Summer, it seems, is tapping on Spring’s shoulder. The leaves are full and deep green—no more sweet green fringe—and they sigh as the wind moves through them. The blackflies are nearly gone, and the mosquitos have taken their place. The ticks aren’t too bad even though Clif has been bitten once and needed to go on antibiotics as a preventative measure. I check myself when I come in and so far haven’t found any on me.
As a reminder that Spring hasn’t quite left, the peepers still sing at night. Such a sweet song. Here is a short YouTube audio for folks who have never heard this lovely sound.
I have been busy in the garden, moving slowly but steadily, getting the work done. Most of my focus has been on the gardens, but I did take time to make a potato salad to go with our Beyond Burgers—our first but certainly not last barbecue of the season.
As we ate, we listened to the gentle sound of the water in the fountain, a 60th birthday present from Dee, Shannon, and Mike.
Here are some late spring delights from the yard and garden.
A Jack-in-the-pulpit between the edge of our lawn and the woods,
wood poppies, also on the edge of the yard,
and Solomon’s seal bending over sweet woodruff.
As always, I wish that Spring wouldn’t rush by so fast, that she would linger a little longer. But like a guest who never outstays her welcome, she will soon be off, letting Summer take her place.
Finally, spring has come to central Maine, to my home on the edge of the woods. I won’t say things are abloom in my yard. That would be going too far. My garden’s brief blast of color comes in middle June and lasts through July.
Instead, what I have is green, green, and more green. But as my blogging friend Quercus once reminded me, green is a color, too. Yes, it is, and when you live by the woods, green is what you mostly get in the spring.
I only had one fatality over the winter, a Jacob’s ladder, which I miss very much. Still, when you consider how cold it got one weekend in February—50°F below zero with the wind chill, so cold that the house cracked and snapped in protest—losing one plant isn’t too bad. I consider it a minor miracle that I didn’t lose more.
In Maine, May is the time to get cracking in the garden, to remove the blown-in leaves from the beds, to add compost and fertilizer, to move and divide plants. By the time June rolls around, the plants have grown to the point where adding much of anything is difficult and dividing and moving seem like a bad idea.
Therefore, out I go most every nice day, and despite my creaky knees, I am making good progress. Twice a week, Clif goes to our transfer station (aka the dump) to get free compost for me. And very good compost it is. For years, I’ve been getting compost from the transfer station, and, so far anyway, I have had no problems with pesty weed seed invading my beds.
The next few weeks will be busy ones for me as I get the gardens sorted. Blog posts will be short, but I will be sure to include pictures that document the progress of the green and growing things in my beds.
For starters, here is the picture of our woods, which is about 60 feet from our patio. I wish I could give you a better idea of the expanse of green that comes to the edge of our yard, but this picture, at least, gives some hint of it.
Here’s a view from the front. Green with a side order of green.
And here’s a side view.
But look a little more closely and you get bits of white.
And what’s this? A flash of purple in the back garden?
In the United States, yesterday was Mother’s Day. Unfortunately, our eldest daughter Dee is in New York and couldn’t be with us. However, our youngest daughter Shannon and her husband Mike came on Friday and spent the night. Naturally, the dogs came, too, for the early Mother’s Day celebration.
What a treat to have them here. We had Chinese food followed by donuts for dessert. (I am a donut fiend, and I once wrote a piece called “Desperate for Donuts.”)
We spent quite a bit of time on the patio. Luckily, this spring the black flies—those biting scourges of the north—aren’t too bad. A real gift for Mother’s Day. Nothing like having a cloud of bloodthirsty insects swarming around your head to ruin a celebration.
That night, we played a cooperative board game called The Big Book of Madness.
We had a lot of fun with this game.
After playing The Big Book of Madness, we talked late into the night about all the things we love—books, games, movies, and television. It’s wonderful to have Shannon and Mike within driving distance of us. When they lived in North Carolina, we didn’t see them very often.
A sweet, sweet way to celebrate Mother’s Day early.
We chose Bedrock Gardens because it is within driving distance for many blogging friends in Northern New England. (Bedrock Gardens is about two hours from where I live in central Maine.) Also, I have to admit that after reading about Bedrock Gardens on Judy’s blog, I have been very keen to see this garden.
Admission to the garden is $15, and Judy has arranged for us to have a free tour, which starts at 10:30. There is plenty of parking at Bedrock Gardens as well as restrooms. There is also plenty of room for us to bring chairs and have a bag lunch after the tour is done.
The get-together and tour will happen even if there is a light drizzle. If the weather forecast is for pouring rain, the tour will be canceled, but we will meet at a local restaurant for lunch and a chat.
If you are interested in coming, please let me know in the comments, and I will get back to you.
Hope to see those of you who are within driving distance on Thursday, June 15th at Bedrock Gardens in Lee, New Hampshire.
It’s that busy, busy time of year when the days just gallop by. (I am always grateful for the quiet of winter.) Between selling books—yay!—working on my next book, gatherings with friends, and yard work, my days are pretty full.
Time to take a little blogging break. I plan on returning on May 5.
Happy spring to those of you who live in the northern hemisphere. Happy autumn to those of you who live in the southern hemisphere. And happy Earth Day to all.
Last Wednesday, we had small patches of snow in the backyard.
But the next day, on Thursday, April 12, the snow was completely gone. In the little pond down the road, the frogs were clicking and clacking, but so far, no peepers.
On Friday, the temperature jacked up to 80°F, and heat records were broken statewide. Too hot for April in Maine, that’s for sure. Fortunately, by Saturday the temperature had dropped to something approaching normal for this time of year.
The table is now on the patio, and we had lunch out there several days in a row. If you look closely, you can see bright green coming up in the garden.
The chipmunks are out of hibernation, and they have decided that our compost bin is their neighborhood grocery store. Note how they have chewed the side vents to make bigger holes for easy in, easy out.
Overnight, it seems, the goldfinches went from drab feathers to bright yellow. (Dawn, from the blog Change Is Hard, has noted this, too.) Because of the sun, the goldfinch’s colors are washed out in the picture below, but the bird on the left gives some idea as to the yellowness of the feathers. I’ll try to get a better picture in the upcoming days.
Now the busy season has begun: raking, removal of leaves from the various beds, adding compost, moving plants. To borrow from a comment on a blog I read recently—alas, I can’t remember which one—it now takes me a week to accomplish what I once could accomplish in day. Ah, well. What I lack in speed, I make up with persistence. Despite my dratted creaky knees, I am outside most nice days.
Minerva, the guardian of the front yard, is waiting patiently for me to come around. By now, she knows that I always start in the backyard and work my way to the front.
Normally, in this section, I feature books that are not my own. But this week I can’t resist sharing a blog post written by my blogging friend Alys of Gardening Nirvana. The title of the piece is A Meeting of Libraries, Real and Imagined, and it features copies of my book Of Time and Magic as they make their way to various Little Free Libraries near where Alys lives all the way across the country. (Two of the Little Free Libraries are in her very own front yard.)
Holy cats, I was pleased! And those Little Free Libraries are utterly adorable. If you have a chance, click on the link in the above paragraph and take a look not only at my book but also at the sweet little libraries whose mission it is to put books in the hands of book lovers.
Spring is tiptoeing into central Maine. I won’t say that we are bursting with blooms yet. We will have to wait another few weeks for that in this area. But the snow is nearly gone from our yard by the edge of the woods, and this will be Snow-Gauge Clif’s last week to measure the melting snow in 2023.
It’s always astonishes me how quickly the snow goes away. About a month ago, on March 6, this is what the front yard looked like.
A week ago, the blogging community lost a beautiful spirit—Jason Kay of Garden in the City. For the past few years, Jason had been sick with pancreatic cancer. Chemo kept the cancer at bay for a while, but at the beginning of 2023, it became clear that the chemo was no longer working, and Jason decided to stop treatment.
Jason’s family has written a lovely memorial piece about him. By clicking on the link in the paragraph above, you can read about Jason, about his love of gardens and his dedication to social justice, to making our country a better place for all people.
I had the great good fortune of meeting Jason and his wife, Judy. In October 2021, they came to Maine for a visit and to our home on the edge of the woods for a socially-distanced lunch on the patio. Alas, my gardens are not at their best in October. But never mind! It was a beautiful, warm sunny day, and we had a delightful time talking and getting to know each other. Clif, of course, made his legendary grilled bread.
Here is a picture of Judy and Jason in our backyard.
Judy and her family plan to update Jason’s wonderful blog: “[W]e hope you’ll stay as we continue to post occasional updates and photos of the garden and our family. As mentioned in an earlier post, we have hired a wonderful garden service, Vivant Gardens, to help maintain the garden.”
If you haven’t visited Garden in a City, please consider doing so. I have learned a lot about gardening from Jason, and I have marvelled at his gardens throughout the seasons and the years.
Farewell, Jason. Many thanks for all that you’ve done. You will be greatly missed.
This week’s post is a day early in order to take note of a very important day—National Peanut Butter and Jelly Day, which is celebrated in the United States every year on April 2. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are one of my favorites, and I eat them regularly, enjoying the contrast between the salty peanut butter and the sweet jelly.
Naturally, not everyone in the United States loves PB&J, as we call it. My eldest daughter doesn’t like them, and I often wonder why the heck she doesn’t. But in the U.S. so many people like PB&J that the powers that be decided this delicious sandwich needed its own special day. It’s nice to know that sometimes justice is served.
One of my blogging friends, Platypus Man of Now I’m 64, has indicated that PB&J is not universally loved in the U.K. and that he has a horror of them. Well, each to his or her own.
In honor of PB&J Day, I am sharing with readers pictures of my delicious lunch this afternoon. For those who are celebrating this special day, bon appétit!
Last weekend we again headed south of the border to Massachusetts to visit our youngest daughter, Shannon and her husband, Mike. We also went there to pick up our eldest daughter, Dee, who had spent the past month in New York where she tended to business concerning her apartment. Now she is back with us for a while.
As we ate Chinese food and discussed books, movies, and television shows, I reflected on how lucky it is that we enjoy talking to each other so much. But bad weather was blowing up the coast, and we reluctantly left early before the worst of it came.
On the way home, I also reflected on how lucky I am to have access to podcasts and other other places on the Internet where I can discover new books, music, television shows, and movies. I live in a rural community in a rural state, and while I love all the nature that’s around me, I also love art and culture. The Internet allows me to learn and explore and to listen to new ideas that wouldn’t ordinarily be available to someone who lives in the hinterlands.
I realize that the Internet is not a source of unalloyed good. Plenty of trolls and bad actors make use of the Internet to spread their hate and lies. But there is also much good that can come from being connected to other folks and organizations. Because of the Internet, I have blogging friends around the world, and for this I am ever so grateful.
I hope we can find a way to minimize the harm of the Internet while keeping the many things that are good about it.
Here we are at the end of March. In Maine this is an in-between kind of time, not exactly winter but not quite spring. In our yard at the edge of the forest, there is still plenty of snow, but there’s also a fair amount of bare ground. At least in the sunnier backyard.
It’s still too muddy to start with spring clean-up, but in a week or two I’ll be able to work in the backyard without fear of losing my shoes.
Here is Snow-Gauge Clif in the backyard.
Now around to the snowier front yard.
Just for fun, here’s a photo of this year’s Christmas wreath, which is definitely past its best.
In late March or early April, depending on the depth of the snow, I always take the holiday wreath apart and throw the greenery into the woods. I think the snow has melted enough to allow me to do this fairly soon.
I came across Jorge Glem and Sam Reider on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts. As soon as I heard them I said to myself, “What can be more fun than an accordion and a tiny guitar (a cuatro)? As turns out, not much. But the music can also be soulful. One thing is certain, this is definitely a unique pairing.
Last Saturday counted as an action-packed day for two homebodies who can be found most days at their house on the edge of the woods. It was our forty-sixth wedding anniversary, and as is our wont, we planned a day of simple pleasures that revolved around food.
First, breakfast. I made a batch of vegan chocolate muffins from my own recipe, one that I have come to be inordinately proud of. With them, we had veggie sausages. A good start to the day.
For lunch we headed to Augusta to the Red Barn, which specializes in fried food. Both Clif and I are crazy about fried food, but for obvious health reasons, we seldom have it. But for our anniversary we figured, what the heck, and we threw caution to the wind. We brought our own dairy-free ranch dressing for reasons I’ll explain later. The food—piping hot mixed veggies—were oh so good.
Then it was off to our local supermarket to pick up nondairy cream cheese for a taste test comparison. Clif is lactose intolerant and not just a little bit. Because of this, we are always on the lookout for nondairy alternatives to food we love. Time was when supermarkets in central Maine did not offer much in the way of dairy-free products, but that is changing. On Saturday we found two cream cheese alternatives to go with crackers and drinks in late afternoon.
I am sorry to report that neither of the cream cheeses came through with flying colors. Vevan, the one on the left, had a muddy taste where the flavors were jumbled but nothing stood out, and the Kitehill, while marginally better, had a strange undertaste. Readers, if any of you have nondairy cream cheese recommendations, I’d love to hear about them.
Fortunately, we had better results with dessert. We’ve had this before, so we knew what were getting. The “So Delicious” on the carton is no exaggeration. This frozen dessert is one of the most delicious I have ever tasted, and that includes dairy ice cream. It is smooth, rich, creamy, and filled with chunks of cashews and chocolate. Who could ask for anything more? Its one drawback is the price—$5 for a quart. But since it was our anniversary, we figured we could splurge. Besides, $2.50 apiece for a dessert for a special day isn’t so very bad, and it was worth every penny.
While my favorite genres of music are Alternative Rock and Folk Rock, I am also very keen on Baroque Music. I know, I know. Quite a spread there. When I work on my fiction, I always listen to Baroque music, and I’m particularly fond of Vivaldi.
So on this vernal equinox, here is a farewell to winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons: Winter. In Maine, we still might have a snowstorm or two, but we are definitely heading toward spring.
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