Due to feeling a little like Piglet in the episode of Winnie The Pooh where his house floats away because of the continuous rain, we will be opening for the season on Wednesday, May 8th. Our hours will still be Wednesday through Sunday, closed Mondays and Tuesdays. We are seeing lots of green shoots and swelling buds and even blooms from the ephemerals, but the ground is so squishy, saturated from the rain! I dare not complain, however, who knows what the upcoming season may bring in the way of drought. Here in the northeast, as many of you know, July and August have been terribly dry over the last three years. I am thankful that the groundwater is being amply replenished at the moment!
So, outdoors I go to fill the sales area with horticultural goodies and to continue potting up plants from the stock area. Even though our wardrobe staple consists of rain pants and rubber boots, we are so excited for the new growing season! Spring! We’ll welcome her every way we can!
Here are a few plants waiting for their spot in the nursery and a few that are already blooming in the gardens…
What a delightful day! Warm and sunny and the ground squishy and oozy with mud. We walk across the strategically placed planks along the ground to duck into the greenhouse as early in the day as possible. Decadent warmth! Our bones are so happy to have heat from the sun! Aah! We so appreciate our dutiful woodstoves and the great heat they provide us throughout the winter, but I must say, our souls are sun seekers now. We are basking in the glory of vitamin D. Of course, because of our work, we are directed outdoors almost every day now. The greenhouse, the nursery, the gardens…And, as Ruth Stout said ( and I agree!) “I LOVE SPRING ANYWHERE, BUT IF I COULD CHOOSE I WOULD ALWAYS GREET IT IN A GARDEN.”
Today, we have been busy with an array of chores. Flats of seeds started, chicken coop mucked out and all the bedding deliciously tossed into the compost heap and replenished with clean shavings, a few signs were painted for the nursery season, two huge piles of brush were collected and are now ready for burning, emails were written and sent, more class postings have been added to our ‘classes and more’ page, and I was even able to put together some yummy chocolate Irish whiskey brownies. Did I already use the word decadent in this post? Let’s just apply that same word to these brownies, and then, let me share the recipe with you please.
Brownies With Irish Whiskey And Currants
1 cup hazelnuts ( I have also used walnuts)
12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate
2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup Irish Whiskey
1 1/2 currants or raisins
2 cups granulated sugar
4 extra-large eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/4 unbleached all-purpose flour
Adjust the oven rack to middle position and preheat to 325 degrees. Spread hazelnuts (or walnuts) on the baking sheet and toast for 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool and remove skins from hazelnuts. Set aside.
Turn heat up to 350 degrees.
In a stainless steel mixing bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water, melt the chocolate and the butter. Take off heat once melted and allow to cool slightly.
In another small saucepan over low heat, heat the whiskey with the currants or raisins, stirring constantly to keep from sticking or burning. Cook until the liquid is sticky, bubbly, and reduced. About 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside.
In a bowl with an electric mixture whisk sugar, salt, and the eggs until they are mousse-like. Add flour in three batches. remove from mixer and stir in the chocolate. Stir in the currant mixture. Last, stir in the nuts. Bake in 11X17 baking dish well buttered. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until firm to the touch. Cool before serving.
Oh boy, you’re going to love, love, love these! Enjoy!
Having just finished re-reading, The Siberians, by Farley Mowat, which was published in 1970, I am on to a few new reads this New Year. Thank goodness my loved ones hear my request to put new titles under the Christmas tree. I don’t need a new sweater or jewelry (I can knit the first and rarely wear jewelry), I’m not into gadgets or tech things, nor would any new kitchen appliances be useful. So, the lovely home-made extra large blackboard (for my never-ending long lists) and the new books were just the things to get this New Year rolling in the right direction! The mighty blackboard, as we are calling it, is hung in the kitchen already graffitied with a long list of ‘to do’s’ and dates and things to remember. What I can do with a clean slate and a piece of chalk!
As for the small delicious stack of new books that I am reading and savoring, here’s the list:
Overstory, by Richard Powers
Midnight In Siberia, by David Greene
My Grandmother Asked Me To Tell You She’s Sorry, by Fredrik Backman
The Lambs, My father, And The Gift Of A Flock Of Sheep, by Carol George
Also, there was my renewed subscription to The Small farmer’s Journal (A Quarterly Periodical, Defending Small Farms and Craftsmanship Since 1976.)
So you can certainly understand why I wish for deep snow and blustery weather during the winter. Up early, stoke the fires, do chores, cross a few ‘to do’s’ off the mighty blackboard… then, late afternoon, settle into a comfy chair by the woodstove and read. Oh, what joy! Have you any suggested titles you’d like to share? I would love to hear them!
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
And how did we arrive so soon? It is high summer, isn’t it? The first cut of hay is in. The squash and tomatoes and green beans are asserting their jungle personalities. We may still get one more decent harvest of peas before the heat does them in. Swimming holes are still but beckoning. The pray for rain is profound.
No longer do I come in casually from the garden with a basketful of spring greens, the earliest of radishes, a tub of energy-rich spinach, and think “oh, how nice to have a few tidbits, the earth’s first offerings”. Now it’s full-on, two canning kettles bubbling, the threat of squash taking over our lives. And yet. And yet, we have the creeping thoughts of winter, of firewood needing to be split and stacked ( oh, Denise, don’t mention it aloud!), of propagation for next year’s nursery season, of putting food up for the winter larder.
A brief account of summer from Gary Paulsen’s book Clabbered Dirt And Sweet Grass…it sums it up…this life, these seasons, this rhythm.
“With haying done there is not a separation of work. It continues. Always. But there is another line to cross and a new time comes then, comes then to the seasons- high summer. meterorological data means nothing, technical names mean nothing, the divisions are like music, like stops in a symphony. First thaw, early spring, breakup, middle spring, late spring, early summer, midsummer, high summer, late summer, early fall, Indian summer, first killing freeze, high fall, late fall, first snow, early winter, midwinter, high winter, late winter, first thaw, early spring, breakup…more names than months, more names than days, more names because more names are needed. For the luck”.
Our fairy house building class was such a success last season we are offering it again this summer! Join us here at Fernwood Nursery for a two-part pottery class building miniature homes for your resident garden gnomes or fairies. During the first session, participants will design and construct their fairy homes using clay. Add a window box, tile your roof, or attach shutters, be creative! Once your houses are dry, we will fire them and bring them back to be glazed during the second session. After the glaze firing your pieces will be ready for installation! We will be using slab building and pinching techniques to make miniature shelters, perfect for any ‘little folks’ who may be wandering your woodland or gardens. Along with guidance on how to build and design out of clay, Denise will discuss how to best design around your new piece of mini real estate. Materials and supplies are included…plus, as with most all classes here at Fernwood, tea and scones will be served!
Saturday, July 29th, and Saturday, August 12th, 1:00 to 3:00.
If you’d like to join us, email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (207) 589-4726
You can check out our ‘classes and more’ page for details
We’re offering a great class this spring on some of the earliest plants to bloom in the woodland gardens. We do love these garden beauties that arrive early, but often they come and go before the nursery opens and before visitors get to enjoy them as well. Rick will be here to lead us through the gardens, identifying some of the ‘ephemerals and early risers’ and discussing site selection and soil needs. He is always happy to ‘talk plants’, so come and join us.This class was offered last spring and was a great hit, lots of information about your early woodland garden! A light lunch and tea will be provided. You can check out our Classes and More page for information and cost.
First of all, Sweetfern, Comptonia peregrina is not a fern at all, but actually, a shrub that is in the bayberry family. The leaves, which are very aromatic, are fernlike in their appearance. An extremely useful and adaptable native, it can grow in a variety of soils in full sun to part shade. Often, due to its spreading and colonizing habit, it used to stabilize slopes or other disturbed sites. Since it fixes its own nitrogen, is drought tolerant, withstands the wind, and can thrive in poor gravelly soils, it is often used in commercial and municipal projects. But it is also very useful in the home landscape. The deep green foliage is an attractive addition to any design that keeps in mind its ability to spread. Once it attains its mature height of 3′-5′, the plants tend to not get any higher, making a hedge that requires very little pruning. In spring the yellowish green flowers are not striking, but very interesting. These are followed later in the year by small edible nutlets held inside a fuzzy casing. The leaves can be used for a tea and many medicinal applications including, but not limited to, astringents, tonics, and the relief of the effects of poison ivy. This is one very tough native that should be considered more often in the residential landscape. We’ll have plenty of Comptonia here at the nursery this spring. If you are looking for an aromatic native with multiple uses, put this plant on the list! It’s a gem!
Out went our Christmas tree today. Amazing how much more light comes through the big windows without a shade tree blocking the way. Now it can stand out beside the trellis for the remainder of the winter and the birds can enjoy it.
The sun was bright this afternoon and it was warm enough to muck out the chicken coop and sheep pens. No frozen poop to chisel! That’s nice. All the bedding gets tossed into a big sled and then dragged over to be emptied into the compost piles. Soil food!! See, even though we enjoy our winter hibernation we still have gardening in our thoughts.
After a fine day of working mostly outdoors, it was time to come in, stoke the fires, and make some dinner. Dinner? Remember that salmon we caught ice fishing? Filleted, dredged in flour, salt, and pepper, then sauteed in butter…..the best!