Welcome! We’ll be open for the season on Thursday, May 3rd. Every day we are busy stocking the nursery aisles and potting plants, so much to do! In addition, the sheep have been sheared and the vegetable gardens are underway.
Spring is a fury of activity, for sure! The display gardens are bursting with early woodland plants and natives, pure delight! Happy gardening season to all and we’ll see you soon!
It doesn’t matter that after a long day of potting in the greenhouse we sat with cups of tea and looked out at this…We are confident that any emerging plants are hearty enough to weather a little snow falling on them. The ground is warming and many plants are now able to utilize the water that’s being absorbed into the ground. This snow will melt quickly and provide some extra moisture for their new and rapid growth. No worries. It is the potential frigid temperatures we worry about, especially after new growth has started. As you can tell, our pup Lucky finds that the greenhouse (at 88 degrees) is the perfect place for an afternoon nap. I must admit, that deep warmth does feel awfully good! Some early greens are on hold for just a bit longer before being transplanted into the hoop house. Of course, my favorite early green, tatsoi, will be the first to sink its roots into the warm hoop house soil. I wrote a post about tatsoi last year and you can read about it here if you would like. I can’t wait to be harvesting our very first bunches of this nutrient-rich green. The best!
The onions are coming along and the peppers and tomatoes are developing their first ‘true’ leaves which will provide them with an ability to photosynthesize. As many of you know, the first little leaves to appear are cotyledons or ‘seed leaves’. These are actually part of the seed and they provide a food source for the sprouting seedling. During this time of year, we use the greenhouse for potting some of the plants that will go into the nursery this season, for sowing seeds that have been in winter storage, and for starting vegetable seedlings. It’s filling fast! Its a precarious time of year. The snow may fall, we are still walking planks that we’ve set down along the paths to the woodshed and the studio to keep from sinking into mud, and on some days all of the windows and doors in the greenhouse must be opened to keep it from getting too hot! April really does have a flavor of at least two seasons mixed into one month! We are so looking forward to our doors opening in the first of May… yet another nursery season! So many great plant selections, old and new. Some great classes scheduled (check here) and some in the works and waiting to be posted. A really fun and skilled based class on mending clothes is scheduled for April 22nd. A fine young textile artist will be on site to teach both traditional and sashiko mending methods. I’ll post this class in the upcoming week! Until then, enjoy this lovely (and somewhat unpredictable) April!
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.
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?
We can not stress enough the importance and value of choosing to buy seed from companies that have taken the Safe Seed Pledge. By doing so, you are supporting a company that cares about the integrity of seed diversity. You are also supporting the health and well being of the world’s food, its people, and its communities. There is an ample amount of information regarding the pitfalls of GMO seed and food made from GMO crops. Inform yourself, take a stand, and consider supporting those noble seed companies who are making the Safe Seed Pledge. Have fun scrolling down the list of seed companies who have taken this pledge. Check out what they have to offer, you may find just the variety of heirloom tomatoes you’ve been looking for or a new dry bean that you’ve never grown. And, if you read through the list and don’t see a seed company who you know has taken the Safe Seed Pledge, let us know…we’ll add them to the list!
THE SAFE SEED PLEDGE
“Agriculture and seeds provide the basis upon which our lives depend. We must protect this foundation as a safe and genetically stable source for future generations. For the benefit of all farmers, gardeners and consumers who want an alternative, we pledge that we do not knowingly buy or sell genetically engineered seeds or plants. The mechanical transfer of genetic material outside of natural reproductive methods and between genera, families or kingdoms poses great biological risks, as well as economic, political and cultural threats. We feel that genetically engineered varieties have been insufficiently tested prior to public release. More research and testing is necessary to further assess the potential risks of genetically engineered seeds. Further, we wish to support agricultural progress that leads to healthier soils, genetically diverse agricultural ecosystems and ultimately healthy people and communities.”
All Good Things Organic (SW)
Annie’s Heirloom Seeds
The Ark Institute
Backyard Beans and Grains Project
Baker Creek Seed Co. (MW)
Beauty Beyond Belief (BBB Seeds)
Diane’s Flower Seeds (she has veggies now, too)
Family Farmer’s Seed Co-op
Farm Direct Seed (Hobb’s Family Farm)
Fedco Seed Co.
Garden City Seeds
Heirlooms Evermore Seeds
High Mowing Seeds
Hudson Valley Seed Library
Growing Crazy Acres
Ed Hume Seeds
Johnni’s Selected Seed
Kitchen Garden Seeds
Knapp’s Fresh Vegies
Kusa Seed Society
Lake Valley Seeds
The Living Seed Company
Moonlight Micro Farm
Mountain Rose Herbs
My Patriot Supply
Native Seeds for the Arid Southwest
Natural Gardening Company
New Hope Seed Company
Nichol’s Garden Nursery
Organic Sanctuary (SE)
Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
Prairie Road Garden
Sand Hill Preservation Center
Seed for Security
Seeds Of Change
Siskiyou Seeds (NW)
Sow True (SE)
Sustainable Seed Co
Territorial Seed Company
Trees of Antiquity
Turtle Tree Seed
Underwood Garden Seeds
Vermont Wildflower Farm
White Harvest Seed
Wild Garden Seeds
Wood Prairie Farm (NE)
Canadian Seed Companies:
Annapolis Valley Heritage Seed Company
Full Circle Seeds
Greta’s Organic Garden
Heritage Harvest Seeds (ships to Canada only)
Salt Spring Seeds
Seeds of Victoria
Seeds Of Change
The Cottage Gardener
Garden Organic (UK)
Seed Site (Italy)
The Real Seed CatUK)
“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.”
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!
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…
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.
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!
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.
We have a sea of winter squash trailing through the landscape here, they are growing with an intention of both vigor and determination. That’s good! Butternut, Delicata, Buttercup, and Spaghetti Squash, all for our winter larder. I’m already thinking Thanksgiving!(sorry). In addition, growing right alongside our marathon winter squash are rows of dry beans….Vermont Cranberry, Jacob’s Cattle, Black Turtle, and Adzuki. Not acres of beans, but enough to fill some shelves in the pantry. Earlier in the season, I was given some open pollinated flint corn, a variety called Ray’s Calais, and though we were late getting it in the ground, it is tasseled out and forming good solid ears. Ray’s Calias is seed that originates from the Abenaki people of the Northeast and Quebec. This corn will be ready to pick some time in October when the corn stalks are good and dry. Once picked they will hang in a cluster to dry for another couple of weeks before the kernels are removed from the cob. Next, they’ll be put through the grinder. I’ll pass along a substantial helping of ground corn to the friend who gave me the seed and who helped with the planting. Corn, beans, and squash a-plenty! The pantry shelves are filling!!