It was a perfect day to have our fern class out on the deck of the studio. We set up the teardrop trailer for serving tea and scones and chocolate croissants. A lovely Sunday spent looking at green fronds and fern spores. A walk around the gardens and then into the woods for a little exploration. As we ease our way into fall and cooler days, the ferns continue to grace the landscape and the woodlands with their waving tendency and emerald hues. Lovely, lovely, I must say. There is a natural swath of New York ferns (Thelypteris noveboracensis) leading over to one of the cabins we have. In the spring the forest floor is covered with a blanket of false lily of the valley (Maianthemum dilatatum) and the combination of these two plants is quite extraordinary. Of course, in May, the false lily of the valley is in bloom, their fragrance sweetening the forest air. Divine. Nature surely has the patent on landscape design, don’t you agree? We are still plenty busy at the nursery with late-season chores and plantings. Customers are continuing to come knowing that they have time for changes and additions to their gardens. It is this time of year, however, that I feel a pull to roam…to roam the woods, to roam the rocky seashore, to roam the footpaths and mountain trails. I think it’s an attempt to catch my breath. A busy summer, a wedding to plan (and still to pull off), visits from our kids and grandchildren, and, also, of course, the day to day work that keeps the nursery afloat. The urge to slip into the woods, to go deep into the wilds, to sit still among natures green growth and tree canopy, is fierce at the moment. Lately, regardless of how late it is, I’ve been driving over to the lake ( just a mere mile, thank goodness) to a little-undetected spot and swimming. Sometimes it’s just before bedtime. The lake is quiet and the night sky reflects on the surface, I don’t see anyone else. It’s nice, it’s serene, it’s really quiet. I slip into the water like a seal and let the coolness soothe my soul. So restorative. Perhaps this is all the natural progression of a season winding down and I myself feel its influence. Many plants are leaning toward dormancy, the leaves on the trees are losing their chlorophyll, the deer are in the corn fields fattening their bellies for what’s to come. My own inner clock is searching for a different rhythm. I like that. I like the space in the day to be a little more reflective, I like wading into that big beautiful body of water, floating on my back, looking up at the night sky, and being able to hear the beat of my heart. Again, restorative. Hope you are all finding those moments to soothe your soul with an activity or a space that allows for stillness. It’s worth the search and for me right now…essential!
The heat seems to have subsided. I think we are all thankful. I know the gardens are thankful. I am not convinced that New Englanders, particularly northern New Englanders, are built for hot and humid weather. After a winter of 20 below and a snow that lasts until mid-April, we are often heard making reference to the ‘hot and hazy days of summer’. We make these comments as if we can’t wait for the near 100 degree days, as if we’ll all lie bare and prostrate into the beating sun and love it. This isn’t quite the reality or our response to the baking sun. Once those brutally hot days appear, once the thermometer readings travel into the nineties, we start moaning. We whine and then comment on places like Texas and Arizona, “how do they stand it”, we say. It scares us. It is way out of our comfort. We complain. Most people in Maine don’t have air conditioning. Most will still roll their windows down while driving to capture a breeze before they would ever consider turning on the AC. I’m not sure if our Subaru even has air conditioning. I know the old 1-ton dump truck we drive doesn’t, it has windows you actually have to roll up or down. Very old fashion.
Since the humidity has passed, Maine people are smiling more now. We have resumed the spring in our step. We’re back to our old selves.
So, yes, the days are shortening and the temperatures are cooling. The weather is tolerable. We still may get some Indian summer days when the temps rise, but they probably won’t be so oppressive. We’ll welcome the continuation of sunshine and gentle warmth. The worst of the heat is probably over so we’ll stop being babies and get back to facing our days without complaint. Afterall, we still have tomatoes to ripen and the eggplants wait for the deep heat to grow plump and turn that amazing hue of purple. The winter squash is relying on a long growing season to mature before harvest. The second cut of hay still needs cutting and days of good drying. And, we don’t have all of our firewood split and stacked into the woodshed yet. Yesterday, after collecting seed and working on propagation in the greenhouse, we did manage to haul some firewood as well. Cooler days will soon turn to colder days!
Certainly, everyone is familiar with the quote from Mark Twain, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”
Luckily, this ‘wait a few minutes’ for the scorching heat to pass us by has come and we are feeling relief here in the northeast. Thank goodness!!
Don’t get me wrong, the landscape is lush with growth. A jungle of vines and stems and blooms that we manage to maintain. The vegetable gardens overflowing with food, all to be brought in and transformed into lunch or supper, the excess canned or frozen or dried. Right now (surprise, surprise!) we are hauling in that every season’s bounty of zucchini. Zucchini parmesan, zucchini bread, chocolate zucchini cake, zucchini fritters, a cheesy ham and tomato and zucchini torte. No, I’m not at my wits end with zucchini. I pass on the excess to neighbors before I get to the point of despair and luckily Zoe’s fiance is Italian and has a hearty appetite. One of the reasons we are happy she’s marrying him is because he eats a lot and he’s not at all picky. Such a good and helpul quailty to bring to our table! The tomatoes are ripening, the onions and leeks are looking great, cucumbers are producing in great numbers ( time to make pickles!), swiss chard, broccoli, and kale filling baskets ( soon we’ll be planting a late season crop of these). Sweet and hot peppers, beets, cabbages, and beans, all rolling in.
As I sweep through the gardens picking, gathering, collecting seed, I can’t help but notice the 8 cord of wood that needs splitting and stacking. It won’t be long, you know! We will make time, it will all get done, the cycle of this life now relies on a lifetime of familiar doing. I’ll quiet my inner ‘whirl’ and enjoy one task at a time, one step at a time. A good practice in mindfulness, in staying with the present. Truth be told, I honor this ‘one day at a time, one moment at a time’ philosophy but also know that as a farmer one has to anticipate the days and season ahead. Perhaps balance is a better practice for now. I’ll hone in on mindfulness in February when the snow is 3ft deep and the woodstove is cranking and when there is not much more to do than sit and read a good book!
Enjoy this last season of summer, friends…what is occupying your time in the gardens right now?
Please let me describe to you the new little business that is nestled in the village of Liberty, Maine. Liberty Head Arts And Found is the most delightful folk art and antique shop, a place that brings happiness to your soul the minute you step through the door. Lucky for me, Liberty Head Arts And Found is only a ‘stone throw away’ from the nursery and on a day that I need creative nourishment, I mozy down there and feel inspired and delighted with every carefully found, carefully placed, and beautifully created works of art. It’s magic. It is a space of color and texture and beauty. Do you ever walk into a space and feel that your soul is immediately soothed? Walk into Liberty Head Arts And Found, and you will. Not kidding, you will!
In a nutshell, in the heart of Liberty Village, you will step into a shop chock full of folk art and antiques, all thoughtfully and creatively arranged. A feast of delight, a heart-melting experience.
” Fun stuff! Vintage, Old Advertising, Neat and Sweet Smalls. Plus Textile Art, Paintings – Reverse Glass And Mixed Media, Sculpture, photography, Ceramics, Paper Weaving, Jewelry & More!” Read and learn more about the gals and their story here…and make a trip to Liberty Village and indulge yourself! Visit their instragram page here and get a glimpse of their shop! Liberty Head Arts And Found are open Thursday, Friday, Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 10:30 – 5. 56 Main Street liberty, Maine.
Yesterday, after a long hot and muggy day in the gardens, I had to make a quick trip into town. Going to town doesn’t excite me. I prefer my home ground, the bounty of flora that surrounds us, the constant music of our resident feathered flyers. It seems the older I get, the less I want to leave home. Most of what I need is here. Family. Friends. Gardens. Space. Serenity. And of course, plenty of fresh food. Despite my normal inclination to hunker down, there are times I have to muster the courage to venture outside of my self-proclaimed range and head to the ‘big (very little) city’. Sometimes we just need things, (even though we practice stocking up to avoid frequent trips) things like toilet paper and avocados. Things like coffee and extra sharp cheddar cheese and chocolate. Oh, and sometimes we have to make a bank deposit as well. That, too.
I go with a list. I don’t dawdle. I don’t stray from my course. I am on a mission. Grocery. Bank. Hardware store. My intent is to ‘get in and get out’ as quickly as possible. Yesterday, however, I did add an excursion just before heading home. I ran the errands that needed to be done and could have easily pointed the trusty Subaru west toward home, but I thought about summer and the heat and the glorious bodies of water that grace our state. So, I drove a little further east ( a mere mile or so) to my friend’s little parcel of land that sits along ‘Head Of Tide’ and went for a swim. This is where the salt water flows in and meets the Passagassawakeag River. During high tide, one can slip easily into the salty water, float with the current and enjoy the cooler temperatures of the oceans influence, and then paddle up the to the freshwater flowing in from the Passy. Divine. So, there I was, submerged in that cool and refreshing body of water, happy for my trip to town, savoring the sweetness of summer.
Sundays are good days for a little poetry, yes? A poem about swimming, enjoy and go for a swim!
When the day becomes hot and hazy
And I become tired and lazy,
All I can do is keep on reneging,
For the vast lawn needs mowing,
And the vegetable garden needs hoeing,
And work must come before swimming.
It seems that the grass has grown taller
And I get an immediate urge to holler.
Why can’t I forget this awful dreaming,
That I was always on the brink of sneezing,
And constantly plagued with episodes of wheezing,
Until soothing in the water with ease in breathing?
The sun seems to quiver and know
As I think of the old swimming hole,
I rest my aching body and keep reneging,
Of course my work I am not shirking,
But it’s just too hot and humid for working,
It’s about time to sneak out and go swimming.
I notice the sun in the azure sky beaming
And again I catch myself dreaming,
As the perspiration continues dripping,
But my tasks have me outsmarted,
And I plod along slowly and half – hearted,
Thinking of the old gang going dipping.
I face reality and refrain from dreaming
And seek relief from the humidity with meaning,
And go to the swimming hole that is brimming.
Life is too short to constantly worry,
So why should I continue to be in a hurry?
It’s summer and a time for swimming.
A Time For Swimming
Joseph T. Renaldi