My mom called this morning,”are you still writing the blog”, she asked. I think so. I’m trying. In between getting the firewood split and stacked, the last of the tomatoes harvested and preserved, the lower sheep field bush-hogged, after another fifty bales of hay are put into the loft, once the apples are picked and made into cider, “then I’ll write a blog post”, I say. I am not the least bit put off by the lengthy Fall chore list. Each beautiful autumn day is too precious to not want to be engaged in some outdoor task. Riding the tractor through a field of tall grass ( and a bit of goldenrod and aster) on a sunny afternoon….delight. Filling baskets of apples and scrutinizing the various varieties and tastes of each…joy. Knowing the freezer will be full of stewed and roasted tomatoes…comforting.
Yesterday, our friend Moe brought us some pears from his orchard. Pears are a lovely fruit, don’t you think? I’ll leave them on the table for a day or so, let them ripen some, and be happy to just look at their mottled green and tawny skin…beauty.

How about a poem? Now, for me, back to work!

Pied Beauty

by Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844–1889)

Glory be to God for dappled things—
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.

All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
Praise him.

Peach Season

Peaches are in season. Not the final fruit to be harvested, eaten and preserved, we still have apples and pears to look forward to. But doesn’t a fresh peach pie along side some home-made ice cream (ginger ice cream, maybe? Yes!) seem just about the most decadent thing you can devour at summer’s end?
Here’s a poem by Kate Barnes about peaches…and a reminder that what we think we know may not always be true. Enjoy!

Peaches
by Kate Barnes

Jenny, because you are twenty-three
(and my daughter),
you think you know everything;
and because I am fifty-three
(and your mother),
I think I know everything.
A week ago you picked up two green little peaches,
only half-grown and still hard,
from under the loaded peach tree
and put them on the kitchen window sill;
and I thought
(though I didn’t say a word):
they’re too small, they will just rot
but I won’t move them, Jenny put them there.
Now the summer is over and you are gone,
the mornings are cool, squashes conquer the garden,
the tree swallows have flown away, crickets sing—
and the sweet juice of your peaches runs down my chin.

Done

Well, pretty close to done. We still have to add the batts to the boards once they’ve dried and shrunk a bit. We’ll put a latch on the inside so the door doesn’t mistakenly swing open while in use. We need to find some appropriate reading material for any “extended visits”. So, that’s the last of the outhouse posts from Fernwood. If you want to see more, you’ll just have to come and see it…or use it. I’ll leave you with an outhouse poem by an unknown author….

The Outhouse

The service station trade was slow
The owner sat around,
With sharpened knife and cedar stick
Piled shavings on the ground.

No modern facilities had they,
The log across the rill
Led to a shack, marked His and Hers
That sat against the hill.

“Where is the ladies restroom, Sir ?”
The owner leaning back,
Said not a word but whittled on,
And nodded toward the shack.

Some fine words to be thinking and perhaps to live by….

Linnaea borealis here at Fernwood

“To live content with small means. To seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion. To be worthy not respectable, and wealthy not rich. To listen to stars and birds and babes and sages with an open heart. To study hard, think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions. Never hurry. In a word, to let the spiritual, the unbidden and the unconscious rise up through the common. This is my symphony.”
—William Henry Channing

Old Buggies

I once owned, back in the day when draft horses stood in our fields with the sheep, a nice old cream delivery sleigh. When I sold the last horse, the sleigh went as well. It was a beauty. Green with gold painted detail work. The drafts were meant for work, pulling the hay rake or hauling out logs, and these were some of the chores I used them for. However, when there was good snow, out came the sleigh and in we all piled…kids, friends, and neighbors. Boy was that fun! The sleigh was built as a pung with a set of both front and back runners. Just thinking about it makes me want to consider another horse…hmmm? So, here is a poem by Kate Barnes celebrating the days when sleighs and buggies traveled these roads. (The buggy in the photo is from my Mom’s family. They owned a small grocery and this is how they made their deliveries). The Buggies

“When I first began to practice,”
said the veterinary, giving a shot
to the new foal, “ this countryside
was full of old carriages. The barns
all had some. You could buy
a good top buggy for ten dollars. But now
a lot of the barns have fallen down
onto them.

Those old farmers
used to hang their good buggies from the rafters,
safe and out of the way. And some people
went on using them a long time.

I remember
one place in Warren, “he said, putting iodine
on the umbilicus, watched anxiously
by the mare with her flickering eyes, “ they had
this perfect drop- front phaeton. The top
was always up, the seat was plum-colored wool
with a cloth cover over it. Beautiful.
The old lady wouldn’t go to church
in anything else.

But now that I think of it,
she must have gone too, the last time I was by there
the barn roof was down.

They were
nice, those old things-
well made, you know.
They could stand up to a lot.”

He climbed
into his white truck and drove away,
rattling down the lane. Behind, in the stall,
the mare nickered once as her foal began to nurse
and was silent.

The cold March evening
was darkening toward night, the patterns
of old snow made stripes in the dusk, the stars
were slowly coming out but the lake
at the bottom of the hill went on picking up
the last daylight. Its surface glowed
softly as if it were lighted
from below, as if a distant sun were submerged there
under the ice, still shining, alive, an
d warm.

Today….We Had Rain, Glorious Rain

Today it rained strong and steady throughout the day. I am quite certain that every living thing had their mouths tipped skyward to catch every precious drop. Rain, glorious rain.
And here a poem… by W.S. Merwin

Empty Water

I miss the toad
who came all summer
to the limestone
water basin
under the Christmasberry tree
imported in 1912
from Brazil for decoration
then a weed on a mule track
on a losing
pineapple plantation
now an old tree in a line
of old trees
the toad came at night
first and sat in the water
all night and all day
then sometimes at night
left for an outing
but was back in the morning
under the branches among
the ferns the green sword leaf
of the lily
sitting in the water
all the dry months
gazing at the sky
through those eyes
fashioned of the most
precious of metals
come back
believer in shade
believer in silence and elegance
believer in ferns
believer in patience
believer in the rain

—W.S. Merwin, from The Rain in the Trees, 1988

Watering Cans

Providing a drink to a recently planted Azalea

Providing a drink to a recently planted Azalea

In this very dry period, we have tried to reduce the use of water from our well on the display beds and some newly transplanted shrubs. If we notice signs of wilting, we try to give each plant just enough water to get through until the next rain, (not that we’ve had one or truly expect one in the near future, ugh!). What has worked well is to take a large can (a quart at least, or small bucket) and poke a very small hole in the bottom of it near the edge. We then place the can next to the plant with the hole as close to the stem or crown as possible and fill it with water. The water will then slowly drip down to the roots and not run off as it would if just poured on the ground around the plant. All of the water goes to the plant. In our display beds, some plants do not handle the prolonged drought as well as others. This way we can selectively deliver water to them and not have to water the whole bed. It has been very easy to do and has kept many plants from shriveling up without using a large volume of water.

We have not had a good rain in weeks. Here in the northeast, drought is not something we consider common. We are lucky to have a fair range of weather….the right amount of sun, the right amount of overcast, the right amount of rain. Lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers spread across this state of Maine, we are water rich. This year, however, those precious water holes are a bit stressed, water tables are low, the lakes and ponds are well below normal levels. Our well here at the farm is a good one. We are very fortunate to be located above a healthy aquifer, but still, we conserve. Let’s consider water as it should be…. a precious, life-giving, absolutely necessary resource, that everyone needs. Let’s consider water as nine-year-old Gabriel does….

Gabriel and the Water Shortage

When the water shortage comes along
he’s been waiting all his life for it,
all nine years for something to need him as
the water needs him now. He becomes
its protector–he stops washing, till dirt
shines on the bones behind his ears
over his brain, and his hands blaze like
dark blades of love. He will not
flush the toilet, putting the life of the
water first, until the bowl
crusts with gold like the heart’s riches and his
room stinks, and when I sneak in and
flush he almost weeps, holds his
hands a foot apart in the air and
says do I know there is only about
this much water left! He befriends it, he
sits by its bedside as if it is a dying
friend, a small figure of water
gleaming on the sheets. He keeps a tiny
jar to brush his teeth in, till green
bugs bathe in its scum, but talk about
germs and he is willing to sacrifice his health
to put the life of the water first, its
helplessness breaks his heart, the way it
waits at all the faucets in the city for the
cocks to be turned, and then it cannot
help itself, it has to spill

to the last drop. Weeks go by and
Gabriel’s glazed with grime, and every
cell of dirt upon his body is a
molecule of water saved and he
loves those tiny molecules
translucent as his own flesh in the spring, this
thin vivid liquid boy who has
given his heart to water element
so much like a nine-year-old–you can
cut it, channel it, see through it and
watch it, then, a fifty-foot
tidal wave, approaching your house and
picking up speed as it comes.

Sharon Olds

Oh, For The Love Of Soil

Over the last couple of days, I have been reseeding areas for the next crop succession. This means pulling some of the spent vegetation of earlier crops, like spinach and tatsoi, and replanting it. The very last of the dark green leaves of spinach are harvested, blanched, and tucked away into the deep freeze. Before the next food crop goes in, however, I amend and loosen the soil. Once again, my hands plunge into the dark silky soil. I work my way up the row, turning and sifting, adding a good measure of well-rotted compost and sheep manure. How many times have I heard myself say ” grow good soil, grow good soil”. As I pull that last bunch of tatsoi, I thank our fine rich garden soil, for I know, it has provided the food for our food. It is the basis for all of what we do here. It should be praised accordingly. And don’t I just love the feel of soil…should I even dare mar this perfect canvas of earth? Does it really need a seed or small seedling to make it more beautiful…no, I don’t think so. I know that down below every display of greenery, the soil is there quietly doing its thing. It’s wonderous and amazing life giving thing…oh, for the love of soil!

And to further praise the endearing qualities of soil, here is a poem written by Wendell Berry…

“The soil is the great connector of lives, the source and destination of all. It is the healer and restorer and resurrector, by which disease passes into health, age into youth, death into life. Without proper care for it we can have no community, because without proper care for it we can have no life.”

February

Picture 534A Note From Mr. Fernwood….
It has been colder the last couple of days, colder than we have been used to this winter. We are told it won’t last too long, even though the lower temps may be a shock to some. This time of year we usually get a pretty cold period, even in a normal winter. But as one that usually works outside everyday year round, one thing that really makes a big difference to me is the increase in the length of the daylight hours and especially the strength of the sun. Even on the coldest days if I have the sun on me I can work in comfort all day long. Of course I also have the benefit of several woolen garments that Denise and her sheep have provided for me. The renewed energy of the sun not only allows for more choices as to outdoor activities, but also brings to mind all that will change, and in some cases rapidly, as the sun and longer days overcome the cold and shorter days. Soon our tasks will no longer be in tune with keeping warm and what we can accomplish while doing so, but tending to new growth in our gardens and the additions to the livestock. The ‘to do’ list tends to take on its own life and gains momentum with every new day. Longer daylight hours translate into longer work days. We enjoy and look forward to them, but by the end of the season we will look back more fondly of these colder but shorter days that allow us a little more choice in what we may or may not want to do that day.
And to add to this lovely post from Rick….a poem by Kate Barnes ( the First Maine poet laureate and a true favorite of ours)

BEAR TREES
In February
all of a sudden there’s a lot more light,
and it’s a warm light.
Snow melts off the roof,
the hens start laying, the mare comes into season.
The earliest lambs are born in the barn cellar
where they bleat to their mothers in the half darkness
like bulbs that stir in the darkness underground.
On the southern windowsill, the old geraniums
push up new stalks and hang them with brick-pink blossoms
and every day I find I wake up earlier,
my bones cracking as I sit up to stretch.
The sap has begun running
and this morning, when I drove the pung up to the woodlot,
I saw three young maple trees
deeply scored with new bear scratches.

Oh warm light,
couldn’t you have waited a little longer?
How safe we were in the dead of winter!
How gently we dreamed!
How beautiful it was to sleep under the snow!

By Kate Barnes

Writing In The Studio!

We are offering our first workshop in the studio at the end of this month. A writing workshop, lead by Linda Buckmaster, called the Winter Toolkit. Here’s how Linda describes the class:
The Writer’s Toolkit
Most writers, no matter what their style, topic, or genre, pull from a similar box of tools for their writing. These include image, language, voice, structure, character, time, and narrative. The unique possibilities are endless. Language itself includes word choice, diction, rhythm, metaphor, and even silence.
We will spend time looking at some of these tools and how other writers have used them. Writing prompts and exercises will give you the opportunity to practice what you learn. You will be writing in either prose or poetry, and you will get a start on material you may develop beyond the class. There will be a homework assignment after the first class. You will be writing!

Linda has a remarkable reputation as a writer and poet. She lives fairly close, in the small coastal town of Belfast. She has taught and helped many folks to improve their writing. We’re thrilled to have her! I’ll include a profile from her website, http://lsbuck1.blogspot.com/
‘She’s been a national magazine editor, window washer, waitress, day care teacher, chambermaid, hippie homesteader, journalist, meat wrapper, sales clerk, dance teacher, horse logger, and Belfast Poet Laureate.Now she works for a nonprofit and teaches in the University of Maine System. And . . . she’s writing, working on a collection of essays called “Hullabaloo on the Space Coast: A Memoir of Place’.
I’m really excited about this opportunity. The studio will not be absolutely complete, but the woodstove will be making heat, the lights will be bright, and tea and scones will be available to refresh us. At the moment, we have one spot open if anyone wants to put pen to paper and join us.The workshop consists of two 2 1/2 hour classes. The first class is Saturday, January 30th from 10:00- 12:30, the second is February 5th, 10:00-12:30. (February 12th, snow date). If you are interested, call us at (207) 589-4726 or email us at fernwoodnursery@fairpoint.net, we’ll be happy to provide more detail.
I’ve already begun thinking about the stories I’d like to get started on, and I’m looking forward to having someone like Linda here to guide us in the craft of writing. Winter provides just the right mental landscape for reflection and storytelling……can’t wait!