Summer Colors

Picture 1551Picture 1570Picture 1557The gardens that are in full sun are a riot of color at this time of year. They are planted with a mix of well established perennials and some yearly annuals. In their robust nature, they all seem to be competing for center stage.Picture 1556Picture 1564Picture 1540 Such a contrast to the more elegant and graceful nature of the shade beds. The plants in the shade often being much more subdued than the sun area, but no less striking or appreciated. Truth be told, we appreciate the shade gardens more than ever during these hot sultry days. They seem to invoke a feeling of calmness and serenity, where as the sun gardens can bring forth a feeling of…..well, chaos. Nice chaos, that is. We do work in the shadier display beds more often during these hot spells, certain that the temperature is a few degrees cooler under the canopy of trees. It is much more pleasant in the shade and we will get more done in the long run. That heat can zap our energy long before a day is over, and we can’t have that now, can we? Many of the sun loving plants, along with the overflowing vegetable gardens, are loudly expressing themselves. They are closer to the house and are what we look out at from the big front windows. They are big and bold, and of course we appreciate them as well. Everyday a bouquet comes in….sweet peas, cosmos, phlox, echinacea, poppies, monarda, to name a few. I am grateful for these lovely arrangements gathered from just outside our doorstep. How lucky to be surrounded by flowers, poetry expressed in the language of flowers.Picture 1613Picture 1568Picture 1538Picture 1578
Back in the house, before the temperatures soar, I scramble around preserving the vegetables brought in the night before. Today;
more pesto
blanch and freeze more broccoli
blanch and freeze more beans
roast tomatoes, eggplant, and garlic( all together), then can
feed the sourdough
make pizza crust, having vegetable toppings ready for tonight’s dinner ( we’ll cook this on the grill)
do something with a bucket of potatoes
make some coleslaw
make a broccoli quiche ( to use up some of that broccoli and the non stop flow of eggs coming into the house
pick squash…again, and again, and again.Picture 1605

That should keep me busy until the kitchen is too hot to work in. Oh, and I think we just may be in the hay field this afternoon. The 2nd cut hay is mowed and ready. I love being in the hay field, even when the heat bears down on you and the chafe from the hay sticks to your sweaty arms and neck. A jump in the lake is never any better than after a day of throwing bales. Divine! The satisfaction of having the animals fodder secured for the winter always feels good. People often ask us what we do during the long cold winters here in Maine…… we rest, with a sigh of relief!

Filling The Shelves

Picture 1586The pantry shelves are filling up. We are trying to be more thoughtful about the amounts of vegetables and fruits we are canning this year (and freezing). Though it is true that we are often visited by “shoppers” who may come and fill their “to go” bags with goodies (our occasionally returning children), we don’t need as much as we have in the past. Instead of 30 jars of bread and butter pickles, 15 will be enough. The same for dilly beans, sour pickles, relish, and ketchup. Tomatoes and salsa are still being put up in greater quantities. Peaches and jams, we are happy to have enough to eat through the winter and give some as gifts. As our household grows smaller ( boo hoo), we are trying to rein in our efforts to grow and preserve what we actually need instead of preparing for the thoughts of feeding an army. Don’t worry, I haven’t even come close to mastering this concept. It’s a slow process. It is almost painful to put limitations on how many jars of pickled mixed vegetables I make. Are you sure we don’t need a few more quarts of frozen broccoli? Hot pepper jelly? How do I decide which peppers make it into the jars and which ones get offered up to non-hot pepper growing neighbors? And chickens? Every year we raise anywhere between 75-100 meat birds. This year we are scaling down to 60. Geeze! This cutting back makes sense, I know this. With fewer mouths to feed on a regular basis we just don’t need as much. Also, guess what? After years of canning for a full table of eaters, our shelves and freezers still have food from years past. O.k. I’ll just go ahead and admit it, I haven’t seen the bottom of at least two of our freezers in the last couple of years( We have 4 freezers, is this bad?). I’m hoping there may be some chocolate zucchini cakes resting on the bottom. If I stick to this plan of reducing what goes in there, I may reach that cake by February. Just in case, I’ll sneak in a few fresh ones on the top!

Our Recent Days

Picture 1351There is quite a range of activity here at the nursery right now. Every day food is being brought in to be processed…..canned, pickled, or frozen. We’ve just harvested our first large crop of broccoli to be put into the freezer. Kale, chard, and snow peas are going in along with it. The summer squash and green beans are producing faster than we can pick them. Herbs and foraged plants are being collected for tea, or tinctures, and salves.

drying chamomile blossoms

drying chamomile blossoms

Chamomile blossoms are set aside to dry, and St. John’s Wort flowers have been picked to make a tincture with. Our WWOOFer Hannah has been enjoying our foraging excursions, she is quickly learning the botanical names of plants here at the nursery and the ones we collect from the fields and woods to make tinctures and salves with. I think she likes learning about the medicinal uses of the plants we grow and collect.
Adlumia fungosa

Adlumia fungosa

Corydalis lutea

Corydalis lutea

Myrrhis odorata ' Sweet Cicely'

Myrrhis odorata
‘ Sweet Cicely’

Rick has been collecting seed from the display beds, and plants like Adlumia fungosa, Corydalis lutea, and Myrrhis odorata are being potted up and put into the sales area. Picture 1341The sheep are being moved every two weeks or so for rotational grazing methods.Hannah has been spending a bit of time picking through this spring’s fleeces readying them for the next step…..washing.
And then there is the weeding, mowing, and daily maintenance around the place. We continue to advance on the studio project, the second floor being nailed in place soon. Boy, oh boy, our days are full! We do love every bit of it though and feel thankful for this good life we live. And as I’ve mentioned before, there’s always plenty of food!
Lunch.....homemade pizza with zucchini, garlic scape pesto, fresh tomato, and olives

Lunch…..homemade pizza with zucchini, garlic scape pesto, fresh tomato, and olives

After A Giant Rain

Picture 1276Oh, the list of things to tackle today! We are grateful for the rain. No watering necessary in the nursery, nature did it for us. But now, some serious weeding. Didn’t we just go through that bed? Thank goodness for the leaf mulch we so carefully spread, it certainly helps with weed control ( and feeds the soil). We have a young friend coming today who loves gardening, loves to be here at the nursery, and loves weeding. How lucky we are!
So, the list? Weeding ( it always gets to be first!)
Harvest two of the large spinach beds, blanch, and freeze
Pot up the Epimedium, dwarf iris, and twin flower( Linnaea borealis)
Begin sorting through the stock area and selecting plants for the nursery
Move the sheep fence
Clean out the pig’s pen
Ready the greenhouse for the upcoming hypertufa class ( a couple of spots still open!)

Picture 1284These are just a few tasks I can think of at the moment. More will come to mind as soon as we step outside. Visitors here at the nursery have been enjoying the bed of mini hosta we planted a year ago. There is a huge selection of mini hosta on the market. We carry at least 30 different varieties. Mini hostas can range in size from 2 to 6 inches. If you have a small shady space and want to fill it, consider these miniatures. Besides, they have great names like Teeny- weeny Bikini, Mighty Mouse, Dragon Tails, Pure Heart, and Chartreuse Wiggles, to name a few.
Enjoy the day and happy gardening everyone!

Peachy

Picture 069After freezing and canning all the peaches we are going to need this winter, a fresh pie was certainly in order. These peaches came from my friends tree. There has hardly been a year when that tree has not produced baskets full of peaches. I’m not sure of the variety, and Sue doesn’t seem to recall the name from when she planted it. No difference, it’s a honey of a peach tree. One of the great things about living amongst neighbors who share in the commitment and practice of self-sufficiency, is that lots of food gets bartered between farms and households. Sue had lots of extra peaches, I have an abundance of beans and tomatoes. Something got after her greenbeans early on, and blight has done a number on the remainder of her tomatoes. No problem. That’s why living with many diversified farms nearby can help you out of a tough spot. I am at the end of tomato canning and can’t squeeze even one more package of frozen beans into the freezer. Dilly beans already take up substantial room on the pantry shelves. So, peaches for beans and as many tomatoes as you can carry? Sweet deal! This kind of bartering is almost always in motion here in our community. Especially during the growing season. Why not feed yourselves and some neighbors along with it? Tonight, we feast on fresh peach pie and some homemade vanille ice cream. Thanks to my neighbor! Picture 071

This Time Of Year……..

Anemone vitifolia 'Robustissima'

Anemone vitifolia ‘Robustissima’

Fall is approaching, and we begin to see some of the foliage around us taking on their autumn hues. Along with the harvesting of ripe seeds from the display beds for propagating, and continuing to gather ripe fruits from the vegetable garden for processing, we are also beginning to put some of the beds( vegetable) to rest. The ornamental display beds are still glorious in growth and many fall blooming plants are just coming into their own.
Clethra alnifolia 'Compacta'

Clethra alnifolia ‘Compacta’

Picture 038The Clethra (Clethra alnfolia ‘compacta’) is blooming profusely and the sweet scent of its blooms are a delight in the garden right now. Anemone vitifolia , Kirengeshoma koreana, Kirengeshoma palmata, and Lycoris squamigera are all in full bloom. Cardnial flower ( Lobelia cardinalis ), gentian ( Gentiana asclepiadea), and the Helianthus( Helianthus divaricatus) are bringing great color to the landscape. Our native turtleheads ( Chelone), with both pink and white blooms, are just beginning to open.
Lobelia cardinalis 'Black truffles'

Lobelia cardinalis ‘Black truffles’

Gentiana asclepiadea

Gentiana asclepiadea

Gentiana asclepiadea

Gentiana asclepiadea

Helianthus divaricatus

Helianthus divaricatus

The fall gardens bring a new surprise each day, and many visitors to the nursery are using this time to add unique and special plants to their landscape. The ornamentals continue to do their thing as we begin to tend to the chores of the fall vegetable garden. Aside from the asparagus and herbs, the spent annual plants are pulled out, the soil turned over, and an amendment of compost or manure is applied. In some beds a green manure, like winter rye or buckwheat may be sown, and this will be turned under in the spring. Green manures are a great way to replenish the soil with some of the nutrients it may need. We are still collecting lots of food from these gardens, and will continue to do so through the fall, though some areas are ready for cleaning up. Two rows of green beans have pretty much exhausted themselves, several areas where lettuce and various greens are growing can be turned over, and the garlic beds are empty. The hoop house will soon be rid of its summer residents ( peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes)and replanted with a fall crop of kale, broccoli, and greens. I have to admit, this little bit of clean up helps to bring some order to the lush jungle appearance of the gardens. These tasks of both seasons, summer’s end and the fast approaching fall, merge together right about now. Yes, tomatoes are still being picked and canned, the lawn needs mowing, seed is still being harvested and sown, but the firewood is also being cut and stacked and we have our sights on cooler weather and what it entails. Tomorrow, I will begin bushogging the lower pastures at the farm , moving the ewes once again, and adding an anxious ram to the mix. All fall related tasks. For a while, we will feel like we’re living between seasons. Perhaps this overlap brings a flurry of work……ending some tasks and starting new, but I love that we so intimately witness and partake in the seasons transitions. We are a part of this change, we have our hand in it. It will happen regardless, but our lives which are so connected to the natural world, keep us rooted in observation and paticipation. Here are a few more photos of the fall bloomers we are enjoying at the moment:
Lycoris squamigera

Lycoris squamigera

Picture 024
Kirengeshoma palmata

Kirengeshoma palmata

Kirengeshoma koreana

Kirengeshoma koreana

The Story Of Late Summer

I am in the kitchen: through the window, the long grasses run before the wind, and on the table are mounds of greenbeans. Water is boiling on the stove; steam makes the lids dance and rattle. My knife flashes, chops, and my hands follow each other fluidly through familiar choreography. In the garden, the onion tops have collapsed in a soft tangle. It seems only yesterday that I planted the tiny sets. There is a peculiar satisfaction in the swiftness with which I pluck the onions from the soil and lay them in the golden ranks to cure. Twist and pull the corn ears, tuck them under my arm. Shuck them in the garden and throw the husks to the horses.
As the light becomes lower and richer, I feel a gathering sense of fulfillment and loss.
It happens too fast. Yet in this speed, this urgency that inhibits reflection, in the busy-ness of living, in the demands of vegetable growing, I am absorbed by the life of this particuler soil, this particular air, and this particular light. I become a thread in tha tapestry of summer, even as I am torn by the desire to stand aside, the need to arrest this tumbling beauty, to hold it in my hands.

Some fine words to share by Beth Powning. Isn’t it wonderful when we find words that can so eloquently and thoughtfully express a time in our life, can capture moments with just the right feeling and emotion. Summer and her great bounty is exactly what’s happening now. It’s a flurry, and the pace of the days and the swiftness of how quickly it all happens stuns us. We , who are always so busy this time of year, managing the nursery and growing our food, are acutely aware of how fleeting summer is. One more swim at the lake? Another picnic up on the ridge? Another paddle across the pond, please? We’ll do our best to make time for a few of these idyllic summer pleasures. We will be glad we did, come February. Just as we will be grateful for that rich tomatoe taste from the canned jars that line the pantry shelves. A bit of summer captured in a jar.

Greenbeans

Picture 1164If you ever want to grow just one type of vegetable that will make you feel like the best gardener in the world, give you the feeling of endless bounty, and keep you harvesting baskets full of summer goodness on a daily basis……grow greenbeans. We pick them, being sure to collect every bean that is close to edible size, and still they grow overnight and need to be picked again the very next day. We prepared 10 pounds of beans for the freezer today, and enjoyed an ample serving of them for dinner as well. Tomorrow we are expecting rain, and this means no picking……..I can only imagine what will await us in the bean patch the following day. Oh my.

Tomato Glutton

This is the time of year when the tomatoes come on strong. Fortunately, we escaped any of the dreaded blight that has been plaguing farmers in the Northeast over the last few years. We plant approximately 60 tomato plants and find this truly meets our fresh tomato needs as well as providing an ample supply for the winter.

Our varieties this year included Martha Washingtons, Cherokee Purples, Soldack, New Girls, Cosmonaut Volkov, Black Krim, Hinez Paste, and a selection of our favorite cherry tomatoes.

Our winter supply is stored by canning, making sauce, salsa, and freezing. By mid-September, I feel less ambitious about standing at the stove stirring pots of tomatoes. To remedy this, I find roasting tomatoes not only frees up my time but also creates a versatile end product with a delicious and intensified tomato flavor.

I skip the traditional process of dipping tomatoes in hot water then cold to remove the skins and then seeding them. Instead I take my largest roasting pan, put a skim layer of good olive oil in the bottom, core all my tomatoes (still fresh), cut them into quarters and pile them into the pan. To this I add an ample amount of garlic, often two large heads, cored and seeded sweet red peppers and then sprinkle a little more olive oil over the top. Occasionally, I throw in some fresh oregano and basil. Then I put the whole pan, uncovered, in a 300 degree oven and roast for about three to four hours, without stirring. My goal is to reduce as much liquid from the tomatoes as possible.

I then use the tomatoes in a variety of ways:

  • Puree the whole pan and transfer into freezer bags for freezing.
  • Fill quart jars and follow traditional canning procedures for the vegetables included.
  • Add to the cheese I make.
  • Add to soups.

I do believe you’ll find that roasting the tomatoes brings out their sweetness. Of course, you can do this on a smaller scale as you bring in your harvest each day if you’re just looking for a fresh addition to your evening meal. This combination can even be roasted in foil on the grill. Try this over pasta and brown rice. Yum!

Come January when we’re craving the flavors of our summer’s bounty, we can satisfy this want by opening a jar of homemade sauce and delighting in the preserved tomato goodness.

REMEMBER: When canning, always follow recommended procedures for canning various vegetables.

I’d love to hear your ideas for using an overabundance of tomatoes.

Next up: A sea of sweet red and hot peppers!