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!

Work in progress – the Studio

Our studio is slowly taking shape down the hill in the swamp. The 14′ x 20′ frame was completed last week.

new studio 1

The large opening on the second floor front will frame the sliders that open on to my studio space via an outside staircase. Below is the door to R’s space on the first floor.

new studio front

Nice view out the first floor windows to the swamp. I’ll have one large window on that side, but wasn’t up for climbing the ladder to the second floor.

post and beam studio interior

And, for old time’s sake, a photo of the old studio before we tore it down and started this one in almost the same spot. 10 x 12, one story on posts, it served the purpose for a long time – now on to something new and much better insulated!

before picture


pysanka with chicken

Connie T., who lives a half mile further down our road, has a flock of chickens which lay beautiful blue, tan, and stark white eggs. I know this because occasionally I come home to a box of these beauties on the doorstep – what a treat! She also makes Pysanky, the beautiful Easter eggs that that have been made in Russia and the Ukraine since prehistoric times. No actual eggshells from that time exist, but ceramic replicas have been found from all the way back to the 3rd millennium BC. Legend says that pysanky keep the Serpent at bay, and that as long as sufficient numbers are made each spring the horrible monster will stay chained to a cliff in the Underworld. Thanks, Connie, for making the world a safer place!

easter-egg-front easter-egg-border easter-egg-verso

A Grandma and her Cat

I have so far stayed far away from sharing cat pictures on the ‘net, but  Misao to Fukumaru (Misao the Big Mama and Fukumaru the Cat), the story of an elderly woman and her beloved “odd-eyed” cat living in the Japanese country side is irresistible. Find a slide show of photos from the book at nippon.com titled “Enjoying Life One Day at a Time: A Grandma and Her Cat”.

The giant white tubers in these photos are Daikon radishes. I can grow them here in Maine but it will be many years before I have this depth of soil. How many years do you suppose the Bōsō Peninsula has been home to farmers? As to the photo of bathtub filled with orange gourds, I really wish I knew what was going on there, I do.

The book by photographer and grandaugher Ihara Miyoko is available from various sellers on Amazon.


Bees in a Bag

Three weeks ago we hived two new packages of bees from BeeWeaver Apiaries. The weather here has been unseasonably cool and rainy – even for Downeast Maine – but the bees are thriving.

two hives

There were a few dozen bees left in the box after I installed them, so I bagged the delivery box and stored in our hoop house to give them a fighting chance to make it through the cold, rainy night. The next morning I set the box down near the hives and slit the front open. Bees spilled out almost immediately and it looked like they were headed to their new homes (that’s the black garbage bag to the right of the hives in this photo).

two hives and a bag

I admit it might have been asking for trouble to leave the bag sitting there until Saturday. I have a day job, OK? Cut a girl some slack. When I came to dispose of the bag and empty packages I found that bees had moved in and started building comb. The bag was FULL of bees, lots of traffic in and out, loud buzzing, the works. They weren’t happy with me for trying to pick up their new home so I didn’t get a good photo, but you can see a patch of lovely golden comb in the bag’s opening. I’d estimate the bag weighed 5 -7 lbs.

bag o bees

I put together a new hive box, waited till late afternoon when everyone was home, and installed them (bag and all) into the new location – making sure they were oriented the same way. We’ve had another few days of rain but today, in the bright sun, there is heavy traffic in and out of the hive. They are friendly and social and don’t seem to be testy at all – a good sign since I don’t know this colony. The neighborhood children who named the other hives “Avocado” and “MilknHoney” have named this one “Surprise!”.

new home

The 2012 dandelion crop is spectacular.

dandelion harvest

There was a bee on every flower. Plenty of bee fodder in the alpine bed too: heaths, heather, and rockcress.

alpines heath heather rockcress

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.

The (Wo)Man on the Clapham Omnibus

is a British judicial conceit of a hypothetical person, generally educated and reasonably intelligent, to be used as a standard of behaviour against which a defendant can be measured – say in a suit about negligence.  I enjoy having layman’s status in any number of fields, which is why I was delighted to be a guest of Chairman Ben Tippett and his Titanium Physicists, Jocelyn and Dave for a podcast on the Solar Neutrino Problem.

This episode is a great example of the TP motto, “the boundary between the incomprehensible and the well explained”. And although my guest role is pretty much confined to saying, “What?” and “Vous parles trop vit!”, at regular intervals, the physicists are outstanding.

Go, listen! Alez physique!

BTW, the bunny’s name is Barn, after the system of measurement. Cute, no?


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.