Friday, 20 December 2013

In the deep mid winter...

Snow is well and truly here as I write... some drifts in front of the house are about four feet deep. 
The birds and wildlife flurry around, getting through pounds of nuts every few days.
The hawk came by the other day, fluffed up against the wind.


The colors this time of year are gorgeous... subtle hues of brown and grey and white against the soft lines of the hills.
Nicholas


The pink-golden of dawn rises over the mountains to the east and I am reminded of the approaching Winter Solstice, the shortest day, giving way to longer light. Every morning, the sky offers a gift for reflection, an opportunity for renewal, a reminder of the gift of awakening.



As the walls of the gorges, usually rushing with water, respond to the colder temperatures, creating their own living sculpture; I find I am deeply in awe of water...its ability to move from frozen, to liquid, to vapour. And in observing this quality, my mind goes to my studies of Chinese Medicine. The Water Element, in 5-Element Theory, is associated with the fear of the unknown, akin to pregnancy and the necessity of trusting that things are being formed, becoming whole, even when we are not able to fully see or comprehend them. 

This ice will gave way to water, the water will evaporate in the heat of summer's sun and with next winter the ice will return, and the cycle shall repeat itself anew....and so, to, my life. 

Judy


Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Christmas comes...

We've dressed our first Christmas Tree here, a fabulous find from Balsam Hill in Colorado and, with the reflections in the windows, it seems like we are surrounded by light.

Meanwhile, the goldfinches are having fun hitching a ride on the wind sculpture from time to time. Its almost as if they are doing it just for fun! 

Our rabbits have taken a liking to the carrot pieces we put out on the patio...and the ravens have fallen in love with the peanuts.

Further away, snow lies on the open field behind us...and the other morning we saw a fox diving into the crisp morning snow, desperately trying to find a mouse.












Nicholas



 It seemed there was a slight negotiation going on with the male and female bluebirds yesterday morning...I know it is slight anthropomorphism for me to assume there is communication between them, as I would understand it...but it certainly seems so....


It also seems that they really enjoy perching on top of the boxes, claiming their territory and getting a perspective on the rest of our garden inhabitants...the brilliance of their feathers is pure joy, especially against the white of the snow-covered earth....



We were delighted to see them this week, but also a little surprised that they were still with us in winter...we stopped into the Cornell Ornithology Lab to get some expert advice...they told us that bluebirds will brood together in a nesting box throughout winter, before building nests and reproducing in the spring....


We have purchased a heated birdbath...I know...and are feeling blessed by the beauty of these precious winged visitors during our first winter in our home....

Judy

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Winged visitors...

Our new blue bird nesting box has attracted the interest if two Bluebird couples! So its likely we'll have to get another....
here is the male bird at the end of the garden.


They are gorgeous birds and let's hope they nest!
Last weekend we had a surprise visit from my brother in law... he'd taken two flights from Indianapolis to get here and, returning, flown into the face of the severe storm front that battered much of the Midwest that weekend. But we had a fabulous 24 hour visit, including trips to Ithaca and Taughannock Falls, the farmers' market and Cornell's Arboretum.

Nicholas

What a joy to see four bluebirds in our garden this week!!!

Great friends, Paul and Cindi, had told us these lovely little ones were here; but all of us were surprised that they might still remain as the season turned. Reading about them, it seems if they find a source of food (berries and fruits in winter) and water, they will remain in the cold north. So...how happy are we to have planted a varietal of crabapple they seem to really enjoy...



This is one of the females, and from the chair in our living room we were able to watch her feasting on the ripened crab apples. They also enjoy the berries on the honeysuckles and service berries we have planted. 

Moments after this photograph was taken Nicholas said, "Look! Look!" as he pointed to the end of the garden. Two bluebirds were investigating the box, in and out they popped..with four birds, two males and two females, we have decided to put a second box up this week...thank heavens the Cornell Ornithology Lab sells them and can advise us as to placement! We shall also be investing in a heated birdbath...as the winter cold proves difficult for all our feathered friends.



No more sitting on a fence about where to live! For them or for us...

Judy


Friday, 15 November 2013

First signs of winter...

I am writing this at 7 am, watching three deer walk slowly across the field across the creek. We've had our first snow, which lasted for a few days and has now melted. The angle of the sunlight is glorious at this time of year, lending an array of colour across the hills: muted ochres, rusts, tertiary greys... 

The other evening the setting sun sent fingers of orange into the clouds...


 And a few days before, the hawk had sat quietly in the tree at the bottom of the garden for a long while.



Nicholas

Though the vast majority of leaves have fallen now, there is a stand of tamarack (larch) trees to our west which glow like golden orbs in the early morning light. The tamarack, the Algonquin Indian name for the larch, is a conifer, but in order to preserve its energy, it sheds its pine-like needles in very late autumn, prompting me to examine my own relationship to less light, cold snowy weather, and more challenging environmental factors. Directly opposite our home, are  the glistening white trunks of the canoe bark birches....absolutely stunning.

The Algonquin used the roots of tamarack to sew together their birch bark canoes, Longfellow writes about this in "The Song of Hiawatha".  In the poem, Hiawatha asks the tree's permission before he uses its roots, much as we asked permission to dig in this earth before we began to build.

There are such gifts given to us each and every day with the dance of sun and cloud, the reflections and shadows....the memories of all those who came before us, the hopes of all that are yet to come.

Daily, we are reminded of the blessings we are privileged to enjoy....

Judy



Sunday, 3 November 2013

Ravens!

With the changing of the seasons, there is a distinct shift in the wildlife in and about the garden. Ravens have appeared... hopping about for bread and, occasionally, moistening the bread in the water bowl. All the red-winged blackbirds have gone and the mourning doves have gathered in a huge flock of about 50 birds. But they are quiet at this time of year.
Sunset the other day was glorious and the Lyman Whitaker sculpture looked wonderful against the sky!




Nicholas




Recently two new birds have joined us in the garden. At first glance, this might seem that I am referring to a crow...but this bird is nearly 15 inches tall and often has a partner in tow. I mentioned the size of these beautiful black birds to a colleague and she said, "Those aren't crows you have visiting...they are ravens..."

Ravens...

As a lover of the ancient Druids, keepers of stories and holders of wisdom...this caught my attention to be sure. Ravens, for the Druids, were associated with healing as well as the gift of intuition...seeing, if you will.

Nicholas and I have been spending quite a lot of time giving thanks for the animals and birds that visit us on a daily basis and, as we have begun to dwell here on this land, we feel that the light, the shadow, the wind, the rain, the sunshine...and now, the living creatures, all have gifts for us...all are reminders of the Divine in the everyday, all encourage and invite us to explore within ourselves the attributes and gifts they invoke.

Thank you, Raven, for your intelligence and your patience. As you took this stale piece of bread to the bird bath, you immersed it until it was soft enough to eat, in so doing, you could break it into pieces small enough for you to digest. What a wonderful reminder for my own life this morning...

Judy

Friday, 4 October 2013

Autumnal Light

The light at this time of the year is gorgeous. Morning light casting long shadows across the fields; evening light lengthening into a misty blue.
The chipmunks are gathering food for the winter...dashing off into their secret hideouts somewhere behind the fence.
Most of the apples have fallen from the tree beside the creek to be snatched up by the deer and the woodchucks.
We now have a flock of about fifty mourning doves who gather in the garden from time to time, sunning themselves and nestling into the gravel. They are often accompanied by a similar number of sparrows who feed cooperatively with them and then, all of a sudden, dash off into the trees.



Nicholas

The hills in the distance are beginning to be peppered with the changing foliage of sugar maples, birches and oaks....the golds and russets dancing alongside the deep evergreens...I love autumn, always have.

I find I am not alone in this, as it is also the season of ripening apples...these gentle neighbours enjoyed a number of the sweet red delights this morning...





And these aren't the only residents of our local community interested in apples. Today begins Ithaca's Apple Festival and we, along with hundreds of others, will be sampling the produce as well as listening to the music on offer, autumnal delights to be sure.

Judy


Monday, 2 September 2013

Hummingbird Migration...

I managed to spot a ruby-throated hummingbird inspecting a rose the other day! I suspect its on its way South now, as we haven't seen it for a while though.



Our bee balm plant is well past its best now and there is precious little nectar left.
The rabbits have been crazy...running in and out of the bushes and skipping around like mad things.
There is a real sense of impending autumn now as colours soften and blossoms fade.
Nicholas

The high humidity and temperatures of late August days give way to massive thunderstorms as clouds, heavy-laden with moisture, open and drench the earth. This is the view to the distant hills, beyond the fields, behind our home, where we, with front row seats view the unfolding drama, as the storms gather and the skies open.



The late-blossoming flowers pepper the landscape with shades of deep gold and pink, and the apples are falling from the trees, providing a breakfast feast for a deer and her faun in the early morning hours. This week has reminded me of my younger years in the far western part of New York state, where tonight we would have stopped in a little village called Oramel to get a root beer float at the Wheel Inn, before going to see the Rushford Labor Day fireworks. It was always the last of the pre-school celebrations... I loved it...

Tonight, there are no fireworks, but tomorrow...I do go back into the classroom. It feels comfortingly familiar. For me, with parents who were teachers, the new year always begins in September, never in January. 

And, in honor of this recognition, here is a sky that presented itself following one of those storms, nature's fireworks, nature's extraordinary flashes of colour and majesty and extraordinary light...


I am astonished by the grandeur, reminded, once again that in remaining observant, in seeking stillness, there is reward beyond measure.

Judy

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

The need for shade!


Here is the view of this morning's light over the garden... its a gorgeous time of day and the flower beds are moist with dew. 


By midday though, the sunshine is brilliant white and we have been grateful for the shade provided by our new pop-up patio tent...
This afternoon we watched a number of mourning doves sunning themselves in the warm gravel, spreading their wings and seeming to love it!

Its a beautiful sight!
Nicholas

We are amazed at how things are growing in our garden, the grasses, the climbers, the hydrangeas, the roses...and the back bed has brought us so much joy as native perennials have come into bloom in the absence of the large rambling honeysuckles we removed while creating the landscaping. Along with the wild flowers, we now have sapling apple trees! Very exciting.

Here is one of my favourite views from the front of the house looking towards the back...


It is the motto of our lives...how we met, how we created a love story across an ocean, how we joined our lives and lived in England for over a decade and it is how we arrived at this moment in time....

And while love is all you need...it is soooo much better with one of these!


Yes, we have decided to get another dog, well...a puppy who will become a dog...this is Dill, as a puppy...he will be the Dad...and this is him all grown up...


And this is Lyra, who will be the Mom, if all goes according to plan in October!


We might have to change our sign...

Love
(And a Golden Retriever)
Are All 
You Need

Judy

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Raptor...and our first fire.

Last week the field behind the house was mowed, which in many ways is a good thing, because at this time of the year the meadow grasses have grown enormous. The mowing excited two huge raptors which we think are Northern Harriers and the two birds soared over the field for ages looking for mice and other creatures, disturbed by it all.

And, on a cool, windless, evening we christened the fire pit with two good friends and watched the sparks soar up into the night sky to be lost amongst the stars. Just as the fire got going we spotted a small mouse that had become trapped in the bottom of the pit!

Luckily I managed to rescue it with a pair of tongs.... it played dead for a while but then scampered away into the dark.



Nicholas

The newly-mown hay has now been rolled into bales, which will be used for cattle bedding...and we were reminded of Monet's paintings, as the light played upon the grain...


In the above picture, to the left of the sculpture, gifted to us by Nicholas' patients, is our newest addition...called The Artist....a local artist, a retired professor from one of the colleges, asked if he could install a piece in our garden, so that it might have the opportunity of being seen...It has always been our hope to provide opportunities for other artists, and it has happened quickly...

Here is another image of The Artist, with the morning sun upon it...


And, along with the art and creativity, more and more wildlife are finding us here in our garden on a hilltop...the hummingbird has come (but only after we purchased red bee balm! We will be planting a whole section of bee balm in anticipation of next year...as we hope for may more hummingbirds...


Yesterday, we had an interesting visitor on the patio..we are accustomed to lots of sparrows, mourning doves, goldfinches and cardinals...but late in the afternoon, this little guy wondered, "Would I like birdseed as well?"


And this morning we found that he, indeed, he did...


What a blessing to share our garden with a sculptor, food with birds and small animals, the beauty of a fire and good conversation with friends, the final moments of a setting sun, the sight of the Milky Way stretching out to what seems like infinity...

The possibilities for love and gratitude are endless when every moment is honoured...

Judy

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

To the Adirondacks and back...

We've had a fabulous short break up at Long Lake in the Adirondacks staying with our good friends Ed and Beck. I had great fun jet skiing and Judy went out into the lake on the kayak for a while.

Back home the new grass is just about showing like a new beard after a heavy shave and the birds are as mad as ever. Huge flocks of sparrows rushing around from bush to bush.
We thought our plants would be rabbit proof, but the little devils have eaten an evening primrose plant and nibbled away at the rudbeckia...

The other evening this spectacular cloudscape opened up to the South.



Nicholas

The little baby rabbits are actually quite adorable...this little one seems to think our garden is its personal jungle gym
...it was hopping all over the walls surrounding the fire pit, rolling in the compost beneath the birch tree, sniffing at the newest plants and then, it paused on the large step on the path...



What a privilege to live so very close to the natural world. Every day there is something new to see, to hear, to smell, to touch...as we created the garden, we cleared a lot of old and leggy honeysuckle and now, to our delight...dozens of large, established flowers are beginning to blossom, the tall, paler pink, in the distance,  is one called "Joe Pie Weed". It is native to Central NY, incredibly beautiful and a magnet for bees and butterflies...



There is a wonderful local nursery specializing in native plants, I went today to purchase another butterfly bush, some red bee balm, coreopsis, sedum, grape-leaf anemone, and a number of others...it was such joy for me and when I look back at the first days of the garden...I am, as I always am...amazed...

Here it was on July 6th...



And, above...less than one month later...I am reminded of how astonishing growth is, how quickly it happens and how important it is to pay attention...



Isn't life beautiful...
Judy

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

and then came the Rain!

Several days ago the evening sky was lit up by this brilliant pink cloud, above which soared the half-moon. And then, last night it rained non stop... so much so that the creek at the end of the garden became a torrent.



But the blue skies have returned, the waters have subsided and all seems still.
We now have a menagerie of birds... scores of starlings, baby sparrows, an eastern kingbird, swallows, red-winged blackbirds, cowbirds, morning doves and, more recently a baby Northern Flicker. 
The rabbits have become more brave.... nibbling on our new plants to test them. And so I've girded the Bee Balm with a necklace of chicken wire to keep them out. 
The chipmunks don't seem to care much though and dash through the garden from time to time...even climbing trees!
Nicholas

The rains brought relief from the 90+ degree weather...today is breezy and in the 60's...wonderfully refreshing.

But before the cloudier skies and cooler temperature, yesterday this little beauty did some sunbathing near the feeders...bliss...


And even with the heat, we have been adding to the garden. Sitting on the step on the white pathway, I found the hot pink of the echinacea, warm golden shades rudbeckia, and cooling periwinkle blue of the Russian sage, provide a fabulous foreground to the lush greens of the field and the hills beyond...


At the end of the white pathway, we have hung the two Tibetan bells that used to grace our pergola in our English garden...


And the "love nook" just inside the gate (with the "love is all you need" sign) is home to our other wind wind chime, the Angels Unawares plaque, and tomatoes plants which are now beginning to fruit...


It seems difficult to believe that we have arrived at this moment, that we are in our home, and that the things we loved so in our garden in Dorking are here with us in America, bringing us joy and delight once more...and yet, it is so...what a wonderful thing, a life...

Judy

Sunday, 14 July 2013

The Garden evolves

Yesterday as I was watering the new trees and plants in the garden, I spotted this rabbit resting under a rosebush. It watched me for a while, hardly moving and seemed quite curious, until it simply had to move.


It is a delight to see so much wildlife in the garden and, luckily, most of the plants are rabbit proof.
This morning, a pair of chipmunks raced around like two crazy drivers on a formula one circuit, even climbing up the fence at times...
Nicholas

Every morning we are greeted with this extraordinary view from our bedroom as the sun rises on the field and hills behind...

On the left is our newest addition for the birds...a little feeder in the shape of a bench...it is a hit with our feathered diners...


Just below the feeders, I have planted 6 large tomato plants in large pots...it will be wonderful to see what kind of harvest they yield. Next spring, I will work on creating a herb garden as well....nice to think of the garden evolving and maturing here in this landscape I am growing to love...

Judy

Monday, 8 July 2013

Housewarming...

Yesterday, we had a fabulous house-warming, with about 80 guests. The garden crew had worked flat out to get the garden completed by 1pm and it now looks fabulous.




This morning, we woke to find a menagerie of animals and birds exploring the newness of it all... baby rabbits tussling about in the mulch and several chipmunks chasing each other all over the gravel, down to the creek. Meanwhile next door's woodchuck came by and cautiously inspected everything.

Nicholas

Yesterday our home was filled with conversation and good food, bubbling champagne and equally bubbling laughter, beautiful music, Nicholas' film and artworks created a quite magical event, as we celebrated the skilled craftspeople who brought the design to reality, the friends who had the initial vision for the development, and the many relationships here in America that have sustained and supported us during this remarkable year.

video

When we first met on Iona and the trans-Atlantic letters, phone calls and flights began...I used to say to Nicholas, "Hang on for the ride..."

It seems fitting that this daring couple are doing just that....

Judy

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Exceptional Rain

We've had excessive rain for four or five days; so much so, that the creek at the end of the garden was a raging torrent at times.


The garden crew have had to abandon all efforts for several days, until the mud dries out. The next big task is to lay gravel over a membrane covering most of the ground.
But yesterday evening, the mist came down and all was still, lending an air of mystery to the surrounding hills and fields.
Nicholas


Wow....there has been a lot of rain...

But all the cloud and darkness has created dramatic skies and equally dramatic conditions for the workers, who had to leave yesterday after only an hour's work...the slippery mud was unsafe for the power equipment and even the wheelbarrow tire was creating a rut, which was soon getting filled to the brim with the copious downpours...

It is a discipline, to be sure, to be patient and accept what I have no power over. This seems obvious, and externally, of course, there is no other choice but to do so....the big challenge has been to move my internal dialogue, my feelings, my thoughts....I usually do this quite well, staying positive and enthusiastic...but yesterday was tougher. I felt more like the weather, gloomy and overly saturated with emotions that looked like this sky.

Today is a new day, my spirit has lifted quite a lot, and I am aware that I am quite tired...it has been a big push from last May until now...in psychology there is a phrase called "the window of tolerance". The aim is to have a large capacity to field unexpected events and stressors...my window was nearly closed yesterday....

In the garden, the wind sculpture echoes the counsel Nicholas lovingly gave me...things change quickly if we allow them to...first one direction, one feeling dominates, but soon the wind shifts, the sculpture rotates in the opposite direction and the challenging emotion gives way to something gentler and calmer...as I grow in wisdom, I recognise that allowing all my emotions, all my thoughts, to be present...that the gift of observation, with compassionate understanding...this is the gift I give to my Self...

Judy