One Square Yard: Wednesday, July 1

Recently, I was invited to participate in a month-long July photo challenge—SquarePerspectives hosted by BeckyB from her blog The Life of B. The challenge is exactly what it sounds like: Rather than post photos with the usual rectangular cropping, the challenge is to post photos cropped square. So each Wednesday in July, I will be presenting a series of square photos from my own yard, which nowadays is the farthest I usually go. Hence the title, One Square Yard.

Perspective is a tricky thing. Some photos lend themselves to square cropping, others do not. But what fun to experiment with this perspective. Many thanks, Becky B!

To borrow the immortal words from Huey Lewis and the News, it’s hip to be square.

One Square Yard

Oh, My! A New Book & A Podcast in the Works

Last night the rain finally came, and what a wonderful thing to hear it dripping from the eaves. It was a perfect rain—not too driving—and I think we might have gotten at least an inch.  Rain is in the forecast for the next few days, and while I like a sunny day as much as the next person, I am grateful for the rain as we surely need it. June has been such a dry month.

Here are a couple of pictures of our rainy yard. (Or garden as my friends across the pond would say.)

Lots of green, as you can see, but as my blogging friend Quercus wisely noted, green is a color, too. Yes, it is.

I am happy to report that Clif and I rose to the strawberry challenge, which I mentioned in my previous post. That is, two quarts of very ripe strawberries that wouldn’t keep long. In two-and-a-half days, those strawberries were gone. Utterly delicious! A good example of what you can do when you put your mind to it.

July is going to be a busy month for me. In the fall, Out of Time, the third book in The Great Library Series, will be published. In the next week, I have to get details about the book to James at Bookfly Design for the cover.  As with any book, there is also lots of picky copy editing to do before Out of Time can be published.

In addition, Clif and I have been working on an exciting new project—Tales from The Other Green Door, a podcast that will air sometime in July or August. The Other Green Door is a spin-off from Out of Time, and it involves two elves, Jace Willowdale and her cousin Thirret Greenwood. They have come from New York City to Portland, Maine, to open a café called The Other Green Door. Jace and Thirret are hoping for a quiet life in this small city by the bay. But because Jace accumulates magical relics from Elferterre, a mysterious dimension, the quiet life eludes them.

Because of the book and the podcast and all the work I must do to get them ready, blog posts for the next month or two are likely to be brief, with maybe a few pictures and a few lines.

Onward, ho!

And stay tuned for the podcast cover.

 

 

 

Strawberry Challenge

The high heat has gone away, and we are having pleasant sunny weather in the low 80s. No AC needed. But the summer is still young, and I expect we’ll be using Eva—my name for the AC—many times before the cool snap of fall comes.

No rain yet, but it is in the forecast for this weekend. Fingers crossed because central Maine is dry, dry, dry. One of the driest Junes in my memory.

In the backyard, the evening primroses are in bloom, and the back garden is aglow with yellow, a jaunty contrast to all the green.

Clif took a closer look at these bursts of yellow.

Recently, we bought ant moats to attach to the hummingbird feeders. Filled with water, the moats keep the ants out of the enticing sugar-water mixture. What we didn’t count on was that the birds would view the moats as another place to drink water. Somehow, a nuthatch taking a sip of water from a moat doesn’t bother us one bit.

With all the hostas I’ve planted, the front yard is not as flamboyant as the backyard. Still, there are pleasures to be found.

This week, strawberries came in our CSA share, two quarts of sweet gems. The berries are small but utterly delicious and extremely ripe. It will be a challenge to eat them all before the berries go bad.

Are Clif and I up to the challenge?

You bet we are.

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

Starting this week for my Friday posts, I’m going to take a leaf from Pop Culture Happy Hour’s book. On that excellent podcast, movies, books, music, and TV shows are reviewed and discussed. On Friday, after the lively discussions, the hosts and guests share what’s making them happy. Not surprisingly, the recommendations are media related.

I’m not sure I’m always going to stick to the media for my happy reports. After all, birds and plants make me very happy. But this week I’m featuring Rodrigo y Gabriela, two dynamic Mexican musicians who got their start in Dublin, thus proving that music is one of the things that binds us all.

So if you’re feeling a little glum by all that’s going in all the world, then click on this link. I challenge you not to tap your feet.

Hot, Hot, Hot!

It has been so hot this June that heat records have been broken all over Maine. In addition, there has been so little rain that I have had to water portions of my garden every day.

Unfortunately, our hose does not reach around to the front yard. Thank goodness for my little blue cart, which we originally bought for hauling books and display items to various fairs. This summer, with all fairs canceled owing to covid-19, I am using the cart to haul water.

Back and forth, back and forth, I go, feeling a bit like Gérard Depardieu in the excellent movie Jean de Florette. Fortunately, I don’t have to carry water on my back, the way he did.

And, I don’t have ratty Daniel Auteuil conniving to deprive me of water.

Still, hauling gallons and gallons of water out front every day certainly gives me a work out. My legs feel it at the end of the day.

In past years, Clif and I have casually discussed putting a water spigot out front, but in truth we’ve never really needed it. Usually Maine has an ample supply of rain, and I haven’t had to water much.

However, Maine is changing. The day might soon come when we put a spigot out front, just as we bought an air conditioner this year to deal with the extreme heat.

Fortunately, despite the heat, the backyard cools down at night. The evening primroses have started to bloom, bringing a jaunty touch of yellow to the various shades of green.

Around 6:00, Clif and I settle down to a light supper as the birds flutter and sing, coming for their own water and food.

Despite the heat, despite covid-19, we have our patio and backyard on the edge of the woods, a place of deep green beauty and mystery.

 

 

 

 

Juneteenth and Hot Weather

In the United states, today is Juneteenth.  As someone who lives in one of the whitest states in the country, I hadn’t heard of Juneteenth until a few years ago. Here is a description from the New York Times:

On June 19, 1865, about two months after the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Va., Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African-Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. General Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two and a half years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln.

The holiday received its name by combining June and 19. The day is also sometimes called “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day.”

In the days before electronic media, news traveled slowly. Hard to believe that it took two months for African-Americans in Galveston to learn that the Civil War had ended. But such was life in the mid-1800s, thus proving yet again that not everything about the good old days was good.

So happy Juneteenth! I hope all who celebrate will find a safe way to do so. In some states, it is a big day for cookouts and family reunions. (That ratty covid-19 just keeps taking.)

A little closer to home…Clif and I finally broke down and bought an air conditioner. We have lived in the woods for nearly forty years, and for most of that time, a fan in the attic pretty much did the trick. At night, when things cooled down, we would turn on the fan and all the hot air would be directed up and eventually out of the house.

But for the past ten years, summers in central Maine have become hotter and hotter. Once upon a time, our biggest worry for the Fourth of July was whether it would rain. Nowadays, it’s whether it will be such a blister of a day that we won’t be able to enjoy the yearly gathering we usually have. (Alas, not this year because of the aforementioned ratty covid-19.)

Last July we had thirteen days where the temperature was above 90° Fahrenheit. And here we are again, on June 18 with 90° weather. (We were there in May, too.) In what universe is it 90° in May and June in Maine? In this new universe of climate change, I guess.

Last August, when I went to get my hair cut, I told my hairdresser that we didn’t have air conditioning. I mentioned how hot and uncomfortable we had been in July.

My hairdresser said, “Laurie, it’s only going to get hotter as the years go by. You really should  consider buying an air conditioner.”

I agreed, and her words stuck with me.

So this year we did it. Here it is, and as Clif has noted, it looks like a maintenance droid out of Star Wars.

We decided to get a free-standing unit rather than one that goes in the window because we figured it would be easier to wheel this into a backroom and store it for the winter rather than heft a unit in and out of the window each spring and fall. It is also a heat pump and energy efficient, which means we might be using it for heat come spring and fall.

Yesterday, just in time to make us glad that we followed my hairdresser’s suggestion, I read in the Times that “Scientists Predict Scorching Temperatures to Last Through Summer.”

We will be ready with our air-conditioning droid.

 

Six for a Blue Monday

As I just wrote to a blogging friend,  although blue is my favorite color, I am feeling blue in the sad sense. It seems as though our country is far, far away from getting covid-19 under control. And yet out everyone goes.

Not coincidentally, cases of covid-19 are rising around the country. To me, feeling safe seems like a distant dream, and the same is true for getting together with family and friends.

To cheer myself up and to remind myself, yet again, how lucky I am to live here, I am sharing six recent pictures that I took around the yard.

A visit from Mrs. Cardinal is always welcome. It’s a pity I couldn’t get a picture of her being fed by her devoted husband, as she often is. When I am on the patio, I’ll keep my camera at the ready. Maybe I’ll be able to capture this sweet exchange.

Shannon and Mike sent me these flowers for Mother’s Day. I had to keep them inside for a while as the beginning of May was decidedly chilly.  However, the weather improved, and into a pot these impatiens went. Perky and bright, they make me smile whenever I go out onto the porch.

In the front garden, I find the colors and textures of the hosta and fern pleasing and soothing.

Unfortunately my irises did poorly this winter. Some pulled through, but there are few blooms.  But here is one for me to marvel over. I certainly hope that 2021 is a better year for my irises. (And for many other things as well.)

Wild daisies have sprung up in various places in my garden. Blown in, perhaps, or dropped by birds. Whatever the case, I leave them where they come up. It seems to me that it would be churlish to pull them just because they are not exactly in the right spot.

For the last one, back to hostas, to Frances Williams, a plant with leaves so large it looks as though it belongs in the Jurassic period. This close-up shows the textures and patterns on this giant of a hosta.

Onward we go. I hope you find at least six things to make you happy this week.

 

What I’m Listening to: Lavinia Ross and NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts

Every morning while I’m going through my emails and other correspondence, I listen to music via YouTube, which provides me with a variety that can only be called astonishing. This morning music both grounds and energizes me. It helps prepare me for my fiction writing, an arduous but satisfying  wrestle with words and story. (Silence is always required for my fiction writing.)

Lately, I have become especially taken with National Public Radio’s Tiny Desk Concerts—“Intimate video performances, recorded live at the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen.” The Tiny Desk Concerts feature music for all kinds of tastes. What a gift!

Here are a few of the many video performances I listen to on a regular basis.

First, there is this joyful, luminous performance by Coldplay and the absolutely amazing For Love Choir. I listen to and watch this almost every day. Much needed during these grim times. I can’t be the only who “wants to party like it’s 1999.”

For a walk on the weirder yet strangely compelling side, you can’t beat Sylvan Esso, a cross between the German band Kraftwerk and the American band Blondie. You might notice this video has been labeled a “tiny desk Home concert.” During this time of the pandemic, it’s part of a new series recorded in musicians’ homes. I’m impressed by the quality of the sound. Very impressed.

Time for a change of pace with Death Cab For Cutie. My daughter Dee introduced me to this soulful, melancholy group led by Ben Gibbard.

I’ve saved the best for last, not a tiny desk concert. Instead, a CD—Keepsake—from my blogging friend Lavinia Ross of Salmon Brook Farms.

Here is how Lavinia describes Keepsake: “[I]t is quiet peaceful folk music. Four songs are mine, four are Kate Wolf covers, one Bob Dylan cover and one James Taylor cover….Guitar playing is mine except for the fretless bass (Jim Lamontagne), and the last song, a Bob Dylan one called ‘Tomorrow is a Long Time.’ ”

Lavinia does most of the singing—her husband Rick does sing one song. Holy cats, what a voice she has! Last night Clif and I were listening to Keepsake, and he said, “Lavinia’s singing reminds me of Aimee Mann.” Yes.

In a lovely case of serendipity, Lavinia features a couple of “tiny farm concert” videos on her website. Here is one featuring the song “Weary Stranger.”

I could have shared so many wonderful music videos.

What are you listening to?

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