great outdoors

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And because I’m obviously behind on posting what I’ve been doing so I might catch up a little faster if I just dump a bunch of pictures into one post. Not as much story but you get the idea.

This is a basket/bag (Ravelry link) knitted in the technique called mosaic knitting which I did for a KAL (knit-a-long). The boy has claimed it for his own. The technique creates a thick two color fabric without the usually gyrations required of colorwork.

mosaic knitting two color basket

I had a black tee-shirt left from the boy’s Ninja costume last year. The boy has always liked owls, but we recently watched the movie Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole which refueled the owl interest in our house. I handpainted just the eyes, top of the head, beak and a bit of shoulder to suggest an owl staring out of the darkness. I really like how this turned out.

hand-painted owl in the dark tee shirt

owl face hand-painted on black T-shirt

And another skirt for the girl, recycled out of a pair of my old corduroys. I used the fabric but I only kept the hem and side seams and carefully recycled the back pockets. There are pleats in the front and elastic in the waist. It’s in a longer length as requested. I also used some of the fabric from the pants to lengthen a favorite pair of pine green corduroy pants that still have a lot of room in the waist. No picture of that, oops! but similar to what I did to the boy’s pants here.

hand sewn brown corduroy girl skirt

back patch pocket detail on handmade corduroy girl skirt

And the reason behind all the sewing? Besides the motivation of school starting and cooler weather, I spent about a month and a half knitting a sleeveless sweater for myself that turned out . . . well, about the way I expected but I didn’t care for it at all. Sort of turned me off knitting for a bit. I’ve also been working off and on with a bench the boy and I rescued from the side of the road. One corner was in quite poor shape but the rest of it was well made with good quality hardwood so I decided it was worth some work. I’ve cut mortises and tenons, drilled holes of all sizes and mixed and shaped epoxy type filler and sanded, sanded, sanded. I’m not quite done yet but there will be a post with pictures of the transformation when it’s done, since we have about a month left to enjoy it before it gets too cold for this year.

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Last year we built a 4×8 foot raised bed for vegetables and herbs. I’ve been cooking with some of the herbs for at least a month now. It’s wonderful to walk out and just snip off what I need, rinse and chop it right into the pot.

Small leaf basil and curly parsley, we also have dill and chives

fresh basil and parsley from the garden

zucchini and summer squash picked small at around 5-6 inches, delicious fresh or cooked

fresh zucchini and summer squash garden

In a few more weeks I hope to have peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers from the garden as well as blueberries and strawberries from other spots in the yard.


These little charmers are called spiderwort. I have no idea why. And the Latin name is rather a mouthful, tradescantia. They are perennials, native to the eastern seaboard. I received a few bedraggled plants last year, and they have adapted happily, blooming profusely this year.

pink and blue spiderwort flowers

My favorite fruit salads are usually composed mostly of berries—no bananas for me thank you. This one here has strawberries, blueberries, red plum and blackberries. I’m hoping that later this summer we’ll have blueberries off our own bushes, wild blackberries and maybe a few strawberries as well. Confession, I really don’t know the difference between blackberries and black raspberries. But I think maybe what we have in our backyard is not like these storebought blackberries so maybe they are actually black raspberries.

fruit salad strawberries blueberries plum blackberries

We had a dead tree taken down so I let the kids, ours and the neighbors, play on it for a few hours. They had a great time pretending the tree was a fort, a castle, a mountain, a nest . . . We also enjoyed, well, some of us enjoyed peeling back the bark and watching all the creepy crawlies shy away from the light. There was also a rather intense debate on the possible dangers of mushrooms and fungi. I stayed out of it for the most part but helped guide them to the conclusion that mushrooms were best left alone unless bought in the store or eaten at a restaurant.

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I love the slow unfolding of spring here. Every season really, but especially spring, seems to bring subtle changes every day.

Behind the house in the “wild” there are various ferns poking up to uncurl their fronds and strange primordial-looking plants pushing up through piles of dead leaves.

fern leaves uncurling

curled fern heads fiddleheads

ghost pale ferns


And around the front of the house we have a swath of cheery daffodils nodding under the flowering cherry tree. A gentle breeze sends pale pink petals drifting like snow.

yellow daffodils foundation planting

cherry blossoms sakura against the blue sky

cherry blossoms against white wood sakura

More to come.

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Area farms that make maple syrup open their gates to the public on the last weekend in March around here. This was the first year that we were able to make the timing work. Having recently watched a horse movie, we chose to visit the Cooper farm where they raise miniature horses, creamy white Charolais cattle, and a number of exotic birds as well as tapping their maple trees and keeping bees. The air was crisp but sunny and we enjoyed the walk around the farm squishing our boots through the Maine mud and ending up in the warm, steaming sugaring house, drinking in the smells of wood smoke and maple sap cooking down into syrup. A sampling of maple syrup drizzled ice cream provided the happy ending. We brought home powdered maple sugar, some maple cotton candy (the only kind of cotton candy worth eating), and local honey.

miniature horse

pheasants, peacocks and chickens


running jumping on shrink wrapped hay bales


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down feather on the snow

The sun is shining, we haven’t had any new snow to speak of in more than a week, the birds are singing, dropping little fluffy nesting feathers, and the squirrels are playing chase instead of making a beeline from stash to hidey hole. The snowblower-made sliding hill is still better than six feet tall and the snow in the yard can still swallow me thigh high in places but I’d like at least one more good dumping of fresh snow this season. It’s only February!

small stream in the snow

Above is the “stream” that runs through the empty lot behind our house. Laughingly referred to as waterfront property by the neighbor who owns the lot. I tend to think of it as little more than a drainage ditch but it does run all summer long and it looks rather picturesque here, doesn’t it?

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The kids went back to school today but I’m still recovering. There are now two hats lost in the sea of snow. I guess I know what’s next in the knitting queue.

Dad has created quite the little sledding hill at the end of the drive with the help of the snowblower. And the kids have packed two sides of the slide platform with snow to create a cozy little hideaway. If you aim your sled just right you can shoot all the way into the dooryard of the fort sheltered by the turn in the slide. The “tube” is more likely to take you bouncing down into the deepest snow—maybe two feet including what came down in yesterday’s storm.




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Buzzy Tree

We’ve been singing Laurie Berkner’s Buzz Buzz at the top of our voices. And the bees in our yard are enjoying our flowering cherry tree so much the tree is constantly buzzing with activity. I’ve counted three, maybe four different kinds of bees!

flowering cherry tree in bloom sargentii

bumblee bee in a cherry blossom bee in a cherry blossom

The boy and his sister have been singing their own song, flower snow in the summer, while dancing under the petal breeze. There’s nothing like spring in Maine to remind you of the intricate beauty and mind-boggling enormity of creation.

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Some pictures from our walks in the last week or so. I missed shooting the snow we had last Friday because I was driving through it. A bit annoying at this point after nearly two months of nothing. But spring is decidedly here and we have once again lucked out of mud season. (Last year we had plenty of snow but didn’t have much of a mud season because it just stayed cold until June I think.)

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last remnants of snow in the shade
last patch of snow in the shade

bulb shoots poking up through the soil
bulb sprouts poking up through the soil

our neighbor’s cat lazing in the sun
cat lazing in the sun

newfallen and weathered pine cones brought home to grace our table
newfallen and weathered pine cones

two drakes chasing a hen on the river, not interested in our bread crumb offerings
two drakes chasing a hen ducks on the water

It’s too soon to say we’ll have no more snow this year but there are certainly signs of spring all around. The birds are noisier, the squirrels are running for fun, dogs are out with their people, deer have been spotted slipping through the neighborhood. We are spending more time outside, pretending that our bare hands are not too cold to throw the ball one more time before the sun goes down.

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skeletonized maple leaf against the snow

We haven’t had any new snow for quite a while. A few light dustings. Still the wind blows and animals leave their footprints.

skeletonized maple leaf and animal footprints in the snow rabbit

A tiny maple leaf, skeletonized by time and weather. Could those be rabbit footprints?

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Here’s the mailman cutting it down. The mailman? Yes, we live in a friendly town. He noticed when part of the tree came down and offered to take the rest of it down safely in exchange for the wood to heat his home. Waste not, want not. Sounded like a great deal to me!

And look what survived the fall. The fungus that had survived the original break landed safely in the snow. Freeze-dried, ha! Maple seed for scale. Apparently you can clear coat dried mushrooms to preserve them. Not sure I’ll take that project on. They may just end up in the compost.

frozen mushrooms from dead tree

I did save what was left of a little birch that had to come out. Young birch branches are smooth, easy to cut and have such a pretty pattern to them. Not sure what I’ll do with it just yet.

young birch branches


Have you noticed? I seem to have this mild obsession with lower life forms. Mushrooms, mosses, etc.

There is a tree on the back line of our lot that has probably been dead for some time. A storm last week brought down an upper branch, dry enough to crack into hundreds of pieces, shedding bark and twigs nearly to the street. But among those pieces I found an amazing world. Perfect tiny mushrooms only 2 or 3 millimeters across. Delicate, lightest green reindeer moss. Curling gray-green lichens, lush green mosses, creeping brown moss, things I don’t even know the name of. But all living—thriving on the dead wood.

reindeer moss on bark from a dead tree

lichens growing on fallen bark

moss, lichen and tiny mushrooms on tree bark


mushroom in the leaves blue boots splashing in a puddle of leaves last zinnia of summer

A mushroom (or toadstool according to our neighbor E.), blue boots splashing in a puddle, one last zinnia of summer

autumn leaves on the wet pavement one green leaf in a puddle of autumn leaves white fungus growing out of a stump

leaves on the wet pavement, one last green leaf, fungus growing on a stump

autumn road into the old cemetery squirrel sitting up on haunches eating an acorn

looking down the lane into the old cemetery, a little friend getting fat

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This cut-and-color activity was originally created to accompany a lesson on the parable of the mustard seed (Mark 4:30). I found the wonderful black and white illustrations on an educational site allowing use of the images for personal or educational use. I chose pairs of young and adult animals and plants that have fairly different looking forms.

random-charm's cut-and-color matching game, young and adult animals and plants

I did this activity with several kids ages 4-7 and it was challenging enough to all of them to make and to play. If you are making these with more than one child in the same house, use different colors of cardstock for the backing so that each child will know which set is theirs. You can play at least two different games with these cards and I’m sure they will spark interesting conversations, walks outdoors and field trips! Enjoy!

2 page PDF 5.5 MB download

random-charm's cut-and-color matching game, young and adult animals and plants random-charm's cut-and-color matching game, young and adult animals and plants

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