When we first moved to Maine, someone told us that for five months of the year, it has the best weather in the world. He was right. I cannot imagine more perfect summer days. Warm, breezy, and sunny with enough afternoon thunderstorms to keep everything watered, followed by mellow, thick, golden evening light and then … fireflies.
Last summer was marred by Zoe’s illness and death, so we were not able to really appreciate how magical summer is here. This year is different. The mixture of sun and rain is producing the most magnificent garden vegetables I have ever grown.
The only challenge has been keeping the dogs from chowing down on them.
They especially like to graze on the peas.
Our flowers are blooming like mad, becoming so big and crowded that I am going to have to tackle some serious digging and division this year.
But, right now, I’m enjoying the riotous mish-mash of flowers, including the milkweed that sprung up on its own last year.
I love its fragrance, beauty, and butterfly-value, so it is welcome to stay.
We still have some nestlings, although most of the young birds have flown.
I thought that I spotted some unusual woodpecker with a brilliant orange “W” or “M” mark on its crown.
Turns out it is a juvenile Hairy Woodpecker.
Unfortunately, the aggressive male bluebird continues to plague us and seems to have chased off our beloved swallows. He looks a bit disheveled after hours of window and car attacks but nothing seems to faze him.
He is a gorgeous but such a bully, I’d like to wring his neck. Bluebirds have now joined chipmunks on my “cute but evil” list.
George has been working on the trail system through our woods.
About five acres of our land is wooded and we want to put in trails so that we can cut firewood, tap maples in the spring, and enjoy the woods all year round.
In our first year, George built a loop trail from our front drive to the back garden.
This spring we mapped out several other trails leading off of that one.
He is now working on one that will run around the perimeter of the property. There are some amazing, huge old trees back in there and a few impressive giant boulders.
The bees are thriving this year.
On very hot days, the workers line up near the hive entrance, lift their bee butts, and fan their wings to cool the air.
I have a few vegetable experiments underway. I am growing yellow mustard for seed this year. I will grind some and use some to make our own mustard (I hope).
I am most excited, though, about my small patch of flax. I hope to process it for spinning. It has been maintenance-free so far, with no pests or disease to worry about. And it is sowed thickly that weeds have not been an issue. It’s in full bloom right now and is exquisite, with lovely blue flowers and curving stems.
It anticipate that it will be quite a job to process the flax. The seeds need to be removed and then the stalks must be retted–a soaking process that rots the hardest part of the fibrous stem. After retting, the tough fiber must be removed through a process of breaking, scraping, and combing, which is called “dressing” the flax.
I’ve been on the hunt in antique stores for old flax processing tools. They have medieval names–hatchel (or hetchel, hackle, heckle), scutching sword, retting tub, and ripple. Most places don’t have much familiarity with flax tools. So, I was thrilled yesterday to stumble on a small store in which the owner broke into a large grin when I asked if he had any flax processing tools. After moving various items off a tiny set of back stairs, we climbed into an attic room where he had a collection of a dozen hatchels.
They resemble torture devices and are used for the final combing stage of dressing. Ideally, several hatchels should be used, starting with wide spacing of spikes to very fine spacing. I was thrilled to bring home two.
Capp had his first birthday.
He’s an amazing dog.