Early Spring Emergence

Foggy April morning on Conary Cove. The sea returns to life in early spring.
Rockweed revived, the air becomes filled with the salty aroma of the ocean.

The arrival of spring is very quiet in Maine. It took me a couple of years to recognize and appreciate the swelling of catkins, the blossoming of fuzzy pussy willows and the blushing reds worn by deciduous forests as the red maple flowers start to bloom. The scent of the sea awakens the senses as the water warms and the rockweed is revived after a long winter freeze. Native flowers start to emerge, but we have to look very closely at the tiny leaves which emerge donned in purples and reds, camouflaged against the soil. This is the fourth year we have started growing our native plants from seed, and the first wave of plants are now established, sending out new tendrils of growth underground to fill in available space. Finally the plants are able to establish ground and deter weeds on their own! Last fall, new seeds were sown in the gaps created by a final weeding of the flower beds. As the first seeds start to germinate, we are mindful to keeping these areas of slow growing seedlings well weeded until they too gain a foothold. Spring snow will still occasionally blanket the earth, and the added moisture encourages these natives to burst forth in May despite the cold in April.

Crocus emerge in April, offering nourishment to early pollinators
Daffodils arrive with cheer as we wait for natives to emerge.
The blush of early spring; Red Maple blooms in the wet meadow.
Foxglove Beards-tongue (Penstemon digitalis) has maintained leaves over the winter that allows for the bursting forth of new leaves by the end of April
Marsh Marigold bursts forth out of the standing water around our well. This is one of the first plants established in our wet meadow as this area was too wet even for the aggressive timothy hay that was planted here years ago.
The quiet emergence of our native lupine is quite the contrast to the quick growing western variety that has become invasive in Maine.
Purple fronds of Jacob’s Ladder unfurl in the early spring sun.
The purple coloring of many plants, like this spotted bee balm, protect the tender leaves from the bright sun as they emerge.
Endangered Bloodroot starts to poke up their small heads between leaf litter. Established plants will emerge through leaves with no problem, so these areas should not be raked. Leaving leaf litter protects overwintering larvae. The leaves break down into a rich humus to invigorate the soil.
Curieux enjoys the new smells from a greening landscape, even when it snows.

Make way for Seedlings!

We are on lockdown in Maine as we try to ‘flatten the curve’ of the Covid-19 global pandemic. Early on, we recognized the broader impacts of food insecurity that is being faced now and will unfold over the short season in Maine. Over the winter, we grew lots of vegetables in the greenhouse and now it is time to harvest some for our kitchen and more to pass on to our local food pantry. We have made it our goal to share something fresh from the garden every week during food box distributions through the seasons. Last fall, the Blue Hill Garden Club under the leadership of Peter Leonard (Grandpa) started a new public garden on Tenney Hill in the town of Blue Hill. Little did we know just how important this new space will be in providing fresh nourishment for our neighbors. Working with the Downeast Gleaning Initiative, Healthy Peninsula and the Blue Hill Heritage Trust, we are not only growing food for free distribution to the members of our community in greatest need, we are developing a platform for education on seed saving. The run on seeds this season has sparked great interest in saving seeds. We are trying out several ways to share how to save seed, why it is important and provide a platform for exchange and preservation of seeds for future growing season. For now, we are clearing out the greenhouse to fill it with seedlings that will be planted in the public garden later in the spring.

Our lettuce is going to seed, which we will sow through the season in the public garden, and the kale flourishes with plenty of greens to share. Rosemary maintains her happy home and offers nutrient dense leaves to share as full branches in the food pantry. Herbs are like super food! Even with the simplest meal, they add flavor and (more importantly) a dose of nutrients that are found in these culinary plants that are closest to the wild. They store easily when dried too.
Watercress flourishes in the aquaponic bed and the chard has grown into a giant!
Pickled beets to be – taken out of the dirt to make way for seedlings
Various pumpkins and squash emerge
Seedlings stay cozy under a late April snow.
Brassicas and onions – perfect planting companions
A new set of greens are planted in the terraced beds.

2020 SEED engagements

March 19-22: Slow Fish in Durham, New Hampshire

March 29th:
SEED Swap & Scion Exchange
MOFGA Common Ground Education Center, 10am – 4pm
Installation of the SEED Sensorium & dispersal of Native Grasses
Join us for the 3rd year of installing the SEED Sensorium, pick up seed saving information and native grass seed to support habitat for pollinators. Find us in the alcove, next to the exchange.

April 4th:
Master Gardener Symposium: Gear Up for Gardening
Moore Center, 12:30 – 4:30-5pm
Creative Frameworks for SEED Dispersal ~ Lee Lee
Working at the intersection of art and ecology, Lee Lee will present her methodology in cultivating creative frameworks for public engagement around wild land restoration. Material will include cultivating networks of living SEED libraries, SEED Sensoria, HugelCULTURE and following seasonal rhythms to respond to specific attributes of place in culturally relevant ways. 
Other workshops include: Grow your best Veggies by Marjorie Poronto of the Master Gardeners Extension program, Grow your best raspberries by David Handley, UMaine, Biodiversity by Reeser Manley, Creating a community garden, Edible Millbridge, and Improving soils by Paul and Karen Volkhausen of Happytown Farm.

April 4th: Sweetgrass talk with Carol Dana
Part of the Blue Hill Heritage Trust’s winter lecture series

May 9th 1 – 3pm
Garden Day at the Blue Hill Heritage Trust
Learn what native seeds may be sown in spring and collect native grass seeds to take home and plant for pollinators. A workshop on composting will be presented by master gardener, Zabet NeuCollins.

May 23rd 9am – noon
Blue Hill Public Library Plant Sale
Find SEED under the apple tree as we disperse spring sown native grasses and wild mint along with sipping tea and drawing pollinators who benefit from these meadow plants

The above events cancelled or postponed due to COVID 19

May 23rd 2-4pm (rain date May 24)
Mapping the Labyrinth Meadow workshop at Tapley Farm
As a community, we will map out the geometric path that will be maintained at Tapley Farm in Brooksville as a collaboration between the Tent Project, the Open Air Arts Initiative and SEED :: disperse. The labyrinth will offer a platform on which to creatively explore our relationship with the meadow landscape. Challenging the dominant local mowing practice of severing this important part of local ecology, this event kicks off a series of workshops to educate people on how to maintain meadows in ways that best support the pollinator and bird communities that are essential to healthy natural systems.

May 30
Alewife Festival at Pierce Pond
Join the Penobscot Alewife Committee, the Blue Hill Heritage Trust & SEED to celebrate the maturing landscape around the restored fish ladder into Pierce Pond. Learn about the plants that make up shoreline communities and the network of life supported by them.

July 11 – 27th: SEED Barn Artist in Residence: moira williams
Learn more about moira’s walking based creative practice:
I-Park Kicks off Seventh Art Biennale in East Haddam

July 25th 2-4pm (rain date July 26)
Embodying the Landscape: Walking the Labyrinth
We invite the community to walk the labyrinth with intention as we explore the plant communities that make up the meadow at the Tapley Farm. We will speak of how important it is to hold off on mowing our meadows until November by paying attention to the teaming life that fills the maturing meadow. We will think about the localized movement of pollinators as they weave their way through the landscape and think about the shelter provided by tall grasses for seed dispersers who call the meadow home. Open source images of the network of life that abounds in meadows will be available for creative exploration through words, movement and drawing.

August 22nd 10a-4pm
Blue Hill Maritime Festival
Discover the colonial medicine chest and tea gardens at the Pendleton House with the establishment of a new SEED library dedicated to preserving these heirlooms brought to Maine from across the sea.

October 3rd 2-4pm (rain date October 4)
Meadow Restoration workshop at Tapley Farm
We will look at techniques for restoring meadows for the final event in the Labyrinth series in collaboration with the Tent Project and the Open Air Arts Initiative. Thinking about the transformation from flower to seed, we will look at the community of seed eating birds who are supported by mature meadows as they migrate south for the winter. We invite people to wait until November to mow so as not to disrupt this important food source for the birds. Autumn is the best time for planting plugs and we will share techniques on how to best introduce native plants to meadow environments to broaden the diversity of what is growing around us.

October 8-12th: Terra Madre

Bagaduce Alewife Celebration


Join the Penobscot Alewife Committee, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Blue Hill Heritage Trust and Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries for the 2nd Annual Bagaduce Alewife Celebration!

Saturday, May 18th, 11am – 3pm
Pierce Pond in Penobscot


Learn about the native plant restoration work being done at Pierces with the SEED Barn & Blue Hill Heritage Trust.

Demonstrations on sowing native seeds, transplanting seedlings and providing habitat will compliment an art installation of cast paper butterflies. The public is invited to participate in this community restoration project by learning about the ecologies along the land water interface. Add your voice by composing messages to wildlife who use this passage, and bring home an assortment of native grass seeds to plant in your own yard!

Guided tours of future restoration locations will take place on on Parker Pond (9:30am)  and Walkers Pond (1pm)


Explore the Water!
Catch alewives to make observations, view a freshwater fish observation tank, taste smoked fish, and much more! There will even be a Virtual Reality set up so you can “swim with the fishes” through Maine Center for Coastal Fisheries!

For more information, please contact Blue Hill Heritage Trust at 374-5118 or info@bluehillheritagetrust.org

Participate in the Community Restoration of Pierce Pond through March by sowing native seeds specific to the river and lakeshore plant communities observed around Pierce Pond and gathered from the research in the Natural Landscapes of Maine guide published by the Maine Heritage Fund. Seeds are best sown at home, and we invite community members to establish some in their home gardens and sow some to share with the restoration project.



¡Pollinate! Artsweek at GSA

Pollinator sculpture hung from the trees

Broadening perceptions of HOME to include outdoor spaces beyond our walls helps cultivate an understanding of the interrelationships between humans and pollinators. As for humans, good homes for pollinators include plenty of food, safe access to water and shelter, and enough space to raise the next generation. Developing the awareness of what is available beyond our fencelines, we may fill in the gaps to support movement of pollinators through our own spheres. The movement of pollinators like bees, butterflies, beetles & moths is highly localized. During the spring we think about the ways that pollinators navigate our gardens, filling in gaps in bloom time with native flowers and ensure there is enough tufting grass to provide protection. In this workshop, students from the George Stevens Academy constructed pollinator homes out of hollow stems, drilled holes in dead wood and sculpted stacks of branches in the staghorn sumac grove above Wardwell Pasture during their Artsweek creative workshops. We used material from a tree that had needed to be cleared because of the proximity to the road by which it had fallen because we don’t like to disrupt in-tact ecologies by taking out materials that make up existing systems. Our tools included a drill, hacksaw, twine, hammer and a single nail. The sculptures persisted through the seasons, slowly melting back into the landscape over time.

Quiet stirrings of Spring

Pussy willow blossom

Spring arrives quietly in Maine. In lieu of colors that burst forth vibrantly in more southerly parts of the country, spring arrives through smells emerging from the sea, the softening of ground and a gentle ease as the freeze starts to thaw. Sap starts running as trees prepare to set forth their leaves, and there is a subtle shift in the palette of the landscape as the tips of branches bulge in buds and the first soft fuzzy blooms speckle the Pussy Willow trees. Providing essential nutrients for Bombus as they start to wake up from winter hibernation, the trees are considered keystone species in these northern woods. Surprisingly, the fuzzy grey nubbins are actually flowers. If you tear them open and put them under a microscope you will find they contain flaming fuschia and lime hidden within their furry coats. The closer we look to the plants outdoors, the more surprises we find in tiny bursts of life setting forth.

It is a time for planting seeds in the greenhouse! Vegetable seedlings start filling the terraces in their little pots. We also sow native bunching grasses to give them a strong start through the belated spring. We will then plant the grasses as plugs in the late spring and early summer to provide shelter for pollinators and late fall forage for migrating birds.

The greenhouse is warm despite late snow storms

Aquaponics in the Greenhouse

Grandpa's greenhouse
Stacked beds support the aquaponics system installed in the greenhouse

The method of stacking growing beds to save space and add height within the green house was developed at the Distillery in Taos. Using a wire mesh to form the curved walls, Quick-crete is smoothed on to fill in the wall structures. The little walls are only buried a few inches, so the beds are connected underneath, allowing the roots of the plants to grow unconstrained. The walls serve not only as growing containers, but as a stepped buttress to support the weight of garden dirt across the top portions of the beds. The top level, seen here as under construction, is connected to the pond as a closed, aquaponics system. Filled with a growing medium, there is a pump that flushes water from the pond through the bed a couple of times a day. Bringing nutrients in the form of fish waste to the plants, their roots in turn filter the water clean for the fish before the water cascades back into the little pond. We have found that watercress abounds in this bed, offering nutrient dense greens through winter months. Raised beds on the right offer a comfortable work space, warmed by the sun in winter and offering a lovely view, overlooking the Mill Pond.

Thatcher Gray paints pollinators
Dreaming of spring: Thatcher Gray paints pollinators on the old painted floors of the 1835 farm house connected to the SEED Barn.

A Blank Canvas

The foundation of the greenhouse was excavated as one of
the first alterations of the land around the SEED Barn in 2016.

Vast expanses of lawn cropped short surrounds most homes in rural Maine. While it is a sought after aesthetic for many old timers, it is not a landscape that offers support for local wildlife. For pollinators, lawn is a vast desert with little in the way of food or shelter. In this windy place by the sea, it meant that we had few pollinators dwelling here. Known as the ‘Manor House’, the family who sold us the property practiced this common but ecologically disruptive way of landscaping. Not only does it lack protection for wildlife, it consumes quite a lot of gas to keep it maintained. We have focused on changing this method of working with the land to cultivate pollinator friendly spheres around our new home.

Grandpa has always prioritized his greenhouse, building them in urban settings as well as rural ones, and he even designed his dream-house as a casita wherein the greenhouse took up a third of the floorplan. Here we can see his first mark to disrupt the overwhelming expanse of lawn. Ultimately, a new foundation needed to be dug for the barn in order to save the structure. We trailed that dirt across the front of the property as a large berm which doubles as native plant garden and protection from road noise. After building the greenhouse, the lawn has been steadily shrinking as we build berms, sink hugelcultures and roto-till swaths of grass to explore various methods of meadow restoration and cultivation of nourishment by the sea.