In The Woods And In The Nursery

We just began the process of uncovering the nursery. Such a fun job after a long winter. Each time we roll back the landscape cloth we immediately inspect the condition of the plants underneath. One little Hepatica transylvanica that we’ve propagated was already in bloom. A determined little gem! It looks like most everything has come through the long winter splendidly. Always a joy and a relief to know our plants were tucked in well for the winter, undisturbed by voles, and are now ready to have their covers lifted.

Lobaria pulmonaria

While out foraging, I came across one of my favorite lichens, Lobaria pulmonaria. This lichen is an epiphytic lichen, which means it is an organism that uses another plant for structure and derives its moisture and nutrients from the rain and air but does not harm the plant it’s living on. This particular lichen is very susceptible to air pollution and will not often be found in areas where air quality is poor. Fortunately, our air quality is pretty darn good here in the woods of Maine, so I come across it quite regularly. I harvest a small amount of Lobaria for two reasons. First, for its medicinal value. I tincture this lichen for respiratory ailments such as bronchitis, lingering coughs, and croup. Lobaria is an expectorant, an astringent, is an antimicrobial and a pulmonary demulcent. Having antibiotic properties it can help with bacterial infections. I tincture Lobaria and also gather a bit for drying to add along with other respiratory herbs and then use it as a tea. The other use I have for Lobaria is as a dye plant. Used fresh or dried, Lobaria gives a dark brown color to the yarn I am dying. I don’t often use a mordant ( a mordant is a substance, typically an inorganic oxide, that combines with a dye and helps to fix it to the wool), but with the most recent collection, I will see if I can shift the color a bit using some copper or iron. Aren’t these plants just the most amazing things ever? I am very careful about leaving the bulk of a lichen undisturbed. Lichens are very slow growing and such an important part of our ecosystem that I find it best to be very thoughtful when harvesting. Not much is needed for tincture, for tea, or for a dye bath, so a very small amount is actually gathered.
Tomorrow, I may take my Lobaria pulmonaria down to the coast and set up a little fire and a dye pot. Curious as to what the salt water and all its minerals will do to alter the color. We shall see and I’ll keep you all posted on the results!
Hope where ever you are, you are feeling the strength and restorative properties of the approaching spring season. So very lovely, isn’t it?

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!

Spring, We Can Feel It And We Can See It

It was over eighty in the greenhouse today without the heat turned on. The sun was strong. The dog lounged all day in a pile of leaves on the south side of the house. We uncovered two rows of conifers and they are so green green green and they appear happy to be unveiled. We potted up some Hepaticas and some more Bloodroot and sowed more vegetable seeds. We ate our lunch outdoors and saw our first robin return to the feeder. We didn’t have a fire in the woodstove all day. We thought about going up to John’s Ice Cream for a strawberry milkshake because it felt so deliciously warm that it made us think of spring and summer things…like milkshakes. We didn’t go because as much as we felt like sipping on a milkshake we didn’t feel like driving out through the mud and ruts that are indicative to spring and of course indicative to the other word for spring in the northeast…mud season. The sheep’s water buckets didn’t freeze overnight and the chickens were eager to get out of the henhouse and to cruise the yard for morsels. Tonight there is a possibility of light snow, perhaps a half an inch. That doesn’t mean it’s still winter and it doesn’t mean it’s not spring. This we know. We’ll stay flexible.
But today, we felt spring in our bones and we saw signs of it all around us. Glory be!
For the sake of spring, which may come and go several times before staying put..please read and enjoy this poem by Kate Barnes.

April and then May,
violets up in the field,
the ewes with their twin lambs;

time has decided
to turn into spring again
after all.

The maples are unfolding their leaves,
chives stand green at the kitchen door,
the black flies have decided to come back;
and the work mare has her new foal
capering over bluets in the pasture,
and the hall smells of daffodils;

and everything
is divinely ordinary –
the deep ruts in the field track,

the spring overflowing,
the excited swallows,
the apple trees

budding for perhaps the hundredth time –
and the pruned boughs budding too
that must bloom just where they lie.

By Kate Barnes

A Beautiful Day In March

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.”

Our curious hens have found bare ground!

Hair cuts are desperately needed!


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!

First List Of Classes !

We’re starting to post our class offerings and schedule for the 2019 season here at Fernwood Nursery. Today I’ll share with you what has been slated so far for the month of April, but be sure to visit our classes and more page for additional summer classes and newly posted opportunities ( some are already up!). We are so looking forward to the upcoming season, potting up new plants as well continuing with the old favorites. Lots of great natives for those who are devoted to restoring ecological habitats or for those who simply see the beauty and importance of growing native plants within the landscape. Of course, being ‘plantaholics’ we also carry an extensive collection of unusual plants and rarities from around the globe. Come see! We know spring is coming, the squishy ground beneath our feet and the deep muddy ruts on all of our dirt roads are obvious indicators!
And now, two classes in April that may interest you…

Dull As A Hoe!
Saturday, April 20th, 2019 from 1:00 -3:00
Get those garden tools ready for the season! Join us here at Fernwood Nursery to learn how to sharpen and maintain your garden tools. Whether it’s a trusty hoe, your essential digging spade, or those favorite pruners, come learn how to keep them sharp and at their best. Feel free to bring along your own gardening tools ( limit three, please) to get that hands-on opportunity to sharpen their edges. Sharpening materials will be on-site for your use and instruction will be provided. Complimentary scones and tea will also be available!
Class size is limited to 10, pre-registration and pre-payment required. Visit our classes and more for details.
Please call (207) 589-4726 or email us at fernwoodnursery@fairpoint.net to register

Erythronium ‘ Rose Queen’
Trout Lily


‘Ephemerals and Early Risers’
On Saturday, April 27th, 2019 from 10:00a.m. to noon
Rick and Denise Sawyer of Fernwood Nursery will give a presentation on ‘Ephemerals and Early Risers’. The talk will focus on those plants which are first to emerge in spring within the woodland garden. Come join us for a walk and talk as we identify and enjoy the earliest of plants to bloom and learn how to incorporate them into your own landscape. Discover some of the woodland gems we grow and offer here at Fernwood Nursery…bloodroot, Hepatica, Anemones, and Dutchman’s britches, to name a few!
The program will take place in the gardens and studio of Fernwood Nursery from 10:00 a.m. to 12 noon. Space is limited to 10, so pre-registration and pre-payment are required. Also, dress for the weather…it’s spring and it could be showery. Tea and a light lunch will be served. Visit our classes and more page for details. Sign up by phone or email. Happy Spring! (207)589-4726 or email us at fernwoodnursery@fairpoint.net

The Shift Is Here

The shift from winter to early spring comes quickly here. Not so much in temperature or the landscape, we still have a hefty blanket of snow cover, the woodstoves are still ablaze, and just this morning we were out, once again, shoveling paths and clearing the driveway. Winter still has a grip. The transition and its intensity come from the tasks that are required to be up and ready for a new nursery season when spring truly arrives. The greenhouse is seeing a flurry of activity; seeds are started, soil is being prepared, heat mats are stretched out and tested, plants lists are being scrutinized and revised (oh, the excitement of all the new goodies for the nursery this season!), we’re addressing any repairs on the infrastructure that may have been altered during the winter months ( must fix that hinge on the hoop house door!), we’re writing up our class descriptions for the spring and summer. Oh, boy, the pace is quickening! How delightful though, to feel well rested after a long and quiet winter and to now welcome and embrace the sudden burst in energy and new life emerging…how long before the winter Aconitum start pushing their bold yellow flowers through the snow, who will spot the first fuzzy catkins to open on the willows, and let us not forget the hardiness of the early Hellebores (Lenten Rose) that will flower well before their new leaves emerge? For so many of us, the transition is not simply the physical changes or demands we may experience shifting from winter to spring, but the mental awakening we feel when the sun is higher in the sky, the days are longer, and the ground though still nestled beneath its blanket of snow is sending its earthy fragrance upward. Ahh. I can feel it, I can. Excitement and anticipation. I want to tip my head toward the sun and shout “Welcome and thank you, Mr. Sun, and aren’t you something you big ol’ ball of fire!”
That’s the atmosphere here at Fernwood Nursery right now, a grateful nod of farewell to winter and with hearts and arms opened welcoming the promise of spring.

Tools!

Tomorrow is this season’s opening day at the Liberty Tool Company in the village of Liberty, Maine. Every year during the off-season I lend a hand helping out at Liberty Tool. I work a day in the store where I cruise the aisles filling bins and wooden boxes and stocking shelves with the new (old and useful and often collectible) inventory that has come in…wood planes, spokeshaves, old axes, wrenches, machinist tools, screwdrivers, drills, vices, just to name a very few of things you’ll find when visiting.

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I also spend time in the (epic) Davistown Museum across the road (also part of Liberty Tool) filing away research papers and cataloging books for the extended library that has been created. The museum is truly one of my favorite places to be, a treasure trove of art and old tools, sculpture, Native American artifacts, resources, and a library of both new and old books on everything from shipbuilding to woodworking tools to the history of Deere Isle, Maine during the Civil War. Amazing, really, it is truly amazing.

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So, I am encouraging and inviting anyone to make a trip to the little village of Liberty and check it out. Come tomorrow and you’ll get to take part in the yearly grand opening, an experience in itself! Someday I will sit and write a more lengthy piece on the legendary Liberty Tool Company, The Davistown Museum, and owner Skip Brack, it is so deserving of more words and insight because it is all, just that…legendary.
I have added a few photos but one should check out this video and an interview with Skip Brack, the owner of Liberty Tool, to get a real sense of why this place is so special and so needful. Then drive over and see for yourself!

Snow For Your Valentine

A little more snow, a little more shoveling. We have not tired of it yet, but because the table is now covered with seed catalogs and lists of plants we’ve propagated for the coming season, we are feeling mindful of spring and the promise it brings. Next week, many of the classes we will offer in 2019 will be posted. I know that a hypertufa class will start the season off, I’m thinking April. For those wanting to sculpt some pots and have them cured and ready for planting, this is the class for you!
I have been spending lots of time in the studio, hoping to have some full baskets of handspun yarn to offer knitters this season. And just think, sheep shearing is right around the corner! More wool on its way!
I am including a photo of some socks I made from old sweaters and have now come to the point of needing repair. I really plan on getting the most out of the clothes I wear! Don’t discard…re-make, up-cycle, repair, mend, and patch, I say.

And, why not a poem to celebrate Valentines Day. Enjoy!

To have without holding
BY MARGE PIERCY

Learning to love differently is hard,
love with the hands wide open, love
with the doors banging on their hinges,
the cupboard unlocked, the wind
roaring and whimpering in the rooms
rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds
that thwack like rubber bands
in an open palm.

It hurts to love wide open
stretching the muscles that feel
as if they are made of wet plaster,
then of blunt knives, then
of sharp knives.

It hurts to thwart the reflexes
of grab, of clutch ; to love and let
go again and again. It pesters to remember
the lover who is not in the bed,
to hold back what is owed to the work
that gutters like a candle in a cave
without air, to love consciously,
conscientiously, concretely, constructively.

I can’t do it, you say it’s killing
me, but you thrive, you glow
on the street like a neon raspberry,
You float and sail, a helium balloon
bright bachelor’s button blue and bobbing
on the cold and hot winds of our breath,
as we make and unmake in passionate
diastole and systole the rhythm
of our unbound bonding, to have
and not to hold, to love
with minimized malice, hunger
and anger moment by moment balanced.

Fire And Ice


This past weekend was the annual youth fishing derby at the lake ( St. George). I volunteered to haul over a carload of # 10 cans, several spatulas, and a few crates of dry kindling to help kids learn to build a fire and cook their own food. It was so fun! The ice fishing derby is a great mid-winter event created to encourage kids and their families to get out and ENJOY winter. A whole day of winter fun! Kids (and adults!) could try their hand at drilling a hole through the ice and ice fishing, they could put on a pair of the skates or strap on the snowshoes that were provided, or borrow the sleds to use, or take a ride around the lake on a snowmobile, they could even crawl inside an igloo. My contribution (along with my much-appreciated Fernwood helpers) was to set up a “Hobo cookout’ using # 10 cans as individual stoves and to teach kids how to cook on them. Please picture in your mind a bunch of kids in a large area looking out over the lake scattered with large # 10 cans and small ‘kid constructed’ piles of tinder and dry twigs and boxes of ‘strike anywhere’ matches and plates piled high with hamburgers, hot dogs, and rolls. Now you have an image of how things looked. Here’s the really fun and great thing about teaching kids to build a fire outdoors in the middle of winter and letting them grill their own lunch; All of a sudden, despite any past finicky behavior about food, they will now eat almost anything. They are so proud of this basic skill…make fire, cook meat… that they forget about any picky tendencies. I watched one very slight girl cook and eat 6 hotdogs ( no bun, straight off the stick), I saw several hot dogs roll off the stoves and hit the ground, picking up a slight coating of vegetative matter, only to be quickly wiped off with a wet and grimy mitten for further cooking, then eaten. Many of the cooks charred their dogs to the point of oblivion, no bother, they ate those too. Hamburgers were flipped onto the ground, over-cooked, undercooked, and then happily eaten smothered in ketchup using a wooden shingle as a plate. One boy did touch the top of his stove without wearing his gloves and burned a finger, teared up for a minute, plunged his hand in the snow for relief, and then continued cooking his burger to perfection with the other hand. Bravo! All of this great fun happened because a community recognized the importance of getting outdoors, learning seasonal skills and craft, as well as providing an opportunity to embrace winter here in Maine. The event was also free for everyone… burgers, hot dogs, chili, soup, and baked goods were all donated and also free, all day. The big barn on the property was open and heated with a big wood stove, inside were posters and booklets about fish species, lake habitat, animal tracking guides, and ice fishing rules and regulations. Large pots of hot chocolate, coffee, and tea were on standby for anybody needing a warm drink. Community is essential to all of this. I am so proud to live in a place where we celebrate the beauty and opportunity provided by our landscape and to gather, one and all, to have fun and share knowledge and experience. As you can probably surmise, it was a good day! Oh, and check out some of the beauties kids caught throughout the day ( picture above)…not bad, heh?

Winter Here And Now

Are we halfway through winter yet? It’s always hard to say really, the upcoming months of February and March, can in fact, be brutal. The real snowfall here in Maine will often come at the end of this cold winter season, nudging itself into spring. This we know. Today, however, it is warmer. The wood stoves are less hungry at the moment, the chicken’s water may just remain unfrozen for the day, and our pups are not prancing back to the warmth of the house with icy feet. Today is a good day to put together a seed list. It’s a good day to burrow through the winter squash that is stored in the root cellar and cull out any soft ones. I think it’s a good day to make chocolate pudding as well. Agree? There is one recipe I always use for chocolate pudding, a pudding that is so dark and rich and silky smooth that once you put it in your mouth, you may regret swallowing and instead choose to let it linger on your tongue. Decadent, for sure.
How’s it going for you this winter? Are you faring well? I do hope so. Well, so long for now, I must go and raid the pantry for chocolate and get to that puddin’ making!
Here’s the recipe…

Favorite Chocolate Pudding

1/2 cup dark brown sugar
2 TBLS. granulated sugar
1/4 cup (high quality) unsweetened cocoa powder
2 TBLS. cornstarch
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups whole milk
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped ( again, high quality)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Stir together brown sugar, granulated sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt with a fork in a heavy bottom saucepan, until sugars are broken up and the mixture is well blended. Add 1 cup milk and the chocolate and heat over medium heat, whisking, until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Whisk in the remaining 1 cup milk and cook, whisking frequently, for 6 to 8 minutes, until large bubbles pop on the surface and pudding is thick and smooth. Remove from heat and whisk in the vanilla, then immediately transfer to a large bowl or 4 serving bowls.