Category Archives: Nature

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.

Something about Iris

The summer solstice, the longest day of the year, is here. This day marks the beginning of summer, and it will be interesting to see what the season brings. The spring has been cool and rainy and rainy and cool. As I indicated in a previous post, this has been good for the gardens (except for the basil) and excellent for the mosquitoes and ticks. Really, this has been a banner year for the nasty biters. Good thing it’s so pretty, lush, and green outside. Otherwise, a person might start feeling resentful as she runs from the car to the house to escape the mosquitoes. And tweezers off yet another tick.

Another consolation is the irises. They are in full, beautiful bloom, and they are my favorite flower. How I love their elegant beauty.

Today is also the anniversary of my mother’s birthday, and if she were alive, she would be eighty-three. Happy birthday, Mom! We miss you very much.

Tomorrow, Clif and I are going to a Farmers Market in Steep Falls to sell our books. We have never set up at a farmers market before, and we have no idea if this will be a good venue for selling our books. Still, we love farmers markets and are bound to have a good time, no matter how many books we sell. And no doubt we will come home with something fresh and delicious.

Finally, here is another shot of the gardens with chives instead of irises.

In Maine, June must surely be one of the most beautiful months.

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.