Archive for Random Thoughts

Off to the Soup Kitchen…

summer Squash, in all its abundance.

Summer Squash, in all its abundance.

I may have quit the garden for a few days in Maine but that doesn’t mean that the garden quit!  Three hills of Summer Squash have given me so many beauties that I’m giving these to a friend who volunteers at a local soup kitchen.  They will, I hope, be welcomed by the families who are struggling to make ends meet.  The economy is still fragile, especially in nearby Bridgeport.

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Do You Read to Your Children?

Crossing the rope bridge to the tree house at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens Children's Garden

Crossing the rope bridge to the tree house at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens Children’s Garden

We spent a delightful afternoon with my niece and her two children at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens in Boothbay last week.  They have a Children’s Garden, full of family friendly activities that must have been so much fun to design.  One of the spaces is a reading corner and there is a plaque imprinted with the final verse to Strickland Gillilan’s poem “The Reading Mother.”

                                  You may have tangible wealth untold;
                                  Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
                                  Richer than I you can never be —
                                  I had a Mother who read to me.

Such truth in that verse!  My Mother read to me, I read to my children and both my son and daughter-in-law read to my grandchildren.  Do you read to the young people in your life?

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Two of our Maine Bird Families

Eider Ducks

Common Eider Ducks (Somateria mollissima)

I know there are lots of bird families underway in the dense mixed conifer/hardwood forest that nestles against our Maine home, but two are very visible.  The Eider Ducklings are seen swimming with their mothers and aunties  in several groups inside our reef.  When we arrived for the week I counted nearly thirty ducklings but that number has been reduced by about ten.  Their main predators here are the great Black-backed Gulls.  Although I haven’t seen it this year, it is a horrifying experience to watch one of these large gulls alight in front of the hapless mother and gobble down a few of her ducklings, almost before I know what’s happening.  One of their defenses is to travel together with the younger un-mated females (known as aunties) in a behavior known as cooperative breeding.   When threats are near the adults will close ranks around the ducklings and try to fend off attacks.  Eiders are our largest Northern Hemisphere ducks, but the ducklings are tiny and extremely vulnerable.

Dark-eyed Junco, feeding her newly hatched chicks.

Dark-eyed Junco, (Junco hyemalis) feeding her newly hatched chicks.

Yes, I realize the window is very dirty!  I hope you can make out the Dark-eyed Junco and the nest.  She built her nest on the base of an old Phoebe nest which had been used for several years.  The nest rests atop the siren for our security system and I certainly hope there is no breach of security while this little family is in residence.  It’s under the eave of the dormer and seems an excellent choice for a nesting spot as it’s out of the sun and wind and hidden from predators by the flare in the siren.  None the less, she takes great care when she approaches the nest, waiting, caterpillar in beak, checking back and forth for several minutes before quickly flying in to feed her chicks.  Here’s hoping for the Junco’s nesting success and for at least a few of our little Eider Ducklings to survive.

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Beautiful Maine Sunrise

IMG_2258This was the view from our Maine deck this morning when I arose early to enjoy the dawn chorus.  I was looking out over a passage called “The Thread of Life” which allows boat traffic to pass from the Boothbay Region to Pemaquid Point.  With the summer solstice just a day or two away, this is the furthest north the sun rises.  In mid-winter it rises just south of Monhegan Island.  Our dawn chorus today began with the Northern Parula’s buzzy notes climbing the scale, followed by a Yellow-rumped Warbler right above my head in a Wild Cherry tree.  Ah, the fresh clean air of a tension-draining new day in Maine!

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Cairn Sculpture

 

This simple cairn reminds me of a seal.

This simple cairn reminds me of a seal balancing a ball.

One thing we have come to look forward to on our daily walks along the shore in Maine is the cairn sculpture.  This past weekend someone had been very busy and we came across two dozen or so, of varying complexity.  This got me curious about cairns.  I found that they have been used since pre-history as directional markers, a use they still have today.  I noted them on the summit of Mount Washington when we were up there watching the White Mountain Arctic butterfly studies.  [See this post]  The summit is a maze of rocks and closely spaced cairns marked the trail, as it was easy to go astray, even in the clear weather we had that day.

You could easily get lost in the fog, were it not for these closely spaced cairns.

You could easily get lost in the fog, were it not for these closely spaced cairns.

When we were on the shores of Hudson Bay in November, 2012, [See this post] we saw a cairn known as an Inuksuit, erected as a location marker for the town of Churchill by the First Nations people living there.   This striking cairn was anthropomorphic in design.  One afternoon I saw a Polar Bear walk right by it, giving it a glance, but didn’t have my camera handy.

Churchill, Manitoba's Inuksuit.

Churchill, Manitoba’s Inuksuit.

Here are a few of the cairn sculptures we saw last weekend in Maine.

Many like this "peopled" our walk.

Many like this “peopled” our walk.

A simpler design.

A simpler design.

This conveys a message of love with it's heart.

This conveys a message of love with it’s heart.

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Spring is Coming to Maine

Only a few shaded spots still have snow.

Only a few shaded spots still have snow.

We were in Maine for a few days and I saw several signs of spring.  The snow has receded to a few earth smeared drifts in shaded spots and the Skunk Cabbage is in bloom.

Skunk Cabbage is in bloom (that red spathe hides the flowering spike.)

Skunk Cabbage is in bloom (that red spathe hides the flowering spike.)

The Eider Ducks are pairing up for the mating season.

I hope these two are successful this year.

I hope these two are successful this year.

Workmen were opening up cottages and repairing winter damage and soon the Inn will open again.

The Ocean Point Inn, all boarded up, but not for long.

The Ocean Point Inn, all boarded up, but not for long.

Danger of frost must be minimal now because they were flushing out the water pipes that only provide water in the summertime.

They are flushing out the "summer water" pipe that provides water to Negro Island.

They are flushing out the “summer water” pipe that provides water to Negro Island.

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Antarctic Adventure

The Tourist Ship Akademik Shokalskiy

The Tourist Ship Akademik Shokalskiy

I was horrified just after Christmas to see the Russian scientific research vessel turned tourist ship imprisoned in the Antarctic pack ice.  This was the very same ship my husband and I toured Antarctica in nearly ten years ago.  Today I learned that the wind had shifted and that she had broken free, now headed back to New Zealand for another load of tourists.  I became very fond of that little ship over the 25 days of our trip.  She is smaller than most of the ships that tour Antarctica and can therefore get into tighter harbors than the more common “Princess Line” sized behemoths we saw.   With only 47 passengers, we got to know our fellow travelers quite well.  They were a well traveled international lot with only 12 of us being Americans, much more fun for us.  The chef was Austrian and the food was delicious.  I loved the position of our cabin which was on the bow deck, the first one, facing the waves.  There were two portholes side by side in front and when the sea was rough it looked like we were looking into a washing machine with the foaming seawater swirling around in the windows.  I’m so glad she’s safe.

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