Grace’s Report from the Gardens

I inspect Aunt Em’s transplanting skills.

Enough of that. I need to get down.

What is this green stuff everywhere?

Just checking that Aunt Em is still there.

On to a new venue.
I pick my first raspberry. Much better tasting than grass.
Garden tour over, I check in with more of my fan club.

The Poster at my Feet

So every year in our tiny town meeting there is a retired teacher who gets up and drones on about how the grammar school should not have abandoned its Canadian history curriculum in favor of a social studies curriculum that includes other countries in the world. This curriculum was abandoned about the same time as the school decided to stop showing students the home movie about how to butcher a pig.

Yes, even in this tiny town the internet eventually arrived and dish network too and suddenly the powers that be realized that few of the students were ever going to have to butcher their own pig and maybe it was time to stop making generations of young girls into lifelong vegetarians. As far as Canada went, CNN helped these same figureheads know that Canada was more than just the place underage NH kids went for drinks and lap dances but perhaps not such a dominant world power that half a year of seventh grade social studies should be dedicated to its study.

But my point is, I “get” where this retired teacher who LOVED teaching Canadian studies is coming from. I am him, sort of.

You see, when I recovered from breaking my arm, it was clear, even to me, that it would be better to have Miguel continue to run the office and have me do other stuff like these blogs and the gardens and the Flower Essence creation part of the operation versus re-enter the daily office fray to continue to try to do too much. It was a no brainer of a decision but this doesn’t mean that my brain didn’t try to hang on anyways.

Or to put it another way, it is not completely a surprise that I needed to break both my arms before I was able to “let go.”

After the cast came off, I would sometimes see that there was sooooooooooooo much going on in the office that I would try to just slip in and help, but I realized pretty fast that that didn’t feel like help to Miguel but more like backseat driving. Instead, I learned to share ideas at our weekly meetings and wait until he asked me for advice before giving it….well…… I learned to be appropriate most of the time but in my defense, it is hard to hand off a baby that you have been caring for night and day for twenty five years. It is hard not to yell out to the new caretakers, “Will you folks remember to burp the baby and change its diapers?”

But they did remember, and the baby is well and thriving in their care.

And I got to have a lovely, if damp, spring in which I was actually gardened in the daylight versus in the near dark after a day in the office.

As I weeded away, I sort of knew that inside the office Miguel was making changes to better use current technology but it was all a bit murky because I was, after all, thinking about things like slugs and bugs not la cie drives or filemaker updates. Once in awhile, I would make some nostalgia driven plea for some insanely out of date method of doing something- mostly because even though it was no longer me doing these jobs, I liked the idea of doing them “the TRADITIONAL old fashioned way.” But to give myself slight props, most of the time this last six months, I have felt a lot of awe for how well everyone was doing in the office and how cool it was that they were shaking things up with new systems.

This delight was genuine because even as I am a person who still thinks I might have to butcher a pig someday in some sort of dire emergency, I am actually someone who has fun with technology…… once it is explained to me…….

And today was a day in which there had to be a lot of explaining. A lot.

Miguel is on vacation as is Laura so I volunteered to step back in from the fields to be an extra pair of hands for the week. I realized I was in no position to step back in as some sort of returning leader in from the colonies, but instead I was a person that could maybe be helpful if given some instruction. I knew I didn’t understand any of the new systems but at least I thought I could catch on if given some guidance. “How different could email be?” I asked myself as I volunteered to do it for the day.

As I learned, email could be both very different and very the same. it was lovely to chat away with friends new and old and yes, I could still type…… But I had a lot of questions. A lot. And at lunchtime, it looked like maybe email was going to slay me and not visa versa.

I shouted out to anyone within earshot (and funny how fewer and fewer people were within earshot as the day went by), “How do I find the files to attach? What is this drop box thing? How do you invoice an Amazon order for Lizzy’s book? What is this new protocol for international orders? How do I track a postal order? What are these flags on all the emails? How do you make new customer numbers? How do you sort through this new spam filter?”

Well you get the picture.

I was annoying. Almost if not more annoying than Mr Canadian Studies at town meeting, but also kind of cute in that hopelessly outdated sort of way. I think they were all still laughing with me at days end (or maybe they all had earphones in and were listening to Game of Thrones on their iPod minis and just nodding to me no matter what I said).

Anyways at the end of the day, I believe they were appreciating my jokes as I rolled around in my office chair re-enacting my all day technology cluelessness. I may never know what they were really thinking, but I do know what the Angels thought. They told me in no uncertain words.

Underneath the wheels of my rolling office chair, there was some poster that kept getting in my way. It had fallen out from somewhere and was gumming up the works so finally I pulled it out from underfoot to take a look.


New Tasks as the Planting Wraps Up

The gardens are all planted and the greenhouse completely empty. All the baby plants are in the ground. The tropical and sub-tropical greenhouse plants are all outside either in their summer home or waiting to be placed there. Emily took on the task of hosing the greenhouse down yesterday so it looks marvelously clean and ready for a hot summer with nothing in it.

Every last flat of baby plants has found a home somewhere. When I started putting all these little plants into various gardens a month or two ago, I thought I had a plan for every plant but there are always a good half dozen flats of seedlings that leave me scratching my head- Did I really think I would need sixty five Rosemary plants and did I even contemplate how on earth I would overwinter them when they are teenage plants- as if there was ANY room available in the already way overstuffed greenhouse? How much Mexican Hat Plant can one garden contain? Really? And was it really necessary to plant a flat of Chinese Forget Me Nots when they self sow everywhere, and there is not a single place to put them where there isn’t already a volunteer Chinese Forget Me Not growing?

Having worked my way through the mysteries of my late winter “decision-making” about what to grow and how much (mostly by wandering all the gardens to find any square inch of open dirt to stuff plants into), the focus now returns to weeding and watering- It is so important for us to keep watering the Red Shiso rows until the seeds germinate. Red Shiso likes love and songs and silliness so we had a good time planting the seeds- and now I try to go out there and water with a light heart, but it is always lovely when its distinctive seedlings start to pop up- always a moment of relief as that is one crop we must have.

I am also working to pack the cold frames with the tropical and subtropical greenhouse plants. I trim each plant and then the ones that want full sun, I sink in their pots into peat moss in the cold frames. The shade loving plants go into the Arbor Garden and the geraniums and agapanthus go into the garden out front where the goldfish pool is. Being outside gives every plant a chance to rid itself of bugs accumulated over the winter and generally get more light and wonderful cleansing rain. Everything looks so very much happier after a summer outside.

Here is a confusing shot of the cold frames mid- process. I still have so many plants to situate in the cold frames, and then Jim will return with the plants that live in his sixth grade classroom for the year, and there will be more to squeeze in. Apparently, in all departments I live by the motto, “More is More”.

I have been posting photos of the garden on Facebook this spring so check that out if you want more photos of the garden. I am trying to post a photo most every day but sometimes the garden tasks get the better of me. Tying up the Roses is another preoccupation. They don’t much like being roped in but it has to happen for a lot of them. The rustling in the bushes around here is usually me wrestling with an enormous Rose and nothing more exciting.

Here is Sarah Van Fleet this foggy morning looking so lovely.


Mother Nature Stays in the Limelight during Will’s Graduation Weekend

The bear got over his dislike of bright lights and NPR radio and came back every night for a week until he had destroyed the last live hive and all our remaining honeybees found themselves without a queen. Thanks goodness for Jim who was more realistic about the bear getting over his phobia of all night radio. While we tried to protect the remaining hives, Jim created a second story (hopefully bear proof) home for two new hives of bees that arrived this week from Georgia.


These two hives are now installed and living off stored honey as the weather has been rather volatile and nary a Georgian bee has poked it’s head out of the two hives.

Will Sheehan got to enjoy the strange weather up close and personal when he graduated from high school in a chilly deluge.

Here he is taking shelter post ceremony with Grace and Jim- Grace is the one wearing pearls.

He finally chose to go east to college in Maine next year. Vive the Maine turnpike!
On the night of Will’s graduation, we had a party during which the ceiling over the stove began to collapse under the weight of water.

Closer inspection revealed the hot water heater upstairs had sprung a major leak (as in streams of water shooting across the room from a broken heating element). Urgent trips to the hardware store were followed by the brain trust of Jim, his brother Stephen, our friend Michael, Will’s older brother Ben and Will’s brother in law Miguel all spending a couple of hours upstairs trying to solve the plumbing crisis. The ladies of the family tried to fill in the void and keep the conversation loud enough to be heard over the sound of men running up and down the stairs with wet towels and plumbing tools.

Periodically the group would pause for snacks or toasts of the graduate or simply bring down another load of wet towels only to disappear again when the fix didn’t hold.

On my first official visit to Jim’s house during a Thanksgiving almost 40 years ago, his uncle had everyone deal with a plumbing crisis by running buckets of sewage up into the woods behind Jim’s home so it is a fine Sheehan tradition to have a major plumbing malfunction during a family gathering. Fortunately no sewage was involved in this version of the family tradition.

As we went to bed, it seemed our eventful day had ended peacefully with a happy graduate and a ceiling that hadn’t quite collapsed.

When we awoke, we discovered more mayhem had occurred outside. I was so pleased we had gotten our 100 tomato plants in so they could experience snow. I guess I should be grateful it was only an inch of snow as apparently three feet of snow fell on Whiteface Mountain near Lake Placid, NY and two feet fell in Stowe, Vermont. Whiteface is three hours west of us and Stowe less than two.

This was not the last challenge these brave tomatoes would face as last night we had a heavy frost.
In between cleaning up broken trees, shrubs and Flowers in the gardens yesterday,
we had time to wrap the tomatoes in season extender clothe for the expected frost.

It is early Memorial Day morning. I am waiting for the sun to warm things up a bit before I unwrap each tomato and see which plants made it. Going to the local farm stand is looking more and more likely and for Jim who found himself wrapping plants in the chilly dusk last night with me, probably a lot more desirable too!
What will we find under this clothe? We will see in a few hours. Just how Jim wanted to spend his Memorial Day with me: hauling brush, washing and folding heaps of towels used during the plumbing leak AND unwrapping a hundred tomato plants.

MayMay’s Last Lesson

Our dear MayMay died this Monday.

On the weekend before she died, she threw an impromptu party, and many old friends and neighbors came to bid her goodbye and have a last nuzzle. She received emails from those friends who could not say goodbye in person, and each email hug was given her by proxy with a whisper in her ear of who it was from.

MayMay was a very social dog with a vast group of friends, and she became close to everyone connected with the daily life of the farm. Even the UPS guys knew her well, and many of them would look for her when they came in the door if she was not already at their feet awaiting their greetings.

She loved coming to work each day and waited at the door to greet everyone arriving each morning. If someone in the office had been on vacation or away for any length of time MayMay would wiggle and moan with complete joy at their return. Just a few weeks ago, she went into complete ecstasy when Alli returned to us after a winter working with sled dogs out in Colorado. MayMay never left you in doubt about how much she loved you.

During the many years when Lynn wrote labels each Tuesday, MayMay would lie on Lynn’s feet the entire day, and when it wasn’t a Lynn day, she would lie in the middle of the floor by the door expecting a cuddle from everyone who passed as well as prompt service at the door when she needed to go out to smell the breeze, observe the goldfish or go roll in the grass.

If things got dull for her during a work day, she would come up to the folks on the computer and knock their elbows until she got some love. There was no avoiding a relationship with MayMay for those more reticent about dogs. She was in the face of any newcomer with complete confidence that here was a new friend. And soon friendship would prevail.

When she wasn’t in the office, she was supervising all the gardening, taking long walks with various Sheehans or chasing objects. We used to say that MayMay’s brother Riley was all golden and she was all retriever because he had no interest in running after anything whereas MayMay would retrieve from dawn ’til dusk and still be ready for more. If no ratty old tennis ball was handy she would try and get someone to throw rocks for her.

MayMay had a thing about rocks. She couldn’t get enough of them. At some point during every walk she would pick up a rock- often a surprisingly big rock- and carry it about in her mouth only to drop it back at the farm in one of her rock piles. There was no stopping her in this rock collecting which is why we have already started taking her various stashes of rocks to place on her grave. A rock cairn seems the perfect way to celebrate her, and she has already done all the hauling for us!

MayMay didn’t have a mean bone in her body. The cats loved her and she loved them. She never had a squabble with her brother Riley and welcomed Reina into the pack with complete abandon. When baby Grace arrived, she let baby Grace pat and prod her and in recent weeks she let her crawl all over her as well. She just loved contact.

In her last week, she gave me an enormous reminder of what matters and what doesn’t. As you can imagine, any dog here has to learn garden manners. From puppyhood, MayMay was flawless in her garden manners, and I never had to worry about her hurting any plants. However the last week of her life she spent a good deal of her time completely ripping up the garden outside the front door. At the beginning of the destruction, I tried once to move her out of the garden onto the lawn, but she returned at once to the garden with an unexpected determination and continued her crushing, trampling, digging, rolling and general flattening.

This final project was so many jokes and comments all rolled into one. MayMay was demonstrating to me what an effort she had made her whole life to be good in the gardens. I got to see exactly what she could have done everywhere if she hadn’t been so deeply respectful of the place. More importantly, she was reminding me that dogs and love are so much more important than gardens. She was giving me a big ONLY LOVE MATTERS inservice. In this destruction she gave me a surprise gift to remember her by- a big crushed plant area that I now pass by with a smile on my face- a big smushed area of plants that makes my heart fill with love and not horror. Oh MayMay! Gone but never forgotten!

Waiting by the office door for folks to arrive for work. She could look quite pensive before her people showed up on time for her loving greeting.
Sharing her post with Reina.
Reina, Riley and MayMay receiving a treat from Emily.
Visiting with Lizzy during the work day.

Always sure that she was meant to be in the center of everything, here she is at Lizzy and Miguel’s wedding rehearsal, demonstrating how she is part of the service.

Last summer she would spend the day with the men down clearing the hedgerow. Here Ben pauses to try (unsuccessfully of course) to get her to give him the rock she has in her mouth.

She begins, “THE FLATTENING”

As a community of Flowers, Angels, Nature Spirits, Dogs, Cats and even some People, Green Hope Farm can be a funny place……and I love telling you all about it!