Field Notes through May

 

Edited version of Black Crow surrounded by red Maple buds.
Black Beauty

My attention was not on my photography during the early months of facing the Covid-19 pandemic.

April looked bleak not only for the lack of spring colors outdoors but because the spread of Covid-19 had reached Maine and Governor Mills had, compared with other states, proactively shut us down with stay-at- home orders, before our cases of Covid-19 ever reached problematic numbers for our hospitals to handle. Masks, physical distancing, sanitizing our hands and prohibitions of events where congregate gatherings could occur were the new norms for Maine. My husband and I hunkered down and prepared to be house bound through 2021 because we were in the vulnerable cohort.

We didn’t know how bad it would get as we watched the news about first Italy, then NYC’s overwhelmed medical care systems flounder as they rushed to meet the needs of community transmitted cases of infections. People were dying in record numbers. Tractor trailers were being used to store the dead. Sick people lined hallways of hospitals. First responders were getting sick in stunning numbers and calls for PPE were not being adequately fulfilled. We were scared for them. We were scared for ourselves.

Advice about how to protect yourself from infection focused mainly on washing hands and disinfecting surfaces but I had read enough about historical pandemics and assumed the real vector of transmission was more likely from the aerosol spray from our breath, exacerbated by lack of ventilation (to diffuse enough tiny particles) and the amount of time spent breathing sufficient quantities to overwhelm our body’s immune system. Nevertheless we had groceries delivered at first and washed them. In the beginning grocery shelves were sparse or empty of many foods, but especially facial tissue, toilet paper and any OTC medications related to cold, allergy or flu.

My plans to continue my photography business were suspended with a “wait and see” attitude.  It took me awhile to move beyond the shock of an understood necessity to shelter-in-place and the new reality of a changed world. In my fright about how bad things could get with interrupted supply chains I decided, like many others, to grow vegetables this year. Once the gardens were in place I planned  to hone my photography skills by practicing my art in local venues, particularly my yard and teaching myself how to use Photoshop.

At the very end of April, still waiting for spring, I tried to entice the crows to visit my visible back yard by dumping my compost onto my raised beds behind the kitchen. I had been using a compost pile on the other side of my garage which was out of sight. They would visit it, and perch in the trees above it, but I couldn’t see them from any of my windows.

Grey Fox through Window in raised bed.
Grey Fox investigating my raised bed April 25.

I was thrilled to see a gorgeous grey fox sample the offerings but disappointed it did not return. I had the 24-105 lens on the camera and grabbed it in time to get off a few shots through the screened windows of my kitchen nook. Most of the shots were out of focus due to motion blur. I feared spooking it with my own motion behind the window. But the one below was good enough to crop.

Head Shot of Grey Fox
Hello Beautiful!

A few days later the crows sat in the maples dotted with red flowers in bloom. I saw that the red buds contrasted nicely with the crow’s black feathers.  In my mind’s eye it was more dramatic but the camera doesn’t blur the red background as the brain imagines it.

American Crow in Flowering Maple Tree
April 30 Black Crow/Red Flower Buds

The image at the beginning of this blog is the one I chose to edit for this post. I cropped it, and took the white smudge from the garage out of the image, brightened the reds and deepened the blacks in the crow’s feathers. I could do more to it but it suffices for right now as a record of how little work I was doing with my photography during April and May. I wasn’t shooting or doing much editing because I had decided to use my months of waiting to see how the Covid-19 pandemic impacted Maine by working on my yard to improve my flower beds and grow vegetables.

Six yards of compost dumped on my lawn.
May 16 Six yards of compost for the gardens.

I ordered six yards of compost to improve my soil as I dreamed of lush vegetables and flowers growing through fall. I moved a lot of soil around!

Raised Beds with Cattle Panel

I had already emptied my raised beds of left over perennials and planted them in my front yard. Lupines, Black-Eyed-Susans, and Forget- Me-Nots. I topped off the raised beds with 10 wheel barrels full of new compost. My deck is falling apart so I had to move all the heavy planter pots off it. My original plan was to fill them with vegetables too.  I filled them with custom mixed soils to suit the needs of tomatoes, squash and cucumbers. The two pots in front were planted with Waltham Butternut and Taybelle Acorn Squash seedlings. They were supposed to grow up the cattle panel and meet pole beans planted on the other side.

Raised beds before planting
Before planting

The empty planter in the front was supposed to become a solar powered water fountain to entice the birds to land all over the garden. I imagined mammoth sunflowers growing up through the black trellis in the foreground and planted seeds to accomplish my vision.

Indigo Bunting at bird feeder
Indigo Bunting May 26

A beautiful iridescent Blue Bunting visited my bird feeder at the end of May. It was another grab shot but I am happy to have a record of it to remind me of moments of serendipity. Evidently it was just traveling through to somewhere else because we didn’t see it again. It likes heavy brush and I cut mine down this year in hopes of being able to walk out into the woods behind my house without the need for bushwhacking.

So ends the first half of 2020 and my field notes to date. Not many photos. Not many trips beyond my garden’s edges.

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Please say something and like it so I know you’ve been here and read this. Also, I do want to know your thoughts. What did you do during these first few months of Covid-19? Did you garden? Did you improve your home? Did you get out for hikes in the wilderness?

Unidentified Object Identified

A Light in the Woods

Each month The Portland Press Herald invites people to participate in a community storytelling project hosted by the Maine Sunday Telegram  Meetinghouse Opinion Page; I decided to share a funny story from my childhood. I didn’t submit the image above for the online post on March 14 or for the print publication on March 17, 2019. But for this blog post I went searching through my archives to find an image to match the mystery of that night.

Here is the beginning of the story:

I’m with my best friend Sherry and my younger sister. We’ve walked a mile with Sherry to her home so that Sherry can collect her things to spend the night at my house. It’s dusk. I’m 14.

There are no street lamps. The backyards face into miles of woods. The interior lights from the houses we pass barely penetrate the gloom of the falling darkness.

To read the rest, check out the link to the Portland Press Herald story:

Unidentified object identified

Let me know what you think.