Wednesday, June 30, 2010

How does my garden grow?

My garden is beautiful this year, no doubt about it. Last night we had a magnificent little salad with 4 kinds of lettuce grown here, and totally delicious fresh broccoli which had been harvested only moments before we ate. Soon I will have strawberries, and later carrots, celery, tomatoes, squash and hopefully peppers. We have not had a lot of luck with peppers before, but are giving them one final effort. I have two rows of sunflowers coming up, too... just for the joy of them. Well, joy AND the fact that the wild birds and chickens all love them.
From planting to harvesting there is beauty in the work and in the process.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My 500th post...

According to blogspot, this is my 500th post! It seems to me that posting these blogs, like much in life, is like links in a chain. Each one builds upon the other, creating ... something. I hope it is something good, something that brings pleasure or interest to others. If this blog is like a chain, it is strong- with its own brand of beauty.

I hope you find it so.

Monday, June 28, 2010


I've been embroiled in yard projects of late, and I love it. I love the work and I love the end results, too.

I've been wanting a special bird bath for the yard for a long time. We keep a birdy cafe open 365 days a year and we delight in seeing a wide variety of birds, from chickadee's to grosbeaks dining here.

Yesterday I was driving out in the giggle weeds at dusk. I passed a place with two beautiful granite bird baths by the side of the road with a small "for sale," sign. I turned around, jotted down the phone number, and on a whim dialed it right then. I hated to bother the people selling the baths at dusk on a Sunday, but they told me to drive up to the house because they had more baths there.

Turns out the man there makes the baths himself, from fabulous native granite stones he and his wife find on their property. And he sells them for about 1/3 of the cost I've ever seen them before. I had to have one... and the one I chose has a smattering of tiny fossils all over the rim.

Today Chris helped me carry it from my truck to the yard. It is one heavy thing! I dug a hole and we set it in . It looked wonderful, but lacked something. Dinner could wait... I laid out some rocks, asked Chris to wack the grass down, and then I hauled mulch in. In no time I had created an avian oasis of sorts. Easy on they eyes, and bound to make me grin.

Yard Sale bucket...

The local Agway feed/seed store has their annual plants for sale, cheap! I couldn't resist and grabbed a few six packs of root-bound, wilted things that looked half dead. The Dusty Miller, (the silvery broad leafed plant to the rear and the right) looked particularly pathetic. Another plant shopper even commented when I bought it, "You must have a kind heart, that one looks in dire need of rescue." I brought it and the other unloved plants home, smiling. Then I mixed up potting soil with some of the "black gold" compost from the compost bin that hugs my garage and receives all our egg shells and wilted lettuce and such. I put it all in this oh-so-funky yard sale bucket, which I scored for $1.00! A yucky plastic pot this size would be $15, easy. And no where near as cool.

Less than 24 hours later the plants roots have discovered room to grow. A whopping thunderstorm last night gave them an extra good drink and they look so much perkier.

Orchids in the kitchen...

I am frequently teased about my penchant for decorating with shades of white on white and white, White and MORE WHITE.
My husband says it is the decorating color of the uninspired. But really, could this be any prettier?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Ways we remember...

When I had my small house call pet grooming business in Memphis I met and grew to know some memorable people. Some of my favorites were elderly-- folks who doted on their pets and seemed more than delighted to have me come visit them. One such lady was named Francis, I cannot for the life of me remember her last name, but it began with a "B." She lived in a small, immaculate retirement apartment. She was funny and kind and told wonderful stories of her colorful life. At the entry of her home was a wee little space for a flower bed, maybe 2'x6'. She planted it with a combination of flowers which I found to be delightfully shocking. The back row was scarlet geraniums. The middle row was brilliant orange marigolds, and in the front a row of deepest purple petunias. Those colors! Only Francis would put them together. Every year I vow to make a similar garden, and this year I made my own version of it in huge pot by the backyard fire pit. I added sweet potato vine and coleus, but the colors are just as wild as her rendition. It makes me smile in fond remembrance when I see it. Such are the ways I think of the charismatic people who have woven the tapestry of my life.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Gratitude and life...

There are days when the very pulse of life in my veins is sweet. Today was a day of rest... Chris and I spent every moment together- hitting some yard sales, checking out some favorite open air flea markets by the sea. We had lobster rolls at a beautiful harbor on a sunny picnic table, and took a nap (!) Later, we cooked sockeye salmon on the grill and sat outside in the peaceful meadow as the sun slanted down lower and lower, casting Rembrandt light over our slice of world. There was life all around us and we were infused with gratitude just to be here - now - together.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Broiler chicks....

I have 27 chicks. For those who have never raised meat birds before, here is a brief tutorial.
The chickens you buy at the grocery store are a type called "Cornish-x." These are a hybrid- a designer breed made to grow very, VERY fast, with lots of tender meat, most of it breast meat. In fact, from the day these birds hatch they do very little more than eat and sleep and grow, and they are ready to be butchered at the tender age of SIX WEEKS. If they go to 8 or 9 weeks, you get bigger meat birds. If you wait longer than that they are prone to dying of heart attacks or having severe leg problems because they literally grow to be too large and heavy to support themselves. We call them "mutant chicks." This is the type of chick I have.

Our chicks are currently housed in a pen in the garage. They are safe there from marauding raccoons, foxes and any number of critters that (like humans) enjoy eating chicken. The chicks have lots of fresh water, plenty of good food, and I clean their pen every day. I also let them outside when I am home to keep an eye on them... they are still small enough to be good prey for large birds from crows to eagles. And we have both! When I let them out there is a free-for-all of running, flapping and scratching in the dirt. They chase bugs and eat grass and look very happy.

I like this shot... one fat little chick running for the heck of it... a lot of flap on big yellow feet.

I have been an animal lover my entire life. If someone had told me a few years ago that I would be raising animals to EAT, I would have said something like, "NO FREAKING WAY." Then I met a friend who raises cows and chickens with the sole intent of sending them to "freezer camp." She said something to me that made me evaluate how I feel about the food I eat. It went something like this, "I know the animals I raise have happy lives, with fresh air, sunshine, space to move about and plenty of food and water. They never know pain or suffering or fear. It is more than I can say for the animals that provide the meat I would buy at the store." Her words rang true to me.

If you have never seen the movie Food, Inc., I recommend you do so. The way our food animals are raised in this country is... well... sad.

So. I have 27 chicks. Eating, sleeping, growing and being happy chickens. I am giving them the very best life I can. It is an interesting experience to be more in touch with the food chain. This experiment is one I give deep thought to, and I treat the animals I raise with gratitude.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

A fine father...

My father, David S. Waters, was a wonderful man. Known for his devotion to family and his country, his work ethic, his honesty, his penchant for driving convertible cars (and waving at every person he passed!) and his sometimes off-color sense of humor, I was always proud to be his daughter. He was a fine father-I loved him, and I know he loved me. But I never had the level of relationship with him that my daughter, Rachel, has had with her father.

When Rachel was new, Chris didn't know what to do with her. If she cried, he turned the TV up louder to drown out the sound. If I asked him to watch her infant self for a moment, he was liable to strap her to the changing table and go take a shower. More than once I despaired that the man I chose to marry would never make it as the wonderful father for our kid that I had hoped for.

Sometimes it is good to be wrong. Once she was past the brand-new infant phase, Chris blossomed into the most wonderful father ever. He is the kindest, gentlest, most supportive and giving man I have ever known. And he rained these qualities on our baby. Our daughter grew up with a daddy that adored her, took her on hundreds of memorable daddy-daughter dates, taught her how to ride a bike and drive a car, discussed things like politics and religion and war and you name it and gave her the following advice about the males of the species: "boys are icky." He has showered her with gifts over the last 21 years, and I think she would be the first to say she has been blessed with a father that loves her.

Not only is my sweet husband my soul mate and lover and best friend, he is a father to be admired. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I am a lucky woman. And our daughter? She has been blessed by having Chris for a daddy. Happy Father's Day, Chris. Thank you for being my partner in parenting and in all things. Cheers!

Crayola crayon color-burnt orange...

When my husband brought home a huge load of free pine for our wood stove, he dumped it on the side lawn. It didn't look very nice. I stacked a lot of it, but I am not very good at stacking and some of the pieces were odd sized, and got left lying about and a lot of bark fell off in piles. Discouraged by the amount of work involved, I began to ignore the mess. The grass could not be properly mown due to the scattered bits and pieces, and the entire area was a weedy eye sore. Yesterday, on the hottest day of our summer yet, I vowed to clean the space up. While Chris mowed the rest of the yard, I picked up log pieces and buckets of bark. It wasn't the most fun I've ever had... bending, lifting, dealing with slugs and spiders and biting flies.

I thought about something I got in my email that morning from artist SARK ( She said that if you put your hands out and ask for a miracle, one will happen. So I did, feeling rather greedy since I had so recently had the hummingbird miracle (see previous blog post.) Just then I saw a flash of Crayola crayon burnt-orange amid the bark I was scooping. Upon investigation I found this newt... soft and speckled and unexpected. A dash of delight in the midst of the mundane.

It was a red eft Eastern newt, You might want to read about them, besides being a rather shocking color, they are also fascinating little critters. They start out life in the water, with gills to breathe with. As young adults they shed those gills, then live on land a few years, then return to water where they change color for the remainder of their life.

I took it inside and had it pose for photos, then released it in the herb garden. I like to think of it there, adding color to the rosemary, tarragon and sage.

Have you asked for a miracle today? If not, why not? It may be some wonderful Crayola color to brighten your day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

A hand-held miracle...

He was hanging by one wing tip from a spider web by my door, seemingly dead. Heartsick, I disentangled him, and cupped his nearly weightless body in my hand. I had always longed to hold a hummingbird, but my fantasy was to hold one vibrantly alive. Looking at his perfect form and grieving, I almost missed the first slight twitch. Then a breath so small I thought I had imagined it. I rushed him to the garage where I had a heat lamp for the baby chicks, and held him close, stroking his feathers and willing him to live. A prayer for one small hummingbird winged up to God.
His tongue, as fine as a human hair, flicked out. I hurried to the hummingbird feeder and shook out a drop of nectar. I placed his bill so that if that tongue appeared again, it would get wet. And appear it did. Once then again, and again and again. I alternated between the heat lamp and the nectar and my efforts were rewarded when first one, then the other eye opened. He stretched his wings and righted himself on my finger. Those feet, so perfectly tiny, grasped my skin and I couldn't really feel it at all.

He drank and drank from the feeder, then preened his rumpled feathers. It must have been an epic battle with that web. Twice another hummingbird hovered near, I assume it was this ones mate.

For 35 minutes or more I held a miracle in my hand and watched it go from assumed dead to perky and preening, saucy and sipping. I moved him to the lilac bush and watched and he tested his wings, took a practice hover then zoomed away. Magic happens!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

This moment in time...

I recently read a book (Gifts from Eykis by Wayne Dyer.) One thing I took away from the book is the importance of living in the moment. It does us no good to look in the past, for we cannot change it. It does us no good to worry about the future, because we have no control. What we have is THIS MOMENT IN TIME.

Today I waited on a customer. A fairly typical older man from Maine, he is a man of few words. I chatted with him a moment, then said, "I haven't seen your wife in a while, please tell her I said hello." He said, "I don't have a wife."

For a moment I froze... did I have the wrong man? Was I confused? But I knew I wasn't. I knew this couple and had known them for years. I remembered their old dog that had passed, I remembered them coming in both separately and together. He looked me right in the eye and I was struck with the reflection of deep sorrow I saw there. "She passed 10 months ago," he said.
"I am so sorry. That is sad. She was a very nice woman." I said. He held my stare, and said, in typical "old Maine guy" fashion. "It's awful lonely." And those three words seared me. I cannot imagine what my life would be without my sweet man. It would be "awful lonely."

Another reminder of the importance of living in, and enjoying THIS MOMENT IN TIME.

Art on a shelf...

On my hutch there is a variety of white china gleaned from yard sales and flea markets.
A few whimsical items such as this little bird are there, too. And I just added a discarded birds nest rescued by friend Marion when it blew out of a tree in her yard. The nest is decorated with bark from a white birch tree... and it makes me smile. Imagine, somewhere out there is a bird that has my same decorating taste!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


In one short week the tiny baby chicks have outgrown their brooder box. I moved them to a new pen today... about 4x the size of the box they were in. I added a log for them to hop on and peck at, and some fresh greens to nibble. There was a lot of leaping and hopping and scratching and what looked like chicken joy. Wait till they are big enough to go outside, they'll have a pah-tay!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Bald-faced hornet...

Needs a teeny, weenie shave!

Laughing in the sun...

In the summer one of my favorite things is to sit in our back yard in the evening and watch.
I watch the meadow grass blowing in the wind, the nesting birds zooming in and out of the bird houses, the lambs grazing and chickens scratching and chasing bugs. The dogs love this time of day, too. They leap and dance and play and yes, laugh. It's all a juicy slice of summer joy.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Big air...

Today we hit a few yard sales and ended up at a fun place... down by the harbor there was a Dock Dog competition. Dogs launched themselves off a dock, into water and off to fetch a floating toy back to their owners. Some dogs did better than others, of course... this one was a star. And I caught it shooting... across the summer sky.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Going home...

It was a beautiful day. At work I kept on thinking about going home. I planned to take care of all the animals, then sit quietly in the back yard. I planned to cook a simple summer supper of steak and veggies on the grill and share a quiet evening with my best friend (who is, coincidentally, my husband.)
I took my camera with me when I went. I took pictures of the dogs playing, of dinner cooking. I lit a fire in the fire pit and took pictures of the flames lapping the dry pine. I took pictures of the rabbit and the chickens and the lambs. And I took pictures of birds on the feeders, in the air, and zooming into the bird house.
And I pondered the universal appeal of going home. The place of ease and rest and security and comfort. I am so grateful to have a home to go to.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

What a little paint can do...

Seven years ago we looked for a house in Maine while living in Memphis. We saw a blur of 14 houses in a day and a half. When we got to this house I just KNEW- this was it. The place fit me like a favorite pair of blue jeans. It was more money than we wanted to spend, but it had so much that I had dreamed of. It sat on a sunny lot, had a new kitchen, wooden floors, bead board paneling, an upstairs laundry... and this PORCH! The entire front of the house is a wonderful sun porch. There are over 250 panes of glass there, and they were painted black. A long, LONG time ago. The paint had peeled and flaked and the glazing on the glass was in sad shape. It was a daunting project. So I did what I do best and procrastinated.

This spring we stopped procrastinating and scraped and re-glazed and primed and painted a LOT of windows. It was an ugly project. There were ladders involved, and I don't love climbing ladders. There were also spiders involved, and I don't love spiders.

The end results, however, are so sweet. I love how light and bright the house looks now. My neighbors have commented, too... they like the pretty new look. One said, "It looks so welcoming now." Ahhhh. I like that. Spurred on by the improvement, I am redoing the front gardens, a bit at a time. Making them wider, adding landscaping stone boarders, new plants and deep mulch.

One thing about projects, such as painting... they spur on OTHER projects. I wonder what will be next?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Thinking about THINGS...

The little chest here belonged to my grandmother, then my mom, now me. (When I was 4 or 5 I used to straddle it when the lid was closed and pretend it was a pony. I rode that poor pony hard! But I digress.) The chest spent most of the time (when it wasn't a pony!) in the living room corner, with a copper lamp and an anemic philodendron in a dented copper tea kettle.

The rocking chair on the left was a gift to my mom from my dad. And that doll? She is ancient and plays antique blue records shaped like cups that go into her back. My grandfather gave her to my mom when she survived a very nasty bout of Scarlett Fever. It was during the depression and the dream of owning a doll like this was way out of the realm of reality for the little girl who grew up to be my mother. And she treasured that doll.

That little chair on the right? That belonged to my paternal grandmother, then my dad, then me, then my daughter. The little rung where a child's feet would rest have the sweetest little depressions, worn smooth by generations.

These things. They hold meaning to me both in memory and because I find them lovely. Sometimes I wonder who will have them when they are no longer mine. I don't want to clutter up my daughters home and life with relics of my past... (Rachel, if you are reading this, please remember that just because your mother once touched something it does not have to be yours forever!) but I hope that if she does not want the things that are meaningful to me, she will find someone who loves them. They might not know the history of just who the little feet that wore the chair rungs smooth belonged to, but they should recognize the loveliness of a patina made from memories...

Monday, June 7, 2010

Loud mail...

Today I got the best box EVER at the post office. It contained 27, cheeping, peeping baby chicks. Two days old and no bigger than golf balls, these tiny things are eating, drinking, pooping machines. They are snuggled up in a brooder box in the garage, and are more entertaining than television by a mile. I made many, many trips out there today to just stand and stare at all that
new life. If I had known, when I was a little kid, that I would one day get chicks in the mail, I would have been awfully excited about growing up. Life is good. And there is lots of life in my garage!

Sunday, June 6, 2010


I have been thinking this weekend. Thinking that perfection all depends on how you see things. It was a rainy weekend, but pretty darn perfect. We did some things around the house, including hanging up this very neat wine rack in the dining room. We had some old and new friends over Saturday to watch the Belmont Stakes horse race. Scott made his famous salsa- painstakingly diced vegetables (that green stuff? Jalepeno peppers. Lot's of them!) and Chris smoked a magnifcent chicken. Our guests laughed and talked (and made the wine rack lighter by half!)
And I think they all felt... welcomed. And full. And happy. And that? That made for a perfect weekend.

Friday, June 4, 2010

It's been a long time...

It's been a long time since a man made me cry. But today our friend Scott did just that.

Our 2 acres of land had one spot that was all scrub brush dotted by unruly brush piles. We kept meaning to burn down those brush piles, but because that seemed a little daunting, we never have. This area looked bad and really embarrassed me.

Today, moments after I got home from work, I heard a loud noise outside the window. I looked out and there was Scott, on his tractor, mowing around the piles of wood that need stacking, and around the outside perimeter of our fence. Then, to my amazement, he backed that tractor up (as nimbly as if it were a sports car) and the attachment he had on the back of that tractor was lowered over the big, messy brush pile. A loud noise ensued, and when he pulled the tractor forward the pile was reduced to, well, MULCH. He repeated this feat anywhere there was scrubby brush or burn piles. I was so overwhelmed by his kindness I stood there in the afternoon sun and cried.

Swallowtail on chives...

When I came home, there it was. A swallowtail butterfly sipping from the chives in the herb garden. The sun did the back lighting, all I had to do was point and shoot. Sometimes the best things are just so easy.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


In Maine they say we have three seasons; snow, mud and bugs. They don't mention the flower season... and they really should. After the long, cold, white winter we are rewarded with a richness of flowers and birdsong. My garden is full of both.
The rosa rugosa perfume the air with a scent that haunts me. The Lupine bloom in riots along the roadside, in meadows, and (unbidden) in my garden. And there are the daisies I planted, dependable and happy. They are all a bright reward after the bleak months that came before.