This time in May

by Cari Balbo


This time of the year is one of my favorites. The sun climbs a little higher in the sky every day and takes a little longer to set every evening.  While there's still a risk of frost in this part of Maine (we had a frost advisory last night) and, with the exception of the garlic, plants in the garden haven't yet started growing all that much, everywhere else the plants and trees around us are exploding with growth. At Ridge Pond this is the time in the spotlight for the pear and apple trees as they quickly bud out and burst into beautiful shows of delicate blooms. 

The big pear and the gnarly Nodhead apple.

The big pear and the gnarly Nodhead apple.

When we purchased Ridge Pond we inherited one large pear tree that stands next to the house and four apple trees scattered across the property. One apple in particular helped convince us to move here. When we first visited in the fall of 2013 (which was a particularly good apple harvest year) the one gnarly old apple tree by the road was loaded with beautiful red fruit. The realtor showing us the place let us pick a couple and with the first delicious bite Mike declared we had to buy the farm. We thought the variety of apple might be a Nodhead because at the same time we were getting apples through local apple expert John Bunker's heritage apple CSA and happened to have Nodheads in that week's share. Our guess was confirmed when we dug out our copy of Bunker's book, "Not Far From the Tree: A Brief History of the Apples and the Orchards of Palermo Maine 1804-2004". We had had the book for several years, purchased long before we considered moving back to central Maine where we both grew up. As we thumbed through the book, we found our Nodhead tree and farm sketched onto page 42. Judging by the number of flowers on the Nodhead this spring, we're hoping for a good harvest of these tasty fruits this fall.

Old trees are beautiful trees. We'll be shaping/renovating the Nodhead incrementally over the next few years as it likely went unpruned for a long time.  

Old trees are beautiful trees. We'll be shaping/renovating the Nodhead incrementally over the next few years as it likely went unpruned for a long time.  

Blossoms on the pear tree beginning to open on Sunday. 

Blossoms on the pear tree beginning to open on Sunday. 

Then on Monday.  These pear blossoms have either very little scent or a terrible stench depending on how deeply you stick your nose in the flowers.

Then on Monday.  These pear blossoms have either very little scent or a terrible stench depending on how deeply you stick your nose in the flowers.

Sunday, buds on the Nodhead apple.  

Sunday, buds on the Nodhead apple.  

Opening a little more each day. Unlike the pear blossoms, the apple blossoms smell fantastic.

Opening a little more each day. Unlike the pear blossoms, the apple blossoms smell fantastic.

Blossoms on the cider apple at the far back of the fields.

Blossoms on the cider apple at the far back of the fields.

Getting garden beds prepared and planted have been top priority the past few weeks. Still lots to do but it feels like we've rounded a corner.

It may be difficult to make out in the picture but the medicinal herb garden beds are laid out in a fanciful pattern both to make harvesting easy and to allow for some meditative herb walks once everything has grown in.

It may be difficult to make out in the picture but the medicinal herb garden beds are laid out in a fanciful pattern both to make harvesting easy and to allow for some meditative herb walks once everything has grown in.

One of many comfrey plants in the medicinal herb gardens. I use comfrey in many of my body care products for its ability to help the skin. 

One of many comfrey plants in the medicinal herb gardens. I use comfrey in many of my body care products for its ability to help the skin. 

Royalty Purple raspberries are up.  

Royalty Purple raspberries are up.  

Ridge Pond trees are filling out.

Ridge Pond trees are filling out.

Ridge Pond Crane

Ridge Pond Crane

Pear tree and farmhouse.

Pear tree and farmhouse.

Chicken coop and dooryard birch.

Chicken coop and dooryard birch.

We've only had the chickens a few weeks now and we're loving their personalities, their industriousness, and, most of all, having ample access to backyard protein in the form of eggs. Their eggs are still on the small size, normal for young layers, but a few normal sized eggs have been appearing regularly.

Happy ladies.

Happy ladies.

#birdseyeview

#birdseyeview

One small chicken. One big barn  

One small chicken. One big barn  

The launch of Ridge Pond Herbals has been pushed out a little due to garden work as well as some insurance issues that will hopefully be resolved soon. Hoping to be ready to sell online and at farmers' markets in Gardiner and Yarmouth by mid-June. 

Inspiration corner and a new tea blend ready for sale when Ridge Pond Herbals launches.

Inspiration corner and a new tea blend ready for sale when Ridge Pond Herbals launches.

Something else that happens every year at this time in May is my birthday. This year was a big one - 40! 

Taken a few years back...

Taken a few years back...

My birthday generally falls at the same time lilacs bloom in this corner of central Maine and this year was no exception.

My birthday generally falls at the same time lilacs bloom in this corner of central Maine and this year was no exception.

Milestone birthdays invariably leave many of us pondering the (impossibly fast) passage of time. I'm finding it hard to believe I'm now 40 but a dear aunt told me that because 60 is the new 40 that makes me 20 (again). Excellent! 

In all seriousness it's a remarkable feeling to turn 40 in this place I love so much, only a few miles from where I grew up and wanted to get away from as soon as possible at 18. I left home for college determined to discover my roots in the Cleveland, Ohio area where my great-grandparents came from the four corners of Europe to settle. I spent my 20's trying out putting down my own roots in other countries, as if I was living my ancestors' life in reverse (except for the fact that unlike them I was privileged enough to do it by choice, not out of economic necessity). I spent most of my 30's in a perfect small city, Portland, and for many of those years assumed that would be where I settled for the long term. But at 40 I have the tremendously good fortune to come home to where I belong, near where I grew up but in a new, special place so that Mike and I can put down our joined roots. Many of us need to leave home. Many of us need to stay where our roots are. Some of us try out a few options and change our minds later. What matters most of all is to be home, a small word with heavy significance.

I had birthday drinks and food with my favorite guy in my favorite coastal town, Belfast, just 30 minutes away.  

I had birthday drinks and food with my favorite guy in my favorite coastal town, Belfast, just 30 minutes away.  

We stopped at the head of Branch Pond on our way home to appreciate twlight in this place we call home. Our property begins at the shoreline in the far back right of this photo and climbs up (and up) the ridge to the farm.

We stopped at the head of Branch Pond on our way home to appreciate twlight in this place we call home. Our property begins at the shoreline in the far back right of this photo and climbs up (and up) the ridge to the farm.