Summer Solstice

On this Summer Solstice, I went in search of Lupins. The tall spired flowers are my favorite thing about June. Seas of purply blossoms fill the landscape, brightening fields, providing surprising pops of color at every turn.

Hannah was my pilot for our evening drive. We found glorious color in all the familiar spots.

Then we went in search of new views. Surprisingly, we found few stands of Lupins as we made our way to Beals Island. On our return home, this is what we discovered…

Two families of Canada Geese – four adults and 13 goslings swimming in the fading light.

We slowed the car and stalked this gaggle as they meandered along the coast.

The babies were goofy and ungainly on land, adorably sweet. Other cars paused to see what we were studying and before long there was a line of cars and people snapping pics with their cell phones.

We spend the better part of an hour enjoying the sight before heading home. What a wonderful experience.

Happy Summer!

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Hummingbird Feeder Cleaning

I hate cleaning my hummingbird feeders, but I do it every weekend. I’ve read it should be done more often, but my time during the week is so limited that I fail. I tend to not fill them very full so the birds run out of sugar water before they should be cleaned.

This is one of my favorite feeders because it is easy to clean. A little hot water, vinegar and a bottle brush and it’s clean.

On the other hand, this feeder is a challenge. The curve of the neck is the perfect place for mold to collect. The mouth is too small for my bottle brush, so I often resort to stuffing a paper towel in and scrub it around with a bent metal skewer; not fun or very effective.

Today I was studying the problem and wondered what I could put in the bottle that would be abrasive to help clean it. Then I had an inspired, wonderful, fantastic, brainstorm. I poured in a tablespoon of rice along with about 1/2 cup of vinegar into the bottle. I covered the mouth and proceeded to shake for a few seconds. The results was a crystal clear clean bottle. I poured out the contents, rinsed and refilled with sugar water for the birds.

Surely I’m not the only one whose thought of this. A quick Google and I discovered that it’s not an original idea – but I’m still pretty pleased with myself. Maybe this tip will help make your hummingbird cleaning easier!

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Gone

For more than seven years I’ve passed this blueberry field on the way to work. A solitary tree rising above the blueberry barren like a sentinel, creating focus, depth, and perspective in the landscape.

The red, white, and blue of a winter barren.

A bold autumn sky framing a solitary tree.

Sunrise through the morning fog.

A ghost of a solitary tree on a foggy day.

lone pine on blueberry barrens

A lone pine on blackened barrens.

The starkness of the tree on a winter landscape.

This was the view as I drove into work this week. My solitary tree is no more – gone from the landscape I enjoyed so much. I wish I’d known my time was limited. I might have spent more time cataloging that particular view.

The absence of the tree is an apt commentary on life, isn’t it? Appreciate the now, because change is inevitable.

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Showing Off Pigeon Hill

My folks made the trip from Pennsylvania for Hannah’s high school graduation. Their visit was short and we didn’t have a lot of free time, but I did my best to give them a snapshot of my Maine. For Mom, outdoors activities include her home and garden. Dad likes to explore a bit more. At 80 his adventures are different than they used to be, but we did our best to give him one to tell stories about. For years he’s admired the photos of our Pigeon Hill hikes. Yesterday, we armed him with a walking stick and mapped out the least strenuous route up the hill.

Josef Jordan hiking Pigeon Hill

Slow and steady was the motto of the afternoon.

Josef Jordan taking photos from the top of Pigeon Hill

Dad made it to the top and was greeted by another couple already there who noticed his Airborne cap and thanked him for his service. Dad was a career Army. He served for 27 years including a tour in Vietnam. It warmed my heart to hear them recognize his contribution.

Hannah and her Papa at the top of Pigeon Hill

Hannah made the trek with us, doing advance recon to make sure we took the path of least resistance.

Me and my dad on Pigeon Hill

It’s not very often that we have the time to spend together, so I cherished this trip.

Admiring the view from Pigeon Hill

As always, the views from Pigeon Hill did not dissapoint – although it was so windy that it felt as if we should have been tethered down.

Panorama of pigeon hill

Dad took photos but later reported that he thinks he got some great shots of the inside of his lens cap. Good thing I took photos too!

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Creating Memories

I’m not a foodie and you’ll find more “oops” stories here at Downeast Thunder Farm than you will recipes. In planning for Hannah’s graduation celebration, I found these little graduation cap cupcakes on Pinterest. They looked pretty simple and I figured I could pull it off.

I decided to go with Swiss meringue buttercream frosting. I’d never made it before, but heating the 4 egg whites with sugar and then whipping in the butter seemed to go beautifully – until I tasted it. The frosting was beautiful, but gritty on my teeth.

I threw that batch out and started again. Only this time, when I separated my eggs, I broke a yolk on the fourth egg and ruined all four egg whites. So I headed out to the chicken coop, scooped up four more “room temperature” eggs and played it smart this time. I separated one egg at a time in a bowl and then into the double boiler. Well, I must be doing something wrong because those eggs and sugar never did lose their grittiness. After a good 20 minutes of stirring it on the double boiler, I tossed out that batch. Twelve eggs later I texted Hannah who was at her softball game, “Swiss meringue buttercream is not going well.” I abandoned the frosting and took mom shopping. Once we returned home, I effortlessly whipped up a batch of standard buttercream frosting.

Gidget was unimpressed with the lobsters – the centerpiece of Hannah’s celebration dinner.

For a graduation gift, Paul created this frame to hold Hannah’s senior photo and tassle. The fact that it was made of reclaimed oak from the old Milbridge Theatre made it that much more special for our movie nerd.

It took me a while to come up with a graduation gift for Hannah. I wanted something that she could keep to remind her of this day (and of me). I finally settled on a silver cuff bracelet that I had stamped with her mantra for tough times (from the movie Finding Dory) “just keep swimming.”

The inside reads “love mom – 9 June 2017.”

I hope we’ve succeeded in making some good memories for her. As Ellie says in the movie Up, “Thanks for the adventure, now go have a new one.” I’m going to try to make the most of these two months and create some more memories before she takes off on that new adventure!

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Graduation!

It’s been a wildly crazy couple of weeks. Watching Hannah wrap up her high school career has been bitter-sweet. Happy for her accomplishments, and sad that this chapter of her life is winding down. Prom, senior night, class night, and finally graduation today.

Where have the years gone?

2004 pre-school graduation.

2013 eigth grade graduation.

2017 class night.

Wonderful smiles hide the stress she’s been under.

And tonight, there is relief.

graduation storm trooper masks

And celebration with her typical wry sense of humor. Their Class Song was the Imperial March from the Star Wars movie. Hannah, a movie buff, nominated the song and she was thrilled when it was voted in. As it played during the recessional, Hannah and a friend donned Storm Trooper masks they’d hidden under their chairs.

Mom and Dad joined us for the festivities.

And just when you think it’s all over – it’s not. Tomorrow she’ll join her softball team for the semi-final playoff game for their leauge.

I couldn’t be prouder of Hannah – her accomplishments and the woman she’s become. I’m very excited to see what the next chapter holds for her!

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The Wonderful Wood Thrush

It seems that I haven’t had a moment to breath since my Mother’s Day outing with Hannah. A crazy work schedule, Hannah’s softball games, and the end of senior year activities have ruled my life. On our Mother-Daughter Adventure Day, one of our stops was Birdsacre where we hiked through The Queens Throne “where thrushes sing at eventide.” That day inspired this Wonderful Wood Thrush. I designed it almost immediately, but it’s taken weeks to find time to transform him in felt. Hope you enjoy him!

Right click here and select “save target/link as” to save this PDF pattern to your computer.

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Lunchtime Down at the River

bald eagle on the narraguagus river

Cruising past the river today I paused to watch this Bald Eagle leisurely enjoy his lunch.

bald eagle flying over the narraguagus river

bald eagle in flight Maine

flying bald eagle

seagulls fishing in the narraguagus

Once the eagle took off, the gulls moved in so quickly it was as if they’d been sitting on the sidelines waiting for him to leave.

gulls eating alewives

The gulls made fishing look easy, plucking unsuspecting alewives from the river as they passed in the shallows.

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The Boys Are Back

It’s been ten days now since they’ve returned – the boys of summer, aka the male hummingbirds.

boy hummingbirds return

As I enjoyed coffee on the porch this weekend, this little fellow perched on the hook and chirped incessantly at me the entire time I sat out there with him. I think he may be have been guarding the feeder. He chased off every hummer who flew into range. I ultimately spread the feeders out a bit more.

territorial hummingbird

I did get a lot of gardening done this weekend (cleaned out the last two greenhouse beds and planted tomatoes, beans, chard, and herbs). But, I confess these little guys sucked me in dawdling as sat with my camera at the ready waiting for them to fly into focus.

humming birds return for the season

Within a week of the boy’s return, the girls arrived on scene.

female ruby throated humming birds

two female ruby throated humming birds

female ruby throated humming birds

I love the emotions in this trio of images – unsuspecting, aware, and then miffed.

garden hummingbird feeder

This is my favorite new feeder of the season – a little one that perches in the hanging flower pots. There may be a few more of these in my future.

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A Mother-Daughter Adventure Day

For Mother’s Day, Hannah said she wanted to take me to breakfast and then on a hike – mother/daughter day of adventure. We could go and do whatever I wanted.

a mother's day breakfast at chester pike's galley

Our adventure started at Chester Pike’s Galley, my favorite place for breakfast.

enjoying color at surry gardens

We moseyed on to Surry Gardens where we found pleasure in the colors and textures of the plants and flowers.

streptocarpella good hope for mother's day

Hannah plucked up this Streptocarpella ‘Good Hope’ (aka Cape Primrose) for me when I admired it.

the telling of a story

She’s telling me some story here.

red shouldered hawks

Our adventure led us to Birds Acre where I admired the rescued hawks (Red Shouldered?) that appear much larger up close.

tiny saw whet owl

We whispered as we studied this little Saw Whet, trying not to disturb her.

great horned owl profile

And then, this beautiful Great Horned Owl.

great horned owl

So majestic.

We set out on a supposed two-mile hike along the perimeter trail at the Stanwood Wildlife Sanctuary.

ferns unfurling

Ferns elegantly unfurling into spring.

grow where you're planted

Grow where you’re planted.

queens throne

Worshiping at “The Queens Throne where thrushes sing at eventide.”

cattails on the marsh

Last year’s cattails going to seed look like sentries across the marsh.

hannah and susan

Ninety minutes later we found our way out of the woods. Many wrong turns, we never made it around the perimeter trail and likely clocked more than two miles.

We rewarded ourselves with wonderful mozzarella, tomato, and basil sandwiches on focaccia at Finelli’s before setting off in search of Bald Eagles.

osprey in the trees

Rather than eagles, we spotted Osprey feeding in the river.

osprey catching lunch

The picture of the day is this Osprey catching her lunch.

Our day wound down with a little shopping before taking the long way home.

Adventures with Hannah; the recipe for  a perfect day.

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Small But Mighty on Pigeon Hill

The rain let up for one glorious day this week. After what seemed like a week’s worth of chores, Hannah and I headed to Pigeon Hill. We debated taking Gidget with us. Although our destination was just 15 minutes away, Gidget doesn’t do well in the car. Her nerves send her into gastrointestinal distress. In the end, she came along – although Hannah insisted on driving home so she wouldn’t have to deal with Gidge – as cute as she is.

Twas a mucky, muddy hike following all fo the rain we’ve had.

Little Gidget raced to keep up with us.

She often scurried off in the wrong direction, turning to follow when she realized we were leaving her behind. When she didn’t follow as expected, just the mention of a cookie brought her running.

She scrambled over rocks and hopped up almost vertical inclines as if she were a rabbit. Only once on the way to the top did I have to carry her over a particularly sharp outcropping of rocks.

It was a beautiful afternoon from the top. See those clouds to the right? A wall of clouds with the next rain front moving in.

It didn’t take long for the clouds to cast a haze over the landscape.

The wind was whipping and we could see (and hear!) the waves crashing against the islands.

As we plotted our path down the hill, Hannah said, “Wait – we didn’t take our selfie!” I think I’m rubbing off on her.

This Pigeon Hill trip of the year strikes me as another “first last” – our first trip of the year before Hannah heads to college.

This little dog amazes me. She may be small, but she’s mighty. I think she’s got the heart of a Great Dane!

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Happiness on a Rainy Day

I woke last night to the sound of pouring rain. Torrential rain. As I lay there listening, I dreaded morning. I organized the annual Elaine Hill Love a Nurse 5K scheduled for today – rain or shine. Ugh.

 

We had 73 folks pre-registered as of yesterday. I anticipated that all of 6 people would show up given the forecast. Feeling less than enthusiastic, my family dug out the rain jackets, Sloggers, and Muck boots and joined a crew of other volunteers. There was a light drizzle as we set up our tents, but the precipitation steadily increased until we had solid rain. And then, runners and walkers arrived. 100+ ended up registering for the event. I was amazed, thankful, and so happy!

And then, in the lull of the race, I became distracted by the activity in the boggy field behind the registration tent. There was a flock of Red-winged Blackbirds. I sent Hannah back to the house for my camera.

And I started snapping pictures.

I had very willing subjects.

They didn’t seem to mind the unusual activity around their patch of cattails.

Nor did they seem to mind the rain.

So I stood there in the rain getting even more drenched.

I was so happy to have the chance to watch these birds with their colorful epaulets.

And the females are so subtly sweet.

So depsite the wildly crazy weather,

It was a wonderfully happy day.

You can find my design for a Red-winged Blackbird here!

:~*~:

The Elaine Hill Love a Nurse 5K event honors Elaine Hill, a legend of a nurse in our community who died from breast cancer. We honor her memory with scholarships for students going into the nursing profession. If this is a program that you’d like to support – you can do so here.

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Happy to be Home

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve spent any time here at Downeast Thunder Farm. Life has been a little too crazy.

Hannah and I spent a week on the road visiting colleges she’d been admitted to but hadn’t yet visited. Denison University in Ohio was her top choice given their reputation, programs and the generous scholarship and financial package. They even interviewed her via Skype in the fall. Although she liked everything she’d learned about Denison, she was afraid that it wouldn’t live up to her expectations. Well, it did. Before we left campus, she bought the sweatshirt. In less than two months she’ll be heading back to Ohio for an orientation program – this time with her father in tow. It’s Paul’s turn to make the 17 ½ hour trip.

I love that happy smile. Watching her discover Ohio and get excited about her college home was gratifying. She told me that I’m rubbing off on her after she pointed out a particularly large webbed bird flying above.

Finding the beauty in my surroundings wherever I am has always been easy, but returning to Maine makes my heart happy. The further north on I95, the sparser the traffic becomes until we’re back in familiar territory.

I hit the ground running this week with little time to enjoy being home. It seems there’s always a price to taking time off from work. Life moved on in my absence.

My garlic is growing. The Phoebes are back under my lean-to sprucing up two old nests.

The Osprey have returned to their nest along the stream in Whiting.

And, the critters have returned to my lap.

Life is good.

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Coming Alive with Spring

It was a glorious Easter Sunday here – rare 74 degrees and sunny for April. Since my partner in crime (Hannah) is off on a trip to New York, I recruited Paul and Gidget for this afternoon’s walk by the river.

The water was high, roaring past the railroad trestle.

We walked the Sunrise Trail for a ways enjoying the sunshine.

Gidget, not used to the heat, was panting – her little legs working hard to keep up.

On the edge of the damn, I saw a flash of white and started snapping pictures.

Strong wings launched the bird off the edge of the damn.

It flew like a bullet across the river.

Gliding seamlessly.

Once I studied the pictures on my computer, I realized the bird was a Belted Kingfisher. I need a bigger camera lens!

 

There are signs of spring everywhere. My garlic is peeking through the straw in the veggie garden. Crocus are blooming. The peepers are peeping in the woods.

The frogs around the pond are barking. The ducks – only three now – are sunning themselves on the bank.

My day lilies are poking through – forcing their way up even before the last of the snow on top of them melted away.

The hoot owl is vocal day and night lately, most likely nesting nearby.

My world is coming alive after a winter’s rest.

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Dilly – A Good Duck

Today is a sad day. It started out lovely with ice out on the sunny side of the pond. The ducks, Dilly, Quackers, Peep and Squeak enjoyed a first spring dip in the pond while I enjoyed the view from my chair in the shade.

Yet, when it was time to bring the ducks in this evening, there was no Dilly to be found. I discovered her body on the edge of the pond. While six years seems like a long life for a physically challenged duck, losing her hit me hard.

Dilly Duck in the Lillies

Dilly has always held a special place in our hearts. Because of her deformed legs, walking was very laborious for her and she always brought up the ducky rear. The pond was her favorite place – she would complain loudly when the other ducks left her behind. She was our best broody duck, working so hard at sitting on her nest every summer, never with any luck. Dilly got a little extra TLC, like picking her up to put her in the motar box for a winter bath or allowing her nest in the lavendar or wherever she wanted.

Dilly the Duck

It’s an end of an era here at Downeast Thunder Farm. We’re going to miss Dilly.

Dilly Posts

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The Handsome Hooded Merganser

You had to know that there was a Hooded Merganser duck pattern coming after my photos of a pair at the beaver pond last week. The male is so distinctive looking that he’s almost cartoonish. Their arrival on is a wonderful sign of spring as we gear up for 2-3 inches of late snow tomorrow! Enjoy!

Right-click here and select “save target/link as” to save this printable merganser pattern to your computer.

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Hooded Merganser’s on the Beaver Pond

On the tail of writing about beavers, I spotted a most unusual couple on the beaver pond today.

 

I first thought they were bufflehead.

Once loaded on my computer, I discovered that it was a hooded merganser pair. The male and female are so vastly different that they don’t look like they belong together. She looks like she’s having a bad hair day and he looks just a little too dapper.

Since they reportedly don’t winter in Maine, I’ll take their arrival as another sign of spring – despite the forecast for more snow!

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The Joke’s on Me

Many mornings I take a short detour through Columbia Falls to study the river. It’s a beautiful spot. This morning I spotted a juvenile bald eagle chilling on the ice. As I looked around, I saw a large bird sitting atop a chimney. You can imagine my excitement when I realized it was an owl! I pulled over, grabbed my camera and started snapping pictures.

A couple of dozen shots later it occurred to me that he wasn’t moving; not even a feather. My distance vision isn’t great, so I pulled up the image in my camera viewfinder and zoomed in.

fake owls

He was a fake! Who does that?

The joke was on me. 😉

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Sunny Sunday Snapshots

Yesterday was a beautiful, mild day. I was quite lazy, spending much of the day on the sofa reading – something I rarely do.

nuthatches

My vantage point from the sofa gives me a bird’s eye view of three feeders. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many Nuthatches at one time.

goldfinches and chickadee

This Chickadee in flight evokes the feeling of such joy.

winter lavender

Despite what the 153 bird pics I didn’t post implies, I didn’t lounge on the sofa all day. I forced myself outside and pruned my winter weary lavender. Some winters the snow has been so deep that I couldn’t get to the lavender until May.

greenhouse beds

I tackled the clean-up of two of my four greenhouse garden beds. The spent straw used as mulch last year went into the chicken run making for some happy hens.

farm fresh eggs

And I collected eggs. Last year’s four new girls are finally producing on an almost daily basis. Aren’t the eggs pretty?

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On the First Day of Spring

greenhouse in winter

This was my greenhouse at the height of winter. The snow on the roof makes it look a bit lopsided, but the greenhouse stood strong to February’s heavy snow. It scares me to think of what little beings were taking refuge in there.

Yesterday, on the first day of Spring, the snow was not nearly as high. I slogged through and shoveled the snow away from the door.

greenhouse ready for spring cleanup

I had forgotten that at the end of the season I’d  walked out without doing much cleaning up. Bummer.

warm spring greenhouse

It was pleasantly above freezing outside. Inside the temp was an almost balmy 80 degrees. I stripped off my coat and spent a little time yanking out the spent, dried, up tomato plants, and did a little dreaming.

 

 

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Summer Solstice

On this Summer Solstice, I went in search of Lupins. The tall spired flowers are my favorite thing about June. Seas of purply blossoms fill the landscape, brightening fields, providing … Continue reading

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I hate cleaning my hummingbird feeders, but I do it every weekend. I’ve read it should be done more often, but my time during the week is so limited that … Continue reading

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For more than seven years I’ve passed this blueberry field on the way to work. A solitary tree rising above the blueberry barren like a sentinel, creating focus, depth, and … Continue reading

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It’s been a wildly crazy couple of weeks. Watching Hannah wrap up her high school career has been bitter-sweet. Happy for her accomplishments, and sad that this chapter of her … Continue reading