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From Our Small Corner in Maine

Normally, I publish three posts a week, with one of them being a photo for wordless Wednesday. But these are not normal times, and for a while, at least, I will be publishing more posts than usual. This will help me make sense of things in my small corner of the world and leave some kind of record of what we did and what we thought. It won’t be complete, of course. No one record ever is. But it will be my contribution to these extraordinary times.

As of this date—March 17, 2020—President Trump is finally taking the novel coronavirus seriously. It took him a very long time to figure out that he couldn’t bully the virus into submission. The virus doesn’t give a hoot about President Trump. It will go where it can and infect the powerful as well as the weak. Now, let us hope that President Trump actually does something useful. There’s talk of a stimulus package, and I’m praying that some of the money will go to people who really need it as opposed to all the usual rich suspects.

Maine is fortunate to have a strong, smart woman—Janet Mills—for governor. Today, according to NBC News, she “has requested that the Small Business Administration help Maine small businesses get supportive loans to overcome the loss of revenue during the COVID-19 concern….Additionally, Mills sent emergency legislation that would temporarily extend eligibility to unemployment to workers that have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.”

In Maine, as of today, thirty-two people have tested positive for Covid-19, and three are in the hospital. So far no reports of death, and may it stay that way.

Our children are well. (Picture me knocking furiously on wood.) Dee, who lives in New York City, is working from home and can do so indefinitely. Shannon and Mike, who live in Asheville, North Carolina. Tomorrow, Shannon will begin working from home, and Mike will, too, unless he is considered a mandatory employee.

Clif and I have been staying safe and sound in our own snug home, and so far, at least, life isn’t really that different for us than it usually is. We are both introverts and homebodies. Even in normal circumstances, most of our time is spent at home. We cook almost every meal that we eat, so we can’t even say we miss going to restaurants. Although we are introverts, we do miss getting together with our friends, and I have been staying in touch electronically, through messages and phone calls.

While we are well supplied with food and toilet, I have found that there are some things I didn’t think of. For example, the Sunday newspaper to read and then to use as a starter for our wood furnace. As a result, we have been scrounging various sources of paper.

But yesterday I looked outside and saw a solution from nature—pine cones scattered throughout our backyard.

Out I went to gather them.

Clif used some pine cones this morning, and he said they worked really well. Because of the pine cones, Clif didn’t have to use nearly as much paper as he usually does to start the fire.

A moment of triumph for me. I spent a happy hour in the backyard in weather that was brisk but pleasant. The yard is mostly free from pine cones, and they have been put to good use.

What have you been doing in this time of the novel coronavirus?


The Astonishing Case of the Disappearing Snow

A week has passed since Snow-Gauge Clif made his first appearance of the year, and what a long week it has been. The news about the coronavirus changes daily. As we watch the news,  we wait in apprehension, hoping that family and friends, near and far, stay safe and well.

But let us turn our attention back to Snow-Gauge Clif. The snow is melting at an astonishing clip. Here is Snow-Gauge Clif in the front yard.

And here he is in the backyard.

So much snow has melted that a couple of days ago, I did my yearly chore of picking up branches and sticks in the backyard. And, no, that little buddy didn’t help me.

Winter storms always blow sticks and branches down, and believe it or not, I actually enjoy this chore that tells me, “Spring is coming, spring is coming.”  Beside me, a beautiful ghost dog barks and leaps as I throw the sticks over the fence into the woods.

After cleaning the yard of sticks, I grabbed my wee camera and looked for signs of spring. I was not disappointed.

Somehow, this green looks even better this spring than it normally does.





The Return of Snow-Gauge Clif

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.

Backyard, 2019:

Backyard, 2020:

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.

Looking up in Late February

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.


The Overlooked, the Unnoticed, the Underappreciated

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.






Catching Snow As It Falls

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?




A Chocolate Box House?

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.


The Ice Storm Didn’t Cometh

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.

A Wicked Good Bird Feeder

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:

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.

The sacrificial laundry basket
The new top


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.