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Previously in Patti's Garden

Patti on the farmMarch 7, 2009

What a difference a month makes! This warm, sunny morning harkens the warmest day we've had since October. Looking out over the gardens to the orchard, all I can see is snow, but bare spots are growing on the south-facing slopes and under the fir trees.

These are the days that I find it hard to come in from my walks with the dogs. The snowshoes sink more deeply into the trail making the walking harder, but without the bite of cold winter against my face, I could stay out all day.

The mountain is very steep in places, with infinite folds, so that you're either going up or down with every step. We always head north to the peak, then pick up an old logging road. I like to continue north, up and over the peak, and head down toward the village of Ashuelot and the pretty covered bridge that crosses the river there. Rosie prefers to head south from the peak and follow the old road which runs behind our farm about a half mile away. It's important to her to know just who is living in the woods behind us. One day we startled a dozen turkeys roosting in the branches above us. They exited with a dark whoosh that startled me in return.

Continuing south we were dismayed to find evidence of logging in a place that hadn't been cut before. Hemlocks had been dragged out, and the dogs and I climbed over piles of broken branches to check out the scene. I don't know if house sites are planned for the area, but I was struck by the incredible views the cutting had revealed. The Connecticut River shimmered like a ribbon of silver running through the meadows of Northfield and the Pioneer Valley beyond. Mountains rose in the distance, and I could see for miles, a panorama that was greater than 180 degrees. You can see the south face of Ore Mountain (our mountain) when crossing the Connecticut River in Northfield and distantly from Apex Orchards in Shelburne. I've been trying to sight the new cutting from these places while the snow still provides contrast.

One good result of the logging was that it gave the deer some easy eating. The second time the dogs and I visited the area it looked as though the deer had been partying like college sophomores; the area was trompled and there were droppings everywhere. Barley found it great fun to poke his nose around the piles.

On the way back home I retraced our trail, but the dogs took the shortcut down the steep slope and over the beaver pond to our home. It was more like through the beaver pond yesterday and Barley was 125 pounds of solid mud by the time he got home.

The Orchard and Berries

Ralph and I went out with pruning saw and loppers to check out the fruit trees and berry bushes. We were worried about damage from December's ice storm, but things look pretty good overall. One peach tree is badly split, and a beam from the structure that holds the blueberry netting off the plants collapsed, breaking a couple of plants. It's too early to tell about the raspberries and blackberries. I have my fingers crossed. The pears all look good, but the dear old Damson Plums needed a fair amount of pruning. Actually, their damage was still a result of the two consecutive years of porcupine pressure. Last winter we weren't sure if the trees would even survive after two summers of porcupine damage and didn't want to cut anything. This year it's easier to see that some limbs will never recover and we made some big cuts. The younger plums all look fine, as do the elderberries and currants. Strawberries are still well buried under a couple feet of snow and their straw blanket. The new grape planting is buried too....once I find them, this is the year to begin training them to an arbor.

We'll be putting in a new blueberry planting this spring, and a new strawberry bed as well. We'll move our autumn-bearing heritage raspberries to a new site where the greenhouse used to be. (Actually, I'll just dig extra plants from our old bed and we'll keep that as well.)

I haven't begun any vegetable or flower seeds yet! As usual, my mum is way ahead of me and has snap dragons and lettuce up in her greenhouse already. I'll wait until the end of the month to start my tomatoes and peppers.

In The Kitchen

Ralph and I have been busy putting up preserves and mustards almost every day. The two winter farmers' markets in Greenfield and Turners Falls were great fun and we're so glad for all the local support.

Besides cooking and hiking, we've enjoyed spending time reading (histories of the native people) and simply watching the birds at the feeders. Now that it's warmer, we prop open the porch door and Rosie spends her days there on the couch, vigilantly watching the feeders, ready to bolt outside if a squirrel gets too close. It's nice not to have to be burning the three woodstoves.....some days we never fire up a single one. I know better than to believe that spring is near, but days like today feel pretty good.

Happy Daylight Savings Time!!!

Love,

Patti (and Ralph!)

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