Tag Archives: birds

Almost Heaven, Wickford, RI…

Michaela, assis. gardener Emily & Maeve by deck garden July 4 LaFayette Band concert on the beach Lafayette Concert Band; Dirk over crutches

July 30, 2015

Two and one-half months in Wickford, RI! Finally this 90 yr. old house with a rather grown-up yard, is becoming an orderly place.

I’m just inside after two hours of digging to plant only two perennials! Purgatory Road is nearby, as is a village called “Hardscrapple.” These names now have great significance to me. In this two hours I collected over a gallon of rocks, and another gallon of sod, some of which is now in the bottom of the garden. I have a bright spot of golden black-eyed Susans (never could get those to grow in NC) and scarlet bee balm. I’ve selected perennials to entice my neighbors’ bees over here to fertilize my cucumbers, tomatoes, sugar peas and peppers.

The temperature here today was 84, and in NC, a steamy 91. Locals here think this weather is intolerably humid, but not to a new transplant from two days’ drive south of here. We haven’t needed A/C. Fans do the trick, plus strategically opening windows in the eve., keeping all fans going. It’s wonderful, waking to a cool house. When the temperature is the same in and out, I close the windows, and this old house stays cool. I hope it will do equally well come winter.

Dirk walks the dogs while I trim, cultivate, water, and plan what trees to delete, or how many branches that grow over the garage or shade the gardens. A magnificent maple tree reigns over the east side of the lawn. Turkeys (four large, seven small) graze bugs from the back yard and I gather long fluffy, striped feathers in the morning. Maeve, the Aussie, plops down on the deck, leaning over he top step, just watching them. Emily, the Great Pyrenees and guardian, eventually allows her curiosity to get the best of her, and creeps across the lawn, quiet and hesitant, to see what these odd intruders are. Ma Turkey fluffs and fans her tail, doubling her size, and Emily stops, uncertain. The turkeys vaporize into the woods. She then tentatively examines their trail, walking where they walked, sniffing. Then, satisfied they pose no threat, pops up her head and trots back up to the deck as if to tell Maeve and me, “See, maybe I have no sheep to protect, but I can still protect you!”

She’s less certain about the scrappy sea gulls that hang out in the evening at Duffy’s Grille, near-by. They have to check out our yard for food, of course. The dogs prefer to duck, rather than fight. Emily once chased a gull that had grabbed her bone, but when the gull fought back, Emily thought better of it and backed off, her bone sailing into the trees. I wonder what the gull did with it—drop it on a breakwater?

My pot garden is giving us vegetables, and next year will be in the ground, instead. All the kitchen compost goes into the gardens, and we’re now finding the occasional earthworm. I do miss the sheep manure—a much faster way to enrich a garden.

Through our church, I found two teens who want to work for a little extra money helping us around the yard. They have been a great help, and I now have two small gardens, one with perennials, and one with plants I brought from NC. I have three kinds of tea, a “beauty bush,” and a holly there, and will add more in time. The tea I planted here last fall is still there, but not doing well, since it’s in the shade. Soon I’ll move it, but I still have things in pots to plant first. One of the teens took the hedge trimmer to the front privet hedge, and it looks much better. When the trimmer hit the extension cord, it shorted out the circuit, and ended their two hours of work here in any case. Dirk worked on it today, too, so now it’s nearly done. “More to go,” as always. I guess if we were going to name our new house, it would be something like that. There’s no end to poison ivy, although there’s much less, “weed-maples” that have shot up everywhere and are smothering themselves, and other interesting weeds that are obviously invasive, whatever they are, among them bittersweet, which is pulling down a tree in the back yard. It responds well to pruning, plus Round-Up on the cut stump, as I learned in a NC Forestry workshop.

The RI Spinners’ Guild went to Foster, RI,’s Old Home Week, and I had the privilege of sitting down with Earl Hopkins and hearing family stories about my Jordan and Boswell cousins, while his granddaughter (part-owner of Shady Acres Restaurant, where my father ate for many years) served up strawberry shortcake for the benefit of the Baptist Church. That was such a treat! Finally I’m back in home country. Dirk and I wandered the Town Green, checked out the 4-H sheep of many different breeds, the many food stands from a variety of local churches, grange, Masons, and others. It was a fine two days! Oh, and we ate clam cakes and “chow-dah!”

Dirk is playing French Horn in both the LaFayette Community Band in Wickford, and in the South County Band in Wakefield. As a result, we have two concerts a week to attend, sitting by the water in both places, and I visit with friends whose spouses are also in band. I’ve been bringing Emily, the Pyr’s, brushed fur and a drop spindle from a lapis bead along, and have now one large ball of washed, plied yarn completed, and am working on the next. The concert season ends in a couple weeks, so I’d better keep spinning, since her fur production is ahead of my ability to spin it all so far! She’s getting combed regularly, as is Maeve, so even though we need to vacuum daily, most of it is captured in bags awaiting spinning. There are also Tues. eve. concerts on the Wickford Town Wharf, which are eclectic—I much prefer Dirk’s bands! But the spinning comes along in any case. It’s delightful to be comfortable sitting outside at a concert in the early evening. A NC friend said it sounds like Heaven—and, you know, it’s close!

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First six months without sheep; preparing to move north

When we had sheep, they kept the fences clear. Now the birds enjoy the shelter.

When we had sheep, they kept the fences clear. Now the birds enjoy the shelter.

June, 2014 to Jan., 2015

Long walk in the woods, 1 1/2 mi.

Long walk in the woods, 1 1/2 mi.

This morning I captured a chipping sparrow away from Boots and Liam, and released it to the suet block. It shook itself and flew off, thank goodness. The two rescued stray cats run between my legs, or walk under Emily, the Pyr’s stomach, and move out the door with her. If I haven’t succeeded in re-homing them before we move, they may die on RI Rt. 1, which runs right in front of our home there.

Those who keep carnivores as pets need to be prepared to deal with carcasses of helpless small creatures pets consider their rightful prey. Last week it was a possum in the garage, probably after dog food—the 20-pound bags were tossed all around but not spilled…The dogs got the poor thing. Liam the cat had slipped out at midnight when I took the dogs out for their last walk, so I left the garage door ajar. Fortunately the possum didn’t come through the doggie door into the house! Life seems so complicated sometimes. Was the possum dead, or playing possum? I waited an hour to pick it up, then left it in the hole uncovered the rest of the day, dogs inside, to be sure it wasn’t going to just walk away, which I have seen them do. Not this time. A couple days before that I opened the back door to feed the birds and found remains of a squirrel on the rug, and a mouse a couple days later.

Woke this am. to find a raccoon “treed” in the firethorn on the back deck. Two dogs in the yard provides high risk for the night visitors… Maeve, our Aussie, has killed two raccoons this past summer, and is the best-rabies-immunized dog in the neighborhood. When I called for help, hoping NC Wildlife would come and trap the raccoons and take them somewhere, the employee advised me to take in the bird seed at night to discourage their coming here, and after two weeks, that did work. They don’t move raccoons, since they might be incubating rabies. I, of all people, should know that. I did a Masters’ paper on wildlife rabies, costs to NC when it got here, and oral rabies vaccine for wild things to control rabies exposures to pets and people. Nights are quieter in the house, too, since Emily barks with great volume and enthusiasm at possums or raccoons on the deck in the night. She’s shut in, but we have doors with windows to the floor, and she keeps watch. It’s her job, in her mind, to protect us from wild things who invade her territory. She’s done a great job of it over the years, also. We’ve never had coyotes in our pasture, killing our lambs or sheep, as many of my friends have suffered. Large farms require multiple Great Pyrenees or similar guardian dogs, to keep predators out.

Jan., 2015
A New Year, and still recovering from the surgical repair of damage done in the accident last April. I guess healing always takes longer than they lead you to expect.

We’ll move to RI in the summer, so we’re going through cupboards and closets, as well as boxes in the garage, to see what we’ve stashed, and wondering why we kept these things! I’m donating a great many things to friends who will use them, or organizations who will—for example wallpaper rolls from houses dating back 45 years—perfectly fine to use on a loom to keep the threads from tangling. I’m keeping a little of each to remember, and I’ll use it in weaving in the future, also. Common Thread in Sanford is a weaving workshop with many women volunteering to spend some mornings at donated looms, making rugs, tote bags, dish towels, table runners, place mats, etc., for sale both in the shop and at craft shows far and wide. Proceeds go to womens’ support organizations, such as Interact. They also compete in the Lee County Fair, have a wall full of prize ribbons, and the prize money also goes back into the organization. My box of old wallpaper will go there, since each loom requires a roll of wallpaper, and it wears out eventually, of course.

I’m spinning up great amounts of wool that is not from my best fleeces, just to condense the amount of bulk somewhat. Yarn takes much less space than wool. I’ve started an afghan for us to keep this time, which will have sheep and Australian Shepherd dogs (in their own fur) knitted in with the design. I’m still hoping to find a Great Pyrenees dog pattern to knit in, but so far, no luck. There is no hurry with this project. If we were not moving, I’d be aiming to have it ready to compete in the Carolina FiberFest in early April, but we’ll probably be very busy then, as moving time will be getting near, so I don’t plan to enter anything this year. I will be there to watch the sheep dog herding demonstration, and sit and spin with my friends in the Twisted Threads Fiber Arts Guild circle, however.

The pasture seems so empty and still, the fences covered with stilt grass, sheltering birds over winter. Emily, the Pyr, goes out to the back pasture every day on patrol, as she always has, keeping an eye on what predators may be threatening her acres. We miss the sheep, but our arthritic joints do not. Each year it got harder to clear gutters so water could run away from the barn, to trim hooves, move hay and grain down the hill to the barn, and keep things down there relatively tidy. It was great exercise, and that we do miss. Walking the dogs a mile up the road has to do now as a substitute, and the dogs enjoy it as much as we do. Emily used to live in the pasture only, unless the sheep were up grazing in the yard, when she came, also. Now she can explore the neighborhood, on a leash of course, but she loves reading the signs night critters have left along the road and on the woods trails we walk with them. We’re wondering where in RI we’ll find the same opportunity to walk with the dogs in the woods—we’ll have time later to look, but it will be much colder in winter there.

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Filed under Aging, Birds, cats, community, Compromises, dogs, dogs and cats, Family, Friendship, gardening, Grief, Healing, Health, Homespun yarn, sheep, spinning, Weather, wildlife

From inside a NC snowstorm of vast proportions

Feb. 12, 2014

Snow!! More snow than I can keep up with. I sweep my little pathways clear every hour or so to the bird feeding areas, but I’ve given up on the ramp on the deck. That snow is over a foot high and I can no longer push it with the broom. I tell myself that after the pending ice storm, to add insult to injury, the ice will be easier to remove from the walkways if I leave the snow alone. Dirk moved his car to the edge of the road, so if some emergency arose we could at least get the car in the road, although, since they probably won’t plow out here, I doubt we’d get very far. I have a full bucket of wood ashes to bring along in the car when we do need to go out. I’ve had around 100 birds only on the deck, all at once today: over a dozen cardinals at once, chipping, white throated and fox sparrows, a gold-crowned kinglet I accidentally found in a picture:  one of my “goldfinches”–I can’t identify the pine siskins, kinglets, various kinds of warblers–they look very much alike. Below the deck, as the sparrows toss the seed around, there is a second feeding area with another hundred birds there–many juncoes and sparrows.

I’m thankful for our woodstove. I have 2 bricks on top, warming up, so that if our power goes off tonite, at least we’ll have warm feet. We long ago replaced our electric range Imagewhen one element too many burned up, so we have the comfort of being able to cook on a “real” stove, rather than the tedious process of continually stoking the woodstove to eventually get a pot warm.

I baked apple oatmeal squares from the old Mennonite Cookbook, also some coconut-walnut squares. Both are very sweet, but after shoveling, they’re just right. Besides, if we lose power, we can have some of those sweets with our tea.

Dirk has the wood holder on the deck full and covered with a tarp, and a large pile of wood near the stove. I picked up a lawn-cart full of fallen branches, pine cones, etc., a couple days ago, and now I’m enjoying the warmth of this tinder, especially since some of the firewood is wet.

When you can see my car, bird droppings decorate roof and driver’s door and windshield. I noticed today a flower from the maple tree that shades my car in summer, floating in a bucket of water beside the raised bed. No wonder the birds are there. There must be bugs on the flowers–lunch for the birds, even in the snowImage.

The crocuses are big buds, but we haven’t had the warm temperatures to coax them to bloom yet–and now they’re buried under about 8 inches of snow, and it’s still rapidly coming down–about 2 inches an hour. Usually at this time, we’re turning over the vegetable garden, getting ready to plant peas. That’s not going to happen very soon.  Last year at this time we were eating spring onions from the garden, but this year it’s been so cold they’re lying green and flat along the ground.

I’m thankful for a warm home, and that I don’t have to depend on my garden for our survival. I have tomatoes, kale and figs in the freezer from last summer’s garden, but I do miss those onions.

And now I’ll go out and put more bird seed out, because in an hour they’ll all vanish into whatever snug sleeping quarters they’ve found around the woods. The food keeps them warm, and such harsh conditions as this demand support. I do wonder where my pine and purple finches have gone this winter. I haven’t seen a single one. I haven’t seen the woodpeckers today, either, nor the nuthatches, since early this morning before the snow fell.

Mrs. Wren is walking up and down the door frame when she’s not hopping into the various feeders. She’ll have a nest nearby before long. Last year I found her sitting on a nest in the top of a feed bag full of pine cones, waiting on the front porch for us to need them for starting the fire. I never used them, even after she fledged. And a year later when I realized nothing had touched that old nest, I dumped it all out, and there had been two nests, one on top of the other. I’m glad I waited.

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Autumn Sunset near New Hill

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Winter sunset through pines

Winter sunset through pines

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Golden light reflects off the rufous breasts of the titmouses, off the white coats of the chickadees, and lights up the goldfinches. The pine trunks reflect the gold, and the pine needles, way up in the air, illuminate all the pine cones I’ll be picking up in the yard for the next couple years. A red-breasted woodpecker and the cardinals have come out to have some nuts and sunflower seed, in spite of my sitting near-by. Gold dignifies even the wings of the huge vultures flying low overhead, coming in for their landing in tops of the golden pine trees, rustling and flapping into the branches, high above the corner of our sheep pasture. I want to hold this four o’clock sun right there, bathing the world in its blessing.

I see some golden leaves that the slippery elms and oaks still hold, sprinkling gradually down to my back deck and to last summer’s garden. The gold reflects on my rain gauge, nestled in against the pansies, empty and awaiting the next rain. It reflects across the clear-cut, far in back of our woods, lighting up the weeds and bare trunks across the creek, back-lighting which sets off the bare, lofty, oak, maple, slippery elm, and tulip poplar branches, contrasting from the dense upper story of pine, and the vast tangerine and aqua sky. The giant oak at the far west corner of the pasture still holds some golden leaves at the topmost branches, which the sheep eat as they fall, also the acorns the tree drops for them. Sheep especially enjoy the tulip poplar and sweet gum leaves, which mostly are now dry, but they still enjoy the flavor. I’m thankful that we’ve gone around the edge of the pasture, outside the fence, and cut down all the choke-cherry trees, whose yellow leaves can kill sheep. A shining trail of ice stretches out behind a plane high in the sky, and the afternoon is so quiet that I can hear it roaring its passengers right by RDU, perhaps heading north to Washington or beyond.

Maeve, our Aussie, is on guard against squirrels, (one of her favorite command words, and favorite sprints). I know she once caught one–I was a witness. I hope I’m not again such a witness.

Juncoes snuggle under the canes of my mother’s rambling rose, eating millet and thistle seed in the shelter of the thicket. Cardinals contrast in a holiday way with the green leaves still on the rose bush. The birdbath is awaiting its next visitor, either bird, or Maeve, having a drink.

My fingers are getting cold, as the sun continues to descend, taking the golden light away with it, until tomorrow.

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Filed under Birds, dogs, gardening, Life is a cycle, Satisfaction, sheep, Weather, wildlife

Spinning workshop in May

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May 18-19, 2013

Another workshop, and three more spinners out in the world to enjoy creating with wool, alpaca, silk, or dog/cat hair. Add a little sparkle, some colorful mohair and your skein has some personality! I’ll put in a couple pictures for you, but you’d have to be here to really enjoy it. When someone said they were used to having music on all the time, I pulled out my iPhone and played music from some of my favorite Gaelic musicians from Nova Scotia, great for keeping the rhythm of a spinning wheel. You can see from the expressions of success and a skein of lovely fiber the products of the weekend: competence in an old skill which can be very relaxing, and a way to create lovely things no one has ever thought of before. They have an entry category at the NC State Fair for new spinners, a year or less. Maybe some of my new spinners will have skeins to enter in that competition this year. It would not be the first time 🙂 And all those handfuls of fluff that were blowing around the floor on Sunday evening, many of those will become birds’ nesting material, or mulch for flowers that need to have cool roots in spite of the steamy summers.

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Filed under Birds, community, dogs and cats, Friendship, Gaelic music, gardening, Homespun yarn, Life is a cycle, Satisfaction, sheep, spinning, spinning workshops, State Fair

Weaving outdoors on antique Dutch loom

May 8, 2013

I had no idea I’d let this blog lapse for so long! This is due to receiving my mother-in-law’s mother’s loom, a rigid-heddle style from the Netherlands, which her mother had woven scarves on during WW II to help support the family during Hitler’s occupation of Holland. I won’t go into all that. You can read up on the “War Resistor’s Museum” in Amsterdam, and get an accurate picture of what their lives were like during those years of hunger and fear.

The loom occupies my mind. I’ve searched for pictures and instructions on how to use this loom from European search sites, and found nearly nothing. I found one picture that vaguely resembled my loom, but no instructions, no helpful You-Tube videos, to my sorrow. My friend, Louise, who learned to spin in a workshop here last winter, helped me get it set up and warped, and has given me further suggestions and web links along the way. She also suggested I begin to attend the Triangle Weavers in Chapel Hill, which is an inspiring group of  talented weavers.

This evening I decided I was going to follow through on something I’ve wanted to try since I first received the loom: use my own home-spun yarn to warp the loom and make a Nova Scotia tartan table runner for myself. I knew it would take up considerable space to warp the loom, so decided to put the card table outside (thanks, Dirk, for moving the table for me) and used the railing on the deck ramp as my warping peg. That worked out well for two hours, until my back was breaking, and the mosquitoes had come out, and weren’t responding to the Permanone. I came in to turn on water to make tea, picked up my camera, and as I opened the door to return to the deck I heard raindrops falling! I grabbed the big yellow raincoat we use to splash down to the barn to feed the sheep in nasty weather, and draped the card table and loom with it, moving the table right against the railing, covering that, too. I came back in, poured the tea, and heard thunder! Went out again with my beach umbrella furled, bungee-corded it to the railing, tipped it for maximum coverage, and ran back in.

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I had no idea weaving called for such fortitude. Spinning is so relaxing–just lean back and wool flows to the bobbin with little effort. Weaving is another story. I played Nova Scotia jigs and reels of Natalie & Buddy MacMaster and Kendra MacGillivray as I warped the loom, walking back and forth, back and forth, taking a few dance steps from long-ago classes in Irish folk dancing. I pulled out long lengths of yarn to reach around the “warp peg” and back, and got tangled in the rose bush, which is heavily leaved out and budding now. Yarn got hooked in the buckle of my Birkinstock, dog ran by a few times, cats stayed inside the house, simplifying things greatly. Cardinals, wrens, woodpeckers, nuthatches came for their evening meal, while I walked back and forth. As I trimmed the knots to an even length, I tossed the ends into the rose bush for the birds to weave nests with. When it got dark, the birds disappeared. And an hour later, I gave up, too.

I’ll attach pictures of this evening’s adventure, and another picture of a small project I completed recently. I am using a great deal of my handspun yarn, and old sock yarn, also, as I find patterns I can make on this old loom, a treasure, indeed.

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Filed under Birds, cats, dogs and cats, Dutch loom, Family, Gaelic music, Homespun yarn, Netherlands, spinning workshops, Weather, Weaving