Category Archives: Nature

After the Storm

Early this morning, a fierce storm blew up the coast of Maine, knocking out power to more than 217,000 homes. (A notable percentage in a state that has a little over one million people.) In coastal communities, especially in southern Maine, trees came crashing down, roads were filled with debris, and schools were closed.

In central Maine, where we live, there was wind and rain, but the storm lost steam as it came inland. As far as I can tell, there are no widespread power outages in our area, and there was nary a flicker of lights at our cozy house in the woods.

We knew the storm was coming, and we were ready. The larder is well stocked with cans of baked beans, soup, cookies, crackers, and peanut butter. We have a little camp stove to heat the soup and beans.  In our cellar, we have big covered buckets filled with water because for us, no power means no water. Fortunately, we did not have to resort to our stash of storm supplies.

I am an ocean person, and once upon a time, I longed to live closer to the coast so that I could go for frequents walks on the beach. Not anymore. In these days of climate crisis, the storms along the Maine coast have gotten stronger and more frequent. Once upon a time, when I was young, October in Maine used to be a placid month, known more for its brilliant foliage than for powerful storms that would surge up the coast and take down trees. But for the past several years, October has been a month that has brought at least one corker of a tempest that has knocked out power, primarily in the southern part of the state right by the sea.

Occasionally, in central Maine, we get hit, but not with anywhere near the frequency that southern Maine and the coast do. I am glad I live sixty miles inland, and even if I suddenly came into money, I would not move closer to the ocean. Sad, especially for someone like me who loves the sea, but this is our new reality.

Around our house, the wind—thank goodness—did not take down any trees, but it did take down more than a few leaves, and there is now a carpet rather than a sprinkle.

Some of the trees are downright bare.

But a peak through branches at our house reveals that despite the wind and rain, there are lovely leaves left on some of the trees.

And best yet, the crickets are still singing.

 

The Pleasures of My Own Yard

Many people like to travel—to see new sights and to eat new food. While I understand the need for novelty, I find that I get plenty of variety in my own yard. Best of all, I don’t have to take a plane, bus, or automobile. I merely have to go down a few steps, and there are I am, surrounded by gardens and trees that look different with every season.

Right now, in Maine, it is fall, a lovely but bittersweet time of year,  when all things green and growing are getting ready for the long cold of winter. In the front yard the leaves of the Solomon’s seal have turned a ghostly white, a pale contrast with the black-eyed Susans, which are beginning to fade.

The leaves of the hosta Frances Williams are yellowing and curling in on themselves.

In the backyard, there is a blaze of color in the woods, a bold punctuation among the evergreens. Soon the leaves will fall, a sprinkle of red on the forest floor.

We haven’t taken in the patio chairs and table, and it often continues to be warm enough for me to sit and listen to the crickets singing their song of fall. So far, the little jumping creatures haven’t been stilled by the cold. Neither have the nasturtiums, which are still blooming, albeit in a more desultory way than they were at their peak.

Often times, in the waning warm of autumn, Little Miss Watson keeps me company.

And watching over everything is a Spirit of the woods, guarding the yard whatever the season.

 

Those Glowing Copper Ferns

A few days ago, I took a short walk up the road, looking for signs of autumn. In some ways, it was a melancholy walk as I remembered all the times I went out with my dog Liam, who would wait patiently as I took pictures. How I still miss that dog buddy!

I was looking for colorful leaves, and I did find some. However, there is still quite a bit of green; peak foliage is probably a week or two away.

Instead, what caught my eye, as I looked down, was the glowing copper of the ferns as they lit up the dark woods.

One of the great pleasures of living in the woods is that in every time of year there is something to notice. In Maine, the passing of the seasons is marked by exuberant new growth, fecundity, austereness, cold, stillness, and—if I’m to be honest—slush and mud. (I don’t want to give the impression that Maine is a state of unrelenting beauty. We have peak ugliness as well as peak foliage.)

After walking awhile and being dazzled by the ferns, I turned around and headed home. I noticed this tree stripping down to its essence, the first of many more bare trees to come.

Homebody that I am, even after a short walk, it is always a pleasure to return to our home nestled in the woods.

 

 

And the Acorns Come Tumbling Down

Thanks to a blog I follow—New Hampshire Garden Solutions—I learned that this is probably a mast year for acorns. This is from a recent post: “There must be many millions of acorns falling this year; I would guess enough to call it a mast year. In a mast year the trees grow a bumper crop and produce much more fruit than in a non-mast year.”

The things I learn from reading blogs! I knew that some years there were a lot of acorns. Other years, not so much. But I didn’t know there was a name for a season that produced a bumper crop of acorns. But now I do. Many thanks, New Hampshire Garden Solutions.

As I have written previously, we live in the woods, and there are several oak trees near one end of our house. This fall there has been a steady rain of acorns, and when the acorns hit the roof, it sounds as though we are being pelted with little rocks. Sometimes the rain is steady enough that I worry I will be knocked senseless when I am near the oak trees. So far, so good. I’ve escaped concussion and have come inside with nary a bump.

Joking aside, I have come to regard the acorns as little wonders.

Beautiful as well as useful, they produce the majestic oak, thus providing a much-needed lesson about how mighty things can grow from a small seed. The acorns feed a variety of creatures who live in the woods around our house—chipmunks, squirrels, deer, and turkeys, to name a few. From the National Wildlife Federation Blog, I discovered that “more than 100 U.S. vertebrate species eat acorns. In autumn and winter, the acorn is the cheeseburger of the forest ecosystem—fairly easy to find and nicely packaged. They are one of the most valuable food resources available for wildlife.”

No wonder the oaks produce an abundance of acorns whenever they have a chance. If some acorns are to survive to grow into a tree, there must be many.

Therefore, as we head into the season of Thanksgiving, I give thanks to the oaks that provide shade, absorb carbon, and feed assorted denizens of the forest. Oaks are a vital part of Maine’s ecosystem, and how poor we would be without them. Long may oaks—and acorns—flourish.

 

 

 

 

August, Stay Awhile

The crickets have begun to sing. Their sweet trilling songs signal the arrival of late summer, a beautiful time in Maine. And this year, despite the climate crisis, August in Maine is everything it ought to be. The days are warm and dry. The nights are cool. We have a little rain now and then. Such a lovely, lovely month, and I wish I could stop it from speeding by. August, stay awhile. Don’t hurry on.

By August, the gardens are usually starting to look a little tattered, but this year they still look pretty good. Perhaps it’s because we had such a cool, rainy spring, and everything got a late start.

However, the slugs and snails have been nibbling on the hostas.

Still, they don’t look too bad. Sometimes by this time of year the hosta leaves look like green lace.

For the first time, I planted nasturtiums in the patio garden, and they are thriving. Actually, that’s putting it mildly. It looks as though the  nasturtiums are ready to engulf the patio, and woe to those sitting on that side of the table. Feed me, Seymour!

This week the first Black-eyed Susan opened, and there are many more to come.

As is noted on the Better Homes & Gardens website, “Since black-eyed Susan blooms when other summer perennials begin to fade, this plant is a true sign that fall is near.”  Even though I love fall, black-eyed Susans are another reason to cherish August.

Various daylilies are still blooming. While they don’t thrive in my shady yard, they do add welcome bursts of color.

This weekend, we will be going to two plays. We will be having a friend over for nibbles and tidbits.

We will hold August close and be outside as much as possible.

The Patio Awaits

Somehow, the weather must have known that July has ended and August has begun. At least for the moment, the horrid humidity has gone. We no longer feel as though we are being squeezed and sapped by the heat. Instead, the warmth holds us in a gentle hand, reminding us of how sweet summer can be. And like Augusts of old, the past two nights have been so chilly that we have needed blankets.

A window is by my desk, and a turn of the head is all it takes to look outside and see a hummingbird working the hosta blossoms. In the bush by the window, a bird sings a piping, melodious song. I hear the buzz of grasshoppers, a true sound of summer, reminding me of the fragrant smell of a warm field.

At the end of the day, when the work is done, what awaits me is one of my absolute favorite places to be—our own humble patio.

Here is a side view.

Although you can’t see them in the photo, the Mardi Gras Parade daylilies have begun to bloom. Unfortunately, these daylilies are not thriving, but the colors are so pretty that I have left them there.

While Clif and I have a drink—sometimes cocktails, sometimes beer, sometimes iced tea—visitors come.

And on a fine August evening, caressed by the heat as I watch the birds and the dragonflies, I feel as though I am the luckiest woman in Winthrop.

Farewell, High Heat and Humidity!

Over the Fourth of July weekend, the heat and high humidity cracked down on us, and we had four fairly miserable days. But then on Saturday night came a booming thunderstorm that knocked out the power in some towns—not ours, thank goodness—and also knocked out the heat.

Now the weather is delightful. Yesterday was warm and sunny but not too hot, and the night was so cool that we had to close the windows when we went to bed. Blankets were in order, and I was actually chilly when I woke up.

Today promises to run the same course. In my memories, this is how Maine summers once were all the way through September, with maybe a few hot, humid days  at the end of July.

How long this delightful weather will last I do not know. But I’ll take it, and tonight will definitely be a patio night.

My gardens are July gardens, where there is actually a bit of color—primarily yellow—tucked in among the green. Here is a view of the front yard.

Several readers asked if I have astilbe in my gardens. Yes, I do, in the few patches of moist shade that I have in my beds. Astilbe is such a delicate, ethereal flower, one of my favorites.

Hostas are not known for their beautiful blooms, but this one might be the exception to that rule.

Here’s another shot of the ferns, hostas, and a daisy. Just because.

Finally, out back to the patio, where the evening primroses—or sundrops, if you will—are in glorious bloom by the fountain.

Ah, Summer! Such a beautiful season even when it’s too hot.