Author Archives: Schnookie

About Schnookie

Schnookie (aka Liz) is proud to be one of the founding members of PandoNation. She can be reached at interchangeablepartsblog [at] gmail.com.

Project Hydra Head For Your Earholes: Week 3

Week 3: Knut, “Alter”

Project Hydra Head For Your Earholes Week 3

When we fired this CD up we both had an immediate, involuntary response to each other: “Heavy”. This is an album of remixes of Knut’s previously released works, none of which we are familiar with. So while we can’t assess whether this is a redundant or navel-gazing exercise, we can say that it’s a delightful standalone. It rocked hard, it was easy to digest, and it ranged from head-bangy to contemplative to peppy bleep-bloopy and back again. Unlike last week’s entry, it didn’t spur any kind of deeper thought about its meaning, but also unlike last week’s entry, it’s actually something we’ll probably listen to in our cars.

But Favre was unimpressed.

Favre The Knut Holder

Also tickling the ol’ earholes this week:

OMG. We hit up Bela Fleck’s Banjo Summit in Princeton. We both figured it would be a pleasant evening of bluegrass, a lovely diversion for a Saturday night. Boy, were we wrong. OK, the first act was a pleasant hour of lovely bluegrass. The second act included a number that literally had us both gasping for air out of the sheer kick-assed-ness of an electric banjo with a distortion pedal. Minds were blown. HOLY SHIT. It was as extraordinary and surprising as seeing the Dirty Three at ATP last year. Here’s a clip of the second half of the number; imagine it’s been slowly climbing into your head to look out your eyes (and that you’ve been listening to over an hour of pleasant, lovely, standard banjo music):

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Project Hydra Head For Your Earholes: Week 2

Week 2: “Drawing Voices” by Drawing Voices

Hydra Head Proejct Week 2: Drawing Voices

When we first went through the box of 30 CDs after they showed up in the mail, this was the one I was most intrigued by, based on the little blurb on the label. It said:

The Drawing Voices project was founded by Craig Dongoski in 1999. The underlying aim is to use technology to exploit the hidden sound of mark-making. Through the amplification of marks being made while drawing (or writing), experiments are set up to reveal the potential of those sounds to communicate. This CD includes recordings culled from various Drawing Voices sessions used in collaboration with musician/artist Aaron Turner. In addition to the original source recordings, further layers have been added to the sonic palette, including but not limited to: washes of treated guitar textures, vocal loops, and scattered sonic shavings.

Cool, right? Well, the liner notes had a far more in-depth (read: “almost impenetrably artsy-fartsy”) description from the artist about the aims of the project, but a few sentences in it all started to be a blur to me. I’m not very good at high-concept. Once the CD started playing, though, my concerns about approachability were erased. While this is by no means a rousing, driving-on-an-open-highway, rocking-out kind of piece of music, it’s also not at all the hifalutin’, ow-my-ears experience I was starting to be afraid of. In fact, midway through the second track (“Mark”) Pookie and I started to discuss our feelings about the music and we’d both come to the same conclusion — it sounds like something you’d hear accompanying a video installation at an art museum. You know, the kind of thing where you walk into a small dark gallery off to the side somewhere, with the little built-in benches and carpeted walls, and you watch some weird video just because you’re enjoying not being on your feet for a few minutes, and then suddenly you realize you’ve watched the film three times through because the whole atmosphere is just incredibly cool. Pookie added that more than just taking her back to that film about sparks we saw at the Albright Knox Museum in Buffalo a few years ago, it just made her feel like her mind was being engaged in ways it isn’t usually, the way a good art museum does. Just so you don’t think it’s too hoity, we also felt at times that we were at a planetarium, aquarium, and rain forest installation at a zoo or conservatory. In a good way. Pookie also astutely pointed out that at times it sounded like we were being talked to by the robots from Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword.

In short, this was surprisingly listenable for being so experimental, and while neither of us listens to music to be really intellectual about it all, this was extremely enjoyable for making our minds open up and fire in different ways for 45 minutes. The standout tracks for us were the aforementioned “Mark”; “The Shrine of Wreckless Illumination”, with its snakey guitar bits (it was the most straightforwardly musical of the tracks); and “A Choir Speaks”, with the way it made its elements ebb from sounding organic to inorganic and then back again. (We’d link to some samples of this, but shockingly there aren’t any clips on YouTube. Wait, this wasn’t a wildly popular, commercial project?)

–Schnookie

Also tingling the ol’ earholes this week:

I was digging some chill instrumentals this week at work, like super-duper favorite Alessandro Stefana (seriously, check out his two Guano Padano albums and his solo one, Poste e Telegrafi), and in slightly moodier fare, some Stephen R. Smith.

When we were rocking harder, it was to Big Business’s “Quadruple Single”, which we’d tried ordering as MP3s from their website. The files wouldn’t open on Pookie’s computer, so she sent an email through the site for assistance, and the band’s guitarist replied, emailing her the files directly. So we had to listen to them a lot, since they were sent with such individualized care and attention, right?

Futurewatch! Things we’re excited for:

Hey, remember where we mentioned Alessandro Stefana a few sentences ago? (Because seriously, you should, because everyone should be listening to Guano Padano. It’s so much fun!) Well, we learned this week that he’s got a new project coming out some time in 2013:

There was a Nora Roberts book that came out a few years ago where the hero is a painter. The heroine looks at one of his works of flowers along a roadside in Ireland and says, “When I look at it, I feel like I’m on a roadside in Ireland surrounded by flowers, and isn’t that the point of art?” Needless to say, we’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of laughing at that quote and saying, “No, no it is not the point of art.” (I should add, though, that the book, “Chesapeake Blue”, is fabulous.) This new Alessandro Stefana song makes me feel like I’m eating delicious ice cream in a sunny piazza in Italy, and isn’t that the point of music?

– Pookie

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Old Fashioned Marmalade

When I first got the canning bug way back in September I would spend many productive hours at work staring at pictures of other people’s canned goods on Flickr. (Yes, I’m just that cool.) One of the first recipes I stumbled across that I simply had to make, then, was this one for Minneola Old Fashioned Marmalade. It seemed like just the sort of thing that the newer, better, canning me should be able to offer with afternoon tea and crumpets.

This past weekend I finally had a clear canning schedule, so old fashioned marmalade was a go.

January 7 2012

I’ve never actually eaten marmalade (that I know of), so didn’t think very hard about what kind of process would be involved in making it. I immediately learned one thing: getting all the pith off the peels sucks. I’m sure there are far more efficient processes to do this than what I’d come up with, but that’s of no use to the me on Saturday morning who feared she’d have horrible, hooked claw hands for the rest of her life. The pain was quickly forgotten, though, because this recipe isn’t about olde-tyme marmalade — it’s about old fashioned cocktail marmalade, so I got to use my newest, favorite ingredient.

Figgy Orange Bitters In Action

Homemade bitters! I had three types to choose from, all bottled in the last week or so, and opted for the figgy-orange ones. They are precious and delicious and I jealously guard them, but I’m very pleased to report that this marmalade recipe was good enough to justify using the dear, dear bitters in.

Vanilla Flecks

The whole thing is so simple and also so genius. It’s sort of the standard marmalade, made out of Honeybell tangelos, with an addition of vanilla bean, rye and bitters. It’s like where orange gumdrops meet my favorite cocktail, only something you can spread on toast.

January 8 2012

And I even got to try out one of the fancy German jars Santa brought me for Christmas. I’m just in love with how pretty this whole recipe experience ended up being. And to top it all off, for the three regular Ball mason jars we got along with that one Weck one, Pookie made perhaps her greatest label yet.

Old-Fashioned Marmalade

It’s all almost too lovely to eat. Almost.

[Posted by Schnookie]

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We Are Doing Excellent Learning

We’re not much for New Years resolutions here at Maple Hoo; instead we just try to make the (very easy) promise to ourselves to know more by the end of the year than we did at the beginning. Considering that you’d have to spend the year in a coma to fail to accomplish that, making this your New Years resolution pretty much guarantees that you get to feel all smug and like you accomplished your goals when the next January comes around. That said, 2011 was an exceptionally learn-y year for us. Some things we learned because we had no choice, others we sought out deliberately; in no particular order, here’s an overview of what 2011 taught us.

1. We can turn tragedy into happiness, tree-wise.

Purple And Orange

The new vineyard fence, bedecked for the Halloween season. Maple Hoo is much, much more festive now that those dang trees are gone.

We lost a lot of major trees around our yard this year. The big oak in the backyard, the trees lining the driveway (technically on the neighboring property, but whatevs), and half of the shade maple in the backyard all bit it, for a variety of reasons. We were devastated on each count, and spent some time moping about how beauty would never, ever return to our lives… until we really thought about what the changes meant. No line of trees along the driveway means a place to put a fence, on which we can string some wires for trellising, on which we can hang holiday lights in the fall and winter and grow grapes and gourds in the spring and summer. That? Is awesome! No oak and half the maple canopy means considerably more sunshine in the backyard, in which we can grow more foodstuffs. What kind of foodstuffs do we want more of, but don’t have room for in the front-yard garden? Berries! Sweet! Now that those trees are out of our way, the backyard can become the lush berry farm Maple Hoo has always dreamed of. See? Disaster can become opportunity! Thanks, 2011, for showing us how that works.

2. If you do actually take the time to get off your butt to plant bulbs in the fall, it will pay off in the Spring.

By the time fall rolls around we’re normally so over doing garden shit that we really, really don’t want to be bothered with, like, taking out the dying veggie plants and winterizing the yard and blah blah blah. Even less appealing than those sorts of essential chores is the thought of planting bulbs. Yes, flowers are nice, and yes, daffodils and crocuses are insanely easy flowers to have in your yard. But who wants to bother? It would be so much nicer just to sit inside and watch football. Well, last fall we sternly cracked the whip, and Spring 2011 exploded with massive reward. For a good three or four weeks in early spring our yard was literally the envy of the neighborhood.

Daffodil in Peacock Circle

Bulb planting — do it.

3. If you take the time on the front end of your garden, it’ll pay off.

This is something we’ve been aware of for years, thanks to having gone to the trouble to put in raised beds for our front-yard garden, but 2011 made us even more acutely aware of it. For a variety of reasons, we really got thinking this summer about why our garden achieves whatever success it manages (this is not to suggest we’re, like, kick-ass gardeners. We consider it an outrageously good growing season if 70% of what we planted yields something), and we concluded that the trick is all in the planning. Well-built beds and well covered paths between the beds keep weeds to a minimum. Carefully planned and mapped planting layouts help us know where the good plants are, making weeding easy. Trellising, staking, training and pruning in the early days of baby plants will make grown-up plants fun to work with.

June 28 2011

Look how lush and tidy! If we, say, had decided not to properly stake the tomatoes in the far bed, and, say, had planted pole beans in the middle of the bush-bean bed by accident, this place could be a disaster! Take our word for it.

4. It can be rewarding to expand your garden horizons beyond the fence.

We lost our front-yard tree last summer, and this year we finally stepped outside the confines of our garden proper to put some sunflowers where the black locust had been. And you know what? It rawked.

August 14 2011

5. Canning is awesome.

We have been terrified of canning for years, which is sort of ridiculous considering how much produce we get from our garden and CSA share every summer. Well, this year we finally confronted our fears and took the plunge.

October 3 2011

My god, how we plunged. We had our first canning experience in mid-September and spent the next ten weeks going hog-wild. It seems that no matter how many delicious goodies we cook and put into cans, there are five or six more we want to make. We can’t wait for next year’s fresh fruits and veggies to start coming in so we can start canning like crazy again.

6. We don’t need to grow soup beans but we do need to grow green beans.

One of the staples of our garden has always been soup beans, because it’s a fun and lazy sort of crop. You stick beans in the ground, let them grow, let the plants dry out, then get soup beans out of the dried-out pods. The only problem is that our crops tend to be awfully small, as if the garden gods only want to reward our laziness with about a handful of soup beans. That’s a small batch of soup, yo.

But this past summer we grew green beans for the first time, and they were both bountiful and delicious. And then we discovered the best part — you can pickle and can them! WOO HOO! Screw you, soup beans. There’s a new man in town.

Best.  Label.  Ever.

Have we mentioned how much we love making labels for our canned goods? That’s almost as much fun as the food part of it all.

7. Applique is awesome.

As quilters we’ve been convinced that we only like piecework, and all other types of quilt-crafts suck. Then we got started on Bunny Hill’s “Night Before Christmas” quilt and learned that hand applique is easy, quick, and crazy, crazy fun.

November 27 2011

The finished product is a lot more, um, attached than this.

8. Red Dead Redemption is awesome.

::Happy sigh::

We’re not gamers by any stretch of the imagination, but after enough people said that “Red Dead Redemption” was amazing, and because Boomer loves Westerns, we decided to get it for her on Mother’s Day. And you know what? It was by far the best TV-ish entertainment experience we had all year. We’ve watched tons of sports and movies and current TV shows and old TV shows on DVD, but nothing came close to being as much fun as Red Dead.

9. We can still thoroughly enjoy the Devils even when they suck.

Okay, so that was a lesson that really was contained primarily in 2010, because the Devils suckiness from the past NHL season was pretty much confined to the time before the New Year. (In fact, we were recently informed that they had the third-best record in the league in the 2011 calendar year…) But the fact remains that they didn’t make the playoffs this past spring, for the first time since we’ve been watching hockey. And they started out this season looking a bit… not-much-better. We’ve spent a lot of years with a lot of our free time focused on being fans of a team we thought should be competing for the Stanley Cup. 2011 taught us that even when our team is obviously doing no such thing, we can still really enjoy our fandom.

VE Mats Crunching Numbers

This was the day we realized the numbers weren’t going to work, and the Devils were definitely going to be hitting the links in April. But Victory Euro Mats kept on smiling.

10. Learning to eat more locally-sourced foods can be an extremely fun and rewarding challenge.

When you grow up less than two miles from one of the world’s greatest farm stands, you tend to take local produce for granted. Then when you move to Scottsdale, Arizona and discover that your grocery store stocks literally nothing from anywhere you could drive to in less than a day, you suddenly start to realize how lucky you were back in the heart of farm country. So when we moved back here to Jersey in 2003 we were really excited to get to join an extremely local CSA. For the next seven summers we were happy with our easy-to-find local produce; we were supporting a farm in our neighborhood, watching our veggies grow, and learning all about how our food fits into the world we live in. In 2011, though, we started getting interested in what else our area has to offer. What we’ve found is an incredible bounteous bounty. We have award-winning cheesemakers, abundant fresh eggs, fresh pork, turkeys, and chickens (and beef, if we were so inclined), year-round farmers markets, creative artisanal bakeries, and goodness knows what else. Now, we aren’t going in for hard-core locavorism — we’ve just learned how much fun it is to explore our nearby foodshed.

Oct 22 2011

One cool discovery? Local cranberries! 21 quarts of them, in fact, for a song. Our local foodshed demands a larger chest freezer.

11. It constantly gets easier to find obscure or niche music thanks to the internet.

This is a complete no-brainer, and something everyone has known for years. But 2011 was a year when we finally tapped the wellspring of exciting, new (to us) music. Oh, avant garde metal. How did we live so long without you?

November 28 2011

Seriously. How did we live so long without you?

12. It’s extremely simple to extend the growing season with tasty greens.

Every year we’ve sworn that we really wanted to get our spring harvests started earlier and our fall harvests ending later. In 2011 we actually did something about it. We got a sort of cross between a greenhouse and a coldframe, and used that to get cold-weather lettuces started weeks earlier than we’ve ever done in the past.

March 12 2011

This was one of our favorite photos of the year.

Even more exciting was what happened when we tossed a few packets of seeds into the empty beds after clearing out the tomato plants. We planted a whole bunch of types of winter greens in early September and then did literally nothing to tend to them. They didn’t have a fantastic germination rate, but even so, we ended up with scads of delicious boc choy, baby chard, tatsoi, salad mix, and braising mix. Our last harvest of them was on December 27. December 27!

December 11 2011

Being a wintertime farmer is rad.

13. Shooting in RAW makes our photography so much easier.

We resisted RAW for ages, because it sounded so photo-technical, and if there’s anything we’re really not, it’s tech geeks about our photography. But for some inexplicable reason, Pookie finally decided to figure it out in 2011. It has made us so happy. Gone are the days when we have to worry about white balance! Gone are the days when we struggle with our rudimentary Photoshop skills to correct exposure issues! Gone are the days when it takes us more than 20 seconds to completely process a picture! It’s the lazy photographer’s dream come true!

Before…

December 31 2011

…and after!

So that’s the story of 2011; here’s hoping 2012 will be just as informative, delicious, exciting, and fun!

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Things Are Gonna Start Changing Around Here

Last weekend saw our last substantial harvest of the 2011 garden (there’s still some boc choy growing all happily and greenly, and there was a bit of a catnip haul this morning) — the carrots.

Carrot Haul

That’s six pounds, five ounces of carrots. Not too shabby, considering we almost didn’t get around to planting them!

It was another good year for Maple Hoo, but you know what? Good garden seasons are totally boring now. Every year we have some good crops, and some bad crops, and some “meh, whatever” crops. It’s all super-fun (despite being horribly stressful, but we always forget about the worrying about seeds germinating, and then baby plants not growing fast enough, and then veggies not fruiting enough or fruiting too much, or whatever), but it’s also stuff we don’t ever really think to blog about, because hey — it’s the garden. Doing its garden thing. What can we say? We have short attention spans.

June 28 2011

This was before it grew completely out of control. Seriously. We didn’t do a great job of pruning and training this year.

Fortunately our yard has undergone a lot of tree damage in the last year, so now we’ve got all kinds of new locations for newer, better garden projects!

First up, our side yard. Once upon a time we had a row of hemlocks lining the far side of our driveway; they were technically on the neighbor’s side of the property line. In the last year, though, the trees have all died. And then started leaning precariously on each other. And we had to nag and nag at the bank that owns the abandoned property to do something about them before they fell over on our cars.

November 4 2008

It’s like an enchanted wood! That shields our view of the creepy abandoned house next door…

Finally this summer the bank sent someone out to take care of the trees. They must have been paying the by the stump, though, because the tree people took out the dead trees, as well as a bunch of old-growth shrubs and a few hale, healthy trees while they were at it. They left a decimated, desolate moonscape in their wake.

The New View

This is the photogenic version of the view. Truly, it was a horrorshow.

It took us about 15 seconds to get a contract in place for someone to install a fence, any fence. We didn’t care what it looked like, as long as it didn’t look like the tarps and pond equipment in the neighboring yard.

Its A Lot Of Fence

Ahhh, sweet blocker of the dreadful view.

Now that we have a fence there, we can’t understand why we waited so long. You know what you can do with fences? Hang holiday lights on them!

October 2 2011

Bonus!

Also, the fence has bounded a previously invisible to us swath of yard next to our garage.

Blank Slate

Who even knew this space was here??

Now we have a spot to put in grapevines! And gourds! And a mulched woodland path running from the driveway to the compost bins behind the garage! And rhododendrons and pachysandra along the side of the garage! And daffodils and crocuses! And we’ll put a little bistro table and chairs along the way, to stage potted flowers! Thanks to the devastation of the hemlocks, Maple Hoo is gaining a vineyard. It’s going to be awesome.

Meanwhile, we finally had to admit this summer that our sad old oak tree was more “falling on the garage and smushing the roof” hazard than actual tree.

Oak Tree

So long, old tree.

It’s been a long time since the oak had much of a leafy canopy, but it was quite a shock to see how much more sun the back corner of the yard got as soon as all those branches and enormous trunk were gone. Sun that shines on the weird, ugly rectangle of mulch that used to be the location of the previous owner’s swingset.

Future Home Of The Bramble

We swear, it’s sometimes sunny there.

We’ve been trying for years to let nature take back this rectangle and at least fill it with green stuff, if not actual lawn, but every time we ask our gardener guy to mulch the apple trees in the front yard, he always brings way more mulch than he needs, and puts it on the rectangle. Because, you know, people love to have random swaths of their yards mulched for no obvious reason.

Future Home Of The Bramble

Yeah, that’s attractive. Ish?

In a flash of brilliance, though, Pookie realized that maybe it was a good thing that the gardener and his crew were so over-enthusiastic, because now that there’s some sun there, we have a perfect, undeveloped spot just crying out for a blackberry bramble! One we’ve already planted with daffodils along the front! It’ll have an enchanted little path rambling through it! And have spots for potted flowers and some hellebores! And someday we’ll expand it to embrace Boomer’s beloved little Japanese maple, with a decorative bridge and a river of squill and it’ll be awesome!

Finally, there was the hugely tragic tree damage.

Shade Tree

Oh, beloved maple tree…

We had a massive freak snowstorm in October, before the titular maple of Maple Hoo had a chance to drop its leaves. Snow + lots of leaves = more weight than the branches can bear.

The Devastation

At least nothing landed on the house.

The maple ended up losing well over half of its canopy, and is likely not to be too much longer for this world. We rejected the tree guy’s recommendation to cut it down now, but it’s time for us to start planning for the future, and take advantage of the reduction of shade canopy. See all that yard with fallen branches on it up there? If you squint at it, you can just about see all the blueberries we’re going to fill the backyard with. Blueberries! Gazillions of them!

Blueberries

We’re talking about someday harvesting TWO handfuls of these bad boys.

Thanks to the maple mayhem of Snowtober, Maple Hoo (now with less maple) is going to become a full-fledged berry farm! Come spring, we’ll be planting blueberries, golden raspberries, gooseberries, currants, loganberries, marionberries, boysenberries, not to mention more red raspberries and, of course, the blackberries in the bramble. It’s going to be an unstoppable berry machine! It’s so great to have new shiny objects to get excited about.

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Has It Been A Year Already? Again?

August 22 might seem like a normal, random day for you, but for us it’s always a bit of a holiday. Why? Because August 22 is the 365th day of our Project 365s. For three years now we’ve started on August 23 and taken a photograph every single day for the full year; the date was a random choice — we launched our first year of photos on the start of our summer vacation in 2008, after much dithering about whether we were up to the challenge. Well, it turns out we’ve been three times up to the challenge, and we’re especially pleased with how our Project 365:III turned out. What’s especially fun about a Project 365 is that for us it’s not really about taking great photos every day, and this year we struck a satisfying balance between choosing the “best” or the most documentary photo of the day. Some of the pictures suck, some of them don’t (in our humble opinions), but they all tell the story of of our last year. Here, in no particular order, are our favorites, whether it’s because we thought the pictures themselves were awesome, or whether they remind us of a perfect day, a great moment, or just a feeling:

September 27 2010

September 27 2010

September 12 2010

September 12 2010

October 12 2010

October 12 2010

May 3 2011

May 3 2011

March 28 2011

March 28 2011

April 23 2011

April 23 2011

April 9 2011

April 9 2011

November 5 2010

November 5 2010

September 17 2010

September 17 2010

November 24 2010

November 24 2010

October 20 2010

October 20 2010

December 8 2010

December 8 2010

June 7 2011

June 7 2011

November 6 2010

November 6 2010

June 25 2011

June 25 2011

November 09 2010

November 9 2010

December 27 2010

December 27 2010

The whole set is on Flickr, here.

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Kids — They Grow Up So Fast

So it seems like just yesterday we were wringing our hands in a state of constant parental worry about whether our tomato plants were going to survive. First we forgot to plant them altogether, so they got a late start that basically assured they’d never get into an Ivy League school. Then we planted them outside immediately before an unseasonably cold and rainy stretch, making it impossible for them to grow big enough to make a varsity sports team. Then it got unseasonably hot and dry, so our little plants got limp and lank and so unattractive that they would never be able to get a good job. It was horrible. We reached our nadir a few weeks ago, basically admitting to each other that we suspected this year’s garden was going to be one big, huge bust. Why couldn’t it be more like last year’s garden? Or the one before that? Those were great gardens, with big crops that could make a parent proud. What was wrong with this one? Was it a changeling?

But the great thing about gardening is that if you have sun and water, it’s really hard to screw up. Nature wants things to grow, yo. And just after we hit rock bottom we stepped outside, took a gander at the beds, and realized that our garden had turned a corner. Our babies were growing up. Our tomatoes, every last one, were sporting wee little green fruits. Here’s a family portrait of our children:

Family Portrait

We have a wide array of shapes and sizes growing out there — from left to right, top to bottom we’re looking at Red Pears, Tiny Tim, Cherokee Purple, Brown Betty, Rose de Berne, Blondkopfchen, Rosso Sicilian, Lemon Drop, German Green, Lemon Drop again, Fox Cherry, and Isis Candy Shop. The only one we’ve grown before is the Fox (an enormous and almost comically productive [and scrumptious] cherry tomato that was last year’s biggest hit), so we’re really excited about having a whole rainbow of tomato options. Now that they’re all fruiting up, it’s fair to say that while they might not be the most perfect plants ever (we have a bit of a bacterial speck issue, but then, we always do), we love them just the way they are.

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