Category Archives: Nature

Epic Mosquitoes, Lush Gardens

This year because of the cool, rainy spring we had, the mosquitoes (and ticks!) are epic, as the kids would say. In my thirty-five years of living in the woods, I have never seen the mosquitoes this thick and furious. (The Thick and the Furious. A name for a north woods horror movie?) Even a short stroll to the mailbox across the street brings a squadron of those biting buzzers, and clutching the mail as I hurry down the driveway, I am all too happy to be back inside.

The Herbal Armor insect repellent helps a lot, and we will be ordering more of it. I’ll be praying to the weather gods for a stretch of dry, sunny weather to hold back those dratted mosquitoes. (Not dry enough for a drought, mind you. Just enough to shrink the standing pools of water.)

But as the saying goes, there’s a silver lining to every cloud. Except for the basil, which is languishing in the chilly weather, the gardens are lush, lush, lush. What a pleasure to look at the various shades of green. I have finally made peace with the fact that because I live in the woods, I will never have a cottage garden bursting with color. (Sigh!) In making that peace, I am actually enjoying the modest beauty of a garden that mostly has plants known for their foliage. (Hostas, I’m talking about you!)

Here is a shot of the front garden.

A few modest blooms provide color.

The chives are nearly ready to open.

And out back, Eliza’s iris is in soft, white bloom. (Thanks, Eliza, for giving me this beauty.)

This weekend is Father’s Day in the United States, and on Saturday, Clif and I plan on going for a bike ride on the rail trail in Hallowell and Gardiner. Weather permitting. There just might be Chinese food for lunch. And possibly a zombie movie on Sunday.

A very Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

Little Visitors

The green season—our happy time—has begun. Yesterday was sunny and warm enough for us to wear t-shirts as we worked in the yard. We had tea on the patio, and we will do this every nice day until it gets too cold, probably until the end of September.

We have lots of little visitors in the backyard, and I always bring out my wee camera when we have our tea.

There are the will-o’-the- wisp hummingbirds. (I’ll keep trying for a clearer picture. Unfortunately, the light is always low during tea time.)

Since we live on the edge of the woods, we have lots of woodpeckers. I believe this one is a hairy, but birding friends, please correct me if I’m wrong. After all, how else will I learn? (My other challenge is distinguishing the house finch from the purple finch. Oh, the challenges I face.)

The flash of red of the male cardinal still delights me, and his melodious song is just as enchanting. As I have mentioned in previous posts, cardinals are a relative newcomer to Maine. My mother died eleven years ago, and she never saw one in our backyard. How thrilled Mom would have been to see them here, and I wish she had live long enough to enjoy their beauty.

Because we feed the birds, rodents abound, and as long they stay outside, I don’t have a problem with them. I must admit that I have a soft spot for chipmunks, who stuff their cheeks with seeds and other good things to eat—hence the term chipmunk cheeks for anyone who has puffy cheeks. Chipmunks are a sweet, little rodent, and they never try to come inside.

The same cannot be said for red squirrels. A kindly person might call them saucy. A more critical person might mutter about their noisy, fractious ways. I seen these little animals drive away the larger gray squirrels from the feeder. Ditto for crows and blue jays. Red squirrels don’t hold back. When Clif and I are on the patio, they frequently scold us for being in their territory.

But it’s not all fun and games on the patio. Here is another visitor that’s not quite as welcome as the others I’ve featured.

After the cool, wet spring we’ve had, these biters are out in force. However, thanks to Facebook friends, we have recently discovered All Terrain Herbal Armor Natural Insect RepellentReaders, not only is DEET-free, but it actually works. All right, you will smell like a citronella candle, but that sure beats the chemical smell of DEET. After I sprayed Herbal Armor on my arm, I watched the mosquitoes fly toward my bare arm then veer away. (The above picture was taken before I used Herbal Armor.)

So take that mosquitoes, and welcome, beautiful June. With its low humidity and warm but not hot days, June is the perfect month.

if I had superpowers, I would trade in miserable March for an extra June.

But, I don’t. This means I’ll have to squeeze every bit of pleasure out of this wonderful month.

 

 

Of Superheroes, Pizza, and Cocktails

The pine pollen is flying, and the mosquitoes are out in force. June has come to Maine, and it’s time to finish the spring gardening chores. Fortunately, today is a bright and beautiful day, and this afternoon Clif and I will be outside.

The last week of May, when our daughter Dee came to visit, was cool and rainy. Still, we had a good time. We are all movie buffs, and the rainy week was a perfect time to go to the cinema as well as watch films on Netflix. Our favorite was Avengers: Endgame. I know. Avengers is a blockbuster movie about comic-book heroes ranging from Spider Man to Thor. But it also addresses one of the most serious issues of our times—overpopulation—in a way that smaller movies seldom do. While Avengers has the usual mega fight at the end of the movie, it also gives the characters plenty of breathing room, allowing them to mourn the terrible loss of having half of Earth’s population wiped out by the supervillain Thanos. (For an economic discussion about Thanos and his plan, check out NPR’s Planet Money.)

I realize I’m going out on a limb here, but it seems to me that nowadays, comic books, fantasy, and science fiction are doing the best at addressing the major issues we face. On the surface, these stories seem to have a lot of folderol and fighting, but underneath they have a moral seriousness and scope missing in most mainstream or literary fiction. I’ve had this discussion in book group and on Facebook. Naturally, I’ve received push back, all of it thoughtful and respectful. The push back hasn’t exactly changed my mind—I continue to think that fantasy, comic books, and science fiction should be taken seriously. However, perhaps not all mainstream stories are entirely vapid, and I was too quick to dismiss an entire genre. Anyway, readers, if you have thoughts about this, please chime in.

Back to last week…

We went to the Kennebec River on a misty, cool day, and Clif took these pictures of the moody river and the bright chairs.

We also went to Cushnoc in Augusta, one of our favorite places to go for pizza.

We had cocktails and beer.

And, of course, pizza.

All in all, a good rainy week.

 

 

Update: Of Hummingbirds and Words

First the words—I reached my goal of 45,000 in Out of Time, the third book in my Great Library Series. Woo-hoo! I am halfway done, more or less, and right on target. A great feeling.

And lest you think I have stayed inside the whole time, here are two pictures of hummingbirds to prove this isn’t so. My wee camera can’t capture these little whizzing beauties as well as other cameras can, but I know these shots will please readers who don’t have hummingbirds come to their backyards.

Dee, my New York daughter, will be arriving on Saturday and will be staying for a week.

I’ll be back to regular blogging the first of June.

Onward, ho!

 

Now, Now, Now!

A mere month ago, Snow-Gauge Clif’s job was not done. Here he is, with his trusty yardstick, at the beginning of April. Still a fair amount of snow, even though the yard, garden, and patio were beginning to emerge.

Here we are now, now, now in the lovely month of May!

And there is more beauty to come.

The Joys of Spring

Readers, it has finally happened—the event I have been looking forward to since the spring equinox, and it ranks right up there with forsythia and the song of the peepers. Drum roll, please: yesterday marked the first time this year that I was able to hang laundry outside on the line. Happy, happy day! From now until October, laundry will be hung on the line rather than inside on racks.

As if that weren’t enough joy for one week…the maple tree is in bloom. These tiny bursts of red are one of my favorite flowers. They complement every bird, no matter the color, that comes into the backyard—the   goldfinches, the cardinals, the chickadees, the nuthatches.

And what a joy to have birds around me as I worked in the garden. I heard the sharp rat-a-tat-tat of a woodpecker, the twitter of the goldfinches, the caw of a crow, and the haunting call of a loon.

With such music, it seemed as though the big bed in the backyard was cleaned in no time.

Even more joy: The ferns are starting to come up.

And last but not least, Clif sifted compost for me, and this will soon go in the back garden.

Such a lot of joy for one week. Who could ask for anything more?