Birds, Bees and Butterflies

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This garden was one we put in about 3 years ago (time all melds together at this point – maybe it was four years, maybe two).  It is pretty spectacular this year.  All of the plants have matured and I put in a few annuals that Bill brought up.  The best part about this garden is its attraction to hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.

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If you are within sight of this garden you can see it is a hub of activity.

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I was thrilled to see honey bees on a lot of my flowering plants this year, it’s been a while.

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There is always something to watch.

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I originally planted this for the color it would give our view of the back forty. When I sit in the Adirondack chairs and look over this garden I realize I planted the perfect wildlife garden.  There’s a hummingbird feeder that I have to fill every few days and I have seen finches in and out of it all day long.

There are also a critters that I could do without – chipmunks, red squirrels and woodchucks.  Although, truth be told, I love watching them too. They don’t really bother anything, they do dig holes all over the place.  If and when they get into the vegetable garden I might have a change of heart but for now I’ll share this beautiful space with anyone that wants to visit.



Enough Already

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I woke up this morning to thunder rumbling in the west and air that was thick.  Visibility was low.  It rained, hard.

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There were breaks of sunshine allowing me to get a little gardening in but the day pretty much looked like this.  Small breaks of blue sky with the ever present clouds building all around, thunder constantly in the background. The kind of day best spent doing chores indoors.  Digging in the dirt was more like digging in the mud.

There’s nothing worse than being forced to stay in the house when all you want to do is be outdoors.  Somehow doing laundry and vacuuming lose all appeal when there is sod to dig and plants to move.  Maybe sitting around thinking about it will make setting the garden in easier.  I might actually have a plan.


How We See

Amanda's hands and chick

My chicks are a month old now and a far cry from the cute, fuzzy little creatures they were in the first week.  The day after I arrived daughter Amanda spent some time in the room with the chicks and I took this photograph of her hands holding one of them.  It was around nine at night, maybe later and the chicks were sleepy and welcomed the warmth of her hands.

When I loaded the photo onto the computer and opened it in Photoshop it looked nothing like this.  In fact I had no idea it would turn into one of my recent favorites until I began to play with it.  All of the photographs I took of people holding chicks had to be converted to b&w because of the red heat lamp in use over the chicks enclosure. A big part of it was having a cooperative subject and I attribute that to Amanda having spent the last 28 years being photographed – a lot. She waited, holding that chick until I went into the house and got the camera.  And it was a one on one situation.  After some cropping and playing with levels this it turned into something I love.  It speaks to me of the kindness and tenderness that is Amanda, and I would recognize those hands anywhere.

The next day I took this photo.

140705 Andy holding chick (2)Nothing like the one the day before.  The quality of the material to begin was not as good but wow, I have to say I love this almost as much.  This was manipulated almost as much, didn’t end up with the same result – but look at that face.  This is my grandson in his first chicken experience.  After a little coaxing he reluctantly held that chick. Not the same hands, not the same feel but something that really captured the experience for me.

Photography for me, when it’s good, is most often times a happy accident.  The first image more so than the second.  They were totally different experiences.  The hands were something I saw, captured and manipulated into something I see as beautiful.  I worked towards that image in every aspect – it just so happens it turned out better than I had envisioned.  The second was a capture of a moment and his face really gives away his uncertainty with the situation. It feels like he was just holding that chick just for the camera, otherwise he might have been just as happy to leave it quite alone (or watch but not touch).

These are the times that I truly appreciate digital photography.  I never would have achieved these images if I had been using film – I probably could have but it would have entailed hours of frustration in a darkroom and then I seriously doubt they would have turned out this way.  These took a few minutes and some mouse clicks to make it happen.  Minutes later I’m sharing them with family and friends.

It’s all still pretty amazing to me.  I do think photography has been diminished in some ways because of it.  Photographers used to be artists and technicians, you had to know your craft.  Technology has made us old film photographers obsolete, we can now reminisce about standing in a darkroom for hours trying to achieve our vision.  In the same breath I can say it has set us free – we can envision what we want, capture it and make it our own with the click of a few buttons.  The one thing that has not changed for us is how we see.



Morning Walkabout

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This will be a photo heavy post today – just to give you a glimpse of the place right now.  It also serves as a record for me.

Each morning starts with picking up my handy bug zapper.  It’s deer fly season and this has proven itself to be a necessity.

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The patio garden – to my right as I cross the driveway heading for the back forty.  This is an old garden, a friendship garden with almost all of the plants coming from people we know.  My mother worked on this from the summer we moved in, 1967.  It’s going to be renewed this summer since the lawn is really creeping in at this point and things are really crowded.

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Towards the back of the garage there is the newest perennial garden and in the foreground is the raspberry patch.  The raspberries are in their third year and are just starting to fill in.

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We take the road to the back forty, we being me and the dogs.  They know the drill and love being out there.  On the right is the sawdust building for the sawmill.  I don’t think it’s a crooked as it looks in the photo but you never know.

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As I walk around what used to be the back pasture the dogs spend their time sniffing whatever went on the night before.

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From the same spot (more or less) looking towards a road that goes back into the wood lot.  There’s a branch that goes to a stump dump where I’ve taken some very nice compost for the garden over the years.  Everything about gardening is waiting – years not months.

The tete-a-tete chair my father made is up there and it overlooks the pasture back up towards the house.  It’s the perfect spot to drink a morning cup of coffee or that martini in the afternoon.

140624 (15)As I walk the perimeter I check on the berries, deciding what I will net this year so I get more of a harvest than the birds.  These are blackberries and the birds pretty much get all of them – they probably scope them out more often than I do.

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This is the view from the back of the pasture – the table was too worn out for the patio but too solid to burn so there it sits.  Just one more thing to weed whack.

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From the same spot if you turn around you look into the woods towards the wood lot – there are also some old, empty beaver ponds back there as well.

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Back up into the driveway I noticed that this summer is the summer of potted plants for me.  I love the way they look and I’m here to take care of them now.  This is the well by the driveway.  Years ago we replaced the wood cover with stone fearing our kids would climb up on top of it and fall in.  I think it might be usable in an emergency but I wouldn’t want to drink out of it now.

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This is the view from the patio, it overlooks the vegetable garden, the new garden and the raspberries towards the back forty.  I have annuals in pots as well and tomatoes and cucumbers.

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Yes, cucumbers.  I was skeptical at first.  Bill brought two pots of these up that he got from the plant gypsy we have come to the shop in Enfield.  I told him they would never grow.  How wrong I was.  Now I’m looking for the seeds for next year.

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Across from the patio is another perennial garden that has morphed into all kinds of things over the years.  It’s now overgrown as well but I love having the pots for color.  It is also a place for the birds that we can watch from the table in the kitchen.

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Another crazy potted plant.  Its in a pedestal pot so I guess I could take the hanger off of it now huh?

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Heading for the front yard and looking back over the gardens – this is the relaxation spot for every part of the day.  I swear people that drive by only do when we are sitting in those chairs.  I figure they think that’s all we do.

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This is the vegetable garden from the chairs.  It’s slow but steady this year, about a week to 10 days behind last years.  It’s been quite cool.

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But the potatoes are doing great!

This is what I look at every morning (even if it rains).  I check my plants, take a walk, play with the dogs all in about 20 minutes time.  It gives me time to plan my day.  Look around at what needs doing and try not to get overwhelmed by the list.  Prioritize.  Breathe in the fresh air, stand in the sunshine, hug a tree, center.


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I walk the perimeter of the back forty a couple of times a day with the dogs.  It’s far enough away from any distractions to make the walk enjoyable for me as well as them.  One of our dogs, now elderly, is hard of hearing with bad eyesight and tends to wander in the road.  There are usually only a handful of cars that pass the house on any given day but this way I don’t have to worry and he can spend quality time sniffing whatever dogs with dementia sniff.

I’m constantly amazed at the things that grow back there.  Blackberries in abundance.  I never really get to harvest many of them because there are also birds in abundance – fruit is a big food source for them and I take whatever is leftover.

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Blueberries are everywhere around the edges of the mowing.  There is one large bush in the open that I net every year and it gives me a good supply of berries to freeze.  There is nothing like those wild blueberries in muffins on a cold, snowy morning in January I have to tell you.  There are bushes all over but this particular bush I reserve for myself.  It sometimes seems as if the birds are waiting when I go down to pick them thinking they’ll just help themselves while I pick.  It’s a quiet interlude I look forward to every summer just to spend time in birdsong.

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Then there is the pear tree.  The lone survivor of a number of plantings on a long ago Father’s Day.  This tree has come into its own in the past few years.  It’s spectacular in bloom and there have been years where I thought all of the branches would break under the weight of the fruit.  This, of all the “free” food that surrounds me, stresses me the most.  There is SO much of it. Pears are picky about when they are harvested and ripened and the frost freeze cycle of the end of season can mess you up in the timing of it all.  Did I mention there is SO much of it?  The past few years there have been enough pears to fill the bucket of the tractor three times over.  That’s a LOT of pears folks.  I can them, I eat them, I give a lot away.  I even used them as place markers on my Thanksgiving table with over 40 guests.  There is not enough creativity in the world to deal with this kind of harvest.  Hmmmm, pear cider . . .

Being surrounded by the bounty of nature (and perhaps the forethought of many now gone) is really a wonderful thing.  In the past couple of years that is how I’ve begun to think about the food I grow.  There is always the huge vegetable garden but I planted asparagus last year knowing full well that I would not be eating any of it until the third year.  The glory in it is the bed can be good for over thirty years.  It’s nice to know that someone will be eating that lovely vegetable in 2040 because I planted it.  To me THAT is food security even if it’s only for three weeks out of the year.

Beauty in Everything

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This has been waiting for me for the past week or maybe a little more.  I needed to clean out the rest of the junk in the coop so we can tear it down to make way for a new one.  Uhm, yeah.  Every morning I take the dogs out for their walk to the back forty and I walk by this.  When I went out this morning I decided today was the day.  I walked closer to check out what I was really in for, bracing myself for the ugliness that was years and years in the making.  This is what I saw.

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Stacks of old doors, shutters and broken windows.

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Walls with holes to the outdoors, random gaskets hanging on nails.

140529 Coop (3)Rusted, broken sleds and bailing twine.

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Baskets without bottoms and plants growing through the floor.

The morning light was beautiful streaming through the gaping holes in the walls and through the non-existent doors and windows.  There’s a lot of life that was thrown in here through the years and I just had to take one more moment to record what was left before I filled the trailer.  I’m glad I did, there is beauty in everything, you just have to look.  Little gifts.


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There are no words . . . yet there is so much to say.

Teacher, mentor, friend . . . to so many.  We lost Paul Turnbull this afternoon at 2:00.  He was surrounded by friends and family when he passed.

Paul fundamentally changed me as a person. He taught me to see, capture it and share with others.  He showed me the importance of maintaining your friendships. He was a man who took wild risks at an age when most people are very settled. He saw exquisite beauty in common things and shared it with all of us.  He gave of himself over and over again in many different ways. He was a crazy, quirky, loving man.

Photography is something I love sharing and there was no higher praise (or more worthy criticism) than what came from him. His vision was exquisite and his printing was magnificent. Recently he had begun sharing his images on Facebook much to the collective joy of those of us who knew him.  His New England postcards were always something I looked forward to and aspired to.

I am going to miss seeing through his eyes.

I am going to miss him challenging me – in both photography and in life.

I am going to miss how much he loved us all.

Saving and Sharing Those Photographs

Dad and MimMy grandmother with my father.  I can hear her laughing in the photograph.

With the temperature this morning hovering above zero and it having been that cold for what seems like forever more and more projects are sadly being started indoors.  It’s usually about this time of year when small things start outdoors and move into the bigger spring things.

The past few days have seen a plethora of collections of old photographs being shared with me on social media.  All of them are old and people have had to scan them.  A cousin commented on how wonderful it was that we had all of these hard copies (pre 1950) to share and wondered about how this would continue.  My entire career in photography was based on film.  If in color another lab would process and print it, if black and white hours were spent in a darkroom.  All along the whole process there was something I could hold in my hand.  My negatives were filed meticulously by date and subject and I can still put my hands on them if I need to find something.

With the dawn of the digital age and my activity in it I have had to deal with keeping and finding my files in a whole new way.  I still file everything by date (even though each image is time stamped), then each year is filed in its own folder.  I then make copies of my files and keep them on portable hard drives – sorry, I can never be too careful.  To add another layer at the end of every year I go through all of the files of photographs for that year and pick the best – the ones that would hurt me to lose.  I have them printed and bound into a book.

I started doing that with my first digital camera probably in the late 90’s.  I can’t say that we look at them a lot but they are there and I like having them.  It’s really no different than all of those black and white photos my mother glued onto the black paper of her scrapbooks (or her mother before her).

What I consider the most wonderful part of this digital age of photography is the ability to share all of it – new and old – with your friends and family.  Long ago I scanned almost all of the collections of family photographs as a way of preserving them, putting them in chronological order and sharing them.  I’ve found I have a profound reaction when seeing photographs of my loved ones from long gone that I have never seen before.  This has been made possible through the internet and social media.  My great aunt passing spawned something that started out as a way for people to bond, share their loss and find joy in knowing those that are no longer with us. All of that happened but now it is helping us all to have a better understanding of who we are as individuals.  Genealogy does that to some extent but this puts faces to the stories and the stories are told as the photographs are shared, by mulitiple people.  It’s like sitting in a room with all of your relatives (many I have never even met) talking about people that you loved.  You get so many different perspectives and then you learn that so and so’s child looks just like her Memere.  It’s pretty great.

Today the take away for me it that my father’s family loved life and family so very much.  They laughed – a lot.  They were practical jokers and could laugh at themselves.  We remember the French, the broken English and how all of it translated into love of family (whether we understood the words or not).  We are diminished in a way by their passing but in sharing the photos and stories we see that it continues on in ourselves.