Category Archives: Living in Place

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.


The Solace of the Seasons

Yesterday, the calendar flipped from September to October, and I could not have imagined a more perfect fall day. The night before, the temperature dipped to a little below 50°F, and during the day it rose to 65°F with nary a hint of humidity.

A perfect day for a bike ride by Maranacook Lake. The cloudless azure sky was a sight to behold, and the water—I know.  I see it everywhere—was Maya blue. Best of all, there were no snakes on the road, very common in Maine in the fall. I suppose the warmth attracts them.

Oh, for three or four more months of these perfect days. For the farmers and the nursery garden owners, rain at night, between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. until there is enough water to satisfy those who grow things. Then warm, sunny days for those of us who like to bike, walk, and sit on the patio. I realize that’s asking for a lot, but if I were in charge, that’s how the weather would be.

Right now, the leaves have just a hit of color, and there is still a lot of green.

Apples have begun to ripen, and I bought a small bag of Cortlands, crisp and tart, at the grocery store. My plan is to go to Lakeside Orchard and by a big bag of the beauties. That way, when I invite friends over for coffee and tea, I can serve warm, fragrant baked apples with just a touch of vanilla ice cream on top.

I’m always sorry to see the end of summer—the profusion of flowers, the nights on the patio, the warm weather for bike riding. But the apples, the blue of the sky, and the asters remind me that fall brings its own pleasures.

At night, the crickets are still singing and should continue until the cold silences them.  However the hummingbirds—those feisty yet ethereal creatures—are gone, and yesterday I took in their feeders and gave them a good scrubbing. Out the feeders will come next spring, when the cycle begins again. a cycle that is old but is never stale, always a delight, always renewing.

With all that is going on in our country, in the world, this cycle brings me great comfort.

This photo is for you, Quercus



High Summer in Maine

The end of July and the beginning of August is a very sweet time in Maine, and this year, with its warm days and cool nights, has been even sweeter than usual. It feels like an old-fashioned Maine summer, a welcome relief from the past few years where it has been blisteringly hot during July and August.

Clif and I have been soaking up this fine weather. On Friday, our friends Alice and Joel came over for drinks and appetizers on the patio. There were bike rides on Saturday and Sunday. We still don’t go far, but we figure it is better to go eight miles a ride rather than no miles a ride, and we feel as though we are gaining strength.

On Sunday, our friends Dawna and Jim invited us and another couple over for dinner. Dawna and Jim have a lovely home by the Upper Narrows Pond, which truly is large enough to pass as a lake. The Upper Narrows is no farm pond.

The food was terrific.

As was the view.

The company and conversation were, of course, superb.

I wish I could bottle these days and release them during the drear days of late February and March, when everything seems to be gray drizzle and hard, dirty snow.

Away with those thoughts! August, buzzing August, is just around the corner, and Clif and I intend to squeeze every bit of delight that we can out of this lovely month.

Why, on a recent ride down a back road, I even came up with a haiku in honor of this best time of year.

Queen Anne’s lace in bloom
White ducks waddling on green grass
High summer in Maine

Welcome, welcome, high summer!

Of Sunny Skies and Bluegrass

Yesterday was a lovely, hot summer day with a blue sky, puffy clouds, a slight breeze, and not a hint of humidity. To paraphrase a Facebook friend,  yesterday’s weather more than made up for the misery of March, and it’s why people come to Maine in July. So far, summer in Maine has been splendid, and may it continue.

The first order of the day was to go on an eight-mile bike ride. Slowly, slowly, Clif and I are building up our strength. But after two years of being sedentary, we can’t expect to be super bikers after only two months of steady riding. Still, I am impatient to be the strong biker I once was, and by the end of the summer, I hope to be going on much longer rides.

Our town sponsors summer concerts at Norcross Point, a little park by the lake in town. This week’s featured group was The Sandy River Ramblers, and they play bluegrass and country music.  We therefore decided to bring a picnic lunch to have after our bike ride and then go to the concert, which started midafternoon.

We ate at the Winthrop’s Public Beach, just down from Norcross Point. When our children were young, we spent many happy summer days here, and it was fun to watch children and their families swim and play in Marancook Lake.

After our lunch, we headed to Norcross Point. The Sandy River Ramblers comprise two men and two women. The men had decent enough voices, but my how those women could sing. “She’s a good-hearted woman with a good timing man. She loves him in spite of his wicked ways, which she doesn’t understand.” The downfall of many a woman.

Unfortunately, The Sandy River Ramblers don’t have a website, and their Facebook page isn’t up to date. Also, there was no program. The long and the the short of it is that I am not able to identify any of the singers.

Ah, well, the concert was free, and it was a fine thing to listen to this band on such a nice day. We sat in the shade of a flowering tree.

Two boys played soccer at the edge of the park. In matching smocks with smiley faces, little twin girls ran by, tumbling over each other like puppies. On a nearby swing set came a steady creak, creak, creak and the laughter of children. By the lake, a boy rested on a large branch of a birch tree. And on the lake, there was a cluster of boats full of people who had come to listen to the music as it carried over the water.

A day in Maine in the summer.

What a Day for a Bike Ride

Despite what the calendar might say, summer is here. The leaves are deep green and mature, and the heat has come. While I enjoy summer, I am always sorry to see sweet spring depart in such a rush. Stay, stay a little longer, I always wish, but of course she never does.

On Saturday, summer’s arrival was more than evident. The day was sunny and warm—perfect for a bike ride. We decided to extend our ride from eight to twelve miles, with a mile of it being steady uphill all the way.

Clif packed our bikes on the car,

and  we headed to the parking lot by the public beach.

We pedaled from Winthrop to Readfield, the town next to us,

where we moved from lake views to prospects of fields and a mountain.  How lucky we are to live in such a lovely, rural place with  many fine places to ride a bike.

On the way back, it was downhill for a good part of the way. My bike tires hummed on the road, the wind blew across my face, and I could smell the warm grass of the fields and the cool balsam of the woods. Finally, we were back to the water.

At the beginning of May, I decided the time had come to get back in shape. For various reasons—chiefly, working on my novel Maya and the Book of Everything—I had let exercise slip by the wayside. At my age, it is never a good thing to do this, and I felt flabby and weak. So I went on the exercise bike, the road to nowhere, six days a week.

And now, in the middle of June, I see the payoff. I am not as strong as I want to be, but my oh my the progress I’ve made since the beginning of May. Very heartening.

Onward and Onward!

For Derrick and Jackie: A Drink on the Patio

On April 1, while snow fell on central Maine, I was in England, at least in spirit, visiting Derrick and Jackie’s glorious gardens.  (Oh, the wonders of the blog world and the Internet. )

I practically inhaled picture after beautiful picture of daffodils and tulips. It might have been cold and snowy outside my home, but I could feel warmth and sunlight pouring out of my computer as I toured Derrick and Jackie’s garden.

Then, at the end of Derrick’s post, I came to this: “For the first time this year we took drinks in the rose garden before dinner. I hope it is not too long before Laurie and Clif can do the same on their patio.”

Well, I thought. Well, well, well. Our patio is still buried under snow, but where there is a will, there is a way.

Derrick and Jackie, this post is dedicated to you as Clif, on our patio, raises his glass to daffodils and tulips and spring and the glory of an English garden.