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Previously in Patti's Garden

Patti on the farmFebruary 16, 2007

It's a truly New England scene out there today. The Valentine's Day storm brought us a foot of snow and the wind gusts have blown it into drifts. The temperature is only about 10 and it's still very windy. We've strapped on the snowshoes and stomped around our fields and nearby woods, but even the dogs don't want to stay out for more than an hour. Rosie the hound gets down-right cold with her short hair and Barley the retriever gets snow balls stuck between his toes just like Teddy used to. They do love bounding through the snow though.....I'm amazed at how far they can travel on a leap.

Garden Plans - Elderberries, Black Currants and Red Currants

I haven't begun to sort through my seeds and figure out what I need to order in the flower, vegetable and herb realm, but I am soooo excited about our new fruit plantings. After we harvested the last of the summer raspberries from our three oldest rows (planted 1989-91 - each about 120 feet long), Ralph turned them under and chopped up and dug out the old gnarly roots. Seventeen years of production is very good for an organic planting, but these beds had clearly seen better days. Into the lowest bed of our terraced rows, we'll plant a double row of currants. New Hampshire now allows farmers to grow disease-resistant black and red currants and we've chosen more of the Dutch red currants that we already grow and the renowned black currant "Titania" (for which I've been awaiting for the OK!). These fruits are very popular with many of our friends and customers, especially people from England and Northern Europe. The dozen plants that we have now are struggling in our sandy soil which is why we've chosen our lowest and wettest bed for the new planting.

I'm even more excited about the elderberries which will go in the next bed. We put in a trial planting of four varieties of elderberries last year on the recommendation of our friend Elisabeth. We planted 16 in a hemisphere half-way around the lower pond and they grew tremendously - even producing some beautiful flowers and some fruits the first year. I learned this winter that the native Indians who lived here used the elderberry as both food and medicine, and even used the hollow stems as spouts when tapping maple trees for sap to make syrup. The flowers themselves are edible and were cooked by the natives like a fritter. (In Europe, they're often used in beverages. Lara brought me a delightful drink from Switzerland made from elderflowers; "Sambucca" is a liquor made from them.) The fruits can be made into preserves (which is their likely use here), wine (like the little old ladies in "Arsenic and Old Lace" made) and a syrup which is hailed for fighting colds and supporting the lungs and respiratory system. Did I mention that the plants are beautiful?!?!? The shrubs are about six feet high with large leaves which are serrated on some of the varieties. The flowers are huge pendulous umbels of tiny blossoms. The fruit ripens into dark-purple balls that hang together in the flower cluster. Ralph cooked up a practice batch of preserves from the berries we'd gathered and it was simply lovely.

I had considered planting the third row to grapes since they grow so well in the woods around here, but I don't want to have too many transplants to deal with if we have a dry year. (We'll put drip irrigation in each bed anyway, but when the wells and ponds run low, there's only so much water to go 'round and the bearing strawberries and raspberries need a hdrink a couple of times a week too.) I'll probably plant the third row to zinnias, or to tomatoes or peppers which both a new place to rotate.

At the top of the hill where we've planted the most recent raspberries when we re-configured that area four years ago, we'll put in about another 100 feet of raspberries to finish off a short row. Luckily, there's no expense here because we'll just transplant canes from the adjoining bed that have migrated too far past the center.

We planted a new bed of strawberries last year and we'll harvest from that for several years so there's no need to put in more of them. Blackberries and blueberries are both producing really well now and I think the size of those plantings is just right.

Plums, Peaches and Pears

While I was tromping around on my snowshoes yesterday I took a good look at the porcupine-devastated orchard. The limbs were chewed off of the plum trees 6-12 inches from their trunks and I'll be damned if I can figure out how to prune them. I expect that their damage will result in twiggy, upright growth but I don't really know. Their bites were a lot rougher than our pruning cuts too and I wonder if I should give them a clean cut. Aside from removing limbs that are gashed or split though, I may just wait and see what develops before I prune them too radically. Sometimes trees respond to stress with heavy production in the following years. Luckily, the pears and peaches were roundly ignored by the porcupine and I suspect that we might see fruit from most of those trees next year.

Hearth and Home

Ralph's keeping fires going in all three stoves these days and we're all comfy and cozy. Rosie came to us in the winter six years ago and thinks that cuddling on the couch with a good book is just the way life should be. Barley is a bit more rambunctious at seven months (!) and cracks us up all the time. (We just can't stop laughing when he submerges his entire face in the water bowl and blows bubbles through his nose!) Although at 100 pounds he's now about 20% bigger than she is, Rosie still adores Barley as her little baby and his world revolves around her. Auggie is still happy to be the one and only cat and we all sleep together on an increasingly rickety bed......well, they all seem to sleep.......

Markets and Shows

The only market we've heard from thus far is in nearby Northfield and we're really happy to learn that this new market will continue. It's just four miles from home and the people couldn't be nicer. We'll keep you posted on other markets and events. In the meantime, I think it's time to dig out the old skis!

Saturday February 17, 2007

We just got back from skiing! Yippee! It's beautiful out there, clear blue sky and sparkling snow. Enjoy!


Patti (and Ralph!)



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