Tuesday, August 28, 2007

We're famous!

My friend Herb Wilson mentioned Henbogle blog in his birding column in the Maine Sunday Telegram this past Sunday, writing about the hair of the dog and the titmouse, when a tufted titmouse was pulling hair from Fishy for her nest.

I thought I'd post the links to make it easier for people to find the photos and video.

A photo of one of a titmouse in the nest box can be seen here, and photos of a disappointed titmouse attempting to collect hair from the recently clipped Fishy here. Fishy and the Titmouse, the video, can be seen here. Fishy the lion dog can be seen here.

Who'd have thunk ol' Fishy would be responsible for making Henbogle famous!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I'm still a trend setter

Friends laugh when they see my lists, but list-making works for me, and
apparently I'm not alone. The New York Times has an article about the growing popularity of life lists, a list of goals to accomplish while still on this earthly plane. Well, shucks, I've had one o' them for years. I've even accomplished a few of the goals. I need to dig it out, but I'll look for it and if i can find it, I'll post. If not, I'll try and recreate from memory.

All talk, no action = garden gone wild

Back in January I posted a link in blogging pal Tracy's blog about a garden trellis design I was contemplating.

Well, I should have moved from contemplation to action, because right now I'm being overrun with ginormous tomato plants, but as of yet, no ripe tomatoes. In the photo on the right, you can see the tomato plants, tidily trellised, lush, yet still well out of the now non-existent mulched path between tomatoes and zinnias. Then we went camping for 2 weeks, and the tomatoes grew like Barry Bonds' biceps. But sans steroids, in this instance. Sigh. We need to be better about both trellising and pruning for better yield. Is it too late to prune now? Will it speed ripening?

Other beds are equally as lush. The herb bed, a sad little thing in the beginning, beset by slugs and groundhog, is now full to bursting with herbs. I've used lots of dill in making 2 double batches (to date) of dilly beans. I had to cut back the cilantro, which was busy setting seed for lack of a ripe tomato to partner with in a zesty salsa. The parsley is recovering from the ravages of Hogdemort, and the rest of the herbs are also eagerly awaiting ripe tomatoes to flavor in various guises.

My cutting flower bed, primarily zinnias, is gloriously colorful, providing weekly bouquets for my desk at the office, and the desks of work cronies, too. A huge vase of flowers certainly made the return to the office less painful. Slightly.

A first for me, my pepper plants are loaded with ripening peppers. Seen here is Lemon Drop, which my pal Michael started from seeds I saved from plants he gave me last year. They are hot, hot, hot, when raw, but get milder when cooked. Slightly. Also plentiful amidst the peppers are Sweet Banana, Johnny's Carmen, and Italian Frying Peppers. The peppers benefited greatly from being in a raised bed and being covered with floating row cover until it warmed up. They would also have greatly benefited from my hard-heartedly ripping out the sprawling volunteer cherry tomato plants growing with them, but alas, I did not and have no heart for it now when I can see loads of green tomatoes. Next year I will ruthlessly rip out ill-placed volunteers. I will, I will!

The bush cherries, a semi-impulse
purchase at the Fedco Tree Sale, are absolutely covered in bright red ripening fruits. A taste yesterday revealed they are still not quite ripe, but getting there. I hope this will provide fruit enough in the future for cherry conserves or jam, since my cherry tree is on the injured list, and the outcome is unknown at this point.

We picked far fewer blackberries this year, do no doubt to our freakishly warm winter followed by our freakishly cold and windy spring. What we picked we are experimenting with, attempting to make blackberry liqueur. The berries are steeping for 3 months, then sugar syrup is added and the mixture aged for as long as you can wait before giving it a whirl.

The potatoes are growing lushly, with barely a sign of a potato beetle in sight. We've had one meal of new potatoes, time for another tomorrow I think. Yum. Other successes include the yummy Costata Romanesca zucchini, and as of now it looks like I'll have a fine pumpkin crop as well, with Winter Luxury and New England Pie ripening on the vines.

Despite early infestation of the striped cucumber beetle, my cucumbers have been remarkably prolific. I have Johnny's Diva and added some Marketmore 76 plants when I thought the Divas were goners. Both are tasty, but the Diva's thin, tender skin puts it on top in the taste test. Again this year I grew the cukes in hay bales punched with holes and stuffed with soil and compost. I think some of the early problems were caused by lack of water, so my plan for next year calls for me to ready the hay bales this fall, setting them in place and amending well with compost, soil and fertilizer. If the hay is more broken down I think it will be more moisture-retentive. This method needs refinement, but with it I have had cukes, last year being my first successful attempt. Training them oon the garden fence has been great, I'll do this again next year.

It's been a great year, with the exception of the tomatoes. Ripen, dammit!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Quoddy Highlights

We had a great time in the Quoddy region last week, and are planning future visits. I was amazed at how little waterfront development we saw, but I suspect even Lubec will see development pressure along the coast.

Land and home prices are more reasonable than here, but not by much, which surprised me. I hope the development does not create another disaster like the Ellsworth-Acadia corridor. More photos (click to enlarge):

Who are these people?!

The famous (infamous?) West Quoddy Head Light, seen from Campobello Island. You can barely detect the stripes.

Amazing views from Hamilton Cove, part of a series of hikes in the area. You can faintly see Grand Manan Island in the background. The Quoddy Regional Land Trust publishes an excellent trail guide for the area. The Hamilton Cove hike was about 3 miles through a mix of alder thickets, spruce forest and open rocky headland. It was marvelous.

Dan enjoying the view on the Hamilton Cove hike.

The Roosevelt Cottage, with a gorgeous dahlia border planted along the walk.

The flowerbeds at the Roosevelt visitor's center were a spectacular mix of annuals. I recognized many of the plants, but not the two seen below. More mystery flowers to id! Can anyone help?

I have no clue what this blue flower is--it was a gorgeous flax flower blue, the leaves were slightly hairy, and it gre on long stems, repeat blooming as the flower grew.

This looked like a phlox, but was a gorgeous apricot shade, which I haven't seen in a phlox. Any ideas as to what these flowers are?

What is this mystery flower?

While we were camping, my mystery plant finally bloomed. I think that last year, I was hoping these flowers were 1st year coneflower seedlings. I was wrong, very very wrong, and now this vigorous grower is taking over my border bed. What is it? Can I easily be rid of it? It is crowding out the coneflowers and my beloved meadow rue, so it has to go.

Monday, August 20, 2007

A frost warning??

Baby it's cold outside!! Parts of Maine have a frost warning tonight, with a freeze warning in the far northwest & mountains! It's been a cool summer, but a frost already? No wonder I don't have any ripe tomatoes yet! The forecast here calls for temps to drop to the low 40s. Good sleeping weather as they say....

Today I made my way reluctantly to the office, officially ending my summer vacation. It was great to see my colleagues, and my boss seemed really happy to see me, but as always I have mixed feelings about the end of the summer and the start of a new school year. The summers are never long enough to do all the tasks on my list, and I'm pretty unhappy that I haven't been able to can any tomatoes yet! I had big plans to get some tomatoes canned before the madness that is the beginning of the semester set in, but our cool summer has slowed things down.

Ah well, at least I'm all in one piece. My poor blogging pal Tracy from Outside fell and dislocated her shoulder the other day. Now that would just bite. At least she has ripe tomatoes.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

End of vacation blues

We're home again from the far reaches of eastern Maine. We had a fabulous vacation, a great mix of camping, kayaking, hiking, sightseeing, and with an unexpected encounter with friends to add a couple of fun evenings to the mix.

With a mix of clear sunny days, cool nights, rain, thunderstorms and even coastal fog, we got to experience pretty much all the types of weather I want to experience from my awesome, but aging, tent. Our new screen tent again proved it's usefulness as Dan and I enjoyed a game of Snatch in the evenings while the bugs went hungry. I could have readily spent another couple of days at Cobscook Bay, although tonight would have been chilly, with the temperature here a mere 60F at 7 pm and a stiff breeze. No doubt it will be in the 40s tonight. Summer appears to be preparing for an exit. I noticed a few red maple leaves on the lawn this morning, fallen from our tree, sigh.

After the hawk episode I was a tad concerned about leaving the hens and the little chicks, but I'm happy to report all the chicks and hens are present and accounted for at Henbogle, and appear to be in fine fettle. It is a huge relief to know that our pals Bill and Michelle are taking great care of the zoo while we are away. THANKS GUYS!!

The vegetable garden kept on cranking out the veggies, and the hens rejoiced when we arrived on the scene and promptly gave them a monster zucchini. Cucumbers and beans are more than ready for picking, but alas, still no red tomatoes. Although there are some yellow squash nearly ready to pick, I am deeply in need of a tomato from my garden. Ripen, dammit!! So much for canning tomatoes before I head back to the office.

More tomorrow when I download more photos.

Sunday, August 12, 2007


The vegetable garden is kicking in to high gear at last. I have some baby yellow crookneck squash, the tomatoes are setting fruit and getting bigger, and boy oh boy are the beans producing!

We've had 2 big meals of the Indy Gold wax beans, and yesterday picked about 7 lbs. of beans. Today I made a double batch of dilly
beans and froze the remainder. We did buy 3 lbs. of Provider green beans from a local farmstand to make bi-colored green and gold dilly beans, as our pole beans are just beginning to bear.

I also picked a bit over 3 lbs. of Dutch shallots, I love their mild taste. This was a good year for them in my heavy soil.

Now that we've put up some produce, yet are still awaiting the tomato deluge, time to sneak off for a few more days of kayaking and camping in downeast Maine. Look for more news of Henbogle later in the week.

A Hungry Hawk...

Saturday morning, a hungry hawk got one the the chicks. We have yet to name them all, this batch of chicks are more similar than our debut batch, but we do know it was not Ayla or Sophie, who are the two in the group who we can immediately recognize.

We are sad, but at least the chick went for a meal and is part of the food chain, as unlike poor Marigold, killed by a neighborhood cat just for fun.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

More views of Washington County

Washington County produces something like 20% of the nations blueberries. Maine wild blueberries are delicious. This shop, Wild Blueberry Land, was very amusing.
The view of the bridge to Campobello Island from Lubec.
West Quoddy Head Lighthouse.
Guess who!
Views from the Quoddy Head trails.

Note the light house began operating as the fog rolled in during the afternoon.
There is a spectacular hike on a raised boardwalk through a peat bog at the park. We saw eerie ancient stunted trees, rare plants, and unusual plants like the pitcher plant seen below.
A carnivorous pitcher plant. Note the water collected in the plant. Insects are caught in the water, prevented from escape by fine hairs on the throat of the plant, then digested by enzymes the plant produces. I should have brought some Japanese beetles!

No visit downeast is complete without a stop at Helen's for pie, blueberry, natch.
And of course the obligatory touristy photo in Eastport.

Glorious Maine Coast

We just returned from a few days of camping at Cobscook Bay State Park, in far downeast Maine near Dennysville. It is an astonishingly beautiful place.

The campground was fabulous, with mostly spacious, private, well placed sites, many on the water. We had a great site, not on the
water but with a water view. In future, we'll be sure to make early reservations to get a waterfront site that will allow us to launch the kayaks right from the site.

Being conditioned to the coastal development in Midcoast-Maine, it amazed me to see vast stretches of undeveloped waterfront, not a building in sight, be it fishing shack or McMansion. The Country of the Pointed Firs still exists, albeit further east.
We paddled the bay, we visited the towns of Lubec and Eastport, and did some hiking at Quoddy Head State Park, and kicked back and relaxed. In Eastport, we partook of a local delicacy, Raye's Mustard at the mill/museum. It is the only stone grinding mustard mill in the U.S., and the mustard was good! We came home with several jars. We are going back, maybe even next week. Views from the campground follow, click to enlarge them.

The view from our campsite.
These views are from various camp sites(!)

The view from the boat launch.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Reason #1 to have a vegetable garden

An acquaintance was recently insisting that fresh veggies from her CSA share were the equal of home grown and harvested veggies. While I'm a big fan of buying from local farms and CSAs, on this I must disagree.

New potatoes and fresh beans picked just a few minutes before cooking have a divine taste that cannot be duplicated. They are amazing. I can't think of a better way to celebrate our 6th anniversary. Happy Anniversary, Dan!

Kayak shade skirt

Dan and I are both fair skinned (that Celtic heritage), and I'm sensitive to sunscreens, so we have a tendency to fry in our boats.

So, I created a shade skirt out of some cheesey lightweight poly/cotton fabric, which is held on

with a drawcord around the cockpit combing.

The shade skirt can be scrunched toward the bow to enter or exit the boat or to change the amount of sun shining into the cockpit. I hope it works!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Garden photos

I took these photos a few days ago, but haven't managed to post them yet. Things here are beginning to look a bit dry, but I'm holding off on watering hoping for thundershowers tonight.

The new garden bed by the new deck.

The same bed May 31. The big mistake with this bed was to forget how tasty the Japanese beetles find the grapevine, which then leads them to the other plants, like my Morden Sunrise rose. The evil bugstards just LOVE the blossoms, sigh.

The sunflower is a volunteer, no doubt from the feeder. The cleome was planted to add season long color and stature in this new bed, and it has worked. I just love it.

I love this combination planted in the very hot and dry sedum bed along the driveway. Of course, the rose campion needs deadheading, but what else is new.

The Russian sage bed along the drive is just coming into bloom. It makes a terrific small seasonal hedge, allowing us to dump mounds of snow there in the winter months.

The front garden is coming into its second peak of hot colored daylillies and (surprise!) black-eyed susan.

This inula I received from a colleague years ago at the first annual plant swap I organized at work. I'm pleased to say the swap still occurs annually 6 years running even though I've moved on. Many of my flowers came from this generous group of gardeners. I still miss them after 3 years at my new job.