Sow. Snow. Sew.

IMG_7223We took one lazy day after our roadtrip and then headed outside. It felt like spring and we were itching to get to work.


Poplar catkins

We have been here almost a year now and have spent that time assessing the sun, wind, and drainage to plan the layout for our gardens.



We decided to move the raised vegetable beds that we installed when we moved in last May. That area–at the side of the house–will be our little orchard, with fruit trees and berries.IMG_7146 Our first project was to start a drainage ditch down one side. We will get the area ready to plant by the end of April. IMG_7202.jpg
The raised beds are moving to the area we cleared below the house. Once we remove some stumps, and finish burning brush, we will lay down the frames and finish moving the soil. We are putting in additional raised beds and will have regular beds for potatoes, corn, asparagus, strawberries, herbs, squash, and melons. Perhaps we’re too ambitious, but it’s so much fun.IMG_7178
Along with outside work, I started seedlings indoors. Lots and lots of seedlings. We are fortunate to have triple-paned southern-facing windows that act like passive solar powerhouses, generating enough heat on sunny winter days to warm the house. Because the windows act so much like a greenhouse, I decided to go without heat mat for germination and without supplemental grow lights. A risk, I know.


These water jugs as seed beds act like mini-greenhouses.

So far, I’ve been pleased. The kale germinated within 48 hours and all the seeds were up within a week.


Do you think we’re growing enough lettuce varieties?

Most of my seeds are from Fedco, a wonderful Maine co-op. They have by far the best germination rate of any I’ve ever used.  I have had no damping off (sometimes older seeds are more prone to it) except for in two little peat pots of a seed from a company other than Fedco. Interesting. My recently planted pepper plants will be the real germination test, though. They require good warmth to germinate, so we’ll see how they do without a heat mat.


Water-jug marigolds.

As the plants have been emerging, inside and out, the birdsongs have become increasingly competitive–me, me, pick me!  After I saw a male bluebird in full throat at the top of a maple down the street, George quickly put up bluebird and wren houses. I started pruning the lilacs and apples and then … snow.

IMG_7298.jpgLots of snow. About eight inches. It brought the wild turkeys, searching for windfall apples at the edge of the yard.


Turkey tracks are huge. My boot is in the lower left for comparison.

Then it got cold. The snow has lingered on. IMG_7326


The snow makes Zoes feisty.  She’s trying to kill her ball.

IMG_7302I’m not sure yet how much damage we will see to emerging buds and sprouts.


Poppies emerging before the snow.

Today we are housebound by a coat of ice and mizzle of freezing rain. IMG_7407.jpgOn the bright side, the snow and ice have given me time to finish sewing projects. In January, I was making great progress on a quilt for a granddaughter when my sewing machine started to act oddly. The motor belt seemed to be slipping–something it had never done before. The band was old, brittle, and cracked. I decided that it was time for a tune up anyway, so dropped off the machine at a local fabric store to be picked up by the local sewing machine repairman. His normal two-week turn around time stretched three because, on delivery day, the fabric store was closed due to heavy snow. Three weeks without my machine during prime sewing season. IMG_6556
Finally, the machine came home with a new belt, all greased and lubed, and, for the first few nights, smoothly humming away. The next afternoon, however, I sat down to sew and the new motor band started slipping a bit. I let it sit for a few hours, tried it again that night, and it was fine. But the next day, it started slipping badly. Really badly. Odd that it slipped during the day, but not at night. Then a light went off–actually a lot of light. The machine was sitting right in front in one of our greenhouse-like southern windows, awash in sunlight. That sunlight was HOT and the heat was expanding the band so much as to cause it to slip. Duh. Problem solved.

The quilt is finished and ready to be shipped out west. My quilting style is best described as low-stress or wabi sabi. No seam is too crooked, no corner too awry. I put it together, hope it will come out approximately square , and enjoy the process. A real quilter would roll her eyes and tut disapprovingly. But it works for me.


An exuberant, one-of-a-kind quilt for an exuberant, one-of-a-kind granddaughter.  This quilt was made of about 60 different fabrics that my daughter collected when they lived in Okinawa and traveled through Asia and Australia.  

While the machine was away, I worked on the spinning wheel. When I treadled the wheel without spinning any yarn, all moved sweetly along. But when I started spinning yarn, the drive band tended to fall off the wheel. Eventually I realized that the mother-of-all (wonderful name) was wobbling back and forth when I put tension on the yarn, causing the band to jump off the wheel tracks. I shimmed it up and all went smoothly. My lovely old wheel is now spinning.


The white shim steadies the mother-of-all crossbar. The mother-of-all holds the end supports, called the maidens, the u-shaped flyer and the bobbin of spun yarn.

Spring goes on.


Our neighbor uses old-style buckets for gathering maple sap. The cold spell keeps the sap flowing. The piece of scraggly wood in the hole in this tree looks like an old man’s face.


41 thoughts on “Sow. Snow. Sew.

    • I’ve always been fascinated by that expression. Although I don’t agree with it. I happen to love my sweet idle time. We have lots more projects in the pipeline–all pent up over the many years we’ve been looking forward to this. We may not get them all done, but want to strike while the iron is hot (as your Gram may have said), because we’re not getting any younger.

      • Apparently, the saying comes from St. Jerome via Chaucer. I think my Gram meant it more for children getting into mischief. I, too, adore my idle time, although it is seldom that I indulge myself. The closest I come is spending an extra 10 minutes in bed before starting my day. 🙂
        Good luck on your projects, I’ll look forward to seeing your progress via your posts.

  1. The send button is so tetchy lately! I also wanted to say I think your quilt is lovely and I am so envious of your tractor with all its attachments. I’ve fantasized about having a little Bobcat for years! 🙂

    • Thank you on the quilt. Our neighbor is a serious quilter. She has some hand-quilted beauties. I had contingency plans for hiding the quilt if she came over while I had it on the couch doing the final handstitching on the border.
      The tractor was a splurge but we would not be able to do what we have planned without it. Well, maybe we would, but it would take about five times as long. Plus, it’s fun.

    • My sewing room has the best view in the house. It’s like a little aerie–an all purpose room for us both, but I have taken it over more than George. We have an extra tv up there and use it for playing music. But it’s my sewing, spinning and working-out headquarters. I love it.
      I moved the sewing table off to the side when I planted my seedlings, so the machine’s less sun-soaked. I did have one afternoon sewing in the direct sun when I had to stop and put the machine on the floor for a while to cool off. Fortunately, it’s small and easy to move.

  2. Our weather has been very similar, and it sounds like you are keeping busy indoors and outdoors. Your quilt is beautiful, and I’m sure your granddaughter will love it. I’m working on some clothes for my granddaughter and they are driving me nuts because of the fabric and the stitching requirements. I went out and moved a little soil into some areas where the tree service made some ruts but then the bad weather came back. My poppies are up too – hope they make it. You are going to have one big garden this year. 🙂

    • I went a bit overboard on my seed selection, so we will have a big garden. I am considering it a “trial” garden to see which varieties we like best! We love to garden and to cook, so it’s just too tempting to plant all sorts of exotic vegetables. I’m hoping that this blast of snow and cold didn’t do too much damage. It’s starting to warm a bit, so we should know tomorrow.
      As far as the sewing goes, I have been sewing since I was a little girl and love it. But fine, close, careful sewing has always driven me crazy and made me kind of itchy. I’m the same way with cooking. I’m much happier with a flying by the seat of my pants approach.

  3. I just love reading about your life in Maine. I hope that your garden will survive the snow. I love the pictures of Zoe. They make me just want to pet her! Your quilt is beautiful and your granddaughter will love it!

  4. The quilt looks beautiful. How clever you are to make it. I’m so glad you’ve got the spinning wheel working now. They look beautiful but it’s extra special when you can also use them. You’ve been so busy outdoors (and indoors)! Sorry about the snow. I hope it hasn’t caused too much damage.

    • Thank you Jane. It was a thrill when the spinning wheel clicked–that minute when I knew the band was going to stay on and the yarn started to uptake properly onto the bobbin. Spinning is very soothing and I felt as if I brought the little wheel back to life.
      Today was warm and sunny, although we still have large snow patches. It looks like all the plants survived pretty well. I’m relieved!

  5. You must be frustrated that your garden plans for the moment have been thwarted with the deep snow arriving. Your seeds have germinated really well. It was good that you worked out what was going on with your sewing machine otherwise it could have resulted in not being avaliable for another few weeks. Sarah x

    • I was frustrated, but it did give me a chance to finish up indoor projects. My seeds have been going like gangbusters. I’m about to move the first crew out to the cold frame and start planting tomatoes. I bought a million different varieties! Can you imagine if I had sent the sewing machine back for further repairs when there was nothing wrong with it?

  6. I love reading about your life in Maine, Brenda, and there is so much to be fascinated by here. You’ve been so busy – all those seedlings (clever use of water jugs) – and I love the quilt. I’m not very good at careful or painstaking anything so I’ve never attempted anything so complicated. I look forward to seeing your garden take shape. It’s going to be wonderful. Sam x

    • Thanks Sam. I read about the water jugs in an article about seed starting set ups and was intrigued. They’re ugly, to be sure, but have worked splendidly. As the weather warms, they can easily be transported outside in the daytime. I’m hoping the garden will be wonderful and not a buffet for our wildlife.

  7. Argh, how frustrating! At least the snow can’t last long. I love the plans for your edible gardens – ambitious, as you say, but a lot of fun. Impressed with the milk jugs as mini-greenhouses.

    • We are supposed to have warmer weather this week and the snow is almost gone. I’m a vegetable and fruit gardener at heart. Flowers are an added gardening bonus but edibles are my real delight. Lucky for us, we love to cook and to eat. The milk jugs have been working really well. I’m starting to put some of them out in the cold frame to transition to outside planting.

  8. March in Maine can be such a tease; spring-like one day and serious winter weather the next. Even so, spring is ahead of schedule (and way ahead of last year). April is usually more consistently spring-like, although almost always with one snow storm to keep us from getting too cocky before the danger of frost is really past.
    I have a big southwest-facing triple-paned window, and it’s amazing how much heat it creates at this time of year.
    I hope you enjoyed Maine Maple Sunday.

    • No matter what, spring is much earlier here than it was when we lived in Alaska, and I’m reveling in every sunny day. We planned on visiting two nearby sugarhouses today, but instead took advantage of the windless calm to burn brush. We can only get burn permits on weekends and it’s rare to get a lull in the wind this time of year. So, we stayed home to tend the fire and prune apple trees. Before dinner, I took a walk around our back woods and startled a woodcock. I’d never seen one before. A good treat for Maple Sunday.

  9. What a huge project moving the raised beds! You do seem to have it all under control. I love those containers that you use to sow seeds, gosh, it must be warm the speed they are coming up. I am in love with your spinning wheel, fancy it working! Sunshine then snow….wow, that’s some fluctuation. Another marvellous

    • Thanks! Actually, the tractor makes moving the raised beds pretty easy. It would have been a much bigger project with a wheelbarrow. The water-jug planters have been a huge success, I never would have thought of them myself. I’m glad I stumbled on the idea in an online article.
      I, too, am in love with my spinning wheel. She has such graceful lines and lovely wood. She’ll always be more fragile than new wheels (I need to fix her bobbin now), but I’m not a large volume spinner, so she suits me perfectly.

  10. How busy, busy, busy you are. I’m pleased you have found the time to share all your activities with us. Oh dear how devastating to get the snow, and lots of it, just as all the new growth is popping up. Hope you did not lose too much. Triple glazed windows I have never heard of, it is a real statement as to how cold your area must get. I cannot even imagine that cold. But then you coming from Alaska(?) it is probably quite moderate for you and obviously dear old Zoe loves it. True spring must be just round the corner for you now.

    • It’s going to be a challenge to find blog time in April, we have so much outdoor work planned. The snow doesn’t seem to have done much harm except to slow things down a bit. You are right, nothing compares to Alaska winters. No matter what, spring comes earlier here.

      • Priority will go to gardening in spring time But I will look forward to seeing how things progress when you have a spare moment. Don’t forget to take lots of photos!!!


    • Thanks Georgie. Maine suits us and we’re finally getting some warm spring weather. Just as you are hitting fall down there (love your apple shots). My old Singer is one of my most treasured possessions and it was a bit like having a limb gone while she was away. My seedlings have been growing like weeds. I’m getting ready to plant the first ones out in the garden this week. Zoe enjoyed the scratch.

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