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Monthly Archives: February 2017


Lily tries out a new game she just made up, which is a variant of Hide-Around-the-Corner-and-Git-You.

There’s no holding it back

It’s the third week of February, and this should not be happening. Still, there’s no frost in the 10-day forecast. We’ll soon find out whether nature has jumped the gun here in the Blue Ridge foothills.

An earthier take on sourdough

Up until recently, my philosophy on sourdough bread was influenced chiefly by Peter Reinhart (The Bread Baker’s Apprentice) and Michael Pollan (Cooked). While looking at reviews of cookbooks on Amazon, I came across this book by Lisa Rayner, Wild Bread: Handbaked Sourdough Artisan Breads in Your Own Kitchen. The book has definitely changed my philosophy […]

Please, sir, may I have s’more?

I’ve been unable to get a good photo of this little guy because he waggles away as soon as I turn on the porch light (which is too dim for easy photography). He visits each evening soon after dusk. I usually know he’s there because Lily sits by the deck door and watches him. He […]


It’s terrifying how much money Americans spend on bottled water — more than $13 billion a year. Even if bought by the gallon, bottled water costs well over $1 per gallon. When water is bought retail in smaller bottles, it costs $8 per gallon and up. And the plastic! Each year, 50 million barrels of […]

Cotillion chardonnay

I have very rarely bought wine just because I liked the label. But when I saw this chardonnay at Trader Joe’s, I laughed out loud at the label and bought a bottle. It’s a so-so chardonnay, barely worth the price at $8.99. It’s a blend of grapes from three counties — Sonoma (63 percent), Napa […]

Gardening begins

Some people plant by the signs. Here at the abbey, we’re a little more mundane. We plant with the weather. The 14-day forecast shows way above-average temperatures with above-average rainfall. That gets us into early March. With gardening, there always are risks. But today seemed like the time to get started with the early-spring, frost-tolerant […]


Plans are in for a big garden for 2017. Last fall, Ken fed the garden with generous quantities of organic soil amendments, then planted cover crops. The abbey’s garden soil has been pure organic dynamite for years, but this year it should be better than ever. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds has been our source for […]

If Still Your Orchards Bear

Rising moon, February 10, 2017 If Still Your Orchards Bear By Edna St. Vincent Millay Brother, that breathe the August air Ten thousand years from now, And smell — if still your orchards bear Tart apples on the bough — The early windfall under the tree, And see the red fruit shine, I cannot think […]

Orchard orthopedics

It’s discouraging how many years of work and patience and grief are required to start an orchard. In addition to the child mortality, the trees refuse to grow straight. I’m not sure why that is. It’s probably because young apple trees start as apple stock grafted onto root stock. So there is no natural symmetry […]