What’s On The Docket For Today?

Mid-August and that means spending at least part of the day in the kitchen preserving the bounty. Green beans are frozen and also pickled. A big pot of broccoli soup and kettles of tomatoes simmering. Pesto. Lots and lots of pesto. Sweet pickles, sour pickles, mustard pickles. Probably some relish, too. Yesterday some fresh cabbage slaw and later in the month, a crock of kraut will be made.
Beets roasted for tonight’s dinner ( along with a chicken in the oven) and sprinkled with blue cheese. Dessert? How about homemade ginger biscuits with peaches and blueberries? Ice cream? Yes!

Then, this afternoon, along with tending the nursery, we’ll keep working on our latest construction project…the new outhouse! We had a long conversation with my cousin Barbara and cousin Ronnie during dinner last night about furnishing the outhouse with one seat or two. They have a two seater, who goes in there together? I don’t know. Apparently, a traditional two-seater outhouse has two different size holes. One for big bottoms and one for smaller. Well, that makes sense, we wouldn’t want any little folks falling through! Cousin Barbara has made her own privy into quite the luxury palace…fancy curtains, a linoleum floor, and art work hung on the wall. I can imagine all of her guests lining up outside the outhouse happy to “do their business’ in such fine surroundings. I bet there’s probably some good reading material in there too. Our outhouse is still taking shape, but I’ll glean some inspiration from cousin Barbara and be thinking about ways to make our own “one holer” a pleasant place to sit for a spell. If you want to read up on some outhouse facts, go here, http://cottagelife.com/environment/10-things-you-probably-didnt-know-about-outhouses

Blue Days

Nothing to cry about, quite the contrary! This lace-cap hydrangea serrata is attracting lots of visitors, both humans and pollinators. So happy that our buzzing friends (the buzzing insects, not the humans) are finding nourishment throughout the gardens.
And, it’s blueberry season here in Maine! I’ve picked up a carload of blueberries from my friend’s farm in Washington. Ten 10 lb. boxes of blueberries for here and for friends. Of course, we will freeze most of them, but a couple of fresh pies will be made and some blueberry ice cream cranked out. Like I said, nothing to cry about!!! Yum! Summer at its best!

High Summer

There is a brief window during the season when we experience a slight lull…in the gardens and in the nursery. It happens just after school lets out in late June and continues until the 4th of July weekend. We appreciate the small reprieve. The garden’s beds are planted, weeded, and looking great, the flow of customers is steady but not as busy as in May and June, there’s a calm before the ‘storm’ that the now ‘high summer’ brings. From here on in however, our pace picks up again. The nursery gets re-stocked with late season offerings and with plants that simply needed replacing from earlier sales. Now is the time we do most of our propagating for the next season, this involves collecting seed, taking cuttings, and dividing plants from the stock beds. The greenhouse is cloaked in shade cloth and a misting system gets set up ( in the greenhouse)to provide a constant and controlled amount of moisture. In the vegetable gardens, the bounty to be harvested and preserved is coming fast and furious….summer squash, cucumbers, kale, chard, greens, snow peas and shell peas, beets, and loads and loads of broccoli. Every meal is the essence of freshness, plates of homegrown chicken surrounded by steamed veggies and an extra large green salad. I begin to eye the squash patch with concern, a day of not picking could lead to one of those gigantic zucchinis or an overly bulbous yellow squash. Harvesting the squash patch becomes a secret competition between me and the cucurbits. I am determined to harvest each and everyone before I need the wheel barrow to haul them away. I’m determined to pick them when they’re small and incorporate them into meals before they roll to the back of the fridge and become wobbly. Right now I’m winning, we’re roasting squash, grilling squash, steaming squash, and using them in our favorite squash fritter recipe. So far so good. If you come for dinner more than once a week and think to yourself “squash, again?”, please don’t say it out-loud. I’m on a mission and only looking to feed ‘Team Squash’ while I’m at it. Be happy that your squash fritters include smoked Gouda and that your grilled squash wedges are peppered with a nice spicy dry rub. Eat and be happy.
It’s at this time we begin glancing forward to what’s ahead. Yes, we’ll still be harvesting and preserving well into September, our work at propagating will continue, mowing and weeding and moving sheep fence a constant until the leaves begin dropping, but there will also be firewood to bring in and hay to be gathered and stored, meat birds processed and sheep brought home. It’s not about not living in the moment or in the present (we always hope to manage this as well!), it’s about the cycle of the season and how our lives here are connected to the natural rhythms of time. We’re part of it and I like that. Well, it’s 6:30 a.m. and I must leave you now, my Patty Pan squash and Costata Romanesco zucchini have had well over 12 hours to gain inches and it’s time to rein them in!
And while out in the garden stalking the vegetable bounty….we sure are stopping to smell the flowers!

A Gal From Texas Comes To Maine

Howdy from Texas! My name is Anna Guillory and I’m a WWOOF volunteer (what’s WWOOF? Check that out here!) who has spent the last ten days at Fernwood Nursery with my lovely, lovely hosts, Denise and Rick. I recently graduated from Texas Christian University with a degree in Art Education. I wanted to take the time to WWOOF the summer before starting a job teaching high school art and I decided that Fernwood was the right fit. I first heard about WWOOFing from my cousin at the disinterested age of 14 and never thought I’d be doing it now. Through school, I became interested in learning about sustainable living and organic gardening and I was making artwork centered around these ideas. I thought WWOOFing would be a good way for me to inform myself as an artist, as well as bringing back some insights to my future classroom and students. Increasing one’s knowledge of gardening, the biology of plants, and how things grow, etc. can often give us a much better understanding of how we look at things in the world. My WWOOF experience has helped accomplish this and being here at Fernwood has inspired me to look at things in the natural world more closely. I found Fernwood Nursery back in March when their WWOOF site had posted that they were looking for volunteers. Being an artist, I was really interested in how Denise works with her sheep. Fibers and textiles are something I have always wanted to learn more about, and I was equally interested in the farm and nursery aspect. It was a win-win! I’ve heard beautiful things about Maine, and wanted to see another part of the States. All that being said, it has blown me away! Aside from my interests in coming to learn and experience farming, it has been an incredibly healing place for me to be before beginning a new season of life after college. Working with Denise and Rick and learning from them, as well as just being on their property, has grounded me and been a rejuvenating experience. I had almost thought I wasn’t going to be able to come to Maine but Denise and Rick were flexible with my change in dates, and have proven to be ever too generous with my needs. I’m glad to know they will always be people I can count on and available to me. Denise asked if I would write 10 things I’ve learned during my stay. If you do the math right, that’s one thing a day, but I know there are many more things I could list and I am certain I will only continue to build upon them after returning to my life in Texas.There are also some photos included of some great outings and projects, so enjoy!

Ten things:

1.Ephemeral plants bloom in early spring and often go dormant in the late summer months ( this I did not know!!)

2.How to make a hyper-tufa vessel ( I’ll be carrying a mini hyper-tufa vessel home with me, yee ha!)

3.Weeds can be edible ( like purslane and lamb’s quarters and chickweed!!) and super good for you!!

4.How to make Beet and Fruit Kvass ( yum, yum, thank you, wise woman, Liz!!)

5.How to make lemon balm pesto with freshly picked garlic scapes

6.Felting with wool from Denise’s Blue Face Leicester sheep

7.Skirting a fleece

8.The importance of seed saving ! (oh my, how very, very important! I watched this while at Fernwood, SEED: The Untold Story)

9.What a hula-hoe is and how to use it ( and boy did I use it!)

10.Not all flying things ( bugs) are harmful, only some. (and only if you develop a phobia and run like the dickens to escape them)<

In addition, while here in Maine, I also traveled to Rogues Bluff with a Teardrop trailer, hiked a local trail (Haystack mountain) and picked wild blueberries, learned to shingle an outbuilding on the farm, learned some plant propagation techniques, harvested vegetables and herbs, and had the pleasure of mingling with some of the local community and to discover how welcoming and friendly Maine people are!
Now back to Texas where I’ll be certainly pondering all the wonderful experiences and things I learned during my time in Maine. My wish is to call upon all of the valuable lessons learned from my WWOOF experience and to apply them as best and often as I can in my life back in Texas. Have a great summer, my Maine friends!

A trip Downeast for a picnic with the teardrop trailer!

A super yummy picnic, that is!!

A hike up Haystack just a mile from Fernwood!

Pesto

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.

Tatsoi

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.

Let’s Talk Dirt!

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.

A Long Deep Furrow

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

picture-3923Now 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!picture-3911
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.picture-3918 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. picture-3925