Our WWOOF volunteer Lauren helping to plant the last of the winter squash
Our latest WWOOF volunteer( What’s WWOOF? Check it out here) enjoys foraging for wild edibles.This week while weeding the iris bed, she brought in the harvested (weeded) dandelion greens and made a yummy pesto. Along with our nightly side of cultivated greens from the garden, we mixed the dandelion pesto into some fresh spinach tortellini. Delish! Dandelion greens are loaded with vitamins (vitamin C, A, B1, B2, B6 and abundant in vitamin k) and minerals ( calcium, iron, magnesium, and potassium). They are a great antioxidant and help to stimulate good kidney and liver function.
Here’s how Lauren ( our WWOOF volunteer) made her pesto:
2 cups of fresh and cleaned dandelion greens
2 1/2 cups of fresh spinach
3-4 cloves of garlic
juice from 1 lemon ( I’d use some grated lemon rind as well!)
1- 1/2 cups of toasted almond slivers
1/2 cup of olive oil
2 Tbls. nutritional yeast
This was all put into the food processor and blended together. It made two 1 pint jars of pesto, which is already gone! We’ve also been smearing dandelion pesto on our mid-day grilled cheese….sharp cheddar, home-made sourdough, our own bread and butter pickles, and sliced avocado. These we put under the broiler until the cheese is bubbling and gooey. I can only say, I sure hope those dandelion weeds that Lauren eradicated bounce back quickly…we’re out of pesto!!
Try some and let us know what you think.
One of our favorite early greens to grow is tatsoi. We sow seeds in the greenhouse in March and when the seedlings are ready, the first batch is planted in the hoop house. Another flat of seed is sown for an outdoor planting late in the spring. Tatsoi is classified as a Brassica and is a variety of Chinese cabbage and commonly known as spoon mustard or spinach mustard. It is a small low-growing plant that forms a rosette of petite, dark green, spoon-shaped leaves. It is super cold hardy, withstanding a temperature as low as 15 degrees F. We can count on having a bounty of tatsoi by mid-April and it does just the trick for satisfying our craving of fresh greens. Tatsoi has a mild taste, much like spinach. Being a plant that likes cooler temperatures ( perfect for here in Maine, yes?), it will become a bit more bitter tasting if allowed to bolt and flower.
We’ll often eat it raw in a salad or on sandwiches, but mostly we use it in a stir-fry or in an omelet. My favorite way to use Tatsoi is quite simple : Saute a medium size onion in a little olive oil, add a lot of minced garlic ( 4-5 cloves), chop the tatsoi (stems include) and toss that in ( we sometimes add shitake mushrooms), sprinkle in a few red pepper flakes, season with tamari and black pepper. We pile this onto some cooked brown rice and top it off with some crumbled feta cheese. Food for the soul! Often during our busy season here at the nursery, this is just what we’ll eat for lunch.Tatsoi is a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, carotenoids, folate, calcium and potassium. So good, so nourishing, I highly recommend adding it to your garden repertoire.
Come Learn Some Dirty Words At Fernwood Nursery
Join us at Fernwood Nursery on Sunday, May 21st, from 1:00 to 3:00 to talk about what’s in your dirt! Green sand, blood meal, and mycorrhiza are just a few of the ”dirty” words you’ll hear when we talk about soil here at Fernwood! We’ll discuss soil structure, the essential components for soil health and plant growth, and how to amend your own garden plots using organic materials that are easily sourced. Find out which animal manures do what, learn about the important minerals in your soil, and discover the benefits of green manures,. Interested in making your own potting soil? We’ll talk about this as well and…. you’ll go home with a sample bag of our own homemade potting mix (along with the recipe)!
In addition to a lively discussion about dirt, freshly baked scones and tea will be served.
Here at Fernwood, we are famous for saying “ if you want to grow good plants, grow good soil” so come join us for an informative afternoon of soil talk!
Class size is limited to 10. Please call ahead or email us to sign up. Please visit our classes and more page for more information.
Just a bit of farming being done here in our neck of the woods as we await spring and the melting of snow. Yes, we have begun sowing seeds and working out in the greenhouse, but it will be a while before the first patch of earth is turned over or we see real evidence of spring ephemerals pushing up through the ground. In the meantime, I am re-reading a favorite book of mine, A Long Deep Furrow, Three Centuries Of Farming In New England by Howard S Russell. It is an extraordinary and well-documented account of New England’s farming history, best described by Mark Lapping who wrote this in the forward:
” A Long Deep Furrow will be of interest to readers and students of New England history and life, agriculture, environmental studies, and rural affairs and developments. I know of few books which so successfully integrate the elements of biogeography with socioeconomic and cultural patterns within the context of agriculture as a way of life and livelihood. Most of all, the book is a testament to the Yankees who farm the sides of mountains, take gambles on weather and markets like a pack of riverboat cardsharps, and who consistently fly in the face of the “conventional wisdom” which says there is no New England agriculture”.
Aside from this book being a fascinating look into the very beginnings of agriculture and farming in New England, it is especially endearing to me because the diary of my own ancestor, Thomas Minor, was used as a reference.
If you are looking for something to sink your gardening/farming minds into while we await spring and a new season of growth, consider A Long Deep Furrow , I think you’ll like it!
There is still snow on the ground (you think?). Our nights are still rather cold. Daytime temperatures are vacillating between giving into spring and keeping a determined hold on winter. Fickle.
I feel anxious during the month of March. On one hand, we are kept at bay from the chores we know are creeping upon us, the cold and snow make many advances impossible.Yet, still, we have to stay in step with time, moving forward regardless of weather variables. Peppers, leeks, onions, herbs, and eggplant need to be sown early in order to have a long growing season out in front of them. We stoke the wood fire, then run out to make sure the greenhouse is not getting too warm. We make another pot of soup using the stored winter squash but crave fresh greens. Long johns? No long johns? Pull the taps on the maple trees or leave them for another week or so? Like I said, this all makes me anxious. One foot is still firmly planted in winter and the other is stretching out looking for the warm, squishy ground of spring. I like my months to be well defined, and yet, I should know by now, the month of March doesn’t play very fair. March is fickle. March is indecisive. March is wishy washy. I have no choice but to muddle through. Today we worked again in the greenhouse potting up some Hepaticas, Shortia uniflora, and Erythronium japonicum. They had been putting on too much growth in their winter storage and so we decided to pot them up. There are others of these same plants, tucked undercover and still dormant, showing no signs of growth.They will remain until the snow is gone and we uncover the nursery rows for the season.
In the meantime, I will work through my restlessness and be grateful for all the good and wonderful things that make up our days….a little of this and a little of that among the tug of seasons.
Now is the time we begin putting seed orders together for the vegetable gardens. Now is the time we look at our list of plants in stock for the nursery and we check our notes on all the plants we’ve propagated this past Fall. Yes, we still have some winter out in front of us. All of February, and depending on what kind of season it will be, the month of March as well. However, as we turn the page on the calendar (soon), we really do have the upcoming growing season on our minds. Rick has been very busy sourcing and also propagating some real goodies for the nursery. New plants that are sure to excite customers! I’m excited!
Now is also the time a tiny feeling of panic sets in. Winter never seems quite long enough to get all the things that I’ve wanted to do completed. I need more time for walking in the woods, some more time ice fishing, of course way more time knitting and spinning (and dyeing and felting), and working on that pesky quilt that remains unfinished but in progress, as well as a list of household projects… and if we’d only get a good dumping of snow, more snowshoeing and sledding. Slow down winter! I need more time!
The last few days, we’ve all had a nasty cold, but this wasn’t going to keep me from progress. It is impossible for me to lay around without noting some accomplishment at the end of the day. Don’t ask me why this is a problem because I really don’t know the answer. I wasn’t quite up to splitting wood or reshingling the back of the house, but I did organize the cellar, put some time into a pair of socks I’m knitting and made bread. This, along with several cups of ginger tea, made my down days seem less down. Now we all feel better and are expecting a group of friends over tonight for game playing. An evening of sitting around the table with friends, a collection of goodies and drink to keep our spirits up, and a good game, is yet another winter indulgence that we’ll have no time for come summer. Yeah Winter…stay with us! What do you do during these winter months? Do you have some winter indulgences or do you wish it to hurry up and be over? To tell.
It’s the time of year we begin digging our winter supply of potatoes and it’s also the time of year ( here in the North East) for amphibians to find a winter resting place. This toad was already hunkered down and cozying up to some spuds for his winter nap. Or he may have simply been trying out suitable sites. Our night time temperatures are dropping, though it’s plenty warm during the day and there are still plenty of insects for him to be munching. Best if he goes into winter with a good layer of fat, he’ll be relying on it for energy throughout the winter months.
Thank goodness we didn’t hit him with the digging fork! Amazing that they survive our Maine winters burrowed into the soil. Nature has the great ability to provide its natural world with all the right tools, doesn’t it?
While in dormancy, ice crystals will form in parts of a toad’s body cavity, as well as in its bladder and beneath its skin, but a high concentration of glucose in the frog’s vital organs will prevent it from completely freezing. Built in anti-freeze, you might call it! How cool is that! If you came across an amphibian in its winter state of dormancy, it may very well appear as being dead. Not so, but both its heart rate and breathing will most likely be nonexistent during its winter suspension. Once spring arrives, along with warmer temperatures, Mr. Toad will warm up and resume his normal activity.
I moved our toad friend to the other end of the garden and along the forest edge. I’ll let him decide where he hops off to so he can find a good wintering-over spot. In the meantime, we’ll be very careful to just harvest taters…not toads!
More gathering of seeds happening here. What a selection. Each plant has a unique seed design….texture, shape, color, as well as specific propagation requirements. Such incredible diversity. Here are a few we collected most recently:
And now, most days, aside from the everyday garden chores, tending sheep, hauling in this year’s supply of firewood, and continuing to preserve a bounty of vegetables, we are busy collecting seed. Already looking to the future, already imagining the promise of another season, being grateful for that small parcel…the seed, that will make it all happen. Glory be!
How about a poem? I think yes, a good one from Mary Oliver….
What can I say that I have not said before?
So I’ll say it again.
The leaf has a song in it.
Stone is the face of patience.
Inside the river there is an unfinishable story
and you are somewhere in it
and it will never end until all ends.
Take your busy heart to the art museum and the
chamber of commerce
but take it also to the forest.
The song you heard singing in the leaf when you
were a child
is singing still.
I am of years lived, so far, seventy-four,
and the leaf is singing still.
We no longer have a household of children, but we still have a fair number of young’uns around the place. Our own kids are young adults now and are busy in their own lives. One lives not so far away, close enough to stop in to fill grocery bags of fresh produce to take home, borrow cookbooks, or simply visit for a ‘taste of home’. I love this, really, I do. The other has already built his own cabin just beyond our place and through the woods. He has his own small carpentry business and is constantly on the go…no grass grows under the feet of this boy, that’s for sure. Then we have our assortment of young people who live and work with us. WWOOFers and an intern at the moment, living in the little dwellings that are scattered around the property. I truly love the energy these young people bring to our days. The conversations we have with them are always so full of ideas and promise. They all take such a genuine interest in the world and they are committed to doing their best for this planet and humanity. They have a vision for themselves and a vision for how they can serve the world. All of this keeps me very hopeful for the future. Often, our conversations together delve into farming, sustainability, politics, religion, science… you name it and we’ve probably sat around the kitchen table and shared thoughts with one another. In the evening, I love watching them seek one another out, walking foot paths through the woods to sit around a campfire or make food together and engage in their own round table of conversation. Laughter, banter, opinions, singing, we hear it all….and it is such a privilege to bear witness to their growth and experiences. The people who come to learn here at the nursery are a great help to us. We do our best to teach them as much as we can, to send them off knowing how to grow food, or to use a foraged plant for a particular medicinal remedy, or to spin wool or make cheese, skills that we hope will be of use to them on their own journey. What they may not know but I should remind myself to tell them more often, is that each one leaves us feeling better about the world. Not just because they now know how to thin carrots or identify a native plant ( although these are great skills to acquire!) but because they are people you can be proud to stand behind. The future will be better, safer, and kinder with these young people making their way forward. They are searching for ways to make a difference, they want the world to be a better place for everyone. They are willing to make sacrifices and commit themselves to choosing a life that is not self-serving, but one that contributes to the greater good. I love them all. I am proud of each one, including our own. It may seem or appear that the world is on a slippery slope, one that does not bode well for the future. This may be true and there are many areas of concern, no doubt, but when I sit across the table from one of our young visitors and listen to their hope and vision of the future, I am reassured of their intent and ability to turn the ship around. I’ll grab an oar and gladly help them row!