It’s Another Beautiful Day in the Catskills

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I’m committed to growing comfrey, providing an easily-applied topical balm for relief from a myriad of skin conditions and subdermal inflammation, i.e., Trigger Finger symptoms, arthritis, bug bites, bee stings, sunburn, broken bones, sprains, and acne.

I’m as committed, too, to growing the best cherry tomatoes in the local area. I’ve planted nearly 100 cherry tomato plants, consisting of ten different varieties of this particular type of sweet tomato… SunGold, Esterina, Black Cherry, Supersweet 100 and several more. Gold, red, yellow, white, black and blue colors: a veritable rainbow of fresh colors that encourage you to pick and eat as you walk the beds.

I depend on the Catskills environment. We have a small farm, nearly eight acres which, truth be told, can grow a LOT of cherry tomatoes and comfrey. I’m using very little of our available land but it keeps me busy, ensuring the tomatoes are pruned, the comfrey harvested and dried and that I have a sufficient water supply. Tomatoes are notoriously thirsty plants.

Although we have a natural spring feeding our gardens, I knew that the addition of 100 tomato plants would be a literal drain on the available water supply. My engineering background came into good use by building a drip system for the tomatoes (12 beds, 2’ x 12’) and comfrey (4 beds, 4’ x 12’) - and, to deter the literal ‘drain’ on our active, natural water supply, powered by the water being stored in three 55-gallon drums.

When my wife objected to setting the barrels in the field near the raised beds as being visually unpleasant, I grumbled but then realized there was a serious advantage of locating the barrels ‘out of sight, out of mind’: The Catskills are NOT flat by any stretch of the imagination: small streams are everywhere and running at different inclines, presenting particular issues to control the water. In my former position as the DBA for the Watershed Agricultural Council, I learned that USDA farm planners were constantly challenged to keep the ‘clean water clean'.

When I stepped back and looked at the issue objectively, I realized that relocating the barrels ‘out of sight, out of mind’, I’d be gaining six additional feet of pressure to power the gravity-fed system by placing the barrel stand higher up the pasture and behind a large honeysuckle bush. A big benefit with no cost (other than 120' of garden hose to bring the water from the barrels down to the raised beds).

It was particularly gratifying that it worked the first time I opened the valve for the first time. So now instead of watering plants manually (and probably conveying tomato blight by ‘bouncing’ the water onto the leaves) for an hour or two twice a week, I open up a valve to fill the barrels (30 minutes) and then open another valve to water the plants (1.5 hours) evenly and cleanly. A great saving of time and an assurance that the water is now being delivered in a responsible, thorough manner to each individual comfrey and cherry tomato plant.

This is clean, drinkable water direct from the earth, gathered with virtually no carbon footprint. This is what the comfrey and tomatoes drink, along with the rain from our clean, pure Catskills air.

In my last blog, I was still uncertain whether my new comfrey plants would even germinate. I’m happy to report that virtually all of the 70 new comfrey plants have germinated - and showing their rich, green leaves. They are now actively being transplanted to their final growing location.

The initial tomato flowers are now appearing, I’ve had four comfrey harvests this year already - and we’re currently shipping Catskills Comfrey liniment with 2017 harvested material.

It's Summertime now with warm, breezy days - and cooler nights. The water we drink is as pure as any you can find in the world. The air is clean, the night skies are, well, dark - and the Big Dipper is perfectly framed in the upstairs skylight above the bed for our Airbnb guests. The sun shines, the rain falls lightly and our spring flows 24/7/365. My wife and I are both still healthy and laughing at 70.

Yes, it’s another beautiful day in the Catskills.

Danielle Gaebel