local postcards

IMG_9456.JPG

I was hoping to sit down and write something witty about the honesty of country folk, and my love for the honor box system used up here by so many, but I’ve almost exhausted the topic right there in one sentence. Having spent most of my years in and around cities, the trusting nature of the arrangement at first sent me into shock, and even now I grin when I tuck my money (or even better, my personal check!) into a coffee can with a slot cut in the lid. It’s a beautiful thing.

I wrote a check today for $13 and change and walked away with three pint cartons of raspberries and two filled with gorgeous Maine blueberries. After a thunderous, wet morning, some time at the computer, and a very chilly swimming lesson, the hot hot sun finally emerged, causing both grass and moods to steam. We had to get out of the house, and so we went berry picking. I had taken the girls last week, and the pickings were slim, literally. A few days of sunshine, and we had no trouble filling our baskets and our bellies. A late afternoon in the berry patch was just what the doctor ordered.

IMG_9415IMG_9482

Our attitudes much improved, we took the long way home so that we could stop at the farm stand for veggies. It’s out of the way for us now that we’ve moved, so I was glad to be over on that side of town. It’s a gorgeous little place. Today we came home with asparagus, romaine, a zucchini and a summer squash for under $8, and a BIG bag of garlic scapes for free. I have no idea what to do with those curly darlings, so would love to have your suggestions in the comments. Pesto, maybe?

IMG_9416IMG_9417IMG_9420IMG_9419

Earlier this month, I got a rare morning out with my mom. I picked her up and took her to the cafe for iced coffee, and then we walked through town, stopping to mail a thank you note at the post office. We were headed for the annual town craft fair at the community center. It was crowded, in a good way, and I picked up a wedding gift, some lip balm for myself, and that adorable dress for my Beans. She ranks raccoons up there with airplanes, and I knew this “woodland animal” print would be a hit (it was). A quick stop to visit Ms. Barbara’s antique shop yielded those sweet hankies. And when I dropped a bag of things off at the swap shed, those pansies were screaming for me to bring them home. On the way home, I grabbed sugar snap peas from the farm stand, local honey and maple syrup from the country store, and the first Maine tomatoes of the summer from a family here in town.

What would your local postcards look like? Mine clearly revolve around food and vintage goodies.

lunch break

IMG_9468IMG_9469IMG_9470

I took my lunch break on the water today.

You might remember my first foray into kayaking at the end of last summer. It was challenging, and I loved it because it tasted like freedom and independence. We mamas don’t get much silence, nor is there often the chance to sit alone in a quiet place and just not talk to anyone. Being on the water in your own personal craft seemed to be the solution, particularly if I could load and unload it myself. That sweet husband of mine surprised me with a second-hand vessel last week, and in my favorite color no less. We struggled together with a roof rack and oddball straps for about an hour before realizing that even if I got it down, I wouldn’t be able to hoist it that high by myself to bring it home. I can however slide it in and out of the truck bed, and so off I went. That maiden voyage was everything I had hoped it would be: refreshing, exhilarating, silent.

We brought the girls down for a little excursion Saturday evening after dinner. It was getting cooler, and the beach was shaded though the sun was still strong further out on the water. It’s a single kayak, but our girls are little enough that if they sit at the front of the opening and stick their legs out, there’s still plenty of room to maneuver. J took Swee first, paddling right to slide behind the country store, then the cafe, then on past the stream with the waterfall where the heron likes to wade. They cut left to cross open water and startled the loons, causing them to dive and swim away. When they surfaced, my people were already heading toward us, and we could all hear their eerie laughter echoing across the valley. Beanie and I watched a seaplane with pontoons circle overhead – she loves airplanes – and then it was our turn to head out. As we pushed off from the beach, that same plane roared over our heads and landed right in front of our boat, leaving all of us amazed as it traveled down the water. We paddled counterclockwise, watching it closely as it turned and taxied back. Beanie was enraptured; I of course was filled with anxiety that it would want to take off again and wouldn’t see us in its way, and so I moved us quickly around and across to see the loons. We were apparently less threatening than my other half, and those beautiful birds bobbed along, staring at us from maybe ten feet away. Daddy and Swee had swum out to the second dock to wait for us, so we pulled up there to watch the plane motor down the length of the lake, rising at what appeared to be the very last second to soar over the trees and disappear into the sky. When I asked her at bedtime what her favorite part of the day had been, Beanie chose the plane, no hesitation. Definitely an atypical experience for our tiny town.

Today, the girls were asleep and J was mowing the lawn when I reached a good stopping point in my work, so I slid my new baby into the truck, gooped up with some sunscreen, and took off. I briefly entertained the idea of trying a new pond, but thought that probably wasn’t wise to attempt unaccompanied and continued on to our own little Lake Minnehonk. It’s small enough that you can see both banks at all times, and I feel confident that should something go wrong, I am strong enough to swim myself out (yes, I wear a life vest. It’s turquoise, in case you were wondering). About halfway down the lake, the wind really picked up and I wasn’t making any headway so I cut across to the other side and paddled back to the beach. The loon turned to look at me as I passed their nest, it’s red eyes following me as I moved away. They have a chick, I’m told, though I haven’t seen it yet. I did see a little dog on a dock, a terrier who made sure to tell me I was not welcome on his lake as his parents chuckled from the swing and remarked on his ferocity. Almost back to my starting point, I swung my legs up and out, over the sides to dip my toes in the water, paddle resting across my legs to allow the slight waves to bob me around, enjoying the sun and the breeze. A quick forty-minute paddle was the perfect lunch break.

where are my tree people?

IMG_9474IMG_9480

One of this property’s selling points was the abundance of mature fruiting trees, namely apples. Admittedly, we know next to nothing about orchards and have a lot to learn, but but we knew that the ability to grow so much food was an immediate asset. Our offer was made when the trees were bare and the ground was covered with snow, but as things have grown and bloomed and set fruit, we’ve discovered that there are several non-apple trees in the mix. The internet is a wonderful thing, but without a starting point for your search, you just wind up falling down the rabbit hole. Maybe you can help me figure out what we’re working with?

IMG_9471IMG_9472IMG_9473

Tree #1 is in the “lower orchard,” situated among the apple trees below the house. It flowered like the rest, white blossoms with a pink tinge, though I don’t remember if they were fragrant. It developed those green berries several weeks ago, and though they’ve gotten bigger, they’ve not changed color. Cherries, perhaps? I’d think cherries would be ripe by now, but I’m admittedly still on a Southeastern Pennsylvania calendar when it comes to growing schedules (it takes an awful long time to adjust your expectations. I keep wondering where the tomatoes are!).

IMG_9475IMG_9477IMG_9479

Tree #2 is almost directly opposite #1, along the stone wall at the top of the property. The bark is smoother and the leaves are deep green with reddish veins. The flowers were a rich pink and these berries are purplish-red with a dusty coating. I’d love if they were edible, but I’m afraid they’re ornamental. Ideas?

I’m curious – as you discover new plants and trees, how do you go about the process of learning? I love my Encyclopedia of Country Living, but dear old Carla Emery only goes so far. I don’t even know how to tell when the apples should be picked!

for the joy rather than the glory

IMG_9441IMG_9440

IMG_9445
Double rainbow last night

J and the girls got out of bed this morning and went downstairs, leaving me alone to listen to the fan and smell the day coming in on the breeze. I fully intended to follow them immediately, and instead dozed off again. Effortless. Now, I am as tired as the rest of you mamas, but typically once I’ve opened my eyes, engaged my brain and spoken to someone, I’m awake. Today I could have drifted off and stayed there, but alas, there were things to be done and children to care for, and so I hauled my bleary-eyed self down the stairs for caffeine.

IMG_9447

The chickens were already foraging and the girls had been fed, so my coffee and I got to wander out to the garden. I sipped and watered, pulled a few weeds and admired my plants. How they’ve grown! I made mental notes of what seems to have helped and what clearly has not. The half of the plot that I fully worked, digging and turning the soil before planting in rows, looks far better than the other half; that section is choked with weeds threatening to overtake the three sparse rows of wonky carrots and turkey-eaten cabbages. Lesson learned, I suppose. I snapped a couple of photos, and headed inside to try and write before beginning my work for the day.

And then I pulled up the pictures.

Oh, how pitiful, the voice jeered. Who do you think you are, pretending to know anything about anything! You are no gardener. Those are crooked rows of scraggly plants in a messy yard. You can’t share these photos. 

And you know what? I listened to that nasty voice. For most of the day. Ouch.

I’ve got this vague feeling of having exited the survival phase of mothering very young children, which comes with no small amount of relief, but it has also brought some serious uncertainty. The fog has lifted enough to see around me, but I don’t recognize the terrain. Where the hell am I? It certainly seems to be a dangerous place, for despite regaining the ability to think about myself a wee bit, I am still firmly in a season of giving, giving, giving until there is nothing left to give, and receiving little validation, only more worry and more requests. I can think about self-care and personal development, but there’s not much time or space to DO anything about it. And that nasty voice from the garden loves to translate “nothing left to give” into “nothing worth giving.” That nasty voice makes me doubt myself, and so instead of doing something (anything!), I do nothing, including things I love. What a jerk. A jerk and a liar.

IMG_9448IMG_9449IMG_9450IMG_9451

So here are those pictures. My scraggly patch of dirt, my weeds, and my plants that may never produce. It’s probably not the last conversation I’ll have with that nasty voice, and that’s ok. I’ll share my photos because they’re real, and “good” or not, they’re mine. They’re not perfect, and that’s ok too, because it’s ok to do something for the joy rather than for the glory. I am a gardener because I say I am a gardener. I put plants in the dirt and I garden. I suppose it’s as simple as that, yes? I am because I say that I am and because it makes me happy.

welcome july

IMG_9409IMG_9408IMG_9342

There was a cow at the end of my driveway yesterday morning. And no, I don’t have a picture because I was just so completely flummoxed that I didn’t even think to pick up the camera. I did throw on a hoodie over my pajamas and run down the road to the neighbor’s house to bang on her door, using my morning breath to ask her what to do. She was far calmer than I, welcoming me into her kitchen while she called her brother to come get his critter out of the road. She then sent me home with not just her brother’s number, but those of the rest of the family as well. The whole thing seems very silly and simple now, but in the moment, I was quite uncertain as to the appropriate response.

IMG_9362IMG_9358

IMG_9366
Clockwise from bottom: Fern, Dirty, Pocket and Pretty

The chicken run is (mostly) complete. There are plans to cover a portion of it so that we don’t have to do quite as much shoveling to get their exit door open over the winter, but there is now quite a nice enclosure. The little chickens are the only ones that currently have access to the space, with the idea that they can meet the big girls through the fence for a few more weeks before moving in with them. In reality, the two mini-flocks care not a whit about each other. The chickens avoid eye contact with members of the other group, as if the chicken wire were a solid wall, or they were city pedestrians, carefully not looking up as they pass. Clearly, I have no idea if this is normal, nor do I know how the flock integration will go. The youngsters are thirteen weeks old today (I was a week off without my calendar!) so we will try to merge them at the end of the month.

IMG_9387IMG_9395IMG_9412

Our long weekend was filled to the brim with true summer living, and I said yes to both cotton candy and ice cream, more than once. We attended a lovely boat parade on the 4th, and enjoyed a really incredible pyrotechnics display in town a few days before. Swimming has become a daily event, and bathing suits and beach towels rotate constantly through the washer and dryer while the regular laundry piles up at the bottom of the chute. There’s not much of anything coming in from the garden – even the herbs are too small to pluck – though I’m still hopeful our little plot will eventually produce something. The apples, however, are most definitely growing, and we are enjoying walking among the trees to inspect the baby fruits. Signs of the next season to come, for sure.

How are you summering?

 

is it on the calendar?

IMG_9336IMG_9335IMG_9319IMG_9317IMG_9315IMG_9306IMG_9302

I got a text message from a friend on Sunday, asking what our plans were for the week and would we like to meet up at the lake before they headed out of town for the long weekend. It made me smile, and sounded like a great idea to get together. I fully intended to tell her as much, and somehow, when I sat down at the computer tonight to get to some bits and pieces of personal stuff, I realized I’d never even written her back (sorry, friend!). Such has been our week.

We’ve been rising before six most mornings, though if I’m being honest, I seem to have forgotten how to shine at that hour. There is currently no set schedule in our house, with one or both of us grownups having a commitment at a different time each and every day, so coffee has become a necessity, and the calendar is always my first stop. An experienced mama of six asked me the other day about mama guilt, and I was quick to brush it off, but when I stop to think, the answer is yes – I do feel guilty, mostly because this kind of hustle can’t be easy for them either, and goodness, I have not been patient lately.

I have been trying to make time, to deliberately be a fun mama since it’s not coming naturally right now, even if that time comes in little nuggets. We’ve been playing outside early in the morning, girls in jammies and mama with coffee. Bug collecting is a new favorite, and Swee is not at all squeamish. The other day, her kit was filled with snails and a frog, though she did admit to disliking how the junebugs claw their way up her fingers (me too, kid. me too).

Our chicken run is still just a set of posts in the ground, and the “baby” chickens are decidedly not babies anymore. They’re ten (eleven? where’s my calendar…) weeks old tomorrow, and have begun to crow. It’s an anemic, wobbly noise as yet, but they’re trying! The big girls are still happy to be out and about each day. Laying dropped off for a week or so, and we began to wonder if they had a secret stash somewhere in the yard. We haven’t found anything, and they’ve picked up again, so I guess the issue resolved itself.

The local pick-your-own strawberry patch is open for business, and bustling. They start their day not long after we do, so we ducked out early the other morning and spent 45 minutes picking and eating our way along a row of plants. Twenty-seven dollars later, I had two berry-stained little people and a ton of work to take home, but we had a good time together.

IMG_9279

And that is what my kitchen counter looks like right now: an oddball collection of stuff, including a banana that someone decided to open and then abandon. I sure would love to have it cleared off, but it will have to wait – there’s no space for that on the calendar!

feeling the stretch

IMG_9278IMG_9275IMG_9272IMG_9270IMG_9269IMG_9266IMG_9263

Sunscreen hand prints on our storm doors. A pile of swimsuits and towels on the tile by the stairs. Half-unpacked boxes in the corner and a kitchen countertop strewn with random bits which have no home. It’s summertime in Maine, which means we are sopping up every second of sunshine we can (until the flies chase us inside – when will they go away?! I thought for sure they’d be gone by now, but the welts on my poor girls’ backs show otherwise), and leaving the inside work for another day.

It was both a wonderful and dreadful time to move homes. We escaped mud season, and thankfully didn’t track gobs of dirt inside, but as soon as we vacated the other house and plopped our belongings over here, we had to start getting a handle on the yard work. In fact, J hopped on the mower right after our settlement and cut the front lawn. It’s been nonstop since then, and we are feeling the stretch – to enjoy the weather, to get the work done, to finish moving in, to keep up with our regular responsibilities!

We haven’t done much inside except to move into the existing closets and cabinets. When we bought our house in Baltimore seven+ years ago, we ripped up carpet and laid quarter-round right away, painting every room before even bringing furniture in. In theory, that was a great choice because there was more space to move around. But rushing the process led to snap decisions on colors, etc., and it wasn’t long before I was wishing we’d done something different. I’d like to paint just about every space in this house, but this time we’re going to live in it for a while first. The weather will keep us inside soon enough – best to save a few projects for later.

So we’re focusing on making the grounds our own. The garden is as planted as it’s going to get. I found myself slipping into despair as I looked up and down the rows and realized nothing had grown, not a seed had sprouted, until J reminded me, “you do this every year,” and true to form, everything is green and growing after several days of rain. Sadly, a garden fence is at the bottom of the project list for now, so my silly chickens still have full access to the plot. I could coop them, but their powers of tick control far outweigh a few plants in value, yes? So for now, we’re still chasing them out of the dirt several times a day. The result of their attentions is a wonky row of carrots (bonus: no need to thin because they’re not crowded!) a thick patch of kale, and a missing tomato seedling (what did they do with it?). I’m still finding a lot of broken glass and pottery, making me wonder if the area was an old farmhouse dump. It’s hard to say without knowing more about the history of the property, but I do miss gardening barefoot.

The other night, on a whim, I asked J to take the weed eater to the trickle of water running under the apple trees, just so we could see it. There’s a round cement cap over what appears to be a natural spring, just down from the garden under an apple tree with a perfectly curved branch for sitting. We’ve remarked that it might have been the original water supply for the property, way back when, but now it flows freely for the deer and other wildlife to partake – chickens and Schnauzers too. With his ear pro on, that husband of mine knocked down all the vegetation, even after working on projects all day, and as I prepped dinner for the grill, I watched he and the girls load the wagon with the cut pieces to be dumped elsewhere. When we wandered down after dinner, I found they had even gone so far as to clear out some of the rocks and make a barrier of sorts, redirecting the flow from a muddy, marshy mess into an actual stream. In some places, it was positively burbling and splashing along. We stood on the cap and watched a little frog do his best imitation of a stone, and then the girls rode the tractor with their daddy, one on each knee, along the path through the tall grass and back before a big, bright rainbow broke the sky, and we all went in to bed.