Saturday, June 20, 2020

Decorating the Maypole

Alas! no acorn from the British oak
'Neath which slim fairies tripping wrought those rings
Of greenest emerald, wherewith fireside life
Did with the invisible spirit of Nature wed,
Was ever planted here! No darnel fancy
Might choke one useful blade in Puritan fields; 
With horn and hoof the good old devil came,
The witch's broomstick was not contraband,
But all that superstition had of fair,
Or piety of native sweet, was doomed. 
And if there be who nurse unholy faiths,
Fearing their god as if he were a wolf
That snuffed round every home and was not seen,
There should be some to watch and keep alive
All beautiful beliefs...
                                                      James Russell Lowell

 Yesterday being Midsummer's Eve and the Swedish Midsommar festival being canceled because of the virus, my sister and I decided to have our own little celebration! I was toying with different ideas, but after reading The Maypole of Merrymount (for the second time - I love Hawthorne's beautiful stories so much!😊), I knew just what we would do! 

"Never had the Maypole been so gayly decked as at sunset on midsummer eve. This venerated emblem was a pine-tree, which had preserved the slender grace of youth, while it equalled the loftiest height of the old wood monarchs. From its top streamed a silken banner, colored like the rainbow. Down nearly to the ground the pole was dressed with birchen boughs, and others of the liveliest green, and some with silvery leaves, fastened by ribbons that fluttered in fantastic knots of twenty different colors, but no sad ones. Garden flowers, and blossoms of the wilderness, laughed gladly forth amid the verdure, so fresh and dewy that they must have grown by magic on that happy pine-tree. Where this green and flowery splendor terminated, the shaft of the Maypole was stained with the seven brilliant hues of the banner at its top. On the lowest green bough hung an abundant wreath of roses, some that had been gathered in the sunniest spots of the forest, and others, of still richer blush, which the colonists had reared from English seed. O, people of the Golden Age, the chief of your husbandry was to raise flowers!" 

Ours is very modest by comparison, but we had a lot of fun! We waited until evening because the high-temperature yesterday was 98F! We had just finished as the sun went down...

The first rose of summer...

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

June Garden

 No price is set on the lavish summer;
  June may be had by the poorest comer.
 And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,    
And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers...
                                                               ~The Vision of Sir Launfal 

I can't believe how long it's been since I did an update on the garden! It has certainly been an interesting couple of months. The crocuses bloomed only to be buried in several inches of fresh snow, but they soon emerged and opened in the sunlight. It was lovely to see those cheery purple blooms surrounded by the purest white snow. The first part of May felt more like March, but that changed all of a sudden and we had several days in the 90s! Everything turned green almost overnight, but my poor tulips! They quickly faded in the heat, only lasting a few days. So there wasn't nearly as much of a burst of color this spring as usual. 
June has been pleasant for the most part, but we have had a few frosty mornings and I lost a few of the annuals to that. Thankfully I hadn't yet put everything out! It was only yesterday that the gardens were officially "in". Right now it is at that transition stage between spring and summer. In another week or so the roses, irises, lupines, foxgloves, and valerian should be in bloom and I am already dreaming of the fragrance! 😊

Thursday, June 11, 2020

A Beggar...

A beggar through the world am I,
From place to place I wander by.
Fill up my pilgrim's scrip for me,
For Christ's sweet sake and charity!

A little of thy steadfastness,
Bounded with leafy gracefulness,
Old oak, give me,
That the world's blasts may round me blow,
And I yield gently to and fro,
While my stout-hearted trunk below
And firm-set roots unshaken be.

Some of thy stern, unyielding might,
Enduring still through day and night
Rude tempest-shock and withering blight,
That I may keep at bay
The changeful April sky of chance
And the strong tide of circumstance,-
Give me, old granite gray.

Some of thy pensiveness serene,
Some of thy never-dying green,
Put in this scrip of mine,
That griefs may fall like snowflakes light,
And deck me in a robe of white,
Ready to be an angel bright,
O sweetly mournful pine.

A little of thy merriment,
Of thy sparkling, light content,
Give me, my cheerful brook,
That I may still be full of glee
And gladsomeness, where'er I be,
Though fickle fate hath prisoned me
In some neglected nook.

Ye have been very kind and good
To me, since I've been in the wood;
Ye have gone nigh to fill my heart;
But good-by, kind friends, every one,
I've far to go ere set of sun;
Of all good things I would have part,
The day was high ere I could start,
And so my journey's scarce begun.

Heaven help me! how could I forget
To beg of thee, dear violet!
Some of thy modesty,
That blossoms here as well, unseen,
As if before the world thou'dst been,
Oh, give, to strengthen me.
                                                    ~James Russel Lowell

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Treasures of the Maine Woods

"How pleasant it is to meet the same flowers year after year! If the blossoms were liable to change–if they were to become capricious and irregular–they might excite more surprise, more curiosity, but we should love them less; they might be just as bright, and gay, and fragrant under other forms, but they would not be the violets, and squirrel-cups, and ground laurels we loved last year. Whatever your roving fancies may say, there is a virtue in constancy which has a reward above all that fickle change can bestow, giving strength and purity to every affection of life, and even throwing additional grace about the flowers which bloom in our native fields. We admire the strange and brilliant plant of the green-house, but we love most the simple flowers we have loved of old, which have bloomed many a spring, through rain and sunshine, on our native soil."
                                                                                                               ~Susan Fenimore Cooper

Did you ever guess that I love the Maine woods? 😁 I was recently down in PA and spent some time in the woods there (pictures coming soon...hopefully!). The Pennsylvania woods are lovely and almost a tropical paradise by comparison, but they aren't my woods! There's a certain wildness in these woods that I haven't found anywhere else. Often they are so thick and swampy that I have to edge my way through thickets and balance on fallen trees to avoid sinking in mud and water over my boots (the picture below was taken yesterday, and it has been very dry lately!). The bears are still around judging from the signs I've come across, but having learned more about them I actually feel more comfortable in the woods than ever before! And what treasures are hidden in these woods! After a cold start to the month, it suddenly turned HOT. We've had several days in the upper 80s and 90s. It literally took about 3 days for the trees to go from just swelling buds to summer green...I don't remember such a sudden change ever before! The flowers came fast too, and I've been out several times to greet old friends... 

Threeleaf Goldthread (Coptis trifolia)...

Painted Trillium (Trillium undulatum)...

Red Trillium (Trillium erectum)...

Pin Cherry (Prunus pensylvanica)...

Canadian Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)...

Rose Twisted-stalk (Streptopus lancolatus)...

Bluebead Lily (Clintonia borealis)...

Northern Starflower (Lysimachia borealis)...

Dwarf Red Blackberry (Rubus pubescens)...

And sweetest of all to me! The  Northern White Violet (Viola renifolia) grows on mossy fallen branches at the edge of one of the swampiest places. 

PS - I hope to do a garden update one of these days soon...things have happened so fast, I'm really behind on my posts!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Adventures in the Maine Woods

O northern wilds! you surely hold
In your great heart some refuge old,
Safe hid and far and deep and dumb,
Where the gay world will never come.
                                                                             ~Anna B. Averhill

Well, where do I begin?! I've been meaning to do an update for a while now but never got around to it, and now I've accumulated such a variety of scenes and sightings, I'm slightly overwhelmed! 😁 I guess it's always best to start at the beginning. May 1st was my birthday, and in the evening my dad took me for a drive on some of the back roads. We were hoping to see some moose or bears, but apparently they had taken shelter from the cold drizzle because we didn't see any. The scenery still made the drive worthwhile though! I can't remember the name of this stream...

We did see quite a few deer though! 

There was still some ice along the Aroostook River...

Some of those slabs were huge!

Meanwhile, in our woods...I came upon this pile of hair one morning! It's just hair, no sign that anything had just been killed and eaten. I read that lynx molt in April and May and am pretty sure that's what happened here. There was also a giant hairball thrown up nearby and other signs of a big cat. I have seen lynx tracks multiple times this winter/early spring.

May started out quite cold. We got about 5 inches of snow last week and one day it was only 29 degrees (F) at 1:30 PM...a record even for northern Maine!

But Spring seems to have come in earnest at last. The last few days have been in the 60s and we have some 70s and even an 80 in the forecast! I have just about been living outdoors, dividing my time between the gardens and the woods. 😊

However, I am not the only one who is enjoying the spring weather! I had just stepped out of the house a few nights ago and saw something big and black out of the corner of my eye. A bear!! I rushed back for the camera and ran out into the yard to get as close a view as I dared (I was still closer to the house than the bear was to me). I do wish the pictures had turned out a little better, but the lighting wasn't good and our lovely Japanese Knotweed was in the way...

It seemed like a fairly good-sized bear, and I was just thinking that it was most likely a male, when 2 cubs came bounding out of the woods! They were awfully cute!! 

Mama only looked at me once, then went on about her business...much to my relief! 😁

I was hoping they were just passing through, but it seems they are hanging around. Yesterday afternoon I saw a couple of ducks fly overhead and land in the swampy area at the edge of the woods and went down to have a closer look at them, but the first thing I saw when I looked in was a bear! Unfortunately, I didn't have the camera with me. I watched her (assuming it was Mama bear again) briefly, but decided to put off the walk in the woods I had been contemplating! 😉

I did venture out this morning and saw plenty of evidence that they had been around. It's kinda hard to see in these pictures, but the ground at the base of this old stump is scratched up and fresh roots are exposed. It was not like this last time I was out here!

These tracks were nearby. They weren't very formed so it's hard to tell, but I'm pretty sure they are bear tracks. They seemed too long and wide to be moose but the animal was obviously quite heavy. I weight around 130 pounds but my feet weren't making any impression here, while these tracks were at least 3 inches deep.

And I almost stepped in this! 😛

I have been reading some very informative and reassuring articles about black bears and learned that even Mama black bears are rarely aggressive. I will still be going out for rambles in the woods, but needless to say, I am much warier now!