At lunch today we went up into the nearby hills to collect Wild Leeks also known as Ramps.

After fruitlessly searching marshy lowland spots for Ramps for many years, I stumbled on this immense colony during a random lunchtime walk one spring day. Until that moment, I didn’t realize that these moisture loving plants might find happiness in ledgey wet pools on top of a hill- yet there they were as far as the eye could see in big gorgeous clumps of aromatic glory.

All the green in the distance are Ramps. Somehow the photo doesn’t do the scene justice.

Yesterday, Ben suggested we go up and see if the Ramps were big enough to be harvested. Since they were, we collected enough for him to pickle up a quart.

Ramp season is a short one of only a week or two so we set right off today for more. Laura, Thembi, Lizzy and baby Grace went on this second expedition as everyone wanted some after seeing Ben’s harvest yesterday.

As I noted to Laura, I only have pictures of her shoveling. She seemed to like this identity as the muscle of every task! In this photo you get more of a sense of exactly how many Ramps there are on this hilltop.

Grace continues to like her role as supervisor of all she surveys.


Thembi holds the full trug. The harvest made for a nice bunch for everyone to take home for supper with six zillion Ramps left to prosper and grow!

Spring Bustle

To catch up on news from the farm…

Yes, the bear returned. I saw the bear and the bear saw me.

He WAS big.

He returned the only night I decided to forgo the all night radio treatment. I heard him before he had done more than rip apart the winter covering on the healthiest beehive. Mercifully, he ran off when I started yelling at him. He did not look in need of a meal. In fact he looked very very wide of girth- but also spectacularly beautiful. If he wasn’t so intent on wrecking our beehives I would be quite enamored of the big guy.

The Roses all arrived from various Rose growers all over the US. No one sent what I ordered, but in that way of the Angels (and apparently Rose growers), I got beautiful Roses that felt perfect even if unexpected.

Laura and May May helped to plant them all.

Baby Grace came out to oversee the whole operation. I can tell she is going to love weeding as she already loves ripping up grass.
Yesterday we got a load of mulch.
Lots and

Lots of mulch.

Perhaps Grace is a bit too young to help spread all this mulch, but I am sure she will be in the middle of it all enjoying all the bustle of wheelbarrows on the go and the warmth, at long last, of spring sun.

PS I am going to try and post lots of photos of the Flowers on Facebook this growing season so check that out if you want to see what is blooming here!

What Do you Say to a Bare Bear?

Sheehan’s Law is much the same as Murphy’s Law.

When Jim Sheehan leaves the farm for even a few hours of well deserved rest or recreation, bees swarm, hot water heaters melt down, tires go flat, phones go haywire, computers glitch, porcupines get busy and mayhem makes itself known. When he leaves for a week, books could be written about all the things that come unglued.

This year, Sheehan’s Law began to take effect even before Jim could blow the joint. On Wednesday morning when he was meant to be packing his bag and making a speedy exit for his annual junket to the Masters golf tournament, he found himself instead donning a bee suit to reassemble a bee hive pulled apart by a bear on Tuesday night.

This led Jim to consider not going on his trip, mostly because he was sure I would use poor judgment when dealing with the bear.

Who me?

Under duress he removed the bee suit, dusted himself off and hit the road. Meanwhile, I was left to ponder how to keep the bear from returning for another go at the honey laden beehives. After asking for help from every known Angel and Elemental, I decided to cap our efforts by staging a bit of a Home Alone redo. I assembled a large number of lamps to shine out over the hives and fixed a radio over the hives set at top volume on NPR. This all-nighter was going to look like a party too scary to crash- or perhaps too dull as 12 hours of NPR is a little much- even for a bear.

Night one was icy cold and rainy. A large crash alerted us that our party planning might not have been enough. William (college choice still unknown, by the way) and I pulled on our Inspector Gadget gear and ran out into the dark with flashlights to “case the joint.” This was perhaps the kind of bad judgment Jim was talking about.

Although I think Jim really thought the painting below was more like the kind of stupidity I might engage in with him away from the hilltop.

I guess we’ll never know where our mild manner Inspector Gadget insanity was going to go from there or whether it would have proved to be our worst idea, because right then……

The phone rang. In a breathless whisper our closest neighbor (a full time forester and man of the mountains) hissed into the phone, “The bear is heading for your backyard RIGHT NOW and


Hmmmmmm. Perhaps this wasn’t the moment for a bear serenade or a closer encounter. When our woodsman neighbor describes a bear as big, discretion instead of New Age flute music becomes the better part of valor.

Thus Will and I beat a retreat inside, leaving it to “All Things Considered and then Considered Again and then Again” to keep off the 300 pound bear.

Apparently NPR did the trick as for the past two nights, Mr 300 pounder has remained at a polite distance, deciding he doesn’t want to eat any more honey if it means he has to be up on his current events.

Meanwhile, I am so tired of Robert Siegel’s voice that I never want to hear it again. I am sleeping right upstairs above the beehives with various pots and pans handy to clang if the bear returns. I try to stay alert to bear like noises while ignoring the human radio droning, but it is a struggle.

I will be glad when Jim returns and it’s his turn on patrol. If he doesn’t want to listen for a night or two, all I have to do is get out my penny whistle and tell him I am going to go out and make beautiful healing music with our bear friend. That ought to get him motivated to take a shift.

Laura Saves the Day

My meandering blog on Roses failed to mention the basic insanity of anyone with one and a half arms ordering so many Roses.

Yes, my mending arm is much better and stronger as I clip and rake and stir and bottle through my days- but still, it was perhaps a tad optimistic to plan so many new Rose beds with each Rose needing a hole the size of a bushel basket – Or perhaps the truth is that the Angels knew that staff Goddess Laura would be there to help.

When Laura joined me for the hole digging on Friday afternoon, I found myself working alongside a veritable dynamo- The morning before I had dug six holes and considered it a heroic effort- With Laura by my side, six more were done in about ten minutes. In the course of the afternoon, we got the twenty two holes that needed to be dug done and still had time to organize the compost and soil amendments for every hole.


Here Laura and MayMay are at the top of the shot. Note that Laura is working harder than MayMay.

After Laura went home, I was once more plunged into the department of utter confusion as the first Rose shipment arrived and was different than what I expected. In addition, an email from another company awaited me with the news that the company was going out of business and many of the Roses I thought were coming from this company would not be coming after all. I went to another company to try to replace these Roses and found some but not all. So I picked out some different ones to try.

Suddenly my pristine road map for planting this new bed was looking like this


And I decided I needed to start over with A NEW CHART- Note that I have put the word “final” in quotes as likelihood that this is how things will be planted is 0%.


In looking over what I believe to be coming, I also realized I needed to dig a third bed for the overspill. I am not sure what Ben will think we he finds out that his grape vines are now encircled on yet another side with Roses. Soon his spread of grapes will be like Sleeping Beauty’s castle and people will have to fight their way to his vines through a forest of Rose briars. I am sure he will love this.

Here is the “overspill” patch running along the west side of Ben’s grapes. The north side and part of the south already have Roses around it.

Don’t mention any of this to Ben……. or Will either as this bed now cuts into Will’s new badminton court. Oddly enough this original court got cut into by another perennial bed…….. I think the sportsmen of the family were hopeful my broken arm would slow me down in my process of devouring all the lawn they want to use for badminton, pitch and put golf, soccer and wiffleball.

I am afraid not gentlemen, but think how much more fun I have made the lawn mowing for you with the added twists and turns of these new beds!

More than You Perhaps Want to Know about our New Roses for this Spring

As the gardens brim with green shoots and April showers, my thoughts keep returning to my mysterious preoccupation with Roses this winter.

Anyone looking at the gardens might question my use of the word mysterious as the gardens already abound with Roses indicating my attraction to Roses was already quite well developed. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that all during the darkness of the winter season and my time of enforced quiet with my broken arm, Roses filled the space. Yet somehow it does still strike me as mysterious that Roses are calling so loudly and clamoring to be added to the gardens here. There are probably at least five or six dozen roses here already. What is it about Roses?

In the early days of my recuperation, Roses kept me going. I had several old Rose books awaiting me on my bedside table when I fell, and this was wonderfully fortuitous. I was particularly excited to read The Old Shrub Roses by Graham Stuart Thomas, one of the most beloved Rose gardeners and Rose lovers of the last century.

Another book that delighted me was about efforts in the 1970’s to save many old Roses from extinction by collecting cuttings from Texas graveyards as well as the abandoned homes of the miners of the California gold rush. The gold rush happened during a period when the French were highly focused on breeding new Roses. Empress Josephine began the craze when she insisted Napoleon bring her back Roses from everywhere he conquered. Her collection at Malmaison got cross pollinated by bees and the wind, resulting in new Rose creations, and Malmaison’s gardeners also got interested in deliberately mixing these different Roses together to see what would happen. The resulting Roses were spectacular and greatly enlarged the family of Roses.

I find it quite amazing that people would go off to their gold rush claim with a rose cutting from France in their satchels and that a little more than a century later these cuttings gone wild would save a lot of Roses from extinction.

I was also enchanted by a book from the 1950’s entitled, My Friend the Rose by the founder of a lovely old fashioned Rose company called Roses of Yesterday and Today. It is still a place I get Roses. In fact, I expect a shipment from them any moment now!

For many days, I read these books over and over. They created a sort of lifeline, linking me to a continued life in the gardens even as I was having problems with tasks like dressing myself. The books comforted me, gave me hope and felt very expansive.

The first time I picked up a pen, it was to write a scathing commentary on one of the Rose books that I did not like. It was a collection of essays written by famous gardeners on their favorite Roses. This sounded like a nice topic that would result in a sweet book but it was a nasty book full of gardeners writing about why they hated Roses or at the very least found them a troublesome bother. One essay was by Christopher Lloyd who inherited his garden, Great Dixter, from his father. At his father’s death, it seemed he had been waiting his whole life to pull up his father’s Roses and apparently took much delight in de-Rosing the family Rose garden. I could only wish I had been at the Great Dixter compost pile when he did this.

I was befuddled that someone could or would collect so many essays for a book on Roses in which the participants disliked, even hated, Roses. I don’t exactly understand hating Roses. Is it that there is just so much in the culture about them that they seem saccharine or trite? Is it the Roses at garden centers that die on people that have given Roses a bad taste in so many people’s minds?

I have found Roses to be very unpretentious, not at all fussy and generous in their Flowers to an extreme degree. As we further expand the Green Hope gardens this summer, Roses seem a natural choice- so much beauty, relatively little work and offering, in the end of the day, amazing, comforting, wise Flower Essences.

After I read these various books, my bed where I was recuperating was covered in lists, lists and more lists of new Roses I wanted to plant here. The Angels were the voice of reason, narrowing down my oversized lists to a more manageable sized one.

In those days of winter quiet, a new rose garden was born- at least on paper and I knew right where it was going- out behind the perennial beds- even if I was sketchy on how exactly it would get dug by a one armed gardener. Now I know how it will get dug – SLOWLY!

As I look at the final list of what is coming, the names flooded me with wonder and excitement- So many new friends! Here is a brief description of what I will be planting-

Louise Odier– a warm pink Bourbon Rose shaded in lilac that blooms vigorously for a very long season- Bourbon Roses were originally created on the French Island of Reunion way out in the middle of the Pacific (we sent a package there this year!). Bourbon Roses are thought to be the result of the island inhabitants mixing Old Blush China Rose (the mother and grandmother of sooooo many Roses) and Autumn Damask, a old Rose from the middle east.

Madame Isaac Perriere– Perriere, the rose breeder behind this Rose, named this one for his wife. Graham Stuart Thomas says “possibly the most powerfully fragrant of all roses; the flowers are enormous, of intense rose-madder, shaded magenta, bulging with rolled petals, quartered and opening to a great saucer face.”

Climbing New Dawn– this blush pink and free flowering climbing Rose is wildly popular and blessedly hardy in our northern world which can’t be said for most climbing Roses

Chorale– an elegant light pink Rose in a classic form.

Pink Pillar– another climber of peachy pink citrus scented Roses, reputed to be hardy here in northern New England- Staffer Sophie’s boyfriend Jim is welding me more Rose Arbors- Can you tell?

Reine des Violettes– she was overpowered by the asparagus patch last time she was planted here at the farm so this time, she gets special spot for her unforgettable blossoms of layered deepening violet pink.

Austrian Copper– a single Rose said to be coppery salmon on its upper petals with some yellow on its lower petals. It is from the same family of Roses as the Yellow Rose of Texas though both Roses come originally from the Caucasus mountains –How it came to be called Austrian I have no idea.

Fantin-Latour– a classic beloved as GST said, “scarcely surpassed in beauty, it is a most satisfying Rose in every way and has a delicious fragrance.”

Mutabilis Rose– a long time Bermuda beloved that will winter in the greenhouse with another Bermuda friend, Old Blush China Rose- This Rose opens one color then transforms to another so that the plant displays salmon pink, orange and yellow Flowers at the same time.

Ispahan– an ancient Damask Rose from Iran with a spicy fragrance, it is described by GST as “neat buds and exquisite half-open blooms…and at all times, a clear and ‘pretty’ pink.”

Old Black Moss– also known as Nuits de Young in France where all the names sound more poetic- Moss Roses have a sort of sticky moss on the leaves protecting each bud. This moss smells spicy like balsam and though it was an accidental mutation, people liked this fragrance and kept working with it to create a whole group of Roses called Moss Roses. GST says “one of the most famous Mosses, and justly so, on account of its distinct habit and foliage, and the size and colouring of its flowers…beautifully burnished with maroon and metallic tones. The small Flowers are of intense maroon purple, dark and velvety, lit by a few golden stamens.”

Charles de Mill– as GST says “a compact shrub which makes one of the best displays every year…as for colour, anything from richest crimson-purple, through maroon to dark lilac and wine shades may be found on any bloom at any time.”

Magnifica– a hardy rugosa Rose with large, fragrant, magenta blossoms. It was first bred by Dr. Van Fleet in 1905. I expect I will love this one as much as Sarah Van Fleet, another Dr. Van Fleet creation.

Henri Martin-this bright clear crimson Rose is a Moss Rose from 1863. GST says it is a particularly graceful plant with “the clearest most intense shade approaching crimson among the Moss Roses that I know” (and GST seems to be on a first name basis with a lot of Moss Roses).
Lavender Lassie– a lavender pink Rose of great robustness, this one is a fairly modern Hybrid Musk Rose- Hybrid Musks are disease-resistant, repeat flowering and generally cluster-flowered, with a strong, characteristic “musk” scent.

Mannings Blush– fully double fragrant Rose of white with pink on the petal edges described by GST as “strange but exquisite”- looking forward to seeing what he meant!

Alba Semi-Plena– one of the Roses long grown for Rose oil or attar in Kazanik, Iran, this white Rose has big yellow stamens and GST reports, “a refined air.”

Double Cinnamon– A Rose at least four hundred years old with bark like cinnamon. It is reputed to be very hardy.

Fruhlingsduft– this one is a creamy apricot colored Rose.

Morden Sunrise– a small semi double Rose that starts out yellow and turns to orange and salmon.

Winter Sunset– created by famous American hybridizer Griffin Buck, this one also changes from yellow to orange.

Comtesse de Murinais– an early hybrid from 1813 France, this Moss Rose has double white petals . To quote our old friend GST, “the blush white of the half-open Flower fades, leaving a milk white well formed bloom with a pronounced button eye…a superlative bloom.”

Sydonie- a very ruffled pink Rose from the 1840’s in France- Like Fruhlingduft, Morden Sunrise and Winter Sunset, this is one of the Angel’s choices I don’t know much about.

Ausma Yellow Rose
– one of David Austin’s early Roses not under strict patent as all his new ones are- I am trying to see which yellow, salmon, orange, apricot hued Roses will thrive here as they don’t generally seem to be as tough as the other Roses.

and last but not least, I am getting another Mary Queen of Scots Rose because Alika completely took over her spot in the original Rose garden.

So that completes the list of pending arrivals. While this may have been an overshare to list all these Roses, at the very least I hope you have enjoyed Graham Stuart Thomas’ way with words- No one describes Roses like him and his books are easy to find on the internet as sadly, every library in America seems to be discarding them-

On a more cheery note, today, a rainy cool April morning, I am going to go out and begin to mark the location for each Rose’s new home. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks- This time round, I am leaving enough room for each Rose to stretch out to its fullest possible size. Not packing them in as I used to do is a new trick for me.