Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Summer Takes a Curtain Call

We had a short, sweet return to 80-degree temperatures this past weekend. On Saturday, M and I went to see one of his favorite musicians, spending a long, fruitless hour driving confusedly around southern Maine in an attempt to find a destination I wanted to hit to make our trip more worthwhile (but got a brief stop at a nice beach and saw lots of fancy coastal houses we'll buy when we become rock stars/blockbuster novelists. Hopefully that will happen before the sea level rises too much and sinks all our dreams) on our way down. Fortunately, we left early and our musician started late. It was a great show, despite being located in a hot, unattractive industrial parking lot, and M got to meet Samuel James briefly, before he had to go and get water to stave off heat stroke from performing onstage in the direct sunlight.

Sunday, the whole family went to Reid State Park, accompanied by much grumbling by the two boys who have decided they HATE the beach. And just to prove it, they stayed in the sand all day, not going anywhere near the water. Until just before we left, when I said, "Before we go, I want you to come down to the water with me just for a second."

And then they dipped their toes in the surf. And ran away from a few waves. And then ran into a few more waves. Until pretty soon they were completely soaked (because of course they didn't put on their swimming suits, because they HATE the beach and weren't going to go anywhere near the water). And still they jumped the waves and fell in the waves and played in the waves. After they got good and shivery and blue in the lips, we wrapped them up in towels and took them home, away from the beach they HATE so much. We stopped for an ice cream on the way--the last day it was open, and they needed to finish spending the gift certificates they got for their birthdays last May--you know, as compensation for making them go to the beach on a beautiful warm day in September.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hitting The Trail

Today I'm over at Mud Puddles to Meteors with a few words about one of our favorite local hiking destinations.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


"Let's walk down to the river," I say, after the rain lets up and the world warms up, all steamy and green.

"NO!" they shout.

"C'mon," I say, "let's go for a stomp."

"I don't want to go for a stomp!" they say. "If I go outside, I'm riding my bike."

There was a time when I could coax, cajole, when they were small enough I could put rubber boots on their feet and lift them up and carry them out the front door, when they were timid enough not to stay at the house without me there.

But that was a long time ago.

Now they pile up scrap wood and "jump" their bikes over it. 

They're in that age when nothing their mother suggests appeals to them. I've been through it once before, but this time there are no sweet five-year-olds to pain leaves and hunt for bugs and build fairy houses with me and take away the sting. 

If the oldest one were home, he might go along, just to humor me, but he's at a friend's house for the day.

So I go alone.

Inspired by an essay I read not long ago ("The Art of Wandering" by Ann Zwinger), I don't follow the trail, but instead swerve off into the trees.

A week earlier I had done the same, following the river north instead of south, until it reached the road.

This time I go the way I've only gone in winter, when we go out in search of a Christmas tree or to skate on our neighbor's pond.

I admit it's nice, alone with my own thoughts, but I wonder what it means for me and my platform of "mother-nature writer" if my kids don't want to go out into nature with me.

"I feel a little alarmed when it happens that I have walked a mile into the woods bodily, without getting there in spirit." H. D. Thoreau. 

I try to be mindful, and focus on what's around me, without thinking about what I want or need to do with the rest of my day, or writing a blog post in my head. (I composed that sentence while on this walk).

Monday, September 22, 2014

Around the Yard at the End of Summer

Things are looking distinctly fall-ish around our homestead of late.

Which, I guess is only appropriate, since tomorrow is the first day of fall.

We had a frost Saturday morning, that finished off our basil and cucumbers (we never really had any tomatoes to speak of).

I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm not ready for it yet, the cold.

But then again, I never am.

Some bugs are still working away as if winter will never come.

At the same time, red is replacing green as the color of the landscape.

These sumacs are even redder today than when I took their picture yesterday.

And for wildflowers, we're down to mostly aster--with a hold-out goldenrod or late black-eyed Susan here and there.

There are a LOT of asters out there, and I'm trying to puzzle them out.

It's interesting how Mother Nature puts on her greatest show this time of year--most colorful flowers, riotous leaves--right before snuffing it all out. There's probably a life lesson in there somewhere, but for now I'll try to enjoy the show...and try to learn the names of some of these flowers.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Insect Love

I found myself home alone for a short while Sunday afternoon. It was too cool out to read in the hammock, and when I tried to work on a writing project in the sunroom, I kept getting distracted by dragonflies whizzing by the windows. I had just been to an all-day insect class, and I couldn't just sit there without going out to try to catch them.

Darners fly fast and high, and after chasing them for a time, catching only one Canada darner, I wandered around the yard to see what else was about. I caught a small orange and black butterfly, but didn't think of taking its picture before I let it go. And then this white admiral posed for a some pictures.

As I walked through the grass, I saw a pair of little blues mating, but when I crouched down to take their picture, they fluttered away. When I looked around to see where they had gone, I discovered they had landed on my pants leg.

I was able to take several pictures, and got a good look at the orange spots on their hind wings, the dark charcoal shade of the female's upper wing surface and the iridescent purple-blue of the male's. I even saw the faint hair-thin "tail" that gives them their name--Eastern Tailed Blue.

And still they kept at it. After a while I got a little bored and moved them to a nearby clover plant and went in to get my journal. I sketched them and wrote about them and finally, finally, they began wiggling around, grasping leaves, trying to uncouple, which took several more minutes.

And then I caught one more dragon, this Black-Tipped Darner, before getting back to work.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Swallowtail Update

Our black swallowtail caterpillars have become pupa!

They have now entered their most vulnerable stage of life (teenager hood--it's tough for all species), with all of their systems, except their central nervous system, dissolved into a gel, ready to rearrange caterpillar into butterfly. But first, diapause, while it waits out the winter, pretending to be just another curled brown leaf (in contrast to the beautiful jade and gold of the monarch chrysalis).

I spoke to a butterfly expert about our caterpillars Saturday, and he suggested tying thread to those very tiny strands of silk that anchor them to the sticks, and then carefully peeling away the cremaster (the anchor point) and hanging them by the thread in an open shed. The advantage of this method would be that when the butterflies emerge (or eclose), they would be able to just fly away (and not get trapped in a jar). The disadvantage is that we would not be able to bring them inside and watch it happen. The pupa might also be more vulnerable to predators, although I'm sure my pretzel jar with lime-bag netting for a cover is not exactly mouse-proof.

I decided to just put the jar up under the rafters of our carport for now. Tying thread to those tiny strands seems like it would be tricky business. Also, I do want to see the final result next spring. We just have to remember we've got them when the snow melts and it begins to warm up outside.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Curious Beast

M has a guest post about pitcher plants up at Mud Puddles to Meteors today.

With a little encouragement from his mama.
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