Sunday, October 18, 2015

Cobbosseecontee Stream, Gardiner

One of the charms of the city of Gardiner is the fast-flowing Cobboseecontee, which runs right through the center of town.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Hartland, Maine

So many questions.

Woolie Bears Don't Lie

Woolie Bears are the Magic 8-ball of caterpillars. According to folk wisdom, one can predict the coming winter by observing the relative width of the brown band in the woolie bear's middle. When the caterpillars display wider brown bands, the coming season is predicted to be milder. Narrower brown middles conversly predict a harsh winter.

So, what does woolie have to say for himself? Is his middle wide or narrow? He (ze?) has four-ish brown body segments out of thirteen. (No, I can't see thirteen, but that's supposedly how many they have.) According to the (recreational and pretty much unscientific) research by Dr. C. H. Curran, the average is between 5.3 and 5.6 brown segments. So that can't be good.

Last year's woolie bears were pretty short-centered, also, and last year's winter? Was a bitch. In fact I've seen very few woolie bears this year, perhaps as a consequence. The same dynamic that blessed us with very few Japanese beetles to destroy our roses and raspberries has taken most of our woolie bears with the other hand.

As it happens, the caterpillars and the almanac are in agreement, as they were last year: Harsh winter. Our fuzzy little prognosticator says: Outlook not so good.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Dividing Day

My shopping list for today:
  • Seep hose
  • 50' extension cord
  • Mulch
It's the last weekend in September - time to divide the perennials, dig up the neglected beds, and mulch for the winter.

When I started perennial gardening, tumpty-ump years ago in St. Paul Minnesota, I thought I was doing it because it was less work than planting annuals. I like stuff that stays planted! I used to stay. Right? Just plant it and then relax and watch it bloom for years to come.

ROFLMFAO, as we used to say.

In reality, perennial gardening demands composting, weeding, mulching, dividing, and moving plants that are didn't get the memo to bloom where you are planted.

Without attention, by fall, a perennial bed will look kind of like this:

Dry, crowded, weedy. This bed needs to be dug out, the keepers set aside, the weeds pulled, and the dirt mixed with compost and replaced. Either the bed will have to get larger or I will have to discard some plants, because they have all thrived so well they are crowding each other out. I just redid a smaller bed, which now looks like this:

Expanding the bed means even more work next year - and more mulch, which gets expensive. In past I have not had the heart to discard perfectly good plants, so I expand the beds, or start new ones.

Then I started reading The Right Size Flower Garden, by Maine author Kerry Ann Mendez. After some life changes left her with less time and energy to devote to her perennials, Mendez had a choice: let the garden fall into disarray, or limit the garden to the space she could take care of. The book details shrinking beds, planning garden care, and choosing plants that require little attention. I've already started, with two raised bed which were, after many years, too shady for their inhabitants. Pull 'em out, sod 'em over!

Each year, of course, the garden is all about next year's garden: when this finally blooms or that fills in.  This fall I am excited for next year, when I will (hopefully) have time to keep the remaining beds looking sharp all season.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Some Beach, Somewhere

I loved this sign, when I was a kid. Avenue 5 Extension leads only one place, and that is to Pine Point Beach in Scarborough, in my humble opinion the finest beach in Maine. Contiguous with the more famous Old Orchard Beach, Pine Point boasts whiter, finer sand and smaller crowds. It's pure beach - no games, rides, or shops - but the hullaballoo of Old Orchard is a pleasant two-mile walk down the beach, if you feel the urge. I did, on Monday, and made the walk from the jetty to the Pier.

One nice thing about living in Maine is that a beach day does not require a big plan; a hot day, a few hours free; that's all it took.

The view from Pine Point.
...and there's the Pier, off in the distance.
Getting closer!
And here's the view, from the Pier!
This is also a great walk on that odd sunny day in February when the temp gets above 45F.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Rainbow over Augusta

We had a brief shower yesterday, enough to brighten things up - and gift us with this rainbow! Lewiston, about 30 miles away, got the major flash-boom storm. Lucky!

Lewiston gets all the good storms.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Monarda for Hummingbirds

I've never had any luck with hummingbird feeders. I've tried the fancy-schmancy kind, glass and copper, and the $5 cheapies - recommended by my mother-in-law, the hummingbird queen. What does draw them, however is Monarda. They love the stuff, and who can blame them? Big, intensely red blooms, no maintenance, long bloom season.
There's only one species of hummingbird in Maine, the Ruby-throated, which makes this one a little lady, since she is greenish-gray all over.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Starfish Like Jewels

at the reversing falls, Blue Hill.
The photos don't do them justice; they are peach and amethyst and ruby. So beautiful!

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Walk in the Maine Woods

Now that spring is here - well, sort of - it’s a great time to go plant-spotting. There are well over 200 plant species on Maine’s rare, threatened and endangered list. Who knew, right? Some are so rare that there are estimated to be fewer than 5 individual plants in the entire state! Others are well-established in Maine but threatened globally. On your next outing, see if you can spot these plants from the list:

Showy Lady’s Slipper
Rarer than either the pink or yellow varieties, there are estimated to be between 20 and 100 Showy Lady’s slippers in Maine.

Spotted WintergreenSpotted Wintergreen grows in only 13 locations in the entire state, with fewer than 20 individual plants. Its southern Maine habitat has been reduced by de-velopment. In June white blooms on short stalks make it easier to spot.

Slender Blue Flag Iris
Slender Blue Flag likes both salt and freshwater marshes, and costal meadows. Though threatened in Maine - fewer than 20 plants are known to grow here - the population of Slender Blue Flag is believed to be globally secure.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Pleasant River, Columbia Falls

Rainbow smelt net drying shack, low tide, Pleasant River, Columbia Falls, Maine, April 18, 2015.
Photo by Douglas Watts

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Big Night

An amazing thing happens on the first warm, rainy night of spring: it's called Big Night, and it's the time when frogs, salamanders, and other amphibians creep out from under the rocks and leaves they've been sheltering in for the winter, or from the dirt they've dug themselves into, and make their way to vernal pools.
The ground must be softened by thawing tempertures, around 40 or so. Most of the ground must be free of snowcover. There must be pools of water in low areas left by the melting snow. Rain is necessary to prevent the drying of fragile amphibian skin. And Big Night? is coming to Maine, soon. The next warm rainy night is likely to be the night.

Why am I telling you this? Well, you might want to venture out to see it, especially if you have kids: it's pretty magical. But even if you don't fancy an adventure in the 40-degree rain, it's good to know to be careful driving.

It's hard being an amphibian these days. Choosing vernal pools keeps eggs safe from fish that might eat them (vernal pools are temporary, hence the name, so fish can't make their homes there) nad night travel helps avoid predation on the adults as they travel. But evolution couldn't have accounted for vehicular traffic, and many routes to safety take the amphibians across roads and highways.

To learn more about Big Night in Maine, or to be a part of an organization helping to protect these creatures in their vulnerable crossing, check out the Maine Lakes Association

Thursday, March 12, 2015

What Are You Doing St. Patty's Day?

I love Irish Music because it's so singable, if that's a word, and I love St. Patrick's Day, because normal people - people just like you and me - sing in bars. In public! Right in front of God & everyone.Possibly because they are drunk, but I rather think it's because singing is fun, and the drinking is just an excuse.

Some sing better than others, though, and if you want to her some of the best, come out to RiRa, 72 Commercial St in Portland,  on the 17th. The Keenans will be playing and singing Irish tunes fron 12-4. Full disclosure: Chris Keenan is my brother, so while I can really, truly and honestly enthuse about how much I enjoy this show every year, I'd say that even if I didn't. But I do! Come see for yourself. We'll sing along, badly, and no one will care. We'll forget the words, and pretend we know how to step dance, then laugh until the beer comes out our noses. Just come, you'll see.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Overheard in Augusta

Young woman to her friend: "In other news, my eyebrows are on point today."

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Foul Weather Friend

Each time it snows, cardinals appear at our feeder. Some years, there are several pair; this winter, just the two, male and female. We rarely see them, except in the aftermath of a storm.

I've been trying all winter to get a photo of this guy! He's wary - he has to be, because his coloration makes him so visible, an easy target. When he hears the door, he either takes off or hops back into the depths of the forsythia bush where you see him in this photo. The bush is only a few feet from the feeder, so it serves an important function in making the birds feel safe.

When I saw him this morning, I grabbed my camera dashed out into the snow in my bare feet, and then stood still long enough for him to cautiously emerge from the thicket of branches. You can see that he is keeping an eye on me.

His lady joined him a few minutes after that, but my feet had had enough, and the birds did not stick around long. They never do, after the sun is up.

Counting the blessings of snow: I might as well, since it is here, and more coming, whether I appreciate it or not! Top of the list: my beautiful visitors.