Life In Progress

I will not confuse my career with my life.


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Nectar

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The hummingbirds are rightly preoccupied with the huge honeysuckle bush in the garden. Even so, I hung the nectar feeder out last week and saw my first customer belly up to it the other day. With all this hot weather, I thought it was time to refresh the feeder yesterday. The package of hummingbird sugar stated that it had no artificial coloring but when I dropped it into the water, there were some interesting pink swirls to contemplate.

Now it’s time to park myself on the front porch, sip coffee and watch for hummers.

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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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Free Time

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It’s finally summer in Maine — I’ve been waiting for comfy porch weather and it’s here in spades. I love the afternoon breezes that keep that side of the house cool, the porch is perfect for hanging around, sipping iced tea (read: beer), drawing in a sketchbook and playing with my toys like any other respectable grown woman would do with her free time. A few weeks ago, I had Stego, the expanding dinosaur sponge in a gladiola vase. Fun to watch him grow and to sketch his progress. Now it’s Stella the sea star in the spotlight. Stella and some kid’s toys I found on the walking trail. Finders keepers, kids. Oh, okay, I’ll put them back on the trail when I’ve had my fun.

The last rain storm washed away the rest of the pine pollen and I no longer have those pesky allergy symptoms dogging me, so I’m one happy camper.

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Treasure Tossed

The Little Falls impoundment of the Presumpscot River is down again. Sappi had an initial draw down in July to assess work on the dam and this week they’ve got it down even lower than before for repairs.

We went down to check it out Tuesday evening, accompanied by a very vocal Mr. Wonderful. Meowing his concern, he followed us onto the silty bank, inspected the middens where the raccoons feast on freshwater clams under the tree roots, then made himself comfortable on the rocks while we rooted around in the mud.

The first things to catch my eye were some clams languishing on the silt. I gently placed them into the water so they’d at least have a chance to survive the hungry raccoons. I feel a little guilty about the ones I probably missed. Mucking around for the clams, I uncovered two pieces of a broken depression glass sugar bowl and a number of other large, thick pieces of broken glass bottles around an area of exposed ledge which usually has several feet of water over it. I wanted to get a shovel and dig. Maybe I’ll do just that, tomorrow, before Hurricane Irene arrives.

Many years ago, people repeatedly came down to this beautiful river and unceremoniously hucked their household trash into it. Tuesday evening, we went to that river, recovered some of that trash and arranged it carefully on the bench on our back deck. As though it was treasure.


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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 Buzz

Nothing says “Welcome!” better than a bald-faced hornet’s nest hanging over the bistro set on the front porch. “Pull up a chair! What can I get you?” I’ll say to my guests. “How about a scrabble game at the table here?”

Well, maybe the huge spider that spun a big web right over the storm door takes the prize for most welcoming. At least with the hornets, if you don’t bother them by stomping around or batting the papery nest with a stick, they shouldn’t bother you. The spider? When you approached the door, she’d start doing push ups on the web as a warning that she could jump! “Welcome! Step right up to the front door. Don’t mind Charlotte, she hasn’t bitten anyone. Yet.”

When I researched bald-faced hornets, I paled at the description of their life cycle. A nearly two-inch-long black and white queen emerges from hibernating underground in the spring. The beautiful, alien creature then sets about chewing and digesting wood only to spit it back up to fashion a durable, spherical nest fiber by fiber. I was fascinated to watch her progress on the bare wood of the porch ceiling. But not so fascinated to let her continue for long; I scraped off her two earliest attempts. When she came back a third time, I half-reluctantly allowed her to continue.

I learned that the queen will first lay a cadre of worker hornets which will slave away while she stays inside and rests. There can be thousands of these workers by the time she lays other queen eggs. These newborn queens will then go underground in the fall to overwinter and start the cycle for themselves next spring.

Later that day, after I’d read up a bit more online about our newest buzz, I went back out to check on her progress. I was shocked to see that the nest was already between baseball- and softball-size.

Being the wuss that I am, I asked my husband, Will, to knock the nest down. I think I was lucky she was so busy gathering wood fibers for nest making, allowing me get a few closeup photos of her. She hasn’t made a fourth attempt to nest on the ceiling of the front porch. I admit to a twinge of guilt about dislodging her but it’s early enough in the process that she can find a more suitable location. And I know in my wussy heart that this relationship most likely would not have ended well…