Secrets of Creamy Fruit Sorbets, “Cook’s Illustrated,” August, 1995, pp. 24-25)

If you do not want to add the vodka, the sorbet will be a bit icy, like a granita,

2 cups fruit puree or juice
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice (for blueberry sorbet, use two tablespoons of lemon juice)
1 tablespoon vodka 

Combine all ingredients in large bowl. Stir on and off for several minutes until sugar has dissolved. If mixture is not cold, pour into small container, seal and refrigerate until mixture is no more than 40 degrees. Pour chilled mixture into container of ice cream machine (following manufacturer’s directions) and churn until frozen. Scoop frozen sorbet into a container, seal, and freeze for at least several hours. (Sorbet can be kept frozen for up to three days.)

Buttermilk Sorbet

(From Martha Stewart Living, February 2000, page 193)

Yield: 1 1/2 quarts

This is one of the most luscious sorbets I have ever tasted.

1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 cups buttermilk
1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Combine sugar in a medium saucepan with 2 cups water. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves completely, about 10 minutes. Increase heat, and bring just to a boil. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl, combine sugar syrup with buttermilk and vanilla. Transfer mixture to an ice cream maker and follow manufacturer’s instructions to freeze. When freezing is complete, transfer sorbet to an airtight container and place in freezer for at least 1 hour. Sorbet will keep, frozen, for up to 2 weeks.

Photo by Malicki M. Beser on Unsplash.

Al Forno’s Cinnamon Ice Cream

from Cucina Simpatica by George Germon and Johanne Killeen (HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 1991)

2 cups heavy cream
1 cup milk
2/3 cup sugar
4 cinnamon sticks
8 espresso or French-roast coffee beans

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Scald over medium-high heat, stirring often, until sugar dissolves. Set aside, uncovered, for 1 hour to steep.

Strain, chill, and freeze in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturers’ instructions.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and the Shore Publishing and the Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.

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Gardening with The English Lady: Tips for September, the Month of ‘Warmth, Depth and Color’ (Patience Strong)

‘Warmth, depth and color’ on show in this autumn garden. Photo by Jan Canty on Unsplash.

Rain through August has been quite plentiful. The weeds continue to grow but I have been able to keep a handle on them with the use of natural Bradfield Organics corn gluten-based weed pre-emergent, which can be purchased at any reputable garden center.

Blue hydrangeas. Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash.

HYDRANGEAS … AND THEIR PRUNING

The reason that Hydrangeas do not bloom is that gardeners prune them at the wrong time.  If you feel that your Hydrangea macrophylla needs ventilation, as the growth has become too dense. then prune by the middle of September. The reason being, that Hydrangeas set their buds for next season by late September; consequently, later pruning will cut off those buds, which negates any chance of bloom for next season or even the following season.  

Now that September has arrived, prune any old woody stems that have not bloomed well and any weak new shoots.  After pruning, apply a few inches of composted manure and some peat followed by a top dressing of natural brown bark mulch.  The peat aids acidity in the soil, which is necessary as Hydrangeas may become chlorotic if the soil is too alkaline. By the way, chlorotic means abnormal reduction or loss of normal green coloration of the leaves of plants.

Hydrangeas also do not like to be transplanted; transplanting them can result in little to no bloom for many seasons. 

This fall, as you contemplate your landscape, think on the past season as to what worked for you and what you will never try again. 

Unfortunately, mint has taken over the border beneath my Franklinia tree. Many years ago my friend Roz, was kindly lending a hand in the garden and planted mint in the garden instead of a large container I located for that very purpose.  As I was busy with other garden chores at that moment, by the time I noticed the error, six months had gone by and the mint was rampant among the blue myrtle edging the borders. Please take note that mint is extremely invasive and should only be planted in containers where its wayward habits can be controlled.

‘A gardener’s work is never done’, with that being said, in September after all your hard labor in the growing season, take a break. Sit outside and inhale the late garden fragrances and allow Mother Nature to anchor and relax you. 

This month, gardening chores are not overwhelming so enjoy the autumn sunshine, pleasantly warm on the face with cool breezes that are so welcome.  

In the early morning, I like to sit on my patio near the herb garden, looking at my sage, making a note to cut some to take indoors for drying and in my recipes.  I will also gather sage and lavender, which will be tied with string into small bunches to hang in my closets; this helps to repel moths. I also insert small bunches of lavender in drawers to keep moths from devouring my woolens as insects do not like fragrance. 

In your vegetable garden, sow spinach for spring harvest and sow a cover crop like winter rye, which can be dug in next spring together with composted manure as green manure. Green manure gives a rich growing environment for next year’s vegetables. 

Now is the time to get your fall compost pile cooking with the last of the grass clippings, spent perennials, leaves and small woody twigs.  

It’s also the time to dig up, divide and replant overgrown perennials. Follow this method every three to four years to ensure vibrant bloom from these plants. Never plant or transplant any division or transplant deeper in the soil than it is now or any deeper than the plant sits in the pot.

In the less hectic pace of fall, early autumn is the time to re-think your gardens. The garden’s pre-winter grooming will wait for a few weeks.  You may feel that you would like to have a professional design as you have decided that your borders are not up to scratch.

If that is so, then contact someone that you trust to create a plan in the fall and winter, which can be phased in beginning next spring.  Engage someone who will listen to your thoughts and stay within your budget.  

Peonies in bloom. Photo by Sarah Mitchell-Baker on Unsplash.

PEONIES 

September is the month to plant and transplant Peonies.  Do not plant them deeply or they will not bloom, that means only have enough soil to hold them erect with  the ‘pink eyes’ on the roots barely covered.  Plant them with a light application of composted manure around the plant.  Then in November, following the first hard frost, cut down the Peony foliage to about four inches from the ground. 

In a few weeks, the bright vibrancy of autumn color will appear on the maples. Fall’s brilliant autumn finery is the last hurrah, before winter sets in. Climbing up the red milk shed near the barn, the buds on the autumn clematis are beginning to unfurl and in the herb garden, autumn crocus, asters and sedum will take their curtain calls. 

In order for your soil to remain healthy, add a reasonable layer of composted manure to all the borders now or in early October, together with a two-inch layer of fine bark mulch around to all newly-planted and -transplanted perennials and shrubs.  With the application of the manure and mulch, you are continuing to build the humus component, which will ensure a rich growing environment for spring and protect the plants from winter’s harsh conditions.  

I do not cut down my spent perennials but leave them up for the birds, as the ripened seed heads are a delicious treat.  Following the vibrancy of summer bloom, I enjoy the softer subtle colors of gray, brown and yellow of spent perennials and grasses blending naturally with the muted winter landscape, which to me offers a resting of the senses. 

A TIME FOR PLANTING

Early- to mid-October is a great time to be planting. The benefits of fall planting for trees, shrubs and perennials include giving them a head-start with root development over those planted in the spring. This is especially so when we experience a late spring when planting cannot begin until late April. In New England’s fall, the cooler temperatures and still warm soil encourage the plants to direct their energy into producing strong roots.   

Any new evergreens you have acquired must be planted in early October. The reason being that evergreens are shallow rooted and need time to establish before the ground freezes. Root growth will continue in fall, as long as soil temperature is above 40 degrees, which here in Connecticut, is about the second week of November.

Plant the evergreens with peat and composted manure and natural brown mulch around the plants and water until the ground freezes in November. Keep the mulch about six inches away from the trunks so that rodents do not take up residence and gnaw on the bark. 

Evergreens lose water quickly when exposed to cold winter wind, especially for broad leaf evergreens like the rhododendrons. Natural additions of mulch around the plants help to keep them moist and protected from the damage of bitter windblasts.

Small evergreens can be protected by loosely covering with burlap. The same treatment can be given to rose bushes. Continue watering all newly-planted trees, shrubs and perennials until the ground freezes.

The following trees are not good candidates for fall planting: Birches, Larches, Gingko, Oaks, Magnolia, and all flowering fruit and flowering trees as well as the Eastern Red Cedar.  These trees have fleshy root systems and their feeder roots are not large when young and take time to establish; they therefore are susceptible to frost heave.

Also some perennials that do not like to be planted in fall are Artemisia, Lambs Ears, Foxglove, Penstemon, Anemone, Campanula, Kniphofia, Lupines, Scabiosa, Ferns and Grasses. 

Plant garlic this month for harvest next June – garlic is the antibiotic of the garden. Plant it under fruit trees to avoid scab and root disease, next to ponds or standing water to control mosquito larvae or pour garlic water into ponds, bird baths and fountains to deter adult mosquitoes. 

BARGAINS

This is a good time to pick up end of season plant bargains. Most nurseries and garden centers reduce their prices so they do not have to winter plants over in the nursery. However, keep your eyes open for the following problem plants:

POTBOUND PLANTS

Check the bottom of the pot to see if the roots are growing through the holes.  If not, gently tap the plant out of the container to see if it has a network of overlapping roots that wrap around the root ball.  It is possible to salvage a root-bound plant, which is suffering from water and nutrient deficiencies over the summer, but it will be slow to root. Before you plant this one in your garden, cut the encircling roots – the roots will now be shorter but will take root easier. 

DISEASED PLANTS 

Plants that have been in containers all summer and have been fed high nitrogen fertilizers are easy targets for pests and diseases. Check for spots on the foliage, wilted or curling leaves and discolored roots, as well as visible signs of pest damage and infestation such as webbing or sticky residue on foliage. Not only would these plants do poorly in the garden but could infect your other plants and the soil.  Soil-borne diseases are the most difficult to deal with.

BADLY-SHAPED PLANTS

Badly shaped plants are the ‘Charlie Brown’ Christmas trees of the plant world, the unwanted orphans that have been passed over year after year; these are the runts of the litter!  Do not set yourself up for disappointment looking at an ugly tree or shrub just to save a few dollars.

MISLABLED PLANTS

At the end of the season, many plant tags have been lost or mixed up, which means you are likely to get a perennial with flowers that are not the color you expected. Or you may buy a deciduous tree or shrub when you were looking for an evergreen variety. Stick to the plants that are part of large displays of identically-labeled plants or with labels so firmly attached that look like they have been there for a while.

With any and all above-mentioned plants – always add composted manure around the plant and do not plant any deeper than it is in its pot or burlap wrapping. Always wear gloves when working with manure; there is bacteria in the manure – great for the soil but not healthy for you. 

Please note that the bargain you get is often not worth the discount price. 

NEW LAWN OR PATCH SEEDING 

Photo by Chris Zhang on Unsplash.

September is an excellent time to plant new grass — the young grass plants will have the advantage over weeds. Do not buy cheap seed, you reap what you sow! 

Gently de-thatch the areas that you wish to overseed or patch. Do not use the large thatching machines, which can damage existing grass. Add some composted manure to the area, broadcast the seed and cover the newly-seeded grass area with salt hay (free from weed seed). Do not allow the soil surface to dry out, keep it moist. Do not saturate the area or the seed will wash away.  

When the grass appears, stay off it, do not mow and leave the salt hay to rot.  Next spring, a healthy lawn will emerge and if there are a few bare patches in April, you can fill in those spots. 

‘A host of golden daffodils.’ Photo by Sarah Mitchell-Baker on Unsplash.

I hope your spring bulb orders are in by now. Be adventurous this year and go for masses of a single color for the greatest impact. No matter how small your planting area, it is the intensity that counts, with two or three dozen red Tulips or a hundred Daffodils planted on your woodland edge. 

Buying daffodils in large numbers is less expensive, although the bulbs are usually smaller – this is not a problem as daffodil bulbs grow larger each year. Even though many say the spacing between these larger bulbs should be six inches, there is no reason they cannot touch.  

Put some composted manure or bulb food on the soil where the bulbs are planted. Make sure you plant the Daffodils eight inches below the frost line, with the pointed end up. Wear gloves when you plant bulbs as they have a skin irritant, which may cause a rash.

If you cannot plant your bulbs when you receive them, store them in a cool, dry place in paper bags.  The best time to plant spring bulbs in the Northeast is the end of October to the middle of November.

Lily of the Valley can be transplanted this month, but wear gloves because there is toxicity in this plant.  

Dig up your gladioli corms, Calla bulbs, Elephant ear bulbs and Dahlia tubers when the foliage turns yellow.  Lay them in the sun to “cure” and store them in a cool, dry dark place. When you dig the Dahlia tubers, do not pull them, pulling can break the tubers. 

In early September after their summer sojourn outdoors, take your houseplants indoors and wash the foliage gently and repot with new potting soil into a clean container. Repot those plants that have outgrown their pots to a clean container that is only one size larger. 

Fall and early winter is a great time to do stonework – dry-laid paths, walls and patios, as well as repairing fences, arbors and pergolas, and building decks. Paint wooden outdoor furniture with eco-conscious paint before putting them undercover for winter. In October, I will tell you more about how to go about stonework.   

September is a gardener’s paradise; the air is cooler, the soil easy to work and you will not overheat with the effort.  Stay awhile in your garden; enjoy the comforting fragrance of fall.       

I’ll see you in your garden next month. Meanwhile, e-mail me with gardening questions at MaureenHaseleyJones@gmail.com

Maureen Haseley-Jones

About the author: Maureen Haseley-Jones is a member of a family of renowned horticultural artisans, whose landscaping heritage dates back to the 17th century. She is one of the founders, together with her son Ian, of, ‘The English Lady Landscape and Home Company.’ Maureen and Ian are landscape designers and garden experts, who believe that everyone deserves to live in an eco-conscious environment and enjoy the pleasure that it brings. Maureen learned her design skills from both her mother and grandmother, and honed her horticultural and construction skills while working in the family nursery and landscape business in the U.K. Her formal horticultural training was undertaken at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in Surrey.
Contact Maureen at maureenhaseleyjones@gmail.com

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