Category Archives: Five for Friday

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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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.

 

Comfort Me with Gardening

It has been a long, sad week without our dog buddy, Liam. I keep listening for him, wondering where he is. I save him bits of toast.  Is it time for him to go out? Very foolish to think these things, as I know he is gone, but old habits are hard to break.

Fortunately for me, the weather has been oh so fine, and I have worked in the gardens all week. Such a consolation, and I can only be grateful that Liam’s decline did not happen in the winter when we were stuck inside. Instead, like a terrier, I have been digging and moving hostas to fill in empty spots left by less hardy plants that didn’t make it. Finally, after nearly thirty years of gardening in this dry, shady yard, after spending too much money on plants that either died or didn’t thrive, I have given into hostas. Now, in our yard, hostas rule.

However, amid the calming foliage of the hostas, there are some budding irises, my favorites..

And front or back, everything is green, green, green. Our yard is held in the palm of the forest.

Amid the green, I love the dash of blue of the little fountain, given to me by “the kids” on my sixtieth birthday. When Clif and I sit on the patio, we can hear the gentle splash of water. So soothing.

And then there’s this dash of orange, which always livens things up.

Believe it or not, wild Sherlock is a comfort, too. He and his gentler sister, Ms. Watson, bring purring life to our evenings, settling beside us as we watch TV.

And so it goes into June. Soon the heavy gardening will be done, and after that, it will be on to bike riding. We’ll probably never be able to keep up with my blogging friend Tootlepedal, who recently biked seventy-six miles in honor of his seventy-six years, but we are going to step up our game, so to speak.

Biking, flowers, time on the patio. Come, summer, come!

 

 

 

The Darling Buds of May

Fortunately, Maine has not been plagued with rough winds this week.  Our neighbors to the immediate south had to contend with tornado watches, lightening storms that took down trees and power lines, and wild, hard rain.

Instead, all has been relatively tranquil in the pine tree state. The days have been sunny, and we even had a small rain the other night to help all things growing. My one complaint: It has been a tad too cool, and a hard frost has been predicted for tonight. Back in the day, my father always waited until Memorial Day to plant his garden, and for tender plants such as tomatoes and basil, this is still a good guideline in Maine.

Speaking of darling buds of May…here’s a shot I took at the little park in town, after a bike ride.

One of my absolute favorite flowers ready to bloom.

In the woods edging our yard, the ferns have unfurled and are growing. Just last week, they were tucked into tight curls. Now look at them. Spring gallops by much too quickly.

The patio, in the middle of green (rather than white or, even worse, mud) is now an inviting place to sit. If you look closely, you will see a woodpecker at the feeder.

Little Miss Watson thinks the patio is a nice place, too.

I’m not the only one who loves our backyard.

Looking Up

Despite having a very slow start, spring is here, and things are looking up, both figuratively and literally.

On a practical level, I can now hang laundry on the line, and I know this might sound a little silly, but this brings me great joy. On every sunny day, blankets and quilts as well as other laundry have been hung outside. Here is the picture I take every spring, of a blanket made by my mémère—French Canadian for grandmother.  This sturdy, colorful blanket is nearly forty years old, and I use it on my bed in all but the hottest weather. For me, nothing says “welcome, spring” the way this blanket on the line does.

On a literal level, when I look up, I see that the trees are budding. Such sweet, tender little leaves.

Then there are the birds. Starting and raising a family is hard, hungry work, and the birds flock to our feeders (pun intended). When I sit on the patio—another spring delight—I watch the birds fly and flutter from the trees to the feeder. Occasionally, my wee camera even gets a fairly good shot.

This male goldfinch is resplendent in his yellow summer feathers.

This goldfinch looks pensive, perhaps thinking of how much effort goes into to raising a healthy family.

Then there is a male cardinal playing peekaboo.

Never, ever a dull moment in the backyard. Looking up is sheer delight.

And for blogging friends who don’t have hummingbirds where they live, I promise I will do my best do get a decent shot with my wee camera. This morning, I saw the first hummingbird of the season as she zipped to one of the feeders we have by the patio. An exciting way to start the day.

In the spring, looking down at flowers is also a delight, and as more of them come into bloom, I’ll be posting photos of them, too.

Spring, spring, spring!

Five for Friday: The Golden Age of Illustration

Today’s post is going to be a little different, a reflection of my newest obsession, the golden age of illustration, which ran roughly from 1880 to 1920. As Artcyclopedia puts it, advances in technology allowed for “accurate and inexpensive reproduction of art,” both in books and magazines.

Nowhere was this more evident or glorious than in illustrations for children’s books. Beatrix Potter, of course, comes to mind, but there were many others, too: Edmund Dulac, Jessie Willcox Smith, Walter Crane, and Sir John Tennial, to name a few.

As chance would have it, there is even a Facebook group called The Golden Age of illustration. I joined the group not long ago, and that’s when I became hooked on illustrations from this period, especially the ones for children’s books. Not surprising as I write books for young people.

Many of the images from this period are in the public domain, which means we are free to use them as we wish. Clif, who is a talented graphic artist, has caught the golden age of illustration bug and is working with some of the pictures. He has been enlarging the illustrations, smoothing the pixels, and retouching the illustrations. We plan to sell matted prints at fairs we go to, and he has done research about the artist and the books the illustrations come from. This information will be included with the prints.

Below are five of the illustrations he has worked on, and they are by Edmund Dulac and Jessie Willcox Smith.

This is one of my favorites. The illustrator is Edmund Dulac, and the picture is from the story “A Little Girl in a Book,” written by Mrs. Rodolph Stawell. Funny to think there was a time when women writers went by their husband’s name, but there you are. Progress has definitely been made on that front.

This is another of Edmund Dulac’s illustrations, and it’s from “The Snow Queen” by Hans Christian Andersen. It’s not a scene I’m familiar with, that’s for sure.

Jessie Willcox Smith did this illustration for The Little Lame Prince by Dinah Maria Mulock Craik.

As well as this one—Little Red and the Wolf—otherwise known as Little Red Riding Hood.

And finally, here is a Jessie Willcox Smith’s illustration from The Water Babies by Charles Kingsley.

Today, there are many fine artists who create illustrations for children’s books. But for me, there is something about pictures from the Golden Age of Illustration that captures the wonder, magic, and even the dread of fantasy and fairy tales.

I wonder what it was from that period that allowed illustrators to tap into art that goes so beautifully with the stories.

Five for Friday: Gone, Baby, Gone

Ta-dah, ta-dah! The patio is officially snow free, a full ten days before we wanted it to be that way.

This is how the patio looked yesterday morning, with just the smallest patch of snow on one edge.

Here is a closer look at that stubborn little patch.

Stubborn or not, that patch’s days were numbered, and by late afternoon, the snow was gone, baby, gone. Note the hay on the walk rimmed with snow. No, our yard is not totally snow free, but it sure is good to see the patio once again.

Snow-out from the patio put in me in such a good mood that I decided to sweep the driveway. Hundreds and hundreds of little cones had fallen, the most I’ve ever seen in our driveway in spring. What a nice feeling of accomplishment to have the driveway free of those little cones.

And maybe, just maybe, Clif and I will take down the Christmas lights next week. It is time, that’s for sure.