Join Us For a Brew And A Film At Threshers!

On Saturday, April 7th at 7:00p.m. we will be gathering over at Thresher’s Brewery in Searsmont, Maine for the showing of SEED, The Untold Story. First, let me tell you a little about Threshers Brewery. Threshers, owned and operated by Ethan Evangelos and Scott Bendson, opened its doors in 2016 at the old Sprowl building in Searsmont, Maine.You can read about Ethan and Scott’s story here! For us, it has been a welcomed addition to the community. Here’s why… It’s close by. They have a variety of excellent well-crafted beer (really, these boys know what they’re doing!). The atmosphere is welcoming, easy-going, and friendly. And, they are very community minded. We have been to several benefits and events at Threshers that have helped worthy organizations. In two short years, they have opened their doors many, many times to host events that directly help the community at large. Bravo to Ethan and Scott and their families for being so involved! We appreciate it. We need venues that encourage gathering, socializing with neighbors and friends, and who offer their space for community functions.

We never know who we’ll meet at Threshers, it could be an old time friend in the local community or a traveler who’s heard about their great beer and great events and mosied up to check it out. Always interesting and great conversation, that’s for sure!
We had been talking with Ethan over the last year about showing the film, SEED The Untold Story at the brewery. It’s a film anyone who grows food…anyone who EATS food should watch. When it was first produced ( two years ago?), we here at Fernwood made concerted efforts to promote it and it’s message. We had been contacted by their staff, given a synopsis of the film, and were asked to do our best to get the word out. SEED is an amazing film, beautiful cinematography and it will surely open your eyes to what’s happening with our seed diversity and its impact on our food supply.. It is truly one of our favorite films and we cannot say enough about the effort that has been put into the making of it. Please join us at Thresher’s Brewery (you won’t be disappointed!) and enjoy a free film. By the way, I recommend trying the ‘Ponderosa’ beer (my favorite) at Threshers! See you there! For more information please visit the Threshers Brewery facebook page here.

Tree Climbing

We recently had to hire an arborist to take a couple of old trees down. Normally, we cut and harvest our own trees but these two trees were in a precarious situation. Both the trees were in among the display beds, and, in addition, had the potential of hitting the power line. Underneath the trees were a variety of shrubs and perennials that were easy targets for falling limbs…azaleas, Japanese maples, a few viburnums, a dogwood. We really didn’t want to do any damage while trying to fell these trees, so, we called Treewise Arboriculture from Appleton, Maine. Jacob DiGirolamo is the very talented and skilled arborist behind Treewise, and let me just tell you, he’s a man skilled in his craft. In a short amount of time, Jacob had the trees down, bit by bit, never once laying a single branch on one of our beloved woody shrubs. Of course, he also missed (with great precision) the house, the arbor, the phone and electrical wires, and a few choice garden sculptures. Just imagine a pinball machine that requires the operator to send their pinball up the course without hitting a single obstacle and with the intention of scoring as high as possible. I’d say he scored pretty damn near 100! Jacob came and stood to look up and access the task at hand, then strapped on his climbing spikes and got to work. It was fascinating to watch him make his cuts and then to use his ropes and knots to lower branches and pieces of the trunk to the ground. Amazing. We can’t say enough about Treewise and Jacob’s efficiency and attention to his craft.His business also includes pruning, removal, and planting. If you have trees that need to come down and you are looking for a congenial young man who is well skilled and devoted to his work, call Jacob. You can find out more by emailing Treewise at rainisalwaysgood@gmail.com or visit this site at Maine Preservation.

Still Winter

With the last storm, we have been taking advantage of the deep snow and of the days when the sun shines with a brilliance. It has been a great time for strapping on the snowshoes and exploring the woods. Two days ago, we tramped up over the ridge across from the farm. It was late in the day and the deer were just descending from the high ground. We counted 10 in a relatively short time. There were tracks everywhere! We came across many places where the ground had been pawed, signs that the deer are digging their way through the deep snow in search of acorns. A Barred owl swooped through just in front of us and landed on the branches of a giant oak tree. Now is the time we hear them calling back and forth to each other with their classic ” who cooks for you, who cooks for you” call. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtRPYpklhiA Listen here if you’ve never heard the call of the Barred Owl. They do have other calls as well but this is their typical mating call. Very distinct and one we hear often in the woods of Maine. We are hoping that we get a chance this weekend to head into the woods or trek across the lower fields at the farm. I suppose it’s what we need to do when any thoughts of spring have been put on halt. Spring will come, I believe it will, really I do. But for now, it’s still winter.
Let’s end with a poem about winter and snowshoeing by Sidney Beck…

BEFORE SPRING COMES

This valley’s empty blueness
Is filling now with clear sunlight.
Snow clumps tumble from branches
Into man-deep drifts soft bright –
Warmth-rounded, but still chilled.

Big snowshoe-footprints harden
Into pools of blue shadow –
Setting off from a house and garden,
Half-hidden, marked only by the low
Recent prints half-filled.
by Sidney Beck

March Storm

Despite the latest snowstorm, we are setting up for our spring seed starting. The greenhouse will see some action in the next week or so. It’s always a delight to be working in the greenhouse as the weather goes from one season to the next. That big plastic heated space of green growth and soil smells…pure delight! Inside the house, a small area is created for starting the earliest of vegetable seedlings: tomatoes, leeks, peppers, onions, and assortments of annual and perennial flowers. This little growing area inside means rearranging some furniture, moving the couch away from the big windows that face due south, and installing a temporary growing bench. Seeds will be sown, they’ll germinate, get some growth on them, and then be transferred to the big greenhouse. Starting seeds indoors keeps us from firing up the big heater in the greenhouse this early in the year. But, by the end of March, we’ll run out of space in the front room and will need the expanse of the greenhouse benches. At that point, our house will go back to a comfortable living space! We do love having that earthy soil smell wafting through the rooms though!
Outside, it is far too soon to uncover the nursery beds. The snow will have to melt and the ground will have to thaw before we are ready for the task of uncovering. We are always excited about the upcoming season and to unveil all the plants we have propagated and over-wintered. Fun, fun!
So, right now we’re a bit between seasons. A little mud season, a little more winter. A warm spring-like day, then a real chill in the air. A chance to let the fires die down, then a roaring blaze to warm cold hands and cold feet. Back and forth we go here in the northeast, yes? Where do you hail from? Has spring really arrived in your neck of the woods or are you still waiting?

Devotions

Sunday and snowing. Sunday with 3 new books to read… a chapter here, a chapter there. A kettle of soup on the stove. Firewood stacked indoors and outdoor chores are done for the day. You know, it won’t be long and the sun will shine and the days will be long and we’ll be turning the soil and planting seeds and kneeling down in the woodland gardens to see that very first ephemeral to emerge. For the hundredth time, I’ll look at the amazing blue of the brave little Hepatica or the scalloped leaves of the bloodroot that unfurl offering up its vivid white flowers. But today, while it’s still snowy and cold and while the ground is still frozen, I’ll tuck in and read. Mary Oliver’s latest, called Devotions, is one of the three I’m working through. So dear readers, here’s a poem. A Sunday poem on a snowy day just for you…

At The River Clarion

I don’t know who God is exactly.
But I’ll tell you this.
I was sitting in the river named Clarion, on a water splashed stone
and all afternoon I listened to the voices of the river talking.
Whenever the water struck a stone it had something to say,
and the water itself, and even the mosses trailing under the water.
And slowly, very slowly, it became clear to me what they were saying.
Said the river I am part of holiness.
And I too, said the stone. And I too, whispered the moss beneath the water.
I’d been to the river before, a few times.
Don’t blame the river that nothing happened quickly.
You don’t hear such voices in an hour or a day.
You don’t hear them at all if selfhood has stuffed your ears.
And it’s difficult to hear anything anyway, through all the traffic, the ambition.
If God exists he isn’t just butter and good luck.
He’s also the tick that killed my wonderful dog Luke.
Said the river: imagine everything you can imagine, then keep on going.
Imagine how the lily (who may also be a part of God) would sing to you if it could sing,
if you would pause to hear it.
And how are you so certain anyway that it doesn’t sing?
If God exists he isn’t just churches and mathematics.
He’s the forest, He’s the desert.
He’s the ice caps, that are dying.
He’s the ghetto and the Museum of Fine Arts.
He’s van Gogh and Allen Ginsberg and Robert Motherwell.
He’s the many desperate hands, cleaning and preparing their weapons.
He’s every one of us, potentially.
The leaf of grass, the genius, the politician, the poet.
And if this is true, isn’t it something very important?
Yes, it could be that I am a tiny piece of God, and each of you too, or at least
of his intention and his hope.
Which is a delight beyond measure.
I don’t know how you get to suspect such an idea.
I only know that the river kept singing.
It wasn’t a persuasion, it was all the river’s own constant joy
which was better by far than a lecture, which was comfortable, exciting, unforgettable.
Of course for each of us, there is the daily life.
Let us live it, gesture by gesture.
When we cut the ripe melon, should we not give it thanks?
And should we not thank the knife also?
We do not live in a simple world.
There was someone I loved who grew old and ill
One by one I watched the fires go out.
There was nothing I could do
except to remember
that we receive
then we give back.
My dog Luke lies in a grave in the forest, she is given back.
But the river Clarion still flows from wherever it comes from
to where it has been told to go.
I pray for the desperate earth.
I pray for the desperate world.
I do the little each person can do, it isn’t much.
Sometimes the river murmurs, sometimes it raves.
Along its shores were, may I say, very intense cardinal flowers.
And trees, and birds that have wings to uphold them, for heaven’s sakes–
the lucky ones: they have such deep natures,
they are so happily obedient.
While I sit here in a house filled with books,
ideas, doubts, hesitations.
And still, pressed deep into my mind, the river
keeps coming, touching me, passing by on its
long journey, its pale, infallible voice
singing.

Strapping On The Snowshoes

Trying to experience and enjoy as much winter as possible here in Maine. My brother and I made a trip over to his land in Rangley (the western part of the state) to do some hiking. It was a beautiful day, fairly warm and the sun was out. My brother, Dan, has always been an outdoor enthusiast. He puts great effort into hitting the trails here in the northeast. I’m always amazed at how much ground he covers. We don’t get enough time together, so it was lovely to spend a day catching up on the ride over and then doing something together that we both love…being in the woods! Plus, he bought me lunch!
Since then we’ve had another snow storm, about 1ft here in our area of Waldo County. A little more time for snowshoeing or strapping on the x-country skis before spring develops.
We are working on a number of classes for this season. Some are posted already, others are in the making. Are there any classes you’d like to see us offer here at Fernwood? Certain topics? We’re glad to hear suggestions. Offering classes at the nursery has been a really fun and rewarding addition for both Rick and I. Not only can we share some insight into our gardening or lifestyle choices here at the nursery, but it also gives us an opportunity to get to know our visitors. Consider taking a class here at Fernwood, come enjoy a selection of homemade scones and tea, and mingle with some fellow gardeners!

“Anyone who thinks gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year; for gardening begins in January with the dream.”
—Josephine Nuese

Words of truth, I’d say! We begin winter here thinking about the long, silent months ahead. The deep snow and the frigid temperatures which will turn us indoors for more reading and knitting and fire-warmth. We drop our shoulders, breath deep, and feel thankful for the slow pace of winter. We’re some of the few who are not in a hurry to move these cold months along…the sun and the warmth will come back to us, all in good time. But we can feel the stirrings now, the seed catalogs spread across the table, the lists of new plants for the nursery ( some dandy primula!), the urge to ‘hoe’ out the greenhouse and fire up the stove that heats it. Oh, truth be told, our minds are never completely void of gardening and plants and soil. Notebooks are filled with lists and ideas for a new season of promise. Are you thinking about spring? Does a bit more winter trouble you? Are your veggie seeds ordered? Any new garden plans? Let’s hear!

My Dad And His Bluebirds

Last week, during a time when the weather seemed ‘unfit for man nor beast’ and while Rick was working on reglazing some barn windows…working inside the barn not out… two bluebirds showed up to feed on the dead flies trapped along the window sill. Bluebirds! Yes, really, a pair of bluebirds! Well, this is odd and it meant two things. First, call George. George is the retired vet in our area and also an avid birder. George is the only other person we know besides my father who has a great love and appreciation for bluebirds. When my dad was alive he and George would often consult one another with regard to the comings and goings of the bluebirds. This was great for my dad, (who by the way also wore the covers off of every sequel to ‘All Creatures Great And Small’), and his being able to converse with someone who was a vet and also kept track of this areas bluebird migration.

George filled us in on some of the habits of bluebirds and then (secondly) we did some research of our own. My dad would be very happy to know we did this.
So, bluebirds don’t always migrate. When they do leave the frozen northeast, they head for places as far as Texas but may only travel as far as they need to find a food source. Their winter fare is mostly berries. It is true that some hardy bluebirds do brave the winter here, apparently making their way through by eating berries and fruit from various trees and shrubs. They’ll also feast on dead and frozen bugs, like the bluebirds who were eating frozen flies along the window sill at the farm. Not an easy choice I would say, but not as uncommon as you’d think. When not nesting they move in flocks and beginning in the Fall, these groups of bluebirds start meandering south following food sources. But, some do stay. At least these two did. In the winter, if they remain in a frigid climate, like Maine, they will find shelter in a hollow tree. Often as many birds that can fit inside that hollow will do so creating warmth in numbers. Unfortunately, there has been a significant decline in bluebird populations over the last several decades. Most of this is due to habitat loss, insecticides, and the introduction of starlings and house sparrows that out-compete them for food and shelter. This makes me even prouder of my Dad ( and you, too, George!) for taking such an interest in the well being of our bluebird population.

When my Dad passed away, my mom forwarded some of his books to me. Mostly because my dad and I loved many of the same things…nature, farming, and food ( he was known to drive 100’s of miles for a good piece of pie…who wouldn’t!). In one of the books that was passed along, ‘Song And Garden Birds Of North America’ I found pages of my Dad’s bluebird notes folded up in the back. He had been tracking the bluebirds (and building them boxes) since 1966! His last entry was 2002, just two years before he passed away. I love that my dad did this, I love seeing his carefully handwritten notes, excerpts like “A pair of Bluebirds arrived, they did not nest until April 2nd or 3rd. The female laid a clutch of five eggs”. This was written in 1971. On another account, in 1969, he wrote this “A pair of Bluebirds arrived and soon nested in the same bird box of previous years. Also, I noticed the presence of a house wren. Which seem to be a menace to the bluebirds. By the sound advice of a friend, Mrs.Trudy Smith, who is quite familiar with all birds, I netted the female house wren who had nested in one of the bluebird boxes. With somewhat of a struggle, I might add. Mrs. Smith then took the house wren, banded it, and took it to the Harkness Estate in Waterford.The bluebirds had two eggs in the box at the time of the house wren departure. The female bluebird has been in the nest two days. So I think she may have laid a clutch of four eggs”.

In honor of my Dad and all other bird watchers, we’ll keep a close eye on the two bluebirds that have stayed. We’ll hope that they brave the winter so that this spring when the first hatch of insects descends upon us, they’ll be swooping through the fields having their fill.
In addition, consider checking out this site: http://www.nabluebirdsociety.org/
Perhaps you have the perfect location for some nesting boxes or maybe you’d just like to find out a little more about those birds my Dad so carefully thought of throughout his years.

Still Cold And Wool Is King!

We are well into a week of frigid temperatures. Our night time plummet is somewhere between -15 and -20. On a good day, like today, the sun peeks out and we become downright balmy by mid-afternoon. That’s right, an all-time high of about 5 degrees! Whoopee!!
This is not unusual weather for Maine. We experience this every year. We are glad to have a decent blanket of snow covering which helps to insulate the ground and also there is enough to shovel up against the outside of the house for extra warmth. The woodshed is still nice and full with stacks of seasoned oak, beech, and maple. The extreme cold does change how we navigate the day, however. First, it’s the layer of clothes that go on. No easy exit out the door with a slight covering, there’s a process. Here’s what my winter wardrobe looks like:
First layer: wool longjohns, top to bottom. No matter what anyone says, even if you are someone who leads expeditions into the Arctic and you wear the latest in poly-propylene, nothing keeps you warmer than wool. Just saying (and not just because I raise sheep).
Next: two pairs of wool socks. Most likely hand-knit.
Second layer: a wool sweater, then, over that, a wool felted vest ( keep your core warm!) and then my wool hunting pants.
Last layer just before you head outdoors( and quickly before you sweat to death putting all of this on while standing next to the woodstove): a light weight goose down vest ( the next best insulator to wool), a wool scarf, a down jacket, wool mitts with leather choppers, and a wool hat. Of course, boots….either Sorels or my insulated rubber boots or if it’s really, really cold ( but not wet), my hand-made Steger mukluks from Minnesota.
Now, I’m ready to face the day and all its bluster!
Also, chores do take longer in the cold. All the animals are in the barn at night, warm and cozy, but by morning they are anxious to get out, regardless of the cold. Every water bucket is frozen solid and needs to be brought indoors to thaw then turned over to break the ice out. That calls for lots of hauling and bucket swapping. Ice is chipped away from the barn doors so we can get them opened. Paths are shoveled and cleared of snow. Hay bales are tossed down from the mow, opened and then spread outdoors before the sheep go out. Grain buckets are filled. By now, the critters can hear the morning routine and are restless to go out and have their breakfast.
After chores, the daily wood supply gets hauled in from the woodshed. We use a big sled, stack the wood as high as we can, and then make several trips to the house and to any of the cabins that we heat (of course, to the studio, as well!).
Personally, I love this time of year. I enjoy being out in the cold. Let’s face it, a cup of hot tea by mid-morning is divine after you’ve come in from below zero temperatures and the hair sticking out from under your wool hat is frozen stiff! I guess I just appreciate the extremes in life!
Once all the chores are done and if we’re not spending the day cutting ( next year’s) firewood or re-glazing barn windows, I head for the studio to dye wool and felt slippers. Spring shearing is really not that far off and I have a lot of fleeces to work through before the next batch piles up.
So, what kind of things occupy your days in the dead of winter? Any good reading or winter projects you’d like to share? Do tell.
Til next time, stay warm, enjoy, and don’t forget the tea!