Author Archive | Brian Cruey

SURE-FIRE GRILLING

Take the Party (and the Heat) Outside

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My mom has been telling me since I was old enough to complain (which was pretty much at birth) that when she was growing up, no one had air conditioning. People went outside and did stuff as a family and didn’t spend their summer days in the climate-controlled comforts of their living rooms, watching television.

Well, like a lot of people in the Berkshires, my house doesn’t have AC. Ironically, my mom refuses to visit me in the summer. “It’s too hot,” she says, as she turns on “CSI: Miami, New York, Las Vegas.”

I can’t argue with her. It does get hot, especially in the kitchen and, except for maybe frying up an egg in the morning I refuse to turn on the oven or stove in the summer. That means that my culinary attentions shift from baked goods and oven roasting strictly to the open flame of the grill. And, with a vegetable garden giving me delicious, fresh, plentiful produce, I have learned that you can grill just about anything—and it’s delicious.

When it comes to grilling vegetables, there are a number of techniques at your disposal. Lets start with the basics: olive oil, salt and pepper.… Read the rest

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The Indoor Herb Garden

(for the Houseplant Impaired)

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Story and photo by Brian Cruey, Berkshire Botanical Garden

I don’t know what is wrong with me. In the summer, my gardens are lush, green and, for the most part, healthy. It’s not effortless—I definitely put a lot of time and energy into the maintenance and care of my plants—but without being immodest I would say that I’m a decent gardener.

However, when I try to translate those skills into growing anything indoors, I’m less of a decent gardener and more of a crazed serial killer. So many people try to give me houseplants or ask me to overwinter something for them and I have to politely decline.

“You don’t understand,” I tell them. “If you ever want to see this plant alive again, run away as fast as you can.”

Of course, I know this is foolish. There is no such thing as a “green thumb” or cursed gardeners. Gardening is a science and plants are living things that have certain environmental needs and food requirements to survive. When it comes down to it, I’m just doing something wrong. So, this year I am going to try again.

What I really want are fresh herbs. Now that the weather is cold, my oven is on all the time and, when it comes to cooking, there is no substitute for homegrown herbs.… Read the rest

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Staying Busy as a Bee

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Aspiring beekeepers learn how to tend a beehive.

Photos by Brian Cruey, Berkshire Botanical Garden

I always come to the fall season with mixed emotions. Part of me simply can’t believe summer is gone—as always, it passes by too quickly and I desperately cling to those dwindling daylight hours, refusing to admit that it’s over. On the other hand, I’m ready for a break from weeding and mowing, and a truce in the ongoing war I have with the chipmunks in my vegetable garden.

RIP, fresh summer salads straight from the garden! But welcome back, baked goods and oven-cooked meals that are nearly impossible to make during the heat of summer.

Time to take one last kayak on the lake—but it’s also time to make that first fire in the fireplace and drink a hot drink while curled up under a blanket.

It is a confusing time for me, obviously. However, to aid my seasonal moodiness, I always try to keep my summer garden in mind during these cool (and soon-to-be downright cold) months.

Fall and winter are perfect times to hone our skills as gardeners and make the next growing season better than ever. There is always room for improvement and gardening, like most things, is an evolving craft that relies not only on time-honored traditions but also new technologies that are constantly coming to market.… Read the rest

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Rethinking the Potting Shed

Photos by Brian Cruey of Berkshire Botanical Garden

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Working shed at the Botanical Gardens.

When we asked six architects to reimagine the traditional potting shed for our exhibit “Down to Earth,” we had no idea what we were going to get. Potting sheds are often flimsy, unsightly structures that a lot of people view as eyesores. But why does it have to be that way?

It doesn’t. A walk around the Berkshire Botanical Garden this summer proves that you can think outside the box, with sheds that are inspired by everything from the Asian gardeners at the Berkeley Street Community Garden in Boston’s South End, all the way to the surf shacks of Hawaii. In truth, a potting shed is a great opportunity to add something special to a garden that is both functional and a point of interest.

Here are a few things to think about when planning your potting shed:

DESIGN FOR FUNCTION

What will you be using the shed for primarily? If it’s propagating plants you’ll want to have plenty of south-facing light. If you’re using it to store tools, what kind and how big do you need the space to be? Will you require electricity? Water? Whenever you are building anything it’s always best to think through what you need before you start building.… Read the rest

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