2020-2021: Year(s) in Review

These last two years have been a crazy mix of worry, work, loneliness, heartbreak, delight, solitude, reflection, joy, connection, overwhelm, quiet, abundance, grief. Looking back at my photographs from 2020-2021, I see an absence of big road trips, but presence on our land. I see two summers bursting at the seams with interesting field work, volunteer projects, and garden bounty. I see winters with distressingly little snow, ice storms becoming the norm. I see how spring’s unfurling of life never ceases to capture my attention and awe, even when I am consumed with concerns far beyond my doorstep.


Winter ice storm- Feb 7, 2020.

Spring was briefly interrupted by a May 9 snowstorm–the amazing peach tree still managed to set fruit, though. I always so love watching the flowers open and new leaves unfurl. It was an extra delight to see our porcupine friend taking an arboreal nap in a hemlock near the yard.

Charley and I spent about two hours nearly every day from March-May both years cutting and pulling multiflora rose, Japanese barberry, and bittersweet in our woods. There were around 2 acres that were fairly heavily impacted. We have employed boulders to temporarily hold the piles of debris while it rots down so it won’t root back in. After all that work, there are lovely places we are now able to access for the first time, and it is fun to discover foamflower and other plants coming up in the area now free of thorny thickets.

Summer in the yard: Cardinal flower that I grew from seed, spotted bee balm with a happy wasp, my best photo of comet Neowise (sharing the sky with a lightning bug), Verbena, columbine, Ruby-throated Hummingbird enjoying the ample patch of jewelweed by the front door, and a day’s harvest.

The same two plants on Sept 1 blooming, and Oct 23 going to seed. Northern Blazing Star, Liatris novae-angliae.

Fruit tree success: peaches, Asian pears, and lemons! The lemon tree was a gift/ loan from a dear friend and has been amazingly productive for the last few years. It blooms in January, we hand-pollinate it, and it takes all year to ripen the lemons.

We let two broody hens sit on a dozen eggs and for the first time successfully hatched chicks. The mamas adorably co-parented, sharing brooding, protecting, and teaching roles as the chicks scampered about. (Unfortunately most of the surviving brood turned out to be roosters…)

We set up a pinhole camera on the summer solstice, and took it down on the winter solstice. It was located on the corner garden post pointed SSW toward the house.


We started 2021 off right–by adding a person to our household. This is Gina. She sleeps in absurd positions sometimes. She also knows that she has two jobs (hunting voles, and snuggling with us) and executes both very well.

Spring brings apple blossoms, ostrich ferns, catbirds, hermit thrushes, trailing arbutus, eventually iris.

Summer growth in the upper garden, a bold tree swallow who decided it’s okay to hang out with me in the garden, a respectable harvest of winesaps (year 7 since planting)… and our ginger plants flowered. They smell so fragrant and wonderful!

First frost was October 29– a light one. I’m still harvesting leeks and kale from the garden now. We bought a little battery powered chainsaw and have now cut up ~1.5 cords of firewood from fallen ash and red maple trees. Mom’s mums survive freezing and make me smile well into November. Charley with a bowl of American persimmons and pawpaws (a gift from a friend– but with luck, someday we’ll be able to harvest both in our yard too!)

Day after an ice storm–December 19. It was forecast to be 6-9″ of snow! We are still picking medlars (weird hawthorn/ apple relative that we harvest after the fruits blet on the tree).


I often make garden (and personal) goals around the solstice or new year. This year, I plan to make space for the important stuff— both in the garden, and in my life.

In the garden, that looks like giving the tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, beans, carrots, broccoli, kale, brussels sprouts, cabbage, potatoes, peas, dry beans, popcorn, onions, leeks, parsnips, peppers, eggplant, butternut squash, cucumbers, summer squash, basil the top spots. It means devoting less space to sweet corn, flint/ dent corn, radishes, turnips, edamame, lima beans, watermelon, cantaloupe, experimental varieties that don’t perform well, weeds(!). It means pulling up some crops when they’re no longer producing well to make space for succession plantings of greens and carrots. Same thing with the perennials, it looks like maintaining a buffer around our food crops and most interesting/ precious native herbaceous plants that could get overrun by their more aggressive counterparts.

In my personal life, it means prioritizing gratitude, going outside and being, visiting my sit spot regularly, making appointments with myself for creative pursuits–and keeping those appointments even if someone else wants me to do something else during that time. It means making time to move my body. It means breaking my scrolling habit and gifting that time back to myself, untangling the social media tendrils from my brain to free myself up for other things. It means turning off the radio and not knowing what’s going on in the world sometimes. It means deciding when I want to work in advance, and sticking to a schedule. It means volunteering for things I care about (only), visiting with friends and family when possible, and also maintaining the boundaries I’ve worked to set over the last few years to keep some of my time for the kind of solitude that I need to be nourished. It means being alive, breathing, present, delighted, and in awe of this amazing beautiful planet that we’re all part of.

2 thoughts on “2020-2021: Year(s) in Review

  1. Thank you for this beautiful update Julia. I am in awe of your homestead and pursuits. Happy gardening, happy breathing, happy being, happy earth birthday!

  2. I really loved reading this Julia. We went on the Kestrel hike after sleeping in and then needed to sleep afterwards, too! We had a good time at George and Jeanne‘s party and hope your travels are safe. Text me when you go and when you come back at least so I don’t worry. We’re going to watch the weather and try to get out there this month. Be safe and give your folks our best when you see them.

    By the way, Dave Kings walk is forestry centered with some information on birds but nowhere as interesting as Charlie’s. It was good to see him and Joan though and they spoke highly of you both. Marilyn Castriotta was reminiscing about the tracking in the snow walk that didn’t have snow in 2020 and how Charlie pulled off the event by finding other sign for folks to look at.

    Happy new year!

    Sent from my iPhone. Please excuse typos and anything Siri misunderstood.


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