It’s the beginning of March, and at our home in the woods this can only mean one thing—the return of Snow-Gauge Clif to keep track of the melting snow in our yard. In Maine, March marks the beginning of the end of winter, and there is always speculation about when the yard will be snow free. Enter Snow-Gauge Clif with his trusty yardstick to measure the retreating snow.
Both Clif and I have had the notion that this winter has had much less snow than last winter did. As it turned out, our notions were correct. Here, in the front yard, is Snow-Gauge Clif at the beginning of March 2019:
Here he is in 2020, about two days ago.
Fortunately, we seem to have had enough snow to protect the perennials. I remember one year when we had a scanty snow cover, and I lost almost all the plants in the backyard garden. Because even when it doesn’t snow, it’s usually very cold in Maine in Winter. Believe it or not, snow provides insulation for the plants, and uncovered plants are not a good thing.
Now, blogging friends, brace yourself for excitement for the next month or so. If the snow continues melting at this pace, then it’s highly likely that the snow will be gone by the end of March. Last year the snow was gone in mid-April. What will it be this year? Only time will tell.
So stay tuned! Each Friday will bring a picture of Snow-Gauge Clif with his trusty yardstick.
I am happy to report that I’m coming to the end of the umpteenth revision of my YA fantasy novel Out of Time, the third in my Great Library Series. Phew, what a tangle of words a novel becomes when you give it close reading after close reading. My plan is to get Out of Time to the editor by the beginning of March, which is a week away.
This means it’s chop-chop time. Therefore, blog posts will be relatively short and filled with pictures. Lucky for me, Maine is a photogenic place to live.
Readers might recall that at the end of last week, the temperature was below zero.
Here was yesterday’s temperature, and the thermometer is in the shade. Quite the contrast!
A perfect time for a walk. In the last post, I looked down. On yesterday’s walk, I looked up. I think it was the glorious blue of the sky that drew my gaze to all the little things that were either growing on branches or that were still attached.
Now, onward ho! Back to the tangle of words.
Last night was a cold one. When I got up this morning, the house was a chilly 55°F, and outside it was even chillier—dead calm and two below zero.
It was cold enough for a frosty garden on the storm window in my bedroom.
But by the time I went outside to take more pictures—around 10:00 a.m.—the temperature had risen to 18°F. Not balmy, to be sure, but warm enough to take pictures without wearing gloves.
As many readers know, we live in the woods, and in the winter little cones, twigs, leaves, and branches are blown into the snow. Easy to pass by without seeing their modest beauty.
While I love scenic photography as much as the next person, I have always been interested in nature’s small vignettes—the overlooked, the unnoticed, the underappreciated.
Imagine my delight, then, when thanks to John Poole’s piece on NPR, I came across the photographer Janelle Lynch.
At first glance, you might see a jumble of weeds, a thicket of twigs, a heap of dying leaves. You might be inclined to stop looking at this point.
Janelle Lynch invites you to look closer, and slower. She’d want you to see each image as a world in itself — not an accidental grouping of plant matter, but a well-ordered composition created by nature and fixed in time and space by her 8-by-10-inch large-format camera.
Her implicit message is that one needs only to be still, take your time and pay close attention to find the beauty that surrounds you. But, like meditation, this seemingly simple act is often more difficult than it appears.
How I was drawn by Lynch’s exquisite photos, and how I would love to have a bigger camera, which would allow me to take better pictures.
But I have the camera I have, and despite its small size, my wee camera does a pretty good job of capturing nature’s tiny delights. Therefore, out I will go in weather cold, mild, and hot, looking for the overlooked and making do with what I have. After all, that is the Maine way.
I will, of course, also take pictures that are broader in scope, to give readers a sense of what central Maine is like. But Lynch has inspired me to continue following my inclination for the small.
Yesterday was a lovely snowy day. Unlike freezing rain or sleet, this is exactly the sort of weather Maine should get in February. Before eating a breakfast of oatmeal and dried cranberries, I grabbed my wee camera and tried to get some pictures of the falling snow. While easy for the human eye to see, snowflakes are not easy for my camera to catch. (When I was a child, I remember tipping my head back, opening my mouth to the sky and letting the snow sprinkle my tongue.)
Can you spot the snow as it falls against Sparky, our red Honda Fit?
The snow is easier to see here, against the brown of the tree trunks and the red of our little shed and wheelbarrow. With all the red we have around our place, including on our house, you might think red is my favorite color. But it isn’t. Instead, blue is. Go figure.
Here again, the falling snow is visible against the tree trunks in the woods in our backyard.
I couldn’t resist taking a picture of our clothesline, which hasn’t had anything hanging on it since fall. Well, it has something now.
Early afternoon, it stopped snowing, and Clif went out with Little Green to clean the driveway and the walkway.
And what did we have for “suppah,” as we Mainers call it? A vegan beefy stew with Quorn Meatless Grounds and umami-ed with veggie Better Than Bouillon and nutritional yeast. Clif and I might be vegetarians, but we still like that rich gravy taste, and this soup gives us just what we want. I also made biscuits with oat milk to go with the soup.
My Yankee husband’s response? Pretty darned good. And the best thing about this soup is that as the flavors mingle, it’s even better on the second and third day.
No freezing rain. Soup and biscuits for supper. Who could ask for anything more?
Yesterday we had snow, and I am happy to report it was a Goldilocks’s storm where we got exactly the right amount—about six inches—and it wasn’t too wet or too heavy. No problem at all for Clif and Little Green, our trusty electric snow thrower.
Outside, it was a world of quiet and white with a touch of color here and there. Midwinter in Maine.
This morning when I got up, the sky had cleared and the temperature had dropped.
Out I went to take a picture of our snug, cozy home.
I hope I’m not being too presumptuous by borrowing a description from my friends across the pond to describe our home. That is, a chocolate box house.
More snow is predicted for Saturday, another seven inches or so. Again, just the right amount of snow.
Clif and Little Green will be ready. And who knows? Maybe snow-gauge Clif will soon make an appearance.
Last weekend, an ice storm was predicted. There was even a weather advisory warning that we might get enough freezing rain to cause power outages.
Whenever there’s the threat of an ice storm, Clif and I think back to 1998 when there was a doozy of an ice storm that knocked out the power to half the state and felled trees with a sickening crack. We live in the woods, and during the worst of the storm, it sounded as though we were surrounded by gunfire as branches broke and fell to the ground.
We were without power for about eleven days, and what a miserable time we had. Every bit of water we used had to be hauled in, and the nights were long and chilly. (Fortunately we have a wood furnace, which meant we didn’t freeze.) It is a time we will never forget, and it certainly made us appreciate modern conveniences such as electricity.
Therefore, when we heard that there might be an ice storm, we sprang into action. Laundry done. Check. Extra bread for peanut butter sandwiches. Check. Plenty of wood in the basement for the furnace. Check. Extra water in big pots on the stove to go with the stored water in our cellar. Check. Check. Check.
We were ready. But to our delight and relief, the ice storm didn’t cometh. Instead, we got rain, which has made everything look miserable, but a dreary landscape is a vast improvement over a frozen, slippery one. And glory be, we didn’t have to worry about losing our power.
Instead of sharing pictures of what everything looks like now, I’ll share pictures I took midweek before the rain washed all the snow away. These were taken in town, about a mile from where we live, of Maranacook Lake.
I hope that we get a bit of snow and that Maine will look wintery again, the way it ought to in January. Not a blizzard mind you. Instead, five or six inches. We always want things to be just right, don’t we? It seems that most of us are a bunch of Goldilocks yearning for that perfect porridge. All too often, we are disappointed. Still, we yearn, and in that yearning lies hope.
Our cats, I think, have found their perfect sweet spot in our living room. Rain or snow or freezing rain, it doesn’t matter.
May you find your perfect sweet spot this week and every week.
At the beginning of the week, a bear knocked down our bird feeder. The pole was snapped off at the base, and the top was smashed to smithereens. (For those who haven’t read all about it, here is the link: https://hinterlands.me/2019/10/25/exit-destroyed-by-a-bear/)
Time for handyman Clif to spring into action. First, a new top was needed. Clif went back to the store where we had bought the feeder umpteen years ago, but no luck. He also checked online. Again, no luck. You might think at this point we would have considered buying a new feeder, but you would be wrong. We are Mainers, and Mainers have a reputation for making do and coming up with, ahem, creative solutions.
For various reasons, we had accumulated four laundry baskets over the years. Clif asked, “What do you think about using one of the white ones for the top?”
“Excellent idea,” I said, delighted with the notion of using something we already had. And after all, we would still have three laundry baskets. Plenty for a household with two people.
Lickity split, Clif cut off the top of one of our white laundry baskets and fashioned a top for the feeder.
Next, it was time to pound a new pole deep into the ground.
As Clif couldn’t find the right sized pole for the feeder, part of the old pole was slipped into the new pole. Then, to support the lower baffle, out came the trusty duct tape—the delight of all handy men and women, especially Mainers. (I’ve even repaired old gloves with it.)
Then, voilà! Time to put on the feeder with its new top.
“Pretty darned good,” I said, borrowing an expression from my Yankee husband.
Almost immediately, the grateful birds began coming to the feeder. Following the advice of several of my blogging friends, we have taken in the bird feeder at dusk. No point in asking for more trouble.
Next week, we will get some black spray paint for the pole. But the top is plastic, and we will leave that alone.
A note about the use of the word wicked in the title. Mainers use the word wicked the way brilliant is used in the UK. Nearby, there is even a business named Wicked Whoopies, and I could have one of those delectable treats right now. They really are wicked good.
So there you have it. A wicked good fix for a wicked good feeder.
Here we are, heading toward late October, a special time of year for us as this was when our eldest daughter was born forty-two years ago. (Oh, my!) What a darling beautiful baby she was. I suppose most mothers think this about their babies, and rightly so. They are our best beloveds.
Speaking of beauty…in Maine it is all around us even though the storm took down many of the leaves.
When I look up
and when I look down.
Even the black-eyed Susans, which have dropped their petals, still glimmer in October.
In October, the landscape positively glows, partly because of the brilliant leaves and partly because of the way the sun, low in the sky, sends its dazzling light at a slant. As I sit at my desk, the month’s golden loveliness flickers in my peripheral vision, and I find myself gazing outside far more than I should. (Fantasy novels don’t write themselves.)
Well, October comes but once a year, and it would be foolish not to drink in this glorious month. As with May, I wish I could hold onto October’s coattails and implore her to stay longer. “Don’t rush, don’t rush.”
But Nature is on her own schedule, and luminous October must give way to the muted russets of November.
Yesterday, on my way to hang laundry, something loud buzzed by my ear.
My first thought: What’s that?
My second immediate thought: The hummingbirds are back!
Lickety-split, I went into the house and set a pot of sugar water to boil. Clif went down cellar to retrieve the hummingbird feeders, and by afternoon, they were out and ready for the little winged visitors.
Later that day, as Clif and I were having drinks on the patio, a male hummingbird came for a sip of the sugar water in the feeders. Readers, as the season progresses and more hummingbirds come, I will try to get a shot of these whizzing beauties. But between the birds’ speed and the limitations of my wee camera, my chances of success are not good. But I will make a valiant attempt.
Around the yard, there are more signs of Spring, glorious Spring.
The ferns continue to unfurl.
The sweet red maple blossoms are falling, to be replaced by a tender fringe of new leaves.
Slowly, I have begun removing leaves from the beds in the front yard, and although there are no flowers yet, it looks pretty darned good to me. No snow, no muck. Lots of glorious green.
Finally, here is a picture of Clif at the gate.
He is happy that, at last, spring is here.
And so am I.