One Full Circle

It has been a year since we moved to Maine. Four seasons on our hillside–a busy, satisfying time, learning about our new home and making it ours.  Our largest project was clearing a patch of land below our lawn, opening it up to a ring of gnarly wild apple trees that had been concealed by brush and saplings.

It looked like this when we moved in:


You can just see the blossoming tops of the apple trees, obscured by brush and small trees.


Now garden beds.

A year later:IMG_0297


Two of the beautiful old apples in the ring revealed by the clearing.


Looking across the newly-planted gardens from the hive area.

The cleared space is a work in progress. We still have brush to burn and stumps to pull. But we have put in eight raised beds, an asparagus patch,


Our first asparagus shoot.

strawberries, two separate rows of tomatoes, a compost bin and a potato patch. Still to come this year are a corn patch, and hills of squash and melons.


I love strawberries.

The area between the beds has been planted with grass and clover, which is just coming up.


This jack-in-the-pulpit sprung up near the end of the herb garden.

We have three stone rings planted with annuals. They weren’t planned exactly, but rather grew up around stones too large to remove. Eventually we will build them up into real stone-walled planters and will put in a stone-flagged seating area and firepit.  There’s no shortage of stones.  But, that’s for later.

Perhaps my favorite area is the bee yard.

Here it was last year:IMG_0414

And now:


The hive and herb garden in the afternoon sun.

We plan to add another hive next year. There is more than enough forage to sustain several hives, if I can just ferry the bees through mites and other bee hazards and keep them alive over the winter. IMG_0396Right now the apple blossoms are in full bloom and the bees seem to be ignoring everything else. IMG_0383IMG_0385IMG_0419IMG_0388.jpgIMG_0392A quick hive check last week showed that the hive is progressing well, despite cold and wet weather at the start. IMG_0111The bees have drawn comb in most of the top box and the queen appears to be laying plenty of brood.


This shows how the bees draw out the comb–from flat foundation on the lower right gradually building to drawn comb on the upper left.


Still drawing comb in this frame.


The comb that you can see in this frame is fully drawn and we could see eggs, larvae and some capped brood–all the phases of the brood cycle.  You can see a squished bee at the edge of the box that I must have mashed when we were last in the hive, checking to see that the queen had been released.  And I was so careful!

Even though we don’t have farm animals (unless the bees count) it’s starting to feel like the little farm we long envisioned. Our neighboring cows provide the farm fragrance, along with the lilacs. IMG_0044.jpgIMG_0535.jpg

And like gardeners and farmers everywhere, we keep an eye on the weather.  We need rain.


It looks lush, but it’s very dry.



In the dry weather, I’ve been having to clean and fill the birdbath at least once a day. The big  bluejays are messy bathers.  This cardinal looks like he’s telling me that it’s time for a refill.

Despite our lack of rain, our vegetables are coming along.  Radishes and lettuce should be ready for harvest this week.  The chives are flourishing.IMG_0472
Our little orchard is doing beautifully. Except for one hazelnut (which may or may not be dead), all of the fruit trees and berries that we planting are thriving. And I am ridiculously proud that all of the apple grafts that I muddled together at the workshop this spring were successful! IMG_0578At first I thought that only two grafts took, which would have meant that I was a dismal grafting failure. But, slowly, one tree at a time, buds swelled on the grafted scions and then little leaves popped out. If I can keep deer and other critters from munching on them, we will have nine more old heritage varieties to add to our orchard. IMG_0504
Our bluebirds are vigilantly protecting their nest.   They successfully fended off the swallows and chased away a house wren that set up phony nests in two of other bird houses.


It took the wren a while to figure out how to get this stick inside.

I like the wrens (tail wagging and singing), IMG_0146but apparently they sometimes rob other nests and the bluebirds and goldfinches were quite aggressive in going after them. IMG_0359


Although I suspect the tea cup flowers are roses, I’ve always thought of them as apple blossoms.  The finch in the apple is as close as I’ll likely get to reproducing this tea cup scene.

George built a beautiful cedar table to go with our outside bench IMG_0601.jpgand he’s about to build a ramp for Zoe, who turned twelve this spring. She has some neuropathy and arthritis that is making it hard for her to climb stairs. She’s slowing down, sweet girl, but loves it here. It’s a good place to grow old.IMG_0639

43 thoughts on “One Full Circle

  1. Ahhhh, Zoe looks so young, bless her! What a lot you have achieved in a year, such hard work but stunning results! I do like your aged apple trees, all those marvelous birds and that gorgeous table! It’s fascinating reading about your bees, they certainly do seem to be thriving. What fun to think about a second

    • Zoe’s a pup at heart, but is starting to feel her age in her limbs. We had a push this year because we wanted to get things in that take some years to get going–bees, berries, asparagus, mushrooms, fruit trees. Now that those are going, we can pull back a little on the work. But, we are so enjoying it, and full of plans for the next five years or so!

  2. What a wonderful post with terrific photos! You two (three) are really settling in up there. And yes, you have quite a little farm going. I am jealous of your cardinals (none here) and at first I thought your purple bushes were buddleia, but no…I believe they are lilacs. We grow them here, of course, but they are nothing like back east where you have cold winters. Your bees look not only busy but happy. So glad you are doing this while you are still more mobile than I am at this point. We are at opposite ends of living experiences. We just adopted out our two cats (they were never bonded to us) and we will be hitting the road again soon. While I have gardens, they will be nothing like we had in the past, both so we can travel and because I just can’t do as much bending anymore. I loved this post. Thanks xoxoxo

    • We have settled in here so happily and are spreading roots all the time. Believe me, those are enormous, lush, fragrant, Maine lilacs. I am thankful to whoever planted them. We’d like to put in more.
      We decided to invest these years in our little (very little) farm for the very reason you identified. We are still mobile enough to do it. It’s something we’d always dreamed of, so–now, or never. I suspect that as we become even creakier, we will pull back on the gardening and travel more. We’ve always adjusted our life, on the fly, to do whatever works best for us then and there. I’m looking forward to seeing where your travels take you. I hope you’ll visit us.

  3. Another fabulous post! I’m so impressed by your grafting success – that’s great, well done. And the bees are happy. And all your veg. And the nesting birds. It’s all going on at your place. And that table – gorgeous. You all seem to be thriving 🙂 Have a lovely weekend x

    • Thanks Sam. The grafting success may be going to my head. I feel like a midwife or something–birthing these little apple babies. But it was a bloody birth–put a sharp knife in my hand and I’m sure to cut myself.
      The table is gorgeous. We will be resting our wine glasses on it while we watch the birds. Sweet.

    • We are starting to slow things down for summer. Zoe enjoyed the big pat. She will appreciate the ramp. We put one in some years ago for our old golden retriever, Duncan, who had similar issues. It makes such a difference. We may need one ourselves, one of these days.

    • Heavenly it is. We’ve never had anything close to this kind of space, sun, and weather for gardening, so it’s a playground for us. If our bodies hold out, we’ll be good!

  4. What a wonderful post showing all the hard work you guys have done since moving to Maine. Congrats on all your successes. And, here’s hoping Zoe likes her new ramp. When our Collie got older she had a lot of trouble with the stairs, and it broke my heart. 🙂 Have a safe and fun weekend.

    • Thanks Judy. I’m sure Zoe will appreciate the ramp. It’s very difficult to see her struggle with the stairs. Tough to see our beloved dogs get old. Happy weekend to you. Enjoy your new trailer at the lake!

  5. An impressive amount of work you two have done! The apple trees must be happy to have the place to themselves again now that you’ve ousted the squatters. 😉 Apple blossom honey is one of my favorites, but I expect you won’t harvest until the end of the summer? I love your long scenic view and George’s table – he did a very nice job!

    • We’re gradually pruning and feeding the old apples throughout our land. It will be interesting to see how they respond. I likely won’t harvest any honey with this first year hive, but will leave it for them to overwinter. We should have honey next year. I’ll pass on your compliments to George. It really it a gorgeous table.

  6. How satisfying it is to look back on the beginning. You have achieved so much. This is a post that is a credit to all your hard work and dedication. What amazingly busy bees working along side you, your fruit trees should produce in abundance. That table George made is a masterpiece and a great place to carefully put the evening glass of wine as the sun goes down. You mention being very dry. What sort of rain patterns do you get? At the moment we are moving into our dry season and already I am having to water regularly. Thankfully I only have a smallish garden. Yesterday the autumn winds arrived, a bit later than normal, as next week it will officially be winter!!! Lovely photo of dear old Zoe. Yes this is the perfect place for her to retire in.

    • It’s been a good year for us. This has been our dream for many years. So it’s thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying to be able to dig in. The bees and apples make a good combination don’t they? And George’s table already is getting a workout. We placed a bench on the west side of the house, where we get late afternoon sun. Perfect for watching the birds, a good book, and a glass of wine. We don’t have dry and wet seasons as you do, rather precipitation generally is scattered throughout the year, with some months drier than others. This has been an unusually dry spring. We’ve been several weeks without any real rainfall. So, I’ve been having to water regularly too, especially with all the planting I’ve been doing.

      • Our seasons should be dry winter, wet summer, but they have been a bit topsy turvy these past few years, like many countries

    • Thank you Beth. First harvest will be tonight. Lettuce, mustard greens and radishes for salad. Zoe is showing her age, but she always has that lab enthusiasm for life’s doggy pleasures.

    • I hope that soaking is headed our way. We are flirting with thunderstorms, but all have bypassed us so far. We won’t be able to harvest any asparagus for a couple of years. Something to look forward to.

  7. So much to love about this post. Very glad you and your husband decided to settle in Maine. How lovely your place is, and what nice improvements you have moved. Always enjoy seeing pictures of darling Zoe, and I love, love, love that tea cup! Yes, we need rain. After Sunday, I hope, so that Clif can grill bread outside 😉

    • Thank you Laurie. I am so glad we settled here. I cannot imagine that we could have a found a place somewhere else that we would have loved anywhere near as much as we love it here. It just fits us well. Isn’t the tea cup lovely? It’s part of set that my mother gave me many years ago, but I don’t remember anything about its history. My mother’s family had apple orchards for generations in Connecticut, so perhaps it was my grandmother’s–if someone else thought that the flowers looked like apple blossoms.

      • How wonderful that you found exactly the right place! I must admit, I’m feeling covetous of that tea cup 😉

  8. Congratulations on your one-year anniversary of becoming Mainers. I was sitting on my porch today marveling at what a magical place this is and how lucky I am to be here. For me, as for Zoe, a wonderful place to grow old.

  9. Isn’t it lovely to look back on how far you’ve come? Blogging has given me the discipline to record my progress and it is quite surprising sometimes just how much we achieve, when often it doesn’t feel like it at the time. Congratulations on your first year and best wishes for many more!

    • Thanks so much Jessica. It is nice to have a record of what we have done. It’s the main reason I decided to continue blogging after our road trip. Because you are absolutely right that blogging imposes a discipline to record, observe, and reflect on just what we’re doing. I’m glad that your ankle is doing better. I’m 2 weeks between yoga sessions and feeling creaky.

  10. I have enjoyed the update on all you’ve done and you have achieved so much in a year. I’m fascinated by your bees, of course. They do look quite calm and I’m glad they’re doing well. It’s lovely to see them foraging on the apple blossom. I hate squashing them as well when I put the hive back together – it does upset me.
    I love the wren trying to get the stick into the box! And gorgeous Zoe – Harry here is 12 and is getting a bit stiff in the legs, too.

    • I cannot get enough of bees. What is it about them? I have a lovely calm hive, which is nice, since I haven’t kept bees in decades. The apple trees were so full of bees that you could hear them from quite some distance. Made me happy. How are your bees doing? We’re in a bit of a drought here and I’m worried about the nectar flow!! But there are blooms aplenty. Our birds have been a constant source of entertainment. We put up a new box and the swallows took up housekeeping. Give Harry a scratch behind the ears for me.

    • Thank you Cynthia. I appreciate your kind words. It has been a busy year and we keep thinking that we will slow things down a bit. But then another intriguing project arises, and another … Still, we are trying to tackle them in a more leisurely manner now. Congratulations on your new book! Talk about satisfying–it must feel very sweet to finally hold it–all newly printed–in your hands.

      • Glad to hear you are tackling the projects in a more leisurely manner. (That sounds most grown-up!) Thanks for your congratulations. It’s a great feeling to see the finished book. Still surprising, too.

    • It’s been a fun year and we’re learning a lot. We also have a lot of new projects on deck! The bees have been a delight. Managing them will get trickier later in the summer, when the mites likely will move in.

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