By LYNNE IRONS
I have had five memorable dogs. Each has lived over a decade and a half. My all-time favorite was Emma Jones, the beagle of my childhood. After college and moving to the Vineyard, I found Emily, who was also a white beagle mutt. She helped me raise my little children. Larry, a blue-tick hound, was always in need of a diet. He was fond of lying on the side of the road, much to the consternation of passersby. He had a habit of going up to the old Woodland where he begged donuts successfully.
Along came Lorraine, a cross between a Rotweiller and a Labrador. As she aged I told her, “There are old dogs and dumb dogs, but no old dumb dogs.” Jackson, a rescue Jack Russell and retriever, can sing to the harmonica.
I mention dogs only because of my love and hate relationship with them in the garden. As puppies, they are hopeless — a bundle of pure, unadulterated joy frolicking and digging in the beds. By four years old, they finally settle into reasonable behavior and become an asset to gardening as deer repellent. Dog on duty! They keep vermin under control as well.
I started some leeks and onion seeds on the propagation mat. I am determined to have a successful crop this year. For several years I have sorely neglected them and the harvested bulbs are about dime-sized. Still no sign of germinating lettuce planted two weeks ago in big tubs in my unheated greenhouse. Could “unheated” be the key word here?
One raging success has been my carrots. Please allow me a few sentences to gloat. I planted them in enormous pots (almost the size of whiskey barrels) in August, hauled them into the greenhouse in December, and have been pulling huge roots of incredible sweetness every day in January. They will not get any bigger but will, in fact, start going to seed soon. Carrots are a biennial and will produce seed the second year. They flower exactly like Queen Anne’s Lace, their first cousin. Don’t forget you can eat the root of Queen Anne’s Lace if times get tough. I should say when, not if, times get tough.
I also have some Rainbow Mix Swiss Chard. It is lovely. I used some in fall window boxes along with licorice plant and ornamental cabbages. I am not entirely crazy about Swiss Chard, but when the leaves are young, sauteed with garlic, it is delicious.
I attended the Farm-to-School meeting last week. There was a good turnout with each school well-represented. Melinda DeFeo from the Farm Institute engaged us in a role-play tracing a Florida-grown tomato to a Vineyard supermarket produce department. We then divided the dollar received for that tomato among distributors, managers, truckers, migrant workers, packing-plant employees and the grower. One of the most upsetting moments was when the migrant worker was given one penny out of the dollar. That worker had to pick two tons of tomatoes to earn $50 per day.
The point of the demonstration was how many middle men are involved getting our food the hundreds of miles to our towns.
Farm-to-School is so much more than getting locally grown and produced foods to our children. It is a movement to reacquaint students with actual production, farm visits, cooking, social awareness, environmental stewardship, and the self-esteem that comes with taking care of oneself.
Tomorrow, Saturday, Feb. 16, the poultry workshops will be held at the agricultural hall from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. The sessions will cover everything you would want to know about chickens, including cooking. Stop by anytime during the day.
While driving on the Panhandle Road a while ago, I passed Alan Healy with Liz Thompson’s ram in his small flatbed truck. The sheep looked completely at ease taking a scenic drive. I guess he had been over to Mermaid Farm for a romantic encounter.
For some reason, in the late afternoon, a huge amount of birds has been hanging around in my perennial garden. I’m talking about a hundred individuals: a mix of Eastern bluebirds, robins and cardinals. I can’t figure out if they are trying for worms since it has been so mild.
Thanks, Jeff, for my new bumper sticker — a quote by Thomas Jefferson — “A nation that limits freedom in the name of security will have neither.”