IMG_6535February has been a motley month. Outside, the days swing from winter snow, to pelting rain, to a golden, sun-infused, warm calm in a few hours. Back-and-forth, keeping us on our toes. IMG_6354.jpg
Sunrises are working their way north across our hill horizon, but the transition to spring is erratic. IMG_6151We have ice on puddles some mornings, while in the background we are starting to hear the birds’ spring mating calls.


This bell-shaped piece of ice was hanging over a stream at the edge of a small waterfall.

IMG_6747Perhaps the best harbinger of spring, though, is the maple sap, which has started to flow.


In modern sap collection for maple syrup, tubes carry the sap out of the tree, to the sugar house. Ugly but efficient.

The Bohemian Waxwings have hung around for weeks, dwindling from enormous flocks to smaller groups of thirty or forty. IMG_6271IMG_6215At first, they were spooked if I even opened a door, but eventually they grew more comfortable with us and I was able to get closer for photos.
We took a road trip last week to the FEDCO warehouse, a little more than an hour away. FEDCO is a seed, tree, and garden supply cooperative that is one of Maine’s treasures. On the way home, we swung over to Unity, the little farm town that hosts the Common Ground fair, is next to Bryant’s museum, and has a sizable traditional Amish population (previous Unity posts, Finding Common Ground, and Bryant’s).

Now it has another attraction. A world-class chef, formerly at Chicago’s Charlie Trotter’s restaurant, left the high-pressure restaurant life, became Amish, and set up a charcuterie in the woods of Unity, with no-electricity, in the Amish way. His story has received considerable publicity lately (here’s a link to a great NPR piece amish deli) and, after driving down a rutted dirt lane, we found a long line inside the little store. People from all over were patiently waiting to buy sausage and cured meats, while watching what was kind of a show. This former chef, with a long beard and traditional Amish clothing, talked everyone up while he cut meat on fascinating non-electric slicers that looked like hundred-year-old relics. He was always moving, efficiently wrapping the meat and cheese in butcher paper with string pulled from overhead, while his young Amish assistant rang up purchases on an old-style cash register. We went home with some bacon, smoked pork loin, and smoked cheese. I can attest to its deliciousness. I am continually amazed by what Maine has to offer.


Smoked provolone.

February has been spring-planning time. Our (massively over-ambitious?) seed orders have arrived, we are gauging drainage and soil moisture to plan our orchard and garden bed lay outs. Likewise, we have been paying careful attention to winter sun and wind for locating our bee hive. We ordered the hive early and I happily spent two mornings constructed the frames that will hold the wax foundation for the bees to build their comb.


We will not be locating the hive in the spare bedroom.

Much more to come on the hive when we set it up for the bees’ arrival near the end of April.


Building the frames.  I have mise en place for nails.

Our winter garden revealed a new side this month. It sprouted rocks and shells. IMG_6417When we moved here late last May, we could see some shells and unusual rocks peeking out from under the perennials. But only now, with the snow melted and last year’s greenery gone or flattened, is their loveliness revealed. IMG_6510IMG_6631_edited-1Oyster, clam, mussel, and scallop shells are flanked by small collections of rocks with garnets, mica, rings, striations, and unusual shapes. IMG_6618IMG_6616They are beautiful against the dead winter leaves and stalks. Another unexpected treat from the former owners of this garden. IMG_6611Among the shells and rocks, some sprouts are emerging. Soon we will complete the final first year in this garden, seeing what bulbs will emerge.IMG_6247

49 thoughts on “Hodgepodge

  1. A fascinating and super-duper hodgepodge – I love that final photo of the dishevelled waxwing! And your beehives – I’m really looking forward to reading how you get on with bees. And a top chef-turned Amish butcher, wow, Maine does sound fabulous.

    • That waxwing was my favorite. Just a little wind made him look slightly crazed.
      Maine is full of surprises. Some of its pleasures are obvious, others much more subtle. The longer we are here, the more fortunate we feel to have landed in this place. Bees–yep, can’t wait.

    • You are fascinated by the Amish for the same reason we are–they are fascinating. To have such a stubborn hold on a way of life is quite extraordinary. Plus, in a way, they provide a window into the past. We spent some time smack in the middle of Pennsyvania’s Amish country during our RV trip last year and it was one of the highlights of our year of travel (if you look at our Pennsylvania blog posts, you will get some sense as to how we felt). We were happy to see Amish outposts here in Maine.

  2. Beautiful pictures it must have been exciting too discovering all of those hidden shells! It was nice to see a picture of how the maple is collected. i remember seeing a tv programme about it many years ago. Your shopping trip sounds unforgettable! It is much more fun buying from the producers or local produce. Good luck with the bee hives. Have you had bees before?
    Sarah x

    • One thing we love about Maine is that we are able to get most of our food locally. And it’s really good food. The Charcuterie (that is it’s name) is quite extraordinary–local, personal, small, done with with such care and skill. If we are going to eat meat, it is meat as art (both the product and the experience). To find it in a small rural town is a treat indeed.
      I kept bees for a short time, many years ago, before I first moved to Alaska. I was captivated, but that was before all of the problems that have since beset bees, so I have a lot to learn.

  3. What a constant delight your garden is Brenda. I’m so pleased you are sharing it with us. I bet you were longing to take photos inside the charcuterie. I followed the link to the story behind it. What an amazing change of life style. The bees will be an interesting addition to your garden. I’ll look forward, with you, to see what bulbs pop up. I’m sure the previous owners will have planted a lot. They appear to have been inspired gardeners. Dear old Zoe looks in her element almost covered in snow.

    • Yes, the inherited garden has been sheer pleasure. I’m looking forward to getting my hands into it a little deeper this summer. Wasn’t the charcuterie article interesting? Such an about-face in life. I would have loved to have taken photos, but most Amish object and the place (which is tiny) was packed with people when we were there. I’m almost ridiculously excited about the bees. Interesting little beasties.

  4. Thank heavens you kept blogging otherwise how would we know all about your many activities, get to see your beautiful photos (love the ice), and dream about how delicious that meat and cheese must be. I just looked at Mapquest to see how far it is from here. 🙂

  5. How nice to see both beautiful shells and spring shoots coming up in your garden. I am quite happy with this year’s roller-coaster February after last year’s unrelieved snow and cold. Whereas February 2015 seemed to last about a year, February 2016 has sped by. It looks like late March here.

    • I have loved the shells and rocks. They have always been a semi-hidden part of the garden, but, in the late winter, they have become a focal point. I’ve also enjoyed the roller-coaster February. A little winter–a little spring–a little in-between. It keeps things interesting.

  6. I sincerely hope those bulbs know what’s what and that spring is right around the corner. It’s been a mild winter here in Maine this year but my winter started in October in the mountains in Colorado and I’m really ready for winter to be over. Sounds like you really know what you’re doing with the garden. I hope all your hard work really pays off.

    • There was about a foot of snow over those bulb shoots and when it melted, there they were. So, I’m trusting that they know what’s what! I’m not sure that I know what I’m doing with the garden, it’s always a bit of experimentation and luck. But I love the process itself, so that’s what really counts for me. I just like to get my hands in the soil and grow things. And garden dreaming is half the fun.

    • I’m a little nervous about it too. Primarily because I don’t want to kill them off through my ignorance or stupidity. I’m trying to learn as much as I can before they arrive. You can be sure I will post the whole bee experience–good, bad, or ugly.

  7. I hope your bees do well. They are lovely to have in a garden. Not to mention the honey after they’re established. Your garden looks lovely. You should probably just watch for a season to see what comes up. I’m in the process of spending lots of money on seeds and plants myself, so I’m a bit behind you in the planning! The waxwings are so stunning!

    • I also hope the bees do well. We certainly have plenty of blossoms for them. We moved here last May and spent the summer and fall just watching the perennials, to see what was what. The garden was so lovely and thoughtfully planned that, aside from routine maintenance and a small tweak or two, I will leave it as is.
      This is the first time I have ever had all of the garden space I want, so I went a bit nuts on vegetable and herb varieties. We will be eating well this summer.

    • The waxwings are so beautiful and their flock behavior is fascinating to watch. We have a lot planned for the next few months. I’m hoping for a warm spring so that we can get out there early. There will be no shortage of blog topics, but finding the time to write may be a challenge!

    • It was a nice moment when the waxwings allowed me to get close enough to take some halfway decent photos. The apples are wild, so they could be anything. These photos are from two different trees. The first ones are definitely small apples and they weren’t bad tasting. The second tree could be a crab cross–they seemed tasteless to us, but were a beautiful yellow, very abundant, and have stayed on the tree through the winter. The waxwings adore them.

  8. Wonderful post! Always a treat to read about the goings-on in your neck of the woods, which, by the way, is ahead of central Maine.

  9. Love those ice patterns and the clouds are lovely too. Your description of the Amish foods sounds delicious. Maine certainly has a lot to offer! Waxwings are gorgeous little birds. 🙂

    • Thanks Jane. Our part of Maine is a sweet combination of lovely rural living but with amazing local food and unexpected, often quirky, things to do. I think the waxwings have finally moved on.

  10. I’ve never seen these sap collection tube before ! Ugly yes, but hey, if it’s working well ! I love your DIY bee hive project. Hope you will post a picture when it will be placed outside !

    • Yes, the tubing for sap collection makes the job much easier and, since I’m not doing the collection, I can’t really complain. Don’t worry, I expect there will be lots of posts on the bees this summer!

  11. What beautiful pictures, and stunning scenery, I did enjoy the ice, and the shells, what a find! Good to hear that the birds are becoming more comfortable, and to see you spoiling them so, what beauties they are. I am looking forward to hearing more about your beekeeping, I have always wanted to give that a whirl but get the responsibility re keeping them fed and with the worldwide decline don’t dare too….yet! I did enjoy reading about the Amish, I do admire them.xxx

    • Welcome home! Thanks for the kind words. I’m very excited about the beekeeping. We’ve finally picked a site for the hive but the bees won’t arrive until late next month. Until them, I’m continuing to do my homework!

  12. Gotta love those southern billboards. The worst combo I’ve ever seen was in north Florida…2 billboards right on top of each other, one was an anti-abortion one with a picture of a fetus and another was a plate of juicy chicken wings.

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