Sunrise, Sunset

IMG_7148.jpg

As if to compensate for the fading leaves, our late October skies exploded with color. Morning temperatures drew gauzy mists up from the lakes or created fog banks hunkering over the shore.

img_6834

The sky became a brilliant contrasting backdrop to the mist and fog, as the sun rolled up over the blue Camden hills.

img_7116
img_6829img_6773

We have an unobstructed view of sunrise, but being on the southeast side of a ridge, do not see the sun drop under the horizon at sunset. No matter. We get a show just the same. As the old day heads toward nightfall, colors so extreme as to best be described as lurid or garish light up the western, then southern, then eastern skies. Honestly, this photo looks muted in comparison to the real thing.

IMG_6818.jpg

October’s variable weather, golden light, and temperature inversions contribute to these remarkable bookends on the day.

img_7133

Typical for this time of year, the weather has been fickle–summery one day, scudding clouds and rain the next, followed by a bit of frost and wintry air.

IMG_6898.jpg

img_7071IMG_6973.jpg

IMG_7060.jpg

The poor honey bees do not know whether to hunker down or get out and forage.

IMG_6975.jpg

There are still a few lingering flowers, but the bees go quickly from one to another, finding little on offer.

IMG_6874.jpg

Some are still bringing in pollen, however. I fed them sugar water for a few weeks to help them shore up their winter honey supply. I likely will slip in a fondant patty in a week or two, strap the hive down, build a straw-bale windbreak, and the bees will be on their own until early spring.

IMG_6998.jpg

Whether it is due to the bees’ pollination, the summer drought, or something else altogether, the fall berries are especially abundant this year.

IMG_6944.jpg img_6936

img_7015

The milkweed is bursting out of its pods.

IMG_6891.jpg

img_6890

The geese are migrating so high overhead that we can hear them well before they become visible.

img_6846

All kinds of mushrooms are springing up in the lawn after it rains, making me paranoid that Capp will eat some (he eats everything), vomit profusely, twitch a little, and promptly die.

IMG_6981.jpg

img_6955

We continue to put the gardens to bed, and ready the orchard for winter.

img_6929

Capp helps cover the strawberries.

IMG_6806.jpg

img_6807

The last of the carrots and beets.

I am absurdly proud of my little orchard nursery. All of the apple grafts that I clumsily attempted at the spring grafting workshop were successful and grew into impressive little apple trees.

img_0256

The grafted apples in May.

img_6900

The same grafted trees in October.

Next spring we will replant them in various places on the property. We will have more area cleared and ready for fruit trees, flowering shrubs, another vegetable bed, and a sitting area with some scattered perennial and annual flowers.

img_6914

Thanks to George’s hard work, the fence is almost finished. It looks like arms enfolding our garden and orchard.

img_6985

 

img_7077

We still need to do some post leveling, attach the screen, and hang the gates. Once the fence is done, we will start looking for another dog to keep Capp company.

img_7087

It has been a busy fall, tempered and bounded by very bad and very good news from loved ones. Grief, happiness, and change all mixed up together. Bring on winter.

IMG_6799.jpg

Picture Perfect Days

img_6233

I love this time of year in Maine. No sadness for me over the passing of summer. I am ready for the cool wood-smokey air, the thick golden afternoon sunlight, and the magical color explosion that is fall in New England.

img_6777

The color in the perennial garden pales next to the maples.

When we lived in Alaska, I always became depressed in the fall. The season there was so brief–a week or so of glorious yellow aspens, soon stripped by strong winds.

IMG_6570.jpg

It was a jarring transition from the wonder of an Alaskan summer to a very long stretch of winter darkness and cold.

img_6764

Fall in Maine, on the other hand, gradually unfolds in a lovely progression of harvest and colors so exquisite they almost hurt.

img_6362

And the colors change day by day, as one tree fades, others peak, making every walk and drive a changing palette of brilliance.

IMG_6470.jpg

Photographs do not adequately convey the way the sun illuminates the trees, transforming them into glowing, blazing living sculptures.

img_6445

The colors this year are the most vivid I have ever seen.

img_6395

IMG_6450.jpgimg_6609img_6319

Out kayaking when the leaves were just starting to turn, the reflections were so clear that they created kaleidoscope-like patterns.

img_6068

img_6081

Reflection of a log turned on its side.

The water was very low and I had to carefully work my way over the shallows from lake to river–just an inch to spare.

img_6179

img_6189

This sand bar was a foot underwater in the spring.

But I was rewarded by basking turtles and a heron unfazed as I slowly drifting nearby.

img_6300IMG_6274.jpgIMG_6110.jpg
IMG_6215.jpg

No frost yet, so I am slowly–very slowly–putting the vegetable gardens to bed.

IMG_6025.jpg

The sunflowers continue to feed the birds and one acrobatic red squirrel.

IMG_6750.jpg

IMG_6724.jpgimg_6733

George has been working hard putting in our back fence.

IMG_6785.jpg

And Capp is enjoying our picture perfect days.

IMG_6040.jpgimg_6492img_6662

img_6673

The door is open and I’m not sneaking outside. Good boy.

IMG_6768.jpg

From Capp to Cardoon

img_5837

I was looking forward to a serene September. What was I thinking? A new puppy smacks serenity upside the head.

IMG_5898.jpg

The whirlwind of Capp’s puppiness descended on us full force–morning wake-up leg attacks, outside-inside-outside-inside-do-it-all-over-again, chew-chew-chew, bite fingers, nibble toes, tug-of-war with dress hems, cabbage kamikaze, eat-who-knows-what in the back yard, water slobbers down the hall.

img_5871

Capp loves cabbage, beets, and brussel sprouts

A messy, sometimes frantic, onslaught of new life–questing, exuberant, beautiful, excited, adorable, and a sponge for learning.

img_5912

Having a pup again has been tiring, but it’s such a sweet privilege to watch the development of this wonderful, intelligent new creature.

img_5954_edited-1

Capp is an amazing bundle of loving dogginess and wasted no time in working his way firmly into our hearts.

img_5668

So, our September days were focused on pup training and preparing for fence installation for our back garden and orchard area.

img_5703

IMG_5724.jpg

We are fencing almost an acre and George has been clearing along the fence line and putting in portions of the fence, over drains and our septic system, by hand.

IMG_5689.jpg

We will have help in digging most of the holes and hope to have it completed later this month.

img_5712

We are slowly getting things ready for winter. The bee season is wrapping up with a hive loaded with honey that I hope will bring the bees through the winter.

IMG_5735.jpg

The hive was surrounded by asters and goldenrod in September

We had a heavier Varroa mite infestation than I would have liked, but treatment seems to have brought the mite levels under control.

img_5864

The bees have thrived despite my clumsy mistakes. I actually dumped a hive body on the ground during the last inspection–I thought we had properly separated the middle body from the lower, but the sticky bee propolis brought the lower body along as we lifted the middle one and then as we moved it–crash–the lower body dumped on the ground. It was pretty exciting for a while as the bees let us know they were not at all happy. But aside from two stings on George’s pants, they let us put things back together and we all went about our business. This hive has the gentlest bees that I’ve ever seen.

IMG_5893.jpg

IMG_5878.jpg

I let some of my vegetables flower for the bees.  This is wild bee on a purple carrot flower.

The fall has been warm so far, so I am just starting to ready the garden beds for winter.

img_5715

Some flowers linger in the gorgeous fall light.

IMG_5923.jpg

IMG_5858_edited-1.jpg

We still are picking cherry tomatoes and the cool weather crops, such as carrots, beets, kale, cabbage, and parsnips become sweeter as the temperatures cool. We had an odd summer for eggplants and peppers. They had such a slow start that I almost pulled them to replant with late summer crops.

IMG_5769_edited-1.jpg

Then, suddenly in late July, they took off. Finally, in September, we had a wonderful crop of eggplants and peppers, that I’ve roasted and frozen. And, now, in October, they are still producing.

img_5788

We did not have any problems with deer this summer but, unfortunately, the raccoons got to our corn. We had about a week-and-a-half of daily fresh corn before they discovered the corn patch and then one morning–corn devastation. I managed to salvage some of the popcorn, but that was it.

img_5855

We tried growing a few exotics (for us) this year, including okra and cardoon. I thoughtlessly planted the okra in the shadiest part of the garden, which was a mistake. Two small plants each proudly produced one pod apiece. They were sort of sweetly pitiful. I will try it again next year in a really sunny spot and I think it will do better. The cardoons started slowly–just like the peppers and eggplants. And then they suddenly grew like weeds. They are related to artichokes, with similar flowers, but ours never made it to the flowering stage.

IMG_6001.jpg

Still, I was growing them for the stems, which have an artichoke-like flavor. The leaves are lovely and serrated, but have nasty little spines that need to be removed.

IMG_6004.jpgIMG_6007.jpg

After the spine removal, I peeled them,

img_6011

boiled them, baked them with parmesan, seasoning, and butter, and dotted with cherry tomatoes. They looked promising, but we weren’t very impressed with the flavor or the texture.

img_6014

They were not bad, but not great. Considering how much room they take in the garden, I doubt that I will grow them again. Or maybe, with all those spines, I could plant them around the corn to keep the raccoons away.

img_6009

September also brought wonderful skies, which promise to get even better in October. I’m looking forward to some serenity this winter. Ha.

IMG_5653.jpgIMG_5767.jpg

Aaaahh, September

img_4427

Until the day dementia hits, I will remember this summer. It was infused with grief over Zoe’s illness and death, while packed with activity and visitors–an odd mix of sorrow and happiness.  It was wonderful to have our scattered family members come here to spend time with us.  We miss them.  So all through August’s hot and sunny weather, we played, ate, and explored midcoast Maine.

IMG_4979.jpg

The past six weeks were such a whirlwind, that I was far too busy to do more than take an occasional peek at other blogs. Perhaps it’s a good gauge for me–when I’m too busy for any blogging, I’m just too busy.  It is definitely time to slow down.

Now, as the visiting winds down, we are looking forward to September’s serenity and chill.

img_3942

Here’s a taste of August and early September:

IMG954339_edited-1.jpg

Opening the hive with a granddaughter apprentice (thanks to my daughter for this shot)

img_4454

Our other granddaughter looked like a scarlet apparition among these plein air painters

We took full advantage of the Union Fair’s free rides with admission policy.  And the animals were lovely, as always.

IMG_4305.jpgIMG_4408.jpgIMG_4424.jpg

img_4369

The two smallest on this ride belonged to us.  Fearless.

We explored a few of Maine’s forts and lighthouses.

img_4500

img_3813

img_4506IMG_4508.jpgIMG_4516.jpg

IMG_4294.jpg

Thanks to my daughter for this shot.

We even went to the beach.

IMG_4574.jpg
img_4559img_4632

img_4647

We feasted on garden veggies.

img_4453

And took a ferry trip to Vinalhaven.

IMG_5201.jpgimg_5096IMG_5123.jpgimg_5145

We watched butterflies, bees, and birds.

IMG_4796.jpg

Our first monarch

 

img_4725

A butterfly and hummingbird moth on the same blossom

IMG_4866.jpg

It’s almost hard to see the honeybees on these sunflowers, the bees were so packed with pollen

img_4864IMG_4869.jpgimg_4894img_5043IMG_5047.jpgIMG_5000.jpg

Everywhere we went on the ocean, we saw sails.  Someday I want to sail on one of these beauties.

img_3831img_5067img_4110

And finally, on the first weekend of September, we brought home a pup.

img_5341

Welcome to our world, little Capp.

IMG_5394_edited-1.jpgimg_5462IMG_5353_edited-1.jpg

Empty Spaces

IMG_3539Zoe’s death left recurring, sometimes unexpected, often random, but always heart-sad, voids in our life. Her absence permeates our daily routines. Her weight on our feet at night in bed, the expectant face as we stirred in the morning, strings of drool as she politely, patiently waited for her breakfast, the intent eyes and head tilt at the slightest sign of an impending morning walk, her serene pose in the shady grass under the apple tree as she surveyed her domain, her joyous enthusiasm for countless daily pleasures (fetch! ride in the car! snow! popcorn! you’re home!), helicopter tail wags of utter pleasure, twitching tiny-bark dreams, and–to the very end–the thump, thump of her tail when we entered the room–all that love–it’s just gone. All those empty Zoe spaces. IMG_2107.jpg
So, what to do. We have never been of the school of thought that it is disrespectful to soon replace a dog with another dog. In fact, in my experience, the only way to really heal from the loss of a dog is to get another one. But, it’s not so easy. We really want another Lab. Although we have had several rescue dogs over the years, it’s hard to find a rescue Lab in Maine. Labs are in high demand here, being the quintessential Maine dog, posing beside fireplaces and Old Town Canoes in countless L.L.Bean catalogs. The few available rescues are imported from southern states and have only a passing resemblance to actual Labrador-hood. And we are serious about taking in a dog–it’s for life, no matter what. We want a good fit. For us and for the dog.

IMG_3200.jpg

I don’t want to keep posting  endless Zoe pictures, so am putting in some random shots.

But litters from reputable breeders are reserved for months in advance. We were desolate at the thought of six months or so without a dog. Noooooo!!!! So we have been hoping that people will drop off litter reservation lists. Zoe came to us that way. She had been promised to the Fire Chief of a coastal Alaskan town, but he was about to be divorced and decided not to take her. His misfortune was our gain. Zoe would have loved being a fire station dog (and living on the ocean) so I always felt that we had a high standard to live up to.

IMG_3207.jpg

Pinkish Queen Anne’s Lace

All this leads to the fact that we have spent a great deal of time researching potential dogs. It’s time to fill the house with dogs. We believe that we have found a male pup that we can bring home in September. We are going to look at the litter tomorrow. I’m so excited I likely won’t sleep many winks tonight. IMG_3245In the meantime, we are busy. We have visitors throughout the whole month of August, including our children and grandchildren (and a family reunion in Connecticut). We are so full up with visitors, work on the gardens, and dog research, that I have not had the time to even look at other blogs, let alone leave comments. I doubt that I will have any real blog time until September. Forgive me, blog friends.

IMG_3694.jpg

Raised beds, corn, tomatoes, and our growing brush pile.

IMG_3691.jpg

The gardens are doing fairly well, despite a prolonged drought.

IMG_3731

We dug this swale this spring and now are filling it with rocks. It diverts the water that had been soggying up our orchard area.

It’s been a month of lilies.  A few survived the lily beetles and others grow by the roadside. IMG_3390.jpgIMG_3306.jpgIMG_3296.jpgIMG_3672.jpgIMG_3294We have more vegetables than we can eat and are about to be hit with an avalanche of tomatoes.

IMG_3317

Baby watermelon

IMG_3709

Tonight’s tomato sauce ingredients

IMG_3685

I found two enormous tomato hornworms and quickly drowned them in a soap bath.

IMG_3687

Voracious and bloated-looking.

My herb garden is flourishing, loving the dry weather.

IMG_3263

Herb garden in mid-July.

IMG_3428

Three weeks later (and looking from the opposite direction).

IMG_3292

I’ve been continually harvesting and drying herbs.

IMG_3703

The bluebirds that had been casually hanging around the bluebird house turned out to have had a second brood. The babes never thrust their hungry beaks out the box opening as did the swallows, but, for about a week, we heard them clamoring for food every time their parents approached the box. The fledglings emerged last week and sat upon the box top before taking small experimental flights.

IMG_3626

One of the fledglings.

It was quite different from the swallow babes, who took off like acrobats at first flight, swooping and confident.

Even though it’s been very dry, we continue to have some nectar flow for the bees and the hummingbirds.

IMG_3358

I guess it’s the pistil of the blue globe thistle that curls as it matures.

IMG_3364

No curling on the younger flower.

IMG_3439

Corn doesn’t need bees for pollination, wind is sufficient, but there were some bees on the corn.

IMG_3415IMG_3421.jpg

We had a lovely day at Fort Knox, up the coast, with our son’s in-laws, and enjoyed the dizzying views from the Penobscot Narrows Bridge Observatory.  IMG_3504

IMG_3505

I love the shapes, lines, and textures at the fort and the bridge.

IMG_3514.jpgIMG_3532

IMG_3557.jpg

The observatory is at the top.

IMG_3564.jpgIMG_3569.jpgIMG_3592

Happy August. See you in September.IMG_3541.jpgIMG_3649IMG_3724.jpg

That Face, That Heart

IMG_3168Our beloved dog Zoe died last night.  She gave us more than I can express and leaves a gaping hole in our lives.  unnamed (7)IMG_0452

A heartfelt thanks to everyone who has expressed sympathy over Zoe’s illness.  There’s no need to comment here as well.  I just wanted to give Zoe a remembrance.  She deserves it.

b0e36bfa-422c-447b-a874-f630b7e7e4bdIMG_1568IMG_4997IMG_7433.jpgIMG_1386unnamed (3)unnamed (4)unnamed (10)unnamed (9)unnamed (5)IMG_1693unnamed (8)IMG_5881IMG_5417IMG_0474.jpgRecompense-76

Midsummer

IMG_3126We received bad news on Zoe this week. She initially rallied on steroids but then did not continue to improve. After further tests, it appears that she does have a fast-moving cancer. So, we are staying close to home to keep our sweet girl company, just as she has kept us company throughout her life. She remains happy, although she is getting weaker and less mobile.  IMG_3188As we come to grips with the bad news, our whole property is pulsing with midsummer life. The bees were coming in so laden with deep yellow pollen last week that they looked as though they would miss their landings. IMG_2649I traced the bees to the staghorn sumac, which was in full bloom and bursting with pollen. IMG_2730We have several varieties of sumac on our hillside, but the bees were ignoring all but the male staghorn blossoms.

IMG_2769

Close up of red sumac blossom, with no bees in sight.

IMG_2765

The plentiful hairs on this bee indicate that she is relatively young. The hairs will wear off as the bee ages.  She’s in the staghorn blossoms here and has pollen even on her rear hairs.

After the sumac flow slowed, the bees were driven to a frenzy by our Flemish Antique poppies. Each poppy only lasts a day and every morning they were mobbed with wild and honey bees frantically gathering nectar and stripping the pollen. I have never seen anything like it.IMG_3066Our borage, in comparison, was almost deserted. IMG_3110.jpgIMG_2939.jpgAnd the bees were much less interested in our small jelly bean poppies. IMG_2896All the pollinators have been on the wild milkweed, however, which has been spectacularly lush and sweetly fragrant this year.IMG_3172IMG_2841.jpg

IMG_3138.jpgOur yard has been alive with butterflies, moths, bumblebees, sweat bees, unidentified wild bees, wasps, and moths. IMG_2785.jpgIMG_3145.jpg

IMG_2877IMG_2936IMG_2988IMG_3029IMG_2812But, our baby swallows are gone.  After entertaining us for days, we watched them leave the nest one by one. It was such a thrill to see their first flights.  We still have swallows and bluebirds in the yard, so apparently they like it here.IMG_2446.jpgIMG_2463

Although the weather has been extremely dry, we have had enough rain to keep most of our vegetables coming along nicely. We are harvesting peas, lettuce, early potatoes, baby onions, collards, kale, carrots, and lots of herbs. IMG_3112

I had to pull out some cabbage being chewed by pesky cabbage worms. The cabbage moths continue to hover over all the brassicas, so I will harvest them soon and then put in a new, unmolested, bed for fall harvest and cover it with agribon fabric to keep the moths out.

Our goldfinches turned out to be unexpected garden marauders.  They have been dining on the rainbow chard. They are not eating bugs or worms, but the chard itself. Goldfinches generally eat seeds, so I’m wondering if they sought moisture from the chard leaves in our recent dry spell.IMG_3025.jpg

Our wild apples are plumping up and looking less disease and pest-ridden than last year. We did some pruning in the spring to cull out branches and let in more light and air. It appears to have improved the apples.IMG_2766

And so, life goes on.IMG_2516.jpgIMG_2567.jpg

IMG_2875

Lupine pods.

IMG_2866.jpgIMG_3004IMG_2993.jpgIMG_3103.jpgIMG_2952IMG_3060.jpgIMG_3185

Old Dog Days

IMG_2053.jpgJune put us through the wringer. It started out all flowers and bees. And then, as the world drama escalated with violence, Brexit, and the everpresent Donald, our world contracted to one sweet old dog–Zoe. IMG_2121.jpg
She had been showing her age this spring. Her arthritis was worsening and she became increasingly unwilling to do much of anything in the hot weather (Alaskan to the core, she has never liked the heat). The vet thought it was laryngeal paralysis, related neuropathy, and some aspiration pneumonia.

Zoe went on antibiotics and we drove to Portland, an hour-and-a-half away, for an assessment as to Zoe’s suitability for surgery for the laryngeal paralysis. Before we could even schedule surgery, however, Zoe’s condition precipitously declined. A cliff-dive of hurt. She ran a continuous fever, was in pain, and was becoming increasingly lame. It got so bad that she could barely stand up and when she did, she tented her legs and looked at us pleading “please help me” in her eyes. Eventually, she refused breakfast. Not good. Zoe always eats.

IMG_0874.jpg

Last month

Throughout this we had several veterinarians, here and in Portland, trying to figure out what was going on. Even in her wiped-out condition, she charmed them all. After multiple trips to Portland, a stay in the doggy hospital, rounds of antibiotics, IVs, and numerous tests, it looked as if she had a fast-moving and incurable cancer. We tried to be resigned for the worst when, happily, her bone marrow test came back negative for cancer.  When Zoe then responded  well to steroids, the prime suspect became an immune-mediated condition.IMG_2052.jpg
We brought her home and she’s been gradually, but steadily, improving. Not quite the old Zoe, but good, nonetheless. Her blood tests today–a week later–showed improvement, so we are cautiously optimistic.

IMG_2228

Smiling again

Zoe was always what you would call a good eater and the steroids have made her even more enthusiastic. She is sleeping lots but still enjoying the pleasures of food and lying in the sun. She’s been reluctant to leave the house, even for a survey of the yard. But the past few days, she has seemed more like her old self. Whatever happens, to be honest, we did not think she was going to live past last week. So, for now, we are simply enjoying her wonderful presence. IMG_2188.jpg
In the meantime, life goes on around us. IMG_2221.jpgOur swallows have a second brood hatched and we sit with Zoe on the porch to watch the parents feeding their ravenous chicks.

IMG_2261

I took this photo for the clouds but caught a swallow parent swooping toward the nest box with food.

The poor parents are going continuously and I’m hoping that our cabbage worm population is going right in the mouths of those chicks.

IMG_2260

Checking out the world

IMG_2199

Feed me

IMG_2213

The blur at the right is an insect in the parent bird’s bill.  It doesn’t look like one of my bees (although I’m sure there have been some casualties).

IMG_2269.jpg

Our bluebirds may have a second brood, we’re not sure. Whatever they are up to baby-wise, they are still hanging around and wonderful to watch.

IMG_2160

Anchoring himself in a strong wind

The garden is dry. We are woefully short of rain. But we are harvesting our early vegetables, the corn was on track with “knee-high by the Fourth of July,” green tomatoes are forming, and the potatoes are going nuts. IMG_2071.jpgI’ve neglected the perennials. IMG_2167But, of course, they continue with their lovely blooms, despite whatever else happens in the world.IMG_2063.jpg
So July starts as June did with more flowers, bugs, birds, and summer skies.

IMG_1954

Gorgeous hummingbird moth

IMG_0661.jpg

Cedar waxwing

IMG_0883

IMG_1913.jpg

IMG_1981

Face in the cloud

IMG_2080.jpg

Something has twice wound the suet feeder up into the tree for easier access (maybe?). IMG_2054.jpgWe suspect the brown thrasher, who seems to find the suet and the hanging rope to be a personal challenge. IMG_0806Our birdbath has an evening line of birds waiting to enjoy a little cool-down.IMG_1703.jpgIMG_1705.jpgIMG_1656.jpg
Zoe enjoys a little cool down too.IMG_2253.jpg

Sweet Symbiosis

IMG_1835A teacher at my beekeeping class this spring warned us that, once we had bees, we would never view plants in the same way again. He was right. I love plants. I like to grow them, observe them, smell them, eat them, identify them, revel in them, and occasionally talk to them. But now, I also see them as allies in keeping my bees healthy and happy.IMG_1193_edited-1
The relationship between bees and flowers is more than just mutually beneficial–they need each other for continued existence. To reproduce, most plants must transfer pollen from the anther to the stigma–a difficult task to pull off alone when you are rooted to the ground and cannot move. That is where wind, animals, and–mostly–flying pollinators come to the rescue. Bees, butterflies, moths, wasps, and birds do the job that plants cannot do for themselves. IMG_1755They spread the riches. And, at the same time, take home some for themselves. A neat arrangement developed over an unimaginable amount of time. A sweet symbiosis.IMG_1851
My daily walks and garden checks have taken on a bee-like perspective. I have become keenly interested in exactly what is blooming, what pollinators are attracted to those blossoms, whether the nectar is flowing, and where my bees are foraging. I have a whole new appreciation of the intricate dance between plants and their pollinators. IMG_1314
After the apple blossoms faded, we had a long spell of dry weather. Although the honeysuckle was blooming, the nectar didn’t seem to be flowing and there were only a few dump-truck-sized bumblebees tumbling around. IMG_0894.jpgWe finally got much-needed rain, after which the flowers and pollinators went into high gear. IMG_1125.jpgIMG_1141_edited-1.jpgIMG_1400Our bees wasted no time in finding our neighbor’s lupines. The bees stretched open the bottom petals to get at the nectar.   Fascinating.IMG_1229
IMG_1235IMG_1234IMG_1237Many of our showiest blossoms are not honey bee magnets.

IMG_1890

No bees yet.

The honey bees have avoided the rhododendrons and peonies, and have shown little interest in the iris or oriental poppies.   Here’s a bee-less poppy through all it’s stages.IMG_1275IMG_1278

IMG_1555

IMG_1633

All that pollen. Some bees have been bringing in dark pollen like this, but I haven’t seen them visiting the poppies.

IMG_1902IMG_1904

The bumble bees, in contrast, love the rhododendron and irises.IMG_1296IMG_1389

I discovered the honey bees instead, often deep in the woods, feasting on the inconspicuous green bittersweet blossoms and drifts of raspberry brambles.

IMG_1828.jpg

Bittersweet

IMG_1376

Wild bee on a wild raspberry blossom.  I haven’t learned to identify the wild bees yet.  Next year.

Our honey bees are not the only pollinators, of course. We have plenty of wild bees, butterflies, wasps, and birds doing their part. IMG_1465

IMG_1474

He sips lots of flower nectar, too. I just haven’t caught him with the camera.

As an update to previous posts, we have had three active nests in our bird boxes. The bluebirds seemed to have successfully raised their chicks. One day they were coming and going with slugs and worms for their little ones and the next day they were all gone. We missed their departure from the nest.

IMG_0916

Swallows nestbuilding.

But this morning we watched the tree swallow fledglings emerge from another box to take their first flight. They almost crashed into George. Exuberant, glorious things. We still have wrens nesting in the front yard box.IMG_1658
And George built Zoe two ramps. IMG_1563.jpgShe’s appreciative.IMG_0867

Wood, Fabric, and Water

IMG_1605.jpg
Waking up this morning, I felt as if I had been pounded all over by a baseball bat.  I was aware of most every muscle, including those in my fingers and feet. George’s elbows were trashed. The aches and stiffness were brought on by age and our previous day’s activity–splitting our winter wood supply. IMG_1484.jpgAs we hobbled about today, we were mocked by images our younger selves, splitting all of our winter fire wood with an ax (mostly George), with no discernible physical after-effects. Not any more. Yesterday we rented an industrial strength log splitter. IMG_1487.jpgEven with the splitter doing most of the work, after five hours of heaving logs about, it was a good workout.

IMG_1496

Four way split for big logs

IMG_1501IMG_1502.jpg

We are fortunate to have about five acres of woodland, with some aging trees that need to be culled. A wood stove supplies most of our heat and our smoke this winter will be a fragrant combination of cherry, apple, poplar, and oak. The cherry and apple wood was so beautiful when we split it, it seems a shame to burn it.

IMG_1488.jpg

Wild cherry (pin and black)

IMG_1521.jpg

Apple

We did have boards cut from one cherry tree to use eventually for new kitchen cabinets. The beauty of the wood is a constant.  But you also never know what you will find when you split wood.  Colors, insects, rot, fungus–all exposed.  IMG_1493

IMG_1505

The green elfcup fungus produces an intense blue-green color

IMG_1511.jpg

George had been felling trees and chainsawing them into stove lengths over the previous months and, to give the wood enough time to season before winter, we needed to get it split. IMG_1483.jpgIt was an enjoyable, rewarding job on a gorgeous cool day. There’s a hypnotic rhythm to working the splitter and the smell of the split wood–especially the cherry–was almost intoxicating. It was a good day.IMG_1529.jpg

Earlier this week, I had another good day that also involved harvested tree and plant products, but in a very different way. Last fall, at the Common Ground Fair, I was gobsmacked by a booth selling fabric imprinted with the shapes, shadows, and colors of real plant parts–leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds.  IMG_1601.jpg

I had never seen anything like it. The incredible fabrics were created by a Maine textile artist, Amelia Poole, who graciously explained the process for imbuing the fabric with the patterns of living plant parts and allowed me to paw through her wares. IMG_1599.jpg

I had a hard time choosing, but eventually brought home four fabric pieces, two of which I made into a dress yoke. IMG_1609.jpg06071609490607160949b.jpg
Happily for me, Amelia gave a presentation this week at a local nature center on her eco-textiles. Her process is called eco-printing, or botanical contact printing, and involves first treating unprocessed natural fabrics with alum, ferrous sulfate, and copper sulfate–a process called mordanting. Then fresh botanicals are arranged on the fabric, wrapped up, and steamed to fix the colors and patterns on the fabric. Amelia brought recently steamed fabrics for us to unroll.

0607161308_Burst01.jpg

Before unrolling

0607161308a_Burst02.jpg

Opening up the fabric

Because the colors, clarity, and design are all affected by the particular qualities of the plants when harvested, the colors and shapes transferred have endless permutations. So there is an anticipatory wonder in what will unfold with each piece. 0607161311a_Burst02.jpgSeeing the imprint of the plants to fabric felt a bit magical. 0607161311.jpgAnd it evoked a sort of timeless, ancient feel, perhaps because the ephemeral plants will be long imprinted in the fabric in a fossil-like way. 0607161311a.jpgAmelia’s website link is at: Ecouture Textile.

As someone long in love with plants and fabric both, I’m hoping to take one of her workshops. I don’t really need more interests, but this is one that I cannot resist. 0607161328_Burst01.jpg

Finally, in all our spring activity, we have had some watery relaxing downtime. IMG_8284We wanted in retirement to spend time on the water messing about in boats. So, for starters, we bought a lightweight kayak this spring. I can easily lift and carry it and it’s short enough to fit on our truck bed with just a strap to hold it.

IMG_1043.jpg

The seat is a first class upgrade on our previous kayak

We have a lake below our home that is about an eight minute drive to the boat ramp. IMG_8314.jpg

IMG_8359.jpg

IMG_8331.jpgThat lake is part of the St. George River system, allowing us to paddle upstream to another lake and then slow-moving, meandering river. IMG_1015IMG_1012IMG_0980.jpgEagles, beavers, loons, and lots that escaped my camera.    The current, you know, really.IMG_0988IMG_1005.jpg

IMG_8404

A loon …

IMG_8401.jpg

snorkeling …

IMG_8414.jpg

IMG_8370

for baby eels

I did fry my cell phone after several hours in the greenhouse-like waterproof pouch.IMG_0974.jpg  It died.  Stupid.  But, nevertheless, our new boat has been a sweet diversion, with much more kayaking to come.

IMG_1020.jpg

Pollen alert

IMG_1034.jpg

Oriole nest?

IMG_1044

Someone else’s woodpile