I have been on a roll with felt creations, with Father Christmas ready to make his way into a holiday display. Yes, I know the old fella needs a face….some crinkly eyes and a cheery smile. Drawing faces are not my comfort, so I leave them for last. He may need a bit of a trim to get some of that silvery hair away from his face, that too. Looks like another pile of snow coming for the north east, the last storm and power outages got us good and ready for winter weather. Now, with the nursery covered and the sheep brought home, dealing with storms are a lot easier. Let’s hope anyway. I’ve been spending time in my friend Sally’s studio. Several days of making things, working on patterns, and finishing up some knitting. Bliss, really. (thank you, Sally). Now I really must work on that Mrs. Fox and a Mrs. Christmas. Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!
No, not another fox hanging from the sheep fence in Ireland ( predator control). This Mr. Fox was a little whimsical creation I made yesterday, and I’m already on to a Mrs. Fox. I am imagining a Mr. and Mrs. Christmas fox as well, outfitted in red flannel and red velvet ribbon. Maybe adorned with a fluffy white muff or stole, but certainly not one made of fox fur! I have had a bit more time here before returning home to Maine….. and what do I spend my time doing while I have a few free moments? Hand sewing these little woodland creatures, that’s what. My grandmother could stitch wonderfully, and she was often making little gnomes or woodland fairies. I remember being amazed at how tiny and perfect her stitches were, you could hardly tell they were hand stitched. Her house was always filled with fabric and ribbon, buttons, beads, old lace, and all the material anyone would ever need to create something. She always encouraged me to ‘ make something’. I think she would be very happy to know that her granddaughter is following in her footsteps…….in love with fabric and fiber, and all things textile. Somehow I have a feeling, as I carefully sew a jacket or vest for one of my own woodland creatures, that she is not far way.
One plant in our gardens that seems to have the greatest desire to extend the season and continue blooming is Corydalis lutea, yellow fumitory. This plant has bloomed profusely all summer and into the fall. Only a real cold snap seems to stop it. After the early snowfall of 18″, it got flattened. But since most of the snow has melted off from it, I can see that it is still trying to bloom, having been insulated from the snow. Native to Europe and the Alps of Italy and Switzerland, it prefers a rich, moist, but well drained soil in part shade to shade. Heat, high humidity, and wet winter soil can cause it to falter. It can self sow where it is happiest, but has not been a problem for us. I have seen it grown in drifts, if room allows, and that can be very attractive and easy to maintain as it can grow thick enough to smother shorter weeds. It grows to 12-18″ tall and is usefull in front of the garden or mixes well with plants that are taller and have a bolder texture than its finely cut leaves. This next surge of polar air may put it down for the winter, but it sure has been interesting to see just how much spunk this plant has.
Back home we always worry a bit about predators coming into the sheep pastures. For us in Maine, the big concern would be for coyotes. Years ago, we did have a pack of coyotes come through and get in with our flock. The damage can be severe, we lost several ewes that night. Our fences back at home are electrified with very high powered voltage, but every once in awhile something may fall on the fence or the power goes out, and protection is limited. We check fences regularly, often bringing the sheep up to higher pasture and closer to the barn in early spring when coyotes are feeding pups and may be a bit more daring. Here in Ireland, the sheep flocks are large…….200 to 300, roaming pastures that are fenced with barb wire. It would be impossible to electrify such large areas. There are no coyotes here in Ireland, foxes would be the biggest concern, often preying on young lambs. While traveling through the Gap, we came across this measure of predator control. The fence line was strung with a dead fox ( presumably shot by a farmer) every 20 yards or so. I’m sure the odor of the dead fox was a deterrent for other roaming foxes intent on finding a meal. The losses could be great if a fox ( or coyote) were left unchecked and able to move through a sheep flock. Sheep have really no defense. It may seem like a gruesome approach to predator control, but I bet it works.
For a few weeks, Fernwood Nursery will be posting from both home and away. Rick is home tending the fires and animals, as well as the regular day to day chores of the nursery. He’ll be putting up an occasional post from our home turf, as I send posts from another adventure here in Ireland. Yes, I am super fortunate to have an amazing and supportive husband who will hold down the fort in Maine while I trek around Ireland, visiting friends and rural horse fairs ( I do this while assisting my friend Sally, who has been photographing and recording some of the rural traditions and people of County Kerry Ireland). The absolute beauty of Ireland, along with the wonderful and down to earth people I am lucky enough to spend time with, brings me the greatest joy. I don’t travel far from our humble homestead in Maine very often, but when I do…..it’s to Ireland. I’ll keep you posted from the Emerald Isles, while Rick fills us in with events back in Maine.
We knew snow was coming. This time of year, it can arrive anytime, but usually it’s a dusting, or at most a few inches, all gone by the following day. Not this time. It was a whopper, and we here in Waldo County seem to be at the eye of the storm. We measured 15 inches out on the potting bench. It fell and fell fast, a wet, heavy, and slippery snow. We are pretty well equipped to deal with snowfall and power outages here at the farm. We heat with wood ( three woodstoves total) and the old wood cookstove is fired up for baking. Our biggest needs are water and keeping the freezers from thawing. We keep a stored supply of water….for flushing toilets, watering animals, and general household use. A good storm reminds us of what a precious commodity water is. With a limited amount on hand, every drop is considered, and not a bit wasted. ( this should really be our general frame of mind, don’t you think?). We also have a 5000 watt generator we run periodically to keep the freezers and the refridgerator cold. This is one of our bigger concerns. With 4 full freezers of farm raised meats and vegetables, the loss would be huge. We don’t run the generator for anything but the freezers and to pump water, and we don’t run them the entire time. Just long enough to keep things cold. We want to conserve the gas we have so it will last for several days, if need be. We can get by on candles and our Aladin lamps for light. When we get a storm like this, it’s all hands on deck. Everyone is out shoveling paths to the barn, the chicken coop, and the woodsheds.The animals are all tended to, water is hauled, extra bedding put down. Then we start clearing the long driveway, a path to the hoop house ( spinach and greens still going strong in there!) and the greenhouse, and onto all the small buildings that store tools and equipment. We shovel, then go in to warm up and dry soggy gloves or mittens. Always, during storms and power outages, a big pot of soup goes on the stove, and the tea kettle is always full and ready. Then back out, more shoveling and clearing, until it’s time to do evening chores. Best to do these before it’s too dark to see. Everyone in the house owns a headlamp and they’re either worn constantly or left hanging around your neck, ready when needed. You’ll be using it after supper during the card game, no chance of winning if you can’t see the hand you’re dealt. The old rotary phone gets plugged in to replace the cordless. Calls are made to neighbors checking on their status……Enough water? Plenty of candles? Did your power come back on yet? Having experienced many long winters and storms here in our town, we get to know who typically gets their power back first. Those closest to rt. 3 first, up along rt. 220 next, could be days up on Hogback or over on Goosepecker Ridge, we’re restored somewhere in the middle of this order. And, by Tuesday morning, sure enough, the lights came back on. It’s Wednesday now and there are still some folks without power. All of this is a part of living in the northeast. Snow, storms, icy roads, loss of power, all part of what’s to be expected. Having a few things ready……makes all the difference.