New work

I’ve finished a 16″ x 20″ study of the front room at Thuya Lodge. There’s a lot going on in this small space and I think it’s a good choice for a larger painting – 32″ x 40″ would be very large for me.

Thuya Lodge study - The Rocking ChairWhen I finish a painting I often study enlarged random sections of the digital image. Do the individual brush strokes make sense of the shapes? Is the color pure and purposeful? Do the edges where colors meet perform well? I fall short of the mark of course, but it’s a helpful process on the long road to improvement. Below are the sections I chose to examine on this piece:

random detail ceiling

random detail lamp

random detail lamp 2

The stag tree

If you go out my front door and take a right and follow the path through the blueberry field . . .

the path. . . well, first you’ll come across this nest of mound building ants. This is only an aside to the main attraction which is still some ways out, but it’s interesting – ants built this! They circulate the stony subsoil up to the surface as they build tunnels and rooms below. The mounds can be huge – this active nest is four feet across and about two feet high.

ant houseThe crater just beyond the ant-haus in this photo is proof of another charming local custom. Back 100 years ago, when wealthy “rusticators” were building cottages-cum-mansions all over the Island, their ground crews harvested trees from fallow property wherever they pleased. Soil is hard won here and trees grow very slowly, so the perfectly circular holes where they dug out nicely symmetrical conifers still remain to trip up unwary hikers.

At the end of the little path is a section of “cut road”. Follow that for a while,

cut roadand then take a left on to another deer path. Follow that deeper into the pine woods.

deer pathThe deer path ends at a stag tree.

stag treeIt looks like a bear or cougar has been working on the bark, but actually a buck has been scraping the spring velvet off his antlers. I hear it itches.

stag tree antler damageBears do mark trees, even the very shy and retiring (and fat) black bears we have around here, but their claws scrape down the line of the trunk. If you look closely you can see where this damage goes up the trunk, against the grain, and makes splintered pieces stick out.

All kinds of things go on in the back yard this time of year.


Your weekly Owl

I’ve noticed an uptick in Social Capital Owl costume changes lately. Maybe it’s the bustle of the summer starting up (out-of-state license plates have been seen on the road already) or it could be that the Owl is just more accessible now that the snow drifts have melted. Three weeks ago we had Mardi Gras Owl whose gauzy lime butterfly wings were sadly battered by a rain and wind. Someone carefully removed all the finery and left it in a plastic shopping bag on my front stoop for safekeeping and for a few days the Owl wore a nice wool scarf. Then, to mark Thursday’s record breaking high temperature of 80 degrees F (!!) another anonymous Owler duct taped on a pair of sunglasses. And here you have it – a totally appropriate commentary on our coldest/hottest spring ever:

Future's so bright, I have to wear shades.


I dug a hole in the lower garden this weekend, and this is what I got.

Load 16 tons, and what do you get. . .

We moved here twenty years ago and started gardening as soon as we could fell some trees, but we have neighbors who have been at it almost twice as long. When I asked R.A.T. (who has beautiful gardens and fruit trees with C., his wife) what kind of soil I could expect to find on my lot he thought for a minute and said, “Sparky”. I had no idea what he meant but later that summer when I boot-heeled a spading fork into a future raised bed and nearly started a forest fire scraping the metal against the granite,  I got it. We don’t have dirt here, we have flint and tinder.

Yeah, good luck getting this one out.

I’ve hauled a lot of seaweed in the last twenty years – pickup truck loads of the stuff, first loose in the back of the truck and later packed into recycled contractor bags as I realized what the salt and sand did to my truck. Also leaves, sand, gravel, horse manure, bales and bales of hay, piles of pine needles, composted bio-soils, wood chips and lately, other people’s yard waste and branches as I’ve adapted to the practices of permaculture. I can actually grow things now but that doesn’t mean there’s any fewer rocks, large or small.

Extra large family size over compensating rock.

Rocks can occasionally be a positive element in the garden, especially in poor soil. I was weeding the strawberries during this last gasp of summer-in-November and found the plants had spread furiously under and around the rocks holding down the landscape fabric meant to suppress weeds. I stood there for a while and considered the situation. The strawberry plants loved those rocks, perhaps because they conserved moisture and regulated temperature changes? The landscape fabric certainly wasn’t doing anything to suppress weeds, and I have a lot of rocks. Why not make the plants happy? The strawberry bed went from this:

Argghhhh, mass strawberry attack.

to this:

Order out of chaos. Sweet, sweet order.

If nothing else, it will be easier to step into the middle of the bed to pick the fruit, and it can’t be any worse at weed suppression than the landscape fabric. Prettier too, and I find that counts for a lot in the garden.

Halloween Owl

This morning someone came by and dressed Social Capital Owl as a rather formal tiger for Halloween. There’s a bowtie involved. . .

The mystery neighbor even taped the ears to the plastic owl “horns” so they’ll stand up to the wind and rain, and took away the summer costume of a child’s yellow sun dress and flower garland. Nice job!

Bear 1, Beehive 0

Last night we had all the windows open and around 10 I heard something fall over outside. We’re under a waning crescent moon and I couldn’t see anything past the halo from the kitchen light, so I decided not to go investigate. I’d hate to trip over one of our suitcase-size raccoons.

In the morning, I found this –

Evidently the bear that has been taking down bird feeders in the neighborhood found the empty beehive at the edge of the yard. It contained a few frames that had been built-out with beeswax, but no honey. Probably still smelled good, though, and bears have excellent noses.

My colonies are in the lower garden behind an electric fence. Tonight I’ve left the fallen hive parts where they lie, hoping the bear will realize there’s nothing there of interest for him or her and discourage him from searching further. I guess we’ll see if I’ve out-thought a bear.