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February 25, 2016
Afternoon sun floods the bay window, and the baby micro-greens and sprouts drink in the light. These aren't for the gardens, just for salads for Ralph and me, and sandwiches, and smoothies. Mostly they're here because I just need to be growing something now. I need to inhale the aroma of soil that's released when the watering can sprinkles its droplets over the flats. I need to see that exhilarating shade of green that is worn solely by the first sprouts that open when the seed coats split. I need to taste the life of spring that's inside....
My seed orders have come in and I'm playing in the flower, vegetable and herb beds - in my mind's eye...and tasting summer's salads in my mind's mouth, forgetting that in summer berry season we're often so busy we forget to eat anything more than a cucumber sandwich.
It's been a pretty easy winter, mild and manageable. Last winter was the polar opposite, with frigid temperatures that reached negative 18 a couple of times, and snow storms that started early in the season and dumped a couple of feet, several times, taking down power lines and our energy as well.
That winter was so brutal, and spring so long in coming, that I skipped writing this newsletter for the whole year, always feeling overwhelmed, like the white rabbit, always running late....
But as the year unfolded things got better and better, so I'll begin at the end and work back...
In December we were amazed to get stellar news from Hollywood, that actress/activist/feminist Cameron Diaz had included us among eight holiday gift recommendations for cooks and chefs in her blog, Our Body Book. Wow! How in the world did that happen?!?
In November, Yankee Magazine, the beloved bedside companion of my family for 80 years named our Lavender Mustard as one of the Top 20 New England food gifts for 2015. Mum was beside herself with pride! So are we......
During the spring, our 2 local papers, The Keene Sentinel and The Monadnock Shopper News published results of reader's polls which awarded both our preserves and mustards!
In the Orchard
By October when the pears were ready, we were already overwhelmed with work so for the third year in a row, we donated them to our local community kitchen. We are so happy that in the last two years in the Monadnock region the gleaning project made donating so easy - volunteers came right here and loaded up hundreds of pounds of fresh, organic pears to distribute.
The Damson Plums had a pretty good year. Although we needed to severely prune our oldest Shropshire Damson trees due to black knot and porcupine damage, four young trees named Blues Jam and Jam Session put out their first good harvests. I'm not sure that we will go all the way to September on their yield, but at least we have a hundred pounds or so remaining.
Even though we grow "Reliance", an extremely hardy peach variety, the harsh winter of 2014-5 killed about 90 percent of the fruit buds. We did manage to fill about 1/2 a freezer, so we do have peach still available for preserve-making for awhile yet.
Our summer was super, with perfectly timed rains and no hot, humid weather to wilt us, and our yields were high. Our autumn bearing Carolines bore long into the fall since frost held off til late October.
Blackberries and Blueberries
The heavy snows of winter flattened the blackberry canes and most could not recover. Likewise, many older, larger blueberry branches broke under the weight of snow. Our yields of these black and blue beauties were severely diminished. We still have about 30 pounds. Luckily, July is just 5 months away...
Red Currants, Black Currants and Elderberries
Black currants and elderberries both lost vigor in the winter freeze, but red currants, for some reason, put out a splendid crop.
It was wonderful having these beloved berries back! Buried under deep straw mulch, they were protected from winter's wrath. We have 3 varieties, our favorite heirloom sparkles, dependable honeyoye, and a new Italian variety from the institution "Fruitticultura" (really, how could I resist that name?). Yield was good for a first year, and we're looking forward to a really good harvest this season.
In fact, everything looks good for harvests all around for this 2016. Plants that take a year off production-wise usually put on a great show the following year. This winter has been mild and as long as we keep getting adequate rains, we might just see a lot of fruit this coming summer.
We had lots of fun last summer interplanting vegetables, flowers and herbs - nasturtiums with cucumbers, zucchini and squash; marigolds and dill with tomatoes; Italian white sunflowers with Italian red peppers; zinnias with chili peppers, celery with lemon verbena, you get the picture.
"We" means earth-mother/daughter team of Elisha and Asha, rejoined this year by golden girl Lara who returned after several years and immediately began telling us what to do - which is just what we need sometimes. Since we had a couple of crises with my mum in 2015, we were really lucky that the A team was on hand.
Mum is doing better now, and I'm going to have to pry her spade fork away from her, she's so eager to get into the garden ( at 94!).
The saddest news from 2015 was the passing of our beloved Barley Bear, our enormous golden-Pyrenees, 150 pounds of sheer love, with not a molecule of meanness in his whole body. Barley became ill in October and waxed and waned throughout the awful winter, passing in March.
So now it's Abbey and us. Elisha's Moki and the neighbor dog visit and play with her and she seems to be ok being the only dog, at least for now. She's got a crazy sense of humor, loves to play and tease and chase and be chased, but she's also happy rolling her own balls down the slope and chasing them. And she wants everyone to know that she can carry 3 balls - 3 balls - 3 balls - in her mouth!
I'm having fun doing the Farmers' Market of Keene which runs on Saturdays downtown during the main season and at The Colony Mill Marketplace October-April. I began making organic berry pies for market last winter with great success, and in the summer debuted our Frosty Fruit Pops. It's been so much fun, and I love offering something new and watching people's reactions. It's all been, "Wow!" "Wow!" "Wow!" Again and again.
Since I've been able to do markets year round, I've begun pulling back from wholesale business. I never did much wholesaling anyway; it's hard to compete on shelves against colorful glossy packaging and everybody calling themselves "artisan" and "small batch" even when the "small batch" is 30 gallons or more! (60 jars is the most I put up in a day!) Wholesale orders often would throw me into a tizzy as I'd scramble to fill the order, especially during the berry season when there are already too few hours in the day and the last place I wanted to be in July was in a steamy kitchen.
New for 2016 - $10.00 shipping on all orders!
My plan for 2016 is to carry on with farmers' markets and direct retail from this website. To make web ordering simpler, we've decided to cap all shipping at ten dollars in the lower 48. My old formula was fair in that charges were calculated at the USPS rates, but I know it seemed confusing. And with this new change, maybe you'll feel freer to try that new flavor you've been thinking about!
Oh and I do plan to revive this newsletter and get it back on a monthly track. And they will be mercifully shorter.....
So that's where I am. Cozy on the couch, drinking in the sun's rays along with my sprouts. Ralph's making a pizza (our Tomatoes Rustica is back in stock!) and Abbey is frolicking with her companion. Temperatures are expected to reach an unheard of 60 today, so as soon as I finish this sentence, I'll grab my boon companion and take off into the woods.
Springs a coming, my friends!
Past Issues of Patti's Garden
November 25, 2014
December 9, 2013
September 22, 2013
November 27, 2012
September 24, 2012
June 4, 2012
December 1, 2011
September 20, 2011
April 26, 2011
February 2, 2011
November 24, 2010
September 29, 2010
July 14, 2010
April 20, 2010
March 22, 2010
February 1, 2010
September 27, 2009
June 22, 2009
May 7, 2009
March 7, 2009
February 6, 2009
December 12, 2008
October 31, 2008
September 26, 2008
July 5, 2008
May 15, 2008
April 16, 2008
January 29, 2008
|November 5, 2007
September 4, 2007
July 8, 2007
May 17, 2007
April 15, 2007
February 16, 2007
February 9, 2007
July 1, 2005
March 2, 2005
July 5, 2004
Farmers' Markets and Events
Keene Winter Farmers' Market
There's a cohort of great farmers around here. You can find us on Saturdays at The Colony Mill Marketplace in Keene from 10-2. This market offers an outstanding selection of local beef, pork, lamb, chicken, eggs, milk as well as onions, potatoes, squashes and other winter vegetables - even some lovingly grown greens, Alpine style and goat cheeses, wine, maple products, granola and jewelry. Elm City Brewery with award-winning brews and great food (often locally-sourced) is our neighbor and patron. Other very good reasons to visit The Colony Mill include our beloved Toadstool Bookstore, The Cheshire Children's Museum and the Antiques Cooperative.
As always, feel free to contact us by phone or email if you're heading out to an event or market to see us. We can let you know for certain if we will be there, and can put aside your favorites so you're sure of getting what you want.
Web Site News
- February 25, 2016
Garden is back! And now shipping to the 48 contiguous US states is at most $10!