Friday, August 31, 2012

"You Must Do Something To Make The World More Beautiful"....

About 25 years ago I was given a book that I have cherished ever since. It is a children's book written and illustrated by the late Maine author, Barbara Cooney. The name of the book is Miss Rumphius
and the lady who gave the book to me said I reminded her of Miss Rumphius because I planted lovely gardens wherever I went and made the world a more beautiful place because of it.

I was so honored to be thought of in this way and even more honored when I personally got to visit Barbara Cooney in her studio a few years later, before she passed away.

I once lived in a sweet little cottage on a stunning, old estate here in Maine. I loved living there and every morning and evening I found myself walking through the woods hunting for mushrooms or studying ferns and mosses. In early June my little cottage became surrounded by
 lupine and its delicious, spicy fragrance filled the air. I collected the seeds every year and just like Miss Rumphius, I would scatter them wherever I went. 

The touching story of Miss Rumphius tells about a little girl named Alice who has big dreams of travel and adventure. She is told by her grandfather that it is fine to do all these things but that she must also 
do one more thing in her life... 
"You must do something to make the world more beautiful"
A wonderful message that I have never forgotten and have pledged to do each day of my life. 

This is the little cottage I lived in on the big estate

I tell you all this because yesterday, Michael brought me a gift of lupine seed! His mother had saved all the seeds from her own lupine plants and sent them along with Michael to give to me. I don't think I could have received a nicer gift! I was so excited to have them because I wanted to fill the new meadow with lots and lots of lupine. 

The seed pods look just like little, baby mice. Their shells are soft and furry on the outside but when cracked open reveal the tiny, brown seeds inside.

This is just a sampling of the thousands of seeds Judy gave me

I quickly grabbed the bag of lupine seeds and set out to the meadow area closest to the new cottage. 
We already have some lupine plants that I found growing in a small patch on the west side of the cottage but this new bunch of seeds is enough to fill at least one acre of the north side meadow. 

This is the part of the meadow where I planted the new lupine seed. Can you imagine what it will look like in a few years? I don't think we will have any blooms this spring but next spring it will be stunning.
 I can hardly wait!

Just like Miss Rumphius and Barbara Cooney, 
let's make a promise to scatter beauty and goodness wherever we go!

"You must do something to make the world more beautiful"

In honor of Barbara Cooney, who did make the world more beautiful.
August 6, 1917 – March 10, 2000  

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Changing Direction

It's been another busy week at Catch Meadow Cottage. I spent a lot of time outside, cleaning up scraps of wood and hauling them off to the burn piles. We have three separate piles going. One pile for brush, one for scraps and one for "maybe burn - maybe keep". 

If you recall, the yard looked like this on Sunday morning...

Now it looks like this!

The roosters kept me company the whole time I was working...they even came in the house at one point when I left the doors open.

When Michael arrived on Monday morning, the place was clean and tidy, inside and out...
thanks to my buddies and me.

Monday morning was quite rainy so Michael decided to start tearing out the cellar stairway 
while I gave my dear friend Abby, a tour of the place. 

                    Originally the stairs were heading down to the cellar from the living room area

                 Now they have changed direction and are heading down from the new entry way

                                Young Michael heads back to Architectural School this week.
                                          (His 3rd year at Wentworth College in Boston)
                                      We sure will miss him. He's been such a great help.

                                                Here he is helping build the new staircase. 

This was the direction of the stairs in the cellar before they were changed.
They used to end right at the wall.

Now they turn in the opposite direction, come to a platform and turn to the right. Michael designed it that way because of the large metal beam running across the basement ceiling.  

Ooh, so nice. Michael made sure we would have plenty of head room when coming down the stairs.

Perhaps next year we'll begin work on the basement....if we're not too tired...or broke!

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Morning Miracle...The Birth Of A Butterfly

Sunday morning started off with a miracle! After waking rather early, I went to the kitchen to make my tea. I happened to look over to check the progress of the little, jade-green chrysalis I had brought home from the Cottage a few days before and discovered it had turned deep black. Just the night before it had still been green.

Upon closer inspection, I could see traces of bright orange beneath the thin layer of the mylar-like sac.   I knew it was just a matter of minutes before a monarch butterfly would emerge. 

And then it happened....I heard a crackle and saw the little sac split and begin to separate.

                          Just as quickly as it split, an odd formed creature popped out and tumbled over.
                                It was the baby butterfly, although it did not resemble a butterfly in the least.

Its body was so large and its wings so small.

             It remained very still except for a slight up and down motion it made with its body. Right
               before my eyes, the butterfly's wings were growing longer and its body getting thinner.
                                The butterfly was pumping fluid from its body to its wings.

                        Within a few short minutes, the butterfly was full-size. If you look closely you will see that the black lines on the wings are very thick. This was my first clue that this was a female butterfly. On males those lines are much thinner. The second clue was that the distinctive two black spots, that a male has on the back of his wings, were missing on hers.

It takes several hours for a butterfly to dry its wings before it can fly. This is the most vulnerable time for them. They can easily be snatched up by a hunger bird or other predator. Knowing this, I gave her plenty of time indoors to rest and dry her wings. Then I carefully placed her in a jar and carried her back to Catch Meadow Cottage. Walking out to the meadow, I gently released her to fly off with the other butterflies. I watched as she fluttered about and then landed on some nearby thistle. 
She set right to work, sipping nectar and pollinating the flowers.
Beauty with purpose! 

                                                       How lovely to start a day with a miracle!
                                            I look for a miracle in every matter how small.
                                                                         I hope you do too!

                        A huge miracle in my life happened 24 years ago when my son Timothy was born.
                                               Today is his birthday! Happy Birthday baby boy.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

A Touch Of Glass....

When all is said and done, eight windows and two doors were removed from the house and eight windows, 2 patio doors, 1 front door and 1 skylight were installed....and all within 4 days! 

Here is how the kitchen area looked a few short weeks ago.
                                                                                And then this........                      

                                                                And now it looks like this.
      Notice the patio door was installed (on right) & the old kitchen door is now a window (back left). 

On Thursday Michael also installed the new picture window which will be above the kitchen sink. We decided not to have grills in the patio door or the picture window because we did not want to obstruct the amazing view of the meadow. 

      Yesterday the men removed the old front door and the very last old window in the house!
          A double window was replaced but shifted over toward the new front door. 

This is what it looked like on the outside last week
        Then this yesterday....

   Now this.

            This is what the new kitchen looked like from the inside (Notice the old door on the right).

           Now it looks like this. 
We left the wall space on the left of the new windows for open shelves. (No more door on right).

                           This is what the outside of the house facing the meadow looks like today.
                           There's a real mess on the ground but we'll pick that all up this weekend.

                                  A few neighbors stopped by yesterday to check on the progress. 
                                                A little cocky but colorful characters indeed!

                                                          Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Front Door

Last week another exciting thing happened. Our front door arrived! It was a special order from a local retailer but we didn't have to wait very long to get it. At first we thought they confused the order because when it arrived it looked like a fully assembled child's bed.

                                                 After unwrapping it, we were soon relieved.

          Notice the lovely dental shelf detail below the six-lite window. This is the outside of the door.

It was really important to me to have a door that was quaint and charming but was also sturdy and rugged enough for Maine's climate. I wanted wood but of course I'd be throwing money away if I expected a wood door to stand up to the rain, snow and wind we get here. I found a wonderful door that fit all the criteria. It is a fiberglass door with wood grain and can easily be stained or painted any color you like. You can get it pre-stained but we ordered it unfinished so we could choose our own stain color and save over $300.00!

Michael got right to work installing the new front door. As you can see, the old door will soon be gone and the new one is now in place and centered under the overhang. (By the way, that rhododendron in front of the door will be removed and transplanted elsewhere this fall.)

Michael made me promise that I would add this photo to my blog. He took this of me the other day  because he said that there are way too many photos of him and none of me. I reluctantly obliged.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Big Clean-Up

So much happened last week that I did not want to overwhelm you in my posts. I decided to catch up  with each post I write this week.

Last Monday while we were installing the new windows, the tree specialists were right behind us, trimming the huge, old oak tree that had split and partially fallen. (The Mighty Oak post on July 20th). We contacted Northeast Tree from Camden, Maine, and they were terrific. The job was so big and complicated that an insulated bucket truck was needed.

                                                       See how close the wires are to the tree?

                                      All the limbs had to be tied off before dropping them.

We were hoping that they could take down the heavy branches without hurting any of the evergreens below but sadly, one of the hemlocks at the corner of the driveway, took quite a beating.
 We eventually cut the hemlock back and trimmed it up, hoping that it will fill back in over the years.

See it on the left? That's before we cut it back.

There was quite a mess to clean up afterward but to keep the price down, we had negotiated with  
         Northeast Tree to just drop everything on the ground and we would take care of the clean-up.
       They were very careful and considerate and did not block the driveway with any falling debris.

The very next day, the big clean up began! 

This is young Michael carrying a VERY heavy piece of oak. He made it look a lot easier than it actually was. I think he knew I was taking the picture and wanted to look super-human.

                     It's all cleaned up now and we have all the firewood we need for next winter!

Because the chainsaw was out, big Michael did not want to waste an opportunity. So after all the cleaning up, he decided to take down the last Mugo pine we had growing in front of the house. 
We had already taken one Mugo pine down and found a Walnut tree growing within it.
(Free The Tree post July 13th)

The first pine we cut down was to the left where the walnut tree now stands. 
It was much too close to the house. 

I hauled the branches away as Michael cut the tree down. 

                       Now the front of the house is not blocked and the meadow is much more visible. 

While I was hauling branches, I discovered a sleepy neighbor hiding in the dirt. 
He was well fed indeed. A perfect resident to have in my gardens!