The field where we grow our blackberries has a hardness in winter that is hard to describe. It is not barren, Rather it has lost an intimacy with its visitors. A place to pass through, offering little cause to linger. Click on the image for a larger view.
I explored our land this weekend. We have had unusual amounts of rain, freezing rain, and sleet this winter. The snow pack is hard and slippery–normally when I wear snowshoes, it is so I don’t sink too far into the snow, but now I just need the crampons on the shoes to stop from slipping.
Our blackberry field is like an abstract painting of hard black strokes on a brilliant white canvas. This is such a stark transformation from what this field looks like in the summer. Click on the image for a larger view.
It was a dark, snowy weekend. We had our usual visitors to our bird feeder: chickadees, junco, mourning doves, titmice, cardinals, and goldfinches. We usually do not have blue jays at our feeders, even though they are a common bird in Maine. These intelligent birds—they are a member of the crow family—have striking plumage in any season. If they were not so common, they would attract bird watchers from around the world. Click on the image for a larger view.
We woke this morning to the first snow of winter. Nothing bad, just a thin layer of crusty ice. The weather has been so mild and warm this year that the snow was a not so gentle reminder the season is changing. One of our blackberry briers is in the foreground. It looked very different in August. Click on the image for a larger view.
We harvested the last of this year’s grapes yesterday—three large bowls of fruit. We had been enjoying our grapes for the last three weeks. But with evening temperatures dropping, it was time to finish. These are entirely organic, no pesticides are used to protect them. We lose a few fruit to insects, more to birds, but plenty are left for us. Click on the image for a larger view.
Small cranberry, Vaccinium oxycoccos, can be found in peat or acidic soils, which gives it its other common name, bog cranberry. This is one of the first plants to colonize burnt bogland and native Americans would burn bogs to stimulate its growth. Like the cultivated cranberry, these are tart. Naturally, this fruit is sought after by wildlife. This plant is on Little Moose Island at the tip of Schoodic peninsular in Acadia National Park. Click on the image for a larger view.
August always takes us by surprise. The glut of food is wonderful, but adds more time than we anticipate on top of our other tasks—we spend a couple of hours in the evening just keeping up with the ripening blackberries. It is not something we can exactly put off. Still, once outside, the act of gathering this fruit becomes its own meditation. That other hectic life at the office dissipates and is replaced by the cycles of the planet. This symbiosis, which is, at one level, indifferent and, at another, dependent, is a great performance we all part of. Click on the image for a larger view.
Our peaches are starting to ripen. Red Haven do not produce a large fruit, about 2″ or 5 cm in diameter, but it does produce a large crop. They have a smooth peach flavor with a hint of lemon. Except for Surround, a kaolin clay based spray, the white spots on the fruit, our peaches grow without protection. Click on the image for a larger view.
This year has been very dry. Except for a few invasive species like bitter sweet, most of our plants has been struggling. The maddening thing is there have been many days forecast with thunderstorms, yet, while the thunder clouds have passed overhead, very few have let go of their reserves of water. Click on the image for a larger view.
Walking around the garden in the evening is such a pleasure. Seeing the May blossoms change into fruit by July is amazing. It looks like we will have a good crop of peach this year. Click on the image for a larger view.
Our fruit plants are going through their annual flowering cycle. At the beginning of May, our wild plum was in bloom. The middle of may brought the blossoms out in our apple and peach trees. Now our blackberry canes are blossoming. These are in our field, but the blackberry under our forest canopy are also out. Click on the image for a larger view.
May is such a dynamic time of year. Flowers seems to be taking over the whole world. We planted two Red Haven peach tress. Those too are in bloom. They are young trees and we have harvested only a few fruit in the previous years. Perhaps this year we will get more. Click on the image for a larger view.
Our apple trees are in bloom. We have several varieties, but the blossoms are surprisingly similar—the foliage has greater variety. These particular blossoms are on a tree we call Midori-chan. Click on the image for a larger view.
Our wild plum are now in bloom. The trees cluster around an old ash at the entrance of our driveway. Since the forest has not come into foliage, the light from the setting sun strikes them in the evening. The bloom are still white, but they will turn pink as the leaves come out. In August, we can harvest the fruit. Click on the image for a larger view.
This is a recipe for black bean fudge. It has a soft and smooth texture and a light flavor. It is gluten free and really healthy. The original recipe came from the BlendTec site, but Naomi modified it into something a little healthier and with a little more spice:
3 cups of cooked black beans
4 tsp vanilla extract
3 dried pitted dates
3 dried figs
2/3 cup coconut oil
1 cup of unsweetened cocoa
2/3 cup of honey
1/4 to 1/5 tsp of chili powder
Nuts are an optional ingredient. Mixed all the ingredients in a blender. Pour the mixture into a 8 x 8 inch baking pan and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Cut into one inch cubes. You can freeze what you can’t eat. Click on the image for a bigger bite.
Naomi and I don’t eat meat. For Thanksgivings we made a stuffed kabocha. Kabocha is a well known squash in Japan. You can eat the cooked flesh by itself or stuff the entire fruit. For the stuffing, we used ingredients from our garden: plantain, spiderwort, day lilies, goutweed, and bush beans. We added some vegetarian sausage, mushrooms, croutons, and cheese. (This would be good for other holidays, feasts, or an everyday meal.) Click on the image for a larger view.
We wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving.
Today is Thanksgiving in the US. Like many people, we are celebrating the holiday with a meal. We have been using foods we have harvested from our garden. Two dishes I am really looking forward to are an apple pie with cranberries and a blackberry pie. The apples are from our tree of an unknown variety. The blackberries are from our field. Click on the image for a larger view.
Throughout Maine are lost varieties of apples growing in old fields. While our supermarkets limit our choice, usually red, yellow, and green, thousands of apple varieties have been cultivated. Some have been saved in seed banks and specialty orchards, but many have been lost to time and memory—it can be hard to identify an apple by appearance.
We have one lost variety on our land. It fruits biennially and produces large, round apples. The flesh is white and very light; despite the size, they do not weight that much. It is not a sweet apple, but neither does it have a sharpness of a Granny Smith. Lemony would be a good description. If you cook it, it takes on a pleasant sweetness, but it does not retain its shape. We eat this raw or make apple sauce for itself or as pie filler. Click on the image for a larger view.