The Dog Days of Summer

For the past few days, we have hosted two canine visitors:

Holly…

and Somara.

They are staying with us while our daughter Shannon and our son-in-law Mike vacation in Ireland. Our backyard—about a half acre—is fenced in, which gives the dogs plenty of space to romp and sniff while we relax on the patio.

Even though both Holly and Somara are ten years old and fairly sedate, they certainly have put a merry spin on things. Dogs do that, and it’s one of the things I love about them. Cats, on the other hand, have a more zen-like cool, and I love that, too.

Our own little Miss Watson is not impressed with the canine visitors, and she has made herself scarce while the dogs are here. I tell her that in a few days, Holly and Somara will be back with Shannon and Mike. Miss Watson just looks at me, indicating that she will believe it when she sees it.

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The gardens are lush and green, despite the lack of rain. While much of the country swelters, we have had what my friend Claire calls an old-fashioned summer in Maine. Warm, but not too hot, and for the most part not too humid. I feel so sorry for the folks in this country and around the world who must deal with extreme heat. I hope cooler weather comes to them soon.

Here are some pictures of what’s blooming in my yard.

Daylilies, aglow.

A closer look.

Hostas, whose leaves are being munched on by slugs and snails.

Finally, a procession of blooms going up our front steps.

Summer, beautiful summer.

Back after a Much-Needed Rest

My two-week staycation zipped right by. It was a quiet but pleasing blend of books, resting, and puttering around the house. What a treat to read in the morning and not have work tapping on my shoulder.

And what was I reading?

About a month ago, I fell in love with the Slow Horses series on Apple TV+.  The series, based on the book by Mick Herron, is about a group of misfit and disgraced spies—dubbed “slow horses”—led by the acerbic Jackson Lamb, played by the great and good Gary Oldman. Their headquarters are the decrepit and depressing Slough House, a far cry from MI5’s Regent’s Park.  Naturally, trouble finds the band of misfits, and it doesn’t take the viewer long to wonder who the real misfits are. Only six episodes long, Slow Horses ended all too soon, and I decided to check out the book, the first in the Slough House series.

It was love at first read. Slow Horses is quirky but so well written with a cracking plot and a gripping cast of characters. There are eight books in the Slough House series, and courtesy of my library, I whipped through them with the speed I usually reserve for a box of See’s chocolates. I read like a woman possessed, with the contradictory feelings of both wanting and not wanting to finish the series. Hats off to Mick Herron, who writes impeccable prose at a clip that any hack writer would envy.

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I also spent a lot of time on the patio, where the garden is at its best.

Here is a longer view.

And a little abstraction of evening primroses and lilies, taken through the back of one of the lawn chairs.

The front yard is abloom, too. July is definitely the month for the gardens at our home at the edge of the woods.

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The cover for my book Of Time and Magic is underway at the fabulous Bookfly Design. Soon I will have a cover to share with you. I’m very excited about this. It’s also a little bittersweet as Of Time and Magic concludes Maya’s journey and the battle for the Great Library.

 

 

 

Another Break

I am coming down the homestretch with Of Time and Magic, Book Four in my Great Library Series. Everything is ready for the cover, which I should be able to share with you in mid-July. So exciting!

But I’m just plain worn out, both from book work and from all that’s going on in this country. I need some time off, a staycation of a couple of weeks, where I read, nibble on chocolate, and putter around the house and garden. And that’s just what I’m going to do.

Speaking of the garden…here are a few photos from our yard at the edge of the woods.

See you in mid-July.

Summer, Beautiful Summer

Summer, beautiful summer is here. At night June bugs, as large as small stones, whirr and rattle against the screens. No doubt they are attracted by the light. Some people don’t like the noise, but to me June bugs sound like summer, and I always look forward to their return. Also on the screens, fireflies blink on and off, on and off, little sprites in the dark night.

“Look!” I cry whenever I see a spot of light, and Clif and Dee duly look.

In a month’s time, the leaves on the trees have gone from a bright fringe to a deep mature green, and I love the sighing sound they make when the wind moves through them.

On the brink of blooming, my gardens are still mostly shades of green, which is a color, too, as my blogging friend Quercus once reminded me. But there are bits of color here and there.

Tomorrow—June 21—is the longest day of the year, the first day of summer, and one of the sweetest days. It is also the anniversary of my mother’s birthday, and if she were alive, she would be eighty-six.  Happy birthday, Mom! Wish you were still here so we could celebrate it with you.

The weather this June has been absolutely delightful—a little cool, which this Mainer loves—with exactly the right amounts of sun and rain. Because of this, I’ve hardly had to water the gardens, and it’s no surprise that everything is lush and green. Unlike last June, we’ve not had to use Eva, our air conditioner, at all. Indeed, yesterday was so rainy and chilly—the temp didn’t get above 60—that Clif started a small fire in the wood furnace to take away the chill and damp. My kind of June.

The editing on my book Of Time and Magic continues. The deadline for the cover is next Tuesday. Even afterwards, I’ll continue to tweak and polish. I can’t seem to help myself. As long as I don’t add any pages, I’ll be fine.

The  forecast for this week promises more delightful summer weather, with rain and sun and temps in the 70s. I know some of my blogging friends are enduring very hot weather, and I wish I could send a little of our perfect Maine weather your way.

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And now for something completely different, courtesy—surprise, surprise—of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts.

This is not the kind of music I usually listen to, but somehow I find Monsieur Periné’s peppy music irresistible. The lead singer is so quick and cute that it makes me smile just to watch her.

Little Visitor to Ladder Village

Editing, gardening, house cleaning around the edges. Rinse and repeat. In my own slow way, I’m making progress, but there is still much to do. Therefore, I’ve only got time for a short post this week.

Fortunately, my daughter Dee agreed to let me share her picture of an adorable little visitor to Ladder Village. She took it from inside, but even so, the photo came out pretty darned well.

Until next week!

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I keep listening to this beautiful hymn of a song. Even though I featured Alisa Amador last week, “Together” is so lovely that I decided to feature it alone rather than as part of a set. A much-needed reprieve from all that’s going on right now.

The Beauty of Early June

Editing, editing, editing. The work is intense, but somehow I find it satisfying to tighten my writing.

The gardens are flourishing. The weather has been a nearly perfect combination of rain and sun. How often does that happen?

The other morning, I went out with my camera to record some of the beauty of early June.

My favorite iris.

Rain drops on hostas.

Minerva, guardian of the front yard.

Elegant Solomon’s Seal.

Finally, a whirring visitor to the feeder. A little blurry, but I know that many readers love seeing pictures of hummingbirds.

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Because I’m still in the weeds of gardening and editing—couldn’t resist that description—I don’t have time for my usual slate of recommendations. And I probably won’t until late June, when (I hope) the bulk of the work is finished. However, I do have time to  include a link to Alisa Amador’s Tiny Desk Concert. What a musician! Easy to understand why she won the 2022 Tiny Desk Contest.

And Back Again

As it turned out, my wee break lasted much longer than I had expected. Note to self: Do not ever plan to finish writing a book during peak gardening season, which in Maine is the lovely month of May.

Not surprisingly, for the entire month, I pinged back and forth between my book—Of Time and Magic—and the gardens. Because there is a deadline for the cover, the book took precedence. In three weeks, I wrote 10,000 words and brought Maya’s story to what feels to me like a satisfying conclusion. (I certainly hope readers feel the same way.) Now it’s time to edit, edit, edit.

As for the gardens…I am behind; there are no two ways about it. Two-thirds of the beds have had compost spread on them. One half have been fertilized. But I keep plugging on. Yesterday morning I got up early and tucked compost here and there under plants that are approaching full grown. In a normal year, composting and fertilizing would have been done the third week in May. Fortunately, I did a lot of dividing and moving last year, and there wasn’t much to do this year.

Then there’s the house. The less said about that the better.

However, despite my slow ways, the gardens seem to be doing just fine.

About two weeks ago, we were treated to deep purple irises in the backyard.

The irises have gone by, and now there is lush green. More flowers will bloom in June and July.

Until then, this cheery sign—with places from my books—provides a splash of color. (Thanks yet again, Beth Clark, for this wonderful present.)

The beds out front are abloom with white, cool and soothing.

With a bit of blue from Jacob’s Ladder.

I have missed reading all your lovely blogs and am happy to be back in the swing of blogging. Such a wonderful community! From now on, I will be posting once a week on Mondays. Unless, of course, I get such exciting news that another post is needed.

See you next Monday.

 

 

 

A Wee Break

The time has come to take a wee break from blogging. Between finishing Of Time and Magic and spring gardening, I don’t have much energy for anything else.

Two days ago, I crested 100,000 words, and today I’ll begin the chapter I’ve been heading toward since Book One, Maya and the Book of Everything.

Thanks to Mick Herron and his excellent Slow Horses, I’ve figured out how to structure the end of Of Time and Magic. I love the Slow Horses television series, which features the great and good Kristen Scott Thomas and Gary Oldman. I love the book even more—good writing, vivid characters, cracking plot. I highly recommend both the TV series and the book.

So goodbye for a week or two. I’ll miss reading your posts, but, as the saying goes, needs must.

Here’s a parting shot of a hyacinth that my mother-in-law planted thirty-seven years ago. My mother-in-law has been gone for seventeen years, but I’m still enjoying the flower’s spring beauty.

The Great Unfurling

Busy, busy, busy. Spring has officially come to Maine—the black flies have reared their nasty little heads—and gardeners have about one month to get their gardens in order. By June, the plants are too big for easy fertilizing, composting, and dividing. So the race is on!

I am happy to report I am pretty much on schedule. My first job is to remove all the leaves that have blown into the various beds, and this is no small thing when you live on the edge of a small forest.

I am about two-thirds done with leaf removal. After that, it will be on to spreading compost and fertilizer then dividing perennials and planting annuals, which is one of my favorite things to do.

In between removing wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of leaves from the beds, I have taken time to admire to admire the unfurling of the ferns, which I always love to see. For couple of weeks, the curled ferns are so tender and delicate looking. Then just like that they spring into sweet leafiness, and year after year, I am enchanted as I watch the process.

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As many of you know, I am also working like crazy to finish Of Time and Magic, Book Four in my Great Library Series. I had hoped to be wrapped up by now, but it looks is though I won’t be finished until either the end of this week or the beginning of next week. I want to take my time with the ending of this book, which is the culmination of ten years of work, when I began the first book in the series, Maya and the Book of Everything.

I probably have three more chapters left to go.  The winds of the writing gods blow me to and fro, but I am getting there.  I can definitely see the harbor and many friendly faces on the dock.

Of Time and Magic‘s current word count: 99, 180

Saturday in the Park

On Saturday, Clif, Dee, and I headed south of the border—to Massachusetts. For many Mainers, our border is the Piscataqua  river that flows between Maine and New Hampshire and the imposing eponymous bridge that spans that river. This bridge is the primary way out of Maine for points south, and it gives the state the feeling of being an island. Silly, I know, but that’s how it always seems to me when I leave or return to Maine.

The Piscataqua River Bridge. Photo taken by Doug Kerr.

Across the bridge we went, through a sliver of New Hampshire and then to Massachusetts where our daughter Shannon and her husband Mike live. Shannon’s birthday was on Friday—Earth Day—and how wonderful it was to be able celebrate her birthday in person. (For the past six years, when Shannon and Mike lived in North Carolina, birthdays were celebrated from afar.)

Saturday was a lovely warm spring day, and for the birthday celebration, we headed to a pretty park in a nearby town.

We set up our chairs and enjoyed the fine weather. Here is a picture of Shannon and Mike. In the background, you can see the fringe of spring green on the tree to the left of Shannon.

We got take-out from Bartlet Street, a nearby restaurant that caters to meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans. Truly, there was something for everyone.

Dee ordered a bagel with roasted chickpeas and mashed avocado. Quite a feast! I could have a bite of that right now.

As we ate and talked, people and dogs came to the park. A little boy ran in delight, touching and counting rocks and benches. Dogs on leashes sniffed and trotted across the green grass.  A group of young friends, laughing and happy, brought a blanket and had a picnic. Particularly touching was when a couple came with their senior dog, a yellow lab, who was lame with arthritis. They had ramp to make it easier for the dog to get in and out of their vehicle. A much-needed example of how we humans can be kind and thoughtful.

After lunch, we saluted Shannon with cupcakes. Happy, happy birthday!

In honor of this sweet day, here is a song that no doubt many of you will remember.

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