One of the reasons we moved to Maine was because it had “weather.” No monotonous parade of days, one just like another. Instead, here we are treated to wildly careening weather moods, a bipolar medley, where an afternoon can seem to change seasons in just a few hours. These past weeks have been weather-filled, shaping our days around the world outside.


We had too many days with low-ceiling clouds, reminding me of Anchorage winters, dark and gray. It’s my least favorite weather, making me feel a bit gray myself. Even the starlings looked a bit depressed.

img_0819Of course, being Maine, the gray didn’t last long.  The skies cleared, with brilliant sunrises, acting like rose-colored glasses on the morning.


On winter solstice, the sunrise was particularly spectacular, with a light pillar, created by ice crystals in the air.


It started smallish and very red.  Soon the pillar grew much taller and turned golden, with the ice making a partial rainbow over to the left.


Then a jet, with its contrail, appeared to fly right through the pillar.  A nice way to mark the return of light.


The clear days brought frigid temperatures.  Too cold for photographs. I tried in vain to get pictures of the cardinals, brilliant on the snow and all fluffed up red against the cold. But my fingers gave out before the camera-shy birds ventured close.

img_0909We had several heavy snow dumps, silencing and softening, challenging our snowblower, and making lace of our fence.


One night brought a nor’easter, a stormy turmoil of warm Atlantic and cold polar winds, making the house creak and groan through the dark hours and leaving, mysteriously, caterpillars on the pristine morning snow.


Where they came from, I don’t know. But some were still alive and crawling futilely across the frigid crust. Capp was fascinated. He may have eaten one. **Update** the caterpillar mystery was solved by arlingwoman.  They are Noctua pronuba, or winter cutworms–a nasty garden and agricultural pest.  Yuck.


The snow was followed by rain, then a quick temperature plunge, which transformed twigs and berries into icy works of art.



More gray days, more frigid days, and then–boom (the winds actually were somewhat booming) –today we had a January thaw. In Alaska, we called the warm southern winter-melting winds Chinooks. I don’t think the thawing winds have a specific name here, but they feel like Chinooks, transforming winter into a brief spring in a blink.


My walk today was warm, blue and blustery overhead, mud-filled at feet level, and lichen-filled at eye level.


Somehow the warm weather and sun seemed to make the lichens and moss pop with map-like landscapes and fractal faces.


As we roll with the weather outside, we remain busy–too busy actually–with hunting for another dog, pup-training, quilting, spinning, tree and seed ordering, library volunteering, spring planning, snow-clearing, fire-wood gathering, cooking, and winter maintenance.  Maybe, just maybe, we will slow down for a month in February.


Textiles and Dog Profiles in Two Parts


Winter is here, our fence is completed, snow is settling in, and we can finally take some deep breaths and relax a little. But we have not been idle. I am immersing myself in textiles and we have been on another dog hunt–navigating the maze of doggy adoption. This is a long post, with two entirely different topics, so it is divided into two parts.


Winter is the time to indulge my long-simmering love of textiles.   When I was young, I sewed, spun, knitted, and wove, but during the years of child-raising and working, I seldom had time to do more than an odd project here and there.  Now I have all the time in the world.  I wake in the winter-dark mornings, anticipating the pleasure of a day in which I can indulge in making things. It is a seasonal occupation, solitary, soothing, slow-moving, and satisfying a creative itch.


This year, my preparation for winter textile time started early.  In full summer, when plants were at their most lush,  I learned ecoprinting–the process of transferring plant dyes directly onto fabric to create almost fossil-like impressions of plant materials. I was introduced to ecoprinting through Amelia Poole’s beautiful fabrics at the Common Ground Fair.  The post Wood, Fabric, and Water has a section about ecoprinting and Amelia.


In July, I attended a day-long workshop at Amelia’s studio, Ecouture, on Cape Rosier (not far from the Nearing’s home in the previous post Good Life).

It was pure pleasure. I gathered plants from home the night before and we spent the day experimenting with different plant and fabric combinations. I drove home a happy woman, with a bundle of fabrics imbued with my own garden.



Rolled and tied for steaming



Oak leaves and geranium petals

I decided to buy some mordanted fabric from Amelia to do ecoprinting with our grandchildren on their August visit. So, George and I combined our trip to the Nearings’ home with fabric pick-up at Amelia’s studio. To me the whole process is a kid’s dream–gathering leaves and flowers, laying them out in designs on fabric, rolling it up, steaming it, unrolling it, and magically, your own personal botanical fabric is created.



After the grandkids made their fabric, we sewed it into doll blankets and sachets with garden lavender.

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Another summer-into-winter textile activity involved my spinning wheel. After stripping layers of crud from the little antique flax wheel that I bought for a song last year, I was able to spin, but still had a few issues to address. I only had one bobbin and it had a broken piece. In addition, many of the hooks on the flyer were missing or badly bent.

Fortunately, I attended Maine’s Fiber Frolic this spring, an event celebrating all things fiber-y, and met Mudd Sharrigan, an 89-year-old competitive swimmer and former hot-rodder, who makes sought-after boat rigging knives, and also, occasionally now, repairs spinning wheels. Mudd’s wife, Esther, is a spinner and she had a collection of antique bobbins. We found one that fit my wheel, and Mudd took home my flyer and broken bobbin for repair. A few weeks later, George and I stopped by their house in Wiscasset and picked up a beautifully repaired flyer and bobbin. Where but in Maine would this have happened? My antique wheel now is as sweet as can be for a winter of spinning.


The shiny hooks are the new ones that Mudd inserted.  There are more on the other side.

I have been spinning and working on quilts for my niece, who is expecting twins. Later this winter, I will start knitting my spun wool and pull my loom from the basement for some significant repair work before I can start weaving. Enough to keep me busy and contented in the cold and snow.



On to dogs. While we continue to enjoy gorgeous sunrises, to watch turkeys and assorted other birds on our walks, and to do some snowy cross-country skiing, we are looking for another dog to add to our little pack.


Never in my wildest dreams did I think it would be so difficult to find a dog. Years of education and rigorous spay and neuter programs apparently have had an impact on reducing the number of dogs in shelters in Maine. Most dog rescue agencies here import dogs from southern states or even from other countries. I am thrilled that the number of unwanted dogs has been greatly reduced, but it makes for a sometimes bewildering process of competing for rescue dogs.


When we lived in the Atlanta area in the 90s, we adopted two golden retrievers from the Atlanta Golden rescue group. One was 9 years old, with medical issues, and the other a fearful young girl who had been abandoned and living on the street. We had such a good experience with those dogs, that we thought we’d look for another.  Atlanta’s too far, so we applied to a different, local Golden Retriever rescue organization, filling out an extensive application and submitting a $25.00 application fee. Within two days we were informed that our application was denied because our yard fence height did not meet their 4 foot requirement.


Capp enjoys our totally inadequate fenced yard.

Now, I understand the reasons for the fence requirement and that the group does not want to have to quibble and negotiate these things with every adopter. Nevertheless, the group indicated on their website that they will grant exceptions to fence requirement. So George and I both sent polite emails explaining that our fence is only 4 to 6 inches short of their height requirement (depending on the slope), that we are home all day with our dogs, we don’t leave them alone in the fenced yard, we walk them daily, we are loving, knowledgeable owners, yada yada yada.



The response was immediate, negative, and rather rude: “Our fence exception is for experienced owners who may live in apartments or condos and cannot have a physical fence. They have to give us a glowing vet reference and tell how they will exercise their new dog. We cannot grant a fence exception just because someone is unwilling to raise the height of their fencing.”


Capp and the fence

So, let’s see. We are experienced owners (we have had four Goldens, with two special needs rescues), live in a house (no worries about changing landlords or angry neighbors), have almost seven acres with a fenced area of an acre, can provide glowing vet references, give our dogs daily walks, bring them swimming regularly, hike with them, and are home all day. But because we are “unwilling” to raise the height of our fence, we are summarily dismissed.


Well, that makes all kind of sense. Actually, I was spitting mad. Some dogs are fence jumpers and climbers and the higher the fence, the better. But our fence height is more than adequate for most dogs. This group obviously has plenty of homes for its dogs, but you would think they would be more careful about alienating potential adopters. Aside from wanting to adopt, we would have donated and volunteered. Now, nothing would induce me to help this group.


Instead, we found another rescue group here in Maine, with people who really seem to care about finding the best homes for their pups.  They think our fence is just fine.

Capp, of course, enjoys his only-child status and is thriving.


Capp in the pink light from the sunrise below.


I am worried about my bees, though. We have had huge temperature fluctuations, with temperatures warm enough for the bees to fly in the day, followed by hard freezes at night. I have quite a few dead bees on the hive bottom board and around the entrance. I suspect that they have been caught out from the winter hive cluster and freezing.


On sunny days, we have had flocks of bluebirds checking out the bird houses. I love to see the bluebirds in the winter. Next spring, we will put up two more houses in hopes of attracting more bluebirds and swallows.


We are looking forward to solstice and Christmas this week. Have a wonderful, festive holiday season.



Pemaquid, Waxwings, and the February Garden

We live in the hills and look out on more hills. When the light is just right, a shimmering sliver of water is illuminated on the far edge of our view, letting us know that the ocean is not far away. We decided recently to take a short road trip to the ocean at Pemaquid Point. It lies south of us, on one of a series of irregular peninsulas, formed by glaciers, and extending into the Atlantic between Rockland and Bath. IMG_5729
At Pemaquid, the land ends with a series of striated ledges extending into the water. IMG_5670A small lighthouse and bellhouse perch above. IMG_5665A woman was swept into the sea from these rocks the week before our visit. IMG_5676.jpgIt was during a swell arising from the storm that dumped snow on most of the east coast, but swerved out to sea below Maine. The swell produced some towering waves and one of them took the woman right in. IMG_5693.jpgFortunately, she was fished out with some injuries and hypothermia, but alive. IMG_5678.jpg
Although the sea was less lively during our visit, I stayed high on the rocks. Where I stood, when I looked inland, the sky was brilliantly blue IMG_5712.jpgIMG_5715and, when I turned to the water, there was a bank of shore clouds in beautiful, almost tubular row formations. IMG_5745Unfortunately, my picture-taking was cut short when I found my extra battery was dead. We’ll be back. IMG_5714
Soon after our Pemaquid trip, a flock of Bohemian Waxwings invaded. They have been here off-and-on for over a week.  They fly in over the valley and first settle on one of the larger trees, all facing in the same direction. IMG_6090IMG_6106After some time, with a great swoosh of wings, they all descend on a tree still covered with apples, where they noisily gorge on the likely fermented fruit and then wheel off again. IMG_5776.jpgIMG_5774Their post-feeding frenzy flights appear somewhat haphazard. Perhaps they are a little drunk. IMG_5783But they settle on a large tree again, compose themselves, and fly away in a neat formation again.  IMG_5778At first I thought they were cedar waxwings and there may be a few in the flock. But most seem to be Bohemians. IMG_5780


This distance shot is blown up, with poor resolution, but you can see the beautiful wing markings.

In any case, they are gorgeous birds and extremely entertaining.

Finally, inspired by bloggers in England, Ireland, and Australia, showing a lovely array of colorful February blooms, I thought I’d share our February garden. After unseasonably warm weather on Thursday, we were unexpectedly blanketed by almost 12″ of snow on Friday. IMG_5865.jpgAs a result, our February garden consists of empty seed pods,IMG_5995.jpg
rocks in snow,IMG_5944
berries in snow, IMG_6003.jpg
spruce in snow,IMG_6057
shriveled rosehips in snow,IMG_6016
a few baby cones,IMG_6044.jpg
and Zoe.IMG_5881IMG_5887

So Far, So Good

IMG_5014So far, in this new year, we have been

up before sunrise,


sewing (me, not George),


This petite Singer Featherweight is the only sewing machine I’ve ever owned. It is older than I am, easy to use and maintain, and pleasing to the eye.

building a bookcase (George, not me),


Before even tackling the bookcase, George had to set up a workshop.  He put a lot of time and care into this beauty.  I love it.


and getting acquainted with a spinning wheel.

We found this beauty black with grime at an antique store. She seemed to have all her parts and the price was right, so we took her home.

We found this lovely old wheel at an antique store, black with lanolin-infused grime.  Likely she had been sitting in an attic or barn for years.  She seemed to have all her essential parts and the price was very right, so we took her home.  Unfortunately, when we bought her last summer, I wasn’t blogging and didn’t think to take any photos of her original state.  Wish I had.

After several weeks of cleaning and more cleaning, beautiful wood emerged.

In the fall, I started cleaning her up.  It took several weeks and a lot of elbow grease but eventually beautiful wood–at least three different kinds–emerged.

The workmanship on these old wheels fascinates me.

The workmanship on these old wheels fascinates me.



I'm still learning her quirks and feel. When the yarn properly uptakes to the bobbin the band tends to fall off and vice versa. With some more time, I hope work it out.

I’m still learning her quirks and feel. When the yarn properly uptakes to this bobbin, the band to the wheel tends to fall off and when the band stays on, the yarn doesn’t feed.  I hope we’ll work it out.

If not, she makes delightful shadows

If not, she makes delightful shadows


Zoe likes January.IMG_4871IMG_4872

George has been hauling wood,IMG_5051

we have been doing a lot of cooking,

My wooden spoons, more than 15 years old, hand carved by Don Duncan in North Carolina.

My favorite cooking utensils, 15 to 20 years old, hand carved by Don Duncan in North Carolina.

This one's hickory.

This one’s hickory.

a little wildlife viewing,

I gave George a game camera for Christmas to check out the wildlife on our property. So far, all we've seen are these fat raccoons heading down the driveway in the middle of the night.

I gave George a game camera for Christmas to check out the wildlife on our property. So far, all we’ve seen are these fat raccoons heading down the driveway in the middle of the night.

The local turkeys seemed to have survived hunting season. There were more than 30 turkeys in this snowy group.

Our local roving wild turkeys seemed to have survived hunting season. There were more than 30 turkeys in this flock.


going for daily walks,IMG_5052IMG_5071IMG_5119IMG_5090IMG_5146

and watching this amaryllis bloom.IMG_4842IMG_4918IMG_5171