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Previously in Patti's Garden

Patti on the farmOctober 16, 2005

Greetings from soggy southwestern New Hampshire! High up on a hill, we are snug and warm and grateful. At the bottom of the hill, sections of roads and bridges are washed away and many homes have flooded with water. Houses not very far away have been swept into the river. The rain began a week ago and hasn't stopped yet. More than 10" fell from Saturday into Sunday, torrential rains that caused the flooding. It's a lot lighter now, and is predicted to finally pass by tomorrow.

Ralph was swept into our brook helping out an elderly neighbor Sunday morning. We'd lost power and Sam wanted to leave to return to his city home but was concerned about crossing the small bridge from his home. Sam's house is circa 1860 (the setting is classic New England "Over the River and Through the Woods"), and the bridge was meant for carts although cars drive over it now. The brook had swollen higher than the bridge and when Ralph went to check it out, the slick, mossy surface provided no friction against the current and swept him in. He is fine and so is Sam, who waited for the waters to recede then made it back to the city. I feel guilty having missed the whole thing. I spent the weekend in the tender loving care of my parents while I did the Shades of Autumn Festival at Tower Hill Botanical Garden in Boylston.

The rain has put an end to the most amazing growing season I can remember. Raspberries and blueberries are the best ever - we've picked more than 700 pints of raspberries and hundreds of pounds of blueberries! Even though we'll lose a hundred pints or so of raspberries and a smaller amount of blueberries to this week of rain, it's been such a tremendous year of luscious berries I am completely happy and totally grateful. The summer crop of Taylors yielded more than 400 pints, and the Autumn Heritage another 300 pints of beautiful, perfect fruit.

We picked the Damson Plums the second week of September and have made Tweedledum's Damson Plum Preserve at least three times already and should have plenty through Christmas and into the New Year.

Peppers did well too, although not as well as last year's season which was extraordinarily bountiful. Since we're growing them for Mad Hatter's Pepper Preserve as well as JazzBerry, we need more than ever and I've augmented the freezer with some from Elaine and Tom.

Tomatoes came early this year and petered out early as well. We got plenty, though.....

Blackberries were the only surprise this year.....I thought we'd have millions and overestimated the harvest by several orders of magnitude. I'm not sure what happened....the catbirds did seem to spend a lot of time in there - using the wires we had strung to prop up the blackberry canes as a speedy lateral highway to the fruit. Of course the catbirds never eat the complete berry - they leave it for the yellow jackets to finish off - making the picking even more exciting. Ahh blackberry picking - retrieving fruits hidden by half inch thorns in a bed where the weeds are stinging nettles and yellow jackets think the fruit belongs to them....We did get some, though....order early if Teddy Berry Blackberry is your favorite.

Speaking of Teddy, he's GREAT! Doesn't even mind all the rain because it's not hot - and that great Newfoundland/Chow coat does get pretty toasty on the warm Autumn days. He still wakes up singing every morning and is happily indulged with his peanut butter treats. Ralph watches him like a hawk to be sure he always has his needs met and keeps his life free of any stress. Rosie is a bit depressed because of the rain. We're still walking everyday, but it's not as much fun as it should be.

I've had a wonderful series of shows - the Dublin Yankee Craft Show, Garlic and Arts Festival and Tower Hill were all lovely and lots of fun and so busy that I've been working like a beaver to keep up. There are only two more Newton Farmers' Markets! I still haven't made it back to Greenfield but hope to on the 22nd and 29th. I really love that market. I realize that, though, I really can't do two farmers' markets in one week with all the picking and cooking I need to do.

Ralph and our friends Joe and Jeff have now completely dismantled the old house and salvaged everything they could. They'll build a tool shed/tractor shed on the site. It's so nice to look across from the herb gardens to the new raspberries along where the house used to be. Joe became the real hero of the blueberry harvest, picking some every day so that almost the whole planting has been harvested.

One evening in late August I had a revelation I'll share. I was relaxing with a g&t, looking over at my favorite row of Taylor raspberries, noticing the catbirds darting to and fro pecking at the last of the berries. I didn't begrudge them any, after all, I had already picked plenty, but I was irritated with them for stealing my blackberries. Finches then took my attention, frolicking in the cutting garden pecking at the seeds of the gaillardia which had gone by. I realized that if I were growing the gaillardia for seeds instead of for cutting, I wouldn't think they were so cute. And, if I were growing the raspberries for leaf for tea, I wouldn't mind if the catbirds ate the berries. It's all just perspective.

Patti

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