Monday, December 21, 2009

Mid Winter Festival

The Winter Solstice has been a celebrated day throughout most of human history and prehistory. It is on this day that the last festival or feast was commonly held before the coming of the wintry months or the times of famine. The solstice was extremely important due to the fact that in early times survival was not certain in the months ahead. Many communities would slaughter much of their livestock, so they would not have to be fed during the lean months of winter. Hence meat was uncommonly plentiful and so was alcoholic beverages due to their coincidental fermentation near this date. Therefore with the uncertainty of life, large amounts of meat and great quantities of alcohol, a party seemed quite appropriate.

Although life is a bit more certain and meat and alcohol is always plentiful, we still celebrate this ancient tradition, through a dozen or more religious celebrations.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I have a confession to make, I am a virtual farmer. I have 4 pink pigs that get truffles. I wanted bacon but I got truffles instead. I also have reindeer that my virtual farmer self brushes for fur. I'm not exactly sure how internet people use shedded reindeer fur, but that's none of my concern for its only the points and the gold coins that truly matter in this back to the land game.

Farmville is an internet game that one can play that is associated with Facebook. In this unrealistic game, farmers get paid in gold coins, which I know many farmers in the real world wished would happen especially with the price of gold right now. No farm animal dies, personally a problem for me... because I know that even my virtual self would love to eat some virtual pork and beef every now and then. And the fact that there are no seasons so one can harvest pumpkins, corn, wheat and strawberries all at the same time. Additionally I have date and fig trees growing right along with my apple trees while a reindeer stands next to them. I know that video games are not supposed to be real but this does stretch ones imagination.

So in the end why am I playing this game along with thousands of others? Well I could give a long convoluted answer about how we all wish we could be closer to the land and need even a virtual sense of our food. However that would belie the point that people want something mindless to take up some of those stand still minutes that are spaced throughout our day when nothing is happening. Life is much simpler in the unreal virtual world where one plants crops and harvests them without weeding or working 4 hours to a day later. Yet, in the end the whole virtual farm world is just a bit tasteless.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Frontera, Inspection, and a Waste of Good Food

Just this past week inspectors from the Illinois Department of Agriculture raided Rick Bayless's restaurants Topolobampo, Frontera Grill, and Xoco. The raid was prompted after the blog Food Chain did a story about two dads who were running an underground charcutiers (or pork butcher), E & P Meats. The story stated that both E & P Meats and Rick Bayless received their pork from the same farm, Maple Creek Farms, in Penwaukee, Wisconsin.

The agents seized 80 pounds of bacon and an unknown amount of headcheese. The agents stated that the items had been inspected and certified by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture but not by Illinois, therefore making it illegal to serve in a restaurant. The food will be destroyed wasting a large amount of delicious food.

I understand that this action was done for the health of the people in Chicago, but lets be serious food from that farm is probably healthier than any thing from a CAFO or a large slaughter house. Lets be serious all of the major outbreaks in the US have not come from small farms. They come from these large corporate farms and USDA certified slaughter houses. The inspection of our food in this country is a joke.
It is my sentiment that this is just another attack on small family farms. Farms that should, in my humble opinion, receive the blessing of the USDA instead of their animosity. I for one do not buy meat at the grocery store because I do not believe that it has been produced in an ethical, humane, environmental, or healthy way. I now only purchase my meat from local farmers who I have met at the farmers' markets.

In summation, I support Rick Bayless and his tireless support of local farms and his desire to purchase products for his restaurants that have come from people and faces that he knows. And I want to say to the inspectors go find a real problem and deal with that.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Petri Pork: One More Step to Ruining Our Food

Well some more Frankenstienish food direct from the lab is coming soon or maybe not. Scientists in Holland have made a soggy flavorless meat like substance from stem cells of muscle tissue from a pig. They initially extracted cells from a pig called myoblasts and then put them into a solution. These cells are hardwired by their DNA to replicate and become muscle tissue.

The scientist claim that cultured pork or meat could save millions of tons in greenhouse gases. However, this will only work if people are willing to eat this type of meat. The Dutch scientists in charge of this experiment are hoping that their work will lead to a larger production of food and help to feed multitudes of people in the coming years. Since you could take muscle cells from one healthy specimen and then multiply them indefinitely in the lab.

This experiment was built off of a similar experiment that scientists in the United States did when they tried to grow fish fillets in a lab from stem cells from a gold fish (can any one say yummm!). Scientists are trying to find a way to toughen up the soggy pork since they believe its limp form is due from not exercising.

“We need to find ways of improving it by training it and stretching it, but we will get there. This product will be good for the environment and will reduce animal suffering. If it feels and tastes like meat, people will buy it.”

The Dutch scientists have received generous funding from a sausage manufacturer and from the Dutch government. Reaction world wide has been mixed from various agencies. PETA has endorsed the experiments whereas farmers are feeling slightly skeptical about it. As for myself and others I have talked about we are just feeling a bit queasy and noxious about the idea.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sweet Potatoes and Yams

Tonight for dinner I made grill cheese sandwiches and sweet potato chips. The sweetness of the sweet potato and the saltiness of the chip combined to make a great side dish. However, while eating them I began to wonder about the history of the sweet potato. Over Thanksgiving I learned that it was not a relative of a yam, which intrigued me and helped to lead to this post.

The sweet potato is a relative of the morning glory family, Convolvulacea, and has many different varieties. This plant has its beginnings in prehistoric South America and comes in a range of skin and flesh colors. Furthermore, there are two distinct groupings of sweet potato varieties, "soft" and "firm". It is the ones in the "soft" category that have caused the confusion with yams.

During the time of slavery in the south, sweet potatoes were brought from South America and used as a staple food source for slaves. Slaves seeing and cooking with the "soft" variety of sweet potatoes believed them to be nyami, an edible starchy root that is grown throughout Africa. The name was changed to yam and stuck.

However, the nyami and the sweet potato are quite different botanically speaking. For one the nyami is a monocot group, which means that they only have one seed-leaf or cotyledon. Whereas the sweet potato is a dicot or a plant that has two seed-leaves or cotyledons. The sweet potato is originally from Peru and Ecuador and the nyami is originally from West Africa and Asia. Lastly, the sweet potato has half the growing season as the nyami.

In the grocery store most of the "yams" that you will see for sale are actually a "soft" variety of sweet potato. All true yams or nyami must be grown in a warmer climate such as the carribean due to the exceptionally long growing season. So we don't actually see them for sale very often here in the United States and can only usually be found in an international market.

Today the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires labils with the term yam to be accompanied by the term sweet potato.





Scientific Name

Ipomoea batatas

Dioscorea Species


Plant family

Morningglory (Convolvulaceae)

Yam (Dioscoreaceae)


Plant group




Chromosome number

2n=90 (hexaploid)



Flower character





Tropical America (Peru, Ecuador)

West Africa, Asia


Historical beginning


50,000 BC


Edible storage organ

Storage root




4 to 10

1 to 5



Smooth, with thin skin

Rough, scaly



Short, blocky, tapered ends

Long, cylindrical, some with "toes"


Dry matter

22 to 28%

20 to 35%


Mouth feel








Beta carotene (Vit. A)

High (orange vars.)*

Very low



Transplants/vine cuttings

Tuber pieces


Growing season

90 to 150 days (120= Jewel)

180 to 360 days




At senescence



(Cured at 80 to 86oF) 55 to 60oF

54 to 61oF


Climatic requirements

Tropical and temperate




Grown in USA

Imported from Caribbean

Monday, November 23, 2009


Okay as I stated in my last post I have received a seed catalog and to be honest I can't help but look at it with my mind on next year's growing season. Well while reading I found an interesting tomato plant called the silvery fir tree. I was wondering if any of my readers have had any experience with this plant and could give me any advice concerning it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Seed Catalog

Just received either our first seed catalog for next year's growing season or the last seed catalog for this year's growing season. Couldn't help but peruse it as soon as I took it out of the mail box. Of course my mind started to wonder what seeds should I buy and should we try any new varities or stick with ones we know about. Well here is to Seed Savers who have already have me thinking of next year. How long is it till spring?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A Refreshing Night

Last night Naomi, Five Crows, Fractured Thoughts, and several others got together for a pot luck meal made from locally grown and raised food. We had salads, green bean casserole, pot roast, pork tenderloin, apple/ leek cheese pastries, and apple cranberry crumble for dessert. The food was excellent and the company was even better.

The impetus for this occasion was the screening of FRESH the movie at the barn in Prairie Crossing. There have been quite a few movies of late about the issue of agriculture and our food industry. I would not suggest this as someone's first movie about current issues in the food and agriculture industry, but it did have some informative insights as well as a thorough interview of Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms. Joel was as entertaining and informative as he was in Food Inc., however this movie covered his views and the reasons for his farming methods better than any other movie he has been featured in. Of course I think Michael Pollan, the founding father ofmodern food reform, explains him the best:

I asked Joel how he answers the charge that because food like his is more expensive, it is inherently elitist. “I don’t accept the premise,” he replied. “First off, those weren’t any ‘elitists’ you met on the farm this morning. We sell to all kinds of people. Second, whenever I hear people say clean food is expensive, I tell them it’s actually the cheapest food you can buy. That always gets their attention. Then I explain that, with our food, all of the costs are figured into the price. Society is not bearing the cost of water pollution, of antibiotic resistance, of food-borne illnesses, of crop subsidies, of subsidized oil and water — of all the hidden costs to the environment and the taxpayer that make cheap food seem cheap. No thinking person will tell you they don’t care about all that. I tell them the choice is simple: You can buy honestly priced food or you can buy irresponsibly priced food.” Source: No Bar Code, Mother Jones

Also Michael Pollan's book Omnivore's Dilemma best explains Joel Salatin's farming views and ideas.

The other main character of this movie is Will Allen, a self described food industry drop out. Will is the founder and president of Growing Power, which is an organization that has a simple goal; to grow food, to grow minds, and to grow community. Will started this organization simply enough. He wanted to find work for the teens in his community and to give them a job that would help them give back to their community. From this humble beginning this organization has transformed into a national commitment to sustainable food systems. Growing Power not only provides for its immediate neighborhoods, but also serves as a training facility to teach others how to replicate the methods that they use.

Will Allen produces about $850,000 of health fresh food on just three acres of land in the middle of an urban jungle. Growing Power has six greenhouses, ten hoophouses, pens for goats, turkeys, and chickens. They also have a sustainable system for raising 10,000 tiliapia and perch. Proving to everyone that you can grow a large amount of food on a small area and that people who live in the urban "food deserts" do not need to settle for just processed foods. Everyone is entitled to the right to enjoy fresh delicious produce and meat.

So my recomendation is go see the movie, but if this is your first trip into the world of Slow Food, or agriculture revolution then don't stop here and keep on reading and watching. Your body, mind and soul will thank you for it.

If there are no upcoming screenings in your area, please contact the director to get a DVD to host a local screening in your home or community center.

You can also become a fan on Facebook (they list the upcoming screenings on there, too).

Friday, November 13, 2009

CSA News

Last Saturday, Nick Janovski (better known as Farmer Nick) had his pick up for his meat and egg CSA. I picked up my quarter share at the Grayslake Farmers' Market. Farmer Nick sells pastrue raised pork and free range chicken. As his sign says,"Even better than organic!" His farm is in Walworth, Wisconsin. I am looking forward to the time I get to have a look at his farm. He is our Joel Salatin.

Unlike many other CSAs the shares were not separated but made to order. For my order I told Nick that the only item I desperately wanted was the bacon. Fresh, thick cut bacon is just simply divine in my opinion and the bacon from his farm surpasses even that praise. As for the rest I told him to surprise me and give me whatever he wanted. So for the rest of my quarter share I took home a rack of ribs, a package of pork short ribs, a package of ground pork, a package of ground beef, and a pork tenderloin. You might ask how much is a quarter share?

Well that answer is just $40.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Sauce, Butter, and Leeks

Well last weekend Naomi and I went west in order to go apple pickin'. McHenry county has quite a bit of apple orchards but unfortunately Naomi and I waited to the last possible month, one could wait, to go apple pickin'. Luckily a few orchards still had some late season varieties and some apple cider left for us.

Our first stop was to All Seasons Farm Nursery & Landscape, which is a large orchard with all the bells and whistles; hayrides, mazes, cafeteria, and so much more. Last year we went to this one at the height of the season and left without anything due to the crowds. Yet, this year no crowds, no waits, and much cheaper apples. Our next stop was to Prairie Sky Orchard where we bought some more Jonagold and some honey crisp. This orchard was more to our liking; small, pleasant, and a homier feel. Lastly, we stopped at Homestead Orchard and actually picked apples off of the trees. This orchard was by far my favorite of the three. Here the owners were having a special which basically amounted to buy one peck of apples get another peck free. Needless to say we picked two pecks and ended up with 24 obs. of apples just from this orchard. At Homestead Orchards we picked Galas, Empires, Golden Blushings, McIntosh, Braeburn and Winesap varieties. By the end of the day we had a trunk full of apples, a couple gallons of cider, and a busy couple of days cooking ahead of us (by us I mostly mean Naomi).

Later that day Naomi began making apple sauce and apple butter. Both of these recipes can be found in the Ball canning book. Yet the main difference in apple sauce and apple butter appears to be in cooking time. The apple butter is cooked for longer in order, I guess, to give it a thicker texture. That night we also had apple pie and an apple/leek pastry for dinner and just to complete the theme a bit of apple cider to wash it all down with.

Apple/Leek Cheese Pastry

2-3 medium size apples
1 medium size leek
(In actuality there should be an equal amount of apples and leeks)
2-3 cups of shredded cheddar cheese
Pinch of Pepper
Olive Oil
1 Thawed Package of Phyllo dough

Start by coring and slicing the apples--We have an apple corer that does an awesome job with this. If you don't have one and are going to cook with apples I suggest that you get one. Life becomes so much easier.

Then slice the leeks into pieces of equal size to the apples.

Put the oil into the skillet and then heat the pan to medium heat.

Put the apples and leeks into the pan and the season lightly with pepper. Stir the contents of the pan occasionally and cook until the apples and leeks are soft.

While the apples and leeks are cooking shred about three cups of cheddar cheese and then put it into a large bowl.

After the contents of the pan are cooked put them into the bowl with the cheese. Next stir the mixture until every thing is mixed thoroughly.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Put a sheet of Phyllo dough onto a sheet pan and then brush half of it with olive oil. Then fold in half so the unoiled part is folded into the oiled part. Now brush half of that with olive oil and then fold again. Now you should be down to a quarter of the original sheet. Place a spoonful(s) of the apple, leek, cheese mixture into the center of the phyllo dough. Now fold up the edges as you would with an egg roll wrapper. Place the finish pastry onto an oiled sheet pan.

Repeat the above step until you run out of the apple, leek, cheese mixture. Then place the sheet pan into the oven and cook for approximately 30 minutes or until they are golden brown.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Five Crows Garden Show Part One

Two Sundays ago, Naomi and I went to Five Crows home to help her build her raise beds. The raise beds were designed by yours truly with additions and modifications provided by Naomi. The construction of the garden went well and by the end of the day Five Crows had a great raised bed garden if I do say so myself.

Here is a sketch or plan for the garden beds. Although it was slightly altered (for the better) its basic design stayed pretty much the same.

Naomi and I constructing the garden beds. We began by first by putting four 8 foot boards into a "star" shaped design. We then used L-brackets to secure the boards to each other.

Then after those four boards were put together we then moved the design so that it was exactly where we wanted it within the garden area.

(BTW I love the sign posts in front of Five Crows garden area)

After connecting those four boards I was off to the garage to begin cutting out the 4 foot lengths so we could begin constructing the five checker box design.

In the next post I will detail the next steps that we took in order to bring the garden about.

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Grand Opening of Growing Home's Wood Street Farm

Here is a great story that I found on Green Roof Growers. This is just a great idea and a wonderful achievement.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Allium sativum

Allium sativum or Garlic has been used culinary and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Although scientists do not know exactly when it was cultivated many believe that most likely descended from the Asian plant Allium longicuspis.

Planting garlic is a fall affair. Each clove needs to be planted 6 to 8 inches away from each other.

Each garlic needs to be planted flat tip down and needs to be covered with about two inches of soil.

After all the garlic has been planted you need to make sure that you use a good layer of insulation so the garlic plants will not freeze. Last year and this year I am using a 6 inch layer of straw. I have read that you can also use leaves, but someone I know lost their entire garlic crop from using only leaves as their insulation. So I suggest using straw.

Map of garlic plot (labeled and dated)

A Boulderific Farmers' Market

Earlier this month Naomi and I went on a trip out west. Our first stop was Boulder, Colorado for her brother's wedding. While we were out there we heard quite a bit about the fabulous farmers' market that they had. The previous year we had seen Denver's, but her brother told us that nothing could beat Boulder's. So we went to have our own look.

Boulder's farmers' market took up several blocks and incorporated many local farms. Some who specialized in specific crops, while others had your typical variety.

I was a bit sad that I had not driven to Boulder and therefore could not purchase much if any of the wonderful foods that were on display.

Speaking of specialty farm stands, this stand from Wee Bee Farms only had garlic. The stand had about 12 different varieties. Naomi and I picked up two bags of assorted garlic. One for planting and one for cooking with. We ended up with Chesnok Red, Inchelium Red, Chicago Italian, Peskem River, Lortz Italian, Shatili, Shantung Purple, Rose de Lautrec and a few more. (More on Garlic later)

Some stands such as this one clearly made a habit of sprucing up their tables to attract customers. There were clearly over 25 farms on attendance at this market.

Additionally, there were quite a few artisan cheese makers, bakers, and a variety of other stands

Another place that we did purchase some goods was this apple orchard stand. There were at least 6 different varieties and of course we had to try each one to know what was best.

At this farm stand you could buy freshly ground flour made from whole wheat grain. Wish we had something like this at our local farmers market.

Another interesting stand was this one, which sold fire roasted peppers made to order.

Well Boulder's farmers' market was as good as its publicity. Anyone who travels through this area in the late spring, summer, or early fall should definitely stop by this one on a Saturday morning or afternoon.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

I'm Back! With Quite a Bit to Say

Well I could say that I have been out of contact due to work, but that wouldn't be exactly true. I could say that I haven't written anything because there is nothing to say, but that would be an out right lie. All I can say is that I had writers block and just became a bit gun shy. Well I am going to bite the proverbial bullet and go for it.

Well there is quite a bit to write about and one of my favorite events that has happened, since my last blog, was the student made marinara sauce. Each spring my classroom plants wheat that will be harvested by the next classroom the following year. The wheat is used to make bisquits for the rest of the school as part of a luncheon called farm to table. Well last spring I decided to add one more crop to our farm plot, tomatoes. Tomatoes are a great all around crop that you can make many different products from. One of those products is marinara sauce, which is a favorite of almost all kids.

Over the summer students took time out of their own summer to come out to the farm and help weed their wheat and tomato crops. Both were harvested within our second week of school (Side note my classroom were filmed on a WGN news story while they were harvesting the wheat). Unfortunately, many of our tomatoes were lost due to the blight. Luckily, what we were missing was made up by parents donating their own backyard tomatoes and from parents donating money so that we could buy more the following day at the farmer's market. I also bought many of the other ingredients at the Grayslake Farmer's Market from money that was donated by the students themselves.

The day after the market my classroom with several parent volunteers worked together to make marinara sauce. The students were immersed into the process with many of my brave boys running from the kitchen crying from the overpowering onions. Others learned how best to "gut" a tomato. Students worked hard in a hot kitchen peeling, gutting, dicing, mincing the tomatoes and the other ingredients. For lunch we all had pasta and sauce. That day the students learned that a sauce you make on your own with fresh ingredients will always be better than anything you can buy.

I believe that each student left that day full of pride and desire to make their own marinara at home.

The Recipe We Used:

24 pounds of Tomatoes
6 pounds of Onions
6 bulbs of Garlic
Salt and Red Pepper to taste
12 bunches of Basil
6 bunches of Oregano
4 bunches of Thyme
4 sprigs of Rosemary
and 10 leaves of Sage (my students chose this one because they liked the sound of it)
In a large pot Sautee onions and garlic in olive oil until onions are opaque
Add Tomatoes
Stir and mash tomatoes periodically as needed

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Its the Start of Junkfood Season

Well I have been back to work for about three weeks now. For those who don't know schools are a warehouse of sweets, junk food, and all the extra pounds you could want. The first week of school I had a bag of bite size candy bars dumped on the table I was working at. Without thinking I had about 8 bites before I noticed what I was doing. In the past two weeks there have been boxes of donuts, chocolate covered peanut butter, cookies, and much more left in the teacher's lounge. All of this food is left as either gifts from parents for what we do or staff members bring them in to share with their colleagues and friends.

Well this year I am going to try to steer away from all of the mass produced junk food like the candy bars and the donuts. However I feel that there will be days that I am pushed beyond my ability to resist and indulge in those 9 or 12 bites.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Top Chef Masters

Well I have a confession to make. I am a Top Chef junky. Yes I have to watch it and I even watch the reruns from the past seasons. Last night was the finale for Top Chef Masters, where the winner took home $100,000 for their favorite charity. The challenge was for the finalists, Hubert Keller, Rick Bayless, and Michael Chiarello to create a four course meal that described their life's journey through food. Each and every dish was an artful story that left me wishing that I could just have even just a whiff of each course. The contest was close but in the end Rick Bayless, restaurateur from Chicago won. The prize money will go to Rick's own charity Frontera Farmer Foundation. This foundation is dedicated to helping out small family farms with sustainable innovation and to help save the small family farm. The small family farm is an endangered species and needs all the help it can get. So congratulations to Rick for his accomplishment and for putting his prize money back into the small farms of the Chicago region. So once again congratulations to Rick Bayless.

Side note: Five Crows children after watching the final episode stated that they wanted to go to Frontera and help support Rick Bayless due to his use of local crops and his support to local farmers. Way to go Mouse and Squirrel!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Summer, Food, and Friendship

Over this past summer Naomi and Five Crows have worked hard together to battle the oncoming of winter. In an a process that has for the most part fallen to the wayside in this age of refrigirators and produce on demand. Together they have taught each other the ways of canning and preserving. Together they have given each other the confidence and the collective knowledge (especially in the area of converting cups, pints, and the such) that has allowed them to succeed. Together they have preserved strawberries, pickles, peaches, salsas and more.

Throughout this summer we have had each other over for delicious local meals and other times we have just found time to sit and chat. We have been around each other so much that if a couple days go by I find myself wondering when are we going to see Five Crows and her family next. Yet, it hasn't always been this kind of friendship. A year before we had never been to the roost that Five Crows calls home and she had never been over to our house. So I believe we all have gardening and the love of fresh food to thank for our new found friendship.

So I say let the canning and the celebration of good local food continue.

The End of Blossom End Rot

Well in the last three days Naomi and I have harvested about a half dozen of her aunt's family heirloom tomatoes. Their flirtation with blossom end rot has ended hopefully due to our application of bone meal and some calcium water solution. There are several more tomatoes with that promising orangish hue. It appears that my worries of no tomatoes were just a bit over blown. I will take some of the bigger ones and harvest it for its seeds so that we can plant more next year. This variety appears to be a bit like a roma but much larger.

Unfortunately not all tomato stories are end so well. Our local CSA's tomato plants developed late blight. For any who do not know this is the same disease that caused the Irish Potato Famine, which ended with approximately 1.5 million people dieing of starvation. Many other farms have had this disease attack their crops as well. In the New England states many farms have had to destroy entire fields of tomatoes. Luckily our CSA has only had to get rid of 600 of their 4000 tomato plants. This cool wet summer has not been beneficial to the tomato crops and I can only hope for hot weather for the rest of August.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Manors of Somerset-Lytes Cary

Lytes Cary was the second manor house that we went to. The house itself was not as big nor the gardens, however the gardens were packed with beauty and inspiration. Lytes Cary was the home of herbalist Henry Lyte. He is the author of A niewe Herball and an antiquarian book, The Light of Brityane. Henry Lyte transformed the gardens around his home to reflect his profession as an herbalist. The garden was established in the 14th century and was thoughtfully improved throughout the intervening centuries.

The garden is broken into several sections the Apostle Garden, the Main Border, the Orchard, the Long Walk, the Pond Garden, the Seat Garden, the Croquet Garden, the Hornbeam Arch, the Vase Garden, the Sunken Garden and a few more that I can't remember.

The Apostles Garden: These shrubs were shaped in a very interesting way and create an interesting area for a good game of chase or tag.

This is the family chapel where Henry Lytes and his descendants held their Sunday mass. This chapel was draped in gorgeous colors by the clematis and other vines growing on its walls.

Naomi shows us the elegant doorway to the Main Border, which had plants arranged by hues. The colors slowly drifted from one shade to the next.

Here is one view of the Main Border.

This picture was taken just through the door. That is Naomi's dad and myself in the background.

One of the vibrant colors seen in the garden.

An interestingly shaped flower from a plant I do not know.

If any of my readers know this one please let us know.

I love this color it is so alive that I felt as though I could swim in it.

The Long Walk-These hedges were kept in immaculate shape and definitely gave you the feeling you were going somewhere important.

The Pond Garden at the end of the Long Walk.

Naomi and I under one of the hornbeam arches. Which lead the way to the Vase Garden.

One of the vases in the Vase Garden.

Here is the Orchard Garden and just below this picture some of the fruit that was becoming ripe.

The borders of the Seat Garden made for an attractive backdrop.

Some other beautiful pictures and plants from the garden:

I just loved this stone entrance way.

Here is an unknown plant that as you can see has some very large leaves. It also had some wickedly thorny stems.

Those wickedly thorny stems. Ouch!

If you happen to know this one please respond and let me know.

The Croquet Garden.

The door leading from the crochet garden to another section of the gardens.

Another unknown plant that I thought had an interesting form and color.

Once again if you know this one let me know. I need to expand my plant knowledge.

Another garden...there was quite a bit packed into the grounds of this manor as you can tell. It was much smaller than Stourhead.

A large thistle that I thought might be an artichoke.

I love the vibrantness of this yellow I feel as though I am looking a a child's coloring page.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Manors of Somerset-Stourhead

On our third day in England Naomi's dad drove us to Somerset. Now at this moment I need to say a little bit about driving in England. First I was glad that it was not me in the driver's seat. Second navigating English roads, especially in the country side is feat upon itself. I am truly amaze that we didn't get lost in the maze of roads that criss cross England. So my hat is off to Naomi's dad for facing that task and getting us to where we were going and back again to Bournemouth with only a few small adventures in between.

In Somerset we went to three English mansions/manors Stourhead, Lytes Cary, and Montacute. All three were magnificent in their own right. But, I am going to start with Stourhead since it was the first we visited and our group's favorite of the day. Stourhead's has a superb landscape garden, which was designed and built by Henry Hoare II. After his tour through Europ, he was inspired by the nature paintings of Italian artists. Henry Hoare II goal was to bring art to life at Stourhead through a landscape garden. Here are just a few of the pictures that Naomi and I took of the grounds around Stourhead.

The kitchen garden of Stourhead. One interesting fact is that some of served in the cafe comes from these gardens.

This is the walled flower garden and part of the kitchen garden.

A butterfly that I cannot identify at this moment due to having only North American Field guides.

The green house

This beautiful fern was growing on a rock ledge in the green house.

The entrance into Stouhead mansion.

Stourhead itself.

The beginning of the landscape garden walk.

Now this is one big tree to hug. This tree had the leaves of a tulip popular, however I have never seen one this big before.

This is some type of exotic tree that I saw a few times in England but never got the name of.

Stourhead's parthenon

The view of the Temple of Apollo from the Shades at Stourhead The temple to Apollo (This picture is from the National Trust website the temple was being restored during our trip there)

Just one of the many scenic veiws.

Looking out of the grotto to the stone bridge.

Another view of Stourhead's stone bridge.

The Stone bridge and a view of Stourhead's parthenon.

Well after my walk through the garden I think I got the feel of what Henry Hoare II was trying to achieve. I hope that the pictures gave you a similar feeling as well.