Category Archives: Animals – especially dogs

The Patio Awaits

Somehow, the weather must have known that July has ended and August has begun. At least for the moment, the horrid humidity has gone. We no longer feel as though we are being squeezed and sapped by the heat. Instead, the warmth holds us in a gentle hand, reminding us of how sweet summer can be. And like Augusts of old, the past two nights have been so chilly that we have needed blankets.

A window is by my desk, and a turn of the head is all it takes to look outside and see a hummingbird working the hosta blossoms. In the bush by the window, a bird sings a piping, melodious song. I hear the buzz of grasshoppers, a true sound of summer, reminding me of the fragrant smell of a warm field.

At the end of the day, when the work is done, what awaits me is one of my absolute favorite places to be—our own humble patio.

Here is a side view.

Although you can’t see them in the photo, the Mardi Gras Parade daylilies have begun to bloom. Unfortunately, these daylilies are not thriving, but the colors are so pretty that I have left them there.

While Clif and I have a drink—sometimes cocktails, sometimes beer, sometimes iced tea—visitors come.

And on a fine August evening, caressed by the heat as I watch the birds and the dragonflies, I feel as though I am the luckiest woman in Winthrop.

Heat and Time

Hot, hot. Too hot. It has been 90 in the shade and oh so humid. Time seems to have stretched to the point where it’s hardly moving.

Next door, the dog has stopped barking, and the little boy no longer runs and yells as he plays. But earlier in the week, the chickens scratched and pecked in the yard.

Not wilting, not drooping, the lilies bloom bravely in the heat.

And the hostas look cool and collected as always.

The sun leaves our backyard around 3:30. Fortunately, it doesn’t take long for the patio to cool down and for the black and white cat to take her place.

We both drowse as the heat presses against us and a few mosquitoes whine around our head. Sometimes she looks up. Sometimes I look over at her.

Right now, winter seems like a distant country,  a dim memory of white and cold and time spent inside.

 

Little Visitors

The green season—our happy time—has begun. Yesterday was sunny and warm enough for us to wear t-shirts as we worked in the yard. We had tea on the patio, and we will do this every nice day until it gets too cold, probably until the end of September.

We have lots of little visitors in the backyard, and I always bring out my wee camera when we have our tea.

There are the will-o’-the- wisp hummingbirds. (I’ll keep trying for a clearer picture. Unfortunately, the light is always low during tea time.)

Since we live on the edge of the woods, we have lots of woodpeckers. I believe this one is a hairy, but birding friends, please correct me if I’m wrong. After all, how else will I learn? (My other challenge is distinguishing the house finch from the purple finch. Oh, the challenges I face.)

The flash of red of the male cardinal still delights me, and his melodious song is just as enchanting. As I have mentioned in previous posts, cardinals are a relative newcomer to Maine. My mother died eleven years ago, and she never saw one in our backyard. How thrilled Mom would have been to see them here, and I wish she had live long enough to enjoy their beauty.

Because we feed the birds, rodents abound, and as long they stay outside, I don’t have a problem with them. I must admit that I have a soft spot for chipmunks, who stuff their cheeks with seeds and other good things to eat—hence the term chipmunk cheeks for anyone who has puffy cheeks. Chipmunks are a sweet, little rodent, and they never try to come inside.

The same cannot be said for red squirrels. A kindly person might call them saucy. A more critical person might mutter about their noisy, fractious ways. I seen these little animals drive away the larger gray squirrels from the feeder. Ditto for crows and blue jays. Red squirrels don’t hold back. When Clif and I are on the patio, they frequently scold us for being in their territory.

But it’s not all fun and games on the patio. Here is another visitor that’s not quite as welcome as the others I’ve featured.

After the cool, wet spring we’ve had, these biters are out in force. However, thanks to Facebook friends, we have recently discovered All Terrain Herbal Armor Natural Insect RepellentReaders, not only is DEET-free, but it actually works. All right, you will smell like a citronella candle, but that sure beats the chemical smell of DEET. After I sprayed Herbal Armor on my arm, I watched the mosquitoes fly toward my bare arm then veer away. (The above picture was taken before I used Herbal Armor.)

So take that mosquitoes, and welcome, beautiful June. With its low humidity and warm but not hot days, June is the perfect month.

if I had superpowers, I would trade in miserable March for an extra June.

But, I don’t. This means I’ll have to squeeze every bit of pleasure out of this wonderful month.

 

 

Looking Up, Looking Down, Looking All Around

In some ways, not much has changed at our little house in the big woods. Snow, snow, everywhere, and yesterday we had a little three-incher of a storm to top things off.

When I look down the road, this is what I see.

Although perhaps it isn’t obvious in this picture, the snowbanks are quite high, and when we back the car out of the driveway, we have to do it slowly and carefully so as not to hit an oncoming car.

Our trusty wheel barrow slumbers in the snow and dreams of spring.

This vigilant squirrel keeps watch in an expanse of shadows and white.

And yet, there is a softening. During the day, the air isn’t as sharp. It doesn’t nip the cheeks and nose the way it did as recently as a week ago.

When I look up, I see the trees are starting to bud.

I look up farther and catch this nuthatch searching for goodies on a dead tree.

For the first time in a long while, my fingers aren’t freezing as I take pictures. While there might be a few more storms to remind us that Winter is still in charge, Spring is tap, tap, tapping on Winter’s shoulder.

Soon, soon.

 

A Cardinal, Icicles, and Pancakes

February is winding down, and we still have a lot of snow in our yard. Not at all unusual for central Maine. As we are probably at peak snow—at least we hope we are—snow-gauge Clif will soon be making weekly appearances so that we can have a pictorial record of how long it takes for our yard to be snow-free. Stay tuned for the big excitement in the hinterlands!

At dusk, the cardinals usually come to our feeders for a bite to eat before it gets dark. In my bathroom blind, I snapped a picture of Mr. Cardinal. Unfortunately the light was too low to get a real sharp picture of him, but I know how much readers who don’t have cardinals enjoy seeing shots of them. And this photo gives a sense of the dark evergreens in the forest on the edge of our backyard. This is a northern photo, that’s for sure. And somehow, to me, that flash of red looks so brave against the snowy trees.

Icicles are still hanging from the branches of the shrubs in our front yard. Lovely to see them glitter in the afternoon sun.

On another blog I read, there was a mention of American pancakes and how small and thick they tended to be.  While we do have mini pancakes, better known as silver-dollar pancakes, most pancakes served in American restaurants are large and thin. No surprise as America is the land of the big, especially when it comes to food. Not sure where the rumor of little pancakes came from, but never mind. Big, small, thick, or thin, they are all good.

I am lucky enough to have a husband who makes some of the best pancakes in central Maine. Maybe even the best. After so much thinking about pancakes, I requested them for our supper last weekend. While Clif made pancakes, I fried up some veggie sausages. Pretty darned good, and yes, Clif’s pancakes are thick but not small and utterly delicious.

 

 

 

 

Birds, Tea, and Poetry

On Sunday afternoons, especially in the winter, Clif and I like inviting friends over for tea. When the weather is cold, there is something so cozy about sitting around the dining room table as we chat, drink tea, and nibble on something I’ve baked.

Yesterday our friend Mary Jane came over. As I was getting ready, I looked out the kitchen window and saw a female cardinal at our feeder. I stopped what I was doing, grabbed my camera, and trotted to the bathroom, which has become a sort of bird blind. Slowly, slowly I opened the windows—there are two down in the winter—hoping I wouldn’t scare her away. Success!

Cardinals are relative newcomers to Maine. Even as recently as eleven years ago, we didn’t have cardinals in our backyard, and my mother, who died around that time, never did see one in Maine. I sure wish that she had lived long enough to see cardinals in our yard. I suspect that climate change has brought these lovely birds ever farther north, and if so, this is an example of it’s an ill wind that blows no good. We love having cardinals come to our feeder.

After taking pictures of Mrs. Cardinal, I returned to the kitchen to finish making my oatmeal squares and to get the table set for tea. Glancing out the dining room window, I saw a movement in the woods, a flock of turkeys picking their way through the trees. The dining room windows do not open easily. Could I get a good picture through the window? Turns out, I could. Not quite as crisp as the cardinal, but not too bad, especially when you consider the shot was taken through the window, and the turkeys were quite a distance away.

Turkeys are another newcomer to Maine. Or rather, they are a species that has been reintroduced. Twenty years ago, I did not see them in the woods behind my house. Between habitat loss and overhunting, turkeys had been wiped out in Maine. The technical term is extirpation, meaning that the species is not actually extinct, just no longer in an area. A cold word for a brutal act.

Well, the turkeys are back. Hunting is more controlled than it was in the old days, and Maine is actually more forested now than it was in the 1800s, proof that not everything is going to heck in a handbasket.

With all that excitement, it’s a wonder that I managed to bake the squares and set the table. But somehow, I did.

Mary Jane came over, and we had a wonderful chat. Clif and I even shared some poetry from From a Far Corner, a new book that we received from my friend Jerry George, who lives in East Machias, way up north by the Canadian border. But Mainers call it Downeast, a sailing term that sailors used to describe how they utilized downwinds to sail east from western ports. Downeast Maine is a beautiful, remote place that, believe it or not, is hospitable to poets and retirees. The cover of the book, taken by the talented Ray Beal, gives a good indication of the stark appeal of the area.

All in all, it was quite a Sunday.