December 9, 2013
Wintery greetings from a snow-fairy's garden! The snow and ice that fell last night have coated the fruit trees and berry bushes just enough that every twig stands out.
From the old Emperor Francis cherry tree by the porch hang three bird feeders which look like Grand Central Station for friendly chickadees, nuthatches and juncos. Several pairs of cardinals share their own feeder, and a big hairy woodpecker watches the action. He's waiting for me to remember to buy suet at the next farmers' market.
But the way we really know it's December and the Solstice is coming on is as we watch cedar waxwings happily feasting on the holly berries. They use the French Damson Plum as a base from which to attack the hollies that frame the bay window so we can watch their plunder from the living room. It's the only time of year that we really enjoy the cedar waxwings....we spend most of the harvest season vying with them for our elderberries, blackberries and raspberries, but they're welcome to all the holly berries they like. (We net the strawberries, blueberries and red and black currants, or we'd be vying with the waxwings for those fruits too.)
I'm sure they had their fill of our favorite fruits, but this year the berries were so abundant that there were plenty for all. We farmers are nearly ready to settle into our long winter's nap, but first, we have a few more preserves to put up!
Cooking preserves is December is a joy because we can use the heavenly steam produced by the evaporating fruit to help heat the house. And there's nothing like stirring a kettle of simmering fruit to transport me back to summer.
Even Abbey the pup understands that the blackberries simmering away in the kitchen are the same that she helped (!) Elisha and Bre and the rest of the girls pick during the hot and hazy days of summer.
About Holiday Ordering
Supply is good right now, but can change on a dime depending on what orders come in and what happens at the farmers' markets. We're cooking every day, and also packaging and sending out orders nearly every day, which we send out in order received. In a holiday joke on Patti and Ralph, the state of NH closed the bridge at the bottom of the mountain, which means that our trips to the post office are now about 15 miles RT up and over the mountain several times, or 10 miles RT including exciting time spent on a very minor dirt road. I make this point simply because unlike our friends at the USPS, ice, sleet, snow, frozen fog, etc. may keep us away from the post office on a given day. I guess this is my polite way of saying that if you want to be sure your loved ones get a favorite preserve or mustard or vinegar in time for the holidays, order early. We'll do our best to keep everything in stock!
Our Crown Jewels - Raspberry, Strawberry, Blackberry and Peach are outstanding this year and supply is excellent. The supply of Barley's Elderberry Syrup is low. We're simmering the last of the Elderberries as I write this.....their heavenly aroma is drifting up to me in the office, beckoning me down into the kitchen.... Also, we're coming to the end of the Mad Hatter's Pepper Preserve. Wild Grape, Red Currant and Black Currant and Damson Plum are all in good supply through the holidays.
We've caught up (I hope!) So glad to have found a supplier of 50 pound bags of our favorite Canadian organic mustard seed! Since our mustards need to age for a month, we wove mustard-making into our autumn work schedule to delicious results.
Queen of Hearts Raspberry Vinegar and Teddy Berry Blackberry Vinegar are flying out of here and we only have a couple more gallons ready to bottle. The supply is low, but we are getting more started this week that will be ready for bottling in the new year. In outstanding news, the honey from the bees who live here at Cheshire Garden came in 2nd (out of 35) in the state of New Hampshire beekeepers association! The credit goes to the ladies, and beekeepers Jodi and Dean Turner of Imagine That Honey! It's that winning honey that provides another layer of flavor to our fruit vinegars.
Our Gardens in a Bottle herbal blends sold out about as soon as they were made. Now that we have a dependable source of bottles and sublime organic cider vinegar, we'll make more again in 2014. We certainly have the herbs!
Those anxiously awaiting Pear Butter will be disappointed, but glad to hear that all the pears went to the Community Kitchen and 100 nights shelter in Keene. Never able to carve out the time to begin the two-day process of pear-butter making, we were so glad that Bre could deliver fresh pears (and peppers too) on her way home to Keene.
We've simplified our gift boxes and consequently lowered the price to $3.00 ($6.00 for gift towers).They're plain white corrugated boxes with a lovely image of Rita the Gardening Cat surrounded by a floral border.Tissue, ribbon, and our brochure complete the package.Photos are up on the gift sampler page. We're always glad to include a card whether or not you choose a gift box.
Keene Winter Farmers' Market
There's a cohort of great farmers around here. You can find us on the 2nd and 4th Saturdays at The Colony Mill Marketplace in Keene from 10-2 (in December, 12/14 + 28; we may add one on 12/21 as well - email if interested). This market offers an outstanding selection of local beef, pork, lamb, chicken, eggs, milk as well as onions, potatoes, squashes and other winter vegetables - even some lovingly grown greens, Alpine style and goat cheeses, wine, maple products, granola and jewelry. Elm City Brewery with award-winning brews and great food (often locally-sourced) is our neighbor and patron. Other very good reasons to visit The Colony Mill include our beloved Toadstool Bookstore, The Cheshire Children's Museum and the Antiques Cooperative.
The Four-legged Family
Feeling young again in the way that only life with a puppy gives you! I can hear Ralph throwing Abbey's ball for the seven hundredth time this morning, and although he pretends to be annoyed, I can see the lines on his face melt away and the sparkle in his eyes with every toss. Barley, the big lug, couldn't be happier either with life with his adoring friend. She dances with me in the morning and wants to play all day. Unlike Rosie who loved our two hour hikes, Abbey just wants to hike a bit, then come home to play (and make sure she's not missing anything). In their honor, and in honor of all the folks who care for the dogs and cats who are waiting for a new home, we will again donate 20% of our holiday sales to area humane societies. The way we work this is by giving $500.00 each to Kitty Angels (the favorite feline rescue of our friend and web-wizard Steve) and The Monadnock Humane Society. We then divide the remainder between Fast Friends, a local greyhound rescue, and the humane societies of Windham County, Vermont (where we found Teddy) and the Pioneer Valley (where we found Rosie).
Those elderberries are clearly calling to me - time to get to work.
Wishing Bright Blessings to one and all!