As usual, summer whirled by. We took on too much, but are feeling the sweet satisfaction of transforming our slice of hillside into our long-dreamed-of ultimate home. It feels good.
George capped off a summer of building projects by finishing the sauna. He put an amazing amount of time, thought, and work into it. And it’s a beautiful creation, with gorgeous wood inside and out, nestled in the trees, promising hours of bliss—soaking in heat, hot cedar fragrance, and the flickering light of the woodfire.
To accompany the sauna, George also built a deluxe outdoor shower.
There’s nothing like watching eagles soaring overhead while showering. Getting clean has never been so sweet.
While George was busy building, the butterflies moved in.
We were besieged by monarchs. In their caterpillar incarnation they ate our milkweed to desolate skeletons, every tender bit devoured.
We were fortunate to catch the moment of metamorphosis from caterpillar to chrysalis while the grandchildren were here.
I hope it didn’t give them nightmares of alien transformations.
Lots of writhing and pulsing, as a massive chrysalis (where did that incredible hulk come from?) shed the vivid caterpillar skin, leaving a shriveled bit of tissue-paper debris in a matter of minutes.
By August, Monarch chrysalises were hanging everywhere—from perennial stalks, siding, windowsills, and even a wheelbarrow.
As good hosts, we left them alone—no cutting back of perennials or bumpy wheelbarrow rides during chrysalis-hood. On the final day before butterfly emergence, the chrysalis becomes a deep blue, with wings and colors visible.
But the actual emergence is very fast—it’s over in minutes. Although I kept on eye on ripe ones, I kept missing the magic moment. I finally camped out on our deck steps shelling tiger beans, next to a chrysalis looking about to burst, determined to wait until the moment of emergence.
After about an hour, there was a sudden twitch and the chrysalis listed to one side.
Then, in an eerie similarity to the caterpillar-chrysalis transformation, in minutes the butterfly shed the chrysalis and burst out—BOOM—into a crumbled color of wings with an outsized body.
After a few hours drying, it was off, feasting on nectar for the migration south.
Some evenings more than a dozen would be dancing over our Joe Pye Weed.
They stayed well into October. I hope they made it to Mexico.
It was a good summer for growing—monarchs, flowers, and vegetables.
The gardens produced wonderfully and I swear the vegetables get tastier every year.
In the summer, we filled the greenhouse with tomatoes, cotton, a fig tree, passion fruit vines, bay laurel, herbs, turmeric and ginger.
Now it’s also planted with greens for fall, winter, and spring. I’m looking forward to seeing how much it extends the season for us.
The dogs and bees are thriving, too. Capp appears to have recovered completely from his mystery illness last year, which is such a relief.
He and Alice are our best buddies, making us rich in love and dog hair.
My adopted bees settled in beautifully and are going into fall as the strongest hive I’ve ever had. I’ll wrap the hive next month and hope they make it through the winter.
Much of my summer was textile-related—most of it outdoors.
I went to two natural dyeing workshops, washed fleeces, spun a lot of wool for dyeing, worked on wheels, grew and retted flax, and taught a class on antique wheels. In late summer, I set up my outdoor dye kitchen for two dyeing sessions, using plants from my dye garden and our land.
What a range of colors emerged: blues from Japanese Indigo and Woad; yellows from Weld, Goldenrod, and Queen Anne’s Lace; gold and orange from Dyer’s Coreopsis; and green from overdyeing the yellows with the blues.
There’s a wonderful sense of witchy-ness in hovering over a brew of plants transforming them to potions of color.
I was so busy with outside activities that I had little time for weaving. In September, however, an antique wheel friend offered to sell me her Leksand loom, a beautiful 19th century Swedish loom for weaving bands. I was thrilled.
They are very hard to find and really fun to use. It took some time to figure out how to set it up and weave on it–all the helpful books were in Swedish. I also rescued an old Maine tape loom that had been covered with 70s-era painted flowers and have a line-up of spinning wheels waiting for my repairs.
Last week I finally warped up my big loom.
It’s still too beautiful, though, to spend much time inside. The leaf colors are spectacular this fall.
But, winter is coming.
And I plan to be a recluse—home with George, dogs, snow, wheels, spinning, sewing, and weaving. And the sauna, of course.