The Dog Days are over

Dearest reader, I write you from a table full of birthday flowers and vitamins, a teapot and plants, crabapples and tomatoes and peaches. Spearmint is hung from window to window, fully dried. We got through the storm. We’re getting ready for supper.

The lack of new entries may suggest a lack of concern for this little blog, but I’ve in fact been thinking often of writing, often of ecology. There are, however, only pittances of time for the actual writing of city life and psuedo-urban homsteading, and I am reminded that these very full august weeks, so ripe and fraught with anticipation and deeply colored blooms, are perhaps the most inauspicious days for starting and keeping up with public writing. These days, filled with bike grease and electricity and dirt and ball jars, leave little space for essays but instead the smallest of vignettes.

Everything is in sketches, with summer seeming like it’s moving just past that tautness of dog days and making way to spread seed. The winds of Irene only intensified this sense of near-urgency, filling Hyde Park and Boston and all the Eastern Seaboard with winds that change seasons.

Most of my time is spent working and riding. I pedal down Cummins Highway, from Washington Street to Hyde Park Ave, my eyes lost in evening primrose that rises five feet high before parasoling into a sturdy canopy of soft yellow flowers and leaves. For money I prune the stately rhododendrons and tricky holly at a woman’s house on a hill. And at the Arboretum, where my internship is quickly dwindling, where I won’t work another full week, I continue to water and tend to very small trees and the larger, stronger ones in the nurseries, admiring the deepened green of their leaves, the slowly growing trunks, the first fruits born to develop and briefly foster the beginning of a new generation.

When we find ourselves at home we’ve been doing a bit of food preservation – plum jam and nectarine butter, pickles and frozen elderberries, blueberries, marigolds and dyer’s coreopsis (not for eating, but to be used in the late fall for wool-dying). I will write more on these things later, but for now I’ll leave you with a feast for the eyes, all the product of a very pleasant Saturday.

See you soon!

A smell in the morning, a dancer in darkness

The last few mornings I’ve been waking up, groggy with mixed feelings of pleasant comfort and a scrunched up nose, slowly realizing that I am smelling a skunk.


Skunks, also known as polecats, are amazingly cute. Whichever one (or more than one?! Could we have a den of wee skunks, reminiscent of the bashful Flower?) is haunting my door has as of yet gone unseen, and since it is nocturnal and I am positively not so, there’s a pretty decent chance that we won’t be making eye contact anytime soon. It did fill my dreams, though. In my sleep it came to me as the perfect cartoony live action skunk – it really had long claws for digging up grubs and the like, but it also smiled. And spoke, perhaps? More than anything I remember it’s grin which, though kitschy, was disarmingly sincere.

I used to work at an educational farm in central Massachusetts. One night I woke up and couldn’t fall back asleep, so I went for a walk to see what I could see. As I approached the visitors’ center I was mystified by a white smoke that was drifting in a beautiful, spooky way around the perennials and welcome signs. My middle-of-the-night self stared, devoid of reason, wondering if it was a holy spirit or a high and dry will-o’-the-wisp. It turned out, however, to be a skunk, frolicking around, seemingly just enjoying the quarter moon and the deep summer darkness.

Another encounter with a skunk at this same farm was on a walk home from the sugar bush with my dear friend Jessica. We were heading for a hayfield in the early gloaming when we saw something dancing amid the golden stubs of mowed grass. We wondered what this creature could be, moving like a fierce butterfly, like someone singing on a dancefloor. The skunk, in its black union suit and long stripes, was leaping and spinning like a contra dancer, and as I watched I felt a rooted sweetness. It was like hearing someone sing in the shower.

For a song that You can sing in the shower, featuring axes, adorable lumberjack styles, and fem-in-ine polecats, click here. Satisfaction guaranteed.

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