The Things We Need, Or Don’t

So very true! We have never been what some may consider “shoppers”.
In fact, I personally dread going into town. During the holidays, it would be very much out of our character to gear up and take part in ‘Black Friday’ or to cruise the internet for ‘Cyber Tuesday’. December is a month for slowing down, for taking long hikes into the woods, for enjoying lengthy chats over tea, for a nightly game of cribbage. It is also, in fairness, the month we will actually send out a few gifts to our family…books for the grandchildren, some nice flannel sheets to the grown up kids, a requested kitchen tool for our daughter in-law. The other parcels will be hand-made…wool socks, baked goodies, linen napkins, hand-crafted tea blends and spice rubs, ointments and salves to keep dry wintry hands and lips soft and moisturized. Every year, because my kids are good and thoughtful kiddos, they ask me what I would like for Christmas. I never have a ‘thing’ I want. More importantly, I want time. I want an experience. I would like memories with them and our grand children to place lovingly on the timeline that seems to be collecting behind me. So, Noah, if you are reading this, here is what I would like from you for Christmas. I would like a whole day with just the two of us ice fishing on some far-reaching pond or lake. I want to make a fire out on the ice so we can cook up a stew and some biscuits and the fish we catch and then linger over it warming our hands and just being so happy to be in one another’s company. O.K? And, Daughter, from you I would like a day in the kitchen with a collection of good chocolate and heavy cream and fresh herbs and spices and any other yummy ingredients we can collect and then throw in to making a scrumptious meal. We’ll whip up some fantastic food and try new recipes and do a lot of taste testing and wear our favorite aprons and we’ll linger over conversation and we’ll laugh and laugh and laugh and take turns putting on our favorite music C.D.’s (which will mostly be your c.d.’s because that is how it rolls with you and music, but I won’t care and will be content listening to your selections). That’s what I want for Christmas from you Zoe, O.K.? And, Daughter in-law, just keep sending me pictures of those two amazing grandchildren and keep calling me to tell me of what new development has occurred or what funny thing Violet has said, or how Zeb continues to look out at the world with a perpetual smile on his face. And call me just to chat and catch up and count on me when you want to have an adult conversation about politics, or velvet furniture, or travel, or any other topic that doesn’t include laundry and sippy cups and lost 2T footwear. You are important and dear to me and I love how our relationship is growing and finding meaning all on its own. And, just so you know, your natural ability to being an absolutely fantastic mother and me bearing witness to this, is a gift every day.
True words, the older I get, the less I want or need in the way of ‘things’. However, for the record, if a bicycle powered washing machine showed up under our Christmas tree , I wouldn’t turn my my nose up at it. ( Noah, my faithful fabricator of all things?).

Happy Thanksgiving!

A small gathering of family and friends today. Quite possibly the smallest number of guests we have ever had. That’s OK, once I got over the shock and readjustment of not feeding a village, I settled into the idea of a more casual affair. It still meant 4 different kinds of pie ( it would be wrong not to have pumpkin, pecan, apple, and chocolate creme all represented, right?). It still meant heaping, though perhaps slightly less heaping, bowls of steamed turnip, mashed potatoes, and carrots. One can’t get by without roasting brussel sprouts (with a little pancetta and shallots and garlic, of course) and winter squash and beets from the garden. If I wasn’t bullied into making ( my own healthy version) of green bean casserole I am certain the numbers at the table next year would decline even more. And then there is the turkey. A smaller fowl this year but the traditional meat option won out. But, seeing that I am cruising through the lighter dinner menu with time on my hands ( for knitting, for reading, for relaxing…imagine that! Brilliant, I say!) I decided to bone out the turkey this year, cook all the parts separately, and stuff the breast with some yummy morsels…mushrooms, sausage, shallots, garlic, and Swiss chard. I’ll wrap the entire breast (I left the skin on) with some of our maple cured bacon and then place it in the oven for roasting. Ta-da! Here is the real kicker, we don’t have T.V but we do have an old screen and DVD player upstairs, so guess how we plan to spend our afternoon after stuffing ourselves with turkey, stuffing, and pie? We’re going to watch a movie! All of us lined up on the couch and in comfy chairs, perhaps a glass of cider or wine in hand, and indulge in a flick! So what did we choose? Our neighbor Jack ( who has no screen or DVD player) made the request based on his admiration for Meryl Streep.
So the Thanksgiving film is: The Laundromat. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuBRcfe4bSo
How about that for a Thanksgiving change? Less but also more!
Hope you all enjoy the day, find thanks in the bounty and delight of life, family, friends, and apple pie! Happy Thanksgiving!

Back!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Where did I go? To Romania and then to Ireland. Then, I’m afraid the work which was put on the back burner while I was dashing around visiting other countries became urgent and I am just now picking my head up and returning to blogging. Oh, where to start! My plan is to write a really long piece about my trip to Romania. It was so beyond my expectations and I learned so much about their history and became so enchanted with their farming practices. I am still processing all that I experienced, the interactions I had with farmers and craftsman, and the incredible beauty of the Romanian landscape. Those Carpathian mountains! The region of Transylvania! The old world architecture in the cities and the beautiful workmanship I witnessed in every little village! 20% of Romania’s agricultural area is considered subsistence farming. It is a country that still makes use of traditional and grassroots farming practices. Stunning, every bit was stunning. So, now with winter fast on our heels, I am hoping my days will allow some time to reflect and to write about my journey. Stay tuned will you? And, apologies for my sudden absence.
Here at home, the firewood is all in, the hay is put away in the loft, the freezers are full, and the nursery rows are tucked in for their winter slumber. Whew! A list of off season projects await our attention, some repairs around the house, a new outdoor summer kitchen (we built an outdoor wood fired bread oven!), and, of course, some crafting.
Thank you for checking in and continuing to read news and stories from Fernwood. I suppose there are just times we have to step away from the screen and give our cyper input a rest. Because the nursery and farm world at Fernwood so often involves physical engagement, I think switching my brain over to work on the computer can be challenging. I have had my rest, now back to it!
Stay tuned and it’s nice to be back! Happy fall, all!

Travel

Cimicifuga ‘James Compton’ still looking magnificent

The nursery is still humming along. We stay open with regular hours for the remainder of September ( Fall is an excellent time to plant!) and then we will open the doors by appointment through October if there are some last minute plants you long for. Check our email or contact if you’d like to make arrangements in October. Rick will be here holding place while I travel to Romania to visit sheep farmers and blacksmiths and cheese makers. Exciting, exciting!! Then I will stop in Ireland on the way home and spend a week at the farm helping my friend Sally with whatever projects she has in store. I’ll visit with my dear Irish friends, which I am so looking forward to!
Stay tuned for adventure updates and photos and Happy Fall to all of you!

The Time For Seeds

Picture 109Picture 104In the spring we enjoy the wonderful blooms of the woodland peonies. In the fall, we are amazed by the brilliance of their seeds and seed pods. As we collect seed from the many woodland plants we grow here at Fernwood, we find the diversity of color and texture of the seeds to be quite remarkable, each plant having its own design. Nature……truly amazing and always full of wonder.Picture 137Picture 147Picture 151

Some Poop On Soil

Picture 1062Throughout the summer we are asked about the soil here at the nursery. People look into the display beds or the vegetable gardens and will often have many questions about what we do to improve or condition the soil. First, we don’t really consider what we add to the soil as improving it ( yes, it actually is), but instead we like to think of it as ‘feeding the soil’. It’s a living thing……it needs feeding. We grow soil like we grow plants. We nurture it. We study it. We think about what it needs, and then we give it what it wants……poop, compost, rotted leaves, grass clippings, some seaweed, and any other helpful organic matter we can get our hands on. Because we have sheep, chickens, pigs, and once a diary cow, we have access to a lot of manure. This is helpful but not completely neccessary for soil enrichment. Since we raise the critters that we do, we are happy to have the benefit of animal manure. In addition, we also generate and use other forms of soil amendments, such as kitchen compost, grass, and leaves. We never really test the soil, and when people ask about this, we tell them about our approach to the soils needs and fertility. We pay attention to the weeds that are popping up. This can often be an indicator of the soil chemistry. For example, sorrel can often mean that your soil may be somewhat waterlogged or poorly drained, and acidic or low in lime. We do a bit of leaf analysis. Leaf color and overall vitality of the plant helps us to consider the soils fertility and what it may need to support the green growth above it. We smell the soil, we feel the soil…….and after years of being rather intimate with these things, you begin to understand and interpret the soil and its needs quite successfully, without ever having to do a soil test. Our very best advice is, if you want to grow good plants, start by growing good soil. Here at the nursery, we have stock piles of soil ‘food’ ( I consider these piles gold mines). We make great effort to utilize all the animal manures and vegetative material that is generated here at the farm. This has made a terrific difference in the health and fertility of our soil. I must admit, that I can get just as excited about sifting my fingers through the soil of a freshly turned bed in the spring, as I do picking that first sun ripened, fat and juicy tomato later in the season. We welcome the questions people have about soil and soil conditions. We do not claim to be experts in the field of soil, but we do feel that our gardens are an example of some things we may be doing right. Rick loves to talk about the native plants we grow and sell, and he has a firm handle on the soil conditions each plant prefers. I just love talking about soil, and I am glutton for any organic material that we can accumulate to feed the soil with. A pile of rotted leaves or a truck load of seaweed can be a very nice birthday gift. So, get to know your soil. Pay attention to the weeds and existing vegetation. Check out the soil color and its texture. Consider the soil fauna…..how many different bugs and worms do you find? Dig up a plant and examine its roots health and structure. Become your gardens own soil steward.
And feed your soil the things it needs to support the plants you grow. It will make all the difference!

Best Specialty Nursery – 2019

We love what we do here at Fernwood Nursery, truly. And now it seems that some others do as well! We are delighted to have been included in Down East Magazine’s Best of Maine 2019 listing as the Best Specialty Nursery. The results are published in the July magazine, available on newsstands near you.

Many thanks to those who voted to include us in the listing. We are also deeply grateful to our customers, those who visit for the first time and those who return, year after year. It’s so gratifying to build relationships over the years with fellow garden and nature lovers. When you return to the nursery each year it’s like having old friends visit.

So from our “pretty little nursery in the woods” to you, happy summer!

philipp2 sized

Ladyslipper – Cypripedium Phillip

Hello Friends

Epimedium

It feels like this blog continues to be put on the back burner. Not finding the time to sit and craft a post and catch up with readers gnaws at me while I scurry around outside potting plants, weeding the display beds, and planting the vegetable gardens. The rain, which is always welcome in our world, has put some time constraints on our activity. We are hearing from customers that their own gardens are late in emerging, some beds too soggy to plant or work in, the cold temps and rain slowing the process. Regardless of the coolness or damp conditions, the nursery is full, customers are rolling in to purchase plants, and we are busy, busy. In the early evening when we finally roll indoors, I am very ready for a quick meal (and a glass of wine, yes, perhaps this too!) and then off to bed we go without ever even considering that I could muster the energy to write something worth reading. So, please forgive me while I step aside to toil in the gardens, I’ll be here and post when I can actually sit and share more than a quick ‘hello’. I’m not disappearing, just preoccupied with the ‘doing’ of other activities at the moment. I hope you are doing well and that your gardens are flourishing. Whew! Time…that elusive reality!
I recently read and liked this poem from Mary Oliver’s collection. Worrying is a skill I’ve seemed to have mastered rather well. So, I’ll share it with you, here it goes, enjoy!

“I Worried”

I worried a lot. Will the garden grow, will the rivers
flow in the right direction, will the earth turn
as it was taught, and if not how shall
I correct it?

Was I right, was I wrong, will I be forgiven,
can I do better?

Will I ever be able to sing, even the sparrows
can do it and I am, well,
hopeless.

Is my eyesight fading or am I just imagining it,
am I going to get rheumatism,
lockjaw, dementia?

Finally I saw that worrying had come to nothing.
And gave it up. And took my old body
and went out into the morning,
and sang.”

― Mary Oliver, Swan: Poems and Prose Poems

Brunch And Blooms

Consider visiting Fernwood Nursery this season for our first ‘Brunch and Blooms’ series. When? Sunday, June 23rd from noon to 2:30. Join us for mid-day occasion featuring a farm to table brunch menu using ingredients grown, harvested, and thoughtfully prepared here at Fernwood. Stroll with us through the nursery and gardens as we share with you our own experience as growers, farmers, and stewards. Come see what’s in bloom! The day promises to be a feast for the eyes and the belly. You’ll also leave with a little seasonally crafted gift, an essence of Fernwood for you to take home and enjoy in your own kitchen.
For more info please visit our classes and more page!

Chilly And Drizzly

Erythronium sibiricum

It has continued to be rather chilly and drizzly here in the northeast. Customers are coming to the nursery and commenting on how squishy their gardens are and for some this means a slight halt to any spring planting. There is certainly some wet areas in our own gardens, but we are still enjoying the blooms of early varieties. The coolness is helping to preserve their blooms and we are delighted by the extended show they are offering.
I’ll post some photos and move along to the outdoor activities that are calling, it’s 5:30 a.m and there’s a full day ahead, best get started! We are still potting up plants for the sales area, continuing to label any new varieties of plants (some real beauties!), sowing seeds in the garden and tending the seedlings in the greenhouse.

Trillium cuneatum

Peony ‘Little Red Gem’


What’s happening in your garden at the moment? Do you feel stalled by the weather? Is it squishy underfoot? What’s blooming?
In a strange way, I actually appreciate that the weather and conditions are present to ‘rein’ me in. I am reminded to work along and beside the natural world I am so privileged to bear witness to. I can engage with it but on her terms and at her pace. When I am impatient, the earth gently waggles her finger at me and says ” I’ll get there when I get there, stop hurrying me”. Thank you dear buds and blooms and shoots and seeds, thank you for reminding me to be still, to wait, to work with and not against. A good blessing for the day!

Allium tricoccum

Sanguinaria canadensis

Primula