Category Archives: Flowers

Some Thoughts on Labor Day 2020

This morning the sky was a bright overcast, a perfect time for poking around the yard and taking pictures of small things. The flowers are definitely past their best, but there are a few bright spots here and there.

Perky Black-eyed Susans,

Asters, those stars of fall,

and bright wands of Goldenrod.

In the United States, today is Labor Day, which Wikipedia defines as “a federal holiday in the United States celebrated on the first Monday in September to honor and recognize the American labor movement and the works and contributions of laborers to the development and achievements of the United States.”

I think of my Franco-American ancestors—potato farmers and factory workers—mocked and derided for being “dumb Frenchman.” In truth, these “dumb Frenchman” did much of the hard, back-breaking labor that kept Maine going. Why weren’t they respected for the work they did? Even today, the contributions of Franco-Americans are seldom acknowledged.

If we cast the circle wider to encompass other ethnic groups and workers—the ones who pick our crops, the ones who work in stores, the ones who bravely go forth during this pandemic so that we can eat and have the necessities of life—we see that the same sort of disrespect is extended to them. Somehow these workers are so lowly that they do not deserve a decent wage, health care, or affordable housing and transportation.

To borrow from my blogging friends across the pond, rubbish! Covid-19 has revealed exactly who is essential and who is not.

So on this Labor Day, and indeed on every other day, let’s honor the men and women who work so hard and get so little. And, maybe, just maybe, we can think about what we, as a society, can do to make their lives a little more comfortable.

And then put those thoughts into actions.

 

 

 

The Heat Is on

The end of July. It is 80° F first thing in the morning. Too hot and humid to go on the exercise bike for 38 minutes, the way I do most days. Even though we have Eva, our AC unit, in the living room, there’s a limit to what she can cool. The exercise bike is at the other end of the house, away from the lovely  Eva.

The heat is supposed to break on Wednesday. Until then, I’ll skip the exercise bike. The road to nowhere can wait.

Fortunately, as Judy from NewEnglandGardenAndThread noted, the flowers don’t mind the heat.

The daylilies continue to punctuate my mostly green yard with bursts of different colors.

Tootlepedal, here’s a yellow one for you.

Knowing we can depend on Eva to bring the temperature down inside, Clif and I brave the heat and humidity to have drinks and appetizers on the patio.

Little Miss Watson gets her own drink.

And Bertie, the flying pig, is surrounded by blossoms.

Readers, it surely has been the strangest summer we’ve ever had. It seems endless, as though we have been suspended in some kind of hothouse heat trap. Part of me wishes it would end, and then another part of me thinks ahead to colder weather when there will be no drinks on the patio, and Clif and I will be mostly inside.

There is a bright note to all this. Because of all the biking I’ve been doing—and the weight I’ve been losing—my knees are getting better. As soon as it’s too chilly to sit on the patio, I’ll dust off my sneakers and start going for walks at least a few days a week.

The walks won’t substitute for going out and about around town, for visiting with friends, for having family come to stay. But at least I’ll see something besides the inside of the house.

After all, there’s a limit, even for a homebody.

 

Waking Up to a Heat Advisory

Early this morning when I checked my phone, I saw there was a message for a heat advisory for Kennebec County, where I live.  The temperature is supposed to climb to the 90s, with heat indices between 95 and 100. Readers, that is hot. And the air is so humid it almost feels solid, as though I have to push to get through it.

This was the temperature when I got up. Please note that the thermometer is in the shade.

On went Eva, our new AC. She’s in the living room, but she helps bring down the temperature in the whole house. Thank goodness for Eva. Without her, I wouldn’t be able to work in this heat. And deadlines are approaching…

As grateful as I am to Eva, I resent being trapped inside by the heat. Outside, the patio beckons.

Daylilies have begun to bloom and the bee balm is glorious this year.

My usual habit is to go on the patio around 4:30 with a drink—usually non-alcoholic—and a snack. Especially during the coronavirus, it is the highlight of my day.

But not when there’s a heat advisory. Fortunately, the weather is supposed to break tonight, and tomorrow’s forecast is for a perfect summer’s day. After my work is done, I’ll be back on the patio!

 

 

Hot, Hot, Hot!

It has been so hot this June that heat records have been broken all over Maine. In addition, there has been so little rain that I have had to water portions of my garden every day.

Unfortunately, our hose does not reach around to the front yard. Thank goodness for my little blue cart, which we originally bought for hauling books and display items to various fairs. This summer, with all fairs canceled owing to covid-19, I am using the cart to haul water.

Back and forth, back and forth, I go, feeling a bit like Gérard Depardieu in the excellent movie Jean de Florette. Fortunately, I don’t have to carry water on my back, the way he did.

And, I don’t have ratty Daniel Auteuil conniving to deprive me of water.

Still, hauling gallons and gallons of water out front every day certainly gives me a work out. My legs feel it at the end of the day.

In past years, Clif and I have casually discussed putting a water spigot out front, but in truth we’ve never really needed it. Usually Maine has an ample supply of rain, and I haven’t had to water much.

However, Maine is changing. The day might soon come when we put a spigot out front, just as we bought an air conditioner this year to deal with the extreme heat.

Fortunately, despite the heat, the backyard cools down at night. The evening primroses have started to bloom, bringing a jaunty touch of yellow to the various shades of green.

Around 6:00, Clif and I settle down to a light supper as the birds flutter and sing, coming for their own water and food.

Despite the heat, despite covid-19, we have our patio and backyard on the edge of the woods, a place of deep green beauty and mystery.

 

 

 

 

I’ll Keep Trying

Spring is most definitely here.

The lawns are abloom with tiny spring flowers that are not always easy for the wee camera to photograph. But by gum, yesterday the light must have been just right for the camera to capture this dandelion,

some violets,

and even this tiny flower on a plant I was given and have no idea what it is.

No blooms yet in the back garden, but I did come across this feather.

Even though there are no flowers, everything is growing splendidly, and I love the green of spring.

Yesterday, we put out the hummingbird feeders.

Already, the little will-o’-the-wisps have begun coming to the feeder.

It is not easy for me to get a picture of them, but I’ll keep trying.

A Nugget of Gold in My Freezer

On Saturday, I delivered a birthday package to the little boy next door. Inside was a toy dinosaur. The boy is crazy about all things dinosaur, and he wants to be a paleontologist when he grows up. Or at least he did the last time I saw him, several months ago. With his mother’s permission, I tucked the package in the family mailbox across the street from their house. As I walked home, I was treated to a bird symphony of spring songs. What a delight!

As I listened the birds’ sweet songs, it seemed to me that things were much the way they have always been in April, with Spring slowly tiptoeing onto our road, into our yard. An illusion, I know. The coronavirus is ripping around the world, leaving death and misery in its wake.

But still. In my back garden bright green shoots of irises and daylilies are emerging.

They are joined by the dark red leaves of evening primroses, which tend to be hogs and need thinning every year. Good thing the yellow flowers are so pretty. I will bring some of the cast-off plants to the birthday boy’s mother.  Last year she said she would like evening primroses for her garden. I can leave a couple of pots at the end of her driveway. (This is the same neighbor who brings eggs and won’t take any payment for them.)

With weather that is sunny and somewhat warm, I long to be out, the first time I’ve felt this way since last fall. Soon it will be hard to sit at my desk and write as the outside calls to me. But I’ll do it. Now that the children are grown, writing is the center of my life. However, my yard and gardens are a close second, and come spring it is never easy to stay inside.

Yesterday, as I was digging around the diminishing supplies in my little chest freezer down cellar, I found a square of Parmesan. If my creaky knees had allowed, I would have jumped for joy. It was like finding a nugget of gold. As I beheld the cheese, one dish immediately came to mind: Spaghetti with fried eggs, introduced to me by the inimitable Mark Bittman.

Bittman describes this dish as something that you turn to when you don’t have much time. Or much in your larder. Readers, it is so much more than that. For someone like me—who loves eggs, olive oil, garlic, and pasta—spaghetti and fried eggs qualifies as an honest-to-gosh treat.

Here are some pictures illustrating the process, which takes no more than a half hour from beginning to end.

First, brown two crushed garlic cloves in olive oil.

Discard the cloves when they are brown and crack four eggs into the olive oil. Simmer the eggs in the oil just until the whites are slightly set but the yolks are not cooked.

Dump this glorious mixture into a pot of piping hot spaghetti and stir until the eggs are broken up. The hot spaghetti will finish cooking the eggs.

Et violà. Top with plenty of grated cheese and lots of pepper for a special meal on a day when you are unconcerned about calories.

Note: For some reason, I don’t have the heart to post coronovirus statistics and the news from afar. Maybe it’s because spring has finally arrived.

Who knows? But for now, anyway, it’s back to writing about life at our home in the woods.

 

 

The Pleasures of My Own Yard

Many people like to travel—to see new sights and to eat new food. While I understand the need for novelty, I find that I get plenty of variety in my own yard. Best of all, I don’t have to take a plane, bus, or automobile. I merely have to go down a few steps, and there are I am, surrounded by gardens and trees that look different with every season.

Right now, in Maine, it is fall, a lovely but bittersweet time of year,  when all things green and growing are getting ready for the long cold of winter. In the front yard the leaves of the Solomon’s seal have turned a ghostly white, a pale contrast with the black-eyed Susans, which are beginning to fade.

The leaves of the hosta Frances Williams are yellowing and curling in on themselves.

In the backyard, there is a blaze of color in the woods, a bold punctuation among the evergreens. Soon the leaves will fall, a sprinkle of red on the forest floor.

We haven’t taken in the patio chairs and table, and it often continues to be warm enough for me to sit and listen to the crickets singing their song of fall. So far, the little jumping creatures haven’t been stilled by the cold. Neither have the nasturtiums, which are still blooming, albeit in a more desultory way than they were at their peak.

Often times, in the waning warm of autumn, Little Miss Watson keeps me company.

And watching over everything is a Spirit of the woods, guarding the yard whatever the season.

 

Progress Report as Summer Slides into Fall

Although I haven’t been blogging, I have been working diligently on my YA fantasy novel, Out of Time. I am about three-quarters done. The end is in sight, and I can definitely see land now.  This galloping toward the finish line is the exciting part of writing a book, and thoughts of editing and revision are pushed firmly to the side. All that matters now is the story, and there will be time enough for the really picky work when I am finished.

While I have been feverishly working—six days a week, with Sundays off—late summer has begun its slide into early fall. A bittersweet time. Fall, with its blaze of orange, red, and yellow, is magnificent in Maine. The cool, crisp days are invigorating, and the bounty of apples, squash, and potatoes reminds us of all the good things that come from Earth. Simmering soups and fresh biscuits or muffins make this a cozy season.

But—somehow there is always a but—the days are shorter, and we no longer have long nights on the patio. The nights have become cool enough that we have begun thinking about turning on the heat, a cost that is a burden for those of us who live on a shoestring budget.

In this part of the world, fall is also hurricane season, and right now there is a brute of a storm named Dorian that is smashing the Bahamas and heading toward Florida. We mourn for the destruction in the Bahamas and wait apprehensively as Dorian approaches Florida. “Go out to sea, go out to sea,” we pray, but the storm runs by its own rules and will hit wherever it wants.

While hurricanes usually don’t make it as far north as Maine, we have nevertheless begun thinking of stocking up on canned beans, canned soup, peanut butter, and batteries. Winter is coming, and we want to be prepared. Yesterday I emptied, scrubbed, and refilled the big covered buckets we use for storing water. That way, if a storm knocks out our power, we have water. We have a well, and no power means no water. This scrubbing and refilling is a yearly fall ritual, another reminder that summer is coming to an end.

The gardens are yet another reminder. As my blogging friend Tootlepedal might put it, our gardens are no longer at their best. Their midsummer glory is a thing of the past, and now a faded, slightly regretful air hangs over everything. And the shrubs, neglected last year, are in desperate need of a trimming.

Fortunately, we have black-eyed Susans to brighten the yard.

And the promising blush of pink from the sedums.

Farewell, Summer. Sometimes, especially in July, you are too hot, but I still love you.

And now it’s back to work on Out of Time. I am hoping that my next post—probably the end of September—will have the title Finished.