Something Other Than Dogs

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This past year was dog-dominated.  Zoe’s illness and death, building a dog fence, searching for a pup and adult dog—we had eleven months straight of thinking about dogs.  But now our little pack is complete again.

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Our house feels satisfyingly full of life and just right.  We can finally can turn our full attention to other things—and bring the dogs along.

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So, here we are, heads full of outside projects and bodies eager for physical work–primed and ready to go.  Only to be thwarted by weather.  Last year, March found us pruning, moving our raised beds, digging drainage, and preparing for planting.

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Last March

Not this year.

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This March

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Closer up, the little swale is solid ice.

March has been kind of a brat.  The deep snow from our February storms lingered for weeks.

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By the time March pranced in, all lamb-like and sweet, it was mostly melted.  The soft air, smelling of new growth, lasted for two brief days before we descended into an icebox.

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Lilac buds before the cold

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Sticky pine buds

Not a surprise.  March in Maine is notorious for weather extremes.  And, sure enough, after the first cold, mild weather returned, which combined with longer daylight teased us for a few days into thinking that spring might be approaching.  I walked the property looking for the emergence of some of the bulbs that I planted last fall.  Not a one.  I was disappointed, but not for long, because temperatures plummeted again giving us the coldest weather that we’ve experienced since we moved to Maine.

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New poppy growth on the south side of the house had emerged and then got zapped by the cold.

The temperature kept dropping  after we got up yesterday until it hit 4 below zero (Fahrenheit) mid-morning, with screeching winds, driving wind-chills to about 25 below.

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Perhaps the bulbs knew better than to poke their delicate stems into an impending arctic blast.   If my bees were still alive, I would be very worried about them surviving these extreme variations in temperature.

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Unhappy rhododendrons

This late deep chill cannot be easy on our local wildlife.  The ground is frozen solid and any emerging shoots have had all succulence stripped by the cold.  We have seen a few signs of the fox near last year’s den, but our fenced-in area comes much closer to the den now, so I suspect the fox will not be raising its kits there this year.  We have had plenty of rabbit tracks in our woods, but very little sign of deer this winter.

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Therefore, we were surprised when, during the warm spell, we saw a dead deer, lying about twenty feet off of the road in a field on the hillside down our road toward town.  It was a full-sized adult and had already been partially eaten by some largish animal.  We suspected coyotes, but there weren’t evident tracks and little sign of a struggle.

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Lots of deer tracks on the roadside but no coyote tracks

A neighbor had seen a deer the day before that had seemed “not quite right,” so we wonder if it had been grazed and injured by a car and then easily taken down by a coyote or, perhaps just died on its own.  We did hear coyotes howling the next night, for the first time all year, right below our property.  In any case, the deer carcass attracted eagles, which hunkered in the large trees lining the field, overlooking the bolder crows and ravens.  The smaller birds cawed and called at the eagles, flying up to the trees near them, whether to try to warn them off or not, I don’t know, but it was fascinating to watch.

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Immature bald eagle.  He was huge.

The cold is not all bad.  It has given me time to finish up my indoor winter projects.  Spring cleaning—ugh, I hate housework—is underway.  And I finished my kaleidoscope quilt.

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The quilt is made of fabrics that reflect our life here in Maine—foxes, birds, cows, the ocean, the sky, garden flowers and vegetables, wild flowers and plants, apples, bees—all in there, in little triangular pieces, forming larger circle-like kaleidoscope designs.

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New potholders from the quilt scraps.  That’s a stuffed opossum on the floor, not a dead animal.

Now that the quilt is finished, the sewing area–with a bank of southern-facing windows—will be converted to our seedling nursery.

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I started onions and leeks two weeks ago and am planting celery, chard, lettuce, and herbs today.  Last year I used a variety of pots for the seedlings—peat, plastic, and yogurt cups.  The best planters by far were gallon water jugs.  I poked drainage holes with scissors and cut around the middle.  I left a hinged area last year, but probably will cut off the hinges as I plant more this year, because the hinged tops take up too much room.

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Little greenhouses

I left the tops down, cloche-like, when I wanted an extra green-house effect and lifted them up when it got hot and moist.  I had read about this method on-line and decided to give it a try.  They worked brilliantly.  I didn’t need a heat mat or grow lamps.  Granted we get a lot of sun in our windows, but the greenhouse effect of the bottle really made a difference in heating the soil.  When it’s time to harden off, again the tops serve to heat the soil and protect the plants from wind when they are set outside.  They transplant easily and I had no problems with damping off (I did with some of the peat pots).  I was converted and will be using only water jugs this year.

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While it feels like mid-winter outside, the chickadees’ sweet mating calls continue, and we have warm soil and seedlings inside.  Happy March.

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43 thoughts on “Something Other Than Dogs

  1. Yes, March in Maine is temperamental, and all Mainers dread this month.But oh those dogs and oh that quilt! And with the deer, the drama of life and death is writ large.

    • So, what do you think we’ll get next week, Laurie? A huge snow dump or a fizzle? March is good for us, no? It reminds us that flexibility and a sense of humor go a long way toward enjoying and appreciating our lives.

      • Yes, March reminds us to be humble, that Mother Nature is very much in charge and that winter isn’t done with us yet 😉 For central Maine, it sounds as though it will be an average snowstorm. And, because the weather is so cold, the snow shouldn’t be wet and heavy. A silver lining to every cloud. I’ll be waiting to hear how the storm is your way.

  2. Love the photo of your two pups resting. 🙂 The quilt is gorgeous. Congrats on such a beautiful piece of work. Love your creativity with your jugs – way to go. Now, the weather – what a topic. We about froze yesterday with that wicked wind. Today is not much better, and then we’ll be buried in snow on Tuesday. Spring is not ready to arrive just yet. 🙂

    • The pups take turns as head rests. They have become fast friends.
      Thanks for your kind words on the quilt. My piecing and quilting don’t stand up to examination by a real quilter, but I don’t care. If I was particular in getting things perfect in quilting, I wouldn’t enjoy it. I made this quilt just as I wanted–with lots of color and fabrics that I loved–and the whole process was pure pleasure for me.
      I have been thinking of you coming back from your interlude down south to this frigid welcome home. Ouch. But it will make spring that much more welcome. Patience, patience.

  3. Your weather sounds simply hideous! I hope the rest of your spring growth pulls back until it warms up for good. Just lovely seeing those happy pups, and wow, what a fabulous quilt. Another great post, how I always enjoy my visits here.xxx

    • Oh my, hideous may be a bit extreme! Variable and fickle, yes. Cold, very cold, yes, as well. But the sun has been shining and the birds singing, so it feels like we are on the cusp of spring. I am glad that you enjoy your visits here. I feel the same about visits to your world. Isn’t blogging lovely?

      • Hahaha….yes, maybe a little over-the-top, but after so much sunshine a slight breeze seems cold to me. Actually, I love snow, much better than grey, rainy days, we have far too amny of them here. Ah yes, blogging is indeed lovely.xxx

  4. I would say that this March is more typical than last March, but who knows with climate change. I’m hoping that this week’s nor’easter will be winter’s last blast. I’m impatient for spring.

    • I am trying to view the impending storm as some nice spring fertilizer. I also am impatient for spring. I love winter and was fine with the cold until about a week ago. But then, the spring bird song really hit and my gardening fingers started to tingle. We are so full of planting plans for this year, I cannot wait to get out there.

  5. Lovely post, you have given a real sense of your place. I follow quite a few blogs from the US and now have a nice big map in my study to show me where everyone lives! I see Maine is just about as far north as you can get…no wonder it is so cold. I love your quilt too, also the fact that it reflects you life in Maine. Hope those gorgeous dogs keep you smiling…

    • I used to live in Alaska, which is way, way farther north than Maine! Much darker and colder, so Maine seems mild in comparison. Still, when the days get longer, I start to yearn to spend my days outside. Soon. But, in the meantime, we are supposed to get a freak snowstorm tomorrow with up to two feet of snow. The dogs will love it, and will keep me smiling.

      • well you are very hardy if you have lived in Alaska ! However, every place has its beauty, especially if you are there for all the seasons I think.

  6. Brrrrrr. That does look cold. Your quilt is beautiful and I do love the idea for mini greenhouses. I hope Spring finds you soon and the cold hasn’t done too much damage. It’s tough enough being a gardener sometimes. Even harder if you’re a critter struggling to survive.

    • I suspect that the cold won’t do too much damage to our plants because they haven’t sent out much new growth yet. But we will see. The real worry is for folks farther south, because they are weeks ahead of us in buds and flowers and about to get hit with a massive snow storm. I really feel for farmers who are the mercy of weather vagaries for their livelihood.

  7. I’m pleased the pack is complete again. There are some lovely images here, Brenda, especially the elegance of the twisted wire and the plants standing up in the snow; and I like the quilting

  8. What a lot of good stuff you have packed into this post! SO much to comment on–I’m sure I’ll miss something. The dogs are so handsome and it must make you happy to have them, loving each other and you. And your quilt is great! I love the sense of movement with a kaleidoscope quilt and the look of curves created by straight lines. Your photos capture this time of year perfectly–all the contradictions in activities and weather. Good luck with the storm that’s a-comin’ our way.

    • Thanks Kerry. I really had fun with all of the colors and patterns in this quilt. Now that it is done, I will take advantage up the upcoming storm to do a little spinning. We are gathering wood, collecting our candles, oil lamps, wine, edible treats, and books so that we will be ready for the storm. Bring it on–and good luck to you (do you get extra snow over there on Lake Champlain?)–stay warm and dry.

    • We will have plenty of time to get things planted–I hope! Are you getting this winter storm down there Beth? If so, has it done much damage to your plants?

      • We went from short sleeves on Saturday to having a fire in the fireplace on Sunday. All the azaleas are blooming and my dogwood is blooming but the temps haven’t gotten below 40. So far the plants seem to be ok. It’s supposed to get colder later in the week. This time of year we never know what to wear.

  9. You impress me with your industriousness! The quilt is impressive – looks like it must have taken weeks and weeks.
    I think your plastic jug cloches are brilliant and from the photos look quite successful.
    I am reading a book about a study of ravens in Maine (coincidentally) and learned that flocks of ravens can eliminate a deer carcass quite rapidly, so it is possible that explains why you saw no coyote tracks. Apparently, they call in other predators to help open up a new carcass. It is pretty interesting to read about their behavior.
    Glad the dogs have become fast friends and you’ve all settled in together. Dogs do make a house a home. 🙂
    Hope the blizzard tomorrow is kind to you!

    • Ha. I don’t feel particularly industrious. I keep putting off the spring cleaning! Quilting, for me, is winter hibernation activity–time to think and work slowly. The plastic jugs worked beautifully for me last year. Such a simple idea–and inexpensive.
      What book on ravens are you reading? One of Heinrich’s? Perhaps the raven that so interested me was encouraging the eagle to join them. He kept going over near the eagle on the tree and repeatedly calling to the it with the same call. It didn’t sound like the raven was warning him off. For some reason, I felt as if he was communicating that I wasn’t a threat. Maybe that was the case. I love corvids–so smart and fun-loving.
      If I didn’t know better, I would say that this morning’s weather points to a lovely day! It feels like spring with warm, moist air and light cloudiness. But apparently we are about to get buried.

      • Yes, it is Bernd Heinrich – you know his work? Corvids are smart and so fascinating to me. (Social structures always interest humans, of course!) The research he is doing in this book (Ravens in Winter) is whether they ‘yell’ to bring others in to share the bounty or to overwhelm the resident ravens’ territory. Nerdy science is right up my alley. 😉
        Of interest to me is how the weather has changed since 1986, it was so cold and snowy in early winter, something we really don’t see as much lately (excepting today, of course!). Hope you don’t get too walloped by this one.
        I’m sitting here with the wood stove going, classical music playing, looking out the window ~ it is wildly beautiful. Stay warm!

      • I have been meaning to read Heinrich’s book, “One Wild Bird at a Time,” but haven’t gotten to it yet. We are getting walloped, as I write. It is impossible to tell how much snow we have because the wind is scouring it all away. Wildly beautiful.

  10. That quilt is stunning–and so nice and bright. You’ve got lots going on–and the milk jug cloth is a really good idea. I love the look of your seedling nursery. It looks like the dogs are pals now. I hope you don’t get all the snow that’s predicted. Perhaps it’s the last blast of winter–like an angry person leaving the room after an outburst.

    • Thank you! I didn’t get next set of seedlings planted yesterday, so it looks as if I’ll be planting inside today while a blizzard swirls around outside. The forecasts have been all over the place as to how much snow is expected here. I just hope we don’t lose power.

    • It was so nice of Sarah to mention my blog. She must have really liked Tracey Chevalier! I’m happy that you checked it out and that you left a comment. Thank you. Your blog is wonderful and has been added to my list.

      • I really did like Tracey Chevalier, 3 of her stories I have read have also had a Dorset connection. I’m glad that others have followed me here! Sarah x

  11. I hope the snowstorm that is forecast for the north-east US this week doesn’t bury you in even more snow, Brenda. It was mentioned on our weather news yesterday here in the UK! I’m sure you’re itching to get outside and get started but you’re obviously keeping busy indoors – great idea to use those cartons as pots. And you’re quilt! Wow. What a beauty. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Love the photo of your two pups asleep together in the sun. It’s great that they have bonded so well. Take care and keep warm. Sam x

    • Thank you Sam. We are waiting for the snow to start. The weather was lovely when we woke this morning, but has clouded up and looking a bit ominous now. You are right–everything in me wants to get outside. The apple trees are crying out, “prune me, prune me.” But, alas, the weather is mocking me–“stay inside and get your house clean, lady–no excuses now.”

    • We had two fully mature eagles on the first day. I guess they had first pickings. Then this youngster moved in and hung around for several days. The poppy leaves are good weather indicators, aren’t they? These grow against the house with a sunny southern exposure and pop up early. Poor babies, they suffered some major frostbite this year. It was serious cold and right now we are in a blizzard.

    • Thank you Tom. I enjoyed making it. It is very satisfying to finish. I’m usually ready to be done, especially with wrestling the enormous thing around a little sewing machine for the final quilting. At the same time, I also feel at bit like I’ve sent a child off to school. Working on it day after day for weeks, it takes on a certain presence and I almost miss its company.

  12. Wow it’s amazing seeing that eagle so close to your home. Your quilt looks beautiful and looks as if it has been approved by the dogs. I heard about the storm heading your way, I hope it wasn’t too bad by the time it reaches our shores it’s impact has luckily reduced. Sarah x

    • We actually get quite a few eagles, especially in the spring, when they come in to fish our little local river. Thank you for the compliment on the quilt, the dogs did a thorough inspection and snuggled in. We had a real blizzard that has left us with plenty of snow on the ground for the first day of spring. Patience is the watchword here. Wait, wait, wait, while the snow drip, drip, drips.

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