Category Archives: Maine

The Favorite Tree – Dawn Redwood

In 2010 I bought a Dawn Redwood tree (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) from Fedco Trees. Fedco specializes in small, very well-rooted specimens that are easy to ship and plant. True to form, what I unpacked from that shipment was the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree of redwoods: 2′ tall with a twiggy trunk and sparse, irregular foliage. I picked a likely spot in our swamp for a tree that would/might eventually reach 100′ and left it to fend for itself (which is my favorite philosophy for growing trees). It worked!

Metasequoia glyptostroboides

Yesterday I went out to visit what has become my favorite tree in the garden. The soft, deciduous foliage is turning bronze – equally as beautiful as the luminescent green color in spring. The trunk caliper has increased to 11″, showing off the striated golden-orange bark that will only become deeper and more colorful with age.

Dawn Redwood trunk

R. complimented me on picking a good spot. This is about 15′ from our driveway, which means that if it does get to 100′ (not likely in Maine) the buttressed trunk will probably not interfere with our carpark. Probably.

Might have room for a giant, prehistoric tree in your yard? Fedco has them in this year’s catalog:

Dawn Redwood 100′ One of the most spectacular of the ornamental trees. The wide irregular trunk looks like something out of a fairy tale with its iridescent golden-orange bark that becomes deeply grooved, hollowed and fluted with age. The bright green deciduous needles turn orange in the fall. Grows quickly, up to 50′ in 15–20 years, with many small-diameter horizontal branches and a uniform conical habit. Give it lots of space to grow! Highly adaptable, easy to transplant. Prefers moist deep well-drained slightly acid soil in full sun. Will tolerate wet or dry sites. Pollution resistant; good specimen or street tree, rarely needs pruning. Fossils dating back 50 million years have been found in Japan. Thought to be extinct until it was “rediscovered” in central China in 1941. Resembles California redwoods only vaguely. Metasequoia glyptostroboides Native to China and Japan. Z4. ME Grown. (1-3′ bare-root trees)
Item
525A: 1 for $15.00

Dawn Redwood foliage

Autumn bee maintenance – installing an in-hive warmer

This will be my first winter using an in-hive warmer and, as usual, I’m posting both to share the information and keep a history going for myself. I installed the Warmbees product in August during my last full hive inspection. (Note that Warmbees has changed the configuration on their heater from the one I purchased – the new model looks more compact and can be re-oriented for use in a top bar hive.)

in-hive heater

Photo credit: www.warmbees.com

Installation couldn’t be easier: select the temperature range (mine is set to low to maintain a temperature of about 40 degrees F), drape the wire ribbon with LED signal light and the cord over the edge of the hive box, and plug it in to an extension cord. Naturally, this requires the colony to be within cord distance of an electrical outlet. I haven’t quite figured out a battery/solar configuration yet. There’s no assembly required and you don’t need to know anything about wiring. The tiny LED makes a reassuring glow in the front yard:

hive box with heater

I used an Imirie shim installed with the opening toward the back of the hive to run the cord and ribbon through, and blocked the extra space with dry grass. When I wrap the hive with insulation for winter in November I’ll tape over the hole as the bees should be used to it by then. When I replaced the quart mason jar of sugar syrup for fall feeding today (they’ve been going through a quart every three days) I noticed that they’ve built beautiful, regular comb over the wires running on top of the frame.

The beauty of this device is that it is controlled by the internal temperature of the hive box. Other products that wrap around the outside of the equipment doesn’t sense the heat generated by the cluster of bees and by overheating them can convince them to fly in freezing weather. We had a frost last night but with a good sized cluster generating its own warmth the heater hasn’t needed to go on to keep the internal temp at around 40. I have high hopes that this product will help an otherwise healthy colony last through the long, cold Maine winter and the cold, wet spring that follows.

The garden in late September after the first frost:

September garden

 

New Work – Paint the Farm

Maine Farmland Trust and the Falcon Foundation are collaborating on a project called “Paint the Farm” to create paintings of farms and farm life in Maine. I chose the Peggy Rockefeller Farm, which operates as part of the College of the Atlantic, in Bar Harbor. This is the road to the hay barn off Norway Drive last week.

March Thaw

March Thaw, oil on panel, 20 x 16

March 2015: The Snow Garden

The first crop to be direct-seeded is always the peas. Some years I have tomato seedlings under lights that are weeks old, lettuce and green onions in flats, trays of cosmos and delphinium, but all those will have to wait until May before venturing outside. The peas are hardy souls, they love the icy soil, and they’re cheap enough that I can re-sow a batch if the temperatures drop too low.

This year we have nearly 4′ of snow over the entire garden. We had a few days this week where the temperatures finally made it above freezing but the snow pack simply settled and solidified. It’s not going anywhere fast. Yesterday I decided to help it along a little by digging through the drifts at the front of the house and excavating a bed to help it warm up under a sheet of black plastic.

Our metal roof dumps snow easily, which is a good thing when we don’t have to climb up there and shovel if off, and a bad thing when I have to cut through 5 – 6′ of packed drifts. Here’s the path to the spring pea bed (eventually):

pea-bed-001

I was very pleased that I managed to aim right to the corner of the pea bed – that is some NASA level shoveling right there.

shovel snow Now to shovel off the bed proper and cover it with black plastic to warm up:

future peas

For reference, this is what the rest of the garden looks like now, in March:

digging out or in

And this is the same view in June, 2014:

Maine JuneFor my bee group, all that yellow bloom is Dyer’s Woad, Isatis tinctoria. It’s a wonderful bee plant and a good source of blue dye.

July in January

I’ve been working on my 2015 seed order this week and talking with a few garden friends about preferences in paprika peppers; rabbit and pigeon predation (I thought I had it bad with deer – at least they don’t fly!); cover crops, and the Eternal Chicken Question. All this brings to mind images of the garden in full green swing, not the current landscape of dingy grey snow with muddy patches and with a buzzcut of bare twigs and pale grasses. Here are some of my favorite images from July, 2014. (I was planning to take some side-by-side photos of today’s garden but it was too depressing – we don’t need a reminder that the ground is hard as iron right now and it will easily be four more months until it begins to soften and “green up”.)

Just outside the dooryard, on the southfacing hillside: broccoli, breadseed poppies, sorrel, mullein, strawberries, parsley, and a Beta pie cherry tree all held in place by withy rows of Black and Scottish basket willow. Down on the lower level you can see the Washington Hawthorns providing a thorny barrier against deer (and almost enough haws for a batch of jelly in 2014) and the silver foliage of the snake willow.

Broccoli withy

More from the dooryard: purple basil, pinks, calendula, and carrots grow under the Seckel pear tree. There’s an elderberry bush coming up on the left that will need to be transplanted (again!) into the swamp during Garden 2015.

purple basil and calendula

Entrance to the lower garden: rhubarb, German paste tomatoes, mustards (in bloom), columbine, Joe Pye weed, and rugosa

rhubarb, tomatoesPink and white rose-mallow, well, mostly white this year! It was nearly smothered by pole beans in August but managed well enough to be featured in several still life paintings.

mallowThe chaos that is the lower garden center: mullein, Russian crabapple, marshmallow, goldenrod (for bee fodder), and one of the glacial erratics that characterize the Maine island garden. There’s a path in there too, somewhere. . . .

lower gardenIn every photo set from my garden there should be at least one very, very confused plant. This Angelica decided to grow up through a cinderblock amidst the nasturtium and pole beans, and it did very well, considering.

sugar cane

Can’t wait until July, 2015!

 

 

 

Happy Merry from Christmas past

This awesome holiday drawing was done by our son, circa 1995.

christmas at our house

There are details here that deserve commentary:

  • We built this house when Boy was a toddler, so there some things have received more emphasis than they might have from a child that didn’t witness quite so much construction for instance – light switches. As in, hey – we now have electricity!
  • Yes, we did store kayaks on hooks from the ceiling. In our defense, it’s a very small house with very high ceilings and it seemed like a good idea at the time?
  • Snow falls off that steep metal roof like king-sized mattresses being dropped from 40′. It sounds like thunder and was obviously a big part of his childhood.
  • Our neighbors were often in the front yard, spoiling for a snowball fight. I don’t remember the Darth Vader get-up but it’s possible.
  • My partner is a landscape painter. That painting hanging on the wall is a pretty good reproduction of a Robert Pollien.

May your season now be merry, and may you have joyous records of the time spent before!

New work

I spent a lovely week on Great Spruce Head Island a few years back and have sketchbooks, drawings, and photos that I’ve been working on ever since. The color swatches alone are enough to bring up detailed memories of the morning light on Penobscot Bay and thunderstorms on hot afternoons under the spruce trees. This is a study of the rock that ends Double Beaches like a punctuation mark, 12 x 16, oil on panel:

Double Beaches, GSHI

New work – pastel

I’ve set up the pastel corner of the studio and decided to try out my new idiom in that media. My new effort is centered around allowing information to accumulate: marks that describe color and volume coming together over the entire surface of the work. I’ve been working at this in oils for a few months and it makes a kind of perverse sense that it is an easier thought process in chalk.

Frenchboro Wharf

Frenchboro, Wharf with Fishing Gear, 18 x 24, pastel on board

New work, matching set

August in Maine is by turns bright and stormy, and always chock full of cars, camper vans, and people. We have family and friends visiting, phone calls and g-chat, and people in expensive cars from out-of-state pulling over to the side of the gravel road to ask about the garden and take pictures. All this will start to taper off after Labor Day and disappear entirely before Thanksgiving so I’ll take the crowds now as antidote to the barren landscape when it comes. Meanwhile, in the moments in between visitors, we paint.

This is the matching piece to last month’s small painting done in Frenchboro titled “Shade Trees”, 20 x 16, oil on panel. Both pieces are currently hanging at the Artemis Gallery in Northeast Harbor, and look lovely glowing under the good lights against the white walls there.

Frenchboro Harbor

 

New work from the Blagden Preserve

This site has been very, very good to me. . .something about the stacked layers of rocks and water going straight out to the horizon that is visually compelling. Right now in late June and just past the longest day it’s like a desert down there on the rocks, but I took a long hike along the shore on Mother’s Day when the snow still extended down to the water’s edge and made the start to this painting.

Blagden Preserve, Snow 1

By popular request, here are some details. . . the far reaches are under water at high tide and are covered in rockweed and barnacles, turning them a lovely warm sepia color even in the dead of winter.

Blagden Preserve, Snow detail 1

Detail of the rotten snow along the tide line:

Blagden Preserve, Snow detail 3

 

And finally, the drawing stage from the site. This is Ivory Black oil on a tinted board.

Blagden Preserve, Drawing detail