I awoke this morning listening to the cacophony of birdsong. The spruce edges were filled with rapid twitching movement as new spring arrivals jockeyed for position at the feeding stations. In that moment, I felt grateful for the steadfast traditions of nature in the face of such uncertain times.
Amidst the morning chaos, it occurred to me that there was one feeder missing—the hummingbird feeders. These tiny magical creatures have always been some of my favorites. I thought about these little birds, weighing about as much as a penny, making their way 500 miles across the Gulf of Mexico. It’s no surprise that they might be hungry when they get here! With their arrival happening in the first week of May, it might be time to dig out the feeders and check my “hummer”-friendly plant list for spring.
These days, if we’re not flexing our culinary muscles baking sourdough (the new social media sensation) or making whipped coffee, we’re probably spending increasing amounts of time staring into our pantries, wondering how we can cobble together one more meal before venturing out for groceries.
Our Manager of Food Services, Ginger Dermott, is no different. “The other night, we pulled together rice bowls from limited ingredients,” she told me. “I feel like rice bowls are a super fun and easy way to include all the food groups into one meal.”
Every year, spring’s early visitors often ask what time of the year is my favorite in the Gardens. This never allows for a quick answer, because each season hold its own special charms here. Inevitably though, my answer is always early spring.
The landscape of late March and early April appears raw, even barren. However, a closer look reveals stunning beauty, small oases of texture and color that stand out in stark contrast to the still-dormant landscape. Compared to the riotous colors and abundance of summer, these seemingly minimal expressions of early flora, pushing through dry brown leaf litter, are certainly understated at first glance. But upon closer inspection, they are a lovely, ethereal feast for the eyes.
Hi everyone, and greeting from my home kitchen! I wanted to share a recipe with you which, for my family, is a definite comfort food. I have made this cake using so many variations on the ingredients that I thought it would be the perfect recipe to share, because we are certainly all having to get creative in both the kitchen and our lives right now! Feel free to use different combinations of flours, different fruits, different extracts, or even throw in a handful of nuts.
Photo: Katia Dermott
But before we begin, I’d like to give a shout out to all of our local farms keeping their farm stands open! I had the good fortune to help my husband make a delivery of Thirty Acre Farm sauerkraut to The Milkhouse Farm & Dairy in Monmouth last weekend. While I was there, I bought a gallon of yogurt, fresh milk, chicken and duck eggs, as well as an assortment of frozen beef and pork. You can always call your local farmers to ask if they are open and what their hours are. Most farmers’ markets have websites listing names and contacts of their vendors, as well.
Now. Onto our recipe (this is a great project to do with your kids, too, by the way—I had the assistance of my 11 year-old daughter, Nina, and my oldest daughter, Katia, who is an art student at MECA in Portland…she’s the one behind the camera).
Sometimes attracting songbirds to your yard is as easy as hanging a well-stocked feeder and planting the right kinds of seed-bearing perennials. But what if you’re interested in going beyond caring for the current population to building upon it?
If you’re looking for a project these days, maybe try installing (or even building) an attractive home or two to accommodate your favorite species. But did you know that, when it comes to birdhouses, one size (and style) does not fit all?
Of course, if your sole aim is to add a bit of charm to your yard, well, it doesn’t much matter the style of house you choose. But what if your goal is to attract specific species? In that case, a bit of research is in order.
What we think of as “regular” birdhouses, officially called “nest boxes,” attract only cavity-nesting birds. But not every bird fits the bill, so to speak. For example—did you know that purple martins like to nest in colonies? Or that robins prefer to settle on platforms open to the air? Read More
When starting your own cut flower garden, choosing from amongst the enormous variety of seeds out there can be a little overwhelming. I end up wanting one of every variety of every flower known to mankind. The best advice I can give is to limit your selection to a handful of easy-to-grow flowers, and then pick a couple varieties of each, giving yourself some bouquet and arranging options for later in the season. This is even truer if you are a beginner, or have a limited amount of space. Picking one of everything is so tempting, but you are likely to become overwhelmed very quickly, giving the whole thing up as a bad job.
In my experience, the plants listed below are some of the easiest and most rewarding to grow. I have also listed some of my favorite varieties of each, but in the end, it comes down to your own personal preference of color, form, and size. I largely select varieties in (and a variety of) shades of pink, salmon, lilac, purple, carmine, and peach. That’s just personal preference, since I tend to reach for those colors when making arrangements or bouquets for loved ones. But it’s fun to experiment—maybe try to find flowers tending towards blue and grey. Read More
You may find yourself suddenly realizing that it’s spring.
And you may find yourself listening to birdsong and the drip-dripping of snow thaw.
And you may ask yourself, “What happens to all those sweet, slimy amphibians when temperatures plummet during the winter?”
And you may ask yourself, “How did they get here?” after letting the winter days go by and seeing them again just in time for the warmer months.
Okay, then. Here’s the story (and it’s an interesting one!). Many amphibians hibernate through the winter in their adult stage. In fact, some amphibians can even survive being frozen solid! Freeze-tolerance has been studied extensively in wood frogs, who prepare for the frigid temperatures by creating a sort of “antifreeze” in their bodies, the main component of which is an accumulation of glucose (sugar) in their blood. Other amphibians exhibit this freeze-tolerance as well, and many employ the additional protection of burrowing under leaves and forest debris—with snow piled on top, that creates some nice insulation for these ectotherms (cold-blooded animals unable to create their own body heat). Some amphibians even take it a step further and actually burrow into the forest floor below the freeze line. Read More
These days, terms like “Victory Garden” and “Make Do and Mend” rise up from collective memory, coming readily to mind. If we can separate these sayings from the wartime periods they evoke, we’re left with a positive, sustainable, life-affirming, and powerfully independent message to inspire a bit of proactive activity in a time of deeply unsettling uncertainty.
While figuring out where to begin can be overwhelming, one place to start is with a few of the following easy-to-grow veggies (and here in Maine, we’re lucky to have some local seed companies—Fedco Seeds, Johnny’s Selected Seeds, and Pinetree Garden Seeds, many of whom feature seed collections for easy garden-starting), a bit of soil, and either a bit of yard space or a few containers.
Here’s a list of five crops to begin with: Read More
Winters in Maine are long, cold, and mostly gray. If you’re a gardener like me, sustained by beauty and color in the natural world, winter can feel like an endless starvation diet. By the end of February, I am desperate for a taste of spring and flowering plants. Two of my favorite strategies for keeping winter’s gray-scale at bay are growing orchids (more in another post) and starting seedlings indoors—the germination and growth of leafy seedlings is a huge spirit-lifter.
Starting your own seeds is an easy, enjoyable, and exceedingly economical endeavor—you can easily grow hundreds of plants for the price of one gallon-sized potted perennial. The keywords here are EASY and FUN. Read More