All posts by Laurie Graves

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

From Books to Wine to the Patio

Last weekend the weather was fine—hot, but not too hot, and dry. Cooler weather from Canada had pushed the horrible heat and humidity away. Many thanks, Canada! Exactly the way summer in Maine should be, and perfect for everything we had planned.

On Saturday, Clif and I set up a book table at The Art Walk, one of the nicest gift shops in the area. Readers who live nearby, do keep this store in mind when you want a special gift for a special person, including yourself. (I might have bought a present for a special person who lives far away.) The prices and selection are fantastic, and everything is handmade by local artists and crafters.

Barbara Walsh, another Winthrop writer, set up next to me.

Unfortunately, the day was slow, and not many people came by. Never mind. I had a great time chatting with Barbara as well as Nick and his mother Terry, who run the store. Terry even brought a box of cannolis and shared them with us. So nice and so tasty.

After that, it was on to getting together with our friends Dawna and Jim, who recently bought a new house, a sweet little ranch with beautiful gardens. We brought a bottle of wine, glasses, and a wine opener. That way we could toast them and wish them many happy years in their new home. (Their house is pretty darned empty as they will be moving in next week.)

Sunday was another fine day, and I spent a couple of hours on the patio. I read the paper and caught up on blog reading and commenting. Naturally, I took pictures. I might have even snapped several photos of little zipping visitors, but you will have to wait until Wednesday to see those.

In the meantime, the view from my chair…

The predominate color is still green but we are soon approaching the time when my gardens are at their best—June and July—when yellow and red show their pretty faces.

Alas, the irises are on their way out, but here’s a final shot of couple of this year’s bloom.

Farewell, my lovelies.

 

 

Step by Step in the Garden

Along with buying lots of annuals to brighten my shady yard, I also bought a handful of perennials, including Jacob’s Ladder, which is now in bloom. The flowers are modest but pretty, and I am already planning to buy more plants for various spots in the relatively moist areas in the front garden. Plus, now that I have hoses in the front, I can baby, at least a little, the plants that like extra water.

This plant always puts me in mind of the Bruce Hornsby song, “Jacob’s Ladder,” and the plaintive line “All I want from tomorrow is just to get it better than today.”

Step by step, one by one…in the garden. And in life?

Gardening in a June Heatwave

When I was young, it would have been inconceivable to have a heatwave in June in Maine. Yet here we are with the temp in the mid 90s. Records have yet again been broken. Back in the day, even at the end of July or the beginning of August, it was rare for the temp to be that high. My parents and grandparents would have been astonished to deal with such heat in June. And not at all happy. Thank goodness we have Eva, our air conditioner.

Nevertheless, I have pushed on with gardening, going out right after breakfast and coming in before noon, the opposite of what I usually do.

Three weeks ago, the plant table looked like this:

This morning, it looked like this:

Here are some of the flowers in pots by our entryway, their cheery colors ready to greet visitors.

A closer look at the violas, or Johnny-jump-ups as they are also called around here.

But for me, none of the newbies can compare with the irises, which have been here for over thirty years.

With such beauty, a closer look is definitely in order.

On this second week in June, the intense gardening is coming to an end. From here on out, it will be maintenance, feeding, watering, and weeding. A part of me is relieved. Planting and getting the beds ready have been a lot of work. But a part of me is also a little sorry that the rush of spring planting has come to an end. A busy time, yes, but also an exciting time.

My gardens are most definitely June and July gardens. Accordingly, for the next couple months, my blog will feature many pictures of the bursts of color that come briefly to this shady yard.

When you have to wait nine months—almost like having a baby—for flowers, the pleasure is oh so sweet when they finally bloom.

 

 

Judy’s Hosta Plus a Couple More

Long-time readers will know that hostas are a major feature in my gardens. For years, I went for plants that had glorious blooms. One after another, I lost those plants. All right. I’ll admit it. I craved a cottage garden. But, when you live in the woods, you are doomed to heartache if you try for a cottage garden.

A few years (and tears) ago, I gave in to hostas, especially in the driest beds.¬† My moister beds do have a little more variety, but even in them, there are many plants that won’t thrive.

Slowly, I learned to appreciate hostas and the wave of various shades of green they bring to the front yard. Their blossoms are modest but pleasing. (Be gone, all thoughts of corn flowers!) But here’s the most important factor of all: They grow and flourish where most plants just fizzle. Snail and slugs might munch their leaves to lace, but the hostas are not intimidated. Each year, they rebound with vigor. Surely there is a lesson in all of this.

My blogging friend Judy of New England Garden and Thread is also a fan of hostas. Last year, during the height of the pandemic, she sent me a package, which—lo and behold!—contained a hosta. It was a little droopy, but I know how sturdy hostas are, and I planted it right away.

Judy, you will not surprised to learn that this hosta is thriving. Here is a picture of that beauty, whose name I’ve unfortunately forgotten.

Many thanks, Judy!

And here are a couple more pictures of some of the hostas in my garden. Just because.

Rainy Day Photos from the Garden

Yesterday, the rain came, not driving but instead light and perfect, which nonetheless brought us a goodly amount. Three or four inches, I think. Unfortunately, I don’t have a rain gauge.

Too bad it had to happen on Memorial Day weekend—a holiday in this country where we honor those who have died in military service. We also mourn friends and family who have passed. But there is no denying the rain is much needed. It has been a dry spring.

Here are some scenes from a grateful garden. Or maybe it’s the gardener who is grateful.

Spring Cat & The Last Episode of my podcast

Because of a busy Wednesday, I am posting one day early. Sometimes schedules must be rearranged.

Much to my astonishment, my shady front gardens, where few plants like to grow, are looking pretty darned good as my Yankee husband would say. I chalk it up to the thick layer of rich compost they received as well as to the hoses for the front that we bought last year. Watering is ever so much easier than it was when I had to haul it in buckets from around back where the spigot is. Thanks, Eliza, for the hose suggestion. This has been a dry spring, and the hose has gotten a lot of use.

Right now, white and green are the predominate colors, and in a perfect garden, there wouldn’t be so much sweet woodruff. But as I indicated in the first paragraph, the front gardens are a far sight from perfect. While it would be an exaggeration to state that I let the sweet woodruff spread at will, I do let the plant spread, and right now it’s looking mighty pretty, a froth of white that spills through the beds.

The sweet woodruff even surrounds my garden cat who serenely keeps watch over the front yard.

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Today marks the last instalment of “The Wings of Luck,” Season 1 of my podcast, Tales from the Other Green Door. In “Blood Bond,” Episode 12, Jace and Thirret deal with Donod and the imps. They also worry about their jusqua child Iris, whose supreme self-confidence is sure to bring trouble sooner or later.

There will be more stories about the elves of Portland, Maine. As I mentioned in last week’s podcast post, we plan to drop Season 2 sometime in 2022, after At Sea, Book Four in my Great Library series, is finished. Until then, all the episodes of Season 1 will be available on our Hinterlands Press website and wherever you get podcasts.

Thanks for listening! And if you enjoyed this podcast, please share it with others who might like it.

Busy, Busy, Busy and Books, Books, Books

Spring is galloping toward summer, and I am scrabbling to keep up. I’m not behind, which is a win for me. But there is a lot of planting to do, and that will be my focus for the next couple of weeks. Onward, ho!

However, I did take the time to visit our local Barnes & Noble this weekend. Shane Malcolm Billings, who once worked at our town’s library, alerted me that a certain series was displayed not once but twice in the store—with local writers and in the YA fantasy section. (Shane now works at Barnes & Noble as well as at another library.)

First, with local writers. What a treat for this indie writer to see her books displayed all in a row—Maya and the Book of Everything, Library Lost, and Out of Time.

Then in the Young Adult fantasy section. There was even a blurb/recommendation written by none other than Shane. Many thanks, Shane, for your wonderful support!

When the staff became aware of who I was and why I was there—to photograph my books—they asked if I would sign all the copies.

This I did, and the books received an “autographed” sticker.

After which Clif and I went out to celebrate with ice cream.

And here this short post will end. Usually, I feature links to other blogs, but until the plants are planted and spring chores are finished, I must be brief.

When this crazy but wonderful season is over, I will be back to a more normal blogging schedule.

Until then…

Plant-o-palooza & Episode 11 of the podcast

Is this a table at someone’s plant sale? No, it is not. This is my haul after going to a local plant nursery the other day. The abundance is courtesy of my generous daughters and son-in-law, who gave me gift certificates, allowing me to splurge.

I like most aspects of gardening. Even weeding doesn’t bother me. However, what I especially love is planting annuals in various pots and containers. Somehow I find the process soothing, and the promise of flowers and bounty never fails to lift my spirits.

From my back garden, a little something extra, a dose of perennial beauty. Love that mouth-watering purple. Irises are one of my favorite flowers, and lucky for me, they will grow in my shady yard on the edge of the forest.

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Speaking of Iris…here is “Reckonings,” Episode 11 of “The Wings of Luck” from my podcast Tales from the Other Green Door. In “Reckonings,” after dealing with Iris, Jace and Thirret take Donod and the imps into the woods. Episode 11 is the penultimate episode of “The Wings of Luck,”and next week, Season 1 will come to an end. We have plans for Season 2 to air in 2022, after I’ve finished At Sea, Book Four in my Great Library Series.

Almost Normal: Visiting with Author Barbara Walsh & Checking out The Art Walk Shop and Studio

For a over a year, Clif and I have lived an isolated life. Just as most of you have. The pandemic has dictated that socializing must be done outside, and in Maine, where the weather is cold from November through April, gathering outdoors has been pretty limited for the past six months.

All of our holidays have been spent alone. There have been no gatherings around the dining room table, no friends over for tea and muffins. Nobody dropping by for wine and appetizers.

Outings have been limited, too. A trip to get ice cream now and then. Take-out on rare occasions. Overall, Clif and I have been extremely cautious. Perhaps too cautious, but Covid-19 is unpredictable, and being of a certain age, we didn’t want to risk catching it.

However, May has brought us two wonderful things—warmer weather and our second vaccine. Suddenly the world seems more open to us. With our masks, we now feel safer going out and about. When we heard that Barbara Walsh, a local writer, was going to be in downtown Winthrop selling books on Saturday, we decided to visit her. Barbara is a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who writes books for both children and adults. (Full disclosure: Clif is helping¬† to format Barbara’s current children’s book, The Goose Lady, so that it can be offered on Amazon.)

Saturday was sunny, and Barbara was set up outside The Art Walk Shop & Studio, where her books are also available. Relatively new to town, The Art Walk opened shortly before the pandemic hit and has managed to make a go of it. Barbara encouraged us to go inside and check out the shop. She suggested that The Art Walk might be interested in carrying the books my Great Library series. Shameless promotion time for new readers: The books in my Great Library series are Maya and the Book of Everything, Library Lost, and Out of Time.

After buying one of Barbara’s books, in we went to meet potter Nick Shelton, the owner, and his mother Terry. Nick and Terry are warm and friendly, and the shop is an absolute delight, filled with crafts and art made by local folks. I spotted several items that would be just perfect for certain special people in my life. Readers, if you live in the area, stop by and check out this nifty shop. The Art Walk is open Thursday through Sunday from 10:00 am to 5 p.m.

Nick Shelton is indeed interested in carrying my books. Soon Maya and the gang will be available at The Art Walk.

After buying books and talking with Nick and Terry, we walked up the street to the Winthrop Historical Society, which was having a plant sale. We chatted with more folks that we knew, and even though mostly everyone was wearing a mask, it seemed almost like normal times. (Did I buy some plants? I certainly did.)

Even though Clif and I have coped well with the social isolation brought about by the pandemic, it felt oh so good to be out and about on a sunny May day, meeting new people as well as old friends. Saturday reminded me of how much I missed this simple pleasure.

This summer is certainly looking better than last summer.

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Simple pleasures from blogging friends near and far.

From New Zealand, Thistles and Kiwis rejoices in food and ballet.

From Singapore, Ju-Lyn of Touring My Backyard features fried delights from “doughstick heaven.” Oh, my!

For sheer garden fun, you can’t beat Susan Ruston’s tall find in northern England.

May 8 was Birding Big Day, where bird lovers were encouraged to watch and count birds and report the results to ebird. In Colorado, Tanya Briton went birding with a friend, and they logged over 100 birds. And that, blogging friends, is enough to set any bird lover’s heart aflutter.

Closer to home,in northern New England, Eliza Waters features an astonishing dose of tulip beauty.

 

No-Mow May & Episode 10 of My Podcast

Being Franco-American, I like things to be tidy and spic-and-span. Even though I don’t have the time or energy to clean the way I once did—writing, in various formats, absorbs much of my day—our home and yard are always neat and picked up. That way, when I do have the opportunity to clean, I don’t have to bother with putting things away first.

Usually, we start mowing the yard sometime the second week of May. Because we live in the woods, our lawn is spotty in the spring, but there are still areas that look downright shaggy. This nags at my Franco-American sensibility.

This year, however, we are adopting a new routine—no-mow May—and will be waiting until June before cutting the grass. In many places around the world, May is a time of abundant bloom. My blogging friends in warmer climates have posted many photos of all the glorious May flowers in their yards and and in wild areas near their homes. However, in the northern United States and in Canada, the riotous blossoming doesn’t start until late May or early June. In Maine, May is a pretty sparse time for all the pollinating insects.

Therefore, gardening and nature experts are advising northern homeowners to wait to mow until June when there are plenty of flowers for the pollinators. This we will do. After all, where in the world would we be without our pollinators? In tough shape, that’s for sure.

So for this month, I’ll try not to mind the shaggy bits in our yard. Instead, I’ll think of all the little buzzers who bring so much life to our town. Those dandelions and scraggly areas are there for you, my pollinating friends.

Heck, I’ll even go low for a picture of the violets that are dotting our backyard. Between exercising and losing weight, I can actually lie on the ground to take pictures and then get up all by myself. Progress!

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Today, “Showdown at Crescent Beach,” Episode 10 of “The Wings of Luck,” is available on my podcast Tales from the Other Green Door. Two more to go until the end of this story and Season 1. In “Showdown at Crescent Beach,” Jace, Thirret, and Niall discover that Iris has tricked them and has put them all in danger.