All posts by Laurie Graves

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

The Lazy Birder

Many people who are keen on bird watching  get up with the sun, grab their binoculars, and tramp around the woods. No doubt they see a lot of birds, and the morning light, I’ve been told, is beautiful.

On the other hand, there are people like me, who are much more casual about their bird watching. They want to put up their feet and sit in a comfortable chair. A drink is often at the ready—sometimes iced tea, sometimes something a little stronger.

I belong to the second group of people. Call me lazy, but I enjoy having the birds come to me. Because we have feeders in our backyard to entice the fluttering beauties, and because we live in the woods where there is plenty of cover, the birds, by and large, do come to me.

Among the regular visitors are hummingbirds (only in the summer),

woodpeckers,

goldfinches,

and cardinals.

Sometimes a furry little visitor finds his or her way into the feeder, and the birds must wait.

And what a delight to be on the patio in late June, when the weather is absolutely delicious, the dragonflies have drastically reduced the mosquito population, the little fountain chuckles in the background, and I am surrounded by trees and birds.

Is it any wonder I am such a lazy birder?

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La Reine de Juin

Today, on this first day of summer, is the anniversary of my mother’s birthday. She would have been eighty-two. Ten years ago she died, just before her seventy-second birthday. Too soon, too soon.

But the picture below was taken when she was still young and was just beginning her adult life. (I’ve posted this picture before on her birthday, but I like it so much I decided to post it again.) If my memory is correct, I think this was her graduation picture. Such a fancy dress to wear under the graduation gown. She might have worn this same dress to her prom, but my memory is sketchy about this.

Anyway, here is a little food for thought. Her grandmother—my great-grandmother—never went to school at all. Her mother—my grandmother—only went as far as eighth grade. My mother graduated from high school. In three generations, you can see that progress has indeed been made. (An important thought to hold close during this time when we seem to be taking too many steps back.)

At any rate, happy birthday Rochelle June Dansereau. Surely the first day of summer is one of the loveliest days to have a birthday.

Father’s Day by the Kennebec River

Yesterday was Father’s Day. The kids, alas, live too far away to celebrate it with us, but Clif and I are firm believers in celebrations big and small.  Therefore, to mark the day, we decided to go to Hallowell, a tiny city on the Kennebec River, order Chinese food, sit by the river, and then go for a bike ride along the rail trail.

After a very cool spring, summer decided to make a guest appearance, and by late morning, the temperature was in the low 80s.  Did the heat deter us? It did not. Clif and I are plucky Mainers who can tolerate heat as well as cold.  After packing a cooler full of water, off we went to Lucky Gardens to fetch our lunch. Clif, naturally, got to choose—one take-away meal is plenty for the both of us—and he picked General Tso’s chicken. (See what I mean about the amount of food? A wicked good deal, as we Mainer’s would say.)

While we ate on the pier, we admired a mother duck and her ducklings.

And we watched a woman in a kayak go by with her dog. What a good buddy to stay put!

I saw a sturgeon jump, straight up and then back down with a splash, but I wasn’t at the ready with my camera. Darn!

Dealing bravely with this disappointment, we took to the rail trail.

While we didn’t see any more sturgeon, we did see this beauty. I am pretty sure it is a  young bald eagle, but if any of my birding, blogging friends think differently, do let me know. So wonderful to see the river full of life, especially as my childhood memory of the Kennebec River is of it being dark and dirty with no fish or birds. (I’m sure there were some, but back then nobody I knew spent their days by the Kennebec River.) What a difference the Clean Water Act has made, and I am very grateful for the lawmakers who worked together to clean our polluted waterways.

After the ride, we were more than a little hot. What to do? Go for ice cream, of course, at Fielder’s Choice, where we shared a hot fudge sundae with peanut butter ice cream.

A sweet, cool ending.

Everything’s Coming up Hostas

All right, folks. The furious digging is done. (How I love digging. I swear I must be part terrier, except that I dig for plants, not rats.) All the bare spots in my garden—and there were many—have been mostly filled by—you guessed it!—hostas. Fortunately for my budget, which is as big as a minute, I already had quite a few hostas in various spots in my gardens. Those hostas have been there for a while and were ripe for dividing. With spade in hand, I went to work.

Now, as I’ve previously written, my preference would be to have gardens with glorious bursts of flowers from May through September. And when my blogging friends feature their bright, beautiful gardens, I am filled with conflicting emotions—admiration, awe, and envy. But we live in the woods, and while there are many pleasures to be gained from this, riotous blooms aren’t one of them.

So onward, ho with hostas. Here is a picture of the front yard. I have a hard time getting pictures that reflect the simplicity and tranquility of my hosta-filled gardens. (When life gives you shade…) However, this picture  does capture a little of this feeling.

Here is another look.

Confession time. Perhaps I might be exaggerating a teeny-weensy bit when I write that my gardens are all hostas, all the time. Observant readers will note that there are a few other plants tucked here and there among the hostas.

There are chives, which seem to thrive wherever they are planted. (There must be a lesson in this.)

And my beloved irises, which tolerate some shade.

Later in the season there will be evening primroses, some lilies, and black-eyed Susans.

Recently, a friend gave me a plant—tough as nails, she assured me—that does well in shade. It’s called Persian shield, and it’s noted for its foliage. I planted it less than a week ago, and so far, so good. May this plant thrive in my shady garden and bring a little splash of color to it.

But back to hostas. Although they do well in dry shade, they are magnets for slugs and snails. By summer’s end, the slugs and snails chew the hostas leaves into green lace, which sounds prettier than it actual is. The hostas always come back in the spring, so no permanent damage is done, but by the end of the season, they look pretty sad.

Recently, I heard that a way to deter snails and slugs is to mix one part of ammonia to five or six parts water and spray the hosta leaves. Somehow, I am leery about doing this. Ammonia doesn’t seem like anything I want to be using in my gardens. But I must admit that I am tempted.

Blogging friends, what do you think of this method of controlling snails and slugs? Am I right to be leery, or is it a safe method?

Don’t be shy. Tell me what you think.

 

Of Red Squirrels, Hummingbirds, and a Spirit Dog

Despite the cool nights and the occasional cool day, summer has come to Maine. In fact, as someone who has seen a lot of Maine summers, this, so far, has been an old-fashioned June with some rain, some sun, some warm days, some chilly ones. It is only during the past five years that Maine Junes have  become so warm. This June is a throwback to the old days, and it feels quite normal to me.

Rather than warm weather, summer in Maine is heralded by green in all its cool shades. Our backyard, indeed all of Winthrop, is enveloped by green—the leaves, the evergreens, the ferns.

Our patio is our summer living room, and Clif and I spend as much time there as we can. For much of the year, we are cooped up inside, and it is a relief to be outside, unencumbered by hats, coats, and gloves.

Yesterday, after doing yard work, we had our tea on the patio. A red squirrel, in a nearby tree, scolded us. I suspect the little creature wanted to raid the brown bird feeder, and we were too close for comfort.

“Have we ever bothered you?” I asked. “No, not once.”

With a twitch of the tail, the red squirrel continued to stare at me and chitter even louder.

To add to the backyard noise, hummingbirds whirred and chased each other away from the feeders. Occasionally, one of them even got something to eat.

A swallow tail butterfly fluttered by, too quick for me to get a picture. Best of all, the dragonflies have come, and the mosquito population has dropped noticeably.

This spring, I neglected to stake the tall irises, and they have drooped pathetically over neighboring plants—begonias, daylilies, and evening primroses.

Next year, I will try to do better, but even though the irises have fallen, they are still beautiful.

As I sat on the patio and listened and watched, the spirit of a black and white dog zoomed around the perimeter of the yard. Barking and racing, setting the boundaries.

Then the past and the present came together—the birds, the spirit dog, the flowers. So much happening on one little half acre.

Finally, I want to thank my blogging friends for all the kind words over the past two weeks, which have been hard for us. It is often difficult to know what to say when someone is grieving the loss of a beloved pet, or even worse, a family member or close friend. But simple words of sympathy really do help, even something as basic as “I am so sorry for your loss.”

Many, many thanks to you all.