Category Archives: Living in Place

A Time of Delight

Beautiful May is here. Although there are no showy blooms in my yard in the woods, there are little delights sprinkled here and there.

In the front yard, tiny bluets on our mossy lawn.

In the backyard, equally tiny white violets.

All around, ferns continue to unfurl.

In the raised garden in the backyard, everything is green, but as my blogging friend Quercus has reminded me, green is a color, too. The emerging plants are so lovely and fresh, and in some ways, this is how I love them best, before the ravages of little chomping creatures.

In the shadier front yard, the plants aren’t as far along, but they are coming up, and I only have one more bed to clean.

I’m hoping to get the last bed done before Wednesday, when Clif and I are scheduled to have our second vaccine.

Spring time, busy time. But what a glorious time.

Denizens of the Leafy Floor & Episode 8 of Tales from the Other Green Door

Because we live in the woods, we are surrounded by ferns, and I love seeing them come up in the spring. Like most young things, they are tender and fresh with a soft color that comes only with being new.

Here are pictures of ferns that are growing beside our driveway. I am pretty sure they are cinnamon ferns, but blogging friends, if you know otherwise, please correct me.

Let’s take a closer look.

I am fascinated by the fuzzy white overcoat that will go away as the fern matures and the coiled outline of the leaves tucked underneath.

So tiny and sweet.

In spring, I am always reminded of Wordsworth’s “Nature never did betray the heart that loved her.”

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I’m coming down the homestretch with The Wings of Luck, Season 1 of my podcast, Tales from the Other Green Door. This week is Episode 8: “What Iris Knew,” in which Iris takes matters into her own hands. Four more episodes to go!

Mossy Beginnings and Diderot’s Chairs

Spring, as chilly as usual, has unfurled itself in Maine. And for me, not a moment too soon. As I have discussed with some of my blogging friends, I seem to be in a funk where nothing I read or watch pleases me. I suppose it must be because of the pandemic, where even someone like me—a homebody who’s safe and secure—feels the weight of the past year.

Whatever the reason, it is such a relief to go outside most afternoons to work in my gardens. Felder Rushing, in his book Maverick Gardeners, has encouraged me to embrace my unconventional approach to gardening. In short, I am letting loose all my wild, creative gardening impulses, and it feels great. For the past year, we have been so confined, and how freeing it is to be unconfined in the garden.

Along those lines—we have begun creating our driveway moss garden because, why not? We don’t really need that end for a driveway anyway.

As we slowly add some gathered local moss, random bits have been seeding themselves in, encouraging us to think we are on the right track. The shape looks a little bit like the state of Maine. Not planned, I assure you.

We will continue to seed in moss as time allows, taking care to water on days when it doesn’t rain. Now, when this moss garden is done, I could just leave it alone in its green loveliness. Or, I could add small garden ornaments to dress it up a little. H-m-m-m, I wonder which way I’ll go…

Readers might remember that about a week ago, we got new chairs for our patio. What a delight to see them next to our glass table. But then we put in the umbrella, even older than the replaced chairs, which are twenty years old.

Clif said, “That old umbrella looks pretty shabby.”

“Sure does,” I replied. “Especially next to those new chairs.”

This put me in mind of Diderot’s dressing gown or bathrobe, as we say here. Diderot, you will recall, was one of the luminaries of the French Enlightenment and is perhaps best known for his contributions to Encyclopedia, or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts. Most people sensibly refer to it as Encyclopedia.

But Diderot is also known for his red dressing gown, given to him by a friend who had noticed how threadbare Diderot’s old dressing gown was. (I want to note that none of my adult friends have ever seen me in a dressing gown.)

At first, Diderot was pleased with his new dressing gown, but then he noticed how dumpy his study looked in comparison. One thing led to another, and in the end, Diderot spent more money than he should have refurbishing his study so that it would go along with his snazzy new dressing gown.

This story points the way to what happened next on our patio.

That’s right. A new umbrella.

As the comedian Jerry Seinfeld might have asked, “When’s it going to end?”

 

Goings-on in the Backyard in April

So far, April has been very kind to Mainers. The weather has been warm—at times downright hot—and the bugs have been few. The mud is pretty much gone. Accordingly, we have been diligently working on spring chores.

For our wood stove, we get blocks of wood delivered on pallets.  Over the past two years, we have acquired quite a collection of them. Time for Handyman Clif to break out his hammer and saw and take them apart. Some of the wood will be used for projects, and some of it will be used in our fire pit when the kids come for a visit this summer.

As for me…my job is to rake the yard and clear the gardens.

Before, in the backyard.

And after.

However hard we work, we are never too busy to take a break on the patio and watch the fluttering beauties that come and go.

Somehow, I never get tired of taking pictures of cardinals. Part of me can’t believe that we actually have them in our backyard. Cardinals are relative newcomers to Maine, and Clif’s mother and my mother died before ever having a chance to view one of these lovelies. How I wish they had lived long enough to see them.

Here is the flashy male,

and his less flashy but still attractive mate.

We do have other birds visit us, including chipper little chickadees, our state bird.

And robins, which we actually don’t see that often. I think they like open areas better.

We have other birds visit us, too, and I will be ready with the camera to take picture of them.

Now, onward to the front yard!

 

Words on Wednesday: Wee Stairs & Episode 5 of my Podcast

The snow has gone, and the ground is fairly dry. Time for yard work, an hour or two each day, tucked in among writing and other chores. While I resent vacuuming, and dusting, I never seem to mind work in the yard. Bring on raking, picking up branches, and clipping unwanted trees and plants. All are a pleasure to me. I suppose it’s because I am outside, under the sky, and all around, I can hear the birds singing their spring songs.

The other day, while I was picking up branches, I came upon these little beauties. They reminded me of wee stairs, and I could visualize sprites and other small creatures climbing them to have drinks on a stump deck. After all, winter keeps them inside, too, and spring is a time for getting out and rejoicing.

Because it’s Wednesday, it’s time for the newest episode of my podcast, Tales from the Other Green Door. In “Donod Ashglade,” Episode 5 of The Wings of Luck, Jace and Thirret meet the elf who is behind it all.

Of Christmas Lights, Sticks, Frogs, and Toads

The snow has completely melted from our shady front yard. Early, when you consider that in the old days, we always hoped it would be gone by April 22, our youngest daughter’s birthday. Until recently, this was never a given. Now, we can more or less count on it.

The mud has mostly dried up, too. In our backyard this year, on a scale from 1 to 10, I would rate the mud factor a 3, with it going away relatively fast, too. I never even lost a shoe in the muck, which sometimes happens. However, we don’t have any kids or dogs to churn up the backyard, and no doubt that makes a big difference.

Now that the snow and mud are gone, it is time to begin spring yard work. Because we live in the woods, there are always branches and twigs to pick up. I am gathering up the sticks and putting them into outdoor trash cans. They will come in handy this summer for our fire pit. (The branches have been stacked on one side of the backyard, and they, too, will be used for the fire pit.) When the kids come to visit, we’ll have fires and make s’mores.  Always fun, especially as it’s been over a year since the kids have been home.

Because we are Mainers, we always wait until the snow is gone before we take down the Christmas lights. This habit is equal parts tradition, negligence, and practicality. After all, it’s not much fun stomping through knee-high snow to take down lights.

Surveying our snow-free yard, Clif and I decided that yesterday was the day for taking down the lights.

Farewell, my lovelies! See you next winter.

To cheer myself up after putting away the lights, I brought out a couple of my toads. More to come, and frogs, too!

To add a little silly fun to frog and toad corner, I bought this sign to cheer things up.

For those in the northern hemisphere, happy, hoppy, froggy, toady spring to you all!

 

 

 

Words on Wednesday: After the Wind Blew & a New Podcast episode

On Monday, a storm blew in, bringing strong winds. The power flickered off and on, off and on, and Clif and I decided to abandon our day’s work that involved using the computer. The rain bucketed down, and we even had thunder. But no snow, as earlier forecasts predicted—a nor’easter bringing at least a foot. And, aside from the flickering, we never really lost our power. As we Mainers like to say, things could have been worse.

Tuesday was sunny, and while no damage was done, the wind left its mark on the patio.

Easy as can be to pick up the chairs.

If it’s Wednesday, it’s time for a new episode from my podcast, Tales from the Other Green Door: This week, Episode 4—“To Love a Human”—from the story The Wings of Luck. While Jace reflects on the vagaries of love, danger and destruction hit close to home. Very close.

Snow-Gauge Clif: Week 4 and a new project

It looks as though this will be the last week for Snow-Gauge Clif, unless we get an April blizzard, which happens with some regularity in Maine. Last year we had a corker of storm on April 10. Fortunately, it was soon gone, and I expect the same would happen this year if we had snow. So, in effect, this will be the last week for measuring snow.

Here is Clif in the front yard.

And here is Clif in the backyard.

There is just a wee bit of snow in the back by the house, and I expect it will be gone by the end of the week.

Now, onto another outdoor project. However, first a bit of backstory. Our driveway is a heaving mess, with great rocks being pushed up by the freezing and thawing that occurs every winter and spring. Unfortunately, the driveway was not properly installed. If we had the money, we would hire someone to come in to break up the asphalt, haul out the rocks, and put in some pea stone. But, alas, we have a budget as big as a minute, and a total replacement is not an option.

The other day, when we were outside inspecting the back part of our sorry driveway, Clif looked at a big bulge and said, “I think I can get that rock out.” And this he did. As is the case with so many projects, one thing led to another, and by the time he was done, we were left with a good-sized hole in the pavement.

What to do? We have discussed getting pea stone to fill in, gradually tearing up this bit of driveway that leads to our backyard so that eventually the whole area is pea stone.

But then I came up with another idea: Why not have a moss garden lead to the backyard? As you can probably see, there is already moss growing on part of the pavement. As a rule, no cars park here. We would leave a walkway for going back and forth and for getting equipment out of our little shed. (On the left in the above picture.)

I love moss, which is actually pretty rugged and would certainly survive if guests did step on it on the way to the patio. I was thinking of putting some of my Asian garden ornaments to the side, on the right, along with the rock Clif dug up.

Is moss a silly notion? Would pea stone be better, more practical, in the long run? I expect it would, but I love the idea of a tranquil, mossy way leading to our backyard.

Anyway, let me know what you all think. Have any of you ever put in a moss garden? If so, what were the results?

And a final question: What the heck do we do with the torn-up asphalt? Clif did a quick check online, and it does not look as though our transfer station will take the asphalt. We will call to be sure when the transfer station is open, but we are not optimistic.

Any ideas what to do with the asphalt if our transfer station won’t take it?

Snow-Gauge Clif: Week 4

The fourth week of March has brought some big changes to our yard in the woods. The past few days have been warm—60°, very mild for this time of year—and sunny. The snow has shrunk to the point where it seems we are in April rather than March.

Our shady front yard still has a fair amount of snow, but it is slowly melting.

In the backyard, however, real progress has been made, and much of the snow is gone. The expression on Clif’s face indicates he can hardly believe there is so little snow in our backyard in March.

Last week, going against Tootlepedal’s wise advice to the contrary, I decided to tempt the weather gods. Grabbing the metal shovel from our dilapidated shed, I chipped ice and shoveled snow from our patio. Normally, I just let the snow and ice melt on its on, but this year I was keen to have the chairs back out so that I could sit in the sun on nice days. And, because Clif and I have not yet been vaccinated, safely have friends over from time to time.

Voilà! Snow-Gauge Clif taking a much-needed break after he was done with the exhausting work of measuring snow.

Today, the temperature rose to 60°F, which really is a heatwave for this time of year. My friend Judy came over for a visit, the first since around the holidays.

How nice it was to sit in the sun and chat with her. We were actually both a little hot.

Will the snow gods send us an early spring blizzard? Perhaps, but I sure hope not.

Stay tuned!

 

Snow-Gauge Clif: Week 3, 2021

Last week, Clif and I took a walk on a March day that was so warm I took off my jacket. Hats and gloves were optional. But this is Maine, and today, with the windchill, the temperature has dipped to 0°F.  No walks are planned for today.

Fortunately, Snow-Gauge Clif did his measuring yesterday, when the weather was less brisk. And despite the cold temp, progress has been made. The snow has gone down, and the driveway, for the first time this winter, is mostly clear of snow.

In the backyard, which gets more sun, there has been even more progress.

There are actually a few teeny tiny bare spots on the patio. (I’m thinking of cheating this year and shoveling the patio so that we can have friends over when the temp hits 50°.)

The garden emerges, and there is bare ground. Joy, joy, happy, happy!

Best of all, a closer look reveals the first green shoots of the season.

Despite the whipsaw nature of March, we are cheered by these small glimpses of Spring.