Category Archives: Nature

The Glory of Mid-October in Maine

All right. I know I am prejudiced, but it seems to me that there is no finer place to be in October than Maine. (I can already hear the cries of protest coming from readers in other New England states.) Best of all is the light, which now comes in at a slant to make the landscape glow, and the changing leaves just add to the glory. Most of the humidity is gone, and on good days, the sky is a brilliant, cloudless blue.

But along with the beauty comes loss. Gone are the hummingbirds, and Clif and I miss those whirring beauties. Yesterday, we took in their feeders and gave them a good scrubbing before storing them down cellar.

We don’t hear the ethereal song of the hermit thrush anymore. In the summer, they tend to sing in the morning and evening. According to Audubon, the males are singing to defend their territory. Whatever the reason, it is an enchanting song that brings to mind little sprites playing their pipes.

We no longer spend nights sitting on the patio, and in a week or two, we’ll be bringing in the tables and chairs. How lonesome the patio looks when it is empty! But yesterday the day was sunny enough and warm enough for us to have lunch on the patio.

However, while some birds have gone, there are plenty that stay year round—the true blues, I call them. The jaunty chickadee is one of those hardier birds. And they, along with the finches, woodpeckers, and nuthatches, are hungrier than ever. It seems like we need to fill the feeders every two days.

The gardens are pretty much spent. There are, of course, modest sedums, but they are overshadowed by the general droopiness of the rest of the plants.

Then there are the begonias, those valiant bloomers that look good from late May through mid-October. Once upon a time, I was iffy about those flowers. Somehow they weren’t showy enough for my taste. How wrong I was! A annual that looks trim and pretty—in its understated way—for nearly five months? Who can ask for anything more?

Having seen the error of my ways, next summer, I plan to go all out with begonias—along the edge of my garden, in pots, everywhere.

From now on my rallying cry will be, “Bring on the begonias!”

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A Labor Day of Blue Skies and Water

On Sunday, we took Dee to the bus station so that she could return to New York City, where she lives and works. Always so sad to see her go, but what a fun time we had celebrating our birthdays.

Monday was Labor Day in this country. Here is a short explanatory blurb from Wikipedia: “Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend. It is recognized as a federal holiday. ”

Very fitting that we should honor laborers who made the workforce a better, safer place. However, for many people it is the long weekend marking the end of summer. Tourists aplenty come to Maine on Labor Day Weekend, but luckily for us, central Maine is not a hot spot for vacationers, and the roads are fairly quiet.

In keeping with our quiet area, we decided that Monday would be a no-car day and that we would bike along Maranacook Lake, one of our favorite places to ride. The day was hot but beautiful, and after our ride, we sat on a bench at Norcross Point to watch the water, the boats, and the sky.

Hydrangeas are in bloom, and I liked the way the blossoms look with the sky as the background.

Also, I liked the way the two bright kayaks punctuated the water. Blue and pink, pink and blue.

As we sat at the park and watched people paddle and swim, we reflected how lucky we were to live in a town where there is ample access to free public areas by the lake. Not every town has this, and in Readfield, the town next to ours, their beach is billed as “a user supported beach.” The town charges $40 per family for an annual permit.

Certainly, $40 is not a great deal of money, but lots of people in central Maine live on a tight budget, and I wonder how many families decide they can’t afford the fee. Much better, in my opinion, to have the beach and the park free for all to enjoy. (I do realize that taxes pay for the maintenance of the Winthrop beach and park, and I am happy to have a portion of my taxes used this way.)

After these musings, Clif and I decided to head home. And what did I see? Leaves just beginning to change color.

It is September, after all, and while the calendar tells us that autumn isn’t here until September 23, the trees are telling us otherwise.

Soon, the most  beautiful season of the year will be upon us.

In the meantime, Clif and I will enjoy as many evenings as we can on the patio.

Those days are numbered.

 

 

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.