May Hap


Maine in May. A morning walk brings a full-on explosion of plant and bird procreation in all its colorful, musical, hustling glory.



No sinful secretive New England Puritan sex here, but an unabashed in-your-face sensory overload of fecundity–mating calls, mating chases, seed-flaunting,


and the perfection of miniature leaves unrolling from their womb buds, still perfect and unmarred by disease or insects.


Birdsong wakes us in the morning and peepers put us to sleep at night.


I love the catbirds, because of their incredible vocal gymnastics and the mourning doves–who travel everywhere as a couple.


Our swooping, gurgling swallows are back.   We weren’t sure they would be because our aggressive male bluebird chased them all off last year. After he harassed us all winter, we took down the nesting boxes in hopes that he would move on. He did.  But not far.  He is now harassing our across-the-street neighbors and launching himself at their windows. He thoughtfully finds time to visit us periodically to attack our cars and windows, just so we know he hasn’t forgotten us.


The female bluebird with the injured foot is back.

We still have lingering cold and the flowers are late to bloom, so the poor hummingbirds have been lining up at our nectar feeder.


The soil has been so cold that I’ve only planted a few vegetables, but we have overwintered parsnips, and green onions and spinach in the cold frame.


Our asparagus is up and in its third year, so we can harvest a decent amount. What a treat to have it fresh out of the garden. We are consolidating our scattered vegetable gardens this year into two big gardens. I’m ridiculously excited about it.


This 1950s tractor has its original engine, without even a rebuild.  It will be drilling our fence post holes.  It’s not ours, but we get to admire it.

There’s something about having fenced-in vegetable beds, with wide walkways–and plenty of room for flowers–that makes my heart happy. I’m growing more flax this year, a dye garden, and trying cotton–a wild experiment. This spring, we planted paw-paws, persimmons, more pears, hazelnuts, goji berries, maypops (passionflower), and mulberries (for silkworms). All of last year’s bushes and fruit trees survived the winter and appear to be thriving.


The peaches are covered with blossoms.


Spreading apple branches.

This is the time of year for morning fog and gathering, cutting and splitting next year’s firewood.


George is constructing an impressive fort of firewood, which we hope will get us through next winter.  We ran out of wood this past winter, with its prolonged cold spells, and had to buy a cord.


We are finally having a garage built this year. We are NOT building it ourselves, thank goodness–we have enough on our plate without a major construction project. George is designing an outdoor sauna to build this summer, which is something I’ve been wanting for years. And he’s continuing with trail building, which makes the dogs very happy. Things are taking shape around here.


I have been spinning and weaving in the evenings and on rainy days and continue to grow my flock of wheels. My latest find was another dusty antique store treasure imprinted with the “Thomson” in the table.


I was thrilled. There was a Thomson family of wheel makers in Massachusetts in the 18th and 19th centuries, headed by the patriarch Archibald, who is reputed to have made the first treadle spinning wheel in this country. They were Scots-Irish from Ulster and, interestingly, George has Thomson ancestors who settled in the same area of Massachusetts a few decades after these Thomsons. An “H” Thomson migrated to Maine at some point, likely around the time of the Revolutionary War, and made beautiful wheels, with simple Shaker-style lines. This wheel looks like one of his, although the “H” is worn off.


Amazingly, the flyer assembly was all intact, although the wooden tension screw was totally frozen. I cleaned her up and finally got the screw unbound.


She is one my sweetest spinners and her wood is exquisite.


There are some gorgeous modern wheels with beautiful wood (that cost a small fortune), but–to me–they just don’t compare to the glowing wood on these old beauties (which go for a song), that has been mellowed by time and the touch of so many hands over hundreds of years.


I also bought a little 19th century tape loom. It’s amazing to think that just a few hundred years ago, every imaginable kind of tie and strap was woven at home on these little looms–often by the youngest and oldest family members.


The loom I bought has a foot pedal that raises and lowers two shafts and has a small beater for fast, efficient weaving. The two shafts are only designed for eight warp threads, which means it was used to weave a very simple straightforward tape.


In fact, the loom likely was used to make lamp wicks, with no design at all. I have been experimenting with putting multiple threads in each heddle and some warps between the heddles, to create a middle shed that I can manipulate with my fingers to make some simple designs. I’m quite enjoying it.


Happy May … and June … and July. At the rate I’m going, it will probably be midsummer before I post again!


33 thoughts on “May Hap

  1. I’m glad you are custodian of those beautiful old spinning wheels … they tell of all the lives and hard work that have gone before us ….and the wood itself is beautiful. Lovely to see your birds and blossoms… Spring must be a double joy after such a long winter.

    • If only these wheels could talk! It amazes me that these incredible old wheels aren’t valued more highly. How many machines–handmade at that–continue to work after hundred of years of use? And each is unique in its design, wood, and the mark of years of use. I just love them and the history they carry with them.
      Spring has been very slow in coming this year. We still have wild swings in temperature to tease us. But, yes, all the explosion of life is very, very welcome.

  2. Good to see your post, Brenda. Hope all is well with you and yours and you weathered the winter. One has to start right in preparing for next year! How many cords do you use each year? We use about 4 cd. (plus gas back-up). We order it in spring and let it dry in the woodshed over summer.
    It has been a slow spring, cool, aside from those 3 warm days earlier this month. Our leaves are all nearly unfurled and the world takes on a totally different look. I am loving all the green – I miss it when it is gone for six months.
    More looms and wheels – you go, girl. The craftsmanship is definitely worthy of admiration. Passion is a beautiful thing!

    • Maybe we should start to measure geography in cords. You live almost a cord farther south than us! We used almost 5 cords this year (also with back up). The previous two winters we used under 4 cords. Some of it wasn’t seasoned as well as it should have been, though. This year, we are making sure that everything is well-seasoned and that we have plenty, no matter what the weather.
      We are busy and well and enjoying the spring weather, fickle though it’s been. I love when the hills are covered with shades of gauzy green and red, from the emerging leaves and maple buds. It’s as lovely as the fall colors, in a different way. And, I’m with you, I crave color at the end of winter!
      I have become quite passionate about spinning and weaving and my old wheels. I had thought I might do a little weaving in retirement, but didn’t expect to become so consumed with the pleasures of creating and collecting. It’s nice that life can still take unexpected turns.

  3. So pleased to see you back, I missed you. I noticed you said 3 years! My how time flies and how busy you have been. I didn’t think paw-paws would grow in your climate, I thought they were tropical. We have some that have popped up from seeds that have been in the compost. Dozens of them germinate but I just let a few grow on, trouble is I can’t tell which is female until they start flowering. The wood in the looms is just beautiful, do you know what it is? Well we are cooling down and coming into our dry season, but will never be as cold as you get, thank goodness. Have a happy and fertile spring. Till next time best wishes

    • I missed you too! I’m happy to have found your new blog.
      Paw paws are a bit of stretch here. They usually grow farther south but can grow up here so I though I’d give them a try. We are on a south/southeast facing hillside and our microclimate is a little warmer here than the lower elevations, so I’m hoping to baby the paw paws along. We’ll see.
      I’m not sure what the wood is on the loom or this particular wheel. Many of the old wheels were made from a combination of oak, cherry, maple, apple, and hickory. I’m not confident enough in my wood identification to say what is what. Something more to learn! I believe that the beautiful tiger-y look to the wood–ray flecks–is made when the wood is quartersawn, bringing the ray cells to prominence. It really looks spectacular in the afternoon sun, when the ray flecks really pop.
      Happy autumn to you Pauline.

  4. And, here I thought I’d been keeping myself busy. You make the rest of us look like slackers. 🙂 That’s an unbelievable amount of projects and an amazing amount of wood. Glad someone else is building the garage. 🙂 Your photos are wonderful, and the plants unfurling just make me smile. Please – don’t stay away that long. Just do a few photos and a couple of sentences to tell us how you and all the projects are doing.

    • Apparently we like to keep busy! We keep saying that we are going to slow down, but we have all these pent up plans that we’ve been dreaming about for years. We’re in heaven, actually.
      I keep going back and forth on whether I want to keep blogging or not. I can’t seem to do short posts!
      I hope that we can get together when you take your train trip. Just let me know what you’d like to do.

    • Thanks Beth. It has been a busy spring and will be an even busier summer. Come fall, though, we will sit back in our porch rocking chairs and relax a little.

  5. I always love seeing a post from you–you inspire me and leave me feeling tired out, just thinking about all you’re doing! The photos capture the glory of spring so perfectly. And, of course, I especially want to hear about the spinning and weaving. Your new wheel is beyond beautiful–how neat that she works so well and that she ended up with you. And that band loom–how do you find these things?? That’s a very cool addition to the “flock”!

    • It’s funny about the wheels–I feel an immediate affinity for some of them and others don’t interest me much. Sort of like people. I connected with this wheel immediately and it makes me want to sing when I spin on her, she’s so easy and responsive . The loom (I knew you’d appreciate it) was one of those auctioned off from the American Textile History Museum. I was intrigued by it and, after buying it, learned a lot about the history of tape weaving from Susan Weaver’s book, “Handwoven Tape,” which is wonderful, if you haven’t seen it. Some of the museum’s other tape looms ended up at Marshfield School of Weaving, which has done some facebook posts showing them. I feel very lucky to have this little loom.

      • Your comments about the wheels and singing made me think of this old Irish song–do you know it?

        I will get that handwoven tape book! Thanks for telling me about it. I have a Glimakra band loom I got at Vavstuga–it has two treadles and 100 texsolve heddles and is a lovely little piece of equipment to take outside under a tree!

      • I hadn’t heard that Irish song before. Thank you. The only spinning/weaving song I know is “Oh, dear me, the mill is running fast … and we poor shifters canna get no rest …” Not a happy view of weaving! I think you’ll enjoy the book–wonderful history and patterns. I have admired the beautiful bands you make on your Glimakra, but you have me thinking that I might be able to add string heddles–maybe Texsolv–to my loom. What do you think?

      • Sure, I think that would work–why not?! But I’m not sure how the beater would work then, if it would pack the weft appropriately. There’s no beater on the loom I have–you use a blunt knife to beat the weft in. Try the string heddles and let me know. And I did order that book–excited!

  6. May, May, May! How I love this month, and your pictures capture the beauty of spring. We, too, ran out of wood. Such a cold winter.

    • It’s been glorious lately, hasn’t it? And there is something especially intoxicating about a northern spring. As if everything has to make up for all those months of dormancy. I feel so fortunate to have ended up in Maine. On the other hand, the wood …. It seemed as if lots of people ran out this year and were scrambling to find some in March.

      • Yes, a very cold winter. But with all the intoxication that May brings, the cold is just a receding memory.

  7. Things certainly are taking shape at your place, all very exciting, especially the plans for the veggie gardens! I think you should build a barn and exhibit those marvelous wheels and other items you have, you could demonstrate the entire process from garden to wheel….you’d make a fortune! Loving your birds, oh, your poor neighbours inheriting crazy bird, if only he would forget to visit you! Lovely seeing the injured bird surviving the winter and always lovely seeing the pups. Always great to catch up on your paradise!xxx

    • A barn! Oh, we’d love a barn … But it’s not to be. And, don’t give us any ideas! We have had such a late spring that all the garden planting is hitting at once. So, we’re keeping busy. The dogs are becoming good little farm dogs, curious about everything we’re doing. Now we just need chickens and a cat and some sheep (not really, we’re sticking with dogs) … No peahens, though.

  8. Your having a marvelous May! I would love to have the space to have that arrangement with the enclosed vegetable beds. When we retire we will get a plot at the community garden. Good luck with the garage! That’s the kind of project that makes me very nervous.

    • I have had some wonderful plots at community gardens over the years. I really enjoyed being part of garden community and seeing the wildly different approaches that people take to their gardens. But I have wanted a vegetable garden like this almost all my life–since I was a teenager, believe it or not. It’s all the sweeter for the wait. Every morning when I inspect the troops, I marvel that I now have the vegetable playground that I have imagined for so long.
      As for the garage, I know what you mean. Fingers crossed that it goes smoothly.

  9. Fascinating post. I haven’t visited for ages (sorry) and had forgotten how clear your photos are. Love the shot of the birds on the car bonnet (hood). Neat way of getting fence posts in – provided you have room for a tractor (we don’t). And you’re right about that old wood – it is simply beautiful.

    • Thanks so much for your comment. I’m afraid I haven’t been blogging or checking other blogs much recently. We are fully immersed in summer here and I’m outside as much as possible. And, yes, we have come to fully appreciate the wonders of tractors!

    • Welcome! I’m so busy rescuing and repairing spinning wheels, weaving, processing flax, gardening, walking dogs and on and on, that I haven’t had time for blogging in months. Maybe I’ll get back to it this winter. Do you have an old spinning wheel that you are repairing? I’m happy to answer questions but the best resource for repair questions is one of the Ravelry spinning wheel groups–Antique Wheels, Working Wheels, CPWs, or Spindle Wheels–depending on what kind of wheel you have.

  10. I read this post in May when you published it but thought I’d stop by again today to look at your two great dogs. I bet they really enjoy the property you live on and all those trails being made.

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