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When the mercury starts rising into the 90s, even urban gardeners need to get the heck outta Dodge for a few days. Each of the past three summers, I've taken a weekend trip to Ananda Ashram to enjoy yoga, vegetarian cuisine, and the swimming pool.
One big difference I found this year: The Monroe, New York-based Ashram has added organic farming to its list of amenities. The food has always been tasty, but now, it's home grown. The great home gardening trend of the 21st century continues unabated in the city and around it.
Ananda currently boasts two large plots loaded with fresh garlic, greens, squash, and peppers, and a cold-frame green house filled with tomato plants that, during my visit, looked like they were getting ready to yield a healthy harvest.
One of the biggest challenges for the volunteer farmers is deer. The 85-acre property -- just an hour or so from New York City -- is home to a growing population of does and bucks that are determined to share the harvest.
Currently, heavy plastic deer fencing surrounds the plots. It seems to work, and fresh produce is growing strong. Electronic deer fencing, which is cheaper, was considered and rejected as too cruel.
Over the weekend, I was lucky to enjoy several dishes prepared with fresh zucchini and plenty of salad greens. I also enjoyed two yoga classes a day, a concert with a spiritual healer, and a hike on the Appalachian Trail, just down the road from the ashram in Harriman State Park.
Farming at Ananda has a history. Dave, an Ashram resident for more than 30 years, tended an organic garden at Ananda from 1972 to 1980. But when the board decided to install a swimming pool (yes, the one I mentioned earlier) his garden was bulldozed.
Last December, Dave's son, who was born at the Ashram, came up with the idea to create the current farm, thanks to all the publicity about local growers and food-borne illnesses. He's also helping Dad and the rest of the Ananda team build an Eco-village resort on the grounds.
Yoga, good veggie food, hiking and a swimming pool! Could a weekend away get any better?
To read more about my urban gardening adventures, go to http://www.nycgardener.blogspot.com/