When I arrived at Jane Castenada's property, I felt as if I had entered another world. An enchanted world perhaps, where summer moments might stand still amidst a backdrop of distant mountains, fragrant rose bushes and hollyhocks in pale yellows and vibrant scarlet.
Her little blue house stands somewhat as if on a pedestal of stonework and garden, and beyond the house, the property gives way to a sprawling expanse of backyard with flower gardens tucked into every nook, a vegetable garden further back, and apple trees dappling an orchard-like field that recedes into the North River wilderness. Jane and nature have worked hand in hand here, and Jane knows when to let nature take its own course.
Jane started gardening on Long Island at her waterfront house before she came to North River.
"I got very into it when I was a case worker in Suffolk County, working with abused families," she said. "I would come home and be terribly grateful for a house and a good backyard. The garden would let me unwind."
When she moved up North, she commenced gardening even before she moved into her house. She began planting cover plants like buckwheat that would help enrich the soil; now she uses oats in an old garlic bed, and turns those over to give the soil a boost.
She pointed to a misty patch of asparagus fronds and said, "I still have the same asparagus that I started 25 years ago."
Aside from her flower gardens, like many people she did much gardening as a food source. "When I bought the house in 1978, I put in the asparagus, raspberry bushes from Long Island, and Josta berries, which are a cross between a black currant and a gooseberry. I have wonderful apples; some of the trees are probably from the 1920's and the others are from the 1800's," she noted.