Category Archives: Nature

A February Nor’easter

img_5259Another day, another snow storm. This one, coming from the South, is a true Nor’easter, and the prediction is that we’ll get at least a foot of snow. Maybe more. I’m sure I’m not the only who wished the darned thing had just blown out to sea. Ah, well. It is February in Maine.

In central Maine, it started to snow at 11:00 a.m., and I decided to take the dog for a walk in the woods before the weather got too bad. Into the woods we went—me with my ski pole to help steady myself on the trail, and Liam with his usual light feet. How wonderful it is that he is still so spry at nine years old.

We were gone for about 40 minutes, and the snow fell softly on us, on the trail, on the frozen lake. In the distance, I heard snowmobiles, but none of them came close to us, and the dog could trot freely off-leash.

Liam on the Upper Narrows
Liam on the Upper Narrows

When we came back, I made bread, and as I did so, I periodically looked out the kitchen window into the backyard. Gray and red squirrels were nipping food from the bird feeders. For a moment, I was tempted to let the dog out back to chase them away. But then I thought of the storm and winter and how squirrels get hungry, too, and I kept the dog inside.

Birds also came to the feeders, and the backyard was aflutter with them—chickadees, woodpeckers, tufted titmice, and gold finches. On the ground, mourning doves pecked at seed that had spilled from the feeder. Behind the squirrels and the birds, the dark woods were still, and the snow continued to fall softly on everything.

 

 

Bare Branches Against Blue Sky

One of the things I love most about winter is seeing bare branches against a bright blue sky. I never get tired of the stark beauty of the trees silhouetted against the sky. When I walk in the woods, I tend to look up, and I have to be careful I don’t trip. Another thing I like about the bare branches is that they reveal things—such as squirrels’ nests—that are hidden when the trees have leaves.

Here are some pictures I took recently.

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February 6, 2014: After the Snow Storm

Gideon, the little guardian of the backyard
Gideon, the little guardian of the backyard

In central Maine, we had a snow storm yesterday, and it brought between 6 and 8 inches of light, fluffy snow. A perfect kind of snow storm. Clean-up was easy, and we didn’t lose our power. This morning, Liam and I went outside, me to finish shovelling, and Liam to leap and bark at the flying snow. The air was clear and cold. The sky was a deep blue, and the sun made the snow sparkle in its white expanse. At the little house in the big woods, it seems as though we are surrounded by a sea of snow. This afternoon I’ll go out to finish the clean-up. If my nose and toes aren’t too cold, I’ll take the dog for a walk in the woods.

Dinner is all set. A few days ago, I put chicken legs in the slow-cooker and spread leftover cranberry chutney on top of them. This has given us three meals, and tonight I’ll use the last of the chicken. I’ll remove it from the bone, simmer it in the chicken drippings that I saved from the first slow-cooker meal, and serve the chicken and drippings over couscous. We had this last night, and my, it was good, if I do say so myself. The cranberry chutney has given the drippings a lovely, slightly tart flavor.

A nice warm meal for a cold night.

The sea of snow in the front yard
The sea of snow in the front yard
Ditto for the backyard
Ditto for the backyard
Liam, dog of the North
Liam, dog of the North

 

 

Walking to the Narrows on a Gray Day: Includes Recipe for Pasta with Sausage, Sage, and Browned Butter

img_4483Yesterday, my dog, Liam, and I took a walk to the Narrows Pond, about a quarter of a mile from our home. The day was gray, and it was sprinkling so lightly that I could hardly feel the drops on my raincoat. In fact, a rather nice day for a walk.

The Narrows Pond comprises the Upper and Lower Narrows, and the word pond does not do justice to these large, sparkling bodies of water. In my mind, ponds are small and what you find behind an old farm house. The Upper and Lower Narrows are more like lakes, and the Lower Narrows is quite deep—over 100 feet in some areas. My understanding is that what makes the Narrows a pond is the number of inlets—one—that flows into it. As with so many other things in life, when it comes to lakes and ponds, size doesn’t matter.

As Liam and I approached the Narrows, two crows sat at the top of a tree, and they called in warning as we walked past them. A string of ducks quacked and flew in their surging way, going from the Lower Narrows to the Upper Narrows. Way out on the water, so far out that I couldn’t see its distinctive profile, came the tremolo of a loon. “Where are you?” it seemed to ask. “Right here, right here,” I answered.

After the walk it was tea time on the couch, with the dog on one side of me and Sherlock, the orange cat, on my lap. Along with the tea—Earl Grey—I had an apple and a few pretzels. For a book, Gladys Taber’s Still Cove Journal.

By the time Clif came home from work—at 6 p.m.—it was dark, and the shades were drawn.  “What would you like for supper?” I asked. “Pasta with sausage, sage, and browned butter? Or, creamed tuna with dill and garlic over baked potatoes?”

Clif hesitated. “They both sound good.”

“What we don’t have tonight, we will have tomorrow.”

“Pasta and sausage, then.”

I suspected that would be his choice. Clif loves pasta, and he loves sausage, even if it is made with turkey rather than pork, as was the case last night. I had four big sausages—as opposed to the breakfast links—as well as plenty of sage growing in a pot outside.

This dish is so easy that it hardly needs a formal recipe, but for clarity’s sake, I’ll provide one anyway. The sage and browned butter over pasta is the base, and many, many things could be added or substituted: Shrimp, chicken, broccoli, mushrooms, and peppers, to name a few. This dish is so good that it qualifies as a company dish. It would go together easily while guests are finishing their wine and appetizers. Then, I guess, you would have to call it dinner rather than supper.

But midweek on a dark, wet night, the pasta with sage, browned butter, and sausage qualifies as supper.

[amd-zlrecipe-recipe:32]

October 9, 2013: A Golden Time of Year

img_4257In Maine, this is the golden time of year, when some things end and others begin. I suppose this is true for all places that have pronounced seasons to give sharp definition to the year. In Maine in October, the air is clear and sharp, and the cool weather tugs at us, a reminder of what will be coming. As much as I love summer and warm weather, I am always taken with October and its beauty—red, yellow, orange, the glowing marshes, the mists in the morning, and the deep green of the woods punctuated by bursts of blazing color. Apples, pumpkins, soup, and pie replace peaches, salads, and grilled food.

Soon it will be too cold to eat on the patio. Soon the outside furniture will be coming in. I have already begun getting flower pots emptied and cleaned, and next week I will begin cutting back the perennials. October is here, and while austere November is just around the corner, I will put that out of my mind and revel in the colors of mid-autumn.

Pumpkins ready to be harvested
Pumpkins ready to be harvested from the Inch-by-Inch Garden at the grade school
Leaves on the patio table
Leaves on the patio table
Little Miss Watson by the bulkhead
Little Miss Watson by the bulkhead
The lower Narrows
The lower Narrows

Backyard Report: October 3, 2013

Cilantro in bloom
Cilantro in bloom

What a beautiful fall it has been so far. We’ve turned the corner to October, and the lovely warm weather continues with sunny days and cool nights. I do believe that September and October have made up, to some degree, for the 20 straight days we had of rain in June and July. Despite living in Maine, I love warm weather, and every day that it is warm means that there is one less day that I will be cold. (Sorry, Shari—you lover of cold weather—to borrow and twist your words.) More important, every day that it is sunny and warm means there is one less day that we have to use the heat, and with the price of fuel, this is no joking matter. Not for Clif and me, who live on a modest income, and not for the many Maine families who live on far less than we do. So may the warm weather continue through October. There is plenty of time ahead for colder weather and high heating bills.

Despite the warmth, things are definitely winding down in the yard at the little house in the big woods. The gardens look frayed and tattered, and there are few blooms to cheer things up. If I had a sunnier yard, then I could plant more colorful annuals to tide the gardens through this period, but alas, there is simply too much shade here for most annuals to thrive. Well, I live in the woods, which has its own beauty and consolations. Cool, green, and mysterious. Full of creatures that cautiously skirt our house as well as birds that are regular visitors, drawn by the feeders. The squirrels also fall into the latter category, and I must admit I am not as enthusiastic about their visits as I am about the birds’ visits. Still, squirrels are creatures of the forest, and they, too, must earn their living. I just wish their appetites were not so robust.

Thanks to the warm weather, I still have lunch on the patio every day, and I have noticed the absence not only of the hummingbirds, which have left for warmer climes, but also the yellow jackets, which are a real pain, sometimes literally, in the fall. They are drawn by sweet food, and usually in the fall I have to eat quickly—not a hardship for this good eater—and set my plates on another table when I am done. But not this year. What could have happened to the yellow jackets? Did the rainy weather kill them off? While I can’t say that I miss them, their absence does make me uneasy. They are part of the natural cycle of things here in Maine.

Today, another sunny day, I will have my lunch on the patio. There are clothes drying on the line, and after lunch, I’ll clean the big feeder, so that it will be ready for winter and the constant refilling of birdseed. Tonight, there will be homemade chicken soup and cornbread for supper, and I have to admit that even though I love warm weather, it is a fine thing to have soup on a cool night.

Scenes from the backyard with a quick trip down cellar:

Tattered bee balm
Tattered bee balm
The last of the tomatoes
The last of the tomatoes
Leaves on fire
Leaves on fire
Sherlock on the patio
Sherlock on the patio
The last, brave snapdragons
The last, brave snapdragons
Stocked up for the winter with vegetables from Farmer Kev
Stocked up for the winter with vegetables from Farmer Kev