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.
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.
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.
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!