The ground has thawed a great deal in the gardens. Its just about GO time. I will finish off the maple sugaring season soon, maybe this weekend, if the days stay as warm as they have been this week. No sooner will I have rinsed out the sap buckets and put them away, than there will be six zillion jobs to do in the gardens.

I am working on several writing pieces now, before the gardens need my undivided attention. The Animal Wellness brochure needs to be rewritten. I spent this morning on that. I really like how much more clearly I can describe Flower Essences than when I last rewrote this brochure. My language is a lot less vague. I can better explain why Essences are both safe and effective.

I learn so much about Flower Essences from what you tell me. I say this all the time, but that doesn’t mean it’s not true. Your stories, your insights, and your intuitions all move me along in my growing understanding of Flower Essences. Your wisdom and experience ground my understanding more completely and I think this shows in my writing.

Even though the new guide is just out, I have started another folder of your letters and e-mails about Flower Essences for the next edition. It’s quite thick already, but this is partly because I only found one of two folders of letters I had saved when I revised the last guide. This second folder surfaced right after the new guide went to press. Grrrrrrrrr! The new folder is also thick because even though we just received the guidebook from the printer, the revision left my hands in October. We have had a lot of wonderful letters and e-mails from you since then.

What wonders will be part of the next Guidebook? In two more years, we’ll all know. In the meantime, I enjoy knowing that new stories and insights are quoted in this edition of the book and inform each definition for a Flower Essence that I wrote with the Angels.

One project I hope to do before compost, mulch, weeds, and Flowers fill my days is write a definition for Flower Essences for Wikipedia. My limited understanding of Wikipedia is that it is a web based encyclopedia written by anyone who feels like writing a definition for something. The inspired twist is that anyone else can edit whatever someone has written. This means there is a self regulating mechanism built into the system. As Ben explained it to me, the theory is that the collective wisdom of everyone can write a much better encyclopedia than the single voices of the experts that write for other encyclopedias.

I will let you know when I post that definition on Wikipedia and will look forward to your editing. Maybe you’ll get there first and I will edit your thoughts. In any case, I am certain that our collective insights will make for one heck of a definition.

Be a Local Hero

Just south of us is Cornish, New Hampshire. It is a rural town with a small population, but it has a very large and dramatic history. From 1885 to 1930, it was home to the Cornish Art Colony. The Colony’s many painters, playwrights, sculptors, composers, poets, musicians, and landscape architects spent their summers and sometimes their winters in the beautiful homes and gardens they built in the hills of Cornish.

There is something about visiting a Cornish Colony house that informs and educates about the idea of “home”. The houses are sometimes large but their scale is infinitely comfortable. You want to sink down in every room and when you do, the vistas from each window offer a zen moment of beauty. The interiors glow with unusual paint colors and every room looks like a scene you’d like to paint. Over the years, I have visited a fair number of Cornish Colony homes. Sometimes, one of my kids has had a friend whose family lives in a Cornish Colony house. Sometimes a friend has been caretaking or gardening at one of the estates. Sometimes someone in Cornish has organized a garden tour of some of the Cornish Colony gardens. Any experience of these places is an ongoing gift from a group of people who really thought about their relationship to the natural world and built houses that embraced and celebrated this connection. Even the time we chased a run away pig during a nursery school field trip, all I noticed was the dell of blooming primrose and the way the terrace where we sat for milk and cookies was about the nicest place I had ever been.

Architect Charles Platt was part of the colony and designed many of these homes. He mentored landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman when she found herself in financial straights. Eventually her career took flight and she left Cornish to design many gardens on large estates across America. Her gardens are now considered among the most important gardens ever created in America. A recent retrospective of seven key American gardens at the Smith College Museum of Art bore witness to her visionary gifts.

Artist and illustrator Maxfield Parrish is also considered to be a part of the Cornish Art Colony, though his home was just over the border in our town of Plainfield. Our town was considered an inferior address by members of the Colony and people in the Colony actually printed on their stationery “Physically in Plainfield, Socially in Cornish. Can you imagine?

The sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens, lived year round at his glorious Cornish property Aspet. His sculptures can be found in many American cities, with his bronze Civil War remembrances particularly powerful and emotionally resonant. Aspet is a national park now and a place we love to visit. Last summer, the Masque of the Golden Bowl was reenacted in the fields of Aspet. This play was originally written and performed in honor of Augustus St. Gaudens and his wife Augusta during the summer of 1905. This time around, local children and adults dashed in and out of the woods dressed as Olympic Gods. A fun time was had by all.

The Cornish Colony had a long tradition of dancing around the woods in costume. In Meriden village, there were al fresco bird fetes with dancers costumed as birds. Locals continue to like putting on a show.

In fact, there is something about Cornish that makes it still a dramatic place, even with the Colony kaput. Meriden feels sort of vanilla to me in comparison with Cornish. Our Deb, the lovely woman who answers the phone with a British accent, now lives in Cornish. She tells us stories of the daily life in the town that make our jaws drop. Everyone likes to play their roles in Cornish with GUSTO!

One role that Deb plays is that of running the Cornish Farmer’s Market. Each spring she rounds up vendors, keeps everyone on the same page about the farm market calendar, advertises the market throughout our valley, runs the weekly markets, and also throws together a couple of exuberant farmer’s market special events. One of these specials is a June market called “Fur, Fleece, and Feathers” where you can find a Speckled Sussex chick, a Blue Swedish duck, an angora rabbit, sheep fleece to dye and spin, or a kitten to love.

Deb is getting ready for the next farmer’s market season right now. This has meant attending regional meetings with other farmer’s market organizers. She tells us of a regional campaign to get more people to support their local farmer’s markets. This campaign is called “Be a Local Hero”.

We have been reading a lot lately about the long emergency that fuel shortages in the near future will bring us. The crux of the situation as far as food production goes is that it is going to be too expensive, even impossible, to ship our food the long distances it is presently traveling. The word on the streets is that local food is going to move to center stage again by NECESSITY and not just choice.

Deb is a local hero right now because of what she is doing keeping this farmer’s market, with its network of local food providers, alive and flourishing. Even in rural New Hampshire, she has a hard time finding produce vendors to run stalls. Even with its location on the village square in Cornish, Deb has a hard time getting people to shift their shopping patterns to buy a local tomato being sold across the street, versus one that they get at their local Price Chopper. Even with this charming, sweet, wonderfully social, AND delicious market going, so many people drive on by or tell me that they have never visited this weekly local moment.

Deb has had to rally the troops through a time of marginal interest in local produce. She cheerleads. She unravels snafus. She and her husband set up and take down the signs, stalls, and other paraphernalia of the market every week. She deals with the trash. She helps vendors to understand that if four people sell winter squash, it attracts more winter squash lovers to the market and everyone is a winner. She congratulates those who are selling their offerings. She consoles, helps, and encourages those who are not. All this and she still bakes her amazing cornish pasties and other delicious treats for market.

So Deb is my local hero today and in her honor, I hope you will find your local farmer’s market and go out and support these folks that are keeping a network of food supplies vital and flowing, ready for when we need it once again.

PS This is Deb’s poster for the Cornish Farmer’s Market, painted by her. Don’t you wish this was your local farmer’s market?


Thanks to Ben, Here We Go!

Thanks to Ben, here we go!

Last time I tried to post of photo of Yessenia’s baby shower, the photo on the web site was the size of a mini marshmallow. In my second try, here is Yessenia holding up the sweater I knit for baby Klaudia, due in about a month.
Seed sowing. These are the tomato seeds going in.

This tree gets its annual pruning.

Charming shot of abandoned dish. I promised you that one.

Look, its Spring here! Okay, this is a fake shot of an Amaryllis from the greenhouse, but we do have crocuses blooming!
And such a good photo of them too! Maybe this one should have stayed the size of a mini marshmallow!

Last of all, how long was yesterday’s town meeting? Look at the sock in the tulip foliage and see it was a half sock meeting. Not to bad, as this meeting season goes.

The D Word

Is there ever a more thrilling moment in the life of a mother than when a beloved child takes up this dread topic and tells you, “Once was enough.” When it happened for me this week, I felt a millstone the size of a small country ease off my back. I took my estimated cost for this child’s therapy and removed a zero. I was off the hook. I felt like dancing.

Yes, it had happened. During her spring break, Emily was invited to go to Disney World with a friend. She went, she met Mickey, she rode the Tower of Terror and she didn’t want to go back. Once was enough.

Emily is our third child. This means she was weaned on Ben and Lizzy’s stories of their trip to Disney World when they were four and two respectively. According to Emily, the playing field was never level between her and these siblings because they had been to Disney World and she had not. She had a Disney size chip on her shoulder because we had never launched a second foray to Disney World after our first and only Disney expedition in 1986. This meant the D word was a loaded one for all of us.

As the truth came out last night, much was uncovered on many fronts.

My memory of our trip to Disney World with the two older children was of a very hot day during which I was either in a bathroom changing Lizzy’s diapers, mopping up the latest spilled drink, or waiting in line at the merry go round because the lines everywhere else were even longer than the lines at the NH Department of Motor Vehicle. And that is saying something about lines.

I really don’t know what Ben and Lizzy told Emily about their day at Disney World, but maybe they didn’t have to tell her anything. If you watch TV in America you think your life is not complete without a trip to Orlando. She certainly did.

As Emily confessed to a rather flat couple of days at the Magic Kingdom, Ben and Lizzy also confessed that their much cherished memories were the stuff of fantasy. Ben said the only thing he actually remembered about Disney World was trying to hang onto Dumbo’s ears. And Lizzy, she didn’t remember anything, not even that twelfth trip to another super sanitary bathroom.

Somethings simply are priceless. The moment when Emily said “Once was enough.” was one of them.

A Lot of M Words

For the men in my family, March is all about March Madness and the NCAA basketball tournament. Tonight, for example, the Sheehan men will stay up late to watch the UConn Huskies play the Washington Huskies. Tip off is ten pm. I will not be attending. This is not to be confused with being out of the loop. During the UConn-Duke final game for the championship in 1999, there was so much screaming downstairs that I knew the score, moment to moment, from upstairs in my bedroom. Also knew the moment when UConn won, Ben tackled Jim, and both of them fell over the back of the couch. Tonight may have a bit of that same flavor.

For me, March is all about Maple sugaring and mud. I mention mud because our dirt road has been mud all month. Frankly, it has been mud all winter, what with all our freak thaws. As the town manager noted at town meeting, we are on our fifth mud season this year.

Yes, town meeting. For the town I live in, March is all about town meeting. Each town in New Hampshire still holds annual town meetings. In our town of Plainfield, a couple hundred of the registered voters come to town meeting each year to hash out their differences, some years with more civility than other years. It’s a good time to visit with a lot of people I don’t otherwise see and do some serious knitting. Due to a bit of contentiousness at the first part of the town meeting in which the school budget was discussed, that part of the meeting was adjourned without resolving some budget disagreements, so an extra third day of town meeting was called for tomorrow. I think it is technically all the same meeting. It sure feels like more than one meeting though.

At last week’s second part of the town meeting, this one about town expense budget items such as tires for the road grader, the meeting broke for lunch so that the eighth grade could sell us all some food to pay for their eighth grade graduation trip to Montreal. This was an opportunity for Jim to buy girl scout cookies and other snacks. It’s a noble sacrifice on his part, all done in the name of supporting his sixth grade students past, present, and future.

Our town meeting happens in the Plainfield School gym. During the lunch break, people who aren’t eating, stand around and unkink from hours in metal folding chairs. I found a cluster of sugarers stretching their legs right outside the seventh and eighth grade locker rooms. Of course, they were talking about their sugaring seasons. As far as I know, I am the only woman sugaring in town. I am not quite sure why it is traditional to have men sugar, not women. I slid silently into the group and listened as people weighed in with their news.

One sugarer with 800 taps in had made 4 gallons of dark syrup. One person with 70 gallons had made 5 quarts. The bigger operation with its 6,000 taps had made 250 gallons, a ration of 2.5 gallons for every 60 taps. Everyone was worried it was going to be another year like last year, when we didn’t really have much of a season. Everyone had started out with the same darker grade syrup that I had.

I wish I knew how to tell them to hug their trees. I really cannot explain my almost 4 gallons with 40 taps any other way, but I have never quite found the nerve to serve that tip up.

One elderly sugarer, who is not syruping this season, told me how the initial Q on his bucket lids had been painted by his grandfather. I have one of these bucket lids with the big Q for Quimby on them. Don’t know how it ended up with my equipment. I offered it back to him, but he seemed quite tickled to think it was in action. I like seeing this Q each time I check my buckets too, because I sugared with the Quimbys several years and learned a lot from them.

Since last Saturday, the sap has run only a tiny bit. We are a month into the season and its only run a couple of times. Yesterday it ran some and two weeks ago it ran off and on for two or three days. Yesterday was not a big run. William and I collected a modest 40 gallons. I am boiling that down today. Temperatures went below freezing last night and went above freezing today. This should bring on a run. Boiling today means I won’t get backlogged with more sap than my holding tank can handle if it runs well today. Probably wishful thinking this season.

Most of the seeds I started last Friday have germinated. I moved these seed flats into the greenhouse from where I germinated the seeds in the kitchen. Its warmer in the kitchen and everything germinates faster when its warmer. Crocuses have joined the snowdrops out in the garden. A skunk has taken to visiting under the bird feeder each day for a sunset snack. I really should stock up on tomato juice since Riley is bound to have a moment with this fearless visitor one of these evenings. He is only just stopped smelling of skunk from last summer’s moments.

Well, just reporting in on Friday. At least this weeks the dogs are pleased that we are outside boiling. They are getting their quote of freedom and fresh air today. Me too for that matter.