Thursday, April 28, 2016

April Knit ~ Mitts

I officially did not touch a set of knitting needles for the entire month of March. Mostly, I think, because I'm confining myself to using yarn I already have and am feeling uninspired by what's left of my stash. I had a ball of lace-weight cashmere that I couldn't find, so the runner up was half a skein of soft Malabrigo left over from a pair of mitts I knitted my sister a couple of years ago.


I'm not a huge fan of pink, so I figured I'd make these for someone else, but the color--which is really more of a magenta with two shades of red than pink--started to grow on me. And the yarn is so nice and soft and squishy that I decided I need another pair of mitts.

I thought I might put them away until next fall, but then it got cold again (and snowed!) earlier this week, so these have already been pressed into service. In the meantime, I found my lace-weight cashmere. Whatever I decide to knit with it, it will surely take all the live-long summer, and possibly through to the end of the year. Or I might just use up all the bulky odds and ends in my stash in a massive felted bowl/instant gratification project.

Notes on my Ravelry page.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Wild Wednesday ~ Cooper's Hawk

I took last Thursday off to prepare the house for weekend guests, but it was such a nice day, I found it hard to stay inside cleaning. So midmorning, I headed out for a little stroll. As I entered the woods, I saw a small bird fly into a brush pile. I raised my binoculars to see if I could follow it, when into my view from landed this Cooper's hawk, not 20 feet away from me.


I watched it for a while as it hopped around on the brush pile, no doubt searching for the same little bird I had tried to see. After some time, I shifted my weight and startled the bird off to a tree across a clearing (it's always the human that breaks the spell, isn't it). I ran back to the house, grabbed my camera and big lens and hurried back to the woods, where I found the bird still on its branch. 

So engrossed was I in taking pictures, I didn't notice a chirping sound in the trees off to my right, but as I was looking down at the camera to see I got exposure right when a flutterment and a scufflement arose in the tree where the chirping had been and this yellow warbler fluttered into a tree ahead of me. That was two misses for the Cooper's, who I was sure was in the brush off to the right, but could not find for the life of me. It's so well-camoflaged with those gray and brown feathers that I never would have seen it the first time if it hadn't flown into my view.

On my way back to the house, I spied the first painted turtles that I've seen this season, basking as happily in the sun as I was (blissfully unaware that snow would come again this week!).

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Weekend Hike ~ Camden Hills

My brother and his girlfriend visited us from Boston over the weekend, so we took them to the coast for a little hike in the Camden Hills.

One of the highlights of the adventure was this downed tree, which was actually four or five trees, all bound together in the same root mass that unfortunately has very shallow purchase on rocks and they all went down together.

 E and Z enjoyed running down the "bouncy log." Clearly they did not get their sense of balance from me.

There is a cross at the top of Maiden Cliff, commemorating a little girl who fell to her death there 100 years or so ago. My husband and children had fun getting as close to the edge as possible.

I must have spent most of my day hiking with Z--or he was being the most entertaining (the mountaintop handstands were impressive), because he shows up in most of my photos.

I was excited to see tons of the cute little polypody ferns (Polypody virginianum) growing along the trail.

And C discovered a few of these yellow forest violets (Viola pubescens) growing in the trail.

The kids alternated between being too tired to move and running down the trail at breakneck speed--as always.

Afterward, we went into Camden in search of ice cream, but none was to be had this early in the season.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Growing Mushrooms

I'm generally too lazy for any kind of gardening or yard work, but we got this shiitake mushrooms kit for Christmas and since I'm the only one who enjoys eating mushrooms, I knew I had to be the one to put the kit into action.



The process was fairly simple--drill holes in logs, place inoculated plugs into holes, cover with melted wax. The drill bit, wax, and wax dauber all came with the kit. All we needed was the logs, which C had conveniently cut the previous week, a drill, and something in which to melt the wax.

I don't have any pictures of the process because C was making a movie so I had to do all the work, but here is the finished product: our mushroom logs. Now we just have to wait a few months, and then--feast!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Wild Wednesday ~ Signs of Spring

Spring this year has been coming in fits and starts. Twice my crocus came up (first yellow, then purple) only to be flattened by cold snaps before I had a chance to enjoy them (but not before I took their picture). Daffodils and one hyacinth are blooming now in one spot near a stone wall, but it's in a place I hardly ever go so I forget about them!


In just the last few days the grass has really made an effort at turning green, but a couple weeks ago, little patches of clover like this one were all the green to be found.

Meanwhile, the trees (and shrubs) have been getting busy either flowering or budding out. Among the first were the speckled alder (Alnus incana) catkins. The long, caterpillar-like ones are the male catkins (flowers), the round pine-coney ones are last year's female catkins, and the tiny, knobs that you can't really see in the picture are this year's female catkins. A couple of weeks ago, you could shake an alder branch and see orange clouds of pollen billow away. Today when I shook a branch, all the male catkins fell off. Their work is done and now it's up to the pollinated female ones to incubate their seeds.


One of the first trees to flower is the quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides). Fuzzy little catkins worm out of resinous bud scales early in the spring. These mostly grow at the very tops of the trees and I took out my zoom lens to get some pictures (and to get some practice using that lens).


 Another early budder is the red maple (Acer rubrum), so-named because of its red buds.



And, of course, the pussy willows (Salix spp.). I almost didn't catch these before they'd fully unfurled from their single bud scale.


One of the most exciting buds to see are the lilacs, my favorite flower. Ours have been very slow to bloom since I planted them (14 years ago!!) and are a little stingy with flowers (I think they might not get enough sun), but I always hold out hope for a profusion of blossoms.

We saw these little flowers on one of our hikes this weekend: beaked hazelnut (Corylus cornuta).





Here's one of last year's fruits that give this shrub its name.

Another exciting site we've had this spring is bald eagles. We've seen a pair or more on several occasions, flying right above our house. We're hoping that they are getting ready to nest down by our river and that we'll see more of them over the summer.




Monday, April 18, 2016

Weekend Things ~ Three Hikes

I've been trying to get back into my blogging rhythm. I don't know what I've been doing with the time I used to spend here. Reading some. Writing some. A little project-making. Prepping for and teaching workshops (which use up whole days without generating blog posts). Prepping for a big trip we hope to take this summer (which I'll tell you all about once everything falls into place). Not going to bed early, certainly. Then there's our finicky-of-late internet, which is being poached by more and more people around here. Also, C has started vlogging, so perhaps I've mentally passed the documentarist baton to him. Whatever it's been, I had three weeks of photos on my camera, waiting to be uploaded and edited. But here I am and here I hope to be at least a couple of times a week.




We had a beautiful, sunny, three day weekend so Saturday morning, I asked everyone if they'd rather go on one big hike over the weekend or shorter, closer hikes every day. They opted for the latter.
 So Saturday afternoon, we headed to a little trail just up the road from our house--Marr's Hill. The trail runs through a sugar bush and we had to pass under these sap lines like giant spiders webs.

The big highlight of the trail is this stonehenge-like monument with a chair on top from which you can see all the way to the Camden Hills.


 This is such great hiking weather--warm and sunny (nearing 70 degrees), and no b*gs. I know the bl*ck fl*es will be out soon (usually they show up the first of May), so I'm trying to enjoy this bite-free weather as much as I can (* if you say there name, it calls them to you).

Sunday we headed down closer to the coast, to one of our favorite hiking destinations, Dodge Point.

The trail runs along the Damariscotta River (which is tidal and so has a very oceany-feel about it.

We saw two seals in the water near the pier. I've never seen them so far upstream below.

The boys followed the shoreline from the pier to the first beach while I stuck to the trail, thus gaining a few minutes of peace and quiet.

At the third beach--the brickyard beach--this downed tree's root system, which has been there as long as I can remember, has either shrunk or the kids have grown.

I never noticed this part before--part of the root in the center has been bleached white and looks like a pair of hands.



One of my favorite parts of this hike is the old farm road we follow on the way out through a red pine plantation. It looks just like The Hundred Acre Wood to me.


Finally, today we took a short jaunt to another trail in town, The Whitefield Salmon Preserve.

The boys were most excited about the illicit bridge crossing we had to make at the start of the trail. Z went on the hike shirtless and barefoot (pretending to be a monkey) and E wore his backpacking pack with a sleeping bag, two water bottles and two oranges inside of it.

I took a bonus fourth hike on a trail next to the kids' school while E and Z had baseball practice Monday evening. It had started to rain lightly by then, but I stayed nice and dry in my little microclimate bubble beneath my trekking umbrella, while the boys on the ball field got soaked.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Easter Things

One minute you're sharing a chair with one of your children, pretending to watch Stampy's Minecraft Easter Special, but really just breathing in the scent of his head, which smells faintly, unbelievably the way it did when he was a baby, sort of warm and sweet, kind of like a beeswax candle, but not at all, really, a smell as indescribable as it is unreplicable, despite the best efforts of baby lotion manufacturers. You remember the way you used to take small, surreptitious licks of his and his brother's head, like a cat, dabbing your tongue on the peach skin of his loose and fuzzy scalp, hoping to put a taste to the smell, but finding that the aroma stands on its own.


An hour or two later, or perhaps the next morning, you're threatening to cancel the Easter Bunny, because the child with the fleetingly baby-scented head and his twin brother just. won't. listen.

Of course you don't mean it, really. And they know that. You haven't cancelled a single Christmas or birthday yet, despite innumerable threats of the same.


You all three manage to get the house reasonably clean and haul up the and distribute the Easter decorations, because it is the day before Easter and you really can't put it off any longer.

And the children with the honeydew scalps pick up a basket of wooden eggs that they painted with a relative years ago and take turns hiding them around the house for each other and finding them. They don't put on the rabbit suit, which they wore for this activity year after year after year, until the leg cuffs of the costume barely reached their knees. And you miss the rabbit suit, a little, but you also revel in the wonder of two big boys finding joy in hiding and finding eggs--until they don't, until some unspoken rule of the game has been violated, and childlike play turns into shouting and they move on.


Later, one of those children, who saw his big brother snooping in the Easter candy which you had placed on the highest high shelf in the kitchen, tells you he thinks the Easter bunny brings some of the candy, but that parents help with the rest of it. They had argued hard against the possibility of Santa Claus and, though your only response had been, "Santa only brings presents to those who believe in him," you had expected that they were convinced by their own arguments. You marvel at the capacity of children to hang onto wonder, to believe in magic despite all evidence to the contrary.


The next day, after egg hunts and jelly beans and too many sweet breads and your idea of Easter dinner, which does not involve a ham, you pull out the Easter books and read to these children who no longer clamor for a story, who don't disdain picture books, necessarily, but who show no interest in them. You start with Jan Brett's Easter Egg, which has lovely pictures but a kind of vapid, in your opinion, story, and follow it up with The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, a story so ahead of its time--feminist and populist and egalitarian--a story, you think, that if every child read it every Easter, you might live in a world with fewer fanatics and racists and misogynists in positions of power, where everyone is as wise and kind as Old Grandfather Bunny.

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