Category Archives: Living in Place

Shadows in the Backyard

Yesterday was a glorious winter day—sunny, bright, and warm with a hint that spring might be on the way. Before making soup for our supper and doing a bit of decluttering down cellar, I headed outside to see what was going on in the backyard. The weather was so warm—at least to this Mainer—that no gloves were needed. Or wanted.

Immediately, I was struck by the shadows on the snow.

The broad sweep of blue grey, in the shade, at the far end of the yard,

the wisp of a tiny evergreen tip that had fallen into the snow,

the solid square of the bird feeder favored by the cardinals,

the hook for our hummingbird feeders, tucked down cellar until late spring,

the bulky outline of trees punctuated by the slim slats of the fence at the edge of the woods,

and finally me, with a wave of my hand, to blogging friends near and far.

 

Red Tent on Ice

On Saturday, Clif and I took a walk to the Narrows Ponds to see if there was any activity on the frozen water. At 40°F, the weather was reasonably warm—for February—but as we would soon find out, a brisk wind made it feel much colder. Never mind. Clif and I are Mainers, and if we can’t stand a little nippy weather, then we don’t deserve our north-of-north status.

The Narrows Pond Road has some snow, but not as much as it often does this time of year. In February, the banks are usually much higher.

The closer we got to the Narrows, the harder the wind blew. Did I bring the half-fingered gloves so that I could more comfortably take pictures? I did not. Lulled by the balmy temperature on our house’s thermometer, I left the half-fingered gloves at home and wore regular ones. This, of course, meant I had to take off my gloves whenever I snapped a picture. As the old saying goes, we grow too soon old and too late wise.

On the Lower Narrows, there was only one ice fishing shelter—it can hardly be called a shack—and I have never seen anything like it. A smart-looking tent, the shelter gave the impression that the family had set up house on the ice and was going to stay there for rest of the weekend.

A quick look on the Internet was all it took to let me know that ice fishing tents are readily available at a range of prices. I’m not exactly sure why I’ve never noticed one before. Maybe it’s because I don’t walk on the ice anymore and therefore don’t see the variety of shelters?

Anyway, after having seen this snappy shelter on our walk, I’ll be on the lookout for others.

Today, my blogging friend Judy, from New England Garden and Thread, wrote, “I always find it interesting that there are people and houses out on the ice when you can actually see open water…”

Judy, it happens in Maine, too, and here is a broader shot that includes the open water and the red tent shelter, which is no doubt far enough away for safety’s sake. But still.

Ducks, who have no reason to fear thin ice, cluster on the edge and observe the goings-on.

Across the causeway, on the Upper Narrows, there is little open water, only a sliver by the road and culvert.

Oddly enough, there are no ice fishing shacks on this side. Just a wide expanse of snow-covered ice with two shadows watching.

 

 

 

 

The Cat Days of Winter

We refer to the hottest time of year as the dog days of summer.  However, right now in Maine, winter is at its coldest.

Frost gardens have grown on the windows.

Perhaps we can refer to this cold season as the cat days of winter?

The frigid weather has finally frozen the lakes, but there are no villages of fishing shacks as there have been in past winters. I wonder if Covid-19 has discouraged people from gathering on the ice. I miss the busy hubbub of activity that the villages bring to deep winter. This year the lakes seem so quiet.

But there is always the consolation of bare branches against a bright blue sky.  The pandemic cannot take this away.

The first blizzard of the season is blowing up the East Coast. My New York City daughter has reported that it’s snowing like crazy in Brooklyn. Soon, it will be snowing like crazy in Maine, too. A foot is predicted, but we shall see.

However, we have plenty of wood for the furnace, and our snow thrower, Little Green—with its belts repaired—is ready to go.

Time to make a white bean soup for tomorrow so that after we’re done cleaning up the snow, we will have a nice meal that can be reheated with little effort.

Winter is a lot of work, I know, and staying warm can be expensive for those of us on a tight budget. Still, I love this hunkering down time of year, when the world is cold and white on the outside and snug on the inside.

The Danish and Norwegians have a word for this notion of coziness—hygge—and I am sure many of you have heard of it. As someone who loves all things cozy, I feel as though this word, this concept, was made for me.

Essential, perhaps, for a woman who was born north of north in the lower forty-eight states, where winter can start in November and often doesn’t let up until the end of March or the beginning of April.

Taking Pictures on a Brisk Day

On Sunday, the weather was fine but very brisk, even by Maine standards. There was a wind—not a gentle one—and with the windchill it felt even colder, below zero.

Nevertheless, faithful blogging friend that I am, I headed to Marancook Lake in hopes of seeing some ice fishing shacks to photograph. I know that blogging friends who live in warmer climates are fascinated by the notion of ice fishing, which is a yearly event in Maine.

But Sunday’s cold snap aside, this winter has been warmer than average, and the lakes have been slow to freeze. Last week when I went to Lake Marancook, there were no ice fishing shacks. Taken from our local paper, here are the guidelines that prudent folks follow: “The state recommends keeping off any ice that is not at least 4 inches thick. It’s recommended that snowmobiles need at least 5 to 6 inches, and cars and small trucks need 8 to 12.”

Had the week been cold enough for the ice to freeze 4 inches thick? Would there be ice fishing shacks?

Just barely. I found two shacks rather than the lively village that is usually on the lake this time of year. In the photo below, you can just barely see them in the distance.

Here’s a closer view.

And closer still.

Those who have taken pictures in cold weather know that it is really hard to do so wearing gloves. (Perhaps there are special gloves for cold-weather photographers?) Therefore with bare stinging hands, I took these pictures, and I did not dawdle to admire the views. Snap, snap, snap, and I was back in the relative warmth of the car.

I drove home the long way around, going by the Narrows Ponds, where there were more ice fishing shacks. But there were too many cars in the small off-road parking area, and if the weather allows, I will take a walk sometime this week to see if I can get some more pictures of ice shacks.

Here’s a final picture from Sunday’s Maranacook Lake series. Just in case in anyone needs a reminder.

Stay warm all you hardy souls who live in the frozen north!

 

A January Kind of Day

Last Friday was the kind of January day that makes a Mainer glad to be alive. The sun was shining and the sky was a brilliant blue that only comes in winter. A good afternoon to be out, but as my holiday vacation is over, I had much work to do, and it therefore fell to Clif to do various errands.

“But take the camera,” I said. “And get some pictures.”

“All right,” Clif said, and off he went.

Winthrop is a town of lakes, ponds, and streams. While not an island, our town is surrounded by water, which brings life and beauty to the area. After seeing the pictures of drought from blogging friends in different parts of the world, I have come to greatly appreciate all the water we have in Winthrop.

On that beautiful sunny Friday, Clif headed to Maranacook Lake, about a mile and half from our home, in the opposite direction of the Narrows Ponds. There is a public beach, where our daughters learned to swim. There is a sweet little park with picnic tables and grills, a perfect place to sit and relax on warm sunny days.

But in January, there are no swimmers or picnickers, and the beach and park are empty.

Instead, we have sky, snow, and mostly water, some of it frozen, some not. Note: I did not fiddle with the colors at all. They are exactly as Clif took them.

In a usual winter, life on the beach and the park heads out onto the ice, where fishing shacks are set up, and hardy souls go fishing. The frozen lake becomes a village where people fish and talk and laugh and children play. While I am not into ice fishing, I always enjoy seeing the villages, a bright accent in a frozen world.

Unfortunately, there are no ice shacks on the lake. As the open water by the shore indicates, the weather just hasn’t been cold enough.

But a cold snap is coming, and February is often as brisk as January. So there might be time yet.

Clif and I will be watching.

The Weather Gods Laugh

This weekend, our friends Beth and John came over for a socially-distanced visit. The weather forecast had indicated that the temperature on both Saturday and Sunday would be in the mid-30s, which it was. Unfortunately, when Beth and John came on Saturday, there was also a brisk breeze, which made it just that much colder.

Here are Beth and John, bundled up.

With the cold, they could only stay an hour, but it sure was nice to see them. Naturally, we talked about the horrible events on Wednesday. How could we not speak of this day of infamy when it hasn’t even been a week since the mob stormed the Capitol? We are all still reeling.

Then the weather gods enjoyed having a little laugh at our expense. The weather on Sunday was still and sunny and thus felt much warmer even though it was still in the mid-30s.

A perfect day to walk down to the Upper and Lower Narrows Ponds, which are big and deep enough to be considered lakes. (I’ll write more about the Narrows in a future post.)

The sky was a brilliant blue that usually only comes in the winter in Maine. Here is a picture of a pine tree against the sky.

The lower Narrows, churned by a current that runs through a culvert under the road, still has a fair amount of open water.

Enough for a few ducks resting on a skim of ice.

The Upper Narrows, on the other hand, has a sweep of snowy ice. Friends who live on the shallow end have told me that folks have begun ice fishing.

A short walk, but a good one. So cozy to come back to a warm home, make a cup of tea, and have a nice long talk with our eldest daughter.

Technology is no substitution for seeing her in person, but it certainly is better than nothing.

 

 

 

 

Little Green, We Have a Problem

Time was when Clif and I and our daughters hand shoveled and scooped our driveway, which is neither long nor wide. For some reason, it was a chore that Clif and I didn’t mind doing.

But then the years passed. Our daughters moved far away, and we—ahem—were no longer as spry or as strong as we were in our younger days. One Christmas, Dee took pity on her aging parents and bought us an electric snow-thrower, which I promptly dubbed “Little Green.”

Here is Clif with Little Green last winter.

Last Friday, when Clif took out Little Green to clean the snow left behind from our first snowstorm, he had an unpleasant surprise as he turned it on—a loud grinding noise and then nothing. Fortunately, the snow was light and fluffy, and clearing the driveway and walks didn’t require much effort. We were done within an hour.

Because we are Mainers, we always try to fix things when they break. Always. This trait has been passed down by our frugal ancestors. It is in our DNA. So Clif brought Little Green into our dining room. (Little Green is light and easy to carry.) When Clif set Little Green down, there was a mighty rattle, as though marbles were rolling around inside.

No, not marbles. Instead, acorns. Lots of them. Some enterprising rodent had decided that Little Green would be the perfect place to store nuts.

Those acorns snapped both belts, which is why Little Green wouldn’t throw snow.

After much measuring, Clif ordered belts.

Fingers crossed that they arrive before we have a major storm.

If not, Clif and I will go back to shoveling.

Oh, that rascally rodent!

Red Cardinal on a Snowy Day

Today is the right kind of snowy day.  Quite cold—17° F—which makes the snow light and fluffy, and there isn’t much wind to speak of.  This combination means that there are no power outages in the forecast. Music to my ears.

Although I don’t usually post on Thursday, I couldn’t resist featuring these pictures of a male cardinal in the snow. I figured blogging friends who have neither snow nor cardinals would enjoy seeing them. And it’s my guess that blogging friends who have both wouldn’t mind seeing them either.

Any way you look at it, winter has come to northern New England, and I love its sparseness every bit as much as I love the vibrant colors of spring, summer, and fall.

Note: These pictures were taken with my wee camera from the bathroom window, which I opened. The feeder is probably twenty feet away. And the light, shall we say, was not the brightest.

Winter Comes in with a Bang

On Saturday we had our first real snowstorm of the season, an actual nor’easter. Here is what weather.gov has to say about nor’easters: “A Nor’easter is a storm along the East Coast of North America, so called because the winds over the coastal area are typically from the northeast. These storms may occur at any time of year but are most frequent and most violent between September and April. ”

That, in a nutshell, is a nor’easter. Really, never something you look forward to.

In our area, this storm did not bring much snow, at least by Maine standards—five inches, tops. However, what this nor’easter lacked in snow, it more than made up for in damage. The snow was heavy, and there was high wind. A perfect combination for branches to fall on power lines and knock out power. By Saturday night, around 200,000 households were without power, no small thing in a state with just over a million people.

Fortunately Clif and I did not lose our power, and we were both very, very grateful.

The storm came late in the afternoon, and here are some snow pictures taken just before dusk, when we went out to shovel and scoop for the first time.

The snow frosted the arrangement on the front porch.

The snow coated the hedges, and underneath our Christmas lights glowed.

The snow clung to our trusty winter companions—a bucket of salt for melting icy patches and a shovel.

The snow fell in the front yard, making everything look like Christmas to those of us who live in the north.

The next day, the snow stopped, and the sky cleared. In anticipation of the storm, we had taken in the patio chairs and the little tables. I have a feeling that there won’t be many socially-distanced visits until spring.  To me, the patio looks lonesome.

Finally, here is Clif, looking like a man of the north. He had to use the Great Blue Scoop because what little snow we had was too heavy and packed for Little Green, our valiant electric snow thrower.

In Maine, we must be prepared with all sorts of devices that move snow.

 

A Splash of Red in an Odd, Gray November

There are no two ways about it—November has been an odd month. In the midst of the pandemic, which sticks its ugly spoke in everyone’s wheel, November in Maine has been the warmest I have ever seen.

Recently, my cousin posted a picture on Facebook of a snow turkey that she, her sister, and a cousin had made in honor of Thanksgiving. When I commented on all the snow, my cousin responded, “Back then, we had snow by Thanksgiving every year.”

Back then was the 1960s, and my cousin lived about fifty miles north of where we live now. Not that far away, really.

This year, in central Maine, we’ve had only a dusting of snow that was soon gone. In deference to the pandemic, we have left four chairs and two little tables out on the patio. We have never had patio furniture out this late, but needs must as the saying goes.

And by gum, my friend Judy came over yesterday for a socially-distanced patio visit. She brought me this beautiful poinsettia. (Or poinsettah, as we would say in Maine.) What a lovely red splash on a gray day or any other day.

Another friend is coming over mid-week to pick up a copy of my YA fantasy Out of Time for her grandson. She told me he has read the previous two books and is keen to read Out of Time.  I always like to hear this, of course, but it especially pleases me when a young boy likes a series that, let’s face it, is girl-centric.  Unfortunately, this is not always the case with boys, who often prefer stories where boys are the main characters. From grandparents and parents, I have heard this sentiment repeated many times at the fairs where we sell our books. Even a brave, spunky character like Maya will not entice some boys to read my novels. Sigh.

But yay for my friend’s grandson!