Archive for the ‘Spring’ Category

Lupine Season is Here!!   Leave a comment

(click on any thumbnail to see the full-size image)

16 JUNE 2014

Lynn’s efforts to encourage the proliferation of what SHOULD BE the Maine State Flower(*) in the vicinity of the Ballot Box are really showing results this year! The first image to the left is a shot of Lynn’s garden by the door of the Ballot Box, which proves that the local folklore myth that you can’t transplant and cultivate lupines is just that – a myth!  The other image to the left is a perspective shot of the largest segment of the lupine field that is right beside the driveway and can be seen from our dining area table.  It’s important to note that there were NO lupines in that spot five years ago! The image on the right shows the new lupine field-in-training Lynn is starting just across the driveway from the first field.  We even tried transplanting some of the “cultivated” lupines by the house out to the end of the driveway by the road this spring, and those are healthy and blossoming merrily too!

The lupine “season” is fairly short so it’s nice that we caught it in peak this year.  Once the flowers bloom and go by, and the seed pods along the stalk dry out (July? August?), Lynn picks the pods and lets them dry out more (in a paper bag, I think), then cracks them open in October or so and scatters the seeds before the snow flies, along the edge of the driveway by the existing field and in other places around the property.  They’ve set up pretty well by the driveway, but the meadow along the front lawn closer to the house is being a bit more finicky… there’s a single lupine stalk standing proudly but alone in that meadow so far.

(*): What IS the Maine State Flower??  The White Pine Cone!      Really??      Isn’t that a TREE???

Posted 16 June 2014 by Gene Vogt in General, Maine, Newcastle, Spring, The Ballot Box

Swallowing Hard…   Leave a comment

16 JUNE 2014

Every year in late winter (before the snow is gone from the yard) Lynn and I pop the post cap off the far left picket fence post in the front yard up in Maine, and replace it with an identical post cap that has a swallow birdhouse mounted on it, in preparation for the migratory arrival of the house swallows to the area.  Swallows eat bugs, including mosquitoes (that’s a GOOD thing in Maine), and they like their nests/houses to overlook their hunting grounds – a meadow or front yard, or BOTH!

This year being no exception, a family of swallows occupied the birdhouse (can’t beat the rent!) and raised a brood.  Last Saturday in the late afternoon, I set my camera with telephoto lens up on a tripod inside the house and aimed it out the picture window at the fencepost where the birdhouse was.  Both parents were hunting and delivering the mosquito-sauce meals continuously, so the brood was probably big and on the verge of fledging.

I got some good shots – and one video – of the process [click here for all the images], which wasn’t easy because the birds were so fast (luckily I had a cable release on the camera so I didn’t have to keep my eye pressed to the viewfinder).   AND… my wife caught the babies fledging this morning!  She snapped a picture (with her camera-phone, the last photo in the set) of one of the fledglings hanging on to the roof of the birdhouse for dear life – must be an acrophobic bird!!

Posted 16 June 2014 by Gene Vogt in General, Maine, Newcastle, Spring, The Ballot Box

Winter’s Stranglehold Has Been Broken   Leave a comment

(click on thumbnails to view full-size images)

5 MAY 2014

IMG_7252a-25pct20xWinter has lost its grip on the mid-coast. The snow piles have melted; the trees are budding; the daffodils are blooming (see thumbnail); the rhubarb has sprouted (see thumbnail); the swallows are fighting over the fence-post birdhouse (see thumbnail); the goldfinches have regained their bright yellow luster; the lawn is lush, green, and will soon be in need of mowing; the ladybugs have invaded the interior of the Ballot Box – again; and the 151’s have been rehung and rewired, so IMG_7193a-25pct20xmusic has returned to the deck of the Ballot Box.  Can summer be far behind?? 🙂

Lynn and I went north this past weekend, and the chores were predominantly in preparation for summer. We reinstalled all the freshly-repainted window-screens in the windows, replaced the glass insert in the storm/screen door with the screen insert, and replaced the slider screen back in the channel on the deck door.  Lynn cleaned out the gardens and transplanted some day lilies and other perennials from the southern gardens up to the Ballot Box gardens.  She also moved some of the recently-tamed wild lupines from beside the door landing to various other places in the yard, including by the driveway entrance.

IMG_7276a-25pct20xI assembled a new grill (a Thermos-brand $145 special from Market Basket) to replace the prematurely-worn-out Kenmore grill bought 4 years ago (for a lot more than $145!).  I bought the Sears Kenmore brand to assure myself that I would be able to buy replacement parts, but when I went to order the replacement parts over the winter, the cost of the parts was going to be more than what I paid for the grill in the first place, so it will get scrapped.  I’m going to buy cheap throw-away grills from now on. I used to make disparaging remarks about cheap Char-Broil grills (Thermos-brand grills are made by Char-Broil) but maybe they’ve had it right all along!

IMG_0599 -1The relocation of the tamed lupine was in preparation for the start of construction of a new landing for the door.  The landing we have now is a small entry platform that is so small that the sweep of the screen door forces you to step back down a step or two to let the door swing open (see thumbnail).  Lynn hates it, so  I’ll replace it with a larger deck-like structure that will give people room to stand their ground while the door opens, and also provide a small sitting-space for morning coffee in the sun.  Step one will be to dig and pour footings for the platform, which will allow me to leave the old stairs in place while I’m digging.  Then the old free-standing platform and stairs will be removed and the new deck and stairs will be built.  I enjoy this kind of work so it should be fun!

Posted 5 May 2014 by Gene Vogt in Home Ownership, Spring, The Ballot Box

Hibernation is Ending…   Leave a comment

IMG_3114a-50pct10xThe long winter hibernation is coming to an end.  Our visits to the Ballot Box in February and March have been pleasant (dinners with friends, visits to the local brewery/tasting room for growler refills, watching the winter birds at the feeders, getting engrossed in volume one of Manchester’s Churchill biography, etc.), but as the days get longer and the effects of the sun’s rays become more pronounced, my internal sap begins flowing just like the nectar from the maple.

 I’ve begun to start planning out my spring chores around the Ballot Box; figuring out if there’s a sequence to any of them (really should de-mildew and power-wash the deck BEFORE I repaint it!) and looking forward to more projects while trying to make sure I don’t bite off more than I can chew at this not-every-weekend retreat.

 As intimated, high on my spring chore list is to clean and paint the deck.  It’s on the north side of the house, so it’s prone to growing a nice crop of mildew on the posts and railings, which is exacerbated by our drip-watering system that keeps the hanging plants alive and well in our absence.  We have the drip system water the plants for just a minute once a day in the morning, but it’s enough to cause a bit of over-dripping towards the end of the minute, so the railing below the plants gets “moisturized” every day.  That translates into bounteous mildew.  I’ll scrub it all down with TSP and bleach, and prime it with KILZ primer before painting (not done the last time it was painted).  We’ll see if that helps keep the green stuff at bay a bit.

 Soon after that we’ll re-hang the outdoor speakers to inaugurate the summer “music-on-the-deck” season, replenish the pole hangers with hanging plants for the summer (the bird feeders will be the first thing to come down, get a bleach wash, and get put away for the summer), and then re-install the pipes and tubes for the drip-watering system.  I also have enough new piping to set up a second drip system out front for any plants we decide to locate by the picket fence (to be part of the English Country Garden).  I dug a trench and buried a 3 inch PVC pipe out to the fence from the corner of the house where the sillcock is so I could run the drip-watering system pipe under the lawn but take it up and put it away each winter.  I had initially planned on running the drip system out there for the roses planted last year, but Lynn says they don’t need regular watering.

 We’ll do our 4th annual summer kickoff party on Memorial Day weekend again (lobsters and oysters will be on the menu), but that will be soon after we get back from our ten-day trip to Scotland (happy birthday, Lynn!), so some of my initial chores may not get checked off before the party.

 Also included on my TO-DO list is finding the cover to the compost bin (it blew off in one of the winter storms – we assume it was under a snow bank somewhere) and painting the outside of the south-side dormer windows which may have only been primed rather than primed and painted as they are showing signs of disappearing paint without any observable flaking or peeling – exterior paint shouldn’t wear off.  Then it’ll be time to sand, prime, and paint the steel I-beam girder under the deck (we have the sturdiest deck in all of southern Maine) and replace the broken lattice-work that now does a poor job of hiding the I-beam under the deck.

 I’ll be happy to get this much done this spring and summer seeing as I’m not up here as often as I’d like, but if I happen to fly through my list, maybe I’ll start that shed I keep threatening to build!

Posted 9 April 2013 by Gene Vogt in General, Home Ownership, Spring, The Ballot Box