Saturday, June 20, 2009

Ice Cream Fridae

I spent the best part of the day on Friday hanging out with Jen, Avery, & Paige. We had talked about going to the beach or doing something special but decided to stay inside (good beach day for ducks, not people). It was a good decision. We read books, played games, and watched Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (yes, I sang along). I brought Miss Paige a doll stroller that she instantly fell in love with, and Avery & I read a book about Babe Ruth- and both learned a lot about this baseball legend. After lunch, we declared it an ice-cream-party day (I brought lots of fixins) and each assembled the sundae of our choice. It was a wonderful day. If I were a really good gramma I would have taken photos instead of borrowing this one from, instead I spent all my time soaking in smiles, words, Avery-isms, and Paige-xpressions. I'll try to do better on the photos next time!

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Newest Addition...

Meet one of the newest additions to the Green gardens - one of 70 or so Latham raspberry plants donated by my mom & dad. We spent a good part of a recent weekend pulling rocks and stumps, tilling the soil to reveal more rocks and roots to pull, and tilling again with the little Mantis to find yet more rocks and roots. The result is a nice plot for a berry garden.
My dad had postponed tilling the path between his raspberries until we got over there to pull up the new shoots (thank you dad). Saturday morning we dug enough to fill a large bucket, and spent the afternoon setting them into the soil (pulling, yes, more rocks and roots). We'll be adding posts and wire supports next.
Thankfully, we are receiving a good amount of rain that is soaking into the soil. It looks like all the plants have recovered from the shock of moving... just a few wilty leaves on a few plants. So, we have two double rows of plants which will have posts and wire supports set soon. And there is still room in the new garden - we'll try transplanting a few wild blackberries, wild blueberries, and wild strawberries, attempting to cultivate them somewhat. These will quite likely never produce giant fruit like the nursery grown varieties, but they will hopefully produce some very delicious berries that have a wilder sweetness.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Japanese Beetles

'Tis the season for Japanese beetles. I'd been planning on picking up a fresh bag and new bait for the trap, but haven't made the trip to the store yet. Earlier in the week I picked some irises, lilies, and yarrow from the garden for a table bouquet, after carefully checking for beetles and finding none. This morning, as I walked by the garden, I realized they were here. I'm not sure if I could smell the beetles, or if it was the sweet smell of the irises, but my senses were alerted. It didn't take more than a glance to see the invaders. I'd even made some pepper water last night, thinking I'd probably need it soon- good timing! I sprayed the flowers, and started picking off the infested blooms until I realized there were SO MANY. What to do?
I came inside, poured another cup of coffee, and got online. I read nothing about red pepper water (my own concoction that I've used with success in the vegetable garden) but I did find out that soap water can be an effective deterrent. I also found out that the traps are controversial. They do trap the beetles, but the pheromones actually attract beetles to the area so you might get more than just the resident beetles. I also read that the beetles are pretty much around all the time at different stages of their life cycle.
The adults come out early to mid-June around here and have particular preferences of flowers and plants. Females will leave the blooms and make their way down to the soil where they lay their eggs before returning to the blossoms and leaves where they munch away, skeletonizing the leaves, leaving only the veins. They repeat this through the summer and sometimes lay as many as 60 eggs or so. When the eggs hatch, they go through several instars (cycles), including a little white grub worm stage. These become more evident late summer and you can dig up small patches of sod to see if they're there. They stay in the soil all year, sometimes taking two years to complete their full life cycle depending on the climate conditions.
So, my garden has been soaped because I decided against getting the traps set up. There is a bacteria that is effective, but it is costly and takes 3-5 years to completely manage the Japanese beetle population- you never really get rid of them, only manage them. Their northern range runs through central Maine, so right now they aren't as bad as they are in other areas. A close inspection of my mom's irises this morning revealed none and she's just 5 miles from us. Diligent attention to the garden might keep them under some level of control this year, we hope.
In other news, we put in over 70 raspberry plants in the new berry garden! It's nice to have some time to spend around the yard this summer.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Bridgton Community Contradance

Saturday night we had the opportunity to call at the Bridgton Community Contradance. It was our first time down that way, mainly because we thought it would be a really long drive. Turns out not to be that far away, relatively speaking... just over an hour. This dance is new - but the organization and energy poured into it can be seen and felt as soon as you walk in. A lot of super nice touches like stringing mini-lights around the hall, tables with tablecloths and fresh flowers and candles, free popcorn and refreshments, and a low admission price all work together to make this THE place to be if you're anywhere around the Bridgton area on 5th Saturdays. Tunes by Perpetual e-Motion keep the dancers on the floor until the very end of the evening. We felt fortunate to have been invited to call, and look forward to going back again- to call or to dance!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sweet Smell of Early Summer...

The lilacs are in full bloom right now... too overpowering for me in closed spaces, but wonderfully sweet in the great outdoors. I love smelling them as I walk up to the house. I know Richard loves them, so I do too. My grandmother had a big stand of lilacs on the lawn she shared with her neighbor who happened to be my friend Robin's grandmother. That's how Robin and I met years and years ago, hanging out under the lilacs. One of my favorite color combinations is deep green and purple... coincidence or connection?

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Workin' the Soil

It has been wonderful having a few days of rest and relaxation, and the time, space, and energy for "special projects". With the spring semester officially completed, and the May term class starting on Monday, we managed to use the five day interim effectively... rototilled and prepped the garden plot (and expanded it from last year), picnic on the beach, cleared off my desk, baked some bread (thank you Kathie), put up a couple of clotheslines and got ALL our laundry dried in the sunshine... and managed a couple of short afternoon naps and some walks through the woods.
The garden is looking really beautiful. We have just one more corner to plant with beans, and the peas and sunflowers on the north side of the plot. We built up a raised bed for the carrots to encourage them lengthwise, and hilled up the rows a bit for the other seeds so the walking trough is a little lower and more packed (hoping to deter weeds, I know it's a losing battle, but we'll see if this helps). The greenhouse starts got started late (thanks to a rigorous study schedule that distracted me from remembering to get out there), so we'll probably purchase a few starts from the local greenhouse... I'm hoping my late seedlings might produce a later crop if the season is long enough (and mild enough toward the end). I'm happy to have worked my summer schedule out so I can be home and tend to these things... add to that a couple of short term courses and an independent study, and this looks to be a super summer!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Caught in the Act...

Today was so nice and warm, we decided to make some sandwiches and head to Popham for a stroll along the beach... of course, it's always colder at the coast than inland and even though we brought sweatshirts, we decided to forego the walk until we'd at least eaten our supper. As we sat on the bench between the old fort and Spinneys, we noticed activity in the harbor... lots of activity. Seals, seals, and more seals were chasing, diving, slapping the water as they flipped around in what appeared to be either a lot of play or some courtship behavior. Judging from the many pairs forming, we think the latter. Amazing to witness it at all, but in such numbers! I don't know much about seals, but it looked like they all chose this harbor on this afternoon to choose a mate (one or more, I'm not sure).

Happy Birthday Mom

If you see my mom today, wish her a Happy Birthday :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Another chapter...

This semester officially ended today as I took my final final :) A nice long weekend before starting the next class... we have quite a list of things to keep us busy! We started by having a "date night"... dinner at the Chuck Wagon and a movie- the new Star Trek film - which we both LOVED... highly recommend it. Richard got a jump on the chores list by getting a load of manure for the garden, and tilling it all in. He enlarged the plot so we can get a bit more growing space. He also installed two nice pulley clothes lines which we have already put into use... very nice!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

There's nothing like being a mom... it's one role that has no boundaries. There are a lot of things I'd try to be better at if I had the chance, but as I look at my now grown children, I'm not sure I'd really change anything. We're lucky- we've managed to maintain pretty close relationships through the years and be part of each other's lives even when the distance prevents regular face-to-face contact.
Watching my daughter join the ranks in motherhood has been a joy beyond measure and adds a wonderful dimension of understanding to our relationship. While my past parenting blunders will likely NOT be repeated by her, I feel like she maybe understands some of the incredible pressures and emotional choices that get made 'in the moment'.
My mom has been my baseline guide for how to be a good mother... we don't always agree 100%, and I don't always do what might be the 'right' thing, but there's still that lifelong influence underlying that has been developed through generations of women before us. My mother-in-law's ways or mothering are very similar to those I grew up with and I think that has helped us establish a good relationship.
So, for all the moms, alter-moms, young moms, old moms... happy mother's day.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Barefoot... or not

I woke up thinking about my carbon/ecological footprint- different models have different criteria and measure things a little diffeently. Regardless of which web site or calculation method we use, the results are similar... we all use a lot of natural resources to maintain our American lifestyle. This could be a long post, but I'm gonna keep it short, sweet, and simple.
Carbon shoes cost a lot of money... reducing your carbon footprint, even a little bit, will reduce strain on your budget. Buy less. Buy local. Turn off the lights. Walk around the block. Sit down and have a conversation with someone. Think about what kind of shoes you want to wear, and then put them on.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Flutter By

Add ImageI got to attend a workshop and training session for the Maine Butterfly Survey today, held at Colby College. By the end of the day, we were each given a net and collection packet... now to figure out how to perfect my swing... maybe A can give me some pointers based on t-ball :)

Friday, May 08, 2009

Living my true life...

I heard some awesome words on the Writer's Almanac this morning as I was driving in for lecture... "Find your place on the planet. Dig in, and take responsibility from there." These are words of Gary Snyder, and they really rang true for me. So, I thought I'd share them with all of you.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

T-ball Season

It's T-ball season! Avery and his friends are learning how to play the game one step at a time. It was ridiculous how cute and funny they all were... the little girl with the pink glove, the little boy who ran to third every time he hit the ball (had to get re-directed), and the pile of kids jumping on the ball after it got hit... none of them thinking to throw it anywhere, just happy to stand up proudly from the midst of the pile with the ball held high above. I was thorougly entertained as they skipped, twirled and hopped their way from base to base and how they really listened to their coach when he asked them to do something. Miss Paige was not completely left out of the excitement, though we did manage to keep her off the playing field durig the 'game'. All in all, I was really happy I could get up there on a weekday afternoon (and happy that the rain held off so they could play).

Monday, May 04, 2009

Me n' my dad...

My mom took this photo of my dad and me on Friday afternoon. I'd stopped in on my way through after class, and dad had a plant for me to identify - turned out to be a woody invasive, Euonymus alatus. I was pretty happy to have made an instant and positive ID.
You can see from the photo that their garden plot is looking really good, much further along than ours so far! Another week until finals are over and I can really focus on getting the early seeds in (after Richard tills the soil of course). When I was a kid, my sisters and I were in 4-H and one of my favorite projects was Trees... my dad and I spent a lot of time walking around looking at tree bark and leaves. Who knew how much that would influence me so many years later!


We have a lot of oak trees on our property, mostly Northern Red Oak which until this winter I would have assumed to be ALL of our oaks. Closer inspection of the leaves, acorns and acorn caps, and buds leads me to think we probably have another species, or some hybridization of the red with something else. There are seven different species of oak known in Maine, and of those there are a few possibilities based on leaf shape, acorn details, and habitat. One of the possibilities is Scarlet Oak, but it has not been documented in our county (although it has been seen in neighboring Androscoggin County). One of the things I'm thinking about for the summer is a focused observational study of our oaks, to find out if indeed we have more than one species and to explore the hybridization process in oak trees. Jen was down yesterday with Avery & Paige, and managed to get a couple of soft whistles from blowing across acorn caps -- I'll work on that skill as well :)

Friday, May 01, 2009

Winter Fields and Forests

UMF hosts Symposium Day every years, it's an opportunity for students to present their creative and scholarly work, or research projects they've conducted over the academic year. I started a comprehensive study of our property, using what I learn through course work - it's a nice way to gain practical experience from lectures and reading. I began with a winter botanical study and survey of the plants on our property as well as the surrounding area. It's been an amazing winter, and it was a joy to put the presentation together and share it publicly. It was received better than I could ever have imagined - fellow students and faculty have offered very positive feedback, and several have said they're inspired to go out with a hand lens and see what they can find themselves... exactly what I'd hoped for. I thought I'd share a few sketches from teh preseentation.

Acer rubrum- Red Maple
Acer saccharum- Sugar Maple
I'm hoping, over the course of the summer, to put the sketches and the story online. Not right away though, I still have finals and an end-of-semester project to put together. Gotta go...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Where have I been?

FaceBook has proven itself an easier and faster way to stay in touch with folks. Not as much detail in the short posts and comments, it sort of reflects the "off I go with a coffee in my hand to the next thing on my list to do" kind of lifestyle we all engage in from time to time, some for longer periods than others. I didn't realize all of this until I went to my blog to access other blogs, and found nothing but a blank section where pictures and posts would be. I finally realized its because I didn't post anything this month and all the other posts got archived! I still like the blog format, even though I don't get many posts. I still like the idea of putting some photos and stories up for those family members far away, it's one way to keep in touch. So, I apologize to those of you who keep looking and find nothing new... and will make a good attempt to add something a little more often :)

Monday, January 19, 2009

June Apple

Definitely does not look like June in these-here-parts-of-the-world. Our little apple tree is a sorry sight no matter what the season, in need of a good trimming and somehow getting rid of the caterpillar nests. The deer do love to eat the leftovers though, just one of the treats they manage to find this time of year. Every trail we've made either follows a deer path or crosses one. I wondered if our presence would affect their activities, but direct observation tells me "no"... there are some times when the deer actually use our trail after we've tromped it down. Nice to know we are participants in our forest and not mere observers!

June Apple is an old-time reel that is in the Fiddler's Fakebook.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ralph Page

The annual Ralph Page Legacy Weekend takes place this weekend in Durham NH. Richard and I drove down yesterday afternoon, arriving in time to share a potluck supper with organizers, callers, and musicians before participating in a multi-caller evening that highlighted new Maine callers. Awesome music was provided by The Montville Project, a Maine band that has cut two CDs packed full of good old-fashioned New England chestnut tunes. The crowd was packed, the dancers courteous and conscientious, and the program diverse. Here in Maine, the norm is to have an evening full of contras with two waltzes and perhaps a circle mixer. When I started dancing around 1994, it was common to also have a couple of squares and maybe a triplet included in the program, but nowadays the MUC (modern urban contradancer) doesn't tolerate as much diversity so callers tend to call just contras. It was SO MUCH FUN to do some other formations, and that, apparently, is what Ralph Page is all about. Elements of style, timing, and consideration for fellow dancers are seriously observed in a very social, warm setting. I came home after the dance to feed the wood stove... Richard is staying with friends and attending the rest of the dance weekend, returning tomorrow afternoon.

Friday, January 16, 2009


... that's twenty degrees BELOW zero this morning... gotta go feed the fire...

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Deep Freeze...

It is c.o.l.d. here in Maine! The outside temperature right now (8:30 pm) is -7.3'F... inside it's a cozy 70'F in some areas. We hung blankets over some of the windows this evening, will hang some more tomorrow in an effort to maintain a comfortable temperature. No hiking outdoors today. Instead, we went to the Registry of Deeds and researched our property, and then went to the Maine State Library before coming home and having dinner. Remember the soup idea? Well, tonight we had an Italian Fish Soup made from frozen stock, to which we added fish, some shredded zucchini, and spices... served up with a fresh spinach salad and bread. Delicious. Hope you're all keeping warm!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In the Pines

Cones fascinate me for some reason, all sorts of cones. This pine cone is representative of thousands that covered our driveway and areas of the forest floor this year as the result of masting- a year of heavy seed production. There are several theories on why this happens, and different species mast in particular cycles and patterns. For the pines, it happens every five years or so as a means of outsmarting seed predators like squirrels or insects. On a non-mast year, a certain number of cones are produced and many of them are part of the food chain, but in a mast year, there are many more cones produced- more than can be eaten by even the hungriest of creatures- thereby increasing the chance that at least some of the pines will take root into seedlings. Pines need a few other criteria met before they're able to get a solid start, but certainly getting past the initial forage is critical.
As I think back to the fall, I remember talking about the excessive number of acorns littering the lower yard. I don't know if it was a mast year for oak, or whether we were just tired of trying to rake the little nuts among the leaves. Many years ago when I lived in Fayette, I remember raking one year and encountering the same thing, piles of acorns underneath the dry leaves. The acrorns need more research!
"In the Pines" is a tune from a book called Twin Fiddling that occupies some space on our music shelf.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Fallen Leaves

Bird tracks under the car...

... and a leaf that fell from a tree overnight, standing in the fresh snow in the woods. Photos taken on the macro setting at close range.

Kitchen Stomp

I'm sure many of you are wondering what wonderous soups and dishes have been coming forth from my kitchen these days. We made a big trip to the grocery store last week and stocked up on fresh fruits and veggies as well as some necessary staples for the cupboards, and started out with the aforementioned soup stocks.... lots of stock. So much that I put a lot of it in the freezer in square sandwich containers - just the right amount to make soup for two sometime in the future. Keeping some of the tomato base stock and the chicken base stock in the refrigerator has worked out great... just take two cups of stock and add meat, seasonings, and whatever else is needed to make a specialty soup for two.
We've had hearty chicken and dumplings, Mexican chili soup, and chicken egg noodle soup. Some other dishes this week have been Thai rice noodles with ginger sauce, vegetables & shrimp/ sweet & sour meatloaf/ chicken & veggie quesadillas/ and California chicken sandwiches. It's been really great to have time to reign over the kitchen, and I think Richard has liked both the time off from KP duty and the variety of dishes on the table.
One thing that has added variety to our meals is fresh sprouts that we started last week. The trick to good sprouts is frequent rinsings, at least twice each day. They're crunchy and tasty, and easy to add to a sandwich, salad, or even to stir fry and soups.
Kitchen Stomp is a duple improper contradance written by Becky Hill.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Stir the Soup

I'm cooking two soup bases this morning, lots of hearty vegetables in a light chicken stock, and in a thick tomato base. We'll use these throughout the week, adding some different ingredients each day. Soup is great this time of year, warms the insides when it's cold outdoors. Having the base pre-made makes it easy and quick to whip up something special, delicious, and healthy. In the past I've made a pot of soup that we have to eat for days on end, finally getting really tired of it. I don't know how we'll like having soup every day this week, but I'm pretty sure we'll like it better when it's dressed up differently each day!
I got the idea from the Good Housekeeping web site. I'm not sure we'll do the whole diet thing, but honestly, it'll be good to lose a few pounds and if this helps, well I"m all for it. As beneficial as that would be, I was really more interested in the aspect of eating healthier in general and this looked like a good way to do that. After a month or so of sweets and treats, it was fun to shop in the produce aisle! Having a couple more weeks until classes start up again also helps... it takes time to chop, chop, chop all those veggies!
This all goes along with my GOAL (not resolution) to be more aware of my health, to eat better and get more exercise on a regular basis, try to minimize stress and be more present in the things that are going on around me. It's a good start to this new year!
Stir the Soup is a really great tune written by Larry Unger... yeah, another goal is to play a few tunes every day, and this is one of my recent favorites.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Wind that Shakes the Barley

Happy New Year!
We welcomed 2009 in the company of contradancers, musicians, and friends at the annual Wescustogo New Year's contradance in North Yarmouth. What a great way to start the year. The topic of resolutions has popped up over the past couple of days, and I have a few... but I'm calling them goals in an effort to take some of the pressure off. The difference? Goal carries a lot of weight and direction without the penalty of failure. Probably mostly semantics. Still, having goals feels more realistic than promising to change my life starting today. The biggest goal, one that touches on a lot of others, is to be more engaged with the outdoors, specifically with the acres around our house.
This morning is clear and W.I.N.D.Y. The thermometer reads -2.7 (that's right, negative 2.7) and I'm sure it's even colder with the wind chill. It's cozy in the house, a balmy 56, though it feels warmer as you get closer to the wood stove. Maybe it'll warm up a little later. Maybe I'll have to wear 4 sweaters, but my goal is to get out there and see what's happening.