Life In Progress

I will not confuse my career with my life.


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A Good Breeze

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Summer is on my mind. Probably because we don’t have a/c in our old New England farmhouse. Oh, we’ve gotten good at when to close and open windows and shades over the years to deflect the sun and the oven-hot rooftop breezes. Even with strategically placed fans sleeping for the handful of really warm nights in Maine can present a challenge.

Plenty of porch time is my solution. By early afternoon, the sun has finished baking the front decking and a good breeze begins to traverse the length of it. A cool fruit smoothie, a new Davis Leatherworks tooled notebook (a gorgeous, US-made version of the Midori Traveler’s Notebook), toys to play with and plenty of pets with Mr. Wonderful made for a perfect holiday at home yesterday.

Mister, mister, mister!

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With a Little Help

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Mr. Wonderful and I got a little time together outside on Friday. The sun was out, there was no wind—a perfect afternoon for my first garden cleanup session this spring. He led me to this gorgeous group of crocus near the foundation and also pointed out another clump of them that I didn’t realize were blooming. I always find the best stuff in the gardens with a little help from Mr. Wonderful, my master gardener.

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Decidedly Better

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It’s that time of year when I feel quite ready for the seasons to change. We’ve had our big snowstorm —we officially got 29 inches here in South Windham, Maine—Fat Tuesday’s hangover has taken the cure and I uncovered a hulking dust bunny while searching for a pair of shoes in my closet. I resisted the (faintest) urge to Spring Clean. If I were to continue along this line of thinking I would likely need therapy and antidepressants, so I’ll stop my whinging right now.

Lately, Mr. Wonderful, our indoor/outdoor boy-cat, has been craving greens. As usual, I had anticipated this and bought a couple of small flats of grass in December. The cats duly appreciated the gesture but were never very happy with the short, thin blades. They would nose around in the grass but never really get to chomping. Problem is, that grass is a lawn grass variety and these felines are accustomed to premium greens—specifically, wheat grass. A few days ago, I noticed Mr. W standing by the sorry looking flat on the kitchen windowsill, kneading his paws with exaggerated motions and staring a hole through me. I got the feeling he was trying to suggest that his heart desired decidedly better greens. Fortunately, I am an experienced cat whisperer: immediately, I set a cup of wheat berries to soak in a big jar and planted them in pots just when the roots started to emerge. A couple of days later, the seedlings are approaching two inches tall and are nearly ready to be ravaged.

These greens will be a far cry from the luxurious pot of grass I transplanted from the garden for Mr. W and Chitra a while back. During the growing season, that’s the way to satisfy Chitra, who, unlike Mr. W, doesn’t get to forage for her emetics outside.


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Behind the Eight Ball

Spring is forging ahead, whether I’ve had time to clear the walkways and cut down  last year’s plants. I’ve managed to work in the front garden a couple of times, mostly so I’m not frightfully embarrassed for people to see just how far behind the eight ball I really am.

This morning was so gorgeous that I wandered out to admire those front gardens and was surprised at how good they looked. Last year’s tedious weeding and deadheading in the ajuga patches has paid off this spring. The mild winter didn’t hurt, either. The honey bees and bumbles are frequenting the ajuga in almost frightening numbers this year. Too bad there isn’t some edible/medicinal fruit from that plant, because these plants are seeing serious pollination action. Mr. Wonderful joined me for my promenade. I have had some very productive gardening hours accompanied by this beautiful cat, who almost never does anything wrong.

It makes me feel a little guilty, but I’m secretly pleased that it’s supposed to rain buckets tomorrow in southern Maine. That way, I can make my yoga class plan and do some work around the house, inside, of course. By “work”, I am referring to the fact that I have a brand new homespun book press and have made one book so far and am conjuring my next book binding project. Maybe a garden journal?


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Spring Impressions

The photo of our nachtmare driveway in the post previous to this one makes me cringe. I feel the need to turn my attention to a more inspiring photo of fleeting spring impressions that some beautiful leaves made in the snow.

This picture was taken Saturday, March 10, 2012, in the area of our property that my husband and I call “Fairyland.” It is an area bordered by white pine and white birch trees that leads from our house to the Presumpscot River. The spring sun isn’t high enough yet to touch the glacial mass that has accumulated here this winter.

The ragtag winter remnants will be there for weeks to come, even after we get temperatures of nearly 70˚ but it will never be as pretty as it was the day this photo was snapped.


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Early Taste of Winter

The early snowfall last weekend almost sent me into winter hibernation phase. The power went out with a flourish at 11:22 p.m. Saturday, when the transformer in front of the house next door blew, lighting the snowy landscape with brilliant pink sparks. Instead of hopping out of bed to call Central Maine Power to report it, I pulled the covers over my head and went back to sleep. Until a crew attempted to restore power during the wee hours and caused the same transformer to make more Frankenstein electrocution sounds, that is.

The power came back at 9:00 a.m., Sunday, just after we decided to venture out for a hot breakfast. With the kettle on and the boiler chugging away in the cellar, the day turned to a normal Sunday and my visions of lazily reading by the wood stove evaporated. With the snow melting and creating a mini mud season, we both got busy with chores: I overturned birdbaths, brushed snow off a raised bed and dug the remaining row of carrots from the ice-crunchy mud. Harvested not a moment too soon, these carrots will be super sweet.

Every winter, I vow to become more self-sufficient for inevitable power outages, but it hasn’t happened. Just last month, I walked right past the gorgeous, inexpensive camp stove at Cabela’s, thinking I should buy that …someday. Yesterday, I regretted it. This early taste of winter has made me renew my vow for preparedness.

I need to get to Cabela’s soon, before “fear-of-shopping” overtakes me because of the looming holiday season crowds.


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Roughage

Starting fall garden cleanup yesterday, (a monumental task,) I noticed some particularly succulent clumps of grass growing in the butternut squash bed. Perfect for Chitra’s “green fang.” I potted up the smallest clutch, watered it and brought it inside.

She was waiting at the screen door and made a chattering exclamation when she saw the blades of grass waving invitingly. Much sniffing, crunching and slurping ensued. Chitra’s emerald obsession is sated for the time being. She ate so much roughage, I was sure there would soon be trouble on the carpet. Oddly, I haven’t had to clean up any grassy cat puke. Yet.


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Who’s Your Daddy?

Fixated on spiders as I seem to be this summer, they are also decidedly creeping me out. Everywhere I look I see a fluttering moth or some unfortunate beautiful turquoise damselfly struggling to escape a sticky web. Sometimes I try to save the damselflies. Yesterday, my eye got caught just in time to see a spider lunge, pounce and efficiently dispatch the pretty white moth caught up in her web. Drama on this small scale is still drama.

I keep checking the rosemary plant pot saucer, trying to catch a glimpse of the iridescent spider who lives on the front porch, but she’s got two sort of cocoons spun and recently just her shadow is visible in the smaller of them. This is the gal I can’t get out of my mind. I shiver as I imagine these cocoons sheltering dozens of tiny, shiny-eyed predators with iridescent green mandibles. Since I don’t see her much anymore, I have begun to zero in on a spider who keeps adding to a big web in the east corner of the porch. Even though the photo is not crisp, you can see filament jetting from the spinnerets in this shot. It’s a busy web with lots of debris clinging along with dangling mummified insects. I’m sure to be back to that one to watch for gruesome action.

Daddy Long Legs don’t freak me out like their shorter-legged cousins. Maybe because I once read that even though they are technically arachnids, they really aren’t the same as spiders: They don’t spin silk and they can’t bite humans. I snapped the small Daddy pictured above while it rested on top of an echinacea flower bud. The proximity of the camera lens startled him, but he posed just long enough for me to focus in on his way down the stalk.


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Garden Shark

The quartz eating machine glides amongst the Siberian Iris, which by now are long past blooming. Still, they afford essential camouflage for this crafty predator. His destination: the beautiful ceramic toad house Mom Jane sent a couple of weeks ago. I’m pretty sure there’s nothing living in the earthenware abode, but Garden Shark has a sharp nose and a taste for amphibian this evening.

I would go outside with my camera right now to snap a photo or maybe even a video of the rustling iris leaves (fragrant fodder for fellow cryptozoologists,) except I’m afraid of the bulbous she-spider who’s nightly been spinning a web between a corner of the house and the day lilies blooming across the walkway. Thankfully, Will has to traverse that path to feed the birds tomorrow morning and will blithely blaze the way.


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The Fuzz

Encouraged by the fact that I did not get stung when I photographed the hornet, I had the courage to get up close to this spider living in the saucer of a potted rosemary plant on my porch. Brilliantly aware of my fascination, she constantly keeps her face toward me, watching me as I watch her moving about her abode.

Tomorrow morning, I’ll set up the tripod and see if I can get some full body shots as she scuttles about in the saucer. She seems most active when the sun is not directly warming the terra cotta. I resist the shivery thought that crossed my mind just now: going out at night to watch her work. Brrrr.

Although her mandibles appear extremely formidable, especially with the enticing areas of flashing shimmery green iridescence, her eyes are not nearly as calculating as they appear here. That said, I will definitely remember to check around for her the next time the rosemary needs to be moved from that table…