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Previously in Patti's Garden

Patti on the farmAugust 4, 2006

Greetings from the recovery couch! I'm recuperating from a nasty illness, but meanwhile the gardens grow on and the fruit is luscious and the flowers dazzling.

My tale of woe and intrigue

Ha Ha Ha funny joke on the little old entomologist...... (If insect-borne diseases turn your stomach, don't read this section.......Patty in New York City, this means you!)

On the evening of July 8, I awoke at least a dozen times, drenched in sweat but shivering mercilessly as soon as I'd leave the bed. The next day, I went out to pick the last of the strawberries, the really wonderful, tiny little jewels that are the richest and sweetest of all. I had hardly begun when, overcome by exhaustion, I needed to lie down right in the middle of the strawberry bed. Rosie, alarmed, raced over to me and knocked off my hat to lick my face, and we stumbled back to the house together. I had a headache and searing pain in my right arm and kept thinking that if I could just lie down for an hour or so, I'd be alright. I wasn't. Fever and chills continued and the next day I began making some Herbes de Provence Vinegar and had to stop, exhausted, after filling some bottles with sprigs of Rosemary. Luckily, Azure was here and finished the job for me.

The next couple of days were similiar in that I'd begin a project then collapse. By day 4 we dug up an old thermometer from somewhere and discovered I had a temperature just under 102. That same day, a dog breeder we'd met called to say our pup was ready to go, could we pick him up on Friday? (More about this joyous development coming up!) Convinced that I was truly ill and anxious to be right as rain for the pup's arrival I went to bed for the next two days, still exhausted and still completely unable to regulate my own body temperature.

Remembering that several insect-borne diseases mimicked flu symptoms, I checked the CDC website and recognized that I had symptoms of West Nile Virus and Lyme disease. When a rash developed on about day 7, I determined that I had West Nile since it was not characteristic of Lyme, and I remembered a specific mosquito bite on my right hand when the mosquito had fed for a long time. (I had had my arms full of strawberries and couldn't slap the bugger.) Since it's a virus, there is no treatment. The rash continued to spread but I determined not to let a mosquito get the better of me and pushed through the exhaustion to pick my ripening raspberries.

Fortified by chocolate-covered espresso beans, I was able to pick berries for 3-4 hours, then collapse for the next 48 hours. I convinced myself I was getting better and even hosted a garden tour for the Northfield Garden Club on day 12.

On day 14, though, all hell broke loose in my body. The fever returned, the rash spread, and I had shooting pains in my legs, burning in my face and searing pain below my right ear. When the work week began, I saw my beloved doctor who prescribed pain medicine and arranged for me to see a specialist. Two days later she pronounced that had systemic Lyme disease which had spread throughout my body. By this time I also had partial paralysis on the right side of my face.

She prescribed antibiotics and today I have been taking them for a week. Most of the pain is gone, and, thankfully, the paralysis. All that remains is exhaustion and lingering pain in my right arm. Curiously, the blood test came back negative for Lyme (although the specialist says this isn't uncommon) and we still have another couple of weeks to wait for the West Nile Virus results.

Today is near the end of the 4th week of this illness, whatever it is, and I am determined not to relapse so although I'm strong enough to finally sit at the computer and write this message, I'm staying away from the berries for a while. I was actually so sick in weeks 3 and 4 that I never even visited the gardens.


In spite of what seemed like relentless rain during strawberry season, I managed to pull off around 200 pounds between the rain drops. That will be plenty for all you King of Hearts Strawberry Preserve lovers.

Rosie's Red Currants

These jewels ripened during the first week of my illness so Ralph took care of harvesting them and immediately froze them. As soon as I'm up to it, I'll begin making preserves. Since we only have 12 bushes, there won't be very many but I'll keep you posted as to their availability on our website.


We had a far greater bounty from our favorite berry than I had anticipated. Since I was ill for most of the season, it was up to Ralph to get them picked. (I always say that the best berry pickers are girls who dance to the Grateful Dead since they have strong legs and boundless energy. Unfortunately, this doesn't describe my poor 55-year old, 6'2" husband and he had to work so hard at a task for which he is physically so unsuited.....I'll never be able to thank him enough.) On the day that my illness worsened dramatically, our old friend Amanda came up to help pick, and the next week Azure was able to return to help for a day. She introduced us to Dana, a young, vibrant artist who can't seem to get enough sun, heat or berries, and the next week Lara, our right-hand woman, returned from visiting her Swiss homeland. Together, she and Dana have been dancing through the berry beds picking every fruit at its sun-ripened peak and we're already up to 250 pints or so. We're past the peak now and I anticipate a total of around 300 pints.


The TeddyBerry Blackberries are a gift from the great DogGod. These huge, juicy, luscious berries were discovered by our beloved Teddy and Ralph when we were hiking in an abandoned orchard on my birthday six years ago. We took root cuttings and planted five long rows here, and have never harvested very many until now. The canes are literally drooping with the heaviest fruit load I have ever seen. In honor of Teddy I carefully thinned and pruned them this spring and Ralph gave them lots of TLC keeping the centers of the rows mown to allow good air circulation and easy access. He and Joe have already picked about 110 pounds and this is just the beginning!


We haven't begun picking them yet but there are many blue berries out there. We'll put the girls on to them this week now that the raspberries are slowing down.


This year looks likely to beat the tomato avalanche year of 2004. I got off to a rocky start with a store-bought soil mix that killed most of my seedlings, but I replanted with plants that Dancing Bear Tom had started and the plants are lush and loaded. We've planted Amish Paste, Italian Pear, San Marzano, Polish Linguisa, Red Devil, Ukrainian Plum and Enchantment. It looks as though we'll begin picking in about two weeks. (We're already picking from the dozen plants my mum started for me, a sampling of round, beefsteak, fresh-eating varieties). It looks like we'll have plenty not only for our Herb & Garlic Pizza Sauce but also to make some of the Tomatoes Rustica that we offered in 2004. Speaking of the Herb & Garlic Pizza Sauce, we're looking for another name for that product to better reflect its versatility. Sooo, all you wordsmiths out there, any suggestions?


Like the tomatoes, these plants are loaded to beat the band. I'll certainly have plenty for our Mad Hatter's Pepper Preserve as well as plenty of Italias for JazzBerry Raspberry Salsa. Yikes! I'm getting tired just thinking about it!


The flower beds are brilliantly beautiful - dazzling zinnias, nasturtiums, tithonia, ageratum and calendula. Sunflowers are everywhere, not only because I planted three varieties but because I had an insane rule this summer to let all sunflower volunteers grow and not hoe them out. Soo, they're blooming everywhere. Since I haven't been able to go to my Farmers' Markets, all this beauty has been for us alone.

Damson Plums

Yet another tale of woe, I'm afraid. The porcupine that had begun plaguing us when I wrote the last message has continued to devastate our plum trees. He began in the newer orchard, tearing limb after limb from the 6-10 year old plums, and then moved into the older orchard to wreak havoc there. We tried netting the trunks and scaffold branches to tangle him, then tried Irish Spring soap to repel him (friend Roger Swain scoffed "Soap! Soap! Porcupines eat soap for breakfast!"), then tried tomato cages pointy side out in the trees as repellant, then resorted to floodlighting the orchards and hanging clamp lights from the trees. Nothing has worked and we just hope the trees survive well enough to produce fruit in years to come. We have learned from the neighbor that porcy has been visiting their farm next door. These folks have no compunction about using a 22 gauge shotgun on the varmint so his fate may rest in their hands

Barley Berry Pudding

A tale of unbridled joy! On yet another day of pouring rain during strawberry season, Rosie and I needed a lift and headed off to Amherst, our favorite destination, to the Black Sheep Bakery and Deli for bread and treats. As I was checking out, we saw a notice of a new litter of Golden Retriever pups bred by the deli owner's wife at Black Sheep Farm in Leverett. We've always been huge fans of Nick, the deli owner, not just for his amazing breads and treats, but also for all the good works he does for the Amherst community. We knew that these would be good dogs. We put in a call to Barbara and arranged to meet the pups. Needless to say, they were all cute as the dickens, English type Goldens that are big and blocky and creamy colored so that they looked like little polar bears. Barbara breeds for temperment since she uses her own dogs as therapy dogs and this little guy is pure joy. (We've always had shelter dogs before and had tried all the shelters as well as petfinder before deciding on a purebred. The good news is that here in New England the spay/neuter message has been received loud and clear - the downside being that puppies here in the New England shelters are rare. There are still lots of mixed-breed pups in the south and many are driven up north for adoption, but none are as young as we wanted. It was very important to us to get a very young pup for the sake of Rosie and Auggie, our 9 year old kitty. Auggie, in fact, asked me to please NOT get another dog with a high prey drive. She managed to train Rosie not to put her head in her mouth but she's a lot older now and didn't want to go through that again!)

We chose Barley, the biggest, chunkiest dog of all and named him for the ancient and noble grain - one of the first crops cultivated by humanity's first farmers - and reflective of his color. He's mellow, and loving and we spent the first week sleeping together on the couch on the porch. When I became more ill, Ralph had to take over completely but now I can help out too. Rosie has been a wonder and is teaching him all she knows about playing and hunting and is the first one to discipline him when he tries to nip at my toes. Rosie is a true pack dog and has been waiting her whole life for someone to play with (old Teddy never played much, although she adored him none-the-less.)

In spite of my illness, endorphins were running high as I watched him splash about in a makeshift pool from an old evaporator pan and as he and Rosie wrestled and played and chased ball after ball after ball. In a couple of days I'll be able to head off toward the woods and Rosie and I can show him where we play in the cool, cool stream.

Oh, the full name Barley Berry Pudding derives from calling Teddy "Teddy Bear" which became Teddy Berry when we named the blackberries after him then passed on to Rosie who became Rosie Berry. "Pudding" is because we've been singing (yet another) silly NRBQ song called "Take a ride on the Pudding Truck" - and he is, of course, the color of tapioca pudding.

The Lion's Share

Ralph's name is Legrande, a corruption from the Italian Leogrande meaning King Lion. He's certainly done the lion's share of work here on the farm this month, taking care of me, raising Barley, doing all the cooking, cleaning, order processing, currant and raspberry picking, as well as nightly porcupine patrol. As I write this, he's outside in the heat picking blackberries with Joe. When I joined him here 20 years ago he had a sad little garden planted with cast off plants from the little hardware store in town. He's transformed this rocky hillside into a farm for me because I love fruits and flowers and herbs and vegetables. I've loved him for 20 years, but never more than now.

Farmers' Market Update

I've missed all my markets for the past month, but I feel confident that I'll be back in Northfield (3.9 miles from home!) next Thursday, August 10. Since it's so close, Ralph can set up and break down the tent, tables, display, boxes, etc. Newton, 100 miles away, is, of course, another story. I plan to be back the first week of September, but may be able to return in late August. Dana, the wonderwoman, has agreed to accompany me to help with the driving and set-up and sales and so forth.

In the meantime, our best buddy Dancing Bear Tom has agreed to take in any special orders for me. (He also offered to bring stock and display it, as has Judy, the market manager, but my stocks are low since I've been ill so I'd rather just send in special orders.) So, dear Newton friends, if there's anything you'd like before my return, just send me an email or call on the toll-free number and Tom will bring it into town for you. Thanks for the many cards, emails and phone calls. I miss you all so much! As Ralph says, "Patti loves Farmers' Markets! That's pretty much the reason we do all this!"

Love to all,

Patti (and Ralph!)



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