Interlude

IMG_7687After March’s spring tease, April was a reality check. My dreams of early gardening died a nasty death. The ground froze. It snowed. More than once. It iced. It rained. The wind blew from the north, the west, and now the southeast, a ferocious force here on our hillside. We now are under a high wind and flood warning. Fortunately, we are too high for floods, but the wind is making the house talk.  I’m hoping we don’t lose power before I finish this post.

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A goldfinch transitioning from winter to summer plumage.

Although we have not been able to do much work outside, we have been well-occupied. I’ve been taking beekeeping and orcharding classes and keep starting seeds (they are taking over).  George built a hive stand, tung-oiled the bee hive, and moved compost over to our new raised bed sites. We just started pruning when the frigid weather hit. IMG_7743
As the weather forced us inside, the wildlife came out to play. Our wild turkey crew, hugely adult now, have been regularly cruising the yard and back woods. They scratched, scratched for what was left of the shriveled apples on the ground and were herded around like a harem by the Tom turkey. IMG_7707He strutted and puffed along behind his ladies.IMG_7712.jpg Until the truck distracted him.  He did not know what to make of the other Tom he saw in the bumper. IMG_7678.jpgPuzzled at first, he peered from below, above, and to the side. When it didn’t go away, he started attacking his reflection. Silly boy.IMG_7699.jpg
One afternoon when flocks of robins were wheeling around the house, we heard a massive thump as a bird hit our sliding glass doors. We don’t get many bird hits on our windows, perhaps because we don’t have many trees or feeders close against the house. This one, though, was a doozy. It was a Hairy Woodpecker, his body lying nearby on the lawn with a wing awkwardly outstretched. He appeared to be very dead. George and I gave him up for gone, agreeing that we would put the body in the woods as soon as we went outside.
Surprisingly, about fifteen minutes later, the given-up-for-dead one was sitting up and looking around. In another ten minutes or so, he flew up to the nearby pine that has our bird feeders and suet.

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He looks a little roughed up, but not bad for one who looked grave-ready ten minutes earlier.

And this was the really fascinating thing–he rubbed his head thoroughly, up, down, and sideways on the branch in front of him, as if giving himself a head massage or trying to ease the pain. I’ve never seen a bird do that before. Then he stopped, sat quietly for a time, flew to the suet, had a good feed, and flew off. He’s been fine since. I suspect that any bird other than a woodpecker wouldn’t have survived such a hard hit. Woodpeckers skulls have evolved to cushion the pounding that their brains take when they drill away at trees. Apparently hardheadedness has some advantages. I’m glad this one made it.

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Our tulips are suffering with the crazy weather. This one looks okay.

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But many look worse for the wear.

During our tempestuous weather, we had one good cool, windless day for burning. George, with Zoe’s company, burned several huge brush piles in preparation for stump and rock clearing. IMG_7431George has been busy since fall clearing brush and cutting trees in the area below our lawn. He is clearing back to a curve of ancient apple trees. IMG_7783We will have our garden beds and a sitting area in the cleared space. We don’t have the equipment to pull the stumps and big rocks, however, so hired someone to bring in a little backhoe to do the job. Maine’s glacial hills are rock strewn and ours is no exception.IMG_7720
A day and half with the backhoe and the big rocks and stumps were out.

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Looks a bit moonscape-ish.

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The rocks are endless.  Dig some out, and the frost brings new ones up.  IMG_7790And we’re talking rocks of substance, not little nubbly things.  IMG_7792We have some new stone walls in the making. I am in awe of the early settlers who cleared these Maine woods.

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This old stone wall is the back border of our property. No back hoes used for this one.

How they got those rocks and stumps pulled without modern machinery, is mind-boggling to me. IMG_7786So much work to clear fields. And when farmers moved West after the Civil War, the fields grew up so quickly again.IMG_7528
Our land was pasture not too many years ago, but has grown up again. I took a walk around it last week to see if we had any skunk cabbage in our low area, or any other surprises–I was hoping for lady slippers. I didn’t find either, but found plenty of interesting fungi and bark. IMG_7531IMG_7456IMG_7606IMG_7590IMG_7535.jpgIMG_7616.jpg
Aside from the turkeys, the foxes also have become very active again. We suspect they may have a den near our side yard. They come and go over to an old stone wall at all times of the day. Zoe sniffs with great interest and barks in that direction. She’s not a barker, so something has her attention. Perhaps we’ll see fox kits again this spring.IMG_7797.jpg

44 thoughts on “Interlude

  1. The recent reappearance of frigid weather has me hiding back inside too. I don’t care what the calendar says, the wind the other day was wintery cold. I love your fungi pics. We’ve just bought a house in Sullivan and I hope the small amount of forest left on our property will provide some interesting finds soon.

    • The weather has been so variable lately, that I never know what I’ll be doing from day to day. I want to be outside, but once I’m reconciled to staying inside, I enjoy the remnants of winter coziness. Still, I’m hoping that spring will bust out soon. Congratulations on your house purchase. I’m not very familiar with Sullivan, but it will give you access to ocean and lakes, right? I suspect that you will find lots of fungi, moss and other good stuff on your property. We have lots of elderly trees, sporting all kinds of fungi, bark patterns, and lichens. Enjoy your new place.

    • We’ve front-loaded the work these first few years, while we still have the energy. Once the basics are in place, we’ll slow the pace. Although, we have at least 5 years of planned projects. If we don’t get them done, eh … no worries. But, it’s exciting to have a vision for our little paradise.
      We also are all muddied up. Mud breeds patience.

  2. Winter isn’t quite done with us, I guess. I keep telling myself the sun will prevail eventually!
    Impressive amount of work you are doing there, I’m sure the results are going to be worth it.
    Love your photos…my favorites are the streaky clouds (so unusual), the bark and fungi. Lucky you have foxes, they’ll keep the voles down.

    • We had a marvelous sunny, gusty day today. A step forward, a step back–spring is a bit of a dance. And the sun is a total tease. “You love me, I know, but I’m off … I just can’t commit.” This time of year I feel like my seedlings, leaning toward the sun for sustenance. It’s probably just a lack of vitamin D.
      The streaky clouds were unlike any I’d seen before, and they had other little sweepings of curly clouds among them too. Our location, about 15 miles from the coast, seems to put us in the bulls-eye for interesting cloud patterns, where different winds and fronts intersect.
      Until we learn otherwise, we welcome the foxes. They definitely keep down the tick-carrying rodents. And, since we’re putting in young fruit trees in a few weeks, the less voles, the better. Plus, the foxes are fun to watch.

  3. We always have at least one snow in April, but it usually melts fast. But the cold these past few nights has been brutal. Just before these cold air slid down from the arctic, I had well-developed flower buds on my hyacinths; but now they’re all hanging down limply. Probably no hyacinth flowers for me this year. I’m curious about what will happen with the red maple flowers that were just starting to open when the deep freeze hit. I suppose they’ll make new flowers since they hadn’t had time to get these fertilized and begin making seed.

    • My hyacinths likewise look like they’ve been through the wringer. Even my crocuses look battered. Our maples were just starting to bud up when the deep cold hit, so I’m hoping they’ll be fine. My lilac buds look to be bursting with health. I’m just enjoying watching spring unfold here. It’s such a treat to have the time to notice the details. Every morning, Zoe and I do the rounds to check on the gardens, the trees, and the birds. Soon, we’ll add the bees.
      Your classes sound wonderful. I am so impressed with all the opportunities for learning in Maine. I’m going to a MOFGA grafting workshop tomorrow and my final beekeeping class on Sunday. Makes me happy.

    • Yes, we get a bit of everything weather-wise here. Sometimes in the space of a day. It’s not boring. And our sky is an ever-changing wonder. I wish I could take shots of our brilliant night skies.

  4. I’m amazed at how much work you have done. It will all pay off when you have all those fresh vegetables this summer. So sorry the cold weather is holding you up. The turkey and the truck was too funny. We frequently have birds hit our windows but have never had one as big as a woodpecker. Glad he made it.

    • We’re still learning how to slow down in retirement. The work itself has been so enjoyable to us–after decades of working in offices, we are relishing physical work outside. We’re growing a wide array of veggies this year, including some southern cousins like okra and orange and blue sweet potatoes. We’ll see if they make it.
      The turkey was hilarious. He was so curious, looking up, down, to the side, trying to figure out what he was looking at. He pecked a little at the end, but never got very aggressive with his reflection. We don’t get many bird hits, so I was very sad to see that woodpecker sprawled on the lawn. I was amazed that he revived.

  5. Working outside means you are at the mercy of the weather; it looks like you were super-busy before the chill hit. I hope milder times are on their way for you.Gosh, your skies are beautiful, as are the photos of bark and fungi.

    • Aahh, the weather dictates our lives. Better than working indoors, when the weather is irrelevant. Today was milder, but we are still in erratic spring-zone. It keeps us guessing.
      We are continually in awe of our skies. Such skies are somewhat rare in New England, where trees tend to overhang and obscure sky views. The sky is a central part of the beauty of our place and I can’t even begin to capture it. And at night … it’s very clear here and the stars, planets, and Milky Way are glorious.

      • The starry skies here are awesome too – much clearer than in the London suburbs where we lived before. Being in touch with the weather is definitely a good thing😊

  6. Your post hit the nail right on the head! March was a tease, dashed by the cold reality of early April. Hats off to you and George and all the hard work you do. You live in such a beautiful part of Maine.

    • April’s a bit of a tease, too. Mud and wind time. The ravens yesterday were playing on the high winds blowing down the valley. So beautiful.
      It’s not hard work if you’re having fun. And we’re enjoying every second. We’ve wanted to do this for a long time. And, yes, this area is very special. It still feels a little surreal that we ended up in a place so perfect for us.

  7. I guess we declared “winter is over” too soon? No snow here but really cold in ‘the tropics’. My hounds would love those turkeys moving through their backyard 🙂

    I moved my main blog (old blog) back to http://bhounds.blogspot.com and also deleted my old .com domain.

    • Spring is notoriously variable here. We seem to be in full mud season now, which translates as spring. The turkeys are very skittish, so I suspect the hounds wouldn’t see much of them. Enjoy your spring in the “tropics.”

  8. Your property looks beautiful. Will you trim the old apple trees and see what you get? Perhaps reviving an orchard is too much too soon, but who knows what variety they might be? And the bees would like them…

    • Thanks. The apples have been a focal point for our plans. We have about 50 trees scattered throughout the property. Most are wild and there’s a huge variety of sizes, colors and flavors. We have some remarkably tasty ones, but many were pretty scabby, and many are deep in the woods. There are a few trees that we think may have been planted many years ago. We have a local apple guru who specializes in old varieties and may be able to identify them. Our plan is to slowly rehabilitate many of the trees for eating and cider. And the others will be there for winter bird and wildlife feed. Our cleared area reaches a half-ring of trees that had been smothered with other trees and brush. We’ve started pruning them and they make a beautiful bonsai-type apple-scape. They are so beautiful. We’re also planting some new trees, berries, and companion plants, so hope to have a little orchard of sorts.

      • I’m so glad to hear this! And there’s an expert nearby as well. It sound like hard, heavenly work. And some of the old varieties are lovely. Best of luck with all your plans.

  9. What a disappointment the change in weather after getting all geared up and ready for spring. This is such an interesting post Brenda, from the hilarious antics of Tom Turkey, that amazing cloud formation and all those lovely fungus and bark formations. I guess an advantage of the wild weather for us is you get inside time to show us what is going on. Hope the weather settles down soon for you.

    • This morning is glorious, with a spectacular sunrise and the promise of sun and warmth. But, you’re right, if I hadn’t been inside with the nasty weather, I likely wouldn’t have had the time for a blog post! We have a busy few weeks coming up and then things should slow down some.

  10. My old eyes read “strip tease” instead of “spring tease” at first in your opening paragraph! Not something you’d be wanting to do in your chilly weather, that’s for sure. 🙂 Wow, that’s an impressive amount of fungi! I was very amused by your turkey’s reaction to his reflection. i used to have a lot of turkeys when I lived on the farm and their antics could be quite hilarious at times. They seemed to be shocking mothers though – often losing their chicks. Perhaps mine were just a bad bunch. I don’t know if there is a lot of analysis going on in their brains! They made us smile a lot though. 🙂

    • It’s a little early for naked gardening here. Our woods have lots of “mature” trees (think rotting), so it’s a fungi heaven. I love watching our wild turkeys, although they are quite skittish. The Tom is a real strutter, he seems quite impressed with his status. I’m looking forward to seeing the turkey chicks when they hatch. We didn’t see any last summer because the turkeys didn’t show up in our yard until the newbies were adolescents. We have four fox kits in a den that we can see with binoculars from our side window, so we’ve been keeping entertained by the wildlife.

  11. I love woodpeckers, glad yours survived its crash landing. You’re right, they are made of stern stuff. Had to laugh at the turkey, what fun to watch! Chilly weekend here too and now blowing a gale. Hey Ho.

    • That woodpecker looked so dead. I was amazed when it showed signs of life and in awe that eventually it appeared to be no worse for wear. I love woodpeckers, too. Entertaining and tough. We have some gorgeous pileated woodpeckers in our neighborhood, but they haven’t come to the feeder yet.

    • Sizable, yes, in numbers and in body size. Having that many full-sized turkeys cruising in the back yard is a bit bizarre, actually. They make an impressive parade. We hope they are eating ticks as they go. Oddly enough, this Tom seemed more curious than aggressive with his reflection. Perhaps he has a philosophical bent. What am I? What is it? Where am I? Where is it?

  12. I love that expression- ” The wind making the house talk”, we know that only to well! It looks that you have a huge job on your hands, it is amazing how quickly nature takes over. I used to live in a Head Gardeners cottage which was right next to the manor’s walled garden and we tended. Three years after we left someone else took it on and believed it had been left undisturbed for years and years. The fungi looks amazing. We have just heard foxes screeching outside are you ever disturbed by the sounds of wildlife? Sarah x

    • Yes, nature wins! It almost feels as if we are doing an archaeological dig, unearthing the old apple trees that were choked and getting shaded out by trees, brush, and vines. Living in a Head Gardeners cottage and tending the manor’s walled garden sounds like some sort of fantasy. But tough to have it all go wild so soon after you left.
      We haven’t heard the foxes yet but in the fall and early winter we had nighttime coyote howling that would wake us up. The turkeys have been gobbley lately in mating season but mostly we just hear bird song.

  13. I did enjoy the troop of turkeys, and what a silly chap he is attacking his reflection like that. How good it will be to see fox kits….I shall look forward to seeing them. Struth, those stones are huge! What a fantastic job you’ve done clearing that space! It will be great seeing how those ancient apples trees come on. I love old stone wall, our ancestors certainly knew how to build things to last.xxx

    • Lately we’ve been watching five bachelor Toms cruising around the property. They must have been runners up in the alpha male dance off. This is rock country. We have several the size of Volkswagen Beetles in our woods. The fox has four kits and we can see them from our windows. They have been keeping us entertained these past days but I don’t have any good photos yet. I had a splendid opportunity yesterday when the mother and one kit came out of the woods and she groomed and licked it. Unfortunately, I had to take the shots through a window and rain, so they are too blurry to see much.

  14. My goodness , you two are busy!!! Isn’t it great to be out making a dent in those garden/landscape projects!! Love the knitting….and I just put my needles aside, perhaps I will dig them out once more!!

    • I am temporarily sidelined a bit with my twisted ankle, but hoping to head back out there tomorrow. We’re hiving the bees today and I hope to get the first raised bed planted by Monday. This sunny weather is sublime.

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