Category Archives: Nature

First Snow of Winter

Officially, winter begins on December 21, but in Maine, winter begins with the first real snowfall. That is, the accumulation must be over four inches, and the snow must not melt during the next sunny day.

I think this storm, although just starting in central Maine, will fulfill both requirements. There is something exhilarating about the first real snow of winter, that cold tang, the softness of the snow.

Yes, winter will grow old, but right now, on this Saturday afternoon, as we prepare to decorate our tree, both Clif and I are in perfect agreement: Let it snow.

So it begins!

 

 

 

 

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A Roller Coaster of a Week

The past thirty-four days have been quite a whirl of ups and downs, starting with the wind storm that knocked out our power for a week, which caused us to lose much of our frozen food. Then it took us another week to get things back to normal. On the upside, there were the wonderful fairs where we sold lots of books and met some dedicated readers, both young and old.

Last week all those highs and lows came together for a concentrated burst that left us scratching our heads. Something in the stars? The Supermoon? Who knows? But on Tuesday, after the presentation at our library, Clif got food poisoning from a local restaurant. At least we think it was food poisoning as he had all the classic symptoms.  When he wasn’t running to the bathroom, Clif was flat on his back for three days. Poor guy!

There’s nothing like having a husband who is out of commission to make a wife appreciate all that he does. Holy guacamole, what a hectic week as I folded his chores into my chores. And, as luck would have it, we had another craft fair scheduled for the weekend, this time in the charming little town of Wayne, Maine. (I know. They rhyme. How cool is that?)

So on Saturday, after loading the car the night before, off I went by myself to Wayne, Maine. I realize I’m a little spoiled by having a husband who is happy and willing to go with me to the various events. But it is so great to have another person at the table, to take care of making change, to be there for bathroom breaks, to help with set-up and break down.

So that was the low of the week.

The high? The Wayne craft fair, which turned out to be small but mighty, with a steady stream of customers who, as it turned, were in the mood to buy books. It seems that like Brunswick, Wayne is a community that likes to read. By noon, I only had one book left. By the end of the fair, I had sold out. Wowsah!

As if that weren’t enough, there were two comments that certainly qualified as the cherry on the sundae. First, a woman stopped by and bought a book to send to her granddaughter for Christmas, and the granddaughter lives in Australia. Maya is going to Australia, about as far as she can go from Maine!

Second, a young teen stopped by my table and said, “My friend has this book, and she is going to let me borrow it. She said it’s really good!” And I didn’t know either the young teen or her friend. Oh, that made my day to have an enthusiastic young teen sharing my book!

After all that excitement, Sunday was a good day to sleep late, do some housework, and take a few pictures.  The day was very fine indeed, and off to the little park by the lake I went.

There were more empty benches,

A splendid white birch against a blue sky,

and a classic New England scene.

No more craft fairs or events until next year. Now, I have to organize my Christmas cooking, the cleaning of the house, and the wrapping of the presents. In between, I hope to get some work done on Library Lost, the second book in the series.

And I sure hope that life settles down, at least a little bit.

Suddenly, the Cold of Late Autumn

This year September, October, and even early November have been so warm—balmy, in fact—that when the cold weather came in a rush, it caught me by surprise. Before that sneaky devil of a windstorm  knocked out the power to nearly a half-million homes in Maine, Clif and I had brought in all the furniture and lawn ornaments. So in that sense we were ready.

But, as of a week ago, we still hadn’t had a hard frost, and I felt no sense of urgency about dealing with the potted plants outside. Silly me! Now the soil in the pots is frozen hard, and unless the rain comes to soften it, I’ll have to bring the pots down cellar to thaw.

I hope I have learned my lesson. For the past five years, Maine autumns have been markedly warmer than they were in the past. But this doesn’t mean the cold weather won’t come. It surely does, suddenly rather than gradually, with little warning. Changes, changes, and it is time for this old Mainer to adapt.

Regardless of the warm weather, the bright leaves fell right on schedule, and now we are into the russets of November. After the burst of mid-fall, some people find this landscape too monotonousness, too austere, but I am not one of them.  Instead, to me, the countryside is soothing, lovely in its plain garb.

There is no better place to appreciate this than by Maranacook Lake, and yesterday, on my way to pick up the Sunday paper, I swung by the public beach for some pictures.

In the background are the lovely russets of the oak leaves, and the white specks on the float are seagulls. Maybe they should be called lakegulls as they seem to be permanent residents.

Here is a closer look.

Then I turned my attention to the trees and bushes, stark yet beautiful.

In this season of thankfulness, I am ever so grateful to live in a place that has four distinct seasons. All right, there are five seasons if you count the muddy misery of March, but right now my focus is on gratitude rather than resentment. Plenty of time for the latter when March rolls around.

Fortunately, March is many months away. For now, despite having  pots with frozen soil that probably will have to be hauled down cellar to thaw, I’ll take in the serenity of November, a month that surely knows the long, dark cold of winter is coming and is more than ready for it.

From Fried Chicken to a Golden Marsh

On Saturday, Clif and I went to Augusta, Maine’s small capital city, about ten miles from where we live. It was to be an afternoon of errands. The day was very fine—ridiculously so for Maine in mid-October—and we decided to slide in a couple of diversions to go with our errands.

First, and probably most important, we went to the Red Barn for lunch, and shared a basket of their delicious fried chicken.

Because the day was so warm and sunny, we were able to eat outside at one of the Barn’s many picnic table.  I know the chicken takes front and center stage, but you might have noticed Clif’s Hinterlands Press t-shirt in the background. (A little unplanned advertising of our very own press.) Yes, the day was warm enough to be comfortable outside in a t-shirt.  Let’s just say that the crisp days of autumn have yet to come.

After all that chicken, did we have room for dessert? We did, but not too much, and we split a whoopie pie, Maine’s official state treat. They are wicked good, that’s for sure.

Suitably fueled, we did our errands. My bruised leg is much better, and I think this is in large part due to the arnica gel I have been putting on it. (Xenia, of the blog Whippet Wisdom, suggested doing this. Many thanks!) Nevertheless, I stayed in the car for some of the errands and let Clif do the walking.

After the errands, on the drive home we stopped at a nearby marsh to get some fall pictures.

This marsh falls under the category of “looks are deceiving.” The pictures indicate that this marsh is somewhere off the beaten path, deep in the country, far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, this marsh is along one side of a busy highway with a wide breakdown lane. A good thing, too, or else it would be impossible to safely take pictures of this beautiful wetland. Even with the relative safety of the breakdown lane, it is not a peaceful area to stop and take pictures. Whiz, whiz, whiz go the cars. Still, it is such a lovely place that I can’t resist stopping, from time to time, to take pictures of the marsh.

Although we need wild places for creatures to live, and I am a firm believer in land and water conservation, I am also grateful to have this marsh off the busy highway between Augusta and Winthrop. I see it whenever we go into town. Every season brings fresh delights to the marsh, and right now it is golden in its autumn glory. Spring and summer bring a progression of light green to dark green, and in winter there is the stark beauty of ice and snow.

In many cases, nature is not an either-or proposition. Nature is all around us, in the wilderness, in the countryside, in suburbs, even in cities. (I’ve been told that Central Park is an excellent place for bird watching.)

All we have to do is look.

 

A Glorious October Day, But No Biking for Me

Yesterday, we got much needed rain, but today the weather has cleared. The day is warm—ridiculously so for Maine in October—and the sky is blue. A perfect day for a bike ride, except that my leg is just not up to it. My right leg, which hit the bar of my bike as I fell, still has a bruise with the circumference of a small grapefruit.  (Fortunately it doesn’t have the mass, only the width. ) I hobble. I rest. I hobble some more. I rest some more.

I am grateful that I didn’t break anything, but I feel a bit glum about not being able to go on bike rides, and I suspect I won’t be able to go on any until next spring. As soon as my leg stops hurting so much, I’ll be riding the exercise bike, that road to nowhere.

Despite my sore leg, I was able to take some pictures this morning, of the sun streaming into the woods and onto the trees. The changing leaves have not been brilliant this year—too warm, too dry?—but still they are lovely.

As the ferns change from green to tan, they light up the woods.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, I hope to get into town, with the car, of course, and take some pictures of trees by the lake.

Spring and fall are such glorious seasons in Maine. Spring has the flush of youth, and it bursts upon us in a rush, with a froth of blossoms and an oh-so tender green. Spring never stays as long as we would like as she runs headlong into summer.

Fall, on the other hand, comes in an aching blaze, and on nice days, there is such a glory of bright leaves and blue sky that you can almost forgive fall for binging the shorter days that eventually lead to cold winter. Almost.

In the fall, our thoughts turn to soup, and I have two of Farmer Kev’s butternut squashes that are begging to be made into soup. I also have some of his onions and garlic. My little garden has a frenzy of herbs, with the oregano being completely out of control.

Clif will help me chop the vegetables and herbs, and who knows? If my leg isn’t too sore, maybe I’ll even make a batch of biscuits to go with the soup. My biscuit recipe comes from my mother, who surely made the best biscuits in Maine, if not New England.

Anyway, these are all things to perk me up. I still wish I could go on a bike ride, but these fine October days, with their beauty, along with the plan for soup and biscuits, chase my glum thoughts away.

 

 

 

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

 

 

A Sweet Sweat Bee

Busy, busy getting ready for Shannon and then Dee. But so exciting to have them here to celebrate birthdays.

Busy or not, Clif and I have still found time to go on bike rides, and today—-with its bright overcast—the light was perfect for taking pictures of flowers, especially this aster with its little visitor.

Now, back to work!