Sunday, June 26, 2016

postcard from the porch


The windowboxes are in place,
and the little plants are beginning to grow.

The simple experimental brackets and shelf are working,
though I may make small changes someday.
Or some year.

It was difficult to envision the proportions on individual pieces until everything was in place, and by the time I had decided on the measurements of the brackets pieces and put them together, made a trip to the lumber mill and fetched home an 8' and a 12' piece of 1x12" roughcut for the shelves, gone to the hardware store to buy the proper screws, installed the brackets, and lifted each of the seven planted boxes onto the shelves...
I was ready to call the job "finished for now."

And they are already making me quite happy!

Some of the nasturtiums are even beginning to flower!
(Here, with window screen Special Effects) 

Piper, too, is absolutely beside herself with delight
about the windowboxes!

Well, she may not really care about the windowboxes,
but Piper always enjoys the porch.
And so do I, especially when it's as hot outside as it is right now.
This afternoon is going to be spent on the porch.
Living in the moment.

There will be knitting.
There will be sketching.
There will be beef-flavored biscuits.

That last one is for Piper,
but the knitting and sketching is all for me.

I hope you are having a peaceful and restorative Sunday.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

june jewels

When I'm lucky enough to see these damselflies
swooping and darting about like animated jewels,
it always stops me in my tracks.

The colors are incredible.

I don't know much about insects,
so I did a little poking around online to find an ID for you.
It seems this is Calopteryx maculata or "ebony jewelwing."

I think "ebony-winged jewel" would better suit.
When they are in flight, their bodies glisten, green and blue,
while the wings are a black blur.

I am not fast enough to get a picture of a damselfly in flight,
but here is a glimpse of the wing/body color combination
during take-off:

Dragonflies, like this lovely visitor from last September,
tend to keep their wings open when they land:

Damselflies generally fold their wings when they are at rest:

But they don't seem to "rest" for very long!
For every image of a damselfly, I took two of a leaf or rock where a damselfly had been resting a nanosecond earlier.
I feel very lucky to have these images to share :)


Sunday, June 19, 2016

when the right one comes along

A friend once complained to me that her husband "would rather have no furniture in the house than buy something that isn't exactly what he wants!" She was complaining to the wrong person. If I don't need something immediately, I can wait a long time - often years, sometimes decades - to find "the right one" of the items on my longterm shopping list.

An advantage of this approach: when the right one comes along, there's no dithering or delay - it's a snap decision.

By the way, none of this applies to Piper.
Piper gets whatever she wants.
Pretty much instantaneously.

I've been cutting lumber by hand - and very badly - for a long time. No matter how careful I am, it is always a bit of a miracle when my angle cuts actually fit.

Even when Expert Assistance is provided.

During the building of the original screenporch in 1997, I had the short-term loan of a table saw and compound miter saw. It took a little while to get comfortable with using them - so loud! - but they soon became invaluable - so accurate! so powerful! When I gratefully returned them to their generous owner, both tools were added to the permanent shopping list. Somewhere between "livestock scale" and "adjustable daybed."

Fast-Forward nineteen years...


The lovely person who sold me this well-cared-for compound miter saw for a very low price (I actually challenged it and offered more) is also considering selling a table saw of similar vintage. I gulped (even at a very reasonable price, it is still, in the coin of my realm, a few truckloads of hay) but then said, "Please let me know if you decide to sell, because I would like to buy it also. Anytime."

Readers, I will keep you posted. But that one would probably be a Wordless Wednesday: just a picture of a table saw and a tall gin and tonic. ;)

Remember when I painstakingly salvaged all those bits and pieces of lumber after the porch renovation? Some of it has already been put back to work in the goat barn. And now some of it will be returning to the porch, in a new role: simple brackets supporting the windowboxes. Very satisfying!

This lumber shows its history.

Weathering on the exposed sides...

...claw marks from squirrels scrambling up to the roof...

...a carpenter's note from the Great Gable Window Search...

 ...and the occasional nail-hole, as you can see in a few of these newly-cut pieces. So glad I took the time to remove Every Single Nail from this lumber before storing it for reuse. It was ready to go!

Apparently this project requires special screws - I'm learning something new here! - so it won't be finished today. I hope you don't mind. I'm turning the simplest of projects into a very long process, but having fun doing it.

And soon I hope to show you the windowboxes in place.

For now, here's a peek:

I hope your Sunday is full of color and adventure!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

ordinary extraordinary life

The middle of June! Time is getting away from me lately.
Each day contains some of the same ordinary elements:
weeding, planting, more weeding, goat chores, home chores, seasonal chores, watering the gardens, more weeding.
Every little thing takes me a long time, but it's all good.

New perennials in a new raised bed:
white coneflower, english lavender, harebells,
and a pink coreopsis.

Heliotrope - the scent is amazing.

One of the white spiderworts has returned!

Bonus: pumpkin from the "leftover seeds" box.

Asian cucumbers, soon to be transplanted.
Piper and I have been out for short walks most days, and sometimes I carry my sketchbook into the woods. I don't look for something to draw; I look for a combination of landscape elements that will make it physically possible for me to sit with a sketchpad for 15 minutes or so, and then - this is important - stand up again.
Once I've found such a place - that's the hard part - I sit.
And then I look around for something to draw.
That's the easy part.

While I focus on ahhht (I'm from Massachusetts), Piper runs loops around me. She explores the area. Then she chooses a Lookout.
Here she is perched high above me, on a slope:

And for the first time in over a year, she actually allowed me to take her picture. She didn't immediately duck her head or turn away at the sight of the camera.

We were serenaded by a redwing blackbird,
perched in the branch of a fallen tree, out in the pond:

We also saw a pair of Great Blue Herons, and the next day we saw one in another part of the wetland. Last year, I saw two in the same area and hoped they would nest nearby, but I never saw them again.
Fingers crossed for this year!

Birds are such a chirping, swooping, fluttering gift. Yesterday, when I was distributing hay on the Upper West Side, I saw something I've never seen before in my life: a Scarlet Tanager. Even if I'd had my camera, I wouldn't have taken a picture; it was a moment to savor.
But if he becomes a frequent visitor, I'll try :)

Meanwhile, after hearing my neighbor shouting "Go! Go away! Get out of here!" early yesterday morning, I think the bears may be about at last.
I've removed the biggest bird feeder, leaving just the hummingbird feeder, and smaller hanging feeders that will only be up during the day, when I am at home.

So we won't be seeing this for a few months:

Squirrels: the Tiniest Bears of All

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

lightly worded wednesday

Piper and I have been taking short walks by the pond, on days when the heat is not too oppressive. Today the skies suddenly opened up a few minutes in, so Piper had a very short walk indeed.

We'll try to make up for it tomorrow.
Meanwhile, here are a few pictures from the past couple of days:

I was blown away by these beautiful pitcher plants:

Sarracenia purpurea

This little turtle was about 20 feet from shore,
and I was another 30 feet inland.
Quite far away...

but I was under intense scrutiny, nonetheless!

I'll bet you recognize this favorite:

Comptonia peregrina

I've been wondering if the ladyslippers didn't bloom at all this year, perhaps because of the sudden and intense heat.
Or if they bloomed and I somehow missed it.
I usually see lots of ladyslippers flowering, but this year...
not a one.

So I was delighted yesterday when I noticed this single blossom, tucked under some low hemlocks branches:

Cypripedium acaule

Back at home, I took a quick snapshot from the car - these columbine and iris are growing on the rocky bank bordering the lower section of driveway:

 There is a lot going on in that garden; most of it good, after the intensive reclamation project that began a couple of years ago. I'm devoting some time to weeding in there this week, a litttle bit every day. It's a small area, but it's tricky with the steep slope.

Necessary work, though. After the big rain, residual bittersweet and wisteria and rubus shot up overnight. After all the brush-clearing and careful planting of perennials, I certainly don't want to let the invasives take over again. Give them an inch, they'll take an ell. Not if I can help it!

I hope you are having blue skies this week :)

Sunday, June 5, 2016

cozy soggy sunday

It's raining - a sweet, gentle rain, perfect for the gardens - so here are a few pictures taken in the gardens earlier this week, when it was sunny.

The forecast - constant rain from Saturday night through Monday morning - provided plenty of incentive for me to get more vegetable seeds into the ground on Friday (popcorn!) and Saturday (more cucumbers).

The cucumbers are a variety from India called poona kheera, and the seed is leftover from 2014 when I grew a few plants which struggled to compete and survive. Last night I planted the remaining 36 seeds in a thickly-seeded row to compensate for the anticipated low germination rate, and we'll see what happens. If three plants grow: bonus! If none sprout, there will be plenty of time to plant squash in that spot.

It's a new experience, having enough garden area to plant old seed with a "nothing to lose!" attitude. Partly, this is because a bit more garden space was created this year, but also, I deliberately limited my seed purchases for 2016. Last year there wasn't much blogging about the gardens because, despite working very hard all season, I had sadly little produce to show for my labors. Maybe just a poor gardening year? It happens. But maybe I also spread myself too thin, trying to grow All The Things? So this year I decided to focus: beans, squashes, corn, and greens.

But when my seed order arrived and I added the packets to my "garden box," I was amazed at how many half-empty seed packets have accumulated in the past couple of years! So although most of my effort will go into the beans, squashes, corn and greens, wherever there is time and space, I'll try to germinate some of the older seed.

Nothing to lose :)

Look who's back!

Not a sharp image...
but at 1/20-second handheld, I'm okay with it.

Speaking of images...
I refer you to one of my favorite blogs: Romping and Rolling in the Colorado Rockies. KB lives in my old neck of the woods, and often her gorgeous images make me yearn for a return. Often. Yearn hard.

Below are links to a couple of recent posts featuring images and video from some of the trail cams KB maintains and very generously shares with the rest of us.

In my opinion, this is the way to do wildlife photography: non-invasively, and from a distance. When I see vivid images of nesting or nocturnal birds that can only have been taken with a flash - a flash right in the face of a vulnerable creature with incredibly sensitive vision - I want to slap a little awareness into the photographer. Every time I see aerial images of wild horses and foals running ("Look! So wild and free!") I want to shake some consideration into the people responsible...those horses and their easily-exhausted babies are running in terror because they are prey animals being pursued by a freaking aircraft!
(Ahem. Stepping off soapbox now.)

So, I love KB's wildlife photography and videography not just for the quality of the images, but for the informed and respectful approach that goes into getting them. She's using long lenses for images of the critters she sees on her daily mountain-biking adventures with her wonderful companion Shyla, and when it comes to the trail cams, she isn't even there when the image-making happens.

This Spring, KB was exceptionally patient in waiting to retrieve images from one camera in particular, because she was being extra careful to avoid disturbing a den. And just look at the images she has now shared with us:

mamabear and baby bears

And here is a post featuring edited video of a healthy, beautiful, and massive male black bear. I've seen quite a few black bears, but I have never, ever witnessed a bear marking trees. I learn a lot from KB's blog!

By the way, I think the bobcat steals the show :)

bear and bobcat

Have a lovely Sunday, wherever you are. Maybe I'll see you soon...a rainy Sunday is a good day to catch up on blog-reading :)

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

wordless wednesday


tuesday tidbits

It's hard to write about what's going on here without mentioning the terribly hot and humid weather. I'm not complaining about the weather; it's just that it is playing an inescapable and major role in my daily life.

In the past month we went from unseasonably cold weather - pots of soup and turning the heat on for an hour every day to take the chill off the house - to "how crazy would it be to turn on air conditioning in May?" with absolutely zero transition in between. For weeks it was too cold to plant, then literally overnight it was unpleasant to work in the garden even before the sun was up. I've managed to get a few seeds planted, and the first sprouts are just beginning to appear.

yellow filet beans

I'm trying to do a little bit in the gardens in the early mornings; weeding or planting. I don't know if I'm hopelessly behind in my gardening this year, or if it just feels that way because the weather says it's August.

asian cucumbers

Last week when Peter (I finally remembered to ask if I could use his first name on the blog instead of calling him "my hired helper") was here, we created a small, Slightly Raised Bed. Worth the effort, but after hours spent on the task - and Peter always comes at 11AM, so the hottest part of the day - I was pretty much useless for two days following. Whew.

Small but carefully crafted. 
First, raking out all the leaf litter, twigs and debris: that's the pile in the left foreground. Then, digging out several inches of soil and rocks: that the pile in the right foreground. Next, using the cart to move a pile of rotting wood to be laid as the base of the bed: that's what you're seeing in the center. After this picture was taken, I spread small branches and that pile of twiggy leaf litter on top of the wood, added a couple of buckets of mucky shavings I've been saving from the Poultry Palace, and topped it all off with the pile of soil and some wood ash. I watered it to help settle the whole bed a little, and watered it again the next morning after planting a hill of summer squash and an edging of chard and chives. The first two squash sprouted this morning. Fingers crossed!

Today was hot but there was often a lovely little breeze, and it was also somewhat less humid. After chores and weeding, Piper and I went for a walk in the woods.

Piper still turns away the moment she sees the camera.
She was a dot in the distance when I took this sneaky picture.
Since this heatwave began, Piper has been spending most of her time flattened out on the floor or in one of her several cushier sleeping spots. Invitations to come outside with me - even invitations that include jingling car keys - have been treated with a lack of enthusiasm that, frankly, borders on disdain. (A bit rude, Piper. Really.)

But today, Piper played "Race You To The Car!" This consists of Piper bounding ahead then turning and running straight back at me several times in the hundred feet between back door and car. The likelihood of having a 50-pound juggernaut slam into my knees adds to the excitement of this game. Piper can stop on a dime, but whether or not she will is sometimes in doubt.

I have been knitting the Leighton Socks at night, while watching Netflix. I'm finally enjoying The West Wing - the whole series, in chronological order - for the first time.

The socks were finished last night, during season 6.

This yarn was a pure joy to knit.
I began with a lace stitch pattern as planned, but after knitting a couple of inches, decided to rip it out and begin again. This plain stockinette stitch is perfect for the subtle tone shifts of the yarn.

I'm happy with the result.

How are things in your neck of the woods?