Wednesday, September 28, 2011

One Morning in Maine

Bucks Harbor, seen from Smalls Cove
What day of the week is it when you and your entire family have been awake for 3 hours and it is only 8:15 in the morning?  In this household, any given day of the week.

Last week I decided that I would get some quiet time by hook or by crook, and that the best way to do that would be to set an alarm to wake up before Quinn.  The alarm has to be for 5am, based on Quinn's vacation habit of waking up at 5:45.   Quinn, either through his own determination or with the assistance of his pet gremlins, has managed to see to it that no matter when I leave bed, he wakes up 15 minutes later.  He comes bombing out of the bedroom, eyes closed to the lamp I have on, hair pointing in 42 different directions and yelling, "Good Morning Mom!".  The last part might be what ensures us the company of Griffin 15 minutes later. 

It is no mean feat to have all of your family up before first light, especially here in the easternmost tip of the United States.  I'm on my 2nd cup of coffee, a rare amount of caffeine for me these days, and beside me on the couch, Quinn has the nerve to be yawning.  My Personal Charm Meter is reading Low

Indian Point
To glean some benefit from our cranky early morning, I decided to get my exercise by taking a sunrise walk instead of heading into Machias for a swim at the University pool.  The tide was obligingly low, and the air was so brisk I put on sweatpants and my Dad's fashionable red and black buffalo check wool shirt.  I like to look the part when I'm in Maine.

The road we live on is relatively short.  A few minutes to the right takes us past the Salmon plant and dead ends at Bucks Harbor, a picturesque working harbor full of fishing boats, or small dories anchored where the lobster boats will be when they come home.  Big on beauty, short on cardio.    A few minutes to the left gives you the chance to walk past a bait company, 5 or 6 fisherman's homes, a signifant amount of bait containers stashed into the woods, and then finally onto a balsam-scented dirt road.  Bait containers are very good for my workout, as I have to get past them as quickly as possible.  The smell is, well, indescribable. 

Looking toward home on the sandbar
This morning instead of walking on the road, I went across the street, down the steep and muddy footpath and out into Smalls Cove.  We do not own the beach, but we're fortunate that access by the footpath is protected as an ancient clammer's path.  The cove contains a large amount of soft shell clams, and most days of the week we see the trucks of one or two clammers parked near the path entrance. 

I am slightly intimidated by these people.  We have waved to one man, and one woman, both in their late 50s, or early 60s.  They work as quiet competitors on opposite ends of the cove, bent over at a 90 degree angle, digging their clamming rakes into the heavy wet clay.  My aching back muscles are humbled into silence when we watch them.  They fill their wooden clam baskets that they then drag behind them on a mud sled.  Walking through wet clay in big rubber waders alone is a formidable task, and these people do it dragging their muddy catch and supplies behind them. Some clammers then park their sleds on the mud, anchored with giant rocks, to be hidden under the next high tide, and ready for their return at the next low.  It is grueling, unpredictable work, and unavailable to them if the tide should go out, say, at 10pm. 
Bucks Harbor

But today I was the only human on the beach.  Walking east out into the cove at sunrise meant that I needed to keep eyes to the ground, which was just as well because the receeding tide had left the rocks covered in slippery seaweed.  It really is an extraordinary cove.  As the tide pulls out, a perfect footpath of rocks and shells stands about 3' above the muddy cove floor.  It winds its way over half a mile,  out to a pine-covered island.  Because of a low point on the path, dry walking access occurs during a short window.  We have miscalculated the tide in the past and walked home in wet sneakers as a consequence.

Where the cormorant was
The edge of the beach, like so much of this area, is dotted with wild apple trees.  It is against the law in Maine to cut down an apple tree, out of regard for the food they provide the wildlife.  Our own property has 3 or 4 trees on it, none of them particularly palatable to me but fine for, say, deer and porcupine.  Along the beach, piles of old apples sit just below the trees, and some of them bob out on the tide, making a lovely picture of autumn on the Maine coast.

Michaelmas daisies along the footpath
 I passed a large flock of canada geese who fly in every day as the tide is halfway out.  We hear them squawking their way over our house on their way to their dinner.  They land in the same part of the cove every day, and we are not sure what it is that they are eating.  All of the gulls I passed were peacefully standing or floating facing east.  To the right, from Bucks Harbor,  I could hear the boats firing up, and the sound of one of their radios coming over the water.  I watched a water bird, I  believe it was a cormorant, but it could have been a loon.  It would disappear under the waves and come up 10' or 15' away.  It seems to me that loons typically stay down longer and swim farther, so I believe it was a cormorant. 

The Birthday Girl, 5 minutes ago
The pine trees on the islands, the water, the brisk morning air, it was all so lovely.  I could have stayed longer, but the 2nd lowest portion of the path was shrinking, so I decided to turn and head for home. 

Before I did, I took advantage of the cell signal which we strangely have in spades in the middle of the cove, but none of at home.  Today my darling niece Abigail turns 13 years old.  I would scold her for all this endless growing up, but I'm so interested to see who she becomes next, I can hold my tongue.  I called to wish her a happy birthday.

Two days ago I would have paid a king's ransom to get Quinn to take a nap, but he and his gremlins thwarted me.  Today, no nap for Quinn or his damn gremlins.  I want this child begging to go to bed at 7:30, and sleeping for 12 hours in a row.  Wish me luck.

Best -


Sunday, September 25, 2011

Our Days in Maine

Fall color is beginning
Two days of fog and intermittent rain have lifted, and we have a gorgeous blue-sky day of 77 degrees.  The leaves have begun to change, and the apples are coming into season now (including some tart varieties in our back yard!).  Chris & Dad watched the Patriots lose this afternoon, and before I left for my swim this afternoon I put spaghetti sauce in the crock pot. We are having a good day!

Since I last posted, I've celebrated my 41st birthday. My Dad was here and my sister Elizabeth drove up from New Hampshire.  As a happy bonus surprise our beloved cousin Sallie drove up for the night from Camden, ME, and our old family friends Bob & Barb Frazier drove down from Lubec. Put them all together, add a Whoopie Pie cake and boom - you've got a birthday party. It was really great, and I received lots of charming and thoughtful gifts and cards from near and far.
At West Quoddy Light in Lubec, ME

Chris has had one business trip since we arrived. He had to fly out of Bangor, a 2 hour drive from our house. As you all surely know, we often wonder if we could ever spend a full year living up here in most eastern Maine. Business trips are always one of the sticky wickets. This one became a bit of a nail biter when his flight was delayed. You miss your flight in Bangor, you are hosed. If you're not familiar with this area because you're related to me, then the only reason you've ever heard of Bangor International is because its where they land airplanes from Europe when they have mechanical trouble or people lighting their explosive shoes on board . He made it, but we learned that he needs to leave himself more margin when flying to Texas from so far away.

While we were in Bangor, the boys and I had a great time visiting a historic Transportation museum, and the Bangor Children's Discovery Center. I could live in Bangor, it is such a charming city. And hardly anyone wants to live there because it is as close to the north pole as you can get without being in Canada, so I have to think property values are low. Also, in the Did You Know department, Bangor Maine Public Library has the highest circulation per capita of any library in the United States in a town over 30,000. As in, either they have 3 books or THESE PEOPLE LOVE TO READ. If I find a similar statistic about cupcake consumption, I'm packing my bags and yelling, "THESE ARE MY PEOPLE!". Forwarding address to follow.

Roques Bluff State Park

I woke up this morning and laid in bed staring out the window. Without my glasses on, I couldn't be sure what I was seeing, but it seemed that one of the branches of a spruce tree was twitching, and losing chunks of itself. I put on my glasses, and could tell that it was the work of a hidden squirrel, and that the chunks were small closed pine cones he was hurling to earth. When he moved to a new more heavily-laden branch I ran for the boys, and we all sat and watched him rain down a steady stream of pine cones. It must have been a two handed job, those babies weren't falling, he was chucking them, but good.

On the Kennebec road, going home

Entering into Machias, ME

We have settled into a very pleasant and relaxing rythmn here.  Any day without rain starts with coffee on the deck.  Chris has started leaving the house to go work downtown at Dunkin' Donuts, where he has Wi-Fi and cell reception.  We typically shop for our meals every day or every other day, since we are always in town once a day, anyway. I would never attempt this in McKinney, where any given grocery store occupies enough acreage for a single visit to constitute a legitimate workout, whether you need 1 or 20 items. The grocery store here is so nicely sized, and so well stocked, it is no problem to visit daily. We also have a natural foods store here that has all of the organic staples we need.
Chocolate in Lubec

We have managed to visit all of our favorite haunts at least once. Most of these involve food.  There is a new donut shop called the Town Fryer, and he makes fantastic raised honey donuts. While Elizabeth was here we had lunch at the Bluebird Family Restaurant, one of the two dueling Family Restaurants that straddle Route 1.  We chose to align with the Bluebird when the other one, Helen's, served me Chicken Parmesan fried into a sphere and topped with cheddar cheese.

We've eaten at our friends Matt &Faye's restaurant, the Fat Cat Deli, once. They make great pizza. We've hit one of the Lubec chocolate shops, spent copious amounts on chocolates, dubbed it so-so and now must return to spend more at the other chocolate shop. It's a hardship.

We are at once sad and grateful that our friends Ed and Diane are no longer making their fabulous bread in Lubec. That's about 2,000 calories per week we can now redistribute to the Town Fryer and other haute cuisine.

In a lengthy discussion of food on the coast of Maine, one might expect the mention of seafood. There, I mentioned it.

My father leaves tomorrow morning to spend the week farther north in Maine with some friends.  He will be back at the end of the week.  The boys and I have been to the pool at U Maine Machias many times, so I imagine we will do that this week, maybe visit Lubec again for the yarn shop, and then Chris and I celebrate our 10 year wedding anniversary on Thursday.  I am still working on the babysitting factor there, hoping we can at least grab a quiet dinner together.


Some of our new fall color

Friday, September 9, 2011


It has been a couple of weeks since I last posted. I'm going to go in reverse order, posting today about Maine, and later on about the close of this recent segment in New Hampshire. I have some great pics from the Milford, NH Labor Day parade that I'm eager to post. Next week.

We arrived in Maine on Tuesday, 9/7. We left Deering under rainy skies and hit sunny skies somewhere halfway up the coast. Our home in Machiasport is 350 miles from both my Dad's home and the home we lived in when we were building this house, in Grafton, Massachusetts. We spent a solid 2 years driving up and down the coast during construction, and so we have a set routine in place. We stop at the same locations we've been stopping at for years, eat the same food, and pick up the same dinner for our first night in the house. It was great to be doing all of that again, having been gone for 2 years.

The house looks amazing. We've been very fortunate to have a fantastic lady taking care of it while we are away. She arranges everything lovingly, and keeps it perfectly clean. This is only our 3rd trip to New England since we moved to Texas in 2006. Every time we come back to Maine we are amazed at what a beautiful home we all built. Nearly 60 groups of people have rented this house in that time. We put a guest book in 2 years ago, it was fun to go through it and read the impressions of the renters. We had a builder we all loved, Dad & Chris put a lot of their own elbow grease into the construction, and I spent 2 years decorating it on a dime. We did good.

We have had two days of rain and Chris had to hit the ground running with work. The cove in front of the house is a tidal flat. So, what you're looking out to changes with the tides. We arrived during my #1 favorite tidal sequence. High tide at breakfast and at dinner time, low tide in the afternoon, perfect for hiking out on the sandbar. Griffin and I went nearly all the way out to the island yesterday, and came home with bags of clam and periwinkle shells, which I use for making wreaths. It was grey, but still beautiful.

The field on our property has grown up considerably, so Dad is bringing up his brush hog next week, and Chris is going to give all of the land a good cut down. I like the meadow as a meadow, but several odd bushes are moving in, threatening to stay. We have about 25 giant spruce and blue spruce trees on the land. Chris and I marvel at how much they have grown. I used to see the water out the back from my perch in bed. Two trees have now spread so wide that I can only see a glimmer of the tidal creek. I do not mind, though. These spruce trees are 50' high, and have always looked like guardians to me. They stand encircling the back of the house, and are shaped like massive Christmas trees. They will all stay.

The beach roses along the deck have gone bananas. They are covered in ripe red rosehips, which I intend to use to make rosehip jelly. Chris will trim them back next week so that they stop assaulting people walking up the stairs.

Chris is working today and I hope to get down to the University of Maine Machias for a swim in their indoor pool. We also hope to get together with our builder's wife, Carlene, and their two granddaughers. We have 5 gorgeous days of 67 and sunny in front of us.

Wish you were here!