Transformations

IMG_3950

As usual, summer whirled by.  We took on too much, but are feeling the sweet satisfaction of transforming our slice of hillside into our long-dreamed-of ultimate home.  It feels good.

IMG_3753

George capped off a summer of building projects by finishing the sauna.  He put an amazing amount of time, thought, and work into it.  And it’s a beautiful creation, with gorgeous wood inside and out, nestled in the trees, promising hours of bliss—soaking in heat, hot cedar fragrance, and the flickering light of the woodfire.

IMG_3777

To accompany the sauna, George also built a deluxe outdoor shower.

IMG_3103

Beginnings of the shower (with the dye garden and fleece washing station behind)

There’s nothing like watching eagles soaring overhead while showering.  Getting clean has never been so sweet.

IMG_3233

While George was busy building, the butterflies moved in.

IMG_2525

The Eastern Tiger Swallowtails appeared first

IMG_3314

Eastern Tiger Swallowtail caterpillar–the only time I’ve seen one–the “eyes” and swaying head were a bit creepy

IMG_3690

Black Swallowtail caterpillar

We were besieged by monarchs.  In their caterpillar incarnation they ate our milkweed to desolate skeletons, every tender bit devoured.

IMG_3175 (2)

We were fortunate to catch the moment of metamorphosis from caterpillar to chrysalis while the grandchildren were here.

IMG_3196

Attaching to form a chrysalis

I hope it didn’t give them nightmares of alien transformations.

IMG_3205Lots of writhing and pulsing, as a massive chrysalis (where did that incredible hulk come from?) shed the vivid caterpillar skin, leaving a shriveled bit of tissue-paper debris in a matter of minutes.

IMG_3208 (2)

Ouch.

IMG_3222

By August, Monarch chrysalises were hanging everywhere—from perennial stalks, siding, windowsills, and even a wheelbarrow.

IMG_3550 (2)

As good hosts, we left them alone—no cutting back of perennials or bumpy wheelbarrow rides during chrysalis-hood.  On the final day before butterfly emergence, the chrysalis becomes a deep blue, with wings and colors visible.

IMG_3500

But the actual emergence is very fast—it’s over in minutes.  Although I kept on eye on ripe ones, I kept missing the magic moment.  I finally camped out on our deck steps shelling tiger beans, next to a chrysalis looking about to burst, determined to wait until the moment of emergence.

MVI_3510_Moment(2)

After about an hour, there was a sudden twitch and the chrysalis listed to one side.

MVI_3510_Moment(4)

Then, in an eerie similarity to the caterpillar-chrysalis transformation, in minutes the butterfly shed the chrysalis and burst out—BOOM—into a crumbled color of wings with an outsized body.

MVI_3510_Moment(5)MVI_3510_Moment(8)

After a few hours drying, it was off, feasting on nectar for the migration south.

IMG_3528

Some evenings more than a dozen would be dancing over our Joe Pye Weed.

IMG_3738

They stayed well into October.  I hope they made it to Mexico.

IMG_2579

It was a good summer for growing—monarchs, flowers, and vegetables.

IMG_2581IMG_3267 (2)

The gardens produced wonderfully and I swear the vegetables get tastier every year.

IMG_2716

Flax

IMG_3466IMG_3440

In the summer, we filled the greenhouse with tomatoes, cotton, a fig tree, passion fruit vines, bay laurel, herbs, turmeric and ginger.

IMG_3473

Passionfruit flower

IMG_3726

Curing sweet potatoes in greenhouse

IMG_3864

Hoping for tomatoes into November

Now it’s also planted with greens for fall, winter, and spring.  I’m looking forward to seeing how much it extends the season for us.

IMG_3822

Sweet Alice

The dogs and bees are thriving, too.  Capp appears to have recovered completely from his mystery illness last year, which is such a relief.

IMG_3433

Capp sunbathing

He and Alice are our best buddies, making us rich in love and dog hair.

IMG_3117

My adopted bees settled in beautifully and are going into fall as the strongest hive I’ve ever had.  I’ll wrap the hive next month and hope they make it through the winter.

IMG_2999

Samuel Morison great wheel

Much of my summer was textile-related—most of it outdoors.

IMG_3240

Gotland fleece ready to wash

IMG_3590

Dew retting flax

I went to two natural dyeing workshops, washed fleeces, spun a lot of wool for dyeing, worked on wheels, grew and retted flax, and taught a class on antique wheels.  In late summer, I set up my outdoor dye kitchen for two dyeing sessions, using plants from my dye garden and our land.

IMG_3046.JPG

Simmering goldenrod

IMG_3058

Japanese Indigo–notice the blue tinge to the water

What a range of colors emerged: blues from Japanese Indigo and Woad; yellows from Weld, Goldenrod, and Queen Anne’s Lace; gold and orange from Dyer’s Coreopsis; and green from overdyeing the yellows with the blues.

IMG_3086

Dye day one, Woad, Japanese Indigo, Goldenrod, Queen Anne’s Lace and overdyeing for greens

There’s a wonderful sense of witchy-ness in hovering over a brew of plants transforming them to potions of color.

IMG_3045

IMG_3136

Dyer’s Coreopsis

IMG_3346

Dye day two–Japanese Indigo, Dyer’s Coreopsis, with overdyeing and afterbaths of washing soda and iron

I was so busy with outside activities that I had little time for weaving.  In September, however, an antique wheel friend offered to sell me her Leksand loom, a beautiful 19th century Swedish loom for weaving bands.  I was thrilled.

IMG_3812

Beautiful old Leksand–I’m very fortunate to have this loom

They are very hard to find and really fun to use.  It took some time to figure out how to set it up and weave on it–all the helpful books were in Swedish.  I also rescued an old Maine tape loom that had been covered with 70s-era painted flowers and have a line-up of spinning wheels waiting for my repairs.

IMG_3858

IMG_3825

Cape Breton wheel needing work

Last week I finally warped up my big loom.

IMG_3869

It’s still too beautiful, though, to spend much time inside.  The leaf colors are spectacular this fall.

IMG_3921IMG_3877

But, winter is coming.

IMG_3888

And I plan to be a recluse—home with George, dogs, snow, wheels, spinning, sewing, and weaving.  And the sauna, of course.

IMG_3795

 

Busy

IMG_2236

Two words for this spring—cold and wet.

IMG_2103

Late snows, hard frosts, frigid mud, and a miserly portion of sunshine delayed our yard work and gardening, again and again.  When the weather finally began to warm up a bit (only a handful of days have teasingly felt like summer), we were in catch-up mode, trying to get everything done at once.

IMG_2099

Preparing the greenhouse pad.

Although I held off on planting, the ground remains unseasonably cold and wet.  My potatoes and flax have stunted patches and the warm weather crops are struggling to get established.  New growth for deer browse was late and some deer—looking for spring nutrition—girdled several of the apple trees that I planted last fall in the lower orchard.

girdling

They didn’t touch any other saplings—that sweet young apple bark must be especially tasty.  I tried to do some cleft grafting to save them, but it doesn’t appear to have taken. So, we will plant more in the spring and fence them well.

IMG_1972

I was hoping the grafts would take, but it doesn’t look good.

I also had another fail with my bees this winter.  They had swarmed last June and the remaining bees in the hive never seemed to get up to full strength.  I was happy that they made it into January, but then I lost them in a long, deep freeze.  I reluctantly decided to take a year off from beekeeping for several reasons:  I would be out-of-state when the bee packages arrive; we want to move the hive to a new area that won’t be ready until later in the year; and we want to do perimeter work around our fence (near the hive) to keep our tick population down.

IMG_2370 (2).JPG

There are other hives in our area, and plenty of bees came to pollinate our wild apples, but I really missed having our own.  I put off cleaning out and storing the hive and in a wild, unlikely hope that maybe a swarm would take up residence.  And, sure enough, that’s what happened.  One morning in mid-June, I noticed some bees at the hive.  I could not tell if they were robbing the little honey left or if they might be scouts for a swarm.

MVI_2491_Moment

A few hours later I heard a massive buzzing sound and the air was filled with a bee swarm descending on the hive.

IMG_2499

It was pretty exciting.  They now are happily established.  So much for moving the hive—I’m so happy to have these new arrivals, it’s staying where it is.

IMG_2506.JPG

The other insects of note this spring are the brown tail moths that are invading midcoast Maine.  They make ticks seem like pleasant little nuisances.  The moth caterpillars have toxic, barbed hairs that become airborne and can create a nasty itchy rash and a cough if breathed.  They favor oaks and apples, of which we have plenty.  Up until this year, they weren’t a problem for us and we did extensive pruning this year on our old apples—not worried about moths.

pruning

Early spring pruning on the wild apples in the yard.

Unbeknownst to George, though, one of the trees was moth-infested and when he was cleaning up the downed branches, he developed a horrible rash.  To finish up the job, he has had to hose down all the wood and wear a moth hazmat outfit.  Yuck.

IMG_2566

Despite the cold and toxic moth hairs, we have never had so many nesting birds.

IMG_2560

Sparrow nest I stumbled on when clearing orchard weeds. Fortunately, I didn’t scare the mother, she’s still sitting on the nest.

The birdsong has been amazing—it goes on from earliest pre-dawn until the evening.  We have nesting wrens, cardinals, sparrows, phoebes, chickadees, mourning doves, yellowthroats, thrushes, catbirds, vireos, towhees, various unidentified warblers, woodpeckers, robins, goldfinches, waxwings, evening grosbeaks, and a a very vocal melodious Baltimore Oriole for the first time this year.

IMG_2260.JPG

We put up two nesting boxes with trepidation, hoping that our pugnacious bluebird wouldn’t return.  He didn’t.

IMG_2433

Bluebird fledgling about a minute before his first flight.

We had a friendly bluebird couple take up residence and a gorgeous pair of swallows.

IMG_2112.JPG

George has been going non-stop all spring with pruning, putting up next winter’s wood, improving the drainage down the driveway and around the new garage, building beds for my new dye garden,

IMG_2569

Dye garden and fleece washing tubs.

building screen houses for the brassicas,

IMG_2438

The screen enclosure in the background has been wonderful to protect the brassicas from cabbage moth caterpillars.

working on the sauna, planting trees and shrubs, preparing foundations for a new shed and green house, on top of the usual yard, trail, and house maintenance.

IMG_2198.JPG

I’m in love with our new greenhouse.

IMG_2204.JPG

While George has been giving the tractor a workout, I’ve had a textile-rich spring.  With help from a friend, I put together an exhibit highlighting weaving, spinning, flax production, and antique textile tools for the local library, which recently acquired a trove of new books on these subjects for its craftsmanship collection.

IMG_20190226_160440

I didn’t take photos of the exhibit, but we had antique wheels and a tape loom.

In late April, Jan and I also did an evening presentation on antique spinning wheels at the same library, hoping to gain converts to rehabilitate the old wheels and get them spinning again.

IMG_2187

Current herd of great wheels.

Soon after, I went to Vavstuga weaving school in western Massachusetts for a course in Swedish Classics.

IMG_20190508_125425

Learning rosepath.

It was wonderful to be back there, immersed in a week of nothing but weaving.

IMG_20190508_180348

Monksbelt variation.

When I returned, I got going on taking and collecting photos for a presentation on Connecticut wheelmakers for an Antique Spinning Wheel Symposium at Marshfield School of Weaving in Vermont in early June.

screenshot_2019-05-24-ancestry-com-connecticut-wills-and-probate-records-1609-1999.png

The presentation also involved countless hours of genealogy research and deciphering probate records and inventories from the 1700s, to try to track down the identity of wheelmaker J. Platt.  I still don’t know who he is.

IMG_2119

But, we had magical weather for the symposium and what a treat to get together with a bunch of antique wheel nerds.  The talking was non-stop, it was such a rare opportunity to all be speaking the same language of scribe lines, double-flyers, hub shapes, spindle supports, chip carving, maidens, mother-of-alls (mothers-of-all?), and, on and on …

IMG_20190608_175444

At Lone Rock Farm in Marshfield.

I stayed over the next day for a flax workshop with Norman Kennedy, the 86-year-old grand master of weaving, flax, stories of textiles in Scotland, and song (among other things).

IMG_2423

Norman dressing a distaff.

And I stayed at a wonderful farm B&B, where I got to enjoy morning visits with the cows, pigs, chickens, and kittens.

IMG_20190611_080612

Marshfield was beautiful, I loved being with “my people,” and enjoyed an amazing three days, but—as always—it was so sweet to get home—with flowers and dogs to greet me.

IMG_2536IMG_2221Capp is doing wonderfully now.  It’s such a relief to have him back to normal.

IMG_20190316_163916

Throughout the spring, I’ve been spinning and weaving,

IMG_20190320_121639 IMG_20190311_135639 IMG_20190401_115053

and finished up processing last year’s flax.

IMG_2444

Bottom batch was dew retted (twice) last fall and the top batch was retted on snow this winter.

IMG_2452

I bought this wonderful flax break at auction last month for $10. The auctioneer had no idea what it was.

IMG_2461

Snow retted flax being hackled. It’s a lovely color.

IMG_2479

From left to right: early dew retted (under retted), tub retted, double dew retted, snow retted.

IMG_2465

I was engulfed by lilac fragrance while processing the flax. We had a bumper crop of lilacs this year.

Now that summer is officially here, I’m just about caught up on spring chores and hope to have a less busy, more relaxing summer.  We’ll see.

IMG_2529

Spinning on the porch, watching thunderstorms and rainbows.