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Previously in Patti's Garden

December 2, 2004

A chill wind is blowing today and the skies are gray.

Next season's strawberries are sleeping under their bed of oatstraw in the upper gardens, and the garlic awaits its covering in the long lower bed.

Little by little, I've been pulling up the old annual flowers, vegetables and herbs from the beds. I don't rush this task, though, the way I used to, because I've decided that I like the way the ice crystals form on the frozen stalks and the fairyland look the gardens take on when covered with frost or newly-fallen snow.

Elsewhere, straw is scattered here and there for the dogs to sleep on when they're outdoors. Even with his long shaggy coat, old Mr. Teddy enjoys a straw bed and Miss Rosie always prefers to be cozy.

Indoors, the wood stove warms us and the aroma of the burning fire triggers ancient memories in our being.

Having the wood cook-stove burning all the time inspires my cooking and I've been happily making soups, stews and bread pudding, and Ralph has been cooking meat over the fire. After the hectic growing season, farmers' markets and holiday shows, we revel in this slower pace that winter brings. In the summer when we work from sun to sun, we get amazing things accomplished ever day. This time of year, we're almost asleep at 7:30 because, after all, the sun has already been down for three hours!

Since this is our holiday season, we do make preserves almost everyday. I have to admit that I really love making them even more during the winter than in the summer. The aroma of the simmering fruit is intoxicating - and a vivid reminder of summer's sun-warmed berries. As I stir the fruit in the kettle, the rising steam warms my face and hydrates my skin. Yesterday we made King of Hearts Strawberry Preserves, each batch simmering for about 30 minutes during which time I continually stir the fruit and skim the foam. It was lovely, lovely, lovely.....

Rosie and I still take our daily walks in the woods, and we're still wearing our red coats until hunting season ends on Ralph's birthday, December 6. Yesterday we went out after a day of heavy rains and the brooks and streams were running as though it was spring melt. A brook that's usually a trickle at this time of year was wide enough that my booted foot didn't make it to the other side as I tried to leap over it. I don't believe I've ever seen the water table so high in December. When Teddy was a pup, eleven springs ago, we named a waterfall on our walk "Teddy's Little Falls." It almost never runs this time of year, or if it runs at all, it's diminished to "Teddy's Little Trickle." Lately, it's been raging and its pool has overrun its banks. This all bodes well for us and our fruit since we are at the top of the hill and our soil is very sandy. I'm glad I'm not in the valley, though.

Surprisingly, we haven't felt as threatened during hunting season this year as in the past. We used to see as many as two dozen trucks parked all along our three mile road up and down the hill. Apparently, the new houses that have sprung up on both ends of our hill have discouraged the hunters and mitigated their intrusion. I guess that's a benefit of suburban sprawl I never would have imagined.

Our holiday shows were spectacular and we thank each and every one of you who supported us. It warms my heart more than I can say to hear over and over again how much your family and friends enjoy our products.

For the rest of the holiday season, we want to say "thank you" in a special way to four organizations that are close to our hearts. I used to say, "all strays come to Ralph" because when I moved in with him, he was living with three adopted dogs and Rita, the cat who graces our label. I was a stray too, and came with Halsey, my old adopted dog. Since then we've continued to take in stray cats and dogs and always wish we could do more. Since we can't, we support those who do. The Monadnock Humane Society, Pioneer Valley Humane Society of Greenfield, MA and Windham County Humane Society of Vermont all do wonderful work and have given us animals whom we love completely. Kitty Angels is a special shelter dedicated to cats and kittens and its web site is the special project of Steve Lionel, the unsung hero of our web site. Steve and his wife Leslie have seven cats (!!!!) So, to thank all these great folks, we pledge 10% of the sales of our products to be divided among these four shelters.

I could continue to ramble, but I know that I have blueberries in the kitchen waiting to be transformed into White Rabbit's Blueberry Preserve, so I really must get to work! Then, Rosie and I will run through the woods once again.....

Patti

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