Tree Climbing

We recently had to hire an arborist to take a couple of old trees down. Normally, we cut and harvest our own trees but these two trees were in a precarious situation. Both the trees were in among the display beds, and, in addition, had the potential of hitting the power line. Underneath the trees were a variety of shrubs and perennials that were easy targets for falling limbs…azaleas, Japanese maples, a few viburnums, a dogwood. We really didn’t want to do any damage while trying to fell these trees, so, we called Treewise Arboriculture from Appleton, Maine. Jacob DiGirolamo is the very talented and skilled arborist behind Treewise, and let me just tell you, he’s a man skilled in his craft. In a short amount of time, Jacob had the trees down, bit by bit, never once laying a single branch on one of our beloved woody shrubs. Of course, he also missed (with great precision) the house, the arbor, the phone and electrical wires, and a few choice garden sculptures. Just imagine a pinball machine that requires the operator to send their pinball up the course without hitting a single obstacle and with the intention of scoring as high as possible. I’d say he scored pretty damn near 100! Jacob came and stood to look up and access the task at hand, then strapped on his climbing spikes and got to work. It was fascinating to watch him make his cuts and then to use his ropes and knots to lower branches and pieces of the trunk to the ground. Amazing. We can’t say enough about Treewise and Jacob’s efficiency and attention to his craft.His business also includes pruning, removal, and planting. If you have trees that need to come down and you are looking for a congenial young man who is well skilled and devoted to his work, call Jacob. You can find out more by emailing Treewise at or visit this site at Maine Preservation.

Still Winter

With the last storm, we have been taking advantage of the deep snow and of the days when the sun shines with a brilliance. It has been a great time for strapping on the snowshoes and exploring the woods. Two days ago, we tramped up over the ridge across from the farm. It was late in the day and the deer were just descending from the high ground. We counted 10 in a relatively short time. There were tracks everywhere! We came across many places where the ground had been pawed, signs that the deer are digging their way through the deep snow in search of acorns. A Barred owl swooped through just in front of us and landed on the branches of a giant oak tree. Now is the time we hear them calling back and forth to each other with their classic ” who cooks for you, who cooks for you” call. Listen here if you’ve never heard the call of the Barred Owl. They do have other calls as well but this is their typical mating call. Very distinct and one we hear often in the woods of Maine. We are hoping that we get a chance this weekend to head into the woods or trek across the lower fields at the farm. I suppose it’s what we need to do when any thoughts of spring have been put on halt. Spring will come, I believe it will, really I do. But for now, it’s still winter.
Let’s end with a poem about winter and snowshoeing by Sidney Beck…


This valley’s empty blueness
Is filling now with clear sunlight.
Snow clumps tumble from branches
Into man-deep drifts soft bright –
Warmth-rounded, but still chilled.

Big snowshoe-footprints harden
Into pools of blue shadow –
Setting off from a house and garden,
Half-hidden, marked only by the low
Recent prints half-filled.
by Sidney Beck

March Storm

Despite the latest snowstorm, we are setting up for our spring seed starting. The greenhouse will see some action in the next week or so. It’s always a delight to be working in the greenhouse as the weather goes from one season to the next. That big plastic heated space of green growth and soil smells…pure delight! Inside the house, a small area is created for starting the earliest of vegetable seedlings: tomatoes, leeks, peppers, onions, and assortments of annual and perennial flowers. This little growing area inside means rearranging some furniture, moving the couch away from the big windows that face due south, and installing a temporary growing bench. Seeds will be sown, they’ll germinate, get some growth on them, and then be transferred to the big greenhouse. Starting seeds indoors keeps us from firing up the big heater in the greenhouse this early in the year. But, by the end of March, we’ll run out of space in the front room and will need the expanse of the greenhouse benches. At that point, our house will go back to a comfortable living space! We do love having that earthy soil smell wafting through the rooms though!
Outside, it is far too soon to uncover the nursery beds. The snow will have to melt and the ground will have to thaw before we are ready for the task of uncovering. We are always excited about the upcoming season and to unveil all the plants we have propagated and over-wintered. Fun, fun!
So, right now we’re a bit between seasons. A little mud season, a little more winter. A warm spring-like day, then a real chill in the air. A chance to let the fires die down, then a roaring blaze to warm cold hands and cold feet. Back and forth we go here in the northeast, yes? Where do you hail from? Has spring really arrived in your neck of the woods or are you still waiting?


Sunday and snowing. Sunday with 3 new books to read… a chapter here, a chapter there. A kettle of soup on the stove. Firewood stacked indoors and outdoor chores are done for the day. You know, it won’t be long and the sun will shine and the days will be long and we’ll be turning the soil and planting seeds and kneeling down in the woodland gardens to see that very first ephemeral to emerge. For the hundredth time, I’ll look at the amazing blue of the brave little Hepatica or the scalloped leaves of the bloodroot that unfurl offering up its vivid white flowers. But today, while it’s still snowy and cold and while the ground is still frozen, I’ll tuck in and read. Mary Oliver’s latest, called Devotions, is one of the three I’m working through. So dear readers, here’s a poem. A Sunday poem on a snowy day just for you…

At The River Clarion

I don’t know who God is exactly.
But I’ll tell you this.
I was sitting in the river named Clarion, on a water splashed stone
and all afternoon I listened to the voices of the river talking.
Whenever the water struck a stone it had something to say,
and the water itself, and even the mosses trailing under the water.
And slowly, very slowly, it became clear to me what they were saying.
Said the river I am part of holiness.
And I too, said the stone. And I too, whispered the moss beneath the water.
I’d been to the river before, a few times.
Don’t blame the river that nothing happened quickly.
You don’t hear such voices in an hour or a day.
You don’t hear them at all if selfhood has stuffed your ears.
And it’s difficult to hear anything anyway, through all the traffic, the ambition.
If God exists he isn’t just butter and good luck.
He’s also the tick that killed my wonderful dog Luke.
Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.
Imagine how the lily (who may also be a part of God) would sing to you if it could sing,
if you would pause to hear it.
And how are you so certain anyway that it doesn’t sing?
If God exists he isn’t just churches and mathematics.
He’s the forest, He’s the desert.
He’s the ice caps, that are dying.
He’s the ghetto and the Museum of Fine Arts.
He’s van Gogh and Allen Ginsberg and Robert Motherwell.
He’s the many desperate hands, cleaning and preparing their weapons.
He’s every one of us, potentially.
The leaf of grass, the genius, the politician, the poet.
And if this is true, isn’t it something very important?
Yes, it could be that I am a tiny piece of God, and each of you too, or at least
of his intention and his hope.
Which is a delight beyond measure.
I don’t know how you get to suspect such an idea.
I only know that the river kept singing.
It wasn’t a persuasion, it was all the river’s own constant joy
which was better by far than a lecture, which was comfortable, exciting, unforgettable.
Of course for each of us, there is the daily life.
Let us live it, gesture by gesture.
When we cut the ripe melon, should we not give it thanks?
And should we not thank the knife also?
We do not live in a simple world.
There was someone I loved who grew old and ill
One by one I watched the fires go out.
There was nothing I could do
except to remember
that we receive
then we give back.
My dog Luke lies in a grave in the forest, she is given back.
But the river Clarion still flows from wherever it comes from
to where it has been told to go.
I pray for the desperate earth.
I pray for the desperate world.
I do the little each person can do, it isn’t much.
Sometimes the river murmurs, sometimes it raves.
Along its shores were, may I say, very intense cardinal flowers.
And trees, and birds that have wings to uphold them, for heaven’s sakes–
the lucky ones: they have such deep natures,
they are so happily obedient.
While I sit here in a house filled with books,
ideas, doubts, hesitations.
And still, pressed deep into my mind, the river
keeps coming, touching me, passing by on its
long journey, its pale, infallible voice

Choose Safe Seed

We can not stress enough the importance and value of choosing to buy seed from companies that have taken the Safe Seed Pledge. By doing so, you are supporting a company that cares about the integrity of seed diversity. You are also supporting the health and well being of the world’s food, its people, and its communities. There is an ample amount of information regarding the pitfalls of GMO seed and food made from GMO crops. Inform yourself, take a stand, and consider supporting those noble seed companies who are making the Safe Seed Pledge. Have fun scrolling down the list of seed companies who have taken this pledge. Check out what they have to offer, you may find just the variety of heirloom tomatoes you’ve been looking for or a new dry bean that you’ve never grown. And, if you read through the list and don’t see a seed company who you know has taken the Safe Seed Pledge, let us know…we’ll add them to the list!


“Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms poses great biological risks, as well as economic, political and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately healthy people and communities.”

Adaptive Seeds
All Good Things Organic (SW)
Amishland Seeds
Annie’s Heirloom Seeds
The Ark Institute
Backyard Beans and Grains Project
Baker Creek Seed Co. (MW)
Beauty Beyond Belief (BBB Seeds)
Botanical Interests
Bountiful Gardens
Crispy Farms
Diane’s Flower Seeds (she has veggies now, too)
Family Farmer’s Seed Co-op
Farm Direct Seed (Hobb’s Family Farm)
Fedco Seed Co.
Garden City Seeds
Gourmet Seed
Grow Organic
Heirlooms Evermore Seeds
Heirloom Seeds
Heirloom Solutions
High Mowing Seeds
Horizon Herbs
Hudson Valley Seed Library
Growing Crazy Acres
Ed Hume Seeds
Johnni’s Selected Seed
J.L Hudson
Kitchen Garden Seeds
Knapp’s Fresh Vegies
Kusa Seed Society
Lake Valley Seeds
Landreth Seeds
Larner Seeds
The Living Seed Company
Livingston Seeds
Local Harvest
Moonlight Micro Farm
Mountain Rose Herbs
My Patriot Supply
Native Seeds for the Arid Southwest
Natural Gardening Company
New Hope Seed Company
Nichol’s Garden Nursery
Organica Seed
Organic Sanctuary (SE)
Peace Seeds
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
Prairie Road Garden
Renee’s Garden
Restoration Seeds
Sand Hill Preservation Center
Sage Thymes
Seed for Security
Seeds Of Change
Seeds Trust
Select Seeds
Siskiyou Seeds (NW)
Southern Exposure
Sow True (SE)
Sustainable Seed Co
Territorial Seed Company
Tiny Seeds
Tomato Fest
Trees of Antiquity
Turtle Tree Seed
Underwood Garden Seeds
Uprising Seeds
Victory Seeds
Vermont Wildflower Farm
White Harvest Seed
Wild Garden Seeds
Wildseed Farms
Wood Prairie Farm (NE)

Canadian Seed Companies:
Annapolis Valley Heritage Seed Company
Brother Nature
Cubit’s Organics
Full Circle Seeds
Greta’s Organic Garden
Heritage Harvest Seeds (ships to Canada only)
Hope Seeds
Incredible Seeds
Richters Herbs
Salt Spring Seeds
Seeds of Victoria
Seeds Of Change
Solana Seeds
Stellar Seeds
Terra Edibles
The Cottage Gardener

Garden Organic (UK)
Seed Site (Italy)
The Real Seed CatUK)

Strapping On The Snowshoes

Trying to experience and enjoy as much winter as possible here in Maine. My brother and I made a trip over to his land in Rangley (the western part of the state) to do some hiking. It was a beautiful day, fairly warm and the sun was out. My brother, Dan, has always been an outdoor enthusiast. He puts great effort into hitting the trails here in the northeast. I’m always amazed at how much ground he covers. We don’t get enough time together, so it was lovely to spend a day catching up on the ride over and then doing something together that we both love…being in the woods! Plus, he bought me lunch!
Since then we’ve had another snow storm, about 1ft here in our area of Waldo County. A little more time for snowshoeing or strapping on the x-country skis before spring develops.
We are working on a number of classes for this season. Some are posted already, others are in the making. Are there any classes you’d like to see us offer here at Fernwood? Certain topics? We’re glad to hear suggestions. Offering classes at the nursery has been a really fun and rewarding addition for both Rick and I. Not only can we share some insight into our gardening or lifestyle choices here at the nursery, but it also gives us an opportunity to get to know our visitors. Consider taking a class here at Fernwood, come enjoy a selection of homemade scones and tea, and mingle with some fellow gardeners!

“Anyone who thinks gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year; for gardening begins in January with the dream.”
—Josephine Nuese

Words of truth, I’d say! We begin winter here thinking about the long, silent months ahead. The deep snow and the frigid temperatures which will turn us indoors for more reading and knitting and fire-warmth. We drop our shoulders, breath deep, and feel thankful for the slow pace of winter. We’re some of the few who are not in a hurry to move these cold months along…the sun and the warmth will come back to us, all in good time. But we can feel the stirrings now, the seed catalogs spread across the table, the lists of new plants for the nursery ( some dandy primula!), the urge to ‘hoe’ out the greenhouse and fire up the stove that heats it. Oh, truth be told, our minds are never completely void of gardening and plants and soil. Notebooks are filled with lists and ideas for a new season of promise. Are you thinking about spring? Does a bit more winter trouble you? Are your veggie seeds ordered? Any new garden plans? Let’s hear!

Bluebird Talk Here At Fernwood!

Please join us at Fernwood Nursery on Saturday, April 21st at 1:00 p.m. for a very informative talk on Bluebirds. Bluebird expert, Jeff Nimms, has agreed to visit us here at the nursery to share his experience and knowledge of bluebirds. Perhaps you have a piece of property that lends itself to bluebird habitat or maybe you just want to learn more about these delightful birds. If so, we’d love for you to join us!
Fernwood will be serving tea and scones at the event and Jeff will be here to talk bluebirds. Please visit our classes and more page for further information and to sign up for this lecture. Space is somewhat limited, so saving a spot will be helpful.

All About Bluebirds
Learn about bluebird habitat, nesting boxes, parasites and predators, mealworms, what to feed in winter and roosting boxes in this PowerPoint presentation by bluebird enthusiast Jeff Nims. He and his wife Betty have been protecting bluebirds and tree swallows at their blueberry farm on Clarry Hill in Union for more than twenty-five years. Annually, they save an average of a dozen fledglings from blowfly which kill hatchlings in the nest. Retired since 2010, Jeff splits his time between farming, photographing bluebirds, historical research, writing, kayaking, and volunteering.

A male bluebird offers a mealworm to female as part of courtship. Photograph by Jeff Nimms

Fiber Of Maine And The Heavenly Socks Yarn Shop

My friend Helen Sahadi owns a beautiful yarn shop in Belfast, Maine called Heavenly Socks Yarn. Helen is a lifelong knitter and is passionate about fiber but also about community. Her shop is chock full of the most delicious yarn. Not just eye candy, but lovely squishy yarn that you can take home and make something wonderful out of! It’s the middle of winter, the best time to grab your needles, find a pattern (loads and loads of great patterns at Heavenly Socks Yarn store!!) and start knitting! Take a field trip to Belfast, Maine and visit Helen’s shop…it’s the best!
Helen’s latest addition to her shop is an on-line store where she features Maine yarn from Maine farms. And, guess who’s being featured this month ( February, actually)…us here at Fernwood. You can check us out and Helens great shop and work here: