Beekeeping classes start soon in #RI

honey bee 1 new cropIt’s time to sign up for beekeeping classes in Rhode Island, and the Rhode Island Beekeepers Association is offering four course options for convenience.

The classes are scheduled to meet at Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island. Betty Mencucci will lead classes at Rhode Island College on Friday mornings from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Feb. 7, 14, 21, 28, and Mar. 7. She will offer another set of classes on Saturday mornings Feb 8, 15, 22, March 1, 8.

Beekeeper Evelyn Vose will lead classes at URI’s East Farm on Thursday nights from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Feb. 6, 13, 20, 27, Mar. 13. She will offer another course at URI on Saturday mornings from 9 to 11 a.m. on Feb 8, 15, 22, March 1, 8.

The course will cover everything the beginning beekeeper needs to know. Subjects will include getting started, the honeybee life cycle, choosing an apiary site, buying bees and equipment, and more. A variety of beekeeping equipment will be displayed and demonstrated each week.

The cost for the five-week course is $65 per person. It includes all course materials, a textbook and membership dues in the Rhode Island Beekeepers Association through April 1, 2015. Additional family members at the same address may attend for $10 each. (The entire family will be a member of the organization but will receive only one textbook and one set of handouts). Advance registration is required. To enroll, print out the 2014 registration form and send with your check payable to: RI Beekeepers Association , PO Box 64, Greenville, RI 02828.

For more information, call Betty Mencucci at 401-568-8449 or email bmencucci@cox.net

Beautiful: ‘Weeds and Wildflowers in Winter’

weeds in winter cover croppedThe first snow of the season fell on Massachusetts, eastern Connecticut and Rhode Island this morning. It sent many gold finches, tufted, titmice , nuthatches and other birds to the feeders before dawn.

In the withered perennial garden, there were more birds – mostly finches – feasting on the seeds of cultured plants and weeds left standing. High winds had blown seeds of goldenrod, beebalm, and Queen Anne’s Lace to the ground, and the birds scooped them up.

We encourage native “weeds” to find their way into the garden to feed the critters that depend on them.

We also love to look at the plants after they have withered and stand in contrast to winter’s snow.

We appreciate them even more since receiving a copy of Weeds and Wildflowers in Winter by Lauren Brown, a beautiful and helpful guide for plant lovers.

Her pen-and-ink drawings are lovely, and her text is succinct.

For anyone who lives and walks in the Northeast, Weeds and Wildflowers in Winter would be a perfect holiday gift.

If you’d like to learn how to sketch wildflowers, check out the wonderful blog, Let’s Paint Nature.

NY parents sue summer camp for $41.75 million after tick bite

The parents of a New York girl are suing a Connecticut summer camp for $41.75 million after, they allege, their daughter was bitten by a tick and contracted Lyme disease.

ticks

The federal lawsuit names YMCA Camp Mohawk in Litchfield, CT. It was filed filed by attorney Antonio Ponvert III on behalf of Ariana Sierzputowski and her parents, Abby Horowitz and Joseph Sierzputowski.

For the whole story as it appeared in The Courant, click here.

Photo courtesy lymediseaseassociation.org

Garden alert: The Year of the Cucumber is coming

??????????????????????What a year for cucumbers in southern New England! In southern Rhode Island and western Massachusetts gardens, cukes were abundant in 2013.

Now, the National Garden Bureau has declared 2014 as the Year of the Cucumber. (The petunia will be the annual of the year and the Echinacea will be perennial of the year.)

The cucumber is one of the top five most popular garden vegetables. Cucumbers are very adaptable. They have been grown in space and a mile underground in a nickel mine. They are very easy to grow from seed, and deserve praise and a place in the New England garden.

Boothby BlondThe cucumber is native to India, where it has been grown for almost 3,000 years. Excavation at the Spirit Cave site on the Burma-Thailand frontier in 1970 uncovered seeds of cucumbers, beans, and water chestnuts that, according to radiocarbon dating, had been consumed in 9750 B.C.

Although the first wild cucumbers have never been fully identified, evidence seems to point to C. hardwickii, an unappetizingly small and very bitter native of the Himalayas, according to the Garden Bureau.. Bitterness, a plague to cucumber lovers throughout the ages, seems to be a natural protective device derived from its wild ancestors. That bitterness comes from cucurbitacins, a terpene derivative, that repels certain insects as well as some humans.

In ancient Egpyt, cucumbers were cultivated as a common food and the populace savored them dipped in brine. They also drank “cucumber water” as a weak liquor. National Garden Bureau research found one Egyptian “recipe” directed the cutting of a hole in the ripe fruit, then the stirring of the insides with a stick. The hole was then plugged and the fruit buried in the earth for several days. When dug up, “the pulp converted to an agreeable liquid.”

On the northern shores of the Mediterranean, the Greeks also cultivated cucumbers, calling them sikous (sikua, in modern Greek). However, the vegetable was not one of their favorite foods. Perhaps they viewed the cucumber as primarily water – 96% of it is. Yet it was the cucumber’s water retentive ability that earned it an undisputed reputation for never losing its cool. Early caravans often carried supplies of cucumbers to quench their thirst on long journeys.

Farther west, the Romans served cucumbers raw or boiled with oil, vinegar and honey. The Emperor Tiberius commanded cukes on his table every day. His gardeners forced hothouse cucumbers in portable containers which they moved from place to place to follow the sunlight to provide out of season for the Royal household.

Later, during the 1st Century, A.D., Roman gardeners fashioned cucumber frames and covered them with glazed, translucent panes of silicates. The mica pans diffused light and the Romans used them as we now use cold frames.

The cucumber appeared in England during the reign of Henry VIII when Catherine of Aragon demanded them for her Spanish salads. By the time Elizabeth I ascended the English throne, five distinct varieties were grown: Common, Turkish, Adder, Pear and Spanish.

Cucumbers arrived in America with Columbus. He grew them in an experimental garden in 1493. In 1539, De Soto found the cucumbers grown in Florida better than those grown in Spain. By 1806 eight varieties of cucumbers would be found growing in America’s colonial gardens.

Physicians of the 17th Century prescribed placing fever patients on a bed of cucumbers so they would become “cool, as a cucumber.” John Gerard wrote in The Herbal that cucumbers eaten three times a day in “otemeal porridge,” would heal red noses and pimples of the face. He cautioned housewives, “those cucumbers must be chosen which are green…for when they be ripe and yellow, they be unfit to be eaten.” Dr. Samuel Johnson was reviled by cucumbers and wrote ”they should be well sliced, and dressed with pepper and vinegar, then thrown out…”

The most famous pickled cucumber of the 19th Century was the one first preserved by H.J. Heinz of Pittsburgh. Heinz began bottling pickles in 1870 as a tasty addition to the monotonous diet of meat and potatoes eaten by most Americans. His idea was not only an instant success, it also spurred interest in cucumber hybridization.

In recent history, cucumbers were grown in space by Russian cosmonauts aboard Salut-7 during a 211 day endurance flight. Cucumbers have been cultivated successfully nearly one mile beneath the earth’s surface in an Ontario nickel mine during a food project sponsored by the Canadian government.

Proving its adaptability to many climates and cultures from native India to space flights, the cucumber grows and produces fruit in many varying conditions. Chosen by the National Garden Bureau for special recognition in 2014, the cucumber is easily grown by beginning and expert gardeners.

In my garden this year, Mexican gherkins and a variety called Boothby’s Blonde were especially productive.

Boston Marathon Daffodils project needs help

Marathon Daffodils is a collaboration of nonprofit organizations, gardeners, cities and towns, organizations, businesses, and citizens interested in preserving the spirit of the Boston Marathon and Boston Strong, while embracing the tradition of celebrating the arrival of spring to Boston.

MarathonDaffodilsLogowithBlueFontSome of Massachusetts’ top horticultural organizations, partnering with communities and volunteers, plan to plant daffodils along the 26.5 mile Boston Marathon route, to create a new event “Marathon Daffodils.”  Tower Hill Botanic Garden, The Massachusetts Horticultural Society, New England Wildflower Society, The Garden Club Federation, The Town of Brookline Parks, The Charles River Conservancy, the Master Gardeners and other groups have agreed to collaborate.

The goal is to raise $1,000 per mile for a total of $26,500 from Hopkinton to Boston.

 “We want to do something to lift the spirits of the community, in support of Boston Marathon 2014 and Boston Strong,” said Diane Valle, volunteer and organizer.

 “We are excited to participate,” said Kathy Abbott, Executive Director of Tower Hill Botanic Garden, “because we believe Marathon Daffodils represent Spring and rebirth. This is a great community building opportunity.”

Plans include outreach to supporters and volunteers from young to old; and novices to Master Gardeners; to plant daffodils. “Marathon Daffodil” donations are welcome, sent to The Cooperative Bank, 201 Main Street, Charlestown, MA 02129. Or give at gofundme.com. Without contributions this project will not be possible.

“With your support, the planting of daffodils is to commence in October we hope you do what you can to rally the private homeowners to follow our lead and plant daffodils,” said Kathy Thomas, former Garden Club Federation president and horticultural activist.

A weekend for wildflowers and Harvestival

beach roses and daisiesIf you love wildflowers, this is the perfect time to saunter along southern New England’s coast. Inland in Massachusetts, Tower Hill Botanic Garden is celebrating Harvestival in its gardens and orchard.

beach rose croppedMontauk daisies, coastal goldenrod, and asters are among autumn’s wildflower display along the beaches of Cape Cod and Rhode Island this week. Some beach roses (pictured here) are still in blossom, and there is a bumper crop of rose hips to pick for vitamin-rich jelly. It may be a little late for beach plums, but Penny, my Brittany, and I are going to try to find some today.

One of the most beautiful displays of wild Montauk daisies is on the western side of the  Quonochontaug Breachway in Charlestown, RI.

Poison ivy, with leaves in every shade of red, is spectacular along the beaches and back roads now.

glasswort croppedIn the salt marshes, delicious glasswort (pictured at left) is changing from chartreuse to brilliant magenta now.

If cultivated gardens and orchards are more appealing to you, visit Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA during the three-day Columbus Day holiday. Harvestival, a family event, features kids activities, tours and more. Our favorite activity is the tour of the apple orchard which has the largest collection of heirloom apples in New England. There are opportunities to taste various varieties, and then purchase them.

Tower Hill will be open Saturday through Monday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admitance for non-member adults is $12, $9 for elders, and $7 for children between 6 and 18. Youngsters under 6 are admitted for free.

RI’s Giant Pumpkin Championship Oct. 12

The 20th annual Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Championship returns Saturday, Oct. 12 at Frerichs Farm in Warren, RI. Unloading of the biggest pumpkins grown in the area will begin at 9:30 a.m. The weigh-off will begin at 12 p.m., and the winning pumpkin will be weighed at approximately 3 p.m. In case of rain, the championship will take place on Sunday, Oct.13.

Refreshments will be available, a “pumpkin coach” will shuttle people around, and corn and hay bale mazes will challenge adults and children alike. The ever-popular “pumpkin drop” will highlight the start of the event. There will be pumpkin-painting booths for the kids and numerous tents with seasonal arts and crafts, gifts, and products available for purchase. It is recommended that the public bring lawn chairs or blankets on which to sit during the weigh-off.

The event is sponsored by the Southern New England Giant Pumpkin Growers Association, the Department of Environmental Management’s Division of Agriculture, and Frerichs Farm and Greenhouses to determine the largest pumpkin grown in the area each year and to crown an annual local champion. This is the 20th consecutive year that the contest has been held.

At last year’s contest, Ron Wallace of Greene, RI had the largest Rhode Island-grown pumpkin weighing in at 1,872 pounds. Ron also grew the world-record pumpkin in 2012 weighing in at 2,009 pounds; this pumpkin was shown at the Topsfield Fair in Massachusetts. Wallace’s world-record pumpkin was the first pumpkin every grown in the world that topped one ton.

Frerichs Farm charges a $5 parking fee for the event. Those interested in competing in this year’s event or receiving additional information should contact Barbara Frerichs at (401) 245-8245. In case of rain, please call Frerichs Farm to confirm the date of the event.

Directions to Frerichs Farm from Providence or Fall River: Take Route 195 to the Route 136, Warren/Newport Exit (this is Exit 2 in Massachusetts). Follow Route 136 South across Route 6 for two miles to Schoolhouse Road on the left. Take Schoolhouse Road for one mile to Kinnicutt Avenue (right at the fork) and proceed to Frerichs Farm on the right.

Directions to Frerichs Farm from the Mount Hope Bridge: Take Route 136 North to Route 103/Child Street on the right. Follow Child Street one mile to Kinnicutt Avenue on the left and follow to Frerichs Farm on the left.