Live Simply. There's Enough For All

Notes From the Gardener

Richard Digs in the Garden
Richard Digs in the Garden

I'd like to present you with some of our beliefs or philosophies, if you will, so you might understand what motivated Penny and I to quit jobs in industry to operate a small organic herb farm in Upstate New York.

On a wall in our home hangs a gift from a friend who spent hours cross-stitching a piece depicting eight different herbs. In the center of the herbs is a quote from the Book of Genesis stating, "And God said, 'Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed which is upon the face of all the earth. They will be yours for food'". This ancient quote reflects our central belief.

The earth nourishes us. The soil is the cradle of life. All life depends on the earth for its substance, for its continuing existence. The more fertile the soil, the more nutritious the food. Consuming food grown in good soil results in good health. Not only does the earth nurture our bodies, but our minds and souls with its beauty.

Put back what you take out. Since a crop depletes the soil of nutrients, it is our responsibility to replenish the soil so that those who come after us may be sustained. Composting, mulching, green manuring, are all essential to this task.

Reverence for all life. It becomes evident to the organic grower that all forms of life have a purpose and are an integral part of a greater whole. From the deer and rabbits to the birds, bees and insects to the micro-organisms in the soil, who by their very life process nourish the soil, there is a chain of life of which I, too, am a part. To interfere in this chain of life is destructive. (Well, maybe we could make an exception out of the ignoble blackfly.........)

No pesticides or chemicals. As a boy, I was helping my father dust the garden with pesticide. My mother warned me not to breath it or get it on my skin. I wondered why we put it on our food if it was so dangerous. I have never been able to answer that question. Here we rely on a natural balance to prevent insect infestations. This is known as the pest-predator relationship. Pesticides disrupt that relationship.

There's enough for all. Since we rely on pest control by natural predators, we are not alarmed when we lose some young plants to cutworms. We don't run for pesticides when beetles ruin a rosebush. We realize this is the natural order, so we plant more than we need right at the start. There's always loss, but we get what we need and the critters get what they need. There's enough for all of us, people and pests alike.

Live Simply. We have found that if you have food, shelter and love, little else is necessary to living happily. Fancy toys only distract us from the things that really matter. We find that a little bit of money goes a long way when you're not bogged down in the quest for possessions.

Gothic Farmer With His Old Shovel
Gothic Farmer With His Old Shovel

Share knowledge with others. We are always eager to share with others what we have learned over the years. We really enjoy teaching people how to interact successfully with nature. Knowledge is something that must be passed along or it will be lost. We are all teachers, in a way. We all have something to share. We are equally willing to put down our tools and take the time to learn from others.

We walk on this earth for a short time only. We need to make the best of the time that is allotted to us. Tomorrow is not something we can control, for it may not come for us. Sharing our love, our caring, our knowledge today is all that we can hope for.


Cold Frames - Mini Greenhouses for New Seedlings

Notes From the Gardener

Richard Reading The Seed Catalogue
Richard Reading The Seed Catalogue


In this climate of ours where winters linger and springs are short, many gardeners employ cold frames to get a jump on the growing season. Cold frames are mini-greenhouses used to start new seedlings, or protect them from the cold of early spring. In fact, they are sometimes called "poor man's greenhouse" because they are cheap and simply constructed.

A cold frame can be something as simple as a wooden box with a sheet of glass placed over it, but most are constructed of four boards nailed together into a rectangle. To maximize the exposure to the sun, cold frames should be located in a southern exposure, preferably on a slope. Covers can be made of glass or plastic, but must shut tightly to protect young plants from freezing temperatures. Depending on the severity of the cold additional covering might be necessary, such as blankets, tar paper or pine needles.

Cold Frames

If you really want to get a jump on the season you can add a heat source to the cold frame. Here are three suggestions:

1.You can build your cold frame next to your house, adjacent to a cellar window. On very cold nights all that will be necessary to do is open the cellar window to allow heat from the house into the covered cold frame.

2.You can also deliver heat to a cold frame by stringing incandescent light bulbs into the interior. The number of bulbs you use and their wattage depends on the size of the cold frame. I have used 40 watt bulbs and found them sufficient.

3.Another method I have had success with, but requires more labor, is using the natural heat given off by composting manure. First, dig a pit 18" deep where the cold frame is to be located. Then fill this with moistened, fresh stable manure if available. After a few days turn the manure, moisten it if necessary, and cover with a few inches of soil. Locate the cold frame over the compost and heat from below will keep the soil and plants warm.

Cold frames must be watched carefully for cold is not the only danger. On a sunny day the heat in a closed cold frame can shrivel up tender seedlings in a very short time. So you must be prepared to remove or prop open cold frame covers on a sunny day and even provide shade using netting or cheesecloth if necessary.