Visits

It was a memorable spring for visits.  The most remarkable was a visiting snowy owl, whose magnificent presence mesmerized our neighborhood for several weeks in April and May. 

We have had snowy owls on our hill in the past.  But only glimpses for a day or two.  This spring, he stuck around, patrolling from house, to house, to farm, taking advantage of the rodent-rich year.  He usually spent his nights across the street at the house highest on the hill. 

In the mornings, he would move to our side of the road, at various hunting stations, and usually concluded the day at the high peak of our next-door neighbor’s roof, seemingly content to just sit. 

Everyone in the neighborhood tracked his whereabouts, traded photos, and speculated about why he was staying so long.  He was not at all shy and did not seem to mind having people or dogs around. 

Sitting on a rock on our back yard.

But after two visiting photographers stalked him one day, he packed up and left, presumably for summer on the tundra.

Perched in our big back yard oak

In the meantime, we had a lot going on.  In April, we finally had our kitchen redone.  It had cheap oak cabinets and dark formica countertops that we had long wanted to replace. 

We had debated expanding the kitchen or opening it to the living room, but eventually decided to leave the layout the way it was.  It is a great kitchen for cooking—very compact, efficient, and cool in the summer. 

We did need more storage, so put in additional cabinets under the island and along one wall.  We love to cook and now it is such a joy to be in the kitchen with everything just where we want it.   My favorite addition is the table George built for one wall. 

The top is from a cherry tree from our land and is simply gorgeous. 

After the kitchen was completed, in May, I drove to Pennsylvania to visit museums and antique wheel collectors. 

The Germanic buildings at Ephrata Cloister, a religious settlement requiring celibacy, scant meals, and sleeping on narrow benches.

The drive down was hair-raising—torrential rain on highways clogged with 18-wheelers (there seem to be a lot more trucks on the road since covid hit).  I vowed never to drive through New Jersey again, but it was worth it.  

Ephrata Valley wheels and a tape loom

People who collect antique wheels have developed a “railroad” system of volunteers who transport wheels when traveling.  I railroaded a car-load of New England wheels to Pennsylvania and exchanged wheels there with another railroader from Michigan.  So, we moved some mid-western wheels to New England (where they are hard to find) and vice-versa

Landis Valley Farm Museum in Lancaster

We both met up with two other wheel enthusiasts for tours we had arranged of the textile equipment at Ephrata Cloister and the Landis Valley Farm museum. 

A tape loom in the Landis Valley Museum collection

I spent another amazing day visiting with two different wheel collectors–talking wheels and weaving. I managed to fit nine wheels (for three different people) in the car coming home. It was a wonderful trip, especially sweet after a year without travel.

Nine wheels in the car

Once home, gardening was in full swing.  Last fall and this spring, George has been planting trees, for screening and beauty. 

He planted redbud and shadblow in the understory and what we laughingly call an archipelago of evergreens and a Japanese stewartia along a slope in the front lawn. 

They look like a tree army vanguard, slowly working their way across the yard.  A star magnolia George planted in the fall survived two snowfalls while budding out,

to give us quite a show. 

In fact, it was a very blossomy spring all around. 

The lilacs were spectacular.  

It has been very dry and hot, though—a continuation of last year’s drought.  

We had a heat wave while the apples were in bloom, which may be the reason we are seeing fire blight on some of our apple trees. 

Fire blight, a bacterial infection, was unknown in Maine until about a decade ago.  Now, it seems to be spreading fast in the north and we will surely lose some of our old wild trees from it.  I feel terrible for the commercial growers having to deal with it.

This ancient wild apple, beloved by the waxwings for its cidery yellow fruit was hit the hardest by the blight

The climate is certainly changing here—new insect pests and diseases are moving north every year.  It felt as if we had no spring this year–we went straight into hot and humid summer (too hot for me). At this rate, in a few years, we may only be growing peaches and pawpaws.  

I am experimenting with bagging peaches, pears, and apples this year—trying three different types of bags and leaving some unbagged for comparison.  I’m hoping for a good crop. And finally, five years after planting, we will have our first tiny crop of northern kiwis.

While searching for kiwis, I noticed this mourning dove peering out at me from a nest in the vines.

As usual, we have lots of nesting birds this year.

To avoid the house finches nesting in our hanging basket as they did last year, we decided to go with window boxes this year.

George made them for the house and a shed.

When not outside, I am always spinning, weaving, and rescuing wheels.  This amazing cannon-shaped Ontario great wheel had been languishing in someone’s shed for years. 

It is inside now, and spinning. 

I wove my first rug from wool I had dyed over the last two summers with plants from our land. 

The most exciting weaving, however, is this small piece.

It is linen I wove from flax that I grew, processed, and spun myself.  After learning to turn flax into linen, I will never think of the clothing the same way again.

After a somewhat frenetic early spring–we always seem to take on too much–we unwound on a week-long vacation Downeast. 

We rented a cabin at the end of a dirt road, on its own beach, not far from Cutler, Maine. 

We loved the area—no traffic, few tourists, lots of beauty. 

We visited Quoddy Head lighthouse,

at the easternmost point of the contiguous U.S. and Jasper Beach, an unspoiled crescent beach of round rocks, that make the most extraordinary rumbling sound with the waves. 

The dogs thought it was paradise, with their own beach playground. 

Alice adores the water and would fetch until she dropped if we let her.

Capp prefers to fish,

mostly for seaweed. 

I went swimming—with a wetsuit, after the first frigid dip. 

Mostly we just enjoyed being by the water, with lots of reading and relaxing.

We are back home now working on gardening and projects and looking forward to family visits here in July.

32 thoughts on “Visits

    • Thanks Jason. We took a ridiculous amount of photos of the snowy owl. He was so much fun to watch.

      I am using three different kinds of fruit bags. One is a Japanese style two layered bag that I found hard to attach and heavy–I wouldn’t recommend it. The second type, which look like the footy socks in a shoe store, is called “maggot barriers” made in Gloucester, Mass. I have heard that they aren’t very good for keeping squirrels away, so might not deter chipmunks. either. The third, my favorite, are paper “peach” bags from Clemson University. They might work on your chipmunks. I’ve learned the best solution for chipmunks, though, and that’s a snowy owl.

  1. What a marvelous post full of so many activities. I’ve never seen a snowy owl so those photos were wonderful. I chuckled at your wheel transportation and then bowed to your ingenuity. Your trip away sounded wonderful, and then everything at home looks great. I can certainly appreciate the challenges with the weather and the pests. It seems like every year there are more barriers to trying to garden, but we all keep trying and manage some successes along the way. I love the window boxes. We spent part of the morning rewiring supports for the blackberries and cutting pressure treated lattice work for the bottom of our garden shed. We keep busy, but you two are BUSY. 🙂 Hope you have a marvelous family visit this summer!

    • Once we were vaccinated, the activity floodgates opened!
      I lived in Alaska for over twenty years and don’t remember ever seeing a snowy owl there, so it was a bit surreal having this one suddenly appearing all over the property–the roof, the tool shed, the compost bin, the oak, the fence, the rocks–I’d be walking by and suddenly he would swoop right above me.

      I am starting to think that flexibility will be the key to gardening in the coming years. We haven’t seen any of those crazy worms yet, fortunately, but everything else seems to be hitting. Enjoy your summer, Judy, it’s always good to hear from you.

  2. Always rewarding to see and read about your goings on. How lucky to have the snowy owl. Australia could use an army of them to fight our mouse plague. The cherry table and your woven rug are gorgeous.

    • Yes, the owl was a real treat. I have been reading about your mouse plague and felt embarrassed for complaining about the comparatively few mice in my garden. It looks horrific. Is it widespread in just in certain areas? One of my mother’s favorite sayings comes to mind with Australia these past years, “if it’s not one thing, it’s another.” I’m looking forward to more of your blog posts, Peggy, as you start traveling again.

  3. So nice to see your post and update, Brenda. You have been very busy! Your new kitchen looks wonderful and George’s handiwork continues to impress – that table is gorgeous. Your loom work is equally impressive, from growing, dyeing to finished product.
    Glad you got away for a sweet retreat and R&R, so welcome after the past year, I bet. The dogs looked like they were very happy with their vacation, too. 🙂
    Have a great summer!

    • How are things going with you Eliza? Will you be doing any traveling this summer? It seems ridiculous that we need R&R, since we are retired, but we are usually so busy, it was a welcome respite to do absolutely nothing for a week. Have a great summer yourself!

      • Things are going well, thanks. Busy with my gardening business, but with the spring rush over, I hope it eases up a bit.
        No plans for a getaway at this point, but seeing my son in CA might happen in early fall. I’m still nervous about air travel, but hopefully that will change.

    • I’m afraid my perennials got out of hand during the week we were gone, so didn’t show any photos of them. Lot’s of deadheading and cutting back needed this week, if it isn’t too hot. The wheel swapping involves quite an impressive network of volunteers. I often get double-takes when people see an antique spinning wheel strapped into my front seat with a seat belt.

  4. Oh, the owl! And a new kitchen. That can be so satisfying. I love your weaving and the fact you make the yarns yourself. The rug and the linen are just beautiful. There’s something about those wheels that makes them look like alert animals to me–friendly ones. I was going to ask about the fruit bags as well, but now may pursue that Clemson bag…Good to read a post and catch up.

    • It was an exciting spring after the quiet winter. I agree about the wheels, they remind me of animals, too. If you try the Clemson bags, let me know how they work for you. So far, so good, with mine but there’s a long way to go. Hope you are doing well, I need to check in on your blog!

  5. What a lovely post…you are as busy as ever! The white owl is something special, and the fact that he/she stayed around for so long. Your weaving projects are amazing, I’ll never look at my wonderfully warm woollen skirt the same way again! Yes, the garden can be so time consuming, I think we are just as busy as we were when we were working. I love Capp and Alice, Capp looking so serious about fishing.
    Enjoy your summer, and time with your family too. We were planning to visit our daughter and family in Melbourne, but Sydney has had a sudden spike in COVID cases, so we will just wait and see how it all goes. That is life these days. However, at least we have been vaccinated.

    • We don’t seem to be able to slow down much. I think we both feel that at some point as we age we won’t be able to physically do the things that we enjoy doing now, so want to cram in as much as we can while we are able!
      Spinning and weaving really gives me an appreciation of fabric and its history. There’s nothing like wearing clothing that you have spun and woven yourself.
      Capp was hilarious–he was fascinated by the bits of seaweed floating in the water.
      I hope the covid spike settles down and you can get on with your visit. Enjoy your winter!

  6. I so enjoy your entries, my cousin. Wish I could bequeath Bill’s ancient wheel to you, btw. And interestingly, his antique woodworking tools forum also has a railroad, we have been part of.
    Loved seeing the snowy owl, and always the dogs.
    Thank you for your wonderful sharing.

    • I didn’t know there was a similar railroad for woodworking tools. That’s wonderful. The spinning wheel one is truly amazing–with wheel traveling all over the country. I hope you aren’t baking in the heat out there.

      • We have been gloriously cool here, with our early morning ocean fog. Thanks,
        And yes, we have delivered various tools around California for the local railroad. Bill was the moderator on the Wood Central and is on old woodworking machines.

  7. Oh yes, I forgot to mention your new wonderful kitchen. We very much are happy w our butcher block counters on each side of our stove…good choice. Plus, we are also happy we didn’t open up our entire house, as is currently the fashion. It’s quieter to have separate rooms from what we hear.

    • We went back and forth for a long time deciding whether to open up the kitchen to the living room. It would have lightened the kitchen and brought the view in. On the other hand, we would have had less storage and, as you said, there’s a wonderful sense of quiet and focus cooking in a kitchen that is just a kitchen and not part of larger living area. We are really happy that we left it as a separate room and couldn’t be happier with the countertops. They are local cherry and we love them.

  8. It’s always such a pleasure catching up with you. How lucky you are to have that magnificent snowy owl visiting. Oh, your new kitchen looks gorgeous and that cherry table is stunning. It’s great to hear how many of you are saving those wheels. I’m so impressed with your rug, what an achievement. The garden is looking good and it’s lovely to think you have all had a break, dogs seem to have had a blast. xxx

  9. Aw, thanks! It’s hard to convey just how incredible it was to have the snowy owl gadding about here for weeks. We were really sad to see him go. Like you, our gardens have been suffering from lack of rain–and HEAT!!!!–but are hanging on. I’ve been really impressed to see everything you are growing. It seems to be an increasing battle against bugs, disease, and drought every year here. One thing that always grows well is the flax, but we can’t eat that! The dogs didn’t want to leave the beach. We are already looking forward to next year there.

  10. Almost missed this post, so pleased I didn’t. I really enjoy virtually visiting you. How exciting to have the snowy owl visit. So much happening. The kitchen Reno, the cherry wood table and window boxes are all beautiful and I’m so impressed with your wheels an d weaving. And of course your beautiful, now maturing garden is a joy to see. Alice and Capp love photo bombing and how they love the water. It must be hard though to leave the garden to its own devices when you get away for a well earned rest. Enjoy your family visit and I look forward to your next post. Stay safe 😷

    • Thanks Pauline. We are so excited to be able to spend time with our grandchildren again, can’t wait for their visit. I laughed to George when we returned from our vacation that it felt like our working days, when a pile of work awaited on coming back to the office–except the work now is gardening. Fortunately, we are past the spring planting rush but before the heavy harvest time, so it worked out well.
      I hope your back is doing better and Jack’s knee is like new. Enjoy the rest of your winter.

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