September 22, 2013
It's been a long time between newsletters but we've been busy bringing in so many berries and other fruits that I could never feel caught up enough to write.
This will be brief, but the big news is the return of some favorite fruits that have been missing from our lineup, most importantly, strawberries and peaches!
Harvest trumps all, harvest trumps all, harvest trumps all....our mantra when faced with so many things to do. Weed this? Put up that? Write a newsletter? Not when there is fruit to be picked, and even today, the first full day of Autumn, I'll be picking the Caroline raspberries and more elderberries once I have this written.
This has been a year when the weather has consistently broken in our favor. A long old-fashioned winter with plenty of snow kept fruit buds tightly held until spring was well on its way. Last year, strawberries, peaches, pears and plums were frosted before the season even began.
Days between rain were never too long, and when rain did come, we escaped the inundation that some in our area felt.
Here's a quick rundown:
Strawberries - Our Sparkles and Honeyoyes were terrific this year. We were so lucky to have mid and late-season varieties because many other strawberry growers were challenged by heavy rains early in the season that caused ripe fruits to rot and spread mold to the later varieties. Since this was the third year for this planting, I don't expect much from 2014, although we have saved the bed and Elisha is determined to weed out the grasses so the strawberries can spread out.
Red Currants - Another fruit that had been frozen in 2012 was spectacular this year. We'll have it for both Red Currant Preserve (aka "jelly") as well as Seedless Raspberry & Red Currant Preserve Black Currants - These Titanias seem to thrive here. Good thing too because lots of people love this hard-to-find preserve (aka "jelly").
Raspberries - YIPPEE - spectacular season! We harvested every day because I was worried about Spotted Winged Drosophila, a fruit fly new to the US that lays eggs in unripe fruit. It's a tremendous amount of work to harvest from all our plantings day after day, but the yields were tremendous and the fruit perfect.
Blueberries - Actually the only disappointment this year. 2012 was a terrific year for blueberries, and I think that the bushes just needed a year off. They produced so few blossoms that we decided not to net them and let the birds enjoy what berries matured (they already eat all the wild blueberries around here that can't be netted).
Blackberries - Perhaps the best year ever! Berries were huge and prolific. As with the raspberries, we picked every day (or nearly every day) to stay ahead of any fruit fly damage (and the inevitable cedar waxwings and cat birds who LOVE blackberries). We even cherry-picked the biggest and best and sold them fresh to our brand new super cool store - The Monadnock Food Coop!
Peaches - A super year for trees that bore nearly nothing last year. Our peaches are small, but bountiful, and delicious. The first six cases of Peach Preserves we put up were out the door before we could even put them back on the website.
Damson Plums - We apparently have prevailed over the porcupines for a bit because they left us alone this season and the Damsons produced a relatively good crop of lovely blue plums. And yes, they are incredible and unlike any other kind of plum.
Elderberries - Like the plums, not a super year, but a perfectly respectable year. I really must remember to pick the elders more frequently like the raspberries and blackberries because the birds do take a significant amount when given the chance. We should have enough for Elderberry Syrup throughout the winter.
Pears - Still on the trees for another couple of weeks, then we'll put up Spiced Pear Butter.
Peppers - We weren't going to bother putting up Pepper Preserve this year and planted far fewer of both sweet Italian peppers and chili peppers, but now that they're here, and three cases were ordered before I'd even put up a single jar, we decided to put up what we have. I imagine we'll have enough Mad Hatter's Pepper Preserve in both pleasantly zippy and all chili pepper options to last through the holiday season
Farmhouse Mustard News
Our garlic, lavender, tarragon and chili peppers all were bountiful this year. We're glad to have discovered a new source for organic yellow mustard seeds from Canada. Our long-time supplier, Frontier Herbs, restructured itself and stopped selling to small fry such as I. We've had a hard time finding the organic yellow mustard in quantities larger than 1# packages, which was of course pretty pricey compared to purchasing in 50# bags. Then we found and ordered a quantity of organic yellow mustard seed and discovered that it was from India and had been steam sterilized. (I guess when you think about herbs from India, you'd want them steam sterilized, but it doesn't act the way that freshly-ground mustard seed does, and doesn't have the fresh sharp taste of the Canadian freshly-ground mustard.) We had to discard it (well, compost it, actually) and purchase the small quantities of Canadian mustard. Now, it looks as though our problems are over and Ralph has gone back into mustard-making-mode. Phew! Since our mustard needs to age for a month before it's ready, we're a bit low now, but confident that we'll have plenty through the autumn and holidays and beyond.
Fruit Vinegars and Herbal Blend Vinegars
(Note - I have not updated these pages on the website yet. If you'd like to order, please send me an email. Labels are at the printers and I should have these pages ready by the end of September.) Queen of Hearts Raspberry Vinegar and Teddy Berry Blackberry Vinegar are now back, and in beautiful 8.3 oz. square bottles.
Also new this year, we've begun buying a truly delicious Apple Cider Vinegar from Dwight Miller's Orchard in nearby Vermont. Miller's is a historic farm and is certified organic. The people couldn't be any nicer, and the Apple Cider Vinegar couldn't be any better!
And also new - drumroll please - the honey that we will use in the Raspberry and Blackberry Vinegars NOW COMES FROM RIGHT HERE!!! Our friend Jodi of "Imagine That Honey" has kept bees here for the last couple of years and this season increased the number of hives. We're so happy to have her ladies here working all the fruit and flower blossoms and so happy now to be able to use it for all our Fruit Vinegars and Farmhouse Mustards.
Blenda d'Italia and Italia Piccante are back in beautiful 16.6 oz. square bottles. I hope to get some Herbes de Provence and Aceto Diablo Chili Pepper Vinegar put up as well. As with the fruit vinegars, if you'd like to order before I get the website updated, just send me an email.
Market & Show News
Tower Hill Botanic Garden October 12, 13 & 14 Boylston, MA. Our annual visit to this harvest festival at the beautiful botanic gardens, happily situated a few miles from Mum. Beautiful in any weather, Tower Hill is breathtaking in autumn, and this family event includes hayrides, corn-husk doll making, nature-scavenger hunt, antique apple tastings and more. Quality craftspeople and artists, maple syrup and more.
News from the four-legged family
So happy to report that Abbey Rose, a golden retriever puppy joined the family on December 23. She was born right around the time that our dear Rosie passed away, and Barley, Ralph and I love her to pieces. She's bright and happy and crazy and gives us reasons to laugh all day long. She looks a bit like Mozart, or maybe Mr. Peabody from the cartoons. She even has an extra digit on her left hand (OK, paw) which she uses like a thumb to hold on to sticks or to pry her ball out from under the hutch. We suspect she's an evolved being....
And with that bit of nonsense, I'll close this note and head out to the raspberries. I'm sure Abbey will join me because she loves picking berries with the girls. Speaking of girls, I've had the best help ever this season with Elisha, our right-hand woman, and Bre, a Keene State College student in nutrition whom I met at a farmers' market last year. Bre opened her schedule to help us whenever we needed her - since we were picking every day, it was a lot! - and delivered our goodies to our bakeries, farmstands and stores all over New Hampshire. Soooo grateful to these amazing Wonder Women, as well as the Bartlett girls and Elisha's daughters. And yes, Abbey looked a bit like a tie-dyed-Grateful Dead-dog with purple, red and pink berry juice - sometimes all three - coloring her creamy-white coat, depending on which berries were being picked that day. Happy Autumn! Joy to all!