The Beauty of Tiny Things

Back in 2007, I discovered the macro feature on our digital camera. It was there all along, but I’d skipped past most of the manual. Taking photographs of people and scenery didn’t usually require special buttons.

That year, as the summer in New Hampshire eased into fall, I had some time to explore and amuse myself. Getting our cottage situated, a sunroom and decks added, furnishings found, and a garden planted consumed most of the summer.

deck on a cottage in the NH woods

The finished front deck.

Our garden was an adventure in learning. Would it be too shady with the tall trees looming over our site? What would grow best in New England’s short growing season? I delighted in each blossom that validated our choices.

Even though we’d worked hard all summer, I’d soaked up the atmosphere of this new place. I fell in love with the wildflowers, the plush mosses and odd lichens and the textures of pine needles and birch bark.

I wanted to capture these visual delights that made my summer special. That’s when I pulled out the digital camera and read the instructions for the macro photo taking. It didn’t sound that hard; just click on the button with the flower symbol, get within a foot to 2 inches of the subject, and don’t wobble while pushing the shutter. Surely I could manage that.

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The results exceeded my expectations. The close-up photographs revealed even greater beauty in the flowers than I could see from my normal viewpoint. I wanted to capture everything with this small box in my hands, put it onto my computer and view it six times larger than life.

Now I could see the velvety texture of the petals and the shadings of color. Whenever I have a few minutes, I take the camera for a walk. Who knows what I might find; a blue jay’s feather, red berries on a bush, clover in an open meadow… My eye is drawn to the minute details in the landscape that I used to overlook. Macro photography has opened my eyes to the beauty of tiny things.

(Essay originally posted on Our Echo by Virginia Allain)

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Posted in Photos

Wild Strawberry Time

The wild strawberries were quite plentiful last year. I commented on Facebook, “I’ve never seen wild strawberries so loaded.” I added my photo.

wild strawberries

Wild strawberries growing in the New Hampshire woods.

My photo of wild strawberries

My friends responded with these comments (my thoughts are in italics):

A neighbor who just returned from a trip said, “This is the year of the strawberry. All over Europe it was the same as here. Huge berries, very inexpensive.”   OK, Bob, rub it in. 

My aunt said, “Bet they’re good! Mother and Daddy transplanted some wild strawberries we found in the woods to our garden at the farm. They flourished, and though small, compared to regular strawberries, they were SO sweet!” I loved this comment which gave insight into my grandparents’ lives. 

wild strawberry pixabay

A handful of wild strawberries – photo from Pixabay

A fellow librarian said, “I get them loaded by soaking them in vodka.” I have no words for this one. 

Have you looked for wild strawberries yet? Now’s the time.

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Posted in food, wild plants

How to Give Back to the Community

If you have a summer or weekend home, you can’t help but impact the local community. You receive wonderful benefits from your stay at the beach, woods, mountains, or wherever your second home is located. You’ll want to make sure the community also benefits from your time there.

Below are some ways to pay back the community for your months of enjoyment.


Things You’ll Need:
  • awareness of local events
  • time to volunteer or
  • willingness to support local causes

Buy locally. Don’t go miles out of your way to buy at the big box stores that you are used to back home. Do much of your shopping at the mom-and-pop stores nearby. This nurtures the unique villages and downtowns that appealed to you as a getaway.

Attend local festivals and farmer’s markets In areas with many vacation homes, activities such as art shows, summer theater, craft fairs, and lecture series depend on tourist attendance and support to thrive.

art show raffle fundraiser library

The library near us has an annual art show which is also a raffle fundraiser.

Eat at local restaurants. Savor the regional flavors and keep these thriving so you can return in future years.

Watch for opportunities to contribute to the community’s charities and organizations. Attend the Rotary BBQ, donate books to the public library, buy a raffle ticket to support the fire department, and other local causes. At the end of the season, when you close down your vacation home, donate your leftover canned goods to the food pantry.

Look for short-term volunteer opportunities in your vacation community. Check Volunteer Match to find volunteer needs in the area near your second home. If you can’t commit to volunteer one afternoon a week, ask if they have a one-time project you can work on.

Check for a local Freecycle. It’s an easy way to give away things you no longer need (old sofa, sports gear, anything). In some areas, like New England, placing the free item by the roadside means it’s available. Put a sign on it saying “FREE” to make clear your intent.


Sebago Lake

Here we are doing our best to support all the local ice cream shops. (Sebago Lake, Maine)

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Posted in summer people

The Swallowtails Are Here

swallowtail collage by Fran Morse Farmer

Swallowtail butterfly photos by Fran Morse Farmer.

Fran Farmer shared her encounter with a swallowtail butterfly in the Lake Region. Yes, summer has arrived. Her flowers provide the perfect enticement for the lovely butterfly.

This beautiful tiger swallowtail showed up here and doesn’t seem to want to leave. I found it in the driveway and it allowed me to pick it up. I placed it on different plants with blossoms and it is just enjoying my petunias. It must have appreciated being out of the rain and may be gone tomorrow. If it’s laid its eggs, its days are numbered so we’re enjoying it’s company fully as long as we can.

There are many variations of color and pattern in the swallowtails with black ones, zebra-striped ones, and even more. I took a look online to find out what they eat (flower nectar and mineral salts on wet ground for the butterflies) and how their life cycle worked.

I found a great butterfly blog which shows the swallowtail egg, caterpillar, pupae, and butterfly in all the stages. You can see the pictures and narrative here: Adventures in Raising the Giant Swallowtail.

I’d captured a similar swallowtail with my camera a few years ago. I saved the photo by putting it on the cover of a keepsake box that I ordered from Zazzle.


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Posted in insects

White Moth in New Hampshire

In early June of 2010, I discovered this moth in the woods and captured it with my camera. I asked on Facebook if my friends and family could identify it.

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Mystery Moth – found in the New Hampshire Lake Region

Peggy Gillespie Hazelwood
Peggy Gillespie Hazelwood said, “No idea but it’s beautiful! Looks like fabric.”
Nancy Julien Kopp

Nancy Julien Kopp was witty and said, “I think it’s Millicent. Pretty Millie.”

Lisa W. Cox

Lisa W. Cox searched online and found one somewhat similar, “Not at all sure, but could this be it? Confused Eusarca,   (Eusarca confusaria)
Virginia Allain
Virginia Allain decided that was not quite right. “Thanks, Lisa, but the antennae are wrong. This one has a slim line and the Eusarca has branched ones.” 
Then she replied, “Oh, well, maybe I am the confused one! (There are several other white moths on that same page, though, maybe one of them?)”
Virginia Allain
Virginia Allain said, “Great link! It’s looking like some of the tiger/lichen moth family.”
Diane Cass
Diane Cass shared a link, saying, “I think it is this one, the Pale Beauty Moth. The Eusarca confusaria doesn’t live in New Hampshire and has too much brown on it. Of course, it could just be confused. LOL!”
Virginia Allain
Virginia Allain responded, “You found it, Diane! It’s a Pale Beauty, Campaea perlata.
Right territory, thin antenna, pale stripes across the wings. The body in their photo is white, but maybe that changes during its life cycle.
Diane Cass
Diane Cass added, “The one in your picture is emerging from its cocoon. The markings may darken as it ages. It looks like that is a pretty rare moth. It’s a beautiful photo too. Congrats on a great find.”
Cynthia Ross
My sister, Cynthia Ross commented, “Way to go!! Gene would be proud!” (She was referring to Gene Stratton Porter, a nature author that we both admire.)
Gail Lee Martin
My mother, Gail Lee Martin added, “So would your sister Shannon. It is a remarkable moth and definitely not a Kansas moth although its range includes Missouri.” (My sister Shannon was a national 4-H winner in entomology)
Cj Garriott
The last word was from my aunt, Cj Garriott, “This is spectacular, Ginger! Love it.”
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Posted in insects

Looking for Spring Wildflowers

It’s a treat to see bits of color appearing as all the brown leaves are cleared away at camp. Now’s the time to see the violets.

woods violets

Purple, blue, or lavender? I guess these woods violets are violet colored. (photo by Virginia Allain)

The tiny flowers below are smaller than the violets, but just as sweet if you lean down and look closely at them. At first, they appear mostly white, but you’ll see there’s a tinge of blue.

NH wildflower - bluets

These dainty wildflowers are called Bluets. (photo by Virginia Allain)

Here’s another spring wildflower that you’ll see in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire (and perhaps all through New England). I should know the name of this one, but it eludes me at the moment.


A blog that I follow called New Hampshire Garden Solutions: Exploring Nature in NH inspired me to post my spring wildflower photos. For a more extensive look at spring ephemeral flowers in NH, check that blog. It has beautiful pictures and everything is properly named. I love it.

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Back to Camp

A few hardy folks who live within a reasonable driving distance ventured to their camps early in May. They spent their weekends cleaning up from the hard winter that New England suffered through. Apparently, there were 3 failed attempts by Mother Nature to start spring but each time it relapsed into another snow. Very confusing for the spring flowers.

The last week of April, there was still snow on the ground in sheltered places. Undeterred, the cleaning up of months of leaves began.

By the end of May, the snowbirds began filtering in from Florida, South Carolina, and other warm-winter places. The lure of the New Hampshire woods is powerful. This is despite the fact that in the first few weeks, the peaceful retreat is rendered less peaceful by the loud electronic sounds of the leaf blowers.

The first few days are hectic as we check the inside and outside for damage. Any leaks? Any pests inside? Look for telltale acorns or parts of pine cones. Any damage from fallen branches or trees? We fill the refrigerator and cupboards with food, remove the dust covers, and unload the car or RV. We try to get the carport up early so pine pitch doesn’t get on the car. Pull the tarps off the kayaks and outdoor furniture. Spread those to dry before folding and storing them. Then the clean-up begins.

Helpful Tips from Previous Spring Posts

Dennis wields the leaf blower, creating mounds in parts of the yard. I transfer the leaves into my collapsible tote which goes into my small wagon to pull to the roadside. There I dump the leaves for pick-up. If your area doesn’t have that service, you can pile the leaves in the woods as you clear your yard.

Now, green plants are poking up through the remaining leaves. My rhubarb plants are some of the earliest and they’re ready to pick. Native plants are in bloom like the lily of the valley and before long, there will be lady slippers in the woods.

Here are some of my tools for this project.

You can find most of these tools at the local hardware store or discount stores like Walmart or Marden’s or Job Lots. Sometimes, I don’t have time to drive from store to store looking for just the right tool, so below I’ve provided links to Amazon. You can read the reviews for the various tools there.

  • I’ve had a number of garden carts over the years, but this Gorilla one is the strongest one yet. It has the capability to dump heavy loads like dirt and gravel.
  • Previously, we had a battery powered blower, but it doesn’t have as much power as the corded one and sometimes ran out of power before we were ready to quit for the day.
  • We have a standard leaf rake, but the one featured here expands and collapses for compact storage.
  • I just added the hand rake last year and find it excellent for pulling leaves out from under the steps or removing them from around the plants without damaging those.  My moss garden doesn’t like the blower, so I use the hand rake to gently remove the leaves without dislodging clumps of moss.
  • The garden tote flattens to store compactly and is very sturdy.
  • For gloves, I look for cotton ones that have the rubber on the palms and fingers. They don’t get soaked so easily when picking up wet leaves.

Gorilla Carts Garden Dump Cart with Steel Frame & Pneumatic Tires, 600-Pound CapacityGorilla Carts Garden Dump Cart with Steel Frame & Pneumatic Tires, 600-Pound CapacityView DetailsBLACK+DECKER LB700 7-Amp Corded BlowerBLACK+DECKER LB700 7-Amp Corded BlowerView Details63 Inch Adjustable Garden Leaf Rake - Expanding Metal Rake - Adjustable Folding Head From 7 Inch to 22 Inch. Ideal Camp Rake63 Inch Adjustable Garden Leaf Rake – Expanding Metal Rake – Adjustable Folding Head From 7 Inch to 22 Inch. Ideal Camp RakeView DetailsGARDENA 8918 Hand Rake Combi SystemGARDENA 8918 Hand Rake Combi SystemView DetailsGarden Bag - Large Heavy Duty Canvas Reusable Yard Bags Great for the Trash Waste Laundry Compost Refuse and Tool Utility Collapsible Storage Comes Complete With Modern Gardening GlovesGarden Bag – Large Heavy Duty Canvas Reusable Yard Bags – Collapsible Storage Comes Complete With Gardening GlovesView Details

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Posted in Care of Summer Place, Spring