All posts by Laurie Graves

I write about nature, food, the environment, home, family, community, and people.

The Quiet Beauty of Viles Arboretum

With this post, I’m joining Robin at Breezes at Dawn for her annual Walktober tradition. Here’s how she describes Walktober:  “In a nutshell, Walktober is a group walk. We all go out for a walk, we all post about it on our blogs, and I round up all the posts in one big post here at my blog so we can join one another in our various walks.” Anyone is welcome to join, and the link I’ve provided will give instructions on how to do so.

It’s a well-known fact that people will visit places far from home while ignoring those that are in their own backyard, so to speak. For me, this has certainly been the case with Viles Arboretum in Augusta, about fifteen miles from where we live. While I’ve been there before, it was many years ago, when the arboretum was a simple place with a network of trails and not much else.

On Saturday, Clif, Dee, and I went for a visit and discovered that the arboretum has grown over the years. The trails are still there, but now there are also orchards, bees, community gardens, a visitor’s center, and a lovely new barn where a wedding was being held.

Just as I did with Wolfe’s Neck Park in Freeport, I pottered around the edges of the arboretum while Clif and Dee went on the trails. My creaky knees were made worse by a spill I took going up our front steps. I know. Tripping going up the stairs. How foolish is that? But this is what I did. Anyway, other than a few plates, I didn’t break anything, but I have been very sore for the past few days.

Still, I had a lovely time going at my own slow pace, taking pictures and resting on some of the many benches placed at various intervals along the trails. While central Maine might not have the dramatic beauty of the coast, it has its own quiet pleasures. As I sat on one of the benches, I heard chickadees singing their sweet chickadee-dee-dee song. I could smell the nutty fragrance of fallen leaves, and the sun shone at a slant, casting a golden glow on everything.

Here are some pictures from my walk.

This striking sculpture greeted me in the parking lot.

Behind the barn and the visitor’s center, a trail leads to the woods.

On one side there are orchards,

and community gardens. The cosmos, planted at the edge of the gardens, caught my attention.

On the other side, more sculpture, which pleased me as I am a huge fan of outdoor sculpture. If your budget allows—the golden leaves go for $2,500—you could buy one for your very own garden. Alas, not in our budget.

Not far away, were the bees.

Through the fields and into the woods I went, down a charming path with hostas, past their best, and white birches, lovely in any season.

very, very

Farther down, was a bench, just barely visible on the right, where I waited for Clif and Dee. As I waited, I took notes.

Truly, Viles Arboretum is a place worth visiting even if you don’t live in the area.

 

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Nifty Posts from Some of the Lovely Blogs I Follow:

This week, Ju-Lyn of Touring My Backyard, features low-hanging fruit. Literally.

Ever heard of Bohemian Catsody? No? I hadn’t either until I read This Week’s Small Pleasures from Thistles and Kiwis.

I love Halloween—its spookiness coinciding with the chill of fall, and, of course, the candy. From Cimple, here is a deliciously wicked Halloween display.

Lagniappe, with exquisite photography, features little jewels of nature.

As part of her What’s on Your Plate series, Donna, of Retirement Reflections, shares a recipe for mini-cheese cakes. They look both delicious and easy to make. My kind of recipe.

More Halloween fun, this time with the color of fall—orange flowers from Susan Rushton, whose blog’s tagline exactly matches my own philosophy: Celebrating gardens, photography and a creative life.

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It’s been awhile since I’ve shared an NPR Tiny Desk concert. Lately I’ve been listening to Tom Misch, an English musician who incorporates jazz, funk, and R&B into his music.  In this unrestful world, I find Misch’s music wonderfully restful.

One More Celebratory Trip: Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park

Last Friday, to cap our celebratory week, we went to Pemaquid Point Lighthouse Park, a rocky spike of land that juts into the ocean. (Maine has an astonishing 5,000 miles of coastline, even more than California. How does Maine accomplish this? By a multitude of peninsulas that cut in and out, in and out, from New Hampshire all the way to Canada.)

The lighthouse was commissioned in 1827 by John Quincy Adams, and it has become an iconic image of the Maine coast. The lighthouse and the keeper’s cottage have a simple, old-timey look, very pleasing to this Mainer who loves clean lines and simplicity.

And what is a lighthouse without views? (Look who photobombed the first picture.)

Maine has been called “The Country of the Pointed Firs,” and the above photos certainly illustrate this.

As we were wandering around, admiring the scenery and taking pictures, dark clouds swept in, providing a perfectly spooky backdrop for the lighthouse. (After all, Halloween is coming.)

Dee said, “We’d better have our tea and cookies before it rains.”

“Right,” I replied, and we found a bench big enough for the three of us.

Amazingly, like a scene from a fantasy novel, the clouds swept by, leaving blue sky and sunshine and time to take pictures of monarchs and asters. Alas, the little beauties wouldn’t pose with open wings, and this is the best that I got.

The bee on the rose was a little more obliging.

Now, it’s back to work and projects, which I must admit is a bit of a letdown. No more day trips to the ocean, no more stops for ice cream on the way home, no more late afternoon cocktails.

But what a grand week we had celebrating Clif’s 70th birthday.

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Nifty Posts from Some of the Lovely Blogs I Follow:

From Touring my Backyard, Ju-Lyn revels in revisiting the Asian Civilizations Museum and discovering that the ice cream cart outside the museum has finally reopened.

From Thistles and Kiwis, pictures of mouthwatering food featuring something I’d never heard of—tamarillo.

Ever wondered how you could make a snappy sculpture out of a cultivator wheel, some red paint, and part of a log? Wonder no more. Judy, of New England Garden Thread, yet again illustrates that she has more creativity in her little finger than most people have in their whole bodies.

Anne, from Something over Tea, shares pictures of various roadblocks she encounters. Let’s just say that roadblocks in Maine are very boring in comparison.

In the northern hemisphere, it is harvest time for many folks, and at Going Batty in Wales it is picklefest time. Oh, yum!

From Lavinia Ross, of Salmon Brook Farm, a seasonal update of what is going on at her farm in Oregon. Beautiful writing and beautiful singing. What a lovely, lovely voice Lavinia has.

 

 

The Celebration Continues: Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park

Freeport, Maine—home of L.L. Bean—is either a retail paradise or a shopping hellhole, depending on your point of view. In the summer there are so many tourists that parking places are hard to find, and most Mainers quite sensibly stay away until the season is over.

However, just ten minutes away from Freeport’s busy downtown is Wolfe’s Neck Woods State Park, 245 acres of woods and trails tucked between Casco Bay and the Harraseeket River. Wolfe’s Neck is one of Clif’s favorite places, and, as most of you know, this is his birthday week. Therefore, off to Wolfe’s Neck we went with a picnic lunch and a thermos of tea to go with cookies for dessert.

After lunch, Clif and Dee went on a four-mile hike. Because of my creaky knees, I stayed behind and had a delightful time pottering along the edge of a salt marsh.

To get to the marsh, I went down a trail and over a bridge,

past fungi of various kinds and colors.

I came to a steep rocky trail leading to a series of wooden steps and carefully went down to the water. As I reached the shore, a heron flew by, disappearing before I could get a picture.

 

I was the only one on the little beach by the marsh, which suited me just fine.

On a large rock in the water, birds—cormorants?— rested and watched.

By the shore’s edge, hermit crabs patrolled the waters.

Everywhere, there were fragments of shells, remnants of life that once was. This one reminded me of a shard of ancient pottery. Nature’s art.

All around me was the smell of mud flats and salt water, and I was completely absorbed by the marsh. A place to look.  A place to listen. A place to be.

After a while, I carefully made my way back up the stairs and the rocky trail, and walked to a grassy area where I set up a lawn chair.

Clif and Dee came back from their walk, and we had tea and cookies.

Here are a couple pictures from their hike:

Is it any wonder that Wolfe’s Neck is one of Clif’s favorite places? No matter the time of year, there is always something to see and notice.

 

 

 

Clif’s 70th Birthday

Yesterday was the actual date of Clif’s birthday. As regular readers know, we are firm believers in celebrating birthdays early and often. We had his big party a week or so ago, but we couldn’t let the 27th go by without doing a little something.

So off to Hallowell we went, to grab appetizers from the local Chinese restaurant and settle by the river to enjoy them.

The day was cloudy but warm, perfect, actually, to be by the water.  In a flash, two hours went by as we ate, chatted, and watched the river, which caught bands of rippling blue from the sky.

We saw a number of cormorants swimming, fishing, and resting. Here is a picture of one flapping its wings.

We also saw gulls, but I wasn’t able to get a good picture as they were on the move.

Afterward, we came home and had drinks on the patio.

We all agreed it was a lovely way to celebrate a birthday.

September 24: Friday Favorites—A Card and Two Sweet Kitties

Because of a busy schedule, I haven’t been posting on Fridays for quite a while, and therefore haven’t been sharing Friday Favorites.  However, this week, I received the sweetest little packet from my blogging friend Ju-Lyn of Touring My Backyard, and I had to bring Friday Favorites back for at least this week.

Here is what Ju-Lyn sent:

Ju-Lyn wrote that her eldest daughter tatted the bookmarks. Also that the kitties remind her of our own Little Miss and the stone cat (Minerva) in our front garden.

Many, many thanks, Ju-Lyn. What a wonderful surprise!

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Next week, I truly am on vacation. No painting trim, no standing on the toilet to reach difficult spots. Dee has taken the week off, and weather permitting, we are hoping to go to the coast a few times, have snacks by the river in a nearby town, and generally do a little more celebrating in honor of Clif’s 70th turn around the sun.

So far, the weather forecast looks very encouraging. I hope to get some good pictures and if I do, I’ll share them in short posts throughout the week.

The following week—the first week of October—I plan to be back to a more or less regular schedule.

Until then…

 

The First Day of Fall

In the northern hemisphere, today is the autumnal equinox, when day and night are more or less of equal length. But from now until December, the days will get shorter as we head toward winter.  From the Old Farmer’s Almanac here is a lovely quotation, an Irish proverb: Autumn days come quickly, like the running of a hound on the moor.

They certainly do.

In the United States, we also refer to autumn as fall. I asked my husband Clif which word he thought we used most.

“It depends on whether you want to be hoity-toity,” he answered.

This confirmed my suspicions. In Maine, anyway, fall is more commonly used than autumn.

Whatever you call it—fall or autumn—this is one of the most beautiful times in northern New England. The days are warm, the nights are cool, and soup is back again on the menu. And in October comes a blaze of glory as the leaves change from green to red and yellow and orange.

This September has been spectacularly nice in Maine, with sunny days punctuated by  enough rain to keep things green and growing. Especially during this time of the pandemic, we feel very fortunate to be able to spend so much time on the patio.

The gardens at our home by the edge of the woods continue their gentle decline toward winter. Still, there are things to notice and enjoy in the yard.

Little stars of fall,

the tangly garden in our front yard,

hens and chicks on a rock beside the garden,

the waning of the black-eyed Susans,

and a wee red mushroom in the front yard.

Not being knowledgable about mushrooms, I’ll leave this one to the wood fairies and sprites that no doubt come out at night.

 

Seventy Turns Around the Sun

My week off was quite the busy one. Much of it was spent in the bathroom…painting trim. Very fussy work, especially when a dark color—red—is being replaced by white. It has taken four coats to get everything to look the way it should. My goal was to finish the painting by the end of the week, and I almost made it. Just a bit of the trim left to go, and for that I must stand on the toilet to do a good job. (Some of the trim needed to be replaced. Painted and ready to go, it is down cellar and waiting for me to finish.)

We even bought a new cabinet and light, replacing the ones that had been there since the house was built in 1969. I wish I had thought to take a picture of the old cabinet and lights, but here is a picture of the new ones, with knick-knacks that illustrate how our minds naturally turn to fantasy.

We are certainly not ones to replace things willy-nilly.

My birthday was midweek, and my present to myself was to take the day off from painting. Nerdy woman that I am, I spent the afternoon reading on the couch. I might have had a few special treats, too.

The big event of the week was the celebration of Clif’s 70th birthday. (His actual birthday is September 27. Never fear. There will be more little celebrations to mark this milestone event.)

We had a brunch with food we seldom indulge in.

And a geeky birthday cake for a man who is still young at heart.

We Zoomed with our North Carolina kids, who had cupcakes to celebrate from afar.

We all chipped in to buy Clif a new television to replace our old, smaller one. We are film buffs, and it will be a treat to watch movies on a bigger screen. The sleek white cabinet, which replaces an old clunky one made for a deeper television, was my birthday present. (We will be getting white covers for the cords.)

Despite the pandemic, which prevented our North Carolina kids from joining us, it was a jolly celebration.

Happy birthday, Clif!

A Tale of Two Gardens & a Short Break

At my home on the edge of the woods, my gardens look their best in June, July, and August. This time of year, they are at a frowzy stage, with lots of drooping yellow and brown leaves and spent flowers.

The back garden, more formally laid out than the ones in the front yard, is most definitely past its best. The glory of its summer days are long gone.

However, as you can see from this view from one of the windows in our house, the backyard is still a nice place to be, even in autumn.

In the front yard, the gardens are more haphazardly laid out and are not as lovely as the back garden when it’s at its peak.

However, in autumn, the “tangly” nature of the front gardens really shines, reminding me that late bloomers have a certain loveliness. Perhaps the same is true of people as well?

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Next week will be a busy one for me. In between painting and refurbishing one of our bathrooms, we will also be celebrating two birthdays—my 64th birthday on the 15th and Clif’s 70th. His birthday is not until the 27th, but we are firm believers in celebrating early and often.

I will therefore be taking a break from posting, reading other blogs, and commenting.

I plan to come back the week of September 20th.

À bientôt!