Evening Walk on the Sunrise

Hannah and I both spent the day working. Come dinner time, we felt the need to get outdoors and enjoy this beautiful day. We headed to Machias, parked and walked a few miles on the Sunrise Trail.

long shadows over the marsh in machias

The trail meanders along the river on one side.

evening light over the marsh

The other side of the trail is bordered by marsh and woodlands.

The wildlife seemed to be settling in for the evening, but we spotted this lone Bohemian Waxwing.

And later saw this pair of Black Ducks noodling around in the marsh.

sunset in Machias Maine

Just as we made it back to the car, the sun set over the bay.

full moon over machias bay

On the opposite side of the dyke, an almost-full moon rose over Machias Bay replacing the setting sun. With just 16 days until Hannah leaves for college, she’s got a yearning to enjoy every last bit of Maine that she can.

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Eighteen

Hannah's 18th Birthday

She’s 18 today. In the blink of an eye, she’s grown up. No longer is she the shy little girl who did her best not to stand out – all the while marching to her own tune. Hannah is a woman with young, yet strong convictions and ideals. I couldn’t be more proud of her.

In honor of her birthday, here are 18 things about Hannah that make her Hannah.

  1. She loves movies – everything about them.
  2. She’s a bit of a geek and proud of it.
  3. She’s a feminist – in the most positive sense of the word.
  4. She’s perfected the eye roll – especially when it comes to her dad.
  5. She embraces sarcasm.
  6. She likes the scent of lavender.
  7. She loves to dissect a story or movie.
  8. She enjoys rock and roll and classical music in the form of movie soundtracks.
  9. She can’t throw away an empty toilet paper tube for the life of her. (I just dropped this in to see if you were reading – but it’s true!)
  10. She’s developed my “look” when trying to make a point.
  11. She is passionate about civil rights.
  12. She makes wonderful Spanakopita.
  13. She LOVES dappled light; it never fails to make her smile.
  14. She loses things in plain sight.
  15. Her favorite food is lobster.
  16. She’s always ready for an adventure with me.
  17. She has a good heart.
  18. She is proud to be a Mainer.

Happy Birthday, Hannah!

Past Birthday Posts:
Seventeen
Sixteen
Fifteen
Fourteen
Thirteen
Twelve

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Monarch Caterpillar Becomes a Chrysalis

Yesterday was a lucky day for me. I was working at home day on website projects when I noticed one of the caterpillars Hannah and I have been raising hanging from the bottom of a leaf.

caterpillar ready to pupate

I set my iPhone timer at 30-minute intervals to remind me to check on it throughout the morning. I was lucky enough to arrive just in time to watch the metamorphosis from caterpillar to chrysalis.

monarch chrysalis

You can still see the caterpillar’s pattern on the chrysalis, but those lines disappeared as the shell slowly hardened.

After watching the first caterpillar pupate, I set the stage to catch the next caterpillar on camera. I rigged up my iPhone with a selfie stick awkwardly taped to the table to film this little guy. In 9 to fourteen days we’ll have Monarch butterflies. If my luck holds, I’ll be home when the butterfly emerges!

The transformation I filmed took just over four minutes. This video shows the process in double-time. The wonders of nature!

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The Lobster Chair

The WHRL’s summer fundraising auction held over the weekend had a new feature this year. In addition to the raffle-style auction, we had a “Chair-ity” silent auction. Local artists decorated folding Adirondack chairs that were then auctioned. Paul, volunteered (or was volunteered?) to assemble the chair kits for me. Regardless, he’s a good sport and went a step further. Using the purchased chairs as a template, he built his own Adirondack to contribute to the auction.

lobster shaped adirondack chair

He calls it “Downeast Adirondack” or more familiarly known at the auction as “The Lobster Chair”. He used locally milled wood and modified the arms to feature lobster claws. Welded copper baskets affixed to the arms turn the claws into cup holders.

lobster claw adirondack chair

His chair was a huge hit, bringing in the second highest bid at the auction. A very clever and decidedly Maine idea!

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The Dancing Moose

The summer season is short here along the coast of Maine. For me, doesn’t feel as if summer is in full-swing until Milbridge Days, our community celebration. It’s a fun couple of days during which I seem to always be working – be it the the 5K, the auction, or blueberry pie sale. This year, I made it out to the parade just in time to see the Wyman’s of Maine float pass with Hannah dancing along beside it.

dancing moose

The words “Hannah” and “dance” really don’t go together. She’s not much of a dancer and even as a little child would try to stop me from dancing around the kitchen. She would run up behind me and wrap her arms around my waist and yell, “No shaking your bootie, Mommy!” Of course, that prompted me to want to dance even more!

So you can imagine my surprise as I saw Hannah, wearing a moose suit, dancing along the street! She was shaking her bootie, high-fiving little kids, and giving hugs to the elderly.

hannah dancing moose

Maybe it’s the anonymity of it all that helped her to “embrace her inner moose” as she said. Fun times!

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Macros and Milkweed

The Monarch caterpillars are getting quite big. This morning I gave them a new sprig of milkweed. By this evening, they’d eaten all but the stock. I had two new stems of milkweed left in a mason jar on the counter from last weekend. As I prepared them for the hungry caterpillars, I found two new baby caterpillars hatched from eggs I’d unknownly brought home.  We’re up to five Monarch caterpillars!

In search of more food for these voracious little things, Hannah and I headed up to the large milkweed plot in town.

Here are some milkweed flowers in the late afternoon sun. There were Monarchs flitting around, I didn’t have my camera with me. But I did have my phone – and my new macro lens just happened to be in the car.

There were bees everywhere – all different types, buzzing around together.

The bees on my lavendar this weekend were a bit skittish, scurrying off when I got too close with the phone/camera. These guys were on a sugar high and paid no attention to me as I angled for a picture.

We discovered this guy and decided to bring him home. That makes six caterpillars we’re raising into butterflies. My friend, Emily, is raising 70! I’ve dubbed her the butterfly lady.

A few of you wrote and asked for more information about my new macro lens. I did some searching on Amazon and landed on a trio of lenses from a company called DOFLY. I’ve only experimented with the macro, but the kit comes with a fisheye and wide-angle lense too. In the end, I chose this because of it’s 4.5 star rating and a price tag under $20.

The lens screws into this clip-on mounting. Position the clip over your phone’s camera lens and you are ready to go. It works just fine over my leather phone case. When photographing your subject with the phone, you have to get right on top of it. At close range, without the macro lens, the subject is blurry.

bee on milkweed

With the macro lens, when you get it just right, the results are wonderful.

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A Macro View

Last week I splurged and spent $19 on a macro lens for my iPhone. I figured that it would be an inexpensive way to begin experimenting with close up photos of my Monarch caterpillars. I’ve played around with the lens a bit with various results. Once clipping the lens on, you have to get right on top of the subject to get the focus right. Between the breeze, a less than steady hand, and bees that won’t sit still, it’s a little challenging to find good subjects. The slow moving caterpillars are more my speed.

Click on the thumbnails for a larger view.

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Caterpillar Rescue

I’ve been working on introducing Monarch butterflies to my garden since the spring when I planted Milkweed – the Monarch caterpillar’s food of choice. After visiting the Charlotte Rhoades Butterfly Garden, I’ve become a bit of a sleuth – exploring local patches of milkweed in search of Monarch eggs.

I’ve not had success in finding eggs, but a friend has.  Emily let Hannah and I adopt three of her eggs. After a few days, they hatched.

We’ve been tending to them for two-three weeks now. This is a macro image – she’s really only about an inch long.

I have a new appreciation for caterpillars now. Isn’t she cute?

We bought this little pop-up house to hold the Milkweed cuttings on which the caterpillars or “instars” are living and feeding. It does a good job at keeping the cats away. I have little plastic specimen tubes with a hole drilled in the cap to create vases for the milkweed. A block of styrafoam helps to keep them upright.

Sadly, today I had a mishap. I stood at this table on the porch coaxing the caterpillars off the old milkweed and onto new cuttings. I didn’t have newspaper down and one little guy fell through the weave of the table and then onto the deck before rolling between the boards onto the ground underneath.

So sad, I packed up my caterpillar house and went inside to tell Hannah the news.

Hannah could see I was bothered by my failure as a Monarch mama and came to the rescue. I pointed her to the general direction of the disappearance. By the flashlight of her cell phone, she peered through the deck boards.

And she found him! I held the light while she tucked a long stick through the crack.

A bit of coaxing and he started the climb out.

She told me that she can’t stand to see me cry and had to get him back for me. I’m not sure I would have cried over the loss of the caterpillar, but I sure felt guilty. Hannah to the rescue! What am I going to do when she heads off to college? In just 32 days.

More to come on Project Monarch!

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Wild Iris

After a stop in Winter Harbor to visit with a friend, Hannah and I headed out to Schoodic Point for a scramble on the rocks. Inland was warm and sunny, while The Point was shrouded in fog.

The prettiest wild iris give the seascape a pop of color.

They surround rock pools, framing the shallows in green and violet.

They take purchase in the crevasses,

delicate, yet strong and enduring.

All this natural beauty and I caught Hannah on her iPhone. Turns out she too was photographing flowers.

I only have five more weekends of adventures with her before she is college bound to Ohio.

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No Bees

My seasons of purple have been racing by without much notice on my part. I’ve been too busy to enjoy being at home. I’ve all but missed the lilac bushes that were in bloom for all of a week. The Lupin has come and gone.

lavender

Today, I blissfully had a day to myself at home. And my lavender is in full bloom. Yet, disturbingly, there are no bees. Typically, my row of lavender seems alive with the buzzing of bees. As I sat on the porch this afternoon – nothing. Birds flitted in and out of the yard. I spotted a wasp or two, but no bees. I don’t have a great flower garden, but there are other things in bloom.

maine bachelor buttons

Bachelor Buttons.

maine lady's mantle

Lady’s Mantle.

maine black eyed susans

A few Black-eyed Susans.

maine pea blossoms

Sugar Snap Peas.

maine purple petunias

And my pots and hanging baskets of Petunias.

Where are the bees? It’s most unusual.

maine pekin duck

Oh, and here’s Peep lounging among the blueberries – which are bearing fruit – so the pollinators must have been here at some point.

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Exploring Gardens

On this Fourth of July, Hannah and I explored some of the beautiful gardens of Mount Desert Island.

Our initial destination was the Charlotte Rhoades Butterfly Garden in Southwest Harbor. This small, but spectacular garden was designed by Bruce John Riddell who is also working on our Milbridge Commons project.

The highlight of the experience was spotting these Monarch Butterflies.

One of the most spectacular features of this garden is something you cannot see when standing in it. Bruce once showed me his design for the Butterfly Garden – a piece of art in and of itself. The layout is in the shape of a butterfly’s wing. The walkways are the dark veins of the wing, the garden beds the colorful parts.

Every planting in the garden is designed to attract butterflies and pollinators.

Globe Thistle.

bees on allium at the butterfly garden

Allium.

Norwood Cove was the backdrop for ourpicnic lunch at the Butterfly Garden.

carved gate of thuya garden

Ready to continue our exploration, we wandered over to Thuya Garden in Northwest Harbor. The gate to the garden is a pair of these beautifully carved wood doors.

It was a wonderfully peaceful place with seating nooks perfect for contemplation.

Thuya Gardens

Paths in the wood invited exploration.

Monarch butterflies at Thuya Gardens

And I found more Monarchs. Watching them made me determined to nurse my baby milkweed plants along so they can ultimately make it into the garden. I want Monarchs!

The colors needed to captured.

ferns at thuya gardens

As did the patterns and textures of ferns.

rainbow over the milbridge commons

Tired and content we headed home just in time to spot this double rainbow.

rainbow over the narraguagus river in milbridge

Loved the reflection of the rainbow in the river.

All in all, a lovely way to spend the Fourth!

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A Portrait of a Kitty

miss kitty

Cinder, aka Miss Kitty.

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Stop the Car!

A few weeks ago, Hannah and I went for a walk on the beach. Heading home, we were crossing the bridge when Hannah began yelling, “Stop the car! Stop the car! Get your camera!” When I didn’t stop fast enough (there was NO place to pull over) she hollered again, pointing to the water.

I stopped the car in the middle of the road and whipped out my camera, quickly trying to focus on the spot at which she was pointing. “It’s a whale, it’s a whale!” she screamed. With excitement, I zoomed in, focused, and began laughing.

Hannah’s whale was a large rock sitting just below the water line. Sure enough, the waves gently lapping over the rock did resemble a whale surfacing. Does this remind you a bit of my owl sighting?

Fast forward to this evening. We picked up Mexican takeout at Vazquez and were bringing it home to enjoy. Just as we hit the river and turned into our road Hannah began yelling, “Stop the car! Get your camera! There’s something in the water!”

“What? What?” I asked. “It’s a bird!” she said. “What kind of bird?” I asked. “A different bird!” she said.

great blue heron

She had no clue what she was looking at, but she was right. I think it’s the first time I’ve spied heron in our river.

great blue heron

I think I’m rubbing off on her. She’s developing quite the photographer’s eye!

great blue heron in maine

 

 

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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 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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