Goodbye, Winter


As spring approaches, I find myself pondering how different Oregon winters and springs are from all the other places I’ve lived. I have a long history with winter — real winter, that is; I grew up in cold places. First my family lived in Northwest Ontario, where temperatures fall to -40° C (which, incidentally, is the same temperature as -40° F… fun fact!) or lower, at least a couple of times each winter. Then we spent seven years in remote northern British Columbia, where winters were less cold but much snowier — the snow routinely accumulated past six feet, and our downstairs windows would be blocked by snow by the end of winter no matter how many times we tried to shift the piles of snow that slid off the roof. We waited with happy anticipation for the snow pile from the eaves of the woodshed to meet the roof, so we could climb to the peak of the roof and slide off in glorious swoops.

We moved back to Ontario when I was eleven, and I discovered afresh the experience of having one’s nostrils freeze together in the frigid air. On the playground (well, parking lot, really) at our tiny church school, the girls’ mandatory long skirts would freeze stiff in the cold wind and chafe our calves during outdoor recess — also mandatory, down to -20ºC.

At the age of eighteen I moved to Alaska. I fell in love with my husband there and ended up staying for fourteen years, mostly in the Anchorage area, which niftily combines the cold of Northwestern Ontario with the snow of British Columbia. It’s not quite as cold as Ontario (or the interior of Alaska) or as snowy as British Columbia, but there’s enough of both to satisfy all but the most demanding winter enthusiast.

All three of these regions have four things in common: long winters, darkness (getting worse as you go farther north), short summers, and agonizingly slow springs.

In Northwestern Ontario, the end of winter generally starts sometime in  March, as the days slowly start to get longer. The snow gets wet and heavy. Roofs drip. Dirt roads gradually appear beneath the ice, and promptly turn to mud. Slowly, so slowly, the giant piles of snow from plowed roads shrink, and driveways turn into small rivers. By the end of March or  beginning of April, roads are often clear of snow. Of course, snow doesn’t stop falling, but the fresh snow gets churned into muddy slush within a few days of falling.

Then comes a day, perhaps sometime in March — around the same time roofs start dripping — when someone gazes out at the scrubby trees that grow in the thin soil atop the bedrock of the Canadian Shield and says, “Is that… green? Do I see green?” Someone else comes to look, and others crowd in. “Nah, you’re imagining things.” But within a couple of days, that optimistic viewer is vindicated, for the bare grey branches now exhibit a faint green tint. It’s barely visible. If you look closely at the tree branches, you won’t see leaves — you’ll see leaf buds just beginning to swell. Despite the faintness of the color, though, this promise of green signals the true end of winter. Several weeks or a couple of months later, probably by mid-May, most of the trees have baby leaves, and by the end of May roses and sometimes lilacs are in bloom. There have been instances of snow in May in Northwestern Ontario, but it doesn’t happen often. Those baby leaves are the beginning of spring.

In the parts of Alaska and British Columbia where I lived, the progression is the same, if a little later and a little slower, with one difference. The winter is so very dark further north that it’s a real occasion when the sun rises as you’re driving to or arriving at work, and when the sun is still up when you leave work. For much of the winter, you literally will not see the sun unless you’re lucky enough to have a day off that coincides with a clear day. So, in Alaska, those glorious first days of sun on your skin, rather than the first green, are the first sign of spring — even though the air is just as cold as before, and the hems of your pants get just as frozen on the way inside, and you have to scrape just as much ice off your windshield, as before.

Our family came to Oregon four years ago, fresh from the long winter and slow spring of Anchorage. We arrived early in June, after leaving our Alaskan home at the end of May. In Anchorage, the trees still had no leaves, and mud abounded. Here, June was full summer. Flowers bloomed everywhere. Grass was a happy green, and lacked that unpleasant sogginess of Alaskan grass after several feet of snow has melted into lawns. We could hardly believe our good fortune. Real summer!

The following spring, we moved from our rental to a permanent home on two acres. We moved in March, just before Easter, and we got to see the onset of spring in a way we’d never experienced before, since our rental home didn’t have a lot in the way of plants. We ooh’d and ahhh’d at each and every new flower, delighting in identifying mystery plants as they each burst into bloom in turn.

The strangest and most wonderful thing to us about an Oregon spring, though, wasn’t the abundance of flowers or the greenness of the winter grass. It was the trees. First of all, Oregon has a lot of evergreens — not just conifers, but broad-leafed shrubs too. Combined with the ivy and moss twining over the massive trunks and branches of trees and the ever-green grass, it’s never really not green here. But even the deciduous trees behave differently here. There’s no gradual onset from bare grey branches, to pale green mist, to buds, to leaves. No, these trees are already making new leaf buds as the old ones fall. You can see that barely-visible green all winter. Then, at some point — as early as mid-to-late February — the early-blossoming trees and shrubs, like plums and forsythia, burst into bloom, along with daffodils and crocuses. Soon after, you notice that the trees look a little more green — and within a short day or two, there are baby leaves everywhere. Here, spring isn’t agonizingly slow — it’s as fast as instant coffee. It lasts long enough to savor it, but its onset is as quick as adding water and stirring.

This year was a bit different than the previous three, and I found myself musing on how much I don’t miss Alaskan winters. We got snow in November this year, and we continued to get occasional snow until… well, until last week. Several times, it accumulated enough for the kids to make snowmen and snow angels. School was closed over and over — we had to readjust the school calendar to make up nine snow and/or ice days. (Do you know how many snow days we had in the Anchorage School District while I was teaching there? Maybe one true snow day over that five-year period, with another one or two days each year for ice.) Niko’s teacher told me, around the middle of January, that between in-service days, holidays, and bad-weather days, there had not been one full five-day week since mid-November.

Niko and Sofia were ecstatic about the snow. Each time flakes appeared in the sky brought a thrill of joy. For me, though, those mornings of begging the kids to slow down on the porch before they slipped on the ice, and scraping windshields, and having to sit and wait while the windows defrosted and defogged, weren’t filled with joy, but with disbelief tinged with resentment.  I’d moan internally (and sometimes not so internally),  We moved here to escape this!  Of course, the fun of seeing the kids go crazy playing in the snow was almost enough to alleviate the snow-induced grouchiness. Almost. That snow was more enticing to the kids than the best toy in the world.

And the snow made everything look so beautiful — winter flower buds peeking through the snow, branches coated with a thick layer of white, fairy lights on the tree in front of our house sparkling through the frost. It was lovely to look at. Like the kids’ delight in the snow, the beauty of the landscape was nearly enough to balance out the resentment. Still, as I chipped piles of icy snow from the porch, it was hard not to feel betrayed by the weather.

The unusually cold and snowy winter delayed the onset of spring, too. Everything is starting at least three to four weeks later than last year. Daffodils just bloomed two days ago; last year they were blooming in February. I saw one single blossom on our plum tree this morning, in the middle of March — last year, the whole tree was in bloom by the second week of February. The cold had one benefit, though — my dwarf irises and pink hyacinths, the first flowers to bloom, had not a single slug-munched petal this year, a far cry from the vicious attacks before buds had even opened in past springs.

But there is one thing — one single thing — about this longer-than-usual winter that is, in fact, awakening nostalgia. The cold winter, now (probably) ended, is finally demonstrating just one redeeming quality. The trees and shrubs have been hoarding their energy, refusing to fatten their leaf buds. Until now. Over the last few weeks of slowly-warming weather, I’ve finally seen that harbinger of spring: a green haze lightly touching all the trees — and not vanishing within days in an explosion of leaves this time. This spring, I’ve watched as the green increases oh-so-gradually. And this time, like all those years in Canada and Alaska, the green haze is true to its word, delivering spring gently and slowly. Every day I see new evidence that winter has released its grip on my little corner of the world. Slowly, slowly, buds are growing, flowers are opening, and tiny leaves are appearing here and there. It’s not (thank God!) the long process it is in colder climes, but this year, for the first time since we moved here, it really is a process. And I’m loving every single slow moment.



Lollo Rosso… Aster?

In a supreme act of sacrifice, I allowed all of my lettuces this year to bolt, and then further allowed them to remain in the garden and take up valuable space — all so you, dear readers, could see what happens when Lollo Rosso lettuce (a red loose-leaf) flowers. Some may say this was due to laziness. Others may speculate I merely forgot about them, allowing my memory to be consumed with the minutia of daily life. Whatever. Haters gonna hate. I’m sticking to my story: sacrifice, all for you.

Lollo Rosso lettuce flower
Lollo Rosso lettuce flower

I always assumed, if I thought about it at all, that lettuce was somehow related to cabbage, which is a brassica, like broccoli and mustard. I have to admit, there was never any basis for this assumption. Broccoli leaves aren’t at all similar to lettuce, after all. I suppose my belief came from the similarity between cabbage and lettuce heads.

When cabbage and broccoli bolt, they make very tall stalks covered all over in five-petaled yellow flowers (yes, I’ve got some of those too). Not so with the lettuce. I was amazed to see these soft, aster-like, yellow flowers growing above the Lollo Rosso’s red leaves. They’re surprisingly decorative.

Lollo Rosso lettuce flower
Lollo Rosso lettuce flower

Naturally, I turned to the ever-knowledgeable Internet to explore the mystery. As the appearance of their flowers suggest, lettuce is a member of the aster family, as are daisies and chrysanthemums. I had no idea. All this time, I’ve been munching edible daisy leaves in my salads and on my sandwiches. We might as well rename our bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwiches, BDTs. Or we could call them BATs (the A for aster, of course), and cut them into appropriate shapes as Halloween treats. I’m staggered by today’s garden discovery, as I’m absolutely certain you are. Aren’t you glad I made the sacrifice of that patch of garden so we could all learn this valuable new fact?

Big Max

A few weeks ago my husband Aaron came in from the garden and said, “I turned your squash for you.”

“You huh wha bleh?” I said. I had absolutely no idea what he had just said. 

“Your squash,” he repeated patiently. “You have a bunch of squash and pumpkin and melon things out there, and some of them are getting mildewy on the bottom. So I turned them.”

“Oh,” I said, still feeling a little bewildered. “Thank you.”

This would have made more sense to me if it had been a little longer since the hemiplegic migraine episode that sent me to the ER and taught me the word hemiplegic migraine, but unfortunately one continuing effect of a major episode like that is that I sometimes have moments — less frequently as I gain distance from the attack — when ordinary things just don’t compute. Things like the word “squash” as related to the concept of “garden” and “turning,” for example. 

In any case, later pondering revealed the wisdom and kindness of Aaron’s action, and I thanked him with more cognizant gratitude. It also occurred to me that the squash and melons ought to be raised off the damp soil so they didn’t continue to mildew.  

We had just received a shipment of iris rhizomes from a nearby iris farm, and they’d come packed in swirls of long slender wood shavings. The touch and scent of them had immediately carried my mind to my father’s wood shop, my fingers tangling in just such shavings as I breathed in the fresh sharp piney smell of the picture frames or chair legs or jewelry boxes being urged into beautiful forms by my dad’s skilled fingers on the lathe that he’d built himself. Those swirling shavings, I thought, might work to elevate our precious squash and melons above the damp soil. 

Newly arrived iris rhizomes
Newly arrived iris rhizomes in wood shavings

By the way, I’ve been researching — not the real, blood-sweat-and-tears research of libraries and journal articles and interviews, just intermittent online searches — and no one else is talking about having to regularly turn their squash, or pile fluffy wood shavings under them, to keep them from mildewing. I’m pretty sure this is user error. That is, I’ve noticed that the soil in that garden is exceptionally clayey, and I haven’t done much about it. When Aaron helped me plant the squash, I told him they needed fertile and well-drained hills, so he made tall compost-filled piles for them, and they thrived. But the vines, of course, spread well away from the hills, where the soil doesn’t drain as well. So we’re getting standing water with the sprinkler, condensation even when we don’t water, and, sadly, mildew and rot if we don’t provide a bit of extra tender loving care. 

User error, then, is why I’ve been piling shavings under all my lovely bright-orange Big Max pumpkins, my acorn squash, and my honeydew melons, and anchoring them (probably unnecessarily) with burlap for fear of strong winds blowing them away. Periodically I go out and check on the ones that were too small to worry about last time, and give them the wood-shavings treatment, and give my others a gentle turn while wiping condensation off. Now that the fall rains have started again — sort of — we’ve stopped watering that garden, but the squashes are still getting damp.  

Big Max. So shiny! So orange!
Pretty honeydew.
The melons, lovely green honedews, are a source of pride, anticipation, and anxiety for me. Like the squash, I’ve never grown them before,and for some reason I’m really absurdly excited about them. One day in mid-August I spied one I thought seemed extra-large, and I picked it and brought it inside with enormously high hopes. Those hopes were mercilessly dashed. The melon was terrible. Hard, tart, but otherwise flavorless. Pretty, though.  

Once again I turned to my speedy version of modern research. Ripe honeydews, I learned, have lost their skin’s soft fuzz and have shiny, waxy surfaces. They might sound a bit hollow if you tap them, and sometimes you can see veining on the skin. The blossom end should give a little when gently probed, and they should be fragrant.

That’s why, every few days, as I progress through the squash patch, turning, checking for mildew, supporting with shavings, I pause occasionally by a large honeydew. I glance surreptitiously around. I lift, probe gently, tap, sniff. 

It’s moments like those that I feel a small sense of shameful relief that the home of our kind, sheep-raising neighbors, who almost certainly can tell a ripe honeydew at a glance, is just barely too distant for them to glimpse me wandering through the garden and sniffing the melons. 

Lonely Bee

  I don’t know her story. She seemed a little lost, and slow, maybe chilled, despite the sun. She stretched her legs and walked slowly around the edge of the gazing ball’s empty plinth, her pollen baskets empty despite the unfortunately bolted broccoli flowers, the pepper blossoms, and surprising array of late summer and early autumn strawberry blossoms and berries, all within three feet of her perch.  
 I wondered if perhaps she was an aged parishioner of a neighboring hive, out for a last hurrah as her pollen- and nectar-gathering days drew to a close. Or perhaps she fancied herself royalty, small and alone though she was. She was in no hurry to leave, and obliged my photographical excesses with a polite coolness, occasionally shifting angle or direction to provide a more flattering angle, but never being so gauche as to actually direct her attention toward the giant imposter.  

 Whoever she was, I was delighted that she paused in her travels to alight in the middle of our garden at just the right time for me to spy her.    


Irises, Earthworms, Estivation!

A week or so ago, there was a tap on the door. I almost didn’t respond, thinking it was a hopping bird or swaying branch — who taps instead of ringing doorbells, when presented with so conveniently placed a doorbell as ours, and with no thoughtfully hung “Shhhh…Naptime!” sign next to it? But I did go to the door, and when I saw the big box on the porch and the back of the mail carrier vanishing into his truck with a cheerful wave, I was flooded both with pleased anticipation at the prospect of opening a package, and with bewildered gratefulness at the stranger’s oddly kind consideration. How did he KNOW my kids were napping and I would have curled up in a fetal ball of anguished despair, uttering ululating wails of mourning for the prematurely ended quiet time, had the doorbell rung?
The box was full of iris rhizomes. I’ve never planted irises before, so I was fascinated to see them. The individual iris roots were cushioned by swirls of long, fine wood shavings, reminiscent of those that would pile up under my dad’s lathe when he turned chair legs or picture frames or jewelry boxes. The irises are surprisingly pretty, with fan-shaped crowns rising above the lumpy rhizomes and twisty roots. They look like this:

Newly arrived iris rhizomes from Schreiner’s Iris Gardens    

A couple of days later we said goodbye to my mom, who’d just spent a delightfully out-of-character spontaneous weeklong visit with us, and I was left feeling at loose ends. After we waved her off, I commented to Aaron how nice it was for the morning to still be fairly cool. That’s when I realized it would be a good time to distract myself and the somewhat dejected Niko from missing Meemaw, and dig up the irises’ new home.

The garden bed against our shed, which is a potting and storage shed in one end and a woodworking shop in the larger remaining space, is filled with perennials that could be charming in the right setting but really just… aren’t. They all flower together, in the mid-to-late spring, and then simultaneously turn to scraggle and seed. The various plants all seem to flower along tall stems, with flowers dying near the base as new ones bud and open closer to the top, so they can’t be tidied up by deadheading. They’re always half full of dead flowers, browning leaves, collapsing stems, and seed fluff. This is our second summer here, and I’m finally realizing it’s OUR garden and I don’t have to maintain plants I don’t like. So, when we visited Schreiner’s Iris Gardens this spring, we decided that this haggard, overgrown garden would be the perfect place to fill with vividly colored irises and spring and summer bulbs. No more scraggle and slump.  Gleefully destroying a flower bed.

We’d dug up about a third of the bed, and were starting to think about lunch, when a clump of hard, dry dirt broke open and I saw the oddest thing: a ball of two or three earthworms entwined inside the nearly rock-hard lump. Their little wormy ball was slightly moist, as earthworms are, despite the extreme aridity of the ground that hadn’t seen rain in months. I was fascinated. Turns out, earthworms do something that’s like hibernation, only not, because scientists enjoy using precise words to describe precise activities, and this is something that occurs with certain creatures, including some insects and lizards, during extremely dry seasons rather than cold seasons. Various species approach it differently, but the general idea is the same: they protect themselves by retreating into the ground and going dormant, until moisture wakens them and signals them that their environment is once again friendly. It’s called estivation.

Estivation. Estivate. I love that. Estivation. I rolled that word around in my head for the rest of the day. Estivate. Don’t ask my why I love it so much, I just do. Estivation. And now, not only will we have a much prettier garden bed (thanks to Aaron’s finishing digging it up for me before the first rain since March arrived), but I have learned a new fascinating thing about earthworms, AND I have learned a delightful new word to murmur to myself whenever I need a quiet little bit of tranquillity.


If I Ran the Summer

It’s all ripening. All at once. I am more pleased than I can say that this year’s garden is producing prodigiously, especially considering the late start we had due to seeds that didn’t germinate (Planted too early? Eaten by birds? Too old?) and other issues.  I’m delighted with the potential for delicious uses for all the produce. This year I planted far more Roma tomatoes than last year, hoping to be able to make salsa and soup to can, and considering the number of nearly-ripe tomatoes reddening on my windowsill and on the plants and the still-green ones that will be ready soon, I think I’ll have plenty. I’m making raisins from the seedless grapes, jelly from the wild blackberries, pickles from the cucumbers that my vines are suddenly producing in large quantities, and frozen and pickled green beans. With my mom here for a spontaneous visit, I actually have a better-than-usual chance of getting all of this done before the fruit and vegetables pass their prime.  

Still, I have to say, it would be really really great if I could set a timer on all my garden plants. If I could regulate summer vegetables’ and fruits’ behavior, things would be different. We’d kick off spring with blueberries and strawberries, three glorious weeks of each, then reducing the amount produced to a manageable cup or two per week thereafter for snacking. I could set the peas and lettuce to ripen with the carrots, along with cherry tomatoes and lemon cucumbers, so we could have fresh salad while freezing peas for winter. I’d time the Roma tomatoes, peppers (which are currently too small to harvest), and basil (which has now bolted) to mature simultaneously. The broccoli could provide three small heads and the zucchini a few small squash each week throughout summer, enough to eat some fresh and freeze the rest. The pickling cucumbers could ripen over a few weeks after the Roma tomatoes were done, with the dill (which I forgot to plant this year) ready to pick at the same time, and blackberries following soon after.  And the weeds? They wouldn’t get a timer. Nothing for weeds. 

 Yes, if I were in charge of summer, things would be much more orderly. None of these crazy amounts of fruit and vegetables all demanding to be picked and processed daily, lest they over mature and go to waste. No more weeks of waiting followed by weeks of frantic activity. No more vegetables rotting on the vine while others are being pickled and frozen. No more peas ripening to floury overmaturity while we frantically get weeds under control. No more! 


Sweet Corn Harvest

Growing up, I always lived in areas with a short growing season.One year, when my family lived in a remote area of British Columbia, we planted a big block of corn, hoping to get a harvest despite our short, cool summers. I remember eating some fresh corn — but I also recall walking past frost-bitten stalks filled with immature ears, victims of a predictably early fall. As far as I remember, we didn’t try that experiment again. 

Now my husband and I live in Oregon, where the summers are long and warm — even hot and dry, though my Oregon friends say the arid heat these last few years is unusual. Last year, we moved to our new 2-acre home a little late for serious gardening. This year, we’re growing a lot more vegetables, including our very first attempt at growing sweet corn. 

If you research growing corn, the first thing you’ll read is that the corn should be planted in a fairly compact block several rows square. That’s because corn is wind-pollinated, and it doesn’t pollinate well when the ears are far apart. 

Our first attempt at growing corn was a complete failure. Not one single seed germinated. I don’t know whether I planted too early, in soil that hadn’t yet warmed, or whether the birds got them — my second batch of peas, planted at the same time, also didn’t  germinate, and I did see birds pecking up the peas. 

In any case, they didn’t grow. So, despite knowing that corn isn’t really meant to be transplanted, we bought several pots with two or three little plants each, and planted them out in rows at the end of our vegetable garden. I knew they were supposed to be in a block — but we had less than a dozen, and already-established rows. I wasn’t convinced they’d survive, let alone succeed, and reworking the garden seemed like a lot of work for these straggly little plants. I planted them in three short rows of three or four each so they at least had neighbors, rather than one long row. 

I suppose my half-hearted attempt at planting in a block helped. We actually got ears, and the first three or so ears to mature were mostly full of plump kernels — just a small area at the top was unpollinated. 

However, today’s harvest was an excellent example of why corn should be planted in a block. Observe:  

 All of them were like this, if not worse. 

So there’s today’s object lesson: Plant corn in blocks! Otherwise, THIS happens! 

On the other hand, though imperfect, the corn was sweet, juicy, and flavorful. And I can’t think of too many more satisfying activities than stepping out to the garden with small ones in tow, making a quick harvest of corn, zucchini, and cucumbers, and then lunching on freshly picked, buttery sweet corn.  


Green Bee

Today is overcast. It’s maybe the second or third overcast day we’ve had this summer, and it’s a pleasant break from the heat here in the Portland, Oregon area. Besides being refreshing, an overcast day is perfect for capturing photos. I’m not an experienced photographer, but I have learned that much. The colors are vivid and details clearer than on a bright, sunny day.

So, with the kids playing peacefully with their new-to-us basketball hoop in the driveway (thanks to our neighbors’ decision to clean out the leftovers of their now-grown son’s childhood), I wandered across the yard to take a closer look at some bull thistles growing against the fence near our raspberries. They’re on the far side of the fence, in a neighbor’s hay field, making them near-impossible to uproot. But they are beautiful nonetheless, if I set aside mild concern for the wellbeing of our raspberries.

I snapped a few photos with the camera, and was ready to move on to meander through the flower beds looking for photogenic subjects. As I turned to leave, a flash of brilliant color caught my eye. I leaned in for a closer look. It was an insect. Bee-shaped and bee-sized. Acting bee-like as well, burrowing down into the flower in search of nectar and pollen. But this bee was a vivid, iridescent green usually reserved for exotic tropical creatures and hummingbirds.

Of course, I aimed the camera. I got in two clicks before the bee darted off. Naturally, both shots were so blurry that the insect was indistinguishable. But now I’m on the hunt. I’m going to be stalking that thistle, waiting for that bee to return so I can capture it on camera.  I looked it up and learned that it’s a halictid bee, probably in the genus agapostemon. Here’s a beautiful specimen not, alas, photographed by me. I took it from the site, which has detailed information about insects and spiders.

Halictid Bee - Agapostemon splendens, from
Halictid Bee – Agapostemon splendens, from

Oh, and the peacefully-playing kids? That axiom “Silence is golden, unless you have a toddler…then silence is very, very suspicious” is one I have never managed to take to heart no matter how many times it’s proven to be true. Here’s what my quiet kids were doing while I was happily snapping photos:

Dust bath, anyone?
Dust bath, anyone?

Mama Birds

About a month ago, I was weeding a garden behind our house with the kids when I caught sight of Sofia in the garden (forbidden territory), wielding a little Frog House like a banner. As I hurried toward her to rescue the fragile house and any nearby flowers, I heard an odd rattle. Sofia giggled and shook the Frog House again, and again I heard the rattle, this time noticing some dry grass sticking out of the bottom.

Abandoned dark-eyed junco nest

Oh, no. Someone had built a nest on the ground inside the Frog House, and now my child was rattling the poor little eggs inside as if it were a maraca.

The mama bird never did come back. I was able to identify the eggs as almost certainly belonging to a dark-eyed junco, and I eventually took it to Niko’s teacher to use in a little nature center.

After the disappointment of not being able to let the kids witness the eggs hatching and seeing baby birds, I was delighted to look up not long after that and see, up in the large vine maple behind our garage, a new nest — complete with a patient robin. I’ve been watching the nest ever since, hoping to get some photos when the mama was away.

Today I thought I had my opportunity. I climbed up a very high ladder to get a picture of what I thought was a momentarily empty nest, only to find mama very much in residence! I didn’t want to scare her, so I just snapped off a couple of photos from a bit more of a distance than I’d hoped. Nevertheless, I’m thrilled that we have an active nest.
Here’s Mama Robin, guarding her babies so patiently:

Mama Robin in her nest
Mama Robin in her nest