In The Woods And In The Nursery

We just began the process of uncovering the nursery. Such a fun job after a long winter. Each time we roll back the landscape cloth we immediately inspect the condition of the plants underneath. One little Hepatica transylvanica that we’ve propagated was already in bloom. A determined little gem! It looks like most everything has come through the long winter splendidly. Always a joy and a relief to know our plants were tucked in well for the winter, undisturbed by voles, and are now ready to have their covers lifted.

Lobaria pulmonaria

While out foraging, I came across one of my favorite lichens, Lobaria pulmonaria. This lichen is an epiphytic lichen, which means it is an organism that uses another plant for structure and derives its moisture and nutrients from the rain and air but does not harm the plant it’s living on. This particular lichen is very susceptible to air pollution and will not often be found in areas where air quality is poor. Fortunately, our air quality is pretty darn good here in the woods of Maine, so I come across it quite regularly. I harvest a small amount of Lobaria for two reasons. First, for its medicinal value. I tincture this lichen for respiratory ailments such as bronchitis, lingering coughs, and croup. Lobaria is an expectorant, an astringent, is an antimicrobial and a pulmonary demulcent. Having antibiotic properties it can help with bacterial infections. I tincture Lobaria and also gather a bit for drying to add along with other respiratory herbs and then use it as a tea. The other use I have for Lobaria is as a dye plant. Used fresh or dried, Lobaria gives a dark brown color to the yarn I am dying. I don’t often use a mordant ( a mordant is a substance, typically an inorganic oxide, that combines with a dye and helps to fix it to the wool), but with the most recent collection, I will see if I can shift the color a bit using some copper or iron. Aren’t these plants just the most amazing things ever? I am very careful about leaving the bulk of a lichen undisturbed. Lichens are very slow growing and such an important part of our ecosystem that I find it best to be very thoughtful when harvesting. Not much is needed for tincture, for tea, or for a dye bath, so a very small amount is actually gathered.
Tomorrow, I may take my Lobaria pulmonaria down to the coast and set up a little fire and a dye pot. Curious as to what the salt water and all its minerals will do to alter the color. We shall see and I’ll keep you all posted on the results!
Hope where ever you are, you are feeling the strength and restorative properties of the approaching spring season. So very lovely, isn’t it?

A Beautiful Day In March

What a delightful day! Warm and sunny and the ground squishy and oozy with mud. We walk across the strategically placed planks along the ground to duck into the greenhouse as early in the day as possible. Decadent warmth! Our bones are so happy to have heat from the sun! Aah! We so appreciate our dutiful woodstoves and the great heat they provide us throughout the winter, but I must say, our souls are sun seekers now. We are basking in the glory of vitamin D. Of course, because of our work, we are directed outdoors almost every day now. The greenhouse, the nursery, the gardens…And, as Ruth Stout said ( and I agree!) “I LOVE SPRING ANYWHERE, BUT IF I COULD CHOOSE I WOULD ALWAYS GREET IT IN A GARDEN.”

Our curious hens have found bare ground!

Hair cuts are desperately needed!


Today, we have been busy with an array of chores. Flats of seeds started, chicken coop mucked out and all the bedding deliciously tossed into the compost heap and replenished with clean shavings, a few signs were painted for the nursery season, two huge piles of brush were collected and are now ready for burning, emails were written and sent, more class postings have been added to our ‘classes and more’ page, and I was even able to put together some yummy chocolate Irish whiskey brownies. Did I already use the word decadent in this post? Let’s just apply that same word to these brownies, and then, let me share the recipe with you please.

Brownies With Irish Whiskey And Currants

1 cup hazelnuts ( I have also used walnuts)
12 ounces of bittersweet chocolate
2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 1/4 cup Irish Whiskey
1 1/2 currants or raisins
2 cups granulated sugar
4 extra-large eggs
1/2 tsp. salt
2 1/4 unbleached all-purpose flour
Adjust the oven rack to middle position and preheat to 325 degrees. Spread hazelnuts (or walnuts) on the baking sheet and toast for 10 to 15 minutes. Allow to cool and remove skins from hazelnuts. Set aside.
Turn heat up to 350 degrees.
In a stainless steel mixing bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water, melt the chocolate and the butter. Take off heat once melted and allow to cool slightly.
In another small saucepan over low heat, heat the whiskey with the currants or raisins, stirring constantly to keep from sticking or burning. Cook until the liquid is sticky, bubbly, and reduced. About 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside.
In a bowl with an electric mixture whisk sugar, salt, and the eggs until they are mousse-like. Add flour in three batches. remove from mixer and stir in the chocolate. Stir in the currant mixture. Last, stir in the nuts. Bake in 11X17 baking dish well buttered. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until firm to the touch. Cool before serving.

Oh boy, you’re going to love, love, love these! Enjoy!

First List Of Classes !

We’re starting to post our class offerings and schedule for the 2019 season here at Fernwood Nursery. Today I’ll share with you what has been slated so far for the month of April, but be sure to visit our classes and more page for additional summer classes and newly posted opportunities ( some are already up!). We are so looking forward to the upcoming season, potting up new plants as well continuing with the old favorites. Lots of great natives for those who are devoted to restoring ecological habitats or for those who simply see the beauty and importance of growing native plants within the landscape. Of course, being ‘plantaholics’ we also carry an extensive collection of unusual plants and rarities from around the globe. Come see! We know spring is coming, the squishy ground beneath our feet and the deep muddy ruts on all of our dirt roads are obvious indicators!
And now, two classes in April that may interest you…

Dull As A Hoe!
Saturday, April 20th, 2019 from 1:00 -3:00
Get those garden tools ready for the season! Join us here at Fernwood Nursery to learn how to sharpen and maintain your garden tools. Whether it’s a trusty hoe, your essential digging spade, or those favorite pruners, come learn how to keep them sharp and at their best. Feel free to bring along your own gardening tools ( limit three, please) to get that hands-on opportunity to sharpen their edges. Sharpening materials will be on-site for your use and instruction will be provided. Complimentary scones and tea will also be available!
Class size is limited to 10, pre-registration and pre-payment required. Visit our classes and more for details.
Please call (207) 589-4726 or email us at fernwoodnursery@fairpoint.net to register

Erythronium ‘ Rose Queen’
Trout Lily


‘Ephemerals and Early Risers’
On Saturday, April 27th, 2019 from 10:00a.m. to noon
Rick and Denise Sawyer of Fernwood Nursery will give a presentation on ‘Ephemerals and Early Risers’. The talk will focus on those plants which are first to emerge in spring within the woodland garden. Come join us for a walk and talk as we identify and enjoy the earliest of plants to bloom and learn how to incorporate them into your own landscape. Discover some of the woodland gems we grow and offer here at Fernwood Nursery…bloodroot, Hepatica, Anemones, and Dutchman’s britches, to name a few!
The program will take place in the gardens and studio of Fernwood Nursery from 10:00 a.m. to 12 noon. Space is limited to 10, so pre-registration and pre-payment are required. Also, dress for the weather…it’s spring and it could be showery. Tea and a light lunch will be served. Visit our classes and more page for details. Sign up by phone or email. Happy Spring! (207)589-4726 or email us at fernwoodnursery@fairpoint.net

Snow For Your Valentine

A little more snow, a little more shoveling. We have not tired of it yet, but because the table is now covered with seed catalogs and lists of plants we’ve propagated for the coming season, we are feeling mindful of spring and the promise it brings. Next week, many of the classes we will offer in 2019 will be posted. I know that a hypertufa class will start the season off, I’m thinking April. For those wanting to sculpt some pots and have them cured and ready for planting, this is the class for you!
I have been spending lots of time in the studio, hoping to have some full baskets of handspun yarn to offer knitters this season. And just think, sheep shearing is right around the corner! More wool on its way!
I am including a photo of some socks I made from old sweaters and have now come to the point of needing repair. I really plan on getting the most out of the clothes I wear! Don’t discard…re-make, up-cycle, repair, mend, and patch, I say.

And, why not a poem to celebrate Valentines Day. Enjoy!

To have without holding
BY MARGE PIERCY

Learning to love differently is hard,
love with the hands wide open, love
with the doors banging on their hinges,
the cupboard unlocked, the wind
roaring and whimpering in the rooms
rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds
that thwack like rubber bands
in an open palm.

It hurts to love wide open
stretching the muscles that feel
as if they are made of wet plaster,
then of blunt knives, then
of sharp knives.

It hurts to thwart the reflexes
of grab, of clutch ; to love and let
go again and again. It pesters to remember
the lover who is not in the bed,
to hold back what is owed to the work
that gutters like a candle in a cave
without air, to love consciously,
conscientiously, concretely, constructively.

I can’t do it, you say it’s killing
me, but you thrive, you glow
on the street like a neon raspberry,
You float and sail, a helium balloon
bright bachelor’s button blue and bobbing
on the cold and hot winds of our breath,
as we make and unmake in passionate
diastole and systole the rhythm
of our unbound bonding, to have
and not to hold, to love
with minimized malice, hunger
and anger moment by moment balanced.

Fire And Ice


This past weekend was the annual youth fishing derby at the lake ( St. George). I volunteered to haul over a carload of # 10 cans, several spatulas, and a few crates of dry kindling to help kids learn to build a fire and cook their own food. It was so fun! The ice fishing derby is a great mid-winter event created to encourage kids and their families to get out and ENJOY winter. A whole day of winter fun! Kids (and adults!) could try their hand at drilling a hole through the ice and ice fishing, they could put on a pair of the skates or strap on the snowshoes that were provided, or borrow the sleds to use, or take a ride around the lake on a snowmobile, they could even crawl inside an igloo. My contribution (along with my much-appreciated Fernwood helpers) was to set up a “Hobo cookout’ using # 10 cans as individual stoves and to teach kids how to cook on them. Please picture in your mind a bunch of kids in a large area looking out over the lake scattered with large # 10 cans and small ‘kid constructed’ piles of tinder and dry twigs and boxes of ‘strike anywhere’ matches and plates piled high with hamburgers, hot dogs, and rolls. Now you have an image of how things looked. Here’s the really fun and great thing about teaching kids to build a fire outdoors in the middle of winter and letting them grill their own lunch; All of a sudden, despite any past finicky behavior about food, they will now eat almost anything. They are so proud of this basic skill…make fire, cook meat… that they forget about any picky tendencies. I watched one very slight girl cook and eat 6 hotdogs ( no bun, straight off the stick), I saw several hot dogs roll off the stoves and hit the ground, picking up a slight coating of vegetative matter, only to be quickly wiped off with a wet and grimy mitten for further cooking, then eaten. Many of the cooks charred their dogs to the point of oblivion, no bother, they ate those too. Hamburgers were flipped onto the ground, over-cooked, undercooked, and then happily eaten smothered in ketchup using a wooden shingle as a plate. One boy did touch the top of his stove without wearing his gloves and burned a finger, teared up for a minute, plunged his hand in the snow for relief, and then continued cooking his burger to perfection with the other hand. Bravo! All of this great fun happened because a community recognized the importance of getting outdoors, learning seasonal skills and craft, as well as providing an opportunity to embrace winter here in Maine. The event was also free for everyone… burgers, hot dogs, chili, soup, and baked goods were all donated and also free, all day. The big barn on the property was open and heated with a big wood stove, inside were posters and booklets about fish species, lake habitat, animal tracking guides, and ice fishing rules and regulations. Large pots of hot chocolate, coffee, and tea were on standby for anybody needing a warm drink. Community is essential to all of this. I am so proud to live in a place where we celebrate the beauty and opportunity provided by our landscape and to gather, one and all, to have fun and share knowledge and experience. As you can probably surmise, it was a good day! Oh, and check out some of the beauties kids caught throughout the day ( picture above)…not bad, heh?

A Day Of Fishing

‘Ice Camp’

Our fishing neighbors 1/4 mile down the ice

The way to spend a birthday here in Maine during the month of January, when the temperatures are low and the lake is good and frozen and the brook trout and salmon are hungry for baitfish and you have a family(extended family included!) who are gung-ho for winter adventure, is to gather a sled and fill it with ice fishing traps and cast iron cookware and fresh eggs and bacon and a birthday cake and even a bit of champagne, and the wilderness tent with wood stove, and head out early to get a good spot on the ice. Then, everyone takes a job to get ‘camp’ set up, holes drilled, traps set, and bacon frying.

Odyn, the ‘ bacon fryer extraordinaire’

Best to throw in an enthusiastic 5-year-old who can endure a full day out on the ice (with glee and not one complaint of being cold or bored, by the way) to pull and whip around in a sled, to help pull the line up when a fish bites, and to cook the extra bacon strips on his home-made Hobo stove using a # 10 can. He ate everything he cooked, including one of the bait fish he decided to fry up as well. Already a well equipped outdoorsman, this one. Bravo, little friend!
That’s the very best way to enjoy not just a birthday with people you love but to embrace this beautiful state we live in and the wonderful outdoors.

Hay (Hey) Baby, It’s Cold Outside!

Yes, as I was out throwing hay to our flock of woolies they did seem to be commenting on the briskness of the day! The chore of covering the nursery was completed in just the nick of time. Whew! Today, (Sunday) after our first snow of the season, the sun is out and the temperature hovers around 30 degrees. Not so bad, not so bad. A good day for wood splitting, a little deer tracking ( without the rifle today…Sunday), and some knitting. I am scurrying to finish a pair of wool socks as requested by our son, Noah. His birthday just past and since he’s not here on his home turf at the moment, a box of goodies that remind him of his roots was what he ‘wished’ for… a case of Moxie, some homemade whoopie pies, and a new pair of hand-knit wool socks. As one might say, there’s no taking the country…or the love of home…out of this boy.
So that’s our day here, perhaps I’ll end it with a cup of earl grey tea and some almond biscotti. Fireside, that is!

Beginnings

Years ago a dear friend suggested we write a blog for the nursery. It took some convincing. Actually, it took some needling and eventually she had to trap me in the backseat of their pick-up truck on the long drive home from a mountain hike and force me to come up with some words. That was the very first post. It was 2012. We had just spent a beautiful day hiking up at Gulf Hagas, our other dear friend, Moe, was with us as well. I love thinking of that day. I love my dear friend who had strategically tucked her i-pad-y thingamajig into her knapsack in order to hold me hostage in the backseat on the way home. She is a very clever friend. I remember feeling tired and a little hungry and being squished in the middle between Moe and Rick. Then without hardly a notice, I remember my friend turning around in her seat so that her face was close to mine and saying “start talking, this is your first blog post”.I was trapped, and besides, deep down I was pretty sure my friend was trying to do me a great favor. She was and she did, I see that now. (Also, let me just mention that I am fairly sure both Rick and Moe had dozed off at this point…a lot of help they were, those boys! ha!) That was seven years ago.
Initially, the blog was meant to feature the nursery and the plants we grow and if you scan back over the years you’ll find that, yes, there are many entries that talk about specific cultivars or about propagation or the running of the nursery. It’s true that much of our life centers around the nursery, propagating and tending to the plants we grow, raising vegetables and critters. However, I think the blog would have been a very different space if I had stuck to being a purist and only wrote about plants and gardening. There’s so much more that goes on in this life I live, certainly so much more that goes on in my head. Through the years, I’ve shared some stories and thoughts, some recipes and poems, and, hopefully, an insight into our life here at Fernwood. My friend was spot on when she suggested we write a blog. It does help our business. It does give us a ‘presence’ in the world of social media. A place people can go to find us, to check our hours, to get a sense of what we’re doing here. That’s all really good and helpful. The thing it has also become ( My friend knew this would happen…I know she did, remember I told you she is really clever) is a place for sharing and connecting. It has opened up a world of other blogs that I so look forward to reading, it has opened up a network of friends I feel I could pick out of a crowd even though I have never actually met them, it has created a place to share and connect and express. Sitting at the computer is never a seat I easily gravitate to, digging holes and tending plants wins the stronger tug. But, this blog means a lot to me. So, thank you…first and foremost, Kari, for your nudging. I really do believe it had to happen just the way it did… between two snoring men in the backseat of a pick-up truck after a long day of woods, and waterfalls, and friends. You’re so smart! And, thank you to anyone who has wandered over to this here blog of ours, I hope it has been at least a little interesting and entertaining. I’ve enjoyed each and every visit and connection and will try and keep the words rolling (very hard sometimes, I must admit).
Well, now, let’s add a poem to this rambling post. Sent to me by another friend, a new friend, who, like my friend, Kari, also possesses a dear and generous heart. Lucky gal, I am.
P.S. Do you see how I placed a link in the word Gulf Hagus? It goes back to that very first post. Yep, my friend taught me to do that too. To add links. She’s so clever. Enjoy!

The Things That Count
Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Now, dear, it isn’t the bold things,
Great deeds of valour and might,
That count the most in the summing up of life at the end of the day.
But it is the doing of old things,
Small acts that are just and right;
And doing them over and over again, no matter what others say;
In smiling at fate, when you want to cry, and in keeping at work when you want to play—
Dear, those are the things that count.

And, dear, it isn’t the new ways
Where the wonder-seekers crowd
That lead us into the land of content, or help us to find our own.
But it is keeping to true ways,
Though the music is not so loud,
And there may be many a shadowed spot where we journey along alone;
In flinging a prayer at the face of fear, and in changing into a song a groan—
Dear, these are the things that count.

My dear, it isn’t the loud part
Of creeds that are pleasing to God,
Not the chant of a prayer, or the hum of a hymn, or a jubilant shout or song.
But it is the beautiful proud part
Of walking with feet faith-shod;
And in loving, loving, loving through all, no matter how things go wrong;
In trusting ever, though dark the day, and in keeping your hope when the way seems long—
Dear, these are the things that count.

A Morning Walk Into The Bog

After tending to the sheep, I took a little walk in the bog. I love how the dew settles into that natural depression and creates a silken drapery over many of the plants. In the early morning, the bog still feels silent and still, though you can easily detect the night time activity that has passed through. Deer trails criss-cross through the spongy sphagnum moss that carpets the entire area. A fox leaves gentle footprints along the shore. Spiders have crafted their delicate webs among the branches of the larch. There’s a lot to investigate…the Labrador tea, the cranberry, the tawny cotton grass, Rhodora canadense, and so much more. Such an abundance of plant and animal diversity! You can read more about the different types of bogs and how they are formed here: https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/bog/
Do you ever have the chance to wander into a boggy area to investigate the unique habitat it provides? There are plenty of bogs in Maine to explore, many that have public access and often providing boardwalks that have been built above the sphagnum to protect the plants growing there. Bogs are fairly delicate habitats so there are some thoughtful guidelines to practice while exploring them. The bog that is close to us is not a public bog and we are very careful to walk primarily along the edge (slightly elevated from the bog itself) and occasionally along the deer paths that travel through it.
There is a bog open to visitors located in Orono and you can find information here: https://umaine.edu/oronobogwalk/bog-faqs/
Our own little bog is a canvas of red, gold, and orange hues at the moment and will continue to intensify as we head towards winter. Really beautiful. Here are a few photos from my morning excursion…

Scenes From Fern Class

It was a perfect day to have our fern class out on the deck of the studio. We set up the teardrop trailer for serving tea and scones and chocolate croissants. A lovely Sunday spent looking at green fronds and fern spores. A walk around the gardens and then into the woods for a little exploration. As we ease our way into fall and cooler days, the ferns continue to grace the landscape and the woodlands with their waving tendency and emerald hues. Lovely, lovely, I must say. There is a natural swath of New York ferns (Thelypteris noveboracensis) leading over to one of the cabins we have. In the spring the forest floor is covered with a blanket of false lily of the valley (Maianthemum dilatatum) and the combination of these two plants is quite extraordinary. Of course, in May, the false lily of the valley is in bloom, their fragrance sweetening the forest air. Divine. Nature surely has the patent on landscape design, don’t you agree? We are still plenty busy at the nursery with late-season chores and plantings. Customers are continuing to come knowing that they have time for changes and additions to their gardens. It is this time of year, however, that I feel a pull to roam…to roam the woods, to roam the rocky seashore, to roam the footpaths and mountain trails. I think it’s an attempt to catch my breath. A busy summer, a wedding to plan (and still to pull off), visits from our kids and grandchildren, and, also, of course, the day to day work that keeps the nursery afloat. The urge to slip into the woods, to go deep into the wilds, to sit still among natures green growth and tree canopy, is fierce at the moment. Lately, regardless of how late it is, I’ve been driving over to the lake ( just a mere mile, thank goodness) to a little-undetected spot and swimming. Sometimes it’s just before bedtime. The lake is quiet and the night sky reflects on the surface, I don’t see anyone else. It’s nice, it’s serene, it’s really quiet. I slip into the water like a seal and let the coolness soothe my soul. So restorative. Perhaps this is all the natural progression of a season winding down and I myself feel its influence. Many plants are leaning toward dormancy, the leaves on the trees are losing their chlorophyll, the deer are in the corn fields fattening their bellies for what’s to come. My own inner clock is searching for a different rhythm. I like that. I like the space in the day to be a little more reflective, I like wading into that big beautiful body of water, floating on my back, looking up at the night sky, and being able to hear the beat of my heart. Again, restorative. Hope you are all finding those moments to soothe your soul with an activity or a space that allows for stillness. It’s worth the search and for me right now…essential!