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!

This Old Dog….

This is Miller. Our big loveable and loyal lab. Miller loves people. He’s our nursery greeter…happy for a pat and a belly scratch. He’ll gladly follow you around as you look over the plants in the nursery rows or as you roam the display beds. When we weed the gardens, he likes to be close, often laying right beside us. When we get up to empty our weed buckets, he’ll follow along. Miller has dedicated himself to being a constant companion. Johnny on the spot. Our very reliable sidekick. This year Miller is showing his age ( he’s 10). He tires more quickly on walks now. He sleeps more soundly than he ever has and he can no longer make the jump into the pick-up by himself. We keep a hay bale nearby so that he can use it as a step up into the truck. He doesn’t mind that his old body can’t leap up into the truck or that he can’t run fast anymore, he’s just always happy to be with us. He has always been our goofy, happy-go-lucky dog. That’s Miller.
This year, however, Miller has decided that he feels uncertain about other dogs coming to the nursery. We’re not sure if it’s because he can’t see as well or if being less able has left him feeling a bit vulnerable. We’ve never allowed visitors to let their dogs out at the nursery, even if they have a leash. It’s just not something we’ve ever felt comfortable with. Now, with Miller getting older and feeling less steady on his feet ( and less mentally alert), we thought it might be a good time remind customers about our dog policy. If you are traveling with your pup in the car and you do come to the nursery, please leave them in the car as you shop or walk around. We have a nice very shady parking spot up near the nursery and with the windows rolled down, it should be quite comfortable. If your dog needs water ( we’ll happily get you some!) or needs to get out and relieve themselves, there are plenty of spots to let your dog out just down the road a piece ( away from the nursery).
We and good Ol’ Miller really appreciate your understanding and consideration, the nursery is certainly a place we want people to feel welcome, but we’re trying to give Miller a sense of comfort as he enters old age. Thank you and we hope to visit with you this summer!

We’re ready!

Sanguinaria canadense Multi-plex

It has been a busy weekend here at Fernwood! On Saturday, we offered our ‘Early Bloomers and Ephemerals’ class. After a talk and slide show, attendees were able to walk the gardens and view the many early woodland and shade plants gracing the gardens at the moment. So nice to share time with eager gardeners wanting to learn more about those garden gems that are first to bloom here in Maine. Great fun!
The hoop house finally got its new skin. After 5 years, the poly needs replacing and we were happy to have another set of hands to help pull the plastic over and secure it. Thanks, Charles!! It’s looking pretty snazzy…like a kid in their new summer kicks!
We continue to pot up plants for the season, the nursery is well stocked with rows of both new and old selections. Opening day here is Wednesday, May 3rd. Our hours are from 9-5. Regular hours through the season will be Wednesday through Sunday. Closed Monday and Tuesday. Visitors can always call or email us for directions and with questions.
It is always exciting (and busy) this time of year. We are putting as many hours into the day as we can fit…”making hay while the sunshines” as they say. Hope to see you this season!
Now, why not a poem…

April Woods: Morning

Birth of color
out of night and the ground.
Luminous the gatherings
of bloodroot
newly risen, green leaf
white flower
in the sun, the dark
grown absent.

by Wendell Berry

Gifted…

Yesterday afternoon we had some visitors, Leslie Moore and her husband arrived in our dooryard and presented us with this….
The most lovely ( wow!) linocut done by Leslie herself, this particular image inspired by one of our very own ewes standing in the barn doorway while contemplating the wintery weather…
Please check out Leslie’s website! Once I began looking at Leslie’s art work and her most beautiful linocuts, I felt even more inspired by her craft. Amazing! I especially loved her Chiaroscuro Linocut called Saving Nails. Once you’ve visited Leslie’s site, be sure to go to her blog to see a wonderful sampling of her work!
Also, if you live in the area, you can see Leslie’s work in person at Waterfall Arts upcoming show titled “Home”.
I will be looking for the perfect spot to display ” sheep in Snow“. If you have a spot on your wall that is in need of a beautiful piece of artwork…look no further and consider one of Leslie’s linocuts! http://lesliemoore.net/section/435333-Prices-Guidelines.html

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.

Old Buggies

I once owned, back in the day when draft horses stood in our fields with the sheep, a nice old cream delivery sleigh. When I sold the last horse, the sleigh went as well. It was a beauty. Green with gold painted detail work. The drafts were meant for work, pulling the hay rake or hauling out logs, and these were some of the chores I used them for. However, when there was good snow, out came the sleigh and in we all piled…kids, friends, and neighbors. Boy was that fun! The sleigh was built as a pung with a set of both front and back runners. Just thinking about it makes me want to consider another horse…hmmm? So, here is a poem by Kate Barnes celebrating the days when sleighs and buggies traveled these roads. (The buggy in the photo is from my Mom’s family. They owned a small grocery and this is how they made their deliveries). The Buggies

“When I first began to practice,”
said the veterinary, giving a shot
to the new foal, “ this countryside
was full of old carriages. The barns
all had some. You could buy
a good top buggy for ten dollars. But now
a lot of the barns have fallen down
onto them.

Those old farmers
used to hang their good buggies from the rafters,
safe and out of the way. And some people
went on using them a long time.

I remember
one place in Warren, “he said, putting iodine
on the umbilicus, watched anxiously
by the mare with her flickering eyes, “ they had
this perfect drop- front phaeton. The top
was always up, the seat was plum-colored wool
with a cloth cover over it. Beautiful.
The old lady wouldn’t go to church
in anything else.

But now that I think of it,
she must have gone too, the last time I was by there
the barn roof was down.

They were
nice, those old things-
well made, you know.
They could stand up to a lot.”

He climbed
into his white truck and drove away,
rattling down the lane. Behind, in the stall,
the mare nickered once as her foal began to nurse
and was silent.

The cold March evening
was darkening toward night, the patterns
of old snow made stripes in the dusk, the stars
were slowly coming out but the lake
at the bottom of the hill went on picking up
the last daylight. Its surface glowed
softly as if it were lighted
from below, as if a distant sun were submerged there
under the ice, still shining, alive, an
d warm.

March On!

picture-3943Have we had a few days of really, really cold temperatures lately? Brrr and yes, but the sun is high and strong and the very near future promises much warmer weather. Yeeha! So, we’ll march on through the month readying ourselves for what’s to come…..sowing seeds, turning over soil, boiling sap into maple syrup goodness.picture-4029I’m not going to squander a minute of March. Before long we’ll be doing that “sun up til sun down” thing we do every year. I’m using these last days of winter (yes, soon to be spring) to finish all the wool spinning and dyeing, all the knitting and felting, all the rummaging through boxes of family papers, all the reading (thank you Rick H. for the package of books you sent!!) I can muster before it’s too late. picture-4008This past weekend both Liberty Tool Company and Liberty Graphics opened their doors for another season. This is great for all those who travel to Maine looking for something special to bring home…like a smoothing plane, or a mortising chisel, or a really nice locally printed tee-shirt. For us locals, we wait all winter for the village to show signs of life again. After a winter of staying close to home, gathering at Liberty Graphics for a cup of coffee and a good chat is a sure sign of revitalization.
Even our chickens seem to have a pep in their step, grooming the landscape for spring morsels. Deep snow and cold temperatures keep them close to the coop until the bare ground starts appearing. Then the door is flung open and out they come, busy the rest of the day rototilling through the gardens and the woods.
Enjoy your days, peek out into the gardens, tip your face to the sun….spring’s a comin!picture-4032picture-3948

Lucky Day!

picture-3948This morning while gathering extra bales of hay from the big barn, I couldn’t help but take advantage of the slick snow covering on the field behind the barn. Out came the Flexible Flyer, down came the earflaps on my wool hat, and off I went. We’re getting more snow at the moment and chances are it will cover the good icy sledding snow with a more powdery consistency. Well, I wasn’t going to let good sledding snow go to waste! Halfway down the hill, I passed over a spot that had been pawed bare by the deer. My eye caught what looked like a sharp branch. I hiked back up to investigate….and I found this single spike horn (antler). How lucky! Then!…then!….I came home to find this guy sitting in the tree just outside the sheep barn, no doubt hoping for some rodent activity to satisfy his appetite before the storm really takes hold. All before 10:00 a.m. What a lucky day!picture-3944

Heading Off To Ireland

picture-3704I’m heading off to Ireland again. While there, I’ll keep you posted on our travels and adventures. I’ll take pictures. I’ll do some writing. Then….I’ll come home and hunker down for the good long winter months.
By the way, that little gal in the picture is Dottie. Remember her? The lamb who had a puncture wound on her foot when she was just a wee little thing? She’s all better and quite the gal….only needing just a bit of a reminder from time to time that she is, in fact, a sheep.

Taters And Toads

picture-3610It’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!picture-3614