Wednesday, November 28, 2012

A Southern Gardener Visits New England


Fall, if you can avoid hurricanes, is a perfect time to travel to the New England states.  My husband and I traveled there for our first trip in mid-October, fortunately for us the week before Hurricane Sandy struck, and we enjoyed the beautiful leaves, perfect fall weather, and absence of crowds of tourists.  The tiny beach communities, which tourists packed a couple of months earlier, were pleasantly empty, but the businesses had not yet closed for the winter.  Of course, it was too cold to go to the beach, but who wants to go to a New England beach when we have beautiful ones at home?

During my trip, I sought out farms and gardens, and was again fascinated, as I was during my trips to the Midwest, to see corn, tomatoes, beets, and lettuce sharing space in a farmers market where all the crops were locally grown.  The farmers did confess that they grew the tomatoes in greenhouses. 
Boston Public Market


In Boston, in the spaces among skyscrapers and 400-year-old churches, farmers brought beautiful potatoes, lettuce, spinach, and apples for sale to city residents; I said, apologetically, that I was a tourist without a home or a kitchen and couldn’t buy anything, although I wished I could.  Free range eggs were $7 a dozen, but organic meat cost about the same it does in SC.  Some of the farmers confessed that they were looking forward to the end of the season when the work would end for a time; farmers can work year-round in our mild climate. 

A variety of products at the Boston Public Market
Garden in the courtyard at theBoston Public Library

In Maine, we visited Wolfe's Neck Farm in Freeport.  As we drove up, we saw a farmer unsuccessfully trying to get a recalcitrant pig back into his quarters; he failed, and the pig later greeted us, wagged his tail like a dog, and scratched his back on picnic tables and benches.


We saw a pen of cranky chickens in the barn; they were nearly silent instead of constantly clucking.  Most of them were molting, or shedding their feathers, and that process irritates chickens.  They had access to the outdoors, but only a few seemed interested in venturing outside.  Perhaps they knew that 6-8 months of snow and ice would come soon, and they were mad.
Gardens at Wolfe's Neck Farm

Although frost had nipped some of the tenderest plants in some places, fall-blooming flowers such as salvias, dahlias and asters shone among the brilliantly colored fall leaves.  We saw flower gardens in any place I could peek among fence slats to see the garden.  I especially enjoyed the gardens, and touring the house at the House of the Seven Gables in Salem, Massachusetts, inspiration for the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel of the same name.
Gardens at the House of the Seven Gables, Salem, Massachusetts

Although I complain about my clay, and I loved the beautiful black soil in New England, I am glad I do not have to contend with the rocky soil of New England.  Rocks cover the coastline and beaches, and farmers in New England pick more rocks out of the soil every spring as the frost heaves them out over the winter.  I look on my relatively rock-free soil with new appreciation, even if I have to recreate the topsoil that long ago washed away while the land was farmed for cotton.
Gardens at John Adams and John Quincy Adams home site in Quincy, Massachusetts

I enjoyed my trip, but I am glad to be home. It’s nice to know that most of our winter weather is as lovely as their fall weather.  I would like to see a New England spring.  I imagine that April and May, still too cool for the beach crowds but perfect for spring flowers, would be beautiful, as long as all the snow was gone.  

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