Cimicifuga ramosa ‘James Compton’ still looking magnificent

Our days are shifting now. The nursery will remain open for just a few more days and then it’s by appointment through the month of October. Each garden has its signs of decay and impending dormancy. The vegetable gardens are looking tired and we are finally ready to shift our daily eating habits from fresh green beans and yellow squash to roasted beets and potato leek soup. Knitting in the evenings are more likely and a long walk in the morning is possible. The sheep are still grazing, though it won’t be long before they are brought home from their summer pasture and will switch over to their winter diet of hay and grain. As of yet, we have not had to light the woodstove, but we know those cool mornings and nippy evenings are just ahead of us. We still have a large flock of meat birds to process in October (50 or so) and about 7 cords of firewood to finish splitting and stacking. I feel like I can take time to bake bread again and dye wool and make pumpkin butter without the feeling of urgency to get back outside and weed or mow or pot plants. A change in routine is good, I do declare!
This summer, we have had a wedding to pull off, a long visit from two little kiddos with tremendous (and delightful) energy, and a fast and furious and super busy nursery season. Yup, I’m tired. I’m feeling a bit whooped. So let the shift of this Fall season begin. Let the days grow shorter, and yes, a bit darker. I’m hoping that the steps I take don’t cover ground as quickly as they do during the hay days of summer. Let there be time to pause, to collect thoughts, to establish a quieter rhythm. It’s time. How are you all feeling? Ready to let go of summer or wanting it to linger a bit longer? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this melancholy transition from summer haze to fall crispness. In the meantime, with an intention to nurture a stillness of heart, I’ll mozy out to the gardens and start pulling onions for winter storage.

Retreat

I took a day off and went to the ocean. A quick retreat. Hardly more than 24 hours. I did, however, have the opportunity to hike a secret footpath along the shore. Glorious, glorious. I did sit looking out at the lobster boats coming in with their haul and was able to begin knitting little Violets sweater. I did have a meal of scallops and fresh tomatoes and homemade goat cheese. All in just a mere 24 hrs! Soul soothing.

Mid August (almost)

Thalictrum rochebrunianum

Here it is mid-August! Jeepers! It is at this time of year my insides begin to feel’ revved’ up. Lists and lists of things to do and accomplish before the snow flies. So much still to do in the nursery!

Helianthus divaricatus

Tons of propagation for next year; cuttings, gathering and sowing seed, divisions. A walk around the display beds every day to check for seed that’s ripe. Investigating the woody material for the timing of cuttings. We are beginning to see the natural decline of a few plants in the woodland garden, the herbaceous growth fading away, most of their energy going into just root growth now.

Anemone vitifolia


Don’t get me wrong, the landscape is lush with growth. A jungle of vines and stems and blooms that we manage to maintain.

Clematis heracleifolia

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?

Are We There Yet? High Summer, I mean.

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”.

Herbs, Cocktails, Mocktails, Fruited Vinegars!

Come and find out what we’re doing with herbs!

Herbal Cocktails and Mocktails Class!

Increase your entertaining repertoire with a class on herbal cocktails and mocktails with Cari Balbo of Ridge Pond Herbals of Palermo and Denise Sawyer of Fernwood Nursery. We’ll spend the afternoon learning to make fruit and herbal infused vinegars and alcohols, syrups, and cordials, and discover the many ways you can use herbs to make deliciously refreshing concoctions! The class will provide recipes and instruction, plenty of ‘taste testing’, as well as an opportunity to create your own herbal infused cocktail to take home!
Join Cari and Denise in the beautiful gardens of Fernwood Nursery for a class that is sure to be both entertaining and educational ( and fun!)! All materials included.
Sunday, July 29th, from 1:00 to 3:00. Class size limited, so please pre-register by calling (207) 589-4726 or emailing fernwoodnursery@fairpoint.net. Class cost: $ 30.00.

Pickled Fiddleheads

Our daughter, Zoe, is getting married in September. We’ve been working hard on the preparations and details (aside from all the preparations and details here at the nursery, oh my!). Every day, crossing off one more ‘thing to buy’ or ‘person to call’…there’s lighting, and food, and dance music. Luckily, we have a generous bunch of friends, community, and of course, a family, who are willing to help out. A true blessing, for sure. Today’s project? Pickling fiddleheads for the charcuterie board. Of course, there must be pickled fiddleheads to offer guests if you’re from Maine, right? For this bride, there will be fiddleheads…and lobster rolls, and something made with blueberries. I’ll include a pickled fiddlehead recipe if you’d like to have a go at making some yourself or if, by chance, you have a soon to be bride requesting them at her wedding!
Happy day, everyone!

In a Pickle: Pickled Fiddlehead Ferns

YIELD:
makes 1 pint
ACTIVE TIME:
45 minutes
TOTAL TIME:
1 week
Ingredients
1/2 pound fiddlehead ferns
Kosher salt
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon dill seeds
1/4 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 allspice berries
1 garlic clove, smashed
Directions
1.
Place fiddlehead ferns in a large bowl of cold water and wash well. Rub away any brown chaff and trim cut ends.

2.
Add two tablespoons of salt to two quarts of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add fiddlehead ferns and cook for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

3.
Combine vinegar, 1/2 cup water, and 1 teaspoon salt in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Place spices and garlic cloves into the bottom of a prepared pint jar. Pack fiddlehead ferns into the jar and add hot pickling liquid to cover.

4.
Wipe rim, apply lid and ring and process in a small boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. Remove jar from canner and let cool on a folded kitchen towel. When jar is cool enough to handle, remove ring and check seal.

5.
Sealed jars can be stored in the pantry for up to one year. Unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used promptly. Let these pickles age for at least a week before eating.

Coffee Time Gems

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
2 cups flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt.
Mix these dry ingredients and whisk together.
In a separate bowl add,
1 beaten egg
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup milk
4 TBLS. melted butter
2 tsp. powdered espresso or powdered coffee
Combine these ingredients and whisk to dissolve coffee.
Add all at once to dry ingredients. Don’t over-beat.
Add:
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts

Fill greased muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes.
Enjoy!!!

Growing up, my Grandma, whom I adored, was always on a quest for the perfect bran muffin, the perfect coffee cake, and the perfect banana bread. She was a fine baker. A really wonderful cook. And, she was always very generous when it came to her kitchen, allowing any of us grandchildren to rifle through her cupboards, pull out her ample stash of muffin tins or bake-ware, and have a go at creating recipes. She was (and still is) my biggest inspiration in the kitchen. Not a trained chef, no top-notch culinary background, but boy could she cook! A few things I learned? Patience, accurate measuring, and always, always, select the best ingredients. Butter and good chocolate could always be found in her larder. An excellent selection of spices and herbs were lined up and sealed tightly in their glass bottles just waiting to become a pinch of this or a pinch of that. You could always count on finding buttermilk and sour cream and freshly squeezed lemon juice in her fridge.
When it came to ingredients for a recipe that we kids were determined to try or if art materials were needed to draw, sculpt or paint something, we had full access to her shelves and cupboards for supplies. Thank you, Grandma, for your grace and willingness to encourage all of us to ‘make things’. I think all of your grandchildren have a knack for creating, thanks to you! I’m still using many of her recipes. Those large index cards all hand-written and often smudged with some of the choice ingredients. I love all the side notes she added, “add a pinch of lemon zest” or “include a dollop of sour cream” or “don’t over-beat the batter”. When I am creating something, for the table or in the studio, I always think of my grandmother.
I just made these little yummy muffins the other day. Not her tried and true bran muffins but a favorite from my Gram’s recipe book. So glad I remembered them! Chock full of raisins, just the right amount of chopped walnuts, and a strong coffee flavor. Delish! Give them a try, really you should! Do you have any recipes that have been passed down from a special cook in the family?

Barn Dinner

Before I left for my time in Ireland, I catered a dinner in a barn/studio for a friend. It was the end of September, the nights were perfect for an outdoor fire and to have the big barn doors slung open to let some sea breeze in. There was still plenty of garden produce available for salads and side dishes and it was also cool enough for several crocks of baked beans. Steamed lobster, a broth made with mussels and saffron, and ice cream sandwiches made with home baked molasses cookies, helped to round out the meal. Every year I cater a limited amount of these farm to table dinners. I love doing them. I enjoy cooking at different locations, working with the scenery and atmosphere that each one offers up. Next summer I hope to offer a few Tear Drop trailer dinners. What do you think… vintage Tear Drop trailer, an ocean view, and a meal prepared with food from our farm and locally sourced ingredients?
Here are some photos from the barn dinner….and, yes that is a sheep making her way through the dining area. I did mention the word barn, didn’t I? Oh my! If you have any interest in having a very special meal prepared and served out of the cute and cozy teardrop trailer, email questions at fernwoodnursery@fairpoint.net. I’ll even brings along some sheep if you’d like!

These Days

Soon, I am off to Ireland to help my friend Sally with some farm projects. We have some ‘irons in the fire’ with regards to Herdwick sheep , in addition to collecting more oral histories. I’ll be writing about this later and more than likely from ‘that side of the pond’, as they say.
In the meantime, here are a few things happening at Fernwood as we ready ourselves for the colder months ahead….
Some of the potted begonias have been brought in with hopes that I don’t kill them over the winter ( can you believe that someone who co-owns a nursery can kill a houseplant in no time at all!).
The Ray’s Calais corn has been brought in from the garden, shucked, and is now in the greenhouse for further drying. Those jewels of kernels, beautiful, yes?
The winter squash has a couple more weeks of curing and then we’ll haul them in for storage
The carmal colored Adzuki beans are now on the top of the threshing list.
Swiss chard continues to thrive and wave like a row of rainbow flags in the garden.
Playing around a bit with shorn ( uncleaned) fleeces and felting them to processed roving, the result being a ‘sheepskin without the hide’.
And, the knitting continues…

Three Kinds Of Beans

We don’t grow acres of beans, but we do grow enough to get us through the winter. Most often, we plant three types of beans for storage…Vermont Cranberry, Black Beans, and Adzuki Beans. The black beans were pulled a couple of weeks ago, their leaves had dropped and the beans themselves were fairly hard. I pulled the entire row, lashed together bundles of plant and pod and hung them in the greenhouse for further drying.
At the end of the day, we’ve been lighting a small campfire and sitting out to enjoy the evening, often having dinner by firelight. We hardly ever do this during the middle of summer, we’re so busy and tired from the day’s pace that we come inside after dark, eat, and flop into bed. Sitting by the fire, last night along with our friend Jack, who tells good stories, I shucked beans and listened to Jack talk about his travels through Europe and about growing up here in Maine in the fifties.
If we grew fields of beans we’d need a bean thresher, doing this task by hand would then be pretty impractical. Growing just enough for home use makes it possible to thresh beans by hand (preferably by a campfire, ha!), perhaps a bit tedious and time consuming but something I enjoy doing. The next batch of beans are not quite ready, we’ll leave them to dry on the vines for a while longer. Once they’re harvested, they can hang in the greenhouse until we can get to them ( before Christmas, I hope!).
The gardens here are slowly winding down. However, the broccoli is still producing lots of side shoots, the chard is tall and handsome, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, and leeks are waiting to be harvested, and there are still tomatoes and peppers in the hoop house to be gathered.The winter squash is all laid out on tables curing for winter storage. A few tender late planted greens continue to provide for fresh salads and sauteing. Even now, as the weather turns and we begin preparing for those long (delightful) winter months, there continues to be plenty. Very thankful, we are. Very thankful.