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august time

Bluebs, Grandma Haskins always called them. Her fingers were as gnarled as the branches of an old apple tree, but she would scoop a handful out of a bucket and quickly thumb them into either the keeper bowl or the discard, brushing away the small leaves and stems as she went. It was hard to pick over the pails used by the men in the family, especially my father, who liked to "squabble" them off the wild, high bushes in someone's pasture. Needless to say, "squabbling" meant perhaps a dozen berries picked at a time, along with a dozen leaves or bits of dead branches. His blueberry harvest was huge and a mess. So, the women grumbled a bit as they sat on Grandma's porch and sorted, but mostly they talked about this, that and everything.

With too many cucumbers, many cultivated blueberries to pick, lots of weeds to pull and a lawn that grows even when it doesn't rain, poor Rose is quite neglected in the early days of her marriage. Perhaps she will reappear and I will still be able to hear her when we get to the Cape for two weeks. "Rose Runs Away" is nearly finished, but so far I do not see the finale. So I have to keep remembering Milt saying, "It will end when it ends," a promise that holds little comfort!

With drought in May and deluge after deluge in June, the garden is a mixed bag. The beautiful pea plants, green and starting to attach their tendrils to the fence, went brown and rotten even as the blossoms started to come. The first beans look scruffy and produced warped beans. But carrots, potatoes, lettuce, peas, cukes, onions and tomatoes seem to be thriving. And at least two winter squash are there, along with one sugar pumpkin. Last year, the pumpkins grew vines and no orange globes at all.

Pat's tomato soup is on the stove and needs a stir.
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Swallowtails

The Korean lilac, late-bloomer and heavily scented, permeates the night air with a unique fragrance. Its pale flowers are very full, and by day as many as six brilliant yellow swallowtail butterflies flit from cluster to cluster taking in the nectar. They are all over the yard, but it's only at the lilac where they gather in force. On a very wet morning, one of them seemed stuck to a purple chive blossom. It looked dead, but an hour later it was gone. Its wings must have been too water-soaked to fly. The shrew-like tones of the nesting house wrens are a harsh contrast to the sweet warbling of the song sparrow and the repetitive call of the red-eyed vireo or the loud melody of the Baltimore oriole. So many birds, butterflies, toads and (ugh) garter snakes -- all busy with their daily rounds.  Read More 
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Supposedly spring

March was horrid, the first one I've spent in the capricious Berkshires in a half dozen years or more. April was cold and dry to the point where the garden -- with only onion plants above ground -- needed watering. But now, the crabapples are about to turn into cotton candy, the daffodils arepersisting for a long season, grape hyacinths pull the eye to many spots in the garden, the peas have poked their way through our clay, and the spinach plants are working on the third leaf. Unlike the fifth wheel, the third leaf is most welcome. And now it's May and still cold -- 56 that feels like 46, showers alternating with sun, the Mother's Day fuschia still in the garage ... but suddenly, without warning, it will be summer.  Read More 
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Happy sad day

Here's Patriot's Day, one of my favorites of the year, so often a fine spring day when the bikes and scooters come out, along with the sun. The Red Sox play in the morning, and after they lost their lead in the ninth, they gathered themselves and had a walk-off win. A little past Fenway, the Boston Marathon -- grandfather of them all -- is running. It's a grand day in the Berkshires and in Boston. And then two bombs go off. Where are we going? Read More 
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Stones

Raking stones is like mowing the lawn or cleaning bathrooms. When you are done, you can see that you've achieved something. The snow plow keeps us from being marooned, and we are grateful. But it also flicks thousands of stones from the driveway onto the lawn and when the snowbanks finally melt, there they are. Little monsters that must be moved with a rake or the lawnmower will be going cling, cling, clank all the way to the road. So the raking begins. If it has a nice side, besides looking at the cleared lawn just up the hill, it's that the air finally has more than a touch of spring in it, the daffodil shoots are poking through leaf cover,  Read More 
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Pewter

It was a pewter sky. Not plain, but ranging from the silvery, high-polish pewter of our Cape Cod-made salad bowl to the older, dull finish on my mother's teapot. It was sunset, with a patch or two of silver sky open in the midst of the pewter shades. Even the tree branches were pewter their usual November to March blackness softened by a layer of sticky snow that lost its whiteness in the sunset time. It was artist's light, photographer's light. But I was just there, admiring the breathtaking scene and waiting for the dog to find that exact perfect spot where he would deign to pee. Read More 
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March on the march

It's the capricious month. March Madness may mean basketball to thousands of people, but it works for just about everything else this month, too. The clock jumps, for instance, and the body clock -- albeit invisibly -- takes a day or two to move into the change. The weather jumps even more. Blizzard or mud are the extreme choices with a bet on plenty of ice in between. The dog prances along, caring not for falling water, puddles under his feet or dirty paws. If it's white stuff, he leaps into the air with March madness to catch snowflakes -- and succeeds. If it's cold, it's chilly damp; if it snows, the stuff is heavy, wet and perfect for snowmen; if it's a bit warmer and seems colder, it's time to look at the 40 degrees, feels like 30 part of the weather report.

On the plus side, if the  Read More 
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Liking and disliking

You can "like" or "unlike" anything on Facebook, including pictures of yourself and political comments that either delight or disgust you. But most of the time, you don't get a chance to say what you really like or dislike. Those things just aren't among the choices. It occurred to me today when the sun really came out, instead of floating like a ghost behind the gloomy March sky, that making a list of likes (or dislikes) on a sort of impulse basis (no deep thoughts here) would be fun. Add-ons permitted at any time. Discards, too. So here's a start: and the add-ons, as of 3/10/2013, have begun! Just tucked them in there ....

Likes
Robert Frost, new snow, cooking with grandchildren, writing, being in bed, Maya Angelou, cooking, walking the dog, reading novels, reading news, reading biographies, reading most anything, reading in bed, talking to Charlotte, kissing my husband on the back of the neck when he's dozing at the computer, making soup, pulling weeds, planting seeds and plants, eating, eating she-crab soup, playing word games with offspring, from Bananagrams to Words with Friends, hitting the road, driving the car, bird songs, E. J. Dionne, blueberries, my computer, knitting ...

Dislikes:
Ice (not man-made), putts that miss by a quarter inch, running blood especially if it's mine,  Read More 
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Waiting for Sandy

Waiting for Sandy is much like waiting for Godot -- except Sandy is really coming. So we cook chicken in the morning, knowing we can eat it cold if the power goes out, and we take the dog out an extra time in hopes he'll not want to go when the trees are bending over.

But lunchtime comes and goes, and it's just rainy and breezy. On the coast of Connecticut, two of our offspring and their families are evacuating their houses, the one only minutes before the sea washes over the small stone bridge that is their exit, the other to a residential inn because the high school shelter looked jammed and impossible, especially with the high-strung Jada dog. She's welcome at the inn, and they're thrilled with a kitchen and two bedrooms and the location near the aquarium -- which means the unpredictable power company will be more predictable than on their home street.

The New York state kid is ensconced with child and husband in a ? Read More 
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Publisher folds

Today my historical novels come home, however many were unsold when my publisher s closed his doors this summer. It will seem strange to have all those friends of mine here in such quantity, but they are quite welcome. I know them well -- Rose herself and her mother, Silas Hibbard who turned to drink in his grief, young Charles who listens at keyholes and under windowsills, Abby who worries about everyone being happy. And then there's Miss Harty, the best of teachers in the close-mouthed New England of the late 19th century. She was named for the first grade teacher who saved me from boredom when I started school in Amherst, Massachusetts. And Aunt Nell, who breaches custom and gives her brother-in-law a piece of her mind when he needs it. And so many others, including the charming Newton Barnes who sits behind Rose in school and can't stop thinking about her.

Naturally I would rather not hang onto all of these books forever, so we'll be selling them from here from now on.

Salesmen we are not. Milt's even worse at it than I am -- so much so that whenever we ran a classified ad for something we no longer wanted (like a sailboat), we didn't let him near the customers. He was forever talking them out of buying.

I won't do that. I will recommend both books for good reading,  Read More 
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