Ongoing Thanks, But Not So Much For The Mouse

IMG_3634Thanksgiving this year felt redundant.  We did not need a special day to pause and reflect on our good fortune.  We have done it every day for the past six months.  Maybe it is because we have time to reflect, now that we are retired.  But, somehow, we can’t seem to fully grasp that we stumbled on this place, so perfectly suited to us, and with such exquisite beauty.

IMG_3587Our house is on a hill, with a view to the east and south.  A small river and a series of rolling hills separate us from the ocean.  The sun and moon rise over those hills.  They don’t sneak up over the horizon quietly and unnoticed.  Because there is little man-made light nearby and the coast produces constantly changing skies, sun and moon rises tend to be dramatic and colorful.

Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.

Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.

Moonrise Thanksgiving Eve. The moon's color was much redder. Like that next photo.

Moonrise Thanksgiving Eve. The moon’s color was much redder, as in the next photo.

I have never lived in a place where I have been able to really see the sunrise.  And moonrises were not even on my radar.  Now they are part of our daily rhythms.

This was the actual color of the moon when it first rose and was low on the horizon, seen through the oak branches.

This was the actual color of the moon when it first rose and was low on the horizon, seen through the oak branches.

Here, the sunrise usually gets me out of bed the morning.  Our bedroom faces west and north so we can only tell the sun is rising by the quality and color of the light outside the windows.  A certain rosiness catapults me out of bed so that I won’t miss the morning show.  George is usually already up, with coffee freshly brewed and waiting.

IMG_3058Every single time I watch that sun emerge over the hills, a little farther south each morning as we head into winter–or watch the moon, which comes up at all different times, often taking us by surprise—I am so grateful that we found this particular place at this time in our lives.  In fact, I sound like a broken record, “I love it here … I can’t believe this place … yada, yada, yada …”  I’m sure the sense wonder will wear off over time, but it hasn’t yet.

In the meantime, Thanksgiving week brought our first snow.

We had some skimmings of ice, but no snow.

We had some skimmings of ice, but no snow.

It was a little unexpected.  We spent the day before, which was soggy and windless, burning brush from the area we are clearing for a little orchard.

Burning brush.

Zoe supervised.

Zoe supervised.

During the night, the wind started screaming, the temperature dropped, and the evening’s rain turned to snow.  It did not accumulate much, but when the sun came out mid-morning, everything was transformed.IMG_3698

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The snow highlighted the giant limbs on this white pine.

The snow highlighted the giant limbs on this white pine.

IMG_3808Zoe was wildly happy.  Water is her element, and frozen water—in the form of snow—is best of all.  When we were on our RV trip across country, we would try to find patches of snow at high elevations so that she could run and roll in it.  She was thrilled to find an endless supply here in her own backyard.IMG_3794

George has cut some trails through our woods.  But it was treacherous going when the snow covered the fallen wild apples.  They acted like greased ball bearings.

IMG_3746IMG_3732IMG_3719Even through the snow, we continue to harvest vegetables.  We still have leeks, carrots, and spinach in the raised beds, and they just become sweeter, the colder it gets.

Snowy leeks.

Snowy leeks.

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Our little cold frame, which I planted with greens back in August, is starting to produce nicely.

For some reason, Zoe is intrigued by the cold frame and visits it every morning on her rounds.

For some reason, Zoe is intrigued by the cold frame and visits it every morning on her rounds.

The frame's middle panel has a hinged opener that opens automatically for ventilation based on the temperature.

The frame’s middle panel opens automatically for ventilation based on the temperature.  It’s nice not to have to do it ourselves.

Some things were a bust.  One of the leaf lettuce varieties bolted, the broccoli raab did not do well, the mache’s growth is glacially slow, and the arugula was decimated by cabbage moth caterpillars (I had to spray it with BT).

The mache is growing, but very, very slowly.

The mache is growing, but very, very slowly.

Arugula stripped to the ribs. Voracious little buggers.

Arugula stripped to the ribs. Voracious little buggers.

But the mustard, tatsoi, kale, red winter lettuce, and claytonia are thriving and we are harvesting beautiful salad greens.IMG_3856

IMG_3814Not everything is rainbows and chickadees, however.

This recent rainbow ended in our back woods.

The inner arc of this recent double rainbow ended in our back woods.

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Just a gratuitous chickadee shot.

When George took the truck in this morning for an oil change, the mechanics found a mouse living under the hood.  In retrospect, George thought he heard some unusual noises as he drove all over the state yesterday.  I can only imagine what that mouse thought when his new home went zooming down the interstate.  Apparently, the experience was not too traumatic, because the mouse stayed tucked up there overnight only to have the further excitement today of freaking out the mechanics.  Of course, it got away.  We will not have to deal with it anymore because it’s now hiding somewhere in the Toyota dealership.

I wanted to make a wreath without using any wire or frame. This is the funky result--a mullet wreath, business on one side, party on the other. Maybe I should hang it on the truck's grille to scare away the mice.

I wanted to make a wreath without using any wire or frame. This is the funky result–a mullet wreath, business on one side, party on the other. Maybe I should hang it on the truck’s grille to scare away the mice.

Stoves, Barbies, and a Hurdy Gurdy

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You know those senseless dreams in which, for some unknown reason, you are in a strange place quietly admiring a row of gleaming old stoves and then you step through a door and are surrounded by a frantic buzzing and whirring of hundreds of toys and creepy dolls come alive, and you escape down a hallway to find a room with a billowy roof, full of old cars being driven by stuffed animals and music machines blowing bubbles?  Well, there’s a museum in Maine that kind of feels like that.

IMG_2173It’s called Bryant Stove and Music in Thorndike, a small town just a few miles from Unity, home to the Common Ground Fair.  Bryant’s sells beautifully restored antique wood cooking and coal heating stoves and for those alone it’s worth a visit.  But it also houses a quirky, amazing collection of stuff, from button collections, to dancing Barbie dolls, to gorgeous working gramophones and player pianos.  It is a little hard to describe, actually.

IMG_2248There are three sections in this small museum: the stoves; the toys; and everything else.  The entry section belongs to the stoves, with rows of ornately decorated coal stoves on the right and many vintages of wood burning cook stoves on the left.  IMG_2261IMG_2250They were for sale but sadly we don’t have room for one.   IMG_2257The next attraction was the toy room.  It was an experience.  A switch on the wall brought the room alive from floor to high ceiling. 20150728_103134It was a mechanical toy fantasy land–a frenzy of movement, sound, color, and details–too many to take in–unlike anything I’ve ever seen.IMG_2183IMG_2208 To the accompaniment of carnival music, airplanes whirled, a bear teetered on a tightrope, toys rode on a moving ferris wheel, stuffed animals danced, and–my favorite–Barbie dolls jerkily emerged from a curtain in a fashion show.  20150728_103253

Not your typical Barbie dolls. This was a tap dancing show.

Not your typical Barbie dolls. This was a tap dancing show.

There was way too much to take in.  Every bit of space was stuffed with toys, moving or posed.  IMG_2207IMG_2186It was dusty, kind of weird, very random, and oddly wonderful.   IMG_2191

IMG_2180My favorite part of the museum, however, was the third section, a quonset hut with a billowy roof.

When printing photos, odd details jumped out, such as the feet on the left.

When printing photos, odd details jumped out, such as the feet on the left.

Is that a sausage grinder in the corner?

Is that a sausage grinder in the corner?

It was brimming with a fascinating hodgepodge of machines, from a whimsical collection of air-powered motors, to an amazing evolution of working music-making machines, flanked by old buggies and cars, all interspersed with miscellaneous odd and quirky things.  And stuffed animals were propped in the oddest places.IMG_2219

A working hurdy gurdy

A working hurdy gurdy

There were informative signs throughout and, if he’s there, Mr. Bryant provides a personal perspective on his treasures.  IMG_2240We unfortunately only caught him for a short time.

IMG_2239It takes time to see everything at Bryant’s.  IMG_2246It’s like digging through some amazing person’s attic, or brain. IMG_2217 We didn’t even scratch the surface.  The museum was dog-friendly, but Zoe was nonplussed.   20150728_104122Next time, we’ll leave Zoe home, and have a leisurely browse through this creation of a brilliant, unique imagination. IMG_2243

 

October to November

IMG_2871Fall lingers. We had expected a more abrupt transition to wintry weather. Instead, our weather has been entertainingly variable–frosty and winter-like for a day or two, followed by stretches of balmy weather, then slow drizzle, with two wild days of high winds that stripped most leaves from the trees.IMG_3240

Except for the oaks. IMG_3208Their leaves turned well after the maples and, even though it’s November, continue to glow with yellow, rust, and reddish brown. IMG_2878Likewise, the blueberry fields remain brilliant, startling flashes of red on the hillsides.

Blueberry fields and stonewalls.  Iconic Maine.

Blueberry fields and stonewalls. Iconic Maine.

October gave us spectacular sunrises, with cold night air creating dense fog over the lakes and river below us. IMG_3078The fog beautifully dissipated into rising mist as the morning air warmed. IMG_3081Moonrises and sunsets were equally dramatic. IMG_2924IMG_3098As the leaves have fallen, we have even more sky to watch.IMG_3431Our normal quiet has been broken by the seasonal sounds of chainsaws, gunshots, and coyotes. Hunting season is underway and this past week we have woken to middle-of-the-night frenzied coyote howls. We have not seen our fox family in several months and suspect that the coyotes have moved in on their territory. I hope not. We miss the foxes.

Our local wild turkey flock seems to be dodging the hunters and coyotes. We have watched the young birds grow up this summer. Here they are in late August, when they first started coming by. IMG_1384By September 18, the young ones were about three-quarters grown.  IMG_1620Now, they are adult-sized (and still shy and hard to photograph).  IMG_3269Over time the flock gradually decreased in numbers but they have survived pretty well and make quite an impressive crew now that they are all full grown.

Our other bird visitors have increased as fall berries have ripened.IMG_3131 IMG_3235Berries, wild and domestic, abound here–currants, cranberries, honeysuckle, winterberries … the list goes on.

This cotoneaster isn't wild, but planted in our yard.

This cotoneaster isn’t wild, but adds color to the rocks along our yard.

To the dismay of our regular bird visitors, the berries attract flocks of robins, starlings, and grackles that noisily descend, feed, and leave.IMG_3115IMG_3142IMG_3156_edited-1I love the berry colors, especially bittersweet, which is an invasive, strangling vine, hated by many. IMG_3170I also am transfixed by milkweed seeds emerging from the pods and drifting on the wind. IMG_3351I even picked a pod I especially liked that was at an angle I couldn’t photograph and propped it up on a stump to get a shot.

Milkweed posing on stump.

Milkweed posing on stump.

I’m sure the local driving by thought I was raving mad.

Here's the same stump, lower down, with an old electric fence insulator embedded like an eye.

Here’s the same stump, lower down, with an old electric fence insulator embedded like an eye.

Aside from appreciating our first Maine October, we’ve been busy putting the garden to bed and clearing land for our spring orchard and garden plantings. Fortunately, we have our new tractor!IMG_2764

More on the fall work in a later post.

Happy November.IMG_3168