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!

Hand Work

One of the things I do to bring some balance to the very physical needs of our life here at Fernwood, is to knit. Well, first I spin, then I knit. This craft of being relatively still, allowing my mind to get lost in the making of stitches, and the methodical nature of needles twisting and clicking, is a gift onto the day. Slow. Restful. Restorative. I really like these words written by Naomi Nye, I’m impressed that she saw the humble craft of needle work worthy of a poem. The ending message, however, also made me feel grateful for the rural community I live in. Here, in the north east part of New England, knitting and crocheting….mending a patch in a flannel shirt, are a part of our language. Seeing someone take out their needles in public in order to make some gain on their knitting project, opens the door for conversation. “What are you working on?” “What kind of yarn are you using?” ” Oh, I love those colors!” , these are all things you might say when one handcrafter bumps into another. We can’t help ourselves, it’s a strong tie.
Yesterday, I spun some of the first angora collected from my friend Sally’s rabbit. I’ll be using that soft and silky yarn in the headband I’m knitting for a friend’s Christmas present. Oh, this wondeful art of sewing, knitting, and crocheting, …..spread the word!

Sewing, Knitting, Crocheting……

A small striped sleeve in her lap,
navy and white,
needles carefully whipping in yarn
from two sides.
She reminds me of the wide-angled women
filled with calm
I pretended I was related to
in crowds.


In the next seat
a yellow burst of wool
grows into a hat with a tassel.
She looks young to crochet.
I’m glad history isn’t totally lost.
Her silver hook dips gracefully.

And when’s the last time you saw
anyone sew a pocket onto a gray linen shirt
in public?
Her stitches must be invisible.
A bevelled thimble glitters in the light.

On Mother’s Day
three women who aren’t together
conduct delicate operations
in adjoining seats
between La Guardia and Dallas.
Miraculously, they never speak.
Three different kinds of needles,
three snippy scissors,
everybody else on the plane
snoozing with The Times.
When the flight attendant
offers free wine to celebrate,
you’d think they’d sit back,
chat a minute,
tell who they’re making it for,
trade patterns,
yes?

But a grave separateness
has invaded the world.
They sip with eyes shut
and never say
Amazing
or
Look at us
or
May your thread
never break.

Naomi Shihab Nye

A Moon Poem

Picture 1829

He, To His Wife

Sit with me here on the landing
and watch how the moon hangs
like some pale, winter fruit
in the branches of our crabapple tree.
I noticed it last night, but you
had gone to bed. And since last night
the moon has ripened and is full
and looks ready to plummet off the tree
and drop below the horizon.
Sit down here beside me.
It’s not something we’ll see
every month. The leaves will hide it,
or the clouds. One of us will be away,
or we’ll both be asleep and it will rise
and hang in the branches without us.
How odd not to have seen it before now;
to have lived in this house a year
and not had a cloudless night when the leaves
were down and the moon was waxing.
How soon will it be before clear weather
again reveals it in its brightest phase
hanging in those bare limbs?
We ought to watch the skies more faithfully
and try to be here on the stairs
to catch the next rare conjunction
of the moon in our tree
Come sit with me in the dark for awhile.

by Paul Corrigan

I Think…….

Picture 1819Picture 1822I think rainy Sundays at the end of October are best for….making quiche with all the eggs that are piling up, whipping up some tasty pate with all the chicken livers we saved while processing our meat birds, and poetry. Oh, and several cups of hot tea! ( The chicken liver pate recipe is from the Silver Palate Good Times cookbook).

Mysteries, Yes

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity,
while we ourselves dream of rising.

How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.

– Mary Oliver