This is the beginning of a new year, and for me, the beginning of this website and blog, courtesy of my very talented brother, Steve Ross ( Although I am a novice at blogging, I find that when I'm outside, working on the farm, I have a running conversation going on in my head - with who, I don't really know. Maybe just myself. Sometimes it's simply making lists in the garden or berry fields; sometimes it's pithy observations under the heading of Life, General. Other times, I'm just gobsmacked by the beauty of the day and my surroundings. Whatever. But it's been happening for years. So I feel in essence like I've been a blogger for quite a while. It's just that, now, some of it will be shared with my friends and family. Not all of it, though, of course; I reserve my special rants for other venues, say, over a bottle of wine at friends' house or talking back to the current events of the day on the radio.

OK, let's begin.

1currant pruning.JPG

New Year means pruning - big time pruning. All the fruit trees, blueberries, raspberries, and most important, the currants, enjoy their most intensive chunk of my time, other than harvest, when the weather is the dreariest, coldest, least "fun". On the other hand, as with most agricultural pursuits, I feel a kinship with all the other growers out there on their farms, big and small, doing the same thing, going to bed at night tired with aching shoulders and hands from crunching down on a lopper or Felco pruner for hours, days, weeks. Until the job is done.

And it’s not exactly an easily scheduled activity. The weather should be dry, to prevent disease. Can’t be too late, otherwise the plants start to break dormancy. Can’t be too early, before all the winter storms have passed thru and done their worst. And then there are those years when it DOES NOT all fall together, and you say “to hell with it” and just start whacking away. So far, this is not one of those years. We’ve had some clear, cold days, and it’s been a rewarding couple weeks. The piles of brush are testament to the work, the time spent pondering each bush and tree, to see its potential and what needs to be judiciously snipped back or ruthlessly sawed off to become kindling for our wood stove. Some are easy to see what needs doing; others, I walk around them again and again, struggling with what to keep, what to cut, coming back to them day after day, until my head spins. Too many decisions. Now it’s done for the year, and I cross my fingers that I didn’t lop off too much or not enough. Time will tell, come this summer.

Farm Lesson #1 - NOW CUT THAT OUT!

As on the farm, so it goes in Life. Especially at the beginning of the year, it’s so seductive to add more projects to one’s list - read more, exercise more, eat less/better, be and do MORE. But the cutting away of those lists and projects, the paring down for the betterment of one’s own life, however beautiful or fun the pruned part was, is what I’ve learned most from this time on the farm. You just have to step back, get a grasp of the “big picture”, see what needs to be cut loose for the future health of the whole plant, pick up those loppers and have at it. For the most part, it’s not irreparable; if you screw up, and most important, you pay attention, you learn from it and don’t do it again, for cris sake. But ya gotta start somewhere. Pick up those shears, start looking at your own tree, see what needs to come off. Happy New Year!

bird nest.JPG    Bird's nest found while pruning the Melrose apple tree.  Hope she comes back.