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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Garden Tour: Barnsley House

Visiting Barnsley House in the U.K. is very much like taking a step back in time. Tucked in the Cotswolds and built out of the warm colored stone of the same name, Barnsley House was constructed in 1697. Today it’s most famous in horticultural circles for the gardens David Verey, an architectural historian, and his wife, Rosemary Verey, an internationally known garden designer, created.
The ‘Laburnum Walk’, pictured above, has become an iconic symbol of English garden design and has been pictured and imitated in countless books, magazines, and gardens. The walk is a tunnel of Laburnum trees trained around metal arches. Their soft, yellow, pendulous racemes pleasantly modify the quality of the light penetrating the leaf canopy and the lavender Allium umbels standing at attention on each side of the walk are a soothing compliment. Famous as it is, the walk is sadly only in bloom for about a fortnight every year during the month of May. Of late, the walk has undergone a rejuvenation: everything has been taken out and replanted with new trees to begin again. It will be some time before the walk takes on the look you see above.

A knot garden
Since Rosemary Verey’s death in 2001, the property has changed hands several times until finally becoming an upscale hotel and restaurant. There are 3 ways to visit the garden: Purchase a membership, make reservations at the restaurant, or stay as a guest in the hotel. We opted to try the restaurant and were not at all disappointed! The menu is creative and the dishes well-executed. The kitchen takes advantage of the well-tended vegetable garden near the house incorporating seasonal produce into the menu.

The kitchen garden bordered with miniature box hedges
Part of Barnsley’s charm is its scale: intimate spaces and narrow paths give one a sense of quiet peace, none of it is intimidating, all of it is inviting. It feels much like a garden a gardener can aspire to having at home and so many design aspects can be equally well applied to contemporary gardens. I’ll leave you with a series of images, all of them inviting you to experience Barnsley House first hand. 

Standing outside the famous Laburnum tunnel before it was replanted

Rhubarb and the rhubarb forcing jars so popular in English gardens but all but impossible to find in the U.S.

Scottish Highland Cattle living south of their natural range!

The famous Handkerchief tree, Davidia involucrata 

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Book Review: Goat Song by Brad Kessler

Brad Kessler’s book isn’t a how-to manual on raising dairy goats, rather it’s a meditation upon a life lived alongside these noble yet much maligned creatures (i.e. goats do not chew on cans). Mr. Kessler brings the reader on a journey which begins in Manhattan and ends on a sprawling farm in rural Vermont:

This is the story of our first years with dairy goats. A story about what it’s like to live with animals who directly feed you. I tell of cheese and culture and agriculture, but also of the rediscovery of a pastoral life. Rediscovery because the longer I lived with goats the more connections I saw to a collective human past we’ve since forgotten, her in North America at least.

Kessler’s book touches on all aspects of goatherding, even a short history of the interaction between people and goats around the world and through the ages. He brings us along as his first goat is serviced by a buck–an experience more rattling for Kessler and his wife than for the doe! He describes the first kids born on the farm and then the battle to extract milk from the udders. Cheese is finally made and along the way we learn much more than the day-in, day-out routines of the farm but learn something of ourselves as well. 
Kessler’s writing is lyrical and many times poetic and it wouldn’t surprise me if, like Kessler, upon seeing what was to become his farm, some of you become just as sure as he did that goats might have a place in your lives too:

We drove there late one October afternoon when the trees had shed their leaves. The valley looked promising; narrow and forested with folded hills. An opalescent river tumbled aside the road. The pavement turned to gravel, then we jostled up a rocky drive and the house swung into view: bone white clapboards, mountains all around. We both knew right away.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Garlic Scape Pesto!

Garlic Scapes

I'm re-posting this for 2015, around only once a year, garlic scapes are great in pesto:

June is the month for garlic scapes, the flowering stalk and immature flower head of the garlic plant. Garlic scapes taste very much like garlic cloves but are a little less intense. 

Following is a recipe for garlic scape pesto adapted from  from Ian Knauer's book The Farm :

This recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups of pesto which can be mixed into pasta, rice, quinoa or spread on little toasts or crackers. Of course, you can also eat it with a spoon like I do!

10 garlic scapes
1/3 cup unsalted pistachios (you can use any nut/seed here, we used sunflower seeds)
1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Reserve the oil, salt and pepper. Puree all the other ingredients in a food processor or blender (it helps to chop the scapes before putting them in). With the motor running, slowly begin pouring the oil through the opening and continue until you've poured in all the oil. The mixture will be fairly thick when you're finished. Salt and pepper to taste. The pesto will keep for a week in the fridge or frozen for a month.

To use, prepare a batch of pasta, rice, quinoa etc. and mix the pesto in to taste. Alternatively it can be used as a spread. Delicious!