Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Who Would Live Happily In The Country..."

"Who would live happily in the country must be wisely prepared to take great pleasure in little things.
Country living is a pageant of Nature and the year; it can no more stay fixed than a movement in music, and as the seasons pass, they enrich life far more with little things than with great, with remembered moments rather than the slower hours.
A gold and scarlet leaf floating solitary on the clear, black water of the morning rain barrel can catch the emotion of a whole season, and chimney smoke blowing across the winter moon can be a symbol of all that is mysterious in human life."
Henry Beston: "Northern Farm"

I may have posted the above quote previously.  It is a beloved expression by a favorite author.
I have lived most of my life in a rural setting. Recognition of the cycle of seasons, the changes of weather, an awareness of the birds, insects, animals and plants that shared my particular space came naturally.  My father and my maternal grandfather would have scoffed at labeling themselves "nature lovers."  They were simply men who noticed their natural surroundings, stored up country lore and passed it on in down-to-earth fashion.

As a young girl I tried to put into written words the beauty and intrigue of what I observed;  the birdsong of spring; the heat, sunshine and rain, the rush of growth that is summer; the colors and rich scents of autumn; the crisp, crackling cold and snow of New England winters.
It is good that none of those wordy, over-written pieces survive!

In my 20's I discovered the writings of Henry Beston, Edwin Way Teale, Hal Borland, writers who observed the patterns and quirks of nature and distilled them into elegant prose which  evoked the pictures I had no ability to paint.
In time I discovered that those authors who can take me on a tour of their particular corner of the world, drawing me into the scents, sounds and landscapes of their homeplaces are the ones I choose to read again and again over the years.
The person who delights in noticing what lives and grows around her/him need never be bored.

I wander the same territory noting and photographing the same garden, the same roadside, the familiar dooryard at every time of day, in every season.
Somehow it is important to me to record these marvels of nuance and to share them through this blog.

Last week the busy spider added another egg sack, attaching it to the topmost one she had previously anchored to the front porch post.
For several days afterward she appeared nearly lifeless, her body deflated, her web in tatters.
Having read that argiope aurantia produces one to four egg sacks and then expires, I wondered if her time had come.
On Thursday morning I found that she had wrapped up a butterfly who blundered into her web and was taking nourishment.  She revived and seemed to be mending her web.

The following day I sat with my mug of coffee, absorbing the feel of the early morning, when I noticed that the spider was busy in the center of her web.  As I watched, she bobbed up and down repeatedly, setting the web into rhythmic motion. Fascinated, I crouched on the edge of the porch for a closeup view. With each dip of her body, she dotted a clump of sticky "thread" onto the web, reinforcing its weave. [Rather like using the darning mechanisim on my sewing machine!]
I dashed inside for the camera.  When I returned she was putting the final zig-zag in place.

Here you can see the dense patch she has created in the center of her web.

Wild turkeys. 
Son-in-law M.G. informs me that several hens will band together to raise their clutch of young.
The pale heads denote immature birds.

This morning about 18 turkeys were parading along the edge of the woods.
I was headed toward the barn a few minutes after 7 a.m. when I noticed them.

There is no such thing as moving stealthily in rubber boots, but I clumped to the house for my camera, and tried to move quietly up the back pasture to a point where I could zoom in on the turkeys.
A number of them headed into the woods.
If you enlarge the photo you can spot them.  Look for their white heads.
I counted 13 of them bobbing along in single file below the ditch.  It was difficult to bring them into focus.

Two of the turkeys flew with clattering wings into this tree, probably taking a route through the branches and dropping into the dark woods beyond.

This is the larger view.  The turkeys were strolling along to the left of the old tobacco barn when I first spotted them.

Last week there were three bluebirds lined up on the electric wire in the back yard.
Several days later I found this blue feather lying in the driveway. I want to beleive that it belonged to a bluebird--not one of the bluejays that I have heard screeching from the hedgerow.

This delicate web was one of many stretched over the grass of the back pasture.

This pod on the trumpet vine has ripened to a rich golden brown, then split to spill its seeds.

The clove pinks were grown from seed sown directly into the edges of the short border, then thinned and transplanted.

The Yellow Simplicity roses are out-doing themselves in the moderate warmth of late summer.
This morning as the sun climbed the sky and touched the flowers, their scent drifted lightly across the yard and hovered beneath the maple tree.
I caught a whiff as I came back from feeding the three barn kittens.

This Michaelmas Daisy is "Purple Dome."
I still haven't recalled the name of the paler variety behind it.

A "wooley worm" was bumping its way into the short grass by the front steps.
I don't like to think it may be the sort which lives by eating my garden.

The morning glories continue their ramble around the edge of the porch.

The nandina have thrived energetically since my violent pruning in May.

Cobweb gracing a clump of lemon thyme.


  1. What a really lovely post, I've so enjoyed reading it. Although Edward Way Teale and Henry Beston are American authors I have books by both of them and you have prompted me to find them and read them again. The Edward Way Teale book is Springtime in Britain and some of the places he writes about are near to where I live. Hal Borland is a new name to me but I must look for something by him.

  2. Your photos and writing are so good. The spider's webs ones are particularly interesting. I see the garden spiders are out in our back yard today.

  3. You are living a lovely, country life and I thank you for sharing it here, for those of us who dream of living in the country. Love the picture with the old barn. Your countryside is beautiful and your critters plentiful.

    Enjoy the changing of the season and keep posting your thoughts and pictures.


  4. What a beautifully written post MM.

    The title quotation is so apt. The natural world changes so quickly and there is always a new way to look at the most familiar habitat.

    Your trees are slipping into the golds of autumn more quickly than ours, but the dewy cobwebs and late summer flowers are similar on both sides of the Atlantic.

    The spider and her zig zag web are fascinating.

  5. Rowan: There is such a huge legacy of English nature writers and many on both sides of the Atlantic who are less well known the the few I mentioned. I am especially drawn to the books with a journal entry pattern that follows the cycle of the year.
    ChrisJ: I've never been one to pick up insects--most of them sting or bite or do something unpleasant. Watching this spider since August has been a marvel, and I can appreciate her the better as she doesn't invade my house!
    Flower Lady: Your blog has a country "feel"--you've managed to have a lovely garden on a small acreage and that provides the setting for so much that you observe and share.
    DW: Your corner of England has come to life for me through your posts. I used to dream of visiting the UK--never relished the thought of being towed around London or the cities--but it would have taken weeks to find all the country places I have read about and enjoyed vicariously.