Ongoing Thanks, But Not So Much For The Mouse

IMG_3634Thanksgiving this year felt redundant.  We did not need a special day to pause and reflect on our good fortune.  We have done it every day for the past six months.  Maybe it is because we have time to reflect, now that we are retired.  But, somehow, we can’t seem to fully grasp that we stumbled on this place, so perfectly suited to us, and with such exquisite beauty.

IMG_3587Our house is on a hill, with a view to the east and south.  A small river and a series of rolling hills separate us from the ocean.  The sun and moon rise over those hills.  They don’t sneak up over the horizon quietly and unnoticed.  Because there is little man-made light nearby and the coast produces constantly changing skies, sun and moon rises tend to be dramatic and colorful.

Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.

Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.

Moonrise Thanksgiving Eve. The moon's color was much redder. Like that next photo.

Moonrise Thanksgiving Eve. The moon’s color was much redder, as in the next photo.

I have never lived in a place where I have been able to really see the sunrise.  And moonrises were not even on my radar.  Now they are part of our daily rhythms.

This was the actual color of the moon when it first rose and was low on the horizon, seen through the oak branches.

This was the actual color of the moon when it first rose and was low on the horizon, seen through the oak branches.

Here, the sunrise usually gets me out of bed the morning.  Our bedroom faces west and north so we can only tell the sun is rising by the quality and color of the light outside the windows.  A certain rosiness catapults me out of bed so that I won’t miss the morning show.  George is usually already up, with coffee freshly brewed and waiting.

IMG_3058Every single time I watch that sun emerge over the hills, a little farther south each morning as we head into winter–or watch the moon, which comes up at all different times, often taking us by surprise—I am so grateful that we found this particular place at this time in our lives.  In fact, I sound like a broken record, “I love it here … I can’t believe this place … yada, yada, yada …”  I’m sure the sense wonder will wear off over time, but it hasn’t yet.

In the meantime, Thanksgiving week brought our first snow.

We had some skimmings of ice, but no snow.

We had some skimmings of ice, but no snow.

It was a little unexpected.  We spent the day before, which was soggy and windless, burning brush from the area we are clearing for a little orchard.

Burning brush.

Zoe supervised.

Zoe supervised.

During the night, the wind started screaming, the temperature dropped, and the evening’s rain turned to snow.  It did not accumulate much, but when the sun came out mid-morning, everything was transformed.IMG_3698

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The snow highlighted the giant limbs on this white pine.

The snow highlighted the giant limbs on this white pine.

IMG_3808Zoe was wildly happy.  Water is her element, and frozen water—in the form of snow—is best of all.  When we were on our RV trip across country, we would try to find patches of snow at high elevations so that she could run and roll in it.  She was thrilled to find an endless supply here in her own backyard.IMG_3794

George has cut some trails through our woods.  But it was treacherous going when the snow covered the fallen wild apples.  They acted like greased ball bearings.

IMG_3746IMG_3732IMG_3719Even through the snow, we continue to harvest vegetables.  We still have leeks, carrots, and spinach in the raised beds, and they just become sweeter, the colder it gets.

Snowy leeks.

Snowy leeks.

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Our little cold frame, which I planted with greens back in August, is starting to produce nicely.

For some reason, Zoe is intrigued by the cold frame and visits it every morning on her rounds.

For some reason, Zoe is intrigued by the cold frame and visits it every morning on her rounds.

The frame's middle panel has a hinged opener that opens automatically for ventilation based on the temperature.

The frame’s middle panel opens automatically for ventilation based on the temperature.  It’s nice not to have to do it ourselves.

Some things were a bust.  One of the leaf lettuce varieties bolted, the broccoli raab did not do well, the mache’s growth is glacially slow, and the arugula was decimated by cabbage moth caterpillars (I had to spray it with BT).

The mache is growing, but very, very slowly.

The mache is growing, but very, very slowly.

Arugula stripped to the ribs. Voracious little buggers.

Arugula stripped to the ribs. Voracious little buggers.

But the mustard, tatsoi, kale, red winter lettuce, and claytonia are thriving and we are harvesting beautiful salad greens.IMG_3856

IMG_3814Not everything is rainbows and chickadees, however.

This recent rainbow ended in our back woods.

The inner arc of this recent double rainbow ended in our back woods.

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Just a gratuitous chickadee shot.

When George took the truck in this morning for an oil change, the mechanics found a mouse living under the hood.  In retrospect, George thought he heard some unusual noises as he drove all over the state yesterday.  I can only imagine what that mouse thought when his new home went zooming down the interstate.  Apparently, the experience was not too traumatic, because the mouse stayed tucked up there overnight only to have the further excitement today of freaking out the mechanics.  Of course, it got away.  We will not have to deal with it anymore because it’s now hiding somewhere in the Toyota dealership.

I wanted to make a wreath without using any wire or frame. This is the funky result--a mullet wreath, business on one side, party on the other. Maybe I should hang it on the truck's grille to scare away the mice.

I wanted to make a wreath without using any wire or frame. This is the funky result–a mullet wreath, business on one side, party on the other. Maybe I should hang it on the truck’s grille to scare away the mice.

A Blooming Windfall

June garden bouquet of peonies and poppies

June garden bouquet of peonies and a poppy

When we decided to buy a house in Maine, we drew up a wish list. About the only thing on that list that we didn’t get was a garage. But we more than made up for it with two things that were so far above our expectations that they weren’t even on the list–a view that continues to astound and a perennial garden.

The perennial garden was an unexpected windfall.IMG_1296We’ve never stayed in one place long enough to invest in a perennial garden. Imagine how I felt to suddenly have a ready-made garden ready to unfold.IMG_1739

When we moved here at the end of May, there were a few flowering tulips and lots of emerging plants and shoots.

The garden in May.

The garden in May.

I recognized some of the shoots, our realtor recognized others, but some were a complete mystery. An early visitor advised that we take it slowly the first year and–for the most part–leave the garden alone to see what evolved. Who knows, what might appear to be a weed in June could turn out to be a spectacular September bloomer.

June

Early June

Late June. The peonies were spectacular.

Late June.

July

July

It was wise advice. The big artichoke-looking plants, for example, didn’t produce anything like artichokes but instead sent up stalks with prickly orbs, that then became covered with tiny blue flowerets covered with bees. These exquisite, whimsical blue-globe thistles were our favorites. IMG_1060We also were puzzled by vigorous stalks with graceful, but vaguely marijuana-like leaves. Could our predecessors have peppered a few marijuana plants in the garden? The plants didn’t look quite like marijuana, but they didn’t resemble any flowering plants that I knew. I little internet research suggested they were cleomes. And a few weeks later that was confirmed by the delicate but stately-spidery blooms that climbed up the stalks for weeks and weeks.IMG_2052

I realize that we will never have this experience again. We were the fortunate recipients of someone else’s garden, a blooming, living testament of their vision, taste, and labor. I felt a bit like Mary Lennox in one of my favorite childhood books, “The Secret Garden,” navigating the wonder of an unknown garden.IMG_0868

Every week brought us something new. Irises, yes, but what kind? Oh, sweet, vivid deep-blue Siberians. IMG_0695A perennial garden is personal. It reflects the gardeners who planted it. We only briefly met the previous owners of this house, but learned something about them through watching this garden unfold.IMG_2076

They thoughtfully designed the garden for continuous blooming throughout the growing season.

August

August

September

September

October

October

They took account of color contrasts

Daisies almost smothering lavender

Daisies almost smothering lavender

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and texture contrasts.IMG_2600IMG_2668IMG_2646

They designed for low-maintenance–no finicky, fussy plants–all well-suited for the site and (except for a few lilies) pest and disease resistant. I appreciated that the garden was clearly designed to attract pollinators and to provide food for birds. We were inundated with butterflies, moths, all kinds of bees and wasps, and an excited group of hummingbirds all summer long.IMG_0599IMG_1120IMG_2631

Finally, they didn’t forget fragrance and included lilies and moon-flowers to intoxicate the night air. Actually the moon-flowers, Datura (a potent hallucinogen), are a bit finicky this far north, strumpets in this Maine garden. Their large, tropical-looking buds slowly unfurled to fragrant white trumpet blossoms, that then became spiky seed pouches. All new to me and I loved this plant at every phase.

Datura buds and furled blossom

Datura buds and furled blossom.  Check out the Cleome marijuana-like leaves on the left.

Sweet-smelling blossom unfurled

Sweet-smelling blossom unfurled

Blossoms turn to seed

Blossoms to seed

Aside from a few tweaks, we will keep this garden as it is. We will add more perennial beds later, but will keep this windfall garden much as we received it.

Our October garden bouquet

Our October garden bouquet

Trading the Trailer For a Tractor

She's not ours, we met her at the fair.

She’s not ours, we met her at the fair.

Our metamorphosis continues.  In May, we abruptly went from full-time RV travel to putting down roots in mid-coast Maine—an area entirely new to us.  We are so besotted with our new home that—for now—we do not want to leave and hate to see the trailer sitting in the driveway, unused.  So, we are in the process of selling the trailer and hope to see it off to a new home soon.  We have a slew of projects lined up and waiting for the tractor that will replace it.

I did not even think about blogging during our busy summer.  In fact, I had pretty much decided not to continue this blog after completing our RV journey.  To my surprise , however, the blog urge suddenly reappeared and, along with it, a desire to document the transformation of this piece of land that we so fortunately found.

Right after we moved in.

Right after we moved in.

Our home here is a long-delayed dream.  In the early 1980s, we entered a land lottery in Alaska for homestead parcels near the Susitna River.  Of course, as with most lotteries, we didn’t win.  So we put our land fantasy in the deep freeze.

Finally, now, in retirement, we have the time to do and create whatever we want and a seven acre playground for a palette.  We plan to turn our acreage into a fairly self-sufficient place where we grow much of our own food.  I doubt that we will keep animals (aside from dogs, of course) because we want to continue to travel, but we will keep bees, grow a huge variety of vegetables, herbs, and flowers, and create an orchard of old and new trees.

We were thrilled to move into our house at the end of May because it gave us enough time to get a garden in this summer.  We immediately built raised beds for vegetables.

The raised beds were our first project.

The raised beds were our first project.

They have been producing beyond our expectations all summer.

Tomato blossoms in the morning dew.

Tomato blossoms in the morning dew.

Potatoes

Potatoes

We also inherited a lovely, thoughtfully-designed perennial garden that has been a pleasure to watch unfold as one set of blooms is replaced by another. IMG_0637IMG_0740

These globe thistles were spectacular.

These globe thistles were spectacular.

George has been clearing new garden land and trails with a brush hog and built a deluxe compost bin and firewood racks (more on those and other building projects in later posts).

Still life with brushhog

Still life with brushhog

We also spent a good deal of time this summer just watching the sky and the wildlife.

We have made some goldfinches very happy

We have made some goldfinches very happy

Sunrise

Sunrise

Thunderheads

Thunderheads

We have a huge expanse of sky here, which is relatively rare in most of New England.  With no city lights nearby, the stars and Milky Way are incredibly bright.  One night, watching meteor showers from our back deck,  coywolves just down the hill accompanied the show with a series of escalating, chilling howls.  Unforgettable.

Moonrise

Moonrise

Now at the equinox, the days are still summerlike, with chilly mornings.

We are busy stacking firewood to season and raking up scabby apples in hopes of rehabilitating some of our old apple trees.  IMG_1785This year, we’re making applesauce from the old tree apples.

These russets are the only apple variety on our old trees that didn't have apple scab. They're tasty, too.

These russets are the only apple variety on our old trees that don’t have apple scab. They’re tasty, too.

Next year–hard cider.

We were able to tear ourselves away from our farm projects for a few day trips.

A trip to Fort Knox

A trip to Fort Knox

and the Penobscot Narrows bridge

and the Penobscot Narrows bridge

But, mostly, we have been content to stay at home–everything we want is right here.IMG_1313IMG_1534