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!

As The Weather Turns…

The heat seems to have subsided. I think we are all thankful. I know the gardens are thankful. I am not convinced that New Englanders, particularly northern New Englanders, are built for hot and humid weather. After a winter of 20 below and a snow that lasts until mid-April, we are often heard making reference to the ‘hot and hazy days of summer’. We make these comments as if we can’t wait for the near 100 degree days, as if we’ll all lie bare and prostrate into the beating sun and love it. This isn’t quite the reality or our response to the baking sun. Once those brutally hot days appear, once the thermometer readings travel into the nineties, we start moaning. We whine and then comment on places like Texas and Arizona, “how do they stand it”, we say. It scares us. It is way out of our comfort. We complain. Most people in Maine don’t have air conditioning. Most will still roll their windows down while driving to capture a breeze before they would ever consider turning on the AC. I’m not sure if our Subaru even has air conditioning. I know the old 1-ton dump truck we drive doesn’t, it has windows you actually have to roll up or down. Very old fashion.
Since the humidity has passed, Maine people are smiling more now. We have resumed the spring in our step. We’re back to our old selves.
So, yes, the days are shortening and the temperatures are cooling. The weather is tolerable. We still may get some Indian summer days when the temps rise, but they probably won’t be so oppressive. We’ll welcome the continuation of sunshine and gentle warmth. The worst of the heat is probably over so we’ll stop being babies and get back to facing our days without complaint. Afterall, we still have tomatoes to ripen and the eggplants wait for the deep heat to grow plump and turn that amazing hue of purple. The winter squash is relying on a long growing season to mature before harvest. The second cut of hay still needs cutting and days of good drying. And, we don’t have all of our firewood split and stacked into the woodshed yet. Yesterday, after collecting seed and working on propagation in the greenhouse, we did manage to haul some firewood as well. Cooler days will soon turn to colder days!
Certainly, everyone is familiar with the quote from Mark Twain, “If you don’t like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.”
Luckily, this ‘wait a few minutes’ for the scorching heat to pass us by has come and we are feeling relief here in the northeast. Thank goodness!!

Mid August (almost)

Thalictrum rochebrunianum

Here it is mid-August! Jeepers! It is at this time of year my insides begin to feel’ revved’ up. Lists and lists of things to do and accomplish before the snow flies. So much still to do in the nursery!

Helianthus divaricatus

Tons of propagation for next year; cuttings, gathering and sowing seed, divisions. A walk around the display beds every day to check for seed that’s ripe. Investigating the woody material for the timing of cuttings. We are beginning to see the natural decline of a few plants in the woodland garden, the herbaceous growth fading away, most of their energy going into just root growth now.

Anemone vitifolia


Don’t get me wrong, the landscape is lush with growth. A jungle of vines and stems and blooms that we manage to maintain.

Clematis heracleifolia

The vegetable gardens overflowing with food, all to be brought in and transformed into lunch or supper, the excess canned or frozen or dried. Right now (surprise, surprise!) we are hauling in that every season’s bounty of zucchini. Zucchini parmesan, zucchini bread, chocolate zucchini cake, zucchini fritters, a cheesy ham and tomato and zucchini torte. No, I’m not at my wits end with zucchini. I pass on the excess to neighbors before I get to the point of despair and luckily Zoe’s fiance is Italian and has a hearty appetite. One of the reasons we are happy she’s marrying him is because he eats a lot and he’s not at all picky. Such a good and helpul quailty to bring to our table! The tomatoes are ripening, the onions and leeks are looking great, cucumbers are producing in great numbers ( time to make pickles!), swiss chard, broccoli, and kale filling baskets ( soon we’ll be planting a late season crop of these). Sweet and hot peppers, beets, cabbages, and beans, all rolling in.
As I sweep through the gardens picking, gathering, collecting seed, I can’t help but notice the 8 cord of wood that needs splitting and stacking. It won’t be long, you know! We will make time, it will all get done, the cycle of this life now relies on a lifetime of familiar doing. I’ll quiet my inner ‘whirl’ and enjoy one task at a time, one step at a time. A good practice in mindfulness, in staying with the present. Truth be told, I honor this ‘one day at a time, one moment at a time’ philosophy but also know that as a farmer one has to anticipate the days and season ahead. Perhaps balance is a better practice for now. I’ll hone in on mindfulness in February when the snow is 3ft deep and the woodstove is cranking and when there is not much more to do than sit and read a good book!
Enjoy this last season of summer, friends…what is occupying your time in the gardens right now?

Savoring Sweet Summer

Yesterday, after a long hot and muggy day in the gardens, I had to make a quick trip into town. Going to town doesn’t excite me. I prefer my home ground, the bounty of flora that surrounds us, the constant music of our resident feathered flyers. It seems the older I get, the less I want to leave home. Most of what I need is here. Family. Friends. Gardens. Space. Serenity. And of course, plenty of fresh food. Despite my normal inclination to hunker down, there are times I have to muster the courage to venture outside of my self-proclaimed range and head to the ‘big (very little) city’. Sometimes we just need things, (even though we practice stocking up to avoid frequent trips) things like toilet paper and avocados. Things like coffee and extra sharp cheddar cheese and chocolate. Oh, and sometimes we have to make a bank deposit as well. That, too.
I go with a list. I don’t dawdle. I don’t stray from my course. I am on a mission. Grocery. Bank. Hardware store. My intent is to ‘get in and get out’ as quickly as possible. Yesterday, however, I did add an excursion just before heading home. I ran the errands that needed to be done and could have easily pointed the trusty Subaru west toward home, but I thought about summer and the heat and the glorious bodies of water that grace our state. So, I drove a little further east ( a mere mile or so) to my friend’s little parcel of land that sits along ‘Head Of Tide’ and went for a swim. This is where the salt water flows in and meets the Passagassawakeag River. During high tide, one can slip easily into the salty water, float with the current and enjoy the cooler temperatures of the oceans influence, and then paddle up the to the freshwater flowing in from the Passy. Divine. So, there I was, submerged in that cool and refreshing body of water, happy for my trip to town, savoring the sweetness of summer.
Sundays are good days for a little poetry, yes? A poem about swimming, enjoy and go for a swim!

When the day becomes hot and hazy
And I become tired and lazy,
All I can do is keep on reneging,
For the vast lawn needs mowing,
And the vegetable garden needs hoeing,
And work must come before swimming.

It seems that the grass has grown taller
And I get an immediate urge to holler.
Why can’t I forget this awful dreaming,
That I was always on the brink of sneezing,
And constantly plagued with episodes of wheezing,
Until soothing in the water with ease in breathing?

The sun seems to quiver and know
As I think of the old swimming hole,
I rest my aching body and keep reneging,
Of course my work I am not shirking,
But it’s just too hot and humid for working,
It’s about time to sneak out and go swimming.

I notice the sun in the azure sky beaming
And again I catch myself dreaming,
As the perspiration continues dripping,
But my tasks have me outsmarted,
And I plod along slowly and half – hearted,
Thinking of the old gang going dipping.

I face reality and refrain from dreaming
And seek relief from the humidity with meaning,
And go to the swimming hole that is brimming.
Life is too short to constantly worry,
So why should I continue to be in a hurry?
It’s summer and a time for swimming.
A Time For Swimming
Joseph T. Renaldi

Lakes And Ponds And Little Swimmers

We have two adoptive grandchildren here visiting for a month. They are 6 and 7 and live in Jacksonville, North Carolina, a place undoubtedly hot and way more congested than our little town here in Maine boasting a mere 1000 residents. What a joy to have these two little spirits around! They are lovely and chatty and interested in all the goings on here at the farm and nursery. What a gift to be able to leave the pavement and noise and busyness of their neighborhood back home to enjoy the quiet woods, the lush gardens, and the lakes and ponds. Oh, the lakes and ponds! Not quite accomplished swimmers when they came, but, oh, so wanting to be little fish confident and frolicking in the cool waters of Maine! Both had never swum in a natural body of water (can you imagine?), so Rick and I have made it our business to take them swimming as often as possible. Of course, the weather has been quite conducive to swimming! They have both gone from carefully wading into the water up to their skinny little knees to launching off of Rick’s back to perform the ‘all kid’s abandoned delight” of cannonballs. Again, and again, and again. How proud they both are! They emerge from the shallows,”We can swim underwater”! Hooray!
We are so very, very lucky to have such water abundance here in Maine. A true blessing. A resource we must honor and protect. Where would one be if we didn’t have a natural pool of water to cannonball into?
Kate Barnes wrote a fun poem about (a few) of the lakes and ponds here in Maine, I’ll share it with you now…

Lakes And Ponds: Some Blue Spots On The Maine Highway Map

There’s Blunder Pond and Bluffer Pond,
Molasses Pond and Bean;
There’s Scraggly Lake and Ragged Lake; there’s Silver,
Clear, and Green;
Bear Pond, Caribou, Beaver, Mink; Moose Pond and
Eagle Lake,
White Horse Lake and Spider Lake, Panther Pond, and Snake;
Hound and Otter, Togue and Salmon, Loon, and
Swan, and Duck.
There’s Hot Brook Lake and Cold Stream Pond;
There’s White Pond and there’s Black;
Lobster Lake and Bean Pot Lake; Shin Pond for a stew;
( Toddy Pond will make you cheerful, Brandy Pond will too,)
Hay Lake, Harrow Lake, Chain Of Ponds; Buttermilk and Mud;
White Oak, Cedar, Seven Tree, Elm, Mill Pond,
Meadow, Flood;
Meddybemps and Pocomoonshine; Simsquish, Skitacook,
Syslododsis, Nahinakanta, UghLake and Ticook;
Indian Pond and Soldier Pond, Polly Pond and Jim;
Round Pond, Square Lake, Corner Pond;
Cut Lake and Old Stream;
Endless Lake and Desolation, St. Froid in the snow;
Flying Pond and The Enchanted, it’s haunted stream below;
Blue spots on the road map with their blue names printed by,
Many words for “water,” many eyes that see the sky.

Poem by Kate Barnes

Classes Coming Up!

These two classes are coming up soon. Let us know if you like to attend by emailing us at fernwoodnursery@fairpoint.net calling (207)589-4726. Also, the ladyslippers are potted up and ready to find new homes! Happy gardening, everyone!

Come Learn Some Dirty Words At Fernwood Nursery
Join us at Fernwood Nursery on Sunday, May 20th, 2018 from 2:00 to 4:00 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 (207)589-4726 or email us to sign up at fernwoodnursery@fairpoint.net Class cost is $30.00 Pre-payment is required.

Cypripedium pubescens

Cypripediums: The Life Of Ladyslippers, Unlock The Mystery
Sunday, June 10th, 2018 from 2:00 to 4:00 $30:00 Pre-registration required, space limited

Spend an afternoon here at Fernwood learning about the growing, propagating, and care of those coveted and elusive ladyslippers. Unlock a bit of their mystery, enjoy tea and scones in the studio, and view the many ladyslippers that grace the gardens here at Fernwood. Potted Cypripediums available for sale as well! Email fernwoodnursery@fairpoint.net or call (207)589-4726

Morning Fog On Mother’s Day

Not just the two darling children I am a mother to, but the delightful flock of sheep I tend. This morning it was coffee and fog and a walk down to the lower pasture. I look a little foggy myself! Must be those early mornings and long days catching up with me!
What a beautiful morning and a great start to the day. And now, I must go and eat some scrambled eggs and home-cured bacon with my family. Happy, Happy Mother’s Day!!

Tears? Holes? Split Seams?

Two years ago, I met a fine young woman in the village of Liberty who has a passion for textiles. Maya is an accomplished designer, seamstress, printer, and maker of all kinds of things.Oh, the talent! I really appreciate Mia’s eye for detail and her style. She also has a deep affinity for breathing new life into old objects, particularly garments. Whether it be a battered civil war jacket or an old flannel shirt from her sweeties closet, Maya will mend it with precision and make it lovely once again.
I asked Maya if she’d come teach a mending class here in the studio. “Of course”, she said, “I’d love to”!
So, on Sunday, April 22nd from 1:00-3:00, Maya will be here at Fernwood for an afternoon of sewing instruction. If interested, bring along a project that needs mending and learn both sashiko and traditional darning methods. All of the materials and instruction will be provided…and, as with all classes here at Fernwood, tea and scones will be served.
Class size is limited, so please sign up in advance. You can visit our classes and more page for additional information or email us here at the nursery: fernwoodnursery@fairpoint.net.
Come join us! Afterall, it’s Earth Day, what better day to upcycle or recycle a favorite piece of clothing!!

The Month Of April At Fernwood Nursery

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!

tatsoi


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!