Monday, August 31, 2020

An Arrowhead on Arrowhead

This beautiful, papery thin and fragile white flower belongs to Sagittaria latifolia (Broadleaf Arrowhead), which I captured on my shoreline on ... Lake Arrowhead. I've tried to identify the caterpillar that is appreciating it, but haven't had any luck - I can see what looks like a row of brown arrows along its back. Is it an Arrowhead caterpillar on an Arrowhead plant on Lake Arrowhead?



Update: the caterpillar appears to be the larval stage of a Eupithecia moth, could be Eupithecia miserulata.


Sunday, August 30, 2020

Fleißiges Aschenputtel

We had a rainy day yesterday. We've needed this kind of a soaking rain for so long. Just look at how much wine-colored rain collected in the glass I accidentally left out after the previous night's Al fresco dining:



The garden had needed the rain so badly, but so had my indoor "projects." I'd been neglecting them because the outdoors, and the ongoing great weather, kept dragging me away. So, the wet weather gave me a chance to tackle my cucumbers and pickling cukes before they shriveled up, to squeeze the lemons before they wrinkled, to simmer a pot of steel cut-oats for a few hours, and to bake a loaf of bread, without overwhelming the house (or myself) with excess heat.


I had a fun time completing these tasks and it actually made me feel ... fleißig - that's German for industrious, hard-working, or productive, but somehow fleißig encapsulates the essence of how I feel about today's tasks, too. It seems more apt, and conveys the sense that I've accomplished something. I think that's the real 'feel' of the German word - I feel accomplished.




Here are my 'products" - A lemon meringue pie, wholegrain bread, slow-cooked steel-cut oats with dates and golden raisins, and two different types of cucumber pickles. The cukes are still pickling, but they should be ready in just a few days. Oh, and I'm still intent on making a batch of boiled fudge, but I ran out of large basins (temporarily). I also got around to cleaning all the ash out of the woodstove from last winter, doing exactly what Aschenputtel (Cinderella in English), was named for - being an ashy, dirty girl! So I guess that makes me an accomplished Cinderella!


After having some fresh baked bread for lunch, I sat down with a cup of coffee (and a sliver of lemon meringue pie) while I decided which book to start reading next.

And tomorrow, it's back to the outdoors ...






Saturday, August 29, 2020

Blooming Aquatics





Coiling Eelgrass stalks,

Spiral up to the surface,

Showing their flowers.


Floating Bladderwort

With its radial platform

Supports its small blooms.



White Water Lilies

Overwhelm with sweet fragrance

Their cup-shaped beauty.


Pipewort multitudes,

White buttons on erect stalks -

Aquatic hatpins.




Friday, August 28, 2020

Pizza Chronicles

The hazards one encounters when making homemade pizza dough! I guess this is why I usually wear an apron, but then I often find myself eating my meal with it on - tsk, tsk, so improper!




Homemade pizza is definitely worth the effort and mess, though. I've been blending garlic cloves, fresh oregano and basil, salt, olive oil and powdered Parmesan together as my sauce/base. Oh man! It's like eating garlic breadsticks and pizza together. Check out the toppings that I had available this time:




(Remember, every pizza's different:

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Jelly Donut anyone?

Whilst trying to locate all the naughty Brittle Naiads growing in my cove (without a license - i.e. invasive), I came across something exciting - a jellyish, donut-shaped mass attached to a plant stalk. I thought it was a primitive animal life form, as it initially seemed to be moving and pulsing, but it turns out it was just the water currents making it sway about.





I made a mental note of exactly where it was, and rushed back to the house to get a bucket. Phew! It was still there when I returned and I was able to scoop it up, and take it to the house to be photographed. It took a while for me to be able to take a reasonable (non-blurred) photograph, even though I had it captive in a bucket - I was excited by my find, and couldn't hold my breath long enough to keep my phone still while I pressed the button. After returning the jelly mass to the lake, I was so dissatisfied with how my photo had turned out, that I went back to the lake to look for it again, picked it up in my hand this time, and got a better shot.




I've found out that the ring is the egg sac of the Caddisfly. 

This is an excellent photo of the egg ring, not taken by me, but which gives a much better idea of what it looks like. 


 




Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Ominous Shadow


Looking down onto my Virginia Creeper, I was struck by this unique shadow on one of its leaves. In getting closer to appreciate it, I saw the intricate details of the perpetrator of this shadow - quite special, yet so easily overlooked. It's a mere .35 inches in size. My fascination continued to the point where I HAD to find out what out was ... It's called Micrathena sagittata, a spiny orbweaver.



Personally, I think the shadow is more ominous-looking than the actual spider ... how about you?


Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Accidental Spoonerisms

Over the weekend I worked with a magnifier, lights, water, needles, tweezers, and an aquatic plant that looked "suspicious," to identify it precisely. In my super-focused mission to locate the miniscule seed that would give me the answer, I couldn't get my words out to communicate, and came up with an outrageous spoonerism: I referred to

Aquasive Invatics instead of Invasive Aquatics! and then later, I realized that
Inquatic Avasives was equally funny!

I had been trying to 'tease out' a seed from the fruit that ranges between .05" -0.1" (1.5 - 3.0 mm) in size! It was difficult and tedious to do at home without lab equipment, but I was SO distressed at having found another possible invasive species in our lake that I couldn't stop, nor let it go. I pulled leaf stipules, stems and axils apart with two needles, working under a magnifying glass, and photographing leaf fragments for a few hours.

I believe I isolated one seed pod, seen here near the tip of a fine sewing needle (looking like a deadly weapon at this magnification), but I was unable to find a mature seed inside.



It's more than likely the invasive European Brittle Naiad or Brittle Waternymph (Najas minor). The Lakes Stewards of Maine (https://www.lakestewardsofmaine.org/) will test and definitively identify it for me after sending them a sample. 

It looks beautiful in the water, like a miniature tree (bonsai) with arching leaves that float and bob gracefully with the water fluctuations and swells. 









Monday, August 24, 2020

The Blues?


Are you having a Blue Monday?



Or is your mood darker than that?

 





Saturday, August 22, 2020

What are We Missing?

I spent 4 lively hours with my writing group on an online call one evening this week, and by the time it ended at 10:30pm, I felt like I needed a little decompression time before going to bed. 

I lit two candles, cut two slices of cake, and called my husband out onto our deck to join me. Our deck is elevated over a sloping lawn with tall trees surrounding it. It feels like we're in a tree house in the woods with our own opening up to the sky - and the stars were out! In a spectacular way! We were enthralled by the distinct, sharp points of light all around. We blew the candles out, actually, so we could appreciate the stars better, in total darkness. Though cool night air sent light shivers along my arms, it wasn't uncomfortable: it was a thrilling, spontaneous experience.

I'm so glad we did this! Sometimes we need to think of new things to do, to do something out of the regular routines of daily life, to notice what we're missing. Because, unless we try it, we won't know!



Friday, August 21, 2020

Red Pepper Erotica

Oh dear! My naughty mind ... Take a look at what I was left with after seeding my red pepper. Does anyone else see it, or is it just my sick imagination? I know my Mom always said not to play with my food - is this why?



Thursday, August 20, 2020

When Life Hands you Bananas ...

Ewww. Have you ever thawed a frozen banana? I don't appreciate bananas at the best of times, but seeing black juice ooze out of its flaccid skin was disgusting to see. It almost turned my stomach (who was it who told me one could freeze over-ripe bananas? Come on ... own up ...). So gross.

But, hey ... I was still determined NOT to throw them away! Mustering all my cast-iron-gut strength, I held the skin and squeezed the flesh out, as in squeezing a toothpaste tube. Surprisingly, the inside looked just like a regular banana, so I mashed it up, and got on with the business of making a banana cake. I tried a new recipe for an Apple Banana Bread, in the hopes that it may not taste TOO banana-ry. It used up 2 of my precious eggs (I'm always holding off having to go back to the grocery store during COVID), so I was hoping it would not be a flop.





It was a delicious success - very moist, dense and fruity, plus mmm, ... mmm, ... mmm, it had a cinnamon streusel and glaze drizzled over the top.

Okay, so my plan for next time, is to either remove the banana peels from the fruit long before they've thawed, or remove the peel before freezing and store the flesh in a container - perhaps the flesh will turn black this way? I will have to experiment further ...




Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Cardinal Pleasures


My first Cardinal Flower bloom of the season - such exquisite beauty!





I hope the Hummingbirds appreciate it as much as I do ..

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

My Double Life

I feel as if I've been living two separate lives over the past week. I've been writing about an adventure I went on in my youth, and it's totally taken over my thoughts, dreams and "presence."

I found myself going down the Rabbit Hole, as I researched and fact-checked my recollections. I obsessively watched YouTube videos of other people's trips in the same area. I couldn't stop watching, and followed clip after clip, revelling in it all. It felt like I was right back there, in the mountains, and even when I walked away from my computer and books, I felt that I was still 'there'.




At night I'd dream as if I were in the mountains of South Africa, after spending my daytime hours trying to record all the little details and nuances for people who'd never visited that part of the world. I'd recall the real tensions and fears that had been present, fuelling my dreamscape. My legs were active under the sheets every night, clumsily kicking and flicking, disturbing my husband, as I seemingly re-lived parts of the experience. And we all know that behavior, reflexes and voices in a dream manifest in a weird way in reality, never the same way that we're experiencing it in the dream. I couldn't explain why I was kicking him - that's not what it was about (I think he's glad that I've finished this piece).

Even whilst sitting by the lakeside in Maine, a totally different lifestyle and environment, my past and present seemed fused for a time.



Monday, August 17, 2020

Small Pleasures

Recently I was forced to buy the softest, most luxurious toilet paper I have ever purchased. I balked at what I was paying 'to do my dirty paperwork,' but desperate times call for desperate measures, as the wise owls say. 

The panic buying amidst COVID fears meant that the only toilet paper available on the shelves, in stores and online, were the generally unaffordable, "gilt-edged" ones. I had already weathered the initial panic spree by working through my usual 3-month stock of regular supplies, but now these were depleted.

Well! I must say that I do like the paper that feels like a puff of air against my skin, and I'm enjoying using it (!), but I definitely can't justify switching to this kind voluntarily. I'm enjoying the delicate comforts I was forced into, and I've long since processed having had to fork out a small fortune, but I'm still not convinced it's worth it. It's a luxury I'm not prepared to indulge long term. I'm currently on the look-out for the more plebian variety in plentiful supply ...



Sunday, August 16, 2020

Predators and Prey

Chipmunks keep "CHUCK"-ing

Chickadees, "DEE, DEE, DEE"-ing,

Danger is lurking.






Saturday, August 15, 2020

Caterpillar Hazards

Grit under my toes
Where caterpillars have fed
Hmm, what can it be????




Don't you just love that fruit in the top left hand corner - it's Virgin's Bower, fragile and filigree-ish.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Things that Fascinate ...

 

I can't get enough of the specks of pollen on this Coneflower


A woody-looking starburst from Wild Sarsaparilla


Creepy eyes, Baneberry fruits











Thursday, August 13, 2020

Being ProDUCKtive

I watched a Black Duck family for hours this morning. By sitting quietly and innocuously in the shade, I was able to observe their morning routine without disturbing them. I felt strangely included when they came close and peeped among themselves near me, unperturbed. I loved being among them - accepted as a part of the scenery, a part of nature and not an intruder.



Whilst there, feeling included and accepted, I was moved to continue writing and researching a piece I'm putting together for my informal writers group. How amazing is it that I could continue being a part of this inspirational setting at the same time as accessing files on my smartphone, uploading a current photo and doing a Google search about a remote area of the Drakensberg mountains in South Africa? I was able to view maps and blogs and photographs within seconds. I could watch a YouTube video of a scenic journey through a once-familiar landscape. And the technology was right there for me, available in the right place, at the right time, in the right amount. Admiring unspoiled nature at the same time as using Wi-fi to record my memories from 37 years ago. What a luxury. 

Staying there as long as I did allowed me to pick out fragments of milfoil as they floated in, to hear the Tree frogs calling nearby and watch a Kingfisher make a splashy dive for food. The humbling trust of the Ducks took me to the mental space I needed to be in to write the words that had been stuck in my head. The serenity inspired me.



And, while I love undeveloped, natural settings, I also value the freedom and convenience that advances in technology have provided. Being able to store my thoughts electronically without leaving my beautiful surroundings is indeed a plus. I need both in my life to be productive.






Wednesday, August 12, 2020

A Starry Night

After a steamy 94°F day yesterday, we lost power around 10pm. The outage was geographically extensive, so the darkness around us was deep and intense. Instead of our usual watching-TV-before-bed ritual, we walked down to our dock, lay down on the hard boards and looked up into the sky. Jupiter and Saturn stood out boldly. 

Looking up into the cluster of stars, it felt as if I was lying under a fireworks explosion, with bright sparks suspended all around me, each hanging at a different height. Points of light cascaded through space above me, seemingly frozen in time. It took my breath away, and I was strangely glad to have had a power outage on such a night!




Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Monday, August 10, 2020

Facing my Nemesis!

My Nemesis: Black Forest Cake

Do you have something in life, that no matter how many times you try, you just can't get it right? I do ... I try to make a Black Forest Cake for a special occasion each year, and though it always tastes delicious, it never LOOKS good. Something seems to go wrong with the presentation each time - it's either lopsided, breaking apart, or the layers are just sitting askew on top of each other. It always gets eaten, is guarded jealously, and I get numerous compliments about the flavor, but still, I would dearly like the cake to look appetizing as well (not like the pseudo-trifle look I end up with).

Okay, so I must admit ... for a few years, I'd had a mental block about it, which got in my way. I'd beaten myself up so much about being unsuccessful in the presentation of this cake initially, that I'd developed a negative and hopeless attitude towards it. My perception of it being my nemesis, an insurmountable obstacle I'd NEVER get better at, meant I tackled the recipe with trepidation and foreboding before I'd cracked the first egg. It just fed the fires of my inability to succeed. 

There have been some instances where I've sworn emphatically that I'll NEVER attempt it again in my life, EVER. On one such occasion, I had sliced horizontally through each of the cake layers, and then pieced it back together, one layer on top of the other, with a filling of frosting, brandied cherries and whipped cream in between each. The cake was unbelievably high (and quite unstable). I placed it in the refrigerator to keep it fresh, only to find that the layers had slid off sideways, spilling the filling all over the fridge, and spreading chocolate-y goo against everything it came into contact with. I was devastated.

But then, as the year went on and the memory faded (like the pain of childbirth), I'd think that maybe next time, the highly desired Black Forest Cake would not defeat me. Knowing that most times in the past it hasn't turned out to be as visually pleasing as I would like it to, this year I was determined not to be concerned about its looks, since the mish-mash of chocolate cake, black cherries, chocolate frosting, Kirsch and whipped cream definitely tastes delicious, even though it looks like it's been through a cement mixer. What's not to love, right? Shield your eyes from this ugly monstrosity I created below:


This year, I approached it with unusual and uncharacteristic nonchalance, but that ended in a fiasco, too. In trying to remove the baked cakes from the pans, one separated itself from the base in several chunks, while the other came out cleanly, but quickly flopped into 3 distinct and separate pieces on the cooling rack. I'd been SO confident this time, that I'd not read my flour labels - turns out I'd mistakenly used the blended wholewheat and white flour mix for making breads, instead of regular All-purpose flour. Oh, woe is me!

With COVID stress hanging over everything we do already, I realized that I couldn't afford to have my usual Black-Forest-Tantrum - it would only send me into the Black-hole of hopelessness. Instead, I used the frosting like glue to stick the crumbly cake back together, chalked it up to experience, and had a slice of cake, as Marie-Antionette suggested.


 






Sunday, August 9, 2020

Turtle

Glinting in the sun,
Like a flash from a mirror -
Wet obsidian.



Saturday, August 8, 2020

Serenity Restored

Tropical Storm Isaias lashed out at us this week, bringing with it damaging winds that downed power lines in the Northeast. We were without Provider-electricity and Internet for 24 hours, so made use of our generator to keep fridges and freezers running in our neighborhood, since we all have extra food supplies during COVID.

Binge-watching TV or movies to pass the time wasn't possible. Somehow, when life gets you down, indulging your worst habits seems to be the only bearable thing to do, like eating when you're feeling down, or having a few extra cups of coffee. So for some, this loss of electricity was the last straw after the tensions of dealing with COVID restrictions for so long. It was a nuisance, I admit, but once the furious winds had passed though, and as we waited to be reconnected to the world (so I could blog about it :-) ), I tackled the debris that had been whipped around. There were leaves strewn across the yard, as if hungry caterpillars had conspired to chomp them all off and drop them overnight - a caterpillar protest, as it were. There were also countless branches and twigs, which I've since gathered, organized and stored in totes, as fire starters for our woodstove in winter.


SERENITY RESTORED


There were other things to do, too - I just had to think harder to find them. I could read - I didn't need the Internet for that. I could write, on paper. I could crochet. I could photograph things, even if not upload them. I could swim. I could do manual yardwork. I could mix up some bread dough, and re-arrange my food cupboard. I could dust (nah - not happening). I slowly discovered that I could still function without the digital world. And as time went by, it became easier, even though there was a general sense of being disconnected and isolated, and I had to consciously evaluate what things I could do. 

I'm amazed at how easily we take conveniences and luxuries for granted, and at how quickly they become 'essentials'. 


Friday, August 7, 2020

Minutiae

I blazed away the day yesterday - what do I mean by that? It means I can't remember doing anything of consequence, but I had a blast anyway!

It's day 149 of my stay-at-home isolation, and my lifestyle, once sedate, is even more sedate, if that's even possible! Yes, I wander from activity to activity, as my whim takes me, because there is no schedule, no timetable. It definitely took a while to get to my first level of sedate, once we retired, but this is a whole new level, and I'm learning to slow down even more, to take in everything and make the little things matter. One way I do this, is by photographing and recording Lilliputian elements of the world - the microscopic details up close and personal, that we often overlook (like a knot in a piece of wood). Look at this pretty pink and mauve pattern I noticed amongst the green in my yard...


The close up, without context, looks kind of alien and scary, but it's not really. It's a very pretty caterpillar:


What an amazing and intricate pattern on this larva's back - I think this helpless creature is trying to look like a fierce monster with that design! I found out that, in addition to this fuchsia and purple version, some larval stages are green and cream (I recall seeing one a few days ago during lunch), and others are brown and tan. They're all the same species, and feed on oaks, of which I have many! It turns into a nondescript, mottled blackish, greyish, whitish woodland moth, Heterocampa umbrata.

I'm loving my fascinating world!


Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Fun with knots



A knotty nipple -
(My thoughts are always naughty)
Or a nipply knot ?


No, a cedar plank
With a beautiful cracked gnarl -
A delight to see.



Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Pet Names

I spend many hours in the summer wallowing in the muddy shallows of our cove, weeding or 'water gardening.' When I emerge from the cove, there's usually a fine layer of silt adhering to my body hair - it looks like I have tiny runnels of dirt coating my body. Sometimes there's a Milfoil stem dried onto my cheek like a feather, or a leech attached to my leg. Particles of mica and dust have become embedded in my swimsuits - they're released from the weave, and flit loosely about in the sunlight, as I dress. I often find parts of decaying black leaves, that had unknowingly stuck to me like papier-mâché, collecting around the drain as I shower each day. But still, a pervasive swamp smell, which I'm told others don't notice, stays with me. 

I'd taken to referring to myself as the Swamp Monster, an homage to my hours of immersion in my watery garden. I'm obviously not one for cutesy pet names like "Sweet Pea," but now that I've learnt the names of some aquatic plants, I've decided that a more accurate alias for me might be "Pondweed." It gives the impression of being unkempt and rugged-sounding, like I want to be. It sounds natural: straggly and unsophisticated. It's certainly better than being called a "Bladderwort" don't you think?





Monday, August 3, 2020

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Itsy Bitsy Spiders

A spider that is easy to identify - I typed 'black spider white dot' into a Google search, and came up right away with Phiddipus audax, the daring jumping spider, common to the Northeast. This little rascal has been hanging around for a few days now, preying on the insects attracted to my Virginia Creeper and Virgin's Bower.




A Spotted Fishing Spider (Dolomedes triton) amid the mish-mash of leaves and plant roots washed up at the water's edge after a weekend of boat traffic. This one appears to have captured a dragonfly for a meal in the shallows, perhaps soon after its emergence ... (It looks as if there's an exoskeleton to the right of the spider, but it may not be connected).







Saturday, August 1, 2020

Who's counting?

I'm so excited to have had the opportunity to learn to identify aquatic plants through the free webinars offered by the Lake Stewards of Maine during the pandemic. (https://www.lakestewardsofmaine.org/)

It has brought to my attention the beautiful differences between plants in my cove that I had not really been 'seeing' fully up until now. Knowing what to look for, and how to differentiate between them, has opened up a whole new world for me. I can now count 23 different native species in my lake - and I haven't exhausted all possibilities yet (there are so many reeds and rushes!). Thank goodness, the only invasive plant thus far is Variable Milfoil, in my combing for which,

I wade through textureless silt,
Lifting like powder, without form.
A cloud billows around me
... and visibility is lost.



Milfoil Harvest


In the process of learning to identify new aquatic plants, I've also, unfortunately, recorded the presence of the invasive Chinese Mystery Snail - not a good thing, and the first record for our lake. In 5 weeks, 13 individuals have been found in our small cove. This snail is 1.5 times the size of Maine’s
largest native freshwater snail, and produces a large number of offspring.