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.

Homestead Report 38: December 30, 2019

What a strange year it’s been. Today’s ice storm got in the way of my plans to work and helped me remember to be flexible and just try to enjoy the days as they come without getting too caught up feeling anxious or guilty about not doing what I expected or what someone else expects I might do. Instead of driving to work, I walked around outside, made my first ever cold-process soap, and looked at my photos from October to now.

Today’s ice coating every twig is truly beautiful, although it can certainly be damaging to trees and power lines and people out driving. I’m extremely lucky and grateful to have a flexible schedule and be able to stay home on a day like this, off of the road and getting to walk around listening to the trees tinkle like little chimes.

It feels like we’ve been in the midst of winter for a long time, although we just celebrated the solstice a week and a half ago. On December 4th, we had 18″ of snow, and it looked like this:

That same day, we picked our medlars. They’re a odd fruit related to apples and hawthornes which you can pick in the winter after they have “bletted”–that is, become brown and softened by frost. They are hard and bitter if you eat them earlier. The ripe/ bletted flavor and texture is a bit like applesauce, although after some of them sat on our counter until just a few days ago, they were drier, tart, and tasted fermented. Cold storage would probably be better. We have been eating them raw to good effect until about a week ago. Last year, we made a “medlar cheese” (a lemony dessert) which was good, but involved a very difficult process of separating the flesh from the seeds. They seeds are well integrated and large, making it impossible to use our regular methods (the squeezo-strain-o or foley mill), so Charley painstakingly pressed the cooked mush through a colander with a spoon. At any rate, it’s nice to have a fruit ripen in the winter, and next year we’ll keep them in colder storage until we’re ready to eat them fresh.

Speaking of odd fruits, this year we had the opportunity to harvest a friend’s persimmons. If you haven’t had truly fall-apart ripe persimmons that are all sweet custard, you’re missing out. A lot of people don’t wait long enough, and then have to experience that terrible astringency that makes your mouth pucker up for an hour. These were perfect, and we ate them every day for two weeks, until they were gone.

This fall, Charley and I took on a major drainage project in an attempt to re-direct the water (and ice) that builds up in front of our house and drains into the basement. It should now run down the hill between our house and chicken house into a little rain garden. Since we’re always working on a shoestring budget, we dug the thing by hand. A real workout, but now we’re enjoying a dry basement, no ice rink, and a little bridge to the chicken house.

Putting the garden to bed around here means cleaning out the tomato plants and other stuff at the end of October, but leaving the brassicas (kale, broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts) and leeks for the late fall and winter, and hoping something survives in the hoophouses.

Adventures in Entomophagy: Orthopteran Stir-fry

Entomophagy is a topic sure to either fascinate or horrify. In plain English, it translates to eating insects. Charley and I have contemplated venturing into this realm intentionally (the USDA allows quite a lot of bug parts in processed food) often over the last few months. We’ve been eating a semi-vegetarian diet for a while; supplemented with a chicken or other locally sourced meat once or twice a month, but recently we started to cut way down on the amount of processed carbohydrates we were eating and found that we needed a little more protein. Recognizing the outsized ecological footprint and carbon output of most meat, we were curious about the little animals all around us that our chickens find so delectable.

Fortunately, librarians tend to have curious, non-judgmental souls. Edible is an inspiring personal narrative as the author learns more about eating insects all over the world; The Eat-a-Bug Cookbook is the practical guide I was looking for to answer my most pressing questions (Do I need to gut a grasshopper? No. Which insects are poisonous? Generally insects that are colored red, orange, or yellow should be avoided).

Today was very warm, and we were feeling lethargic and having a hard time getting much real work done. I went out to read one of my new library books in the hammock. There were grasshoppers and crickets all over the place. Why wait to try this experiment?

Charley and I hand-caught about 20 grasshoppers and crickets in the space of five minutes just outside our front door. There were maybe four different species represented, but we didn’t look them up this time.

We placed our jars in the freezer—the recommended method of slaughtering a bug. (Much tidier and easier than butcher day for the chickens, I might add…)

A few hours later, we started feeling ready for dinner. I chopped everything else up—homegrown leeks, zucchini, yellow crookneck, broccoli, and garlic (plus carrots and ginger from the co-op).

…And got the protein out of the freezer.

Twenty or so grasshoppers don’t seem like so many when they’re frozen; that many seemed like plenty when they were trying to hop out of our jars!

I tossed them into the stir-fry around the same time as the broccoli, wanting to cook them through but not scorch them.

As they cook, grasshoppers turn red, like lobster.

And they taste a bit like shrimp.

It was overall a very pleasant, easy experience which we will repeat. We caught readily available protein without having to spend any money, time, or effort feeding an animal or protecting it from predators, killed it humanely and easily with limited guilt, and ate a delicious meal that included protein but was as simple as a vegetarian stir-fry to prepare. We didn’t have to buy expensive nuts or worry about sterilizing a bloody cutting board. Fantastic!

I’m looking forward to trying out a number of other recipes. Stay tuned!

Homestead Report 37: August 22, 2019

The summer is almost over, as signified by the tangle of plants threatening to engulf the garden paths, and I haven’t written a single post! I expected to have eons of “extra” time now that I completed my term on the selectboard, but somehow it gets filled right up! My photographs tell a story of travel, bioblitzes, and food production.

Healthy brassicas in the lower garden. Aug 9th.

Charley and I spent a few weeks exploring prairies in the upper Midwest in late June- early July in an effort to flesh out our knowledge of leafminers that specialize in prairie plants. We braved clouds of mosquitoes and black flies, sneaky chiggers, fast-running Lone Star ticks, thigh-high poison ivy, and received amazing hospitality from a number of newly made friends. It was somewhat of a surprise to discover that there are many people who have planted and maintain extensive prairies, putting in hundreds–maybe thousands–of hours of back-breaking labor each year to remove invasive species, expand their prairies, and keep them diverse and healthy.

But first, a stop in old growth forest in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (mosquitoes!)
Columbine with pollinator, probably a sweat bee.
Baptisia alba in Wisconsin (black flies!)
Prairie skies in Wisconsin before a storm.
Grasses have beautiful flowers too. Just small.
Charley in a hill prairie in Iowa (chiggers!)
Butterfly weed in Illinois (lone star ticks!)
A sandhill in an Indiana prairie
The edge of the prairie. Ohio.
Echinacea and royal catchfly in a remnant prairie in Ohio (poison ivy!)

Bioblitzes are events that seek to find and identify as many species as possible in a 24-hour period in a defined geographic area. Given our esoteric expertise (and thereby minimal overlap with other species seekers), Charley and I are often popular attendees.

Coptodisca splendoriferella (a moth) that mines the leaves of cherry trees, eventually cutting out a “hole punch” to pupate in.

The day after we got home from the prairie trip, we headed to Concord, MA for a bioblitz that celebrated E.O. Wilson’s 90th birthday and also the 30th anniversary of the world’s very first bioblitz, which was also held in Concord. We added around 175 species of mainly leaf-miners and gall-makers to the day’s tally–a respectable effort.

We also spotted this adorable green frog feeling a little extra green.
A new Audubon sanctuary in Concord, MA

July and August have passed in a blur of work and travel: I took a trip to Nantucket to work in the museum for a bit, and later Charley went to Maine to teach a week-long course on leafminers at the Eagle Hill Institute. I just returned from a trip to Chicago to attend a friend’s wedding. Through it all, we had the company of my college roommate and her sweet dog.

In the yard and garden, plants are growing fairly vigorously despite the lack of rain.

Charley’s paths through the goldenrod/ meadows looking lovely and allow barefoot walking despite the jungle.
Cucumbers on their crib-side trellis
The three sisters region: popcorn, flour corn, butternut squash, and a variety of black/ kidney/ soldier/ yellow-eyed beans to dry.
Left to right: basil, edamame, leeks, sweet corn, summer squash, kale. A new addition is the little fancy fence pieces I picked up from the “free store” at the transfer station–they are very handy for keeping the hose from crashing over tender young plants.
Balloon flowers in the “driveway bed”
Bumblebee hugging an Echinacea flower
What a gift these lovely flowers are.

Homestead Report 36: May 16, 2019

This week’s major project was fulfilling part of the “support” garden goal: building the grape trellis we’ve been talking about for two years while our grapes dragged the garden fence to the ground and allowed the rabbits in to eat the beans.

completed arbor/ pergola/ trellis

After much consideration and browsing of photos, I drew something up, made a cut list, and asked our local hero neighbor Cory at Northwoods Forest Products if he would be able to supply the lumber. Sure enough, he found cedar to mill for the posts in northern Vermont, and hemlock locally for the upper parts. A week after he dropped off the lumber, Charley and I redrew the plans completely differently (since I lost my original drawings), dug the holes, set the posts, cut all the lumber in the garage while it rained, and screwed everything together on Mother’s Day morning.

Nothing is flat around here, and I’d decided that keeping the arbor level would end up looking best… so I borrowed a level and got to work… and the optical illusions started. It was so hard to believe the level was correct that I took it inside and put it on the floor and wall to prove to myself that it was actually right on. The post closest in the picture below is about 5′ from the ground to the top; the one farthest away is almost 8′. The slope of the hedge/ road makes the whole thing look a bit like it is falling down, but hopefully when it gets covered with vines the optical illusion will vanish.

We have a lot of white violets near the garden.

Part of the reason we hurried to finish it all in just 2 days was that as we started to build it, tree swallows were taking interest in the nest box adjacent to one of the posts and we didn’t want to scare them off. When it was done, we were worried that they wouldn’t like how their view was obscured, so we added a new birdhouse on the front of it. Sure enough, Charley saw them bringing nesting material to the new box this morning.

We also spent some time this week delineating the beds in the lower garden, mulching paths, and generally setting ourselves up for soil success.

I’m a big fan of Lee Reich; I first heard of him through the fantastic garden blog awaytogarden.com, written by Margaret Roach, and now each winter/ spring as we get out the pruners I sit down with his guide to fruit trees “Growing Fruit Naturally.” Just a month ago, my sister gave me his book “Weedless Gardening.” The concepts he embraces are nothing new—as kids, our parents admonished us not to walk on (and compact) the soil in our garden, but coming back to this as an adult with my own garden makes me want to make it more clear to everyone who might wander into the garden where it’s okay to walk and where it isn’t. I’m also trying out Lee’s method of smothering the lawn with layers of newspaper and mulch, both as paths and as new beds that will get a layer of compost and straw on top of the mulch.

In the hoophouse, the greens are so abundant that we’re eating huge salads every day and I can’t even tell that anything has been picked.

The ostrich ferns have given us one fiddlehead from each plant in our breakfast omelets.

Seven plants from Margaret Roach, set in the ground five years ago, have now become 33 vigorous plants!

Many fruit trees and bushes are blooming right now—the plums are already finished, and the peaches look lovely (but I forgot to take a picture of them…)

lowbush blueberry blooms
honeyberry, a kind of honeysuckle that makes large, sweet, oblong blue berries with the orange mint moth
Asian pear tree, with “Julia” pear in the background

And we’re getting daily visits from our prickly neighbor, who happily munches dandelions, bedstraw, grass, and the occasional strawberry leaf. He (or she) calmly eats as we pass by with a wheelbarrow, hang the laundry, or sit down nearby for a visit.

Our recent bird list has been growing quickly as the weather warms. The daily regulars are: American goldfinches, ruby-throated hummingbirds, gray catbirds, northern cardinals, dark-eyed juncos, eastern bluebirds, chipping sparrows, tree swallows, barn swallows, yellow-rumped warblers, rose-breasted grosbeak, scarlet tanagers, Baltimore orioles, ravens, American crows… Today we had a nice close look at a gorgeous male chestnut sided warbler in a cherry tree.

Happy spring!

A final note today: last week Northfield held its local elections, and I am pleased to say that I have completed my term serving on the Selectboard. It has been interesting, at times challenging, and left me as a more well-informed citizen. I’ve grown into a tougher and more confident person. I’m looking forward to more evenings free of meetings, fewer stressful decisions, a lot less paper entering my house, and the opportunity to spend more of my time serving the community with “deep digs” into the issues nearest to my heart (land and energy conservation) instead of the higher-level attention to the broad range of issues I’ve been involved in these last three years. To the new board, I wish the best of luck, gratitude, and wisdom.

Homestead Report 35: May 3, 2019

Well, I have been delinquent in taking photos lately, but we have built a fence… fulfilling part of this years’ garden goal: Protect.

Last fall’s compost bins, along with our new fence

We carefully dug a 6 inch deep trench in which we buried the bottom of the fence, and worked on the gate so it swings just an inch above the ground. Our hope is to keep the voracious rabbits out, so we can grow beans again!

We also staked out the raspberries, gave them support wires, and dug out the ones that had transformed our original tidy rows into a wide, unpickable patch, immediately replanting them at the end of the rows.

The raspberries are to the right (north end) of the garden, here with a low fence to protect them from the porcupine, which had been pruning them aggressively.

Earlier in the month, while I was at work, Charley heard a monstrous noise at our neighbors’ house. For once, the sound brought joy– a wood chipper! Just a few days before he was wondering how we might be able to obtain an unlimited supply of mulch. Charley ran over and talked to the landscaper–Would he like a place to dump the chips? We had a place available and would be delighted to have them. One batch of chips was from a willow tree that had been damaged in a wind storm. As we have applied some of it around a few fruit trees, we collected several twigs that escaped the chipper and put them in water. In a week or so, they had sprouted roots and we put them in the ground. Perhaps our neighbors’ willow will yet live.

Mulch piles! In front, a low pile of last year’s aging brownish mulch. In back, creamy-green willow on the right, golden-yellow pine on the left.

I would be remiss if I did not celebrate the spring. Every new green thing, each individual flower is marked in this fresh season. We’re hungry for color, and go for slow walks around the yard and in the woods to see what tender new plants are poking up each day.

A bad photo of a lovely flower, Hepatica, 4/16/19
A blurry photo of the state flower of Massachusetts, Trailing Arbutus (or Mayflower). Beautiful, and with a sweet fragrance, it’s worth getting down on your hands and knees to appreciate its scent. 4/25/19

On April 26, Charley and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary. The day of was scattered and busy, so instead we got a whole week to draw out the observance… Generously gifted tickets to the hilarious Trevor Noah’s “Loud and Clear” stand-up show, the season’s first asparagus meal from our garden, a trip to see my folks and extended family–and the spring ephemeral wildflowers–in Ohio, and a visit from my dear friend Patricia (who also kept the chickens and seedlings alive while we were in Ohio).

Five years. Smiling, inside and out. Photo credit: Patricia Troy
Patricia on our hike

She literally “tied the knot” for us at our wedding ceremony, so it was especially fun this anniversary with her.

April 26, 2014; Patricia tying the knot in our handfasting ceremony; Denny Radabaugh officiated over the ceremony and did the pronouncing. Photo credit: Jennifer Edwell
Then, as now, we knelt together in the cathedral of Earth to admire the cycles of nature.
Photo credit: Jennifer Edwell

Set boundaries. Notice abundance. Speak gratitude. Expand joy.

2019 goals

Homestead Report 34: January 9, 2019

Kindest greetings, friends, neighbors, family, and followers!

I thought I’d call in the new year by reviewing my photos from the second half of last year and setting a few goals for 2019. Doing so just helped me remember that the world is very colorful compared to what I am currently accustomed to seeing. It is funny how that surprises me every winter.

The late summer and fall is a time of great abundance. The garden seemed to burst at the seams.

I spent a lot of time this late summer preserving food. Now we have a full freezer, a full pantry, a full list, and a full belly. I’m not a fan of the green tomato salsa, but the tomato-peach salsa is amazing, the regular tomato is pretty good, and so is the tomatillo. We have enough tomato sauce and salsa to make it to next July or August when there will hopefully be tomatoes again. We have too many jars of sweet-hot pickled peppers (my five Hungarian Hot Wax pepper plants outdid themselves, unlike the neighboring bell peppers).  We’re in good shape for pickles, jams, applesauce, peaches, and grape juice. Low on dilly beans, since the rabbits ate practically all the bean plants to the ground while we were in Canada.

In wildlife news, we had the great misfortune of a weasel finding our chicken coop just before the holidays. To make matters worse, it was while we were travelling, so our next-door neighbors had to deal with most of the carnage. However, we have the great good fortune of having of many fantastic neighbors, so we called on another to rescue our remaining hens by taking the girls down the mountain to their coop. Upon our return, we discovered a little weasel nest in a hidden corner of our coop, with lots of scat and a round weasel-sized impression on top of a mouse nest. Needless to say, we have shored up all the holes in the coop (adding rocks and concrete at ground level and hardware cloth around the eaves). An attempt to trap the beast has so far yielded two red-backed voles and an eastern cottontail, which we released. The hens are home and safe, but we have not yet dared to let them into their run. Instead, we’ve been taking them on escorted walks to scratch in the gardens. 

Way before being preoccupied with weasels, we enjoyed a robin nesting on our porch in June. Turkeys walked through the yard in August. A squirrel played in the chicken run in September.

A friendly porcupine hangs out in the yard regularly, mumbling under Charley’s window and munching branches. It seems to enjoy hemlock and elm especially. I’ve been trying to decide if our place needs a name for several years now, especially when I go to the farmer’s market. I’m beginning to think that the porcupine deserves to be featured. Perhaps “Contented Porcupine Farm” or “Mumbling Porcupine Farm”. Maybe one of you has a better idea. Do share.

Aside from wildlife visitors, we have had some human house guests, including my parents, my sister, my friend Patricia, and a whole lovely boisterous houseful of families making music and eating just before the new year. Plus, Charley and I took our annual birthday trip to the cranberry bogs. And as always, the weather was glorious.

And now for the goals:

Garden goals: cover, protect, support. I’m no fan of border walls, but in the garden, good fences do make good neighbors. I like admiring the wildlife without being angry that the rabbits destroyed my bean crop. Solid fences and row covers will be my friends this year. And I really need to give those grapes a trellis.

Life goals: Value my time by setting boundaries in volunteerism. Notice the abundance. Verbalize the gratitude. Expand the joy.

Travel Log: Michigan and Canada for fun and research

Charley and I just returned home from a two-and-a-half week long trip to Michigan and Canada in which we visited family and friends, looked for leaf mines (of course), and attended the Lepidopterists’ Society annual meeting in Ottawa. The meeting was the impetus for the trip and Michigan was “on the way.”

Our first stop was to visit our friend Eric LoPresti (who encouraged us to go to California last year, as I detailed here). Just a few miles east of East Lansing, he took us to a nice riverside park with abundant leaf mines, and veritable flocks of lovely Ebony Jewelwing damselflies.

On a tight schedule, we continued west to meet up with my parents at the Lake Michigan Recreation Area campground–a place my family used to vacation when I was in elementary school, but we hadn’t returned to since. Mosquitoes were abundant, but there was a nice breeze from the lake, interesting hikes into the Nordhouse dunes, and opportunity for refreshing swims in Lake Michigan.

After two days of hiking, swimming, cooking, and visiting, my parents had to drive home and Charley and I headed to Ludington to meet up with Charley’s mom, sister, neice, nephew, aunt and uncle. We enjoyed sailing with them aboard the Tiny Island, and kayaking with the kids. Cordelia even spotted a bryozoan colony in the lake, and we all got to take a look (sadly, no photo, but it looked like Pectinatella magnifica, pictured here).  Perhaps my favorite activity was building sandcastles with the kids.

Before the 4th of July, Charley and I left for the calm of the upper peninsula. First stop, dispersed camping at East Lake (well, after checking out some cool limestone “sea stacks” and buying very affordable wild rice).

Not our favorite camping for a variety of reasons including large numbers of biting flies, fishermen who hung out quite near our campsite, etc… BUT, we found nepticulid (tiny moth) leaf mines on a bulrush that were of great interest.

We did some sightseeing at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, enjoying the scenery, flowers, waterfalls, and I even took a numbing plunge into icy Lake Superior to escape the stable flies.

Heading north into Ontario, we began to experience biting flies in earnest! I resorted to wearing a headnet for moments of reprieve. The moth enthusiasts pictured below were impressively intrepid as we ventured into Algonquin Provincial Park.

The final portion of our trip was several days attending the Lepidopterists’ Society annual meeting. This was our first, and it was fascinating. Talks ranged from phylogenies of various moth groups, to caterpillar communication, to using CRISPR to alter butterfly wing patterns, to gynandromorphs (individuals with both male and female gonads and coloration), to butterfly surveys and conservation, to… you guessed it, leaf mines!

Arriving home, we discovered healthy, happy chickens (many thanks to neighbors who cared for them), a garden that looks like a jungle ravaged by rabbits, and a sad mulberry tree that a bear ripped in half to get at the berries.

I’ll leave you with these cool insects from Parc des Rapides-Deschênes, Quebec: a mayfly and a caddisfly.

Homestead Report 33: May 21, 2018

What a difference a month makes! Now flowers and leafy trees abound. I’ve been so busy the last two weeks that I forgot to take any pictures. Therefore, the photos here are all from the first week of April or earlier.

On April 28, Charley and I took a little hike to a waterfall on Mount Toby. I was loving the Trailing arbutus (or mayflower, the Massachusetts state flower), and seeing the first trillium and hepatica of the season.

Closer to home, on May 1 we checked out our local beaver pond and discovered heaps of snow fleas congregating on stumps of beaver-cut trees. These were covered with sap coming up from the roots of the trees. I’m not sure what the snow fleas were up to, but they were on multiple stumps, and it seemed like perhaps they were attracted to the moisture.

In early spring I just can’t get enough of the spring ephemeral wildflowers.  We’ve planted a bunch on the east side of our house, where they seem to be thriving–and spreading. Now, May 21, the phlox, dwarf ginseng, and waterleaf are also blooming.

We’ve been delighted that our plum trees really went to town blooming this spring for the first time. Now, fingers crossed that we might actually get to eat a plum… And we should, since a huge variety of native bees, wasps and flies were busily visiting the flowers every time I put my head anywhere near the tree.

Since we are no longer using fire wood, it seemed like a good time to get some more. Our neighbor delivered 3 cords of wood, backing up across our crazy yard without even squashing one flower, and when Charley asked if he could dump it “as close to the shed as possible, without crushing this daffodil” that is exactly what we got. Thanks, Northwoods Forest Products! Now we just have to finish stacking it…

We’ve also been enjoying the garden a lot. This time of year is all about salads and asparagus and rhubarb.

This morning I noticed that our first strawberry is starting to turn red (in the hoop house); the rest are blooming.  On May 18, I spent all day planting things– tomatoes, broccoli, onions (I know, it’s late for onions), leeks, beans. I’m experimenting with leaving more “weeds” and trying hard not to agitate the soil as I plant. Despite all I’ve been learning about soil microbes and what they need to be healthy, it’s still really difficult to train myself not to want to “prepare” a bed like I grew up doing. Charley mowed some of the meadowy parts of our yard that haven’t been mowed for a year, and I used the grass as mulch around my new seedlings. At this point, most bugs that were overwintering in dead stems should have emerged, so it seems an okay time to mow.

Most of our violets are purple, or white, or white with a few purple streaks coming out of the center. But these are speckled! They’re in the the “blueberry barrens” area up by the hedge.

Homestead Report 32: April 20, 2018

What a tough month! I’m overwhelmed at every level. When I watch the news, the deep dishonestly, corruption, and incompetence at the national level blows me away. At a local level, I find that my role on the selectboard is leaving me feeling drained. And then there is the fact that it keeps on snowing! I finally planted peas anyway (April 18, in the warm sunshine).


Lower garden with pea trellis yesterday morning.

I am normally anxious to start planting seeds in early March, but this year it just seemed too early. Finally I got some seeds in pots on April 7… the bulk of the tomatoes, peppers, and flowers. They just sat there in the cold for a week and half until I stuck the flats under the woodstove; now they are starting to sprout, since we’re still having regular fires.  I had started a few tomatoes and broccoli to test seed about a month earlier, and they’re under grow lights now.

The flowering orchids have brought me joy, and about a week ago a begonia that my mom gave us started blooming too.

Outside, crocus! Every year I am so grateful for these first cheery little guys. So brave.

And the spring beauties are up (I’ve seen a few blooms elsewhere, but the ones in our yard are feeling shy). Harbinger of Spring (Erigenia bulbosa) is blooming, as are the female flowers of our cultivated hazelnuts. The male catkins still haven’t released pollen, so we’re hoping the female flowers can hang on for a while longer in order to make nuts.

Winter wonderland? April 19.