When Life Gives You Covid, Go on a Picnic

Here we are in the beginning of August, with the Delta variant, reportedly as contagious as chicken pox, ripping through the country. According to ABC News, one year ago, the U.S. was averaging about 63,000 new cases of Covid a day. This year, we’re averaging 62,000 cases a day. No matter how  you look at it, that’s not progress.

At least Clif and I had two good months in June and July. A heady period when it actually seemed as though we were returning to normal times. Friends came over, we gathered at the local Brewery, we dispensed with masks when grocery shopping.

But all this was conditional. Clif and I are firm believers in science and data, and we continued to keep track of the Covid numbers. We decided that if the numbers rose, then our behavior would change. Unfortunately, the numbers rose. Our masks, tucked away, came back out, and we have been wearing them whenever we go shopping or to any other indoor place.

On a happier note…as I mentioned in a previous post, our eldest daughter Dee has come to stay with us until her office calls her back in. For now, she can work remotely, and we are thrilled to have her here.

But what to do on days off? Going inside with bunches of people no longer seems like a swell idea. However, never fear! We hit upon a solution that is both safe and fun—picnics. While central Maine does not have the dramatic beauty of the coast, there are still pleasing spots to enjoy that feature fields, rivers, and hills.

One such spot in nearby Hallowell overlooks the Kennebec River. There’s a small waterfront park that has jaunty chairs dotting a long boardwalk.  Perfect for a picnic lunch, and perfect for watching the river and the wildlife that thrives there.

So on Saturday, a beautiful sunny day that was not too hot, we headed to Hallowell. Other people, it seems, had the same idea.

Who’s that guy in the front? Could it be Clif?

Here’s a view of the river going north,

with mallards resting by the water’s edge.

We also saw ospreys, which were flying too high for the wee camera to get a good photo.

And even more exciting, for the first time ever, I saw an Atlantic sturgeon, a big one about four or five feet long, jump not far from us. Too quick for a photo, but the image of that leaping prehistoric fish is embedded in my memory.

What a great way to start our season of picnics.

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Nifty posts from some of the lovely blogs I follow:

For daylily lovers, the Strafford County Master Gardeners Association blog features a post about John Hric, an Ohio gardener whose passion for daylilies has led not only to growing them, but also to breeding them.

From Canberra’s Green Spaces: Birds, beautiful birds. What could be better? How about tree kangaroos? Wowsah! This Mainer had never heard of tree kangaroos before.

Ju-Lyn, of Touring My Backyard, celebrates the changing seasons.

From Thistles and Kiwis, a week of small pleasures that included food and a trip to the museum to see an exhibition featuring surrealist art.

Horses, horses, horses! Derek J. Knight gets some great pictures of horses that are allowed to roam free.

Enter the Yellow Jackets

Life is not always idyllic at our home on the edge of the woods. True, we have trees and birds and a patio in our backyard where we can enjoy the cool mysterious green of the forest. But this year we also have yellow jackets, lots of them, swarming the hummingbird feeders and scaring away those whizzing beauties.

Here is how yellow jackets are described on The Home Depot website: “Yellow jackets are a type of wasp that typically live in the ground…Yellow jackets are extremely aggressive insects that are drawn mainly to sugary liquids and meats. Each insect stings multiple times and injects venom into its victim.”

No wonder the hummingbirds have stopped coming to the feeder!

Funny thing is, we have had hummingbird feeders for ten years or more, and we have never had a problem with yellow jackets.  Perhaps there is a nest nearby? Readers, if you have had a similar experience, please do share it in the comments section.

Yesterday afternoon, in an uncharacteristic act of bravery, I took down the feeders and moved them to the far edge of the yard. As I removed the feeders, there were lots of yellow jackets buzzing around, but Chance was on my side, and I escaped injury. The yellow jackets did not follow me. Instead, looking for the absent feeders, the yellow jackets circled the pole. I suppose they were wondering where their sweet cornucopia had gone.

Hummingbirds have been sitting forlornly on the post where the feeders once hung. As soon as the yellow jackets went away, which they did after a while, I hung up the feeders. I’m sure you can guess what happened. The yellow jackets zipped back faster than you could say “blueberry pie.” Away went the hummingbirds and down came the feeders again.

Fortunately, the bee balm is still in bloom in the back garden. Hummingbirds adore bee balm, which appropriately are a-buzz with bumble bees, who are not as fierce as yellow jackets.

Such is life in the backyard. I never hold it against animals or insects for doing what is, after all, in their best interest. The yellow jackets were looking for food, which they need to survive as all living creatures do. Bingo! They found a sweet, plentiful source.

That’s not to say that anything goes in the garden—if there were a ground nest of yellow jackets right by the patio, we would have to get rid of it. However, I do try to be as tolerant possible. When a bear raided a feeder with sunflower seeds, we took the feeder down for a couple of weeks, and the bear never came back. When a racoon raided the same feeder, we found a baffle that foiled the clever creature. Sometimes sterner measures must be taken, but we save those as a last resort.

Now to end on an up-note with a bit of beauty, another picture of these daylilies. I wish I knew their name. I think it might be “Summer Wine,” but if anyone knows differently, please tell me.

 

 

 

 

Late July in the Back Garden

Late July. Aside from the zing of color from the potted plants, the front garden is mostly shades of green. Soothing in its own way, but the front garden certainly doesn’t have the same punch as it did when the evening primroses were in bloom.

On the other hand, the back garden—with its begonias, lilies, bee balm, and black-eyed Susan’s—is pretty much at its best. With our daughter Dee home, we are having lunch, drinks, and dinner on the patio where we can admire the flowers and watch the comings and goings of the hummingbirds, the bees, the chipmunks, other birds, and various insect visitors.

Here are close-ups of some the flowers.

Despite the heat, despite the humidity, despite the haze that is blowing in from the fires in the western United States, summer is such a sweet time.

Diderot’s Guest Bedroom

Last week Clif and I painted and decluttered in preparation for the arrival our eldest daughter Dee, who will be staying with us until her office reopens, probably sometime in September.

Dee can work remotely from Winthrop as well as from Brooklyn. After a year and a half of not seeing her, we are delighted to have Dee stay with us for as long as she can. With the Covid variant spreading across the country, we figured it was better to have her come to Maine sooner rather than later—August was the original plan. Right now, trains and buses to and from New York City are still running, but for how long? Things might shut down again if Covid gets really bad. So yesterday, we collected Dee in Portland and brought her home.

Staying here for a couple of months is much different than staying for a week, the way Dee usually does. For such a short time, living out of a suitcase is no hardship, but for a couple of months it is another matter.

There is a closet in the guest room. However, it was stuffed with clothes I no longer wanted but couldn’t bring myself to give away. Also, the brown doors didn’t open well.

First order of business for Clif: Remove the doors and shave a bit from the bottom so that they can open easily. While the doors were off, he said, “Maybe I should paint them white and give them a fresh look.”

Good idea. While Clif did that, I sorted clothes and cleaned the closet. When I was done, the closet was empty, and there were many bags of clothes to go to Goodwill.

Clif and I regarded the scuffed walls of the empty closet.

“Paint that, too?” I asked.

“Yup,” Clif replied, and the inside of the closet got a  coat of paint.

From there, it was on to a small white night stand with drawers tucked in the basement. Perfect to go next to the bed. However, the top looked especially bad.

“Paint the top?” I asked.

Clif painted the top, but then the sides and the drawers with ugly yellow flowers looked horrible.

“Paint the whole thing?” I suggested.

After I sanded off the flowers, Clif painted the whole stand.

And what about the old clunky drawer pulls? Those had to go, and off we went to Lowe’s to buy some sleek black drawer pulls to go with the newly painted stand.

The room looked pretty darned good as Clif noted. Except for the corner with the open metal files containing documents from twenty years ago. Away went most of the documents—I did keep a few folders—and out went the stand to the side of the road. The yellow free sign did the trick, and the stand was gone by nightfall.

Readers might recall that this spring when we bought new chairs for our patio table, the twenty-year-old umbrella looked so shabby that it needed to be replaced. This was a prime example of the “Diderot Effect,” named for the famous French philosopher and what happened when he got a new dressing gown. You can read about it here.

As with the patio, so with the guest bedroom.

Phew, what a lot of work. But it was all done with heart, and how satisfying to get rid of the clutter.

Now, onward to August and to time on the patio.

Finally, here are a few photos of flowers I took last week in between cleaning and sorting.

 

Taking a Short Break

In Maine, July is a sweet time of year. The days are long, the flowers are abloom, and slippery roads are but a distant memory. (Fortunately, Clif and I work from home and therefore do not have to worry about slippery roads.)

Dee, our eldest daughter, is coming home for a visit, and I’m taking some time off to get things ready—do a little cleaning, do a little cooking. What a thrill it will be to see her after eighteen months. It’s the longest we’ve ever gone.

I’m not sure whether I’ll be taking one or two weeks off, but I’ll certainly be back in August, another sweet month when the black-eyed Susans are in bloom, the crickets begin to sing, and the grasshoppers are buzzing, buzzing, buzzing. I am always enthralled by the sounds of August.

I leave you with a picture from the especially shady part of my garden. As regular readers know, there are no truly sunny spots in our yard on the edge of the woods. And, yes, I long for a cottage garden. Somehow, the grass is always greener where the sun shines.

See you all in a week or two!

 

Rainy Day Music

Most mornings, I listen to music on YouTube as I check emails and read blog posts. It is a part of the day I greatly enjoy as I hear old favorites and discover new ones.

This morning I was going to listen to Foster The People’s Tiny Desk Concert—courtesy of NPR—but the rain stopped me. My desk is by a window overlooking the front yard, and even though the day was cool and rainy, it was warm enough to leave the window open.

As I was about to click on Foster The People, I became aware of the gently falling rain and the soft dripping sound as it fell on the road and the front lawn. I heard various birds—a cardinal, a tufted titmouse, a chickadee, goldfinches. From the little pond up the road, the deep croak of a bullfrog. And because I don’t live in paradise, the occasional car or truck. All sounds of everyday life from my home at the edge of the woods.

Later in the morning, the rain abated, and I went outside with my camera.

I took pictures of snapdragons in the deck box,

a mouse-ear hosta in bloom,

a red daylily above Minerva the cat,

the flower of another hosta, whose name I do not remember,

and a web with jewels resting on a coleus on the deck.

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And for readers who are interested, here is a link to the NPR Tiny Desk concert featuring Foster The People.

 

 

Carolyn’s Garden: Obsession Daylilies

Yesterday, I visited a garden with 192 varieties of daylilies. Yes, you read that right—192 varieties. The garden belongs to my friend Carolyn Downing. On one-and-a-quarter acres behind her home in Winthrop, she grows this astonishing number of daylilies, which she sells to  flower enthusiasts who visit her gardens. The name of Carolyn’s business is Obsession Daylilies. What a sweet obsession!

Carolyn told me that thirty-six years ago, she started making the garden behind her home, but it was only four years ago that she started devoting a large portion of it to daylilies. There was no organized plan. Instead, there was a passion for plants, and Carolyn’s business sprang from her love of flowers.

Full disclosure: Daylilies are one of my favorite flowers, and when I stood in Carolyn’s backyard, I hardly knew where to look. In mid-July, the daylilies are in glorious bloom, and right now they are about a week away from  their peak. I was dazzled by so many different colors—yellow, red, pink, orange, white, near-black, coral. As Carolyn noted, the only color missing is blue. She also told me that there are a few varieties—red—that do well in part shade. I was oh so happy to hear this, and next spring I’ll be visiting Obsession Daylilies to buy some plants for my gardens.

Here are a few of the splendid daylilies from Carolyn’s garden.

With my wee camera, it is difficult to get the broad sweep of a large garden, but these pictures will at least give you some idea of the loveliness of Obsession Daylilies.

Although Carolyn specializes in daylilies, there are other flowers in her garden, including  liatris, black-eyed Susans, daisies, and poppies. Snappy garden art punctuates the beds, along with trees and hedges.

There is even a frog, with a sign pointing the way to its home.

As I wandered around this place of beauty that was full of fluttering, jumping life—frogs, bees, birds, and butterflies—I thought about how love is at the center of so much creativity, whatever form it might take.

Carolyn’s gardens shine with love, and that love radiates over everything, making this a special place. Blogging friends, if you live in the Winthrop area and have an ardor for flowers, put Obsession Daylilies on your list of gardens to visit.

Carolyn would like you to call first, and her number is 207-377-6316. Although she would be glad to sell you a plant, Carolyn is happy to have people just drop by and look at her amazing garden.

And for folks who are keen on flowers, that’s about as good as it gets.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Then the Rain Came

A busy, busy weekend for Clif and me, two homebodies who live on the edge of the woods. And we never went farther than two miles from our home. (Of course, it does help when people come to your house.)

On Thursday—not technically the weekend but close enough—three new friends came for lunch, and the weather, not too hot, not too cold, allowed us to eat on the patio. Very nice getting to know these three.

On Friday, Clif and I headed to van der Brew for a rousing night of Trivia led by Nick the Librarian. We were joined by friends Claire and Lori, and what fun we had. As usual, a few times, we talked ourselves out of the right answers. (I still feel bitter over Berlin and Beyoncé, when the answers should have been Moscow and Alicia Keys.) But despite our missteps, we had enough points to finish in the middle of the pack, and we were pretty darned happy about that.

On Sunday, our friends Alice and Joel came over for a barbecue of patties made from Beyond Burger, which they agreed tasted like regular hamburgers. Alice and Joel were so impressed that they indicated they would be looking for Beyond Burger when they go grocery shopping. Naturally, we finished the day by solving the world’s problems. Good of us, isn’t it?

Over the weekend, the temperature dropped to 60°F and it rained. Normally, this would be a bummer for a holiday weekend, but after the extreme heat and the drought, it felt like a blessed event.

My new rain gauge collected an inch-and-a-half of water. The gardens should be happy for a few days, anyway.

Gray skies and rain make a perfect combination for photos of white flowers.

And here’s a bonus picture, taken before the rain came, of a lily and the world.

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Nifty posts from blogging friends far and near:

Lavinia, of Salmon Brook Farm, wrote a poignant farewell to her beloved cat Hope.

Going Batty in Wales featured an oh so magical round house, much of which was built from recycled materials.

Thistles and Kiwis was greeted with a beautiful sky on the morning of her birthday.

Ju-Lyn, of Touring my Backyard, has posted mouth-watering pictures of hawker noodles.

On Suzanne’s Mom’s Blog there are some deep and insightful thoughts about Independence Day, better known as Fourth of July.

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Finally, the return of a  feature I know you’ve all been waiting for—well, maybe some of you more than others—the video of a song I’ve been listening a lot to lately. “Road to Nowhere” by Talking Heads came out in 1985. Still seems appropriate.

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