Gardening

Rough Cut

Monday, September 13, 2010
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Deer

By Paul Epsom   |   Wednesday, August 25, 2010
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Deer in New England can pose many problems got your gardens and, unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. If there is one word that kind of summarizes what you must do when it comes to deer, it's consistency.

Caterpillars

By Paul Epsom   |   Wednesday, August 25, 2010
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furry caterpillar

What's Growing This Weekend Sometimes there are just too many caterpillars in the garden and we need to get rid of a few. There are several strategies you can use to remove caterpillars from your plants.

Sister Noella and her cheese: “The Cheese Nun” in Cambridge

By Germaine Frechette   |   Thursday, August 12, 2010
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Cheese is one of the world’s most beloved foods whether you’re a celebrated French chef or a scruffy American kid on a picnic bench.

But even if you love cheese, you probably don’t detect which type of flowers a cow, sheep or goat consumes or the time of day the milk is produced when you eat it. To do so takes years of experience and focused attention.

Last week Food24fps (a film society dedicated to popularizing classic and arcane movies about food) hosted a screening of Pat Thompson’s 2001 documentary The Cheese Nun: Sister Noella’s Voyage of Discovery. The film was followed by a panel with guest speakers: Rachel Dutton, microbiologist from Harvard Medical School; Heather Paxson, food anthropologist from MIT; and Ihsan Gurdal, owner of Formaggio Kitchen in Cambridge — one of Julia Child’s regular shopping destinations.

Thompson’s film begins in Bethlehem, CT, at the Abbey of Regina Laudis, where we meet Sister Noella Marcellino. The Abbey is located on 400 acres and includes a non-commercial working farm. It is there that Sister Noella develops her skills as a cheese maker, and earns a Fulbright scholarship for a PhD in microbiology (the microbial ecology of cheese ripening) as she travels the French countryside.

We see Sister Noella go from collecting samples of microorganisms from ceilings of ancient cheese caves in the Auvergne to wearing a white lab coat over her habit while examining the tiny microbes in order to intimately understand how they work to flavor the cheese and preserve the milk solids.

Even though productivity and demand for artisanal cheeses have never been higher, the actual number of cheese farmers is greatly reduced. Traditional cheese making is done by hand with wooden paddles and barrels, but stainless steel is slowly replacing them. Temperature regulation has been traditionally done by setting the cheese caves in cellars or mountains, not through air conditioning.

Something more fundamental also is at stake: local food traditions and interest in where our food comes from, how it tastes, and how our food choices affect our environment, health, and economy.

The film ends with Sister Noella assuming the role of guardian of traditional cheese making, a champion for biodiversity, and an inspiration for the growing number of artisanal cheesemakers here in the US. At the Benedictine Abbey in Connecticut, she and her sister alchemists create the raw-milk Bethlehem Cheese with, of course, a little help from their healthy, happy cows.

Most importantly, though, they do not make the cheese as a product to sell. Rather, they create it as sustenance for their own community — as a delicious, complex heritage and legacy.

Germaine Frechette is the guest author for today’s Foodie Blog and part of the WGBH Membership team. Read new WGBH Foodie posts every weekday, where we explore myriad ways and places to experience good food and wine.

Monet's Green Thumb: How Art Grew From A Garden

Friday, June 8, 2012
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Claude Monet's garden in Giverny, France, draws half a million visitors a year, but for the next several months, you won't have to travel farther than the Bronx to get a taste of the artist's green thumb. The New York Botanical Garden has recreated Monet's horticultural work for an exhibit that includes photographs, videos, rare documents and two of the impressionist's paintings.

The New York garden is scaled down to be sure, but in some ways its abundance of flowers and colors makes it even more riotous than the original. You enter by stepping through a facade of Monet's house, with its salmon walls and green shutters, and out into a long corridor of flowers.

"When I walked in here, I thought, 'Wow,' " says 9-year-old Vanessa Calvo, who visited with her family. "I was speechless."

Mary Quintin says it was "like going into a paradise," and another visitor, Karen Rhodes, says she "just got goose bumps — just couldn't take it all in."

All these flowers, more than 150 species, will change as the exhibit runs through three seasons, from May 19 to Oct. 21. They've all been grown from seed by the conservatory's gardening team.

Todd Forrest, head of horticulture at the New York Botanical Garden, says the goal is to capture the essence of Monet's garden, "the incredible, overpowering color and the sort of spirit of natural beauty that infused and informed his paintings. And we hope that visitors to the whole exhibition will leave understanding that Monet would never have been the painter he became if he wasn't the gardener he was."

The Trailblazing Gardener

Monet first rented his house at Giverny in 1883 and lived there until his death in 1926. In that time, he, his children and his stepchildren all worked in the garden. Eventually, he became wealthy enough to buy the house, buy more land and hire five gardeners to help out.

The exhibition also includes two original Monet paintings, both of flowers. One of the paintings, Irises, is darker in color and tone, and was painted during World War I. Film footage shows Monet wandering around his garden in 1915, his hat and huge beard dominating his face and a cigarette dangling from his lips. Also on display is Monet's painting palette, the only one in existence. But his garden was clearly another kind of palette.

Forrest says Monet was constantly tweaking, mixing different plants together for new results. There was even a special section he referred to as the "paint box" beds, where, according to Forrest, "he experimented with color combinations and texture combinations and height combinations kind of off the beaten path before he was happy enough with those combinations to include them in his garden."

According to Forrest, Monet was an early adopter when it came to incorporating wildflowers into his garden, so the conservatory has brilliant blue delphiniums, pink and white foxgloves, roses and poppies alongside varieties that you'd more likely find by the roadside, like mulleins.

'Monet Would Be Green With Envy'

Paul Hayes Tucker, a Monet expert and the exhibition's curator, says he thinks Monet would be pleased with the recreation, but also a little jealous.

"Monet would be green with envy, pink with envy, white with envy over what Todd and his team have been able to do," he says, "both in terms of the abundance of the flowers and their size and their color."

Tucker chose the two Monet paintings that complement the exhibit. He says the gardens, "defined [Monet]. They gave him life. They added kind of spiritual zest to his being and they obviously were absolutely central to his conceptions about art."

Just imagine what Monet's work — or his garden — would have been like without his beloved water lilies. Forrest heads to the outdoor pool where about 50 of his water lilies are just beginning to bloom. Some are the same type of water lily from the same nursery in France where Monet bought his.

The artist had first discovered colorful hybrid water lilies at the 1899 Paris World's Fair. After that, he became so fascinated by them that he painted them over and over.

"The gardens and the paintings were so inextricably wound in Monet's life and his work and his mind," Tucker says, "[that] the gardens themselves become like a living work of art — like a still life."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Find A Farmer's Market

Friday, June 24, 2011
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