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Previously in Patti's Garden

Patti on the farmMay 7, 2009

Spring has finally landed in New England with a brilliant bursting of blossoms and return of some of our favorite birds.

In the orchard, cherries, pears and Damsons are in full bloom. Apples are just opening; so are the peaches. Redwing blackbirds led the homeward migration, epaulets flashing, followed by our favorite Rose-breasted grosbeaks and Orchard Orioles. In the woods, thrushes are singing and all kinds of ducks visit the ponds. A mallard male made us laugh by roosting on top of the raspberry trellis, looking like an out-of-place folk-art adornment.

Here's a short run-down of what's happening in the gardens:

Strawberries
came through the winter looking great. We'll be picking from a single, two-year old bed this year, so our harvest, although small, should be easy to take care of. We planted a new bed of 250 plants that have already taken hold and begun to grow nicely.
Raspberries
are leafing out well. The stout Killarneys look exceptionally vigorous. My favorites, the Taylors, are a longer cane and more vulnerable to winter injury. They also bear fruit later than the Killarneys and may simply be a bit behind in putting out leaves. We renewed half of our old Heritage bed by removing the old canes and weeds that had grown around them, and replacing them with babies from the edges of the row. We also put in a brand new planting of "Caroline" raspberries, a relative of Heritage that bears fruit earlier but of the same high quality as its parent.
Blueberries
look very good and some are even in bloom, pollination courtesy of those hard-working bumblebees we are blessed to share this hillside with. (The wild blueberries that thrive here are also in bloom and their presence probably explains our large numbers of bumbles.) We did lose some large limbs of the eldest blueberries when the frame for the netting collapsed in December's ice storm, and some branches winter-killed, but overall the planting looks vigorous. We planted another 20 blueberries last week which have done well in the cooler, wet weather.
Elderberries
All of the plants have new life pushing out of the older canes and lots of young growth at their base so I think we'll have another fine year of these magical flowers and fruits. We look forward to getting to know them better with each passing year.
Currants
Both red and black currants are exploding with new growth and are even beginning to flower. Stand back! Unless something goes wrong, we should have lots of these jewels this year.
Blackberries
Woe is me. I can't be sure, but it looks as though these dear fruits took the biggest hit in the ice storm. They didn't snap then and there, but have been very reluctant to show much green tissue yet this year. So far, they are only out about 10%. It's not surprising, I know that we are on the northern range for these black beauties and I'm just grateful for the wonderful harvests we've had over the last three seasons. (I don't believe that the roots have died - just the canes that would have borne this year's fruits. If nothing comes out, I'll just prune them out of the way for the new canes that will yield next year's berries.)
Peaches, Pears and (Dear old) Damson Plums
All are flowering and I have all my fingers crossed. This is very early in the season to not expect another killing frost or two or three....... The good news is that the bloom seems to be staggered over many days (meaning that individual flowers are at varying degrees of vulnerability to the frost, and also giving more bees more time to visit more flowers). Pears can stand temperatures much lower than the peaches and plums so I'm not as worried about them. I gave into my plum tree addiction by planting two new varieties with irresistible monikers: Blues Jam and Jam Session!
Grapes
all wintered over well and we've begun construction of the arbor/trellis that will support their future growth.

In the Greenhouse

Things are looking OK after a rough start. We'll have plenty of peppers - three kinds of Italian red "corno di toro" varieties, three kinds of red-ripening bells, and plenty of hot jalapenos and cayennes. Since we've planted more garden to yet more berries, we've limited our tomato varieties this year to three favorites for our sauces - Anna Russian, the deep, rich ox-heart, Gilbertie, the sausage-shaped paste tomato, and Mama Leone, the classic Italian paste. We've also started waves of our favorite basils, nasturtiums, zinnias and sunflowers. We also have some winter squashes and pumpkins and melons to plant in a new area Ralph has been working on just above the beaver pond.

Kitchen and Pantry Notes

Ralph and I have spent most of the spring putting up preserves and mustards so availability is generally good. That said, my farmers' markets have begun and stock is flying out to our stores as well. We usually try to plan so that we run out of preserves just as the new season's fruit is harvested. This year, I think we may run out of both raspberry and blueberry before we begin picking those berries in late July. We're good on blackberry for a while, but we may harvest very few blackberries this summer. Elderberry, Damson plum and peaches are all well stocked now and will hopefully last until their harvest in September. We have a few Black Currant Preserves on hand but no Red Currant. We're very low on both JazzBerry Salsa (we will make more this month) and Tomatoes Rustica. We have only Blenda d'Italia and Green Garlic Vinegars and Queen of Hearts Raspberry Vinegar in the 375 ml bottle. We're trying to get new corks for our petite champagne bottles and at this time, have only Blackberry Vinegar in that bottle. We'll be able to make French Tarragon Vinegar by the end of the month and it will be ready by June 30. Pepper preserve is available in the "pleasantly zippy" blend and we'll be making the hotter blend again for summer very shortly. We have Farmhouse Garlic, Raspberry-Maple, Lavender Honey and Chile Pepper Mustards. Strawberry Honey Mustard will be ready by mid-June.

News from the Four-legged Family

Rosie and Barley are concerned that we haven't been hiking as much lately. They forgot that the reason I trudge over the mountain all winter long is to stay in shape for planting and picking in the summer. Now that the new fruits are planted, we'll have more time for hiking together until the vegetables go in at the end of the month. Auggie the buttery ball of golden fur still functions as the family alarm clock. It's really funny how much this 13-year old cat adores 3-year old 130 pound dog Barley. He follows her downstairs every morning, and she pulls toys out of the toy basket for them to play with together, the favorite being an old blue rope. Rosie is content to stay in bed with me, having been up most of the night barking at owls and turkeys and anything else that's making noise out there.

Love,

Patti (and Ralph!)

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