poetry and prose about place

my ideal niche

with 6 comments

I have a picture of the late Tasha Tudor, the children’s author and illustrator, standing in her hermit’s weeds, clutching an armload of branches for the woodstove.  Her lined face and straightforward relationship with nature exactly describe my wished-for niche. 

I imagine myself as living with the land, growing all my own vegetables, foraging for food I cannot grow, living off the ‘grid’ with solar panels and wood fires, pumping my water from a dug well, patching my roof with pitch from the spruce trees… you are getting the picture.  I do few of these things.  My garden is pitiful, no sensible fish would attach to my line, and I have to keep a few litres of water in containers in case my electricity-dependant water pump succumbs to a power outage.

The niche I actually occupy is satisfactory when measured by many standards.   It falls short of my ideal, but I am not willing to sacrifice.  Even in the simple matter of the woodstove, I have only achieved partial success.  We have pleasant fires in the autumn when the days are getting cold.  But in winter, I rely on electricity to keep me warm.

wood gathered for winter

If my ideal niche is not possible, I do find joy in the bits I have achieved.  I think of my successful row of beans, my healthy crop of mint, my knitting of socks in winter, and my walks in the grey woods, as a ‘close approximation’ of my ideal.  I admit that I would like to leave my cosy electricity-dependant niche, and acknowledgement frees me to stay. 

'Odd Socks' ... I knit them all winter...

I accept the truth … the ideal niche is a difficult goal.  It takes determination and stamina to achieve.   


a close approximation


Dolbear’s Law states: the number of chirps a cricket makes in fifteen seconds, plus forty, is a close approximation of the temperature on a summer night


warm September   evening  

I sit on the stoop    consider

the timid wind chime    the silent screen door  

the unmetered patter of rain


soothing after a month of dry


the rain    picks a song

over stones on the river

dolce vivace




where does my mantra take me?


away, to the songs of a summer night

at the back door    on the concrete step

where crickets sing   from cracks in the sidewalk


strung together    patio lanterns

notes from a Spanish guitar

the insect refrain


behind me    light from the kitchen

potatoes at boil   the voice of my sister

the tap of her shoe


beside me   the metal rail   rings at my touch

cool on a night   so hot and so dry

the pavement cracks


out in the yard    the insect chorus





molto vivace



too quick

to count


Published as: ‘threshold’, Spring 1997, Pottersfield Portfolio 17 (3)


© Jane Tims

'summer night at the back door'

Written by jane tims

September 23, 2011 at 7:51 am

6 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. Hi Jane..Yes Victorian Farm” Lovely series…they romanticize the simple living in the Victorian Age. However, freezing your butt off in your house in the winter, huddled near a fireplace and taking sponge baths is not my idea of fun. It wears thin after a few days. Check out the Edwardian Farm series. You’ll enjoy that as well. Maybe you know someone who has the series? 🙂



    October 10, 2011 at 9:53 am

    • Hi. I’ll check it out. I am just grateful my ancestors were willing to put up with what we would consider hardship! Jane


      jane tims

      October 10, 2011 at 6:22 pm

  2. Hi Jane,

    I enjoyed your Post! Love your pencil drawing.


    Ellen Grace Olinger

    September 23, 2011 at 11:00 am

    • Hi Ellen. Thanks. I have been painting for a few years, but the drawing is something new. Jane


      jane tims

      September 23, 2011 at 8:09 pm

  3. A post dear to my heart. Enjoyed the poem Jane. Evokes many memories of my favourite time of the year.

    I have to admit that after the last hurricane and losing power for three days, the idea of “living with the land” has lost some of its romanticism. However, slap some solar power panels on our roof, and a backup generator I then might be able to bear it. Now where can I find the money to get this whole thing started?

    Excellent drawing BTW.




    September 23, 2011 at 8:19 am

    • Hi. I loved watching the series ‘Survivor’ from the UK. In both series of the same name (one in 1970s and one in 2000s), they start over because of a plague. Quite a lot of the script is devoted to reinventing and learning to ‘live off the land’. Reminds me of another series I saw, about ‘Victorian Farms’. You should try to watch it. Thanks for liking my poem and drawing. Jane


      jane tims

      September 23, 2011 at 8:08 pm

I'd love to hear what you think...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: