Category Archives: Nature

Unexpected Beauty between Cumberland Farms and Rite Aid

Finally, finally the heat broke last week, and no longer do I sweat just sitting at my desk and typing. A good feeling! In fact, today is chilly enough so that I actually have on a sweater as I sit and work. And we have had a few glorious August days, typical for Maine but getting rarer as the climate changes: Hot,  sunny, and dry during the day—about 80°F—and deliciously cool enough at night so that blankets are needed.

One night, as I lay in bed with the windows open—I leave them open until it becomes too cold to do so—I listened to the song of the crickets, high, sweet, and sad. I heard the hoot of a barred owl. No cars drove by. Next door, no little boy tooted on his horn. No work across the street on a garage being built. Only the symphony of animals and insects, free from the noise of humans.

We humans have such a way of intruding. You might even call us invasive, and we have the gall of criticizing other species that seem to take up too much space, too many resources. But who are we to wag the finger as we burn through Earth’s resources?

I thought of this the other day when we went to our local Cumby’s, to get air for our car’s tires. As I sat and waited for Clif to fill the tires, I noticed an unlikely strip of beauty, wedged between the gas station and the road, with a Rite Aid on the other side. Luckily I had my camera with me.

This spot is a wet area, in its glory right now, and from this picture, you’d never guess how small and cramped it is. But here is an opportunity, and nature filled in. No doubt water creatures live there, too, caught between the parking lot and the road.

You have probably also noticed the purple loosestrife, which has been dubbed invasive, and I guess it is. But despite its name—did Dickens come up with it?—and spreading ways, it is a lovely flower that attracts lots of pollinators. Even though purple loosestrife is the bane of naturalists, I have sympathy for this plant that, along with with goldenrod and cattails, can bloom in a wet spot surrounded by asphalt and traffic.

One day, I wonder, will we be grateful for this tough beauty that has the ability to thrive in such a cramped area?

Who knows? But here in Winthrop, Maine, purple loosestrife has at least one admirer.

 

The Lazy Birder

Many people who are keen on bird watching  get up with the sun, grab their binoculars, and tramp around the woods. No doubt they see a lot of birds, and the morning light, I’ve been told, is beautiful.

On the other hand, there are people like me, who are much more casual about their bird watching. They want to put up their feet and sit in a comfortable chair. A drink is often at the ready—sometimes iced tea, sometimes something a little stronger.

I belong to the second group of people. Call me lazy, but I enjoy having the birds come to me. Because we have feeders in our backyard to entice the fluttering beauties, and because we live in the woods where there is plenty of cover, the birds, by and large, do come to me.

Among the regular visitors are hummingbirds (only in the summer),

woodpeckers,

goldfinches,

and cardinals.

Sometimes a furry little visitor finds his or her way into the feeder, and the birds must wait.

And what a delight to be on the patio in late June, when the weather is absolutely delicious, the dragonflies have drastically reduced the mosquito population, the little fountain chuckles in the background, and I am surrounded by trees and birds.

Is it any wonder I am such a lazy birder?

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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.

 

Galloping Spring

Spring has galloped into Maine, and she is nearly out of sight. The leaves are full sized, and the early flowers have become a sweet memory. Gone are the tulips and the daffodils, but the irises, daisies, and lupines are in glorious bloom. We are on the edge of summer, lovely summer, so welcome after the long, frigid winter we had.

On Sunday, Clif and I went for a bike ride along Maranacook Lake. A couple of hardy souls—children, of course—were swimming in the cold water.

Whenever we go on this bike ride—our everyday route—we are thankful to live in such a pretty little town that has so much water. Maranacook is only one of several lakes and big ponds in Winthrop.

In between gardening and biking, I have been working on my YA fantasy Library Lost. My first readers—my family—have commented and have made editing suggestions, which I am now implementing. I am fortunate to have a family of such good readers. Their advice is invaluable, and without them, my books wouldn’t be anywhere near as good.

By the end of this week, Library Lost should be ready for copy editing. This is a long process, and while Library Lost is edited, I will begin the third book, Library Regained.

No rest for writers, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

 

 

Looking Up

Despite having a very slow start, spring is here, and things are looking up, both figuratively and literally.

On a practical level, I can now hang laundry on the line, and I know this might sound a little silly, but this brings me great joy. On every sunny day, blankets and quilts as well as other laundry have been hung outside. Here is the picture I take every spring, of a blanket made by my mémère—French Canadian for grandmother.  This sturdy, colorful blanket is nearly forty years old, and I use it on my bed in all but the hottest weather. For me, nothing says “welcome, spring” the way this blanket on the line does.

On a literal level, when I look up, I see that the trees are budding. Such sweet, tender little leaves.

Then there are the birds. Starting and raising a family is hard, hungry work, and the birds flock to our feeders (pun intended). When I sit on the patio—another spring delight—I watch the birds fly and flutter from the trees to the feeder. Occasionally, my wee camera even gets a fairly good shot.

This male goldfinch is resplendent in his yellow summer feathers.

This goldfinch looks pensive, perhaps thinking of how much effort goes into to raising a healthy family.

Then there is a male cardinal playing peekaboo.

Never, ever a dull moment in the backyard. Looking up is sheer delight.

And for blogging friends who don’t have hummingbirds where they live, I promise I will do my best do get a decent shot with my wee camera. This morning, I saw the first hummingbird of the season as she zipped to one of the feeders we have by the patio. An exciting way to start the day.

In the spring, looking down at flowers is also a delight, and as more of them come into bloom, I’ll be posting photos of them, too.

Spring, spring, spring!

Fabulous Ferns

Library Lost has been sent to various proof readers, and now I have time on my hands, so to speak, as I wait for the comments and the, ahem, opportunities for rewriting.

What to do, what to do?

Just kidding, of course. Spring, lovely though she is, brings so much work that at times it makes me positively dizzy.  Breathe, breathe, breathe, as my daughter Shannon would say.

In fact, after being cooped inside for those long winter months, it’s a great pleasure to be outside, working in the gardens and feeling the sun on my face. Birds are everywhere, tweeting, flying, coming to the feeders.

Ferns are unfurling, and what fascinating plants they are. Because we live in the woods, ferns thrive in our yard. These dinosaur plants rim the edge of our house in the back, and I have encouraged them, not raking the leaves that blow there. Along with shade, ferns love leaves.

Yesterday, I took some pictures of the baby ferns, stretching from their winter’s sleep.

As they mature, their color deepens, but this bright green sings, “Spring, spring, spring!”

Let’s take a closer look. Their little heads look as though they are composed of a ball of tiny ferns.

Let’s take a closer look still. So fuzzy and new!

With all this beauty and excitement in the yard, it’s a wonder I get anything done in my gardens.

And yet I do.