Gardening Tips: Thanksgiving | Columnists


I wrote this column 15 years ago while still working for Cornell Cooperative Extension of Greene County as an agriculture officer. At that time, I had no intention of becoming a “snowbird” spending my winters in Florida. Now I can’t imagine doing anything else every winter. The harsh New York winters have simply been too much for me to bear for the past few years. I no longer have the strength or the energy to cut, split and stack the five or six cords of firewood I used to burn each winter. I miss my Florida family more each season that I’m away from them. I mention seeing my first grandson Will on his first birthday below and tomorrow we will be celebrating his 16th birthday. The years have passed almost imperceptibly, except when, on rare occasions, I happen to glance in a mirror and wonder “who is this old man staring at me?”

Thanksgiving might be my favorite holiday and not just because I love eating turkey so much! It occurs at a time of year when winter has not really set in. The weather can be awful but for the past few years the weather has been ok and I think that trend will continue. Yes, there’s often a bit of travel associated with going to Grandma’s and back, but the trip isn’t complicated by all the hype that happens about a month later. It’s a “religiously neutral” holiday that takes away some of the stress associated with the “political correctness” controversy that we seem to have to deal with every winter. I don’t know anyone who’s offended by the “Happy Thanksgiving” wish. (Fifteen years later, I’m sorry to report that there are also people who are “offended” by this party. The older I get, the more annoyed I am by people who take offense, when there is no (It’s not meant to offend. I consider this trait the most pressing threat to society today.)

Gardening can often be done on Thanksgiving if the weather is nice. If I was home this year, I would harvest Brussels sprouts from my garden and maybe carrots and parsnips. I just picked my first batch of sprouts last weekend, after the deer was kind enough to eat all the leaves from the stems, leaving the sprouts for me! Most of us procrastinators haven’t finished cleaning up our yard yet, and the four-day vacation allows us to clean up all the summer debris and maybe even till the ground. This is the perfect time to plow in organic matter like compost, peat moss, manure, or even fallen maple leaves from the lawn. It’s also a good time to take care of mechanical tools such as lawn mowers, snow blowers, and other items that will soon be needed or that will need to be winterized before next spring. Winter squash, cabbage, sweet potatoes and turnips are the most popular fall crops at this time of year when they are consumed the most, as are apples, pears, various types of ciders ingredients and, of course, the cranberry sauce! It’s cold enough outside to really enjoy the warmth of an oven baking bread or roasting a turkey.

Fall is hunting season in these mountains and some families have traditionally set aside the day after Thanksgiving to hunt deer, squirrel, grouse or duck. I don’t know too many people who still hunt squirrels but I do know that in a few weeks when the feeders are raided many people would not mind reducing their local squirrel populations! I used to eat squirrels but gave up when my kids accused me of cooking ‘rats’ which they refused to even consider tasting! I still hunt turkeys and maintain that the wild turkey is far superior in taste, texture and healthiness to the domestic variety that most families will eat. I also like to eat venison, and the long holiday weekend gives families living some distance away an excuse to get together to hunt white-tailed deer. I know several families of people who moved here from New Jersey and Long Island whose only annual reunion revolves around a Thanksgiving feast and a hunt.

I’ll be in Florida this Thanksgiving because that’s where my kids live and this new “Big Bob” will also be celebrating Baby Will’s first birthday. I really hope that in a few years the kids will travel up north to see me for those vacations when the babies are older. Thanksgiving in Florida just isn’t the same as here.

Contact Bob at [email protected]

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