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Previously in Patti's Garden

Patti on the farmDecember 8, 2005

Brrr...and Bright Blessings on this winter day!

One of my favorite farmers' market friends was an elderly gentleman named Harry who used the above salutation as his closing this time of year. He was funny and witty and generous and I like to use his phrase in memory of him.

The first piece of good news we have is that we were able to split $1,000 among the Monadnock, Pioneer Valley and Kitty Angels Animal Shelters thanks to November sales. Our shows at Stonewall Farm and Monadnock Music were just wonderful. We saw lots of old friends and the spirit at these events was very special. After all, unlike commercial craft shows, these events generate money for two very special organizations - Stonewall Farm - teaching kids about agriculture and nature, and Monadnock Music - bringing music to the people. Volunteers and staffs work hard to put these events together and their generosity of time and spirit casts a glow of warmth and light over the whole show. We thank everyone - volunteers, staff and customers!

Mail order and internet sales also contributed significantly and thanks to all of you too! We'll do the same thing in December - 20% of our sales from all sources will go to the three shelters.

In the Kitchen

We've been busy making preserves, pretty much every day, since the shows ended. Today we made the last of the Teddy Berry Blackberry Preserves. The aroma brought me right back to the day when Erica and I picked the last of the berries. That's the best part of making the preserves..remembering of the brilliance and warmth of the summer day when the fruit was picked - bringing the summer into winter.

There is a simple but undeniable joy to be found while simmering preserves. The fruit bubbles, full of concentrated essence of berry, and as I stir, stir, stir, to encourage it to thicken, the rising steam fills every pore in my face with berry goodness. Then, as I ladle the fruit into the jars, the cooling fruit sparkles like jewels through the glass.

In the Gardens

The rains of October washed out our last farmers' markets, but they did give the young fruit trees a nice drink before going into winter, and gave us some unexpected time to get things readied for winter. We planted our garlic about a week after the rains subsided and we could easily prepare the bed. We actually managed to plant winter rye in all of the flower, pepper, tomato and herb beds - a practice that we always mean to get to but rarely do. I still really do need to get straw mulch down on the garlic and perennial beds as well as the strawberries.....hmmm...I don't see it happening tomorrow with 6-10 inches of snow predicted...at least no harm has been done yet. Real harm comes during the freeze-thaw cycles in February and March but I really should remember to get straw on the next trip to the grain store.

The seed catalogues are arriving and I'm already excited to start planning for next season. Johnny's from Maine is my long-time favorite seed company and the new sweet Italian peppers featured on the cover beckon temptingly. I guess I can never have too many Italian peppers to try.

I also think I must grow more currants next year. I've met so many people - especially those from Northern Europe - who swoon at the thought of currants. Not only do I want to grow more of the disease-resistant red currant variety that we're trialling now, but I'm looking into the question of growing black currants here in New Hampshire too. Currants and their relatives, gooseberries, were banned in many parts of New England for almost a century but are making a comeback thanks to the availability of some new disease-resistant varieties. Since so many people love them so dearly, I'd really like to try to grow more.

The beavers have transformed our soggy wetland acres to a veritable pond. I know I should be worried, but I'm not yet. They're still very far away from the fruit trees and gardens and the house - both in distance and elevation - I really don't think they'll come up here - they will probably just continue upstream rather than uphill. Rosie is worried of course, and barks often - some days for hours....I continue to be really impressed by their work ethic. Rosie and I walk past their work area regularly and change is evident just about every day.

In the Woods

Our woods-walks have changed significantly with the arrival of logging in the nearby woods. Downed trees are everywhere and the tops discarded, blocking the path that we used to call "the old Dyer trail" after the kind neighbor whose land it was. I live in a wooden house and heat (gratefully) with wood but the sight of the felled trees always saddens me. I can't imagine the pain my forebears felt when the forests all around them were felled - and even every tree from every yard and garden and farm - before their lands and towns and whole river valley were flooded to create the Quabbin Reservoir to provide Boston's drinking water.

It's now Friday and snow is building up rapidly outside. Rosie and I have been cross-country skiing twice along the trails at a now-closed prep school nearby. We really enjoy the speed skiing affords over snow- shoeing, but we're looking forward to snow-shoeing again in the woods today. If we get enough snow and if it stays cold enough, I'll be able to scramble right up and over those pine tree tops that have been my obstacles since the loggers left. Whatever I do, be it skiing, snowshoeing or hiking, I always bring my ski poles. I've discovered that using them engages my upper body and really helps keep my back and neck limber and my upper arms strong. It also takes pressure off of my weaker knees, ankles and hips and gives me stability and keeps me from falling. I can really fly with them......some days it feels like my feet hardly touch the ground.

I know everyone will be happy to hear that Teddy is still with us and doing quite well for such an old and enormous fellow. In fact, I can't picture a more Santa-looking dog than our old Senator Ted. Newfoundland-lab-chow, he doesn't mind winter at all and would stay outside for hours if we would let him. He and Ralph have taken over the porch as a semi-indoor semi-outdoor space. We've opened the door to the kitchen where the old wood cook stove keeps the hearth warm so Ralph gets a little warm air onto the porch, and Ted chooses to sleep on the cold tiles rather than the numerous rugs we pile up out there. Ralph chose turkey for his birthday meal on Tuesday so he could share the dogs' favorite food with them and we all slept soundly that night under the turkey's magical tryptophan spell. (Auggie agrees that turkey beats it all when it comes to treats from the table and even though she's a little kitty, she's feisty enough to stand up to Rosie and Ted when they try to snatch away her turkey treats.) As Christmas approaches I'm not sure how we'll fit a Christmas tree into the living room, what with our big four-poster bed in the center of the room (so Teddy wouldn't try to climb the stairs to our bedroom at night). We'll find a way, though, because Teddy loves Christmas trees as much as I do.....I know he associates them with good times and all the treats we put in his stocking. We never thought we'd have him around for another Christmas and it's a wonderful gift.

It's time for me to get down into the kitchen and prepare those strawberries I took from the freezer last night. As they cook, they will release the memory of that steamy, hot day in June (when it seemed like the sun would never set) to warm this winter day.

We wish everyone happy holidays and a happy, healthy new year. Let's hope it brings peace!

Bright Blessings!

Patti (and Ralph!)

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