posts tagged with 'life'

that answers that question

A couple weeks ago the dogs got sprayed by a skunk. They were sad puppies, and Leah was sad too because she had to be in the car with them for the whole drive home, and then give them a bath (I was no help at all because this was the early morning walk and I was still in bed). As people—including me—heard the story of their adventure, the natural response was, "I wonder if they learned their lesson?" This morning we have the answer, and it's no. At daybreak, back for another walk at the same place they got skunked before, they had another encounter—with the same results. And another stinky trip home, and another bath. In Dog Man: For Whom the Ball Rolls baths are the consequence Lil Petey uses to help Dog Man learn to ignore balls and squirrels, but it takes hundreds, if not thousands, of repetitions; we don't have that kind of shampoo budget.

That's not to say there were no lessons learned: Leah won't be going back to Foss Farm any time soon!

butterfly garden

Years ago I vowed to do my part to grow milkweed for the monarch butterflies. But we didn't stop there! We also have all kinds of butterfly-friendly flowers for the adults to sip on and water for them to drink. So every year we can count on enjoying having them around the place. But this year is something else! In our backyard and along the driveway they're always there—at any moment you can look out and see one. Or more than one: the other day I think I counted eight just in a little patch of our backyard! I tried to get a picture with all of them but they wouldn't sit still and pose, so this is just a sample of the monarch excitement we've been witnessing.

a monarch butterfly in a butterfly bush

there's actually two in this picture if you look closely

I have no idea what's led to the jump in their numbers. I've been joking that we've singlehandedly reversed their population decline, but that's probably not it. Maybe they're attracted by all the weed flowers we have growing in the lawn, because the lawn mower isn't working? Or maybe we've just reached a critical mass of butterfly bush, tall phlox, and zinnias, and are attracting all the monarchs in Bedford. Sorry to everybody else in that case... but you're welcome to stop by for a viewing!

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what a week!

I thought this week that the boys and I would have a chance to reset our schedule and get settled down to get some things done before the start of the school year. We've certainly put in some strong work—catching up on weeding and cleaning their room, plus rediscovering the regular daily chores—but it's been hard to stick to a schedule because we've had big outings every day of the week!

Monday we were invited to hike and play with friends we hadn't seen for a while. The playing was so much fun we didn't hike at all, just hung out in their yard for three or four hours. On Tuesday we went blueberry picking; I had promised never to go there again but when friends who we hadn't seen in even longer invited us I figured the chance to hang out with them was well worth the price. Correctly: we had a great time together! Plus got some blueberries that I still haven't found time to turn in to jam. On Wednesday we went to Rockport. On Thursday the boys spent the day at my parents' house, which let me do some brain work (including writing some blog posts!), but which didn't forward our work at home at all. And today we spent six and a half hours out on an epic bike-riding and playground-visiting tour of delight with friends (and then had more friends over to sit around the fire this evening!). So fun, and so tiring. I wonder how next week will go?

a Friday

Summer life is full. Today we had our maybe last chance to play with Nisia, we had a homeschool park day to attend, we had an invitation from friends in the afternoon, and we had our church community group in the evening. And we made it all fit! The day kicked off with a trip to the playground in Billerica where the homeschool gathering was supposed to be. We were late because we had to wait for Grandma to bring Nisia—but that didn't matter since it turns out nobody else showed up. That's homeschoolers for you. No wonder a lot of new groups can't get off the ground. We had fun playing, anyways, and the kids even drew in a couple of others because they were having such an obviously great time. Then we went home and had lunch together, before the rest of Nisia's family showed up to hang out for a while before taking her out on her next adventure.

Not too long though, because we needed to be in Chelmsford to do some trail work at our friends' house. They've got a little MTB track they're working on, and nothing is more delightful to me than digging and then riding! Our community group was meeting in Chelmsford too, at someone else's house, so I kind of thought we'd go straight from one to the other—but I didn't think so much that I brought any food. So when the fun of digging kept me at it until 6:00 it was a scramble to get to McDonalds for something to sustain us! (and our hosts kindly donated a veggie burger for Harvey to go with his fries). We were late for community group, but that was fine since almost everyone else was later. I guess summer is full for everybody!

in which animals continue to target my gardens

I love lilies, but today all of the beautiful blooms I noticed in people's yards all over town made me feel sad. Why? Because this morning I discovered that, overnight, a deer had eaten off all the buds from the two lily plants in the position of honor in front of the house. We have others—the ones in the backyard along the fence are blooming beautifully—but nobody but us gets to see them! I want to make our house beautiful for passers-by! Seeing everyone else's beauty today—it's a great year for lilies, absent deer predation—made me wonder why the critters are targeting my yard in particular. How does everyone else grow anything?! What am I doing wrong? At least the rabbits took a break from nibbling the petunias for a day or two, so there's a little color out front... Man, who knew gardening was such a stressful hobby!

Labor Day boating

After our vacation we took a day and a half off from adventuring, but today being Labor Day we just had to get out for some summer fun! Harvey and I took a dawn bike ride, but that doesn't count—we do that on regular days too. No, the true Labor Day excitement was found in a canoe trip on the Concord River.

our boat approaching the Old North Bridge

what could be finer?

We could tell it was an appropriate way to observe the day because hundreds of other people had the same idea; it was easily the busiest day I've ever seen on the river. Cars were parked up and down the road by the ramp where we put in, and there were streams of boats coming from the rental place a little further on too. We had debated between putting in there versus the boat launch in Bedford, and I'm really glad we chose the upstream spot: the river in Concord is too shallow for powerboats, and I sure they were swarming downstream in Bedford and Billerica. Even a crowd of canoes and kayaks leaves plenty of space for other river users!

our boat pulled up on shore, three kayaks in the water beyond it

practically a traffic jam!

We were only out for about an hour and a half. We headed downstream first and stopped by at the Old North Bridge, which was crowded with a mix of boaters, cyclists, and people who just had to drive there (poor things). We walked around a bit but were disappointed to find the boathouse dock had been taken up—probably because the water was so low it would have been completely aground. So we reembarked and continued downstream, noting wildlife as we went. We tried to find exemplars of each type of animal, and were successful for most: insects (dragonflies were our favorite), amphibians (a frog), reptiles (many turtles), fish (um... fish), and birds (a great blue heron who was much less shy than we're used to). Unfortunately we didn't spot any muskrats, so our mammals category had to be filled by a gray squirrel.

a great blue heron quite close up

posing for its glamor shot

Then we went back upstream with the intention of visiting our secret harbor at the confluence on the Sudbury and Assabet Rivers. Of course, with the water level so low the cleft in a rock that we had poked the boat into many times before was about three feet above the surface of the water, so that didn't work. Of course, that also meant that anyone who wanted to could just get out and walk, which was kind of fun.

Zion and Elijah wading in the middle of the Concord River

can't do THAT in the spring!

We had thought of going up the Assabet a little ways too, but given that it didn't look to be deeper than 18 inches at any point we gave up that idea. Plus, Lijah was hungry. So we came home. We may not have had a cookout (that's on the schedule for tomorrow) but I think it's safe to say that Labor Day has been properly celebrated.

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oh the disappointment

It's a good thing we picked up some farm produce the other day, since our own harvests have been a little problematic. The most stressful thing has been the the competition from animals—specifically squirrels. We've never had a problem with them before, but this year they're going crazy on our fruit especially. They ate all the strawberries, then almost all the blueberries, then all the pears, and now they're working on finishing up the unripe apples. It's especially disappointing because all those crops were looking great... but the squirrels keep getting the jump on us. The honeycrisp tree is breaking our heart: we must have had forty or fifty good-looking apples on there a week or two ago, less than a month from ripening, and then they started disappearing at a rate of about five a day. Now there's one left. Lijah is holding out hope that they'll leave it alone, but I don't think the odds are good. And now we got home today from a trip to the ocean to find that something has started in on the roma tomatoes. I don't know if I can cope with it all.

the return of the king

We spotted a monarch butterfly in our yard earlier this week: the first of the year. We're always happy to see them, and we do what we can to invite them in and make them feel welcome. There are butterfly-friendly flowers all over the yard, and they're especially concentrated in the side yard, where a discerning lepidopteran can find butterfly bush, tall phlox, beebalm, and, especially for those monarchs, plenty of milkweed. I took a look and I think I spotted a few eggs on the milkweed, so we'll have a hunt for caterpillars in a little while.

While I was sick the other day I read Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior, which I enjoyed even if a few things about it troubled me. Mainly how strongly its main themes were presented as moral lessons: that monarch butterflies are tremendously valuable both for their beauty and for their role as a proxy for wider environmental issues, which I agree with, and that you should leave your spouse if you're not totally in love with them, on which I have more nuanced opinions. Although maybe you shouldn't trust my review of the book since I was pretty loopy with fever when I pushed through the whole thing in basically one sitting (one "lying-in-bedding?"). But yes, monarchs. Yay monarchs!

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a bird yesterday

Yesterday morning we noticed a striking bird on the top of the apple tree in our front yard. It was smooth and sleek and light brown, with a little crest on its head and black markings around its eyes that looked like super cool 80s wrap-around shades. It was the shades that made me want to look it up, and without a go-to birding resource we looked on the internet and found the All About Birds guide from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It took just a very few questions before our bird's identity was revealed: cedar waxwing. I still don't know very much about birds despite them begin all around us, so I was glad to find a resource for telling them apart. Of course then I wanted to go back and ID some other birds I've noticed over the last couple months, but I guess I didn't remember enough details because I wasn't able to pin them down. Also I had to register in order to do more searches, and then once I did the tool would load so I had to do the other searches in a private browsing window. I'll keep trying, but we could also always go back to the methods we've used in the past: texting our friends who own birding books.

don't you have your own food?!

The most frustrating thing about gardening is having animals eat the plants. A woodchuck has found a way inside the fence; those kale plants he ate half of? They'd been growing for close to two months, and he ruined them in one snack (he didn't eat half of the plants; he ate half of each plant). The lettuces have also suffered. Maybe most disappointing is the disappearance of so many of the strawberries. We have netting, but constant assalts by squirrels, chipmunks, and gray catbirds have revealed some weaknesses. Zion and I did what we could to secure it this morning, but I don't know how much difference it'll make. In that case, if they eat the strawberries all we can do is wait til next year! It's hard.

I don't begrudge the animals what they need to stay alive. And I recognize that my house and yard are taking up space that their ancestors may have occupied for tens of thousands of years before me. But I can't help but think they're getting a little spoiled, taking only the ripest strawberries or the most tender greens. Aren't there acorns or something for them to eat?!