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NATURE’S TURN: Woodpeckers eat winterberries, worms eat cabbages, we graze on greens and sunflower seeds

November 4 -17, 2019 Mount Washington — There, to the left, 20 feet above the ground, see a great bird with broad black wings folding into a V for landing, […]

November 4 -17, 2019

Mount Washington — There, to the left, 20 feet above the ground, see a great bird with broad black wings folding into a V for landing, as a woodpecker would, vertically on the trunk of a tree. Yes, it is the pileated woodpecker! But the magnificent bird, a foot and a half tall with prominent, white-striped head flashing its electric crimson crest, is now in position to tap on a utility pole! I moan, “Not that creosoted pole!” Then, he turns his head, pushes off and flies from that roadside eyesore at the edge of my garden to the nearest crossbeam of a trellis very close to a winterberry bush laden with crimson fruit. Captivated, I continue to observe the bird’s movements from a second-storey window. He flies to the other side of the bush where another crossbeam runs through berry-laden branches of the Ilex verticillata. This oversized berry eater has found a way to sit and feed amidst the delicate twigs laden with fruit. Having arrived at his place at the dinner table, he bobs and plucks. I am surprised when he flies off after, what seems to me, too small a meal. I wanted more time with my distinguished neighbor.

Turtle Tree Seed Asian Greens mix, thriving through frosts. Oct. 29, 2019. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Swept up in the charm this guest has brought to the day, I climb down from my upstairs lookout, pick up a basket and head to what I imagine is the best lettuce bed in the world. Planted at the beginning of September, the colorful, flavorful combination of Asian greens and lettuces is a cutting garden that keeps growing – even through 30- to 32-degree nights. Turtle Tree Biodynamic Seeds, in nearby Copake, New York, has assembled my favorites in its Red Lettuce mix and Asian Greens mix. The latter includes tender, shiny, deep green Tatsoi, Pac Choi, Kyona Mizuna, Komatsuna, Giant Red and Rouge Metis mustards. I plan to cover the bed with season extension fabric when the temperature drops below 30 degrees.

Ghoulish artifact of cross-striped cabbage worm damage. Notice worms and scat, right. Oct. 21, 2019. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Despite frosts, voracious cabbage worms, both the green imported cabbage worm and southern cross-striped cabbage worm, continue to feed on my red cabbages, collards and kales. When possible, I closely examine the plants twice a day, from the tiny leaves in the center to the large outer leaves. I invariably find a few large and small individuals. When missed for a day or two, the plants suffer serious damage. Grasshopper holes are also evident. I feel challenged to consider and implement new strategies in 2020.

Op art, edible design. Oct. 30, 2019. Photo: Judy Isacoff

Sunflowers, so sensational in their yellow-petaled prime, continue to possess a kinesthetic quality when ripe with plump grey and black seeds encircled by the flame-like remains of the flower’s sepals – lioness of a flower.

Resources and

Call to action

Massachusetts residents are urged to follow-through in support of pesticide containment legislation described in a recent issue of Nature’s Turn and re-emphasized here thanks to the Berkshire Environmental Action Team.

Write to your representative and senator requesting their vote for this legislation. This is especially important if you are in Smitty’s district, because he chairs the Environment Natural Resources and Agriculture committee. Sample letters drafted by BEAT follow:

Letter to Pignatelli

Letter to other legislators (including Sen. Hinds)


The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.

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From the kitchen of Kisti Ornellas and Francesco Gallo

A recipe for Garden Muffins from the kitchen of Kisti Ornellas and Francesco Gallo.

The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.