Category Archives: Day to day

Acadia National Park Day to day Maine Nature Log Otter Creek

Nesting, Nesting 1-2-3-4

Snowshoeing several weeks ago I startled a downy woodpecker. She flew from a perfect round hole in the decapitated, shoulder height trunk of a white birch I was passing. She flew into my arm, and then, all a fluster, (we both were) landed on the branch of a tree ahead of me. She was building a nest.

Several years ago a woodpecker nested very close to that white birch, near the top of a dead tree in our yard. While I do not love trees dying, if they do, I am not inclined to grab the chain saw and turn them into firewood. Deadwood provides food for birds, home for insects, and composts on the ground. If I had removed them, I would have missed the nesting, hatching, and fledging of a family of baby woodpeckers.

After watching the parents take turns sitting on the eggs, both they and I were delighted when a small brood of babies was hatched. These babies buzzed. I would drive into the yard after work, and roll down the window and listen. The soft droning noise was unmistakable, even though almost 200 feet away. The parents were very attentive, flying in and out, presumably with food. I could not see the newly hatched birds, although I could hear them. A neighbor’s cat also heard them. I came home one evening, smiling in anticipation of my private bird vespers. Arlo, a muscular cat with dense black fur, was three-quarters of the way up the tree. I leapt out and raced up, sending him home. This was not a cat who took no for an answer, and I was not happy he had discovered the nest.
We battled the next few days. I made chicken wire cages, and hung sharp objects around the base of the tree. Arlo persisted, he was a very persistent beast. Between tossing him back home, barricades and sharp obstacles, he was finally confined to mewling at the base of the tree, unable to get up the trunk to the nest.

The vibrant baby pecker noise increased in volume, and listening became an evening ritual. Watching morning and night, I still almost missed it. The first flights of those downy babies, fuzzy little intrepid balls of feathers, demanded a cheering squad. I rah-rahhed as each tumbled out, righted itself, and shot straight for the nearest branch. Acrobatics could wait for later.

That was a few years ago, and I am excited by the possibility of once again watching Downie’s feed and raise their young. Winter has given way. It let go reluctantly, and we shift from ice fishing to archery in the backyard in short sleeves. And nesting. Yep, the birds are at it. I watch crows out the window as I sit at my desk. They are dismantling an old squirrel nest, efficiently recycling. They fly off with twigs in their mouths to some unseen home. Ravens may have nested by now, but are still singing their courting song and doing belly flips as they fly, soaring. Almost touching, maybe they do touch, but their flight is seamless. An eagle has been flying nearby by with nesting material, and my husband, curious, snow shoed when there was still snow. He made note of the towering white pine, and we now watch the nest from a distance with binoculars.

Birds are in the mood. Every evening I hear a woodcock in the back yard, a male, making his beep-beep noise, then flying up and spiraling down, the air a rhythmic sigh in his feathers.

Biking Acadia National Park’s loop road, we pause near the Otter Cove causeway. Three immaculate white male mergansers swim and show off to three drab females. The water is so clear we can see a nearby eider as he flaps his wings and swims to the bottom of the cove for a mussel snack.

Winter was stubborn this year, but is has finally happened, the shift from frozen beauty to procreation. One moment I rhapsodize about the sun on ice, and before I can lament its loss, I am reveling in nest building and airborne mating dances.

Happy spring. At last.

Day to day Day trips

Flattery. Simple Pleasure #4.

Filling the wood box, a frequent task, is satisfying. There, a chore is done. Chopping, slicing, sauteeing, blending flavors, and creating a healthy entree with flavor is another job that makes me feel good. Saturday morning was spent filtering through towering piles of envelopes, scraps of paper with now-mysterious telephone numbers and newspaper clippings that no longer seem of interest. There is once again room on the desk for a cup of tea. That felt very good indeed. All those good feelings were earned with hard work. It isn’t smugness that amplifies the good feeling, but a Yankee sense that is it deserved, no need for awards, ribbons, or a pat on the shoulder.

So how can one explain the light and simple pleasure that totally random flattery engenders? We return to our seats from the dance floor, and a young woman at a table nearby says, “You guys are great, we wish we could dance like that.”

We don our embarrassingly similar fur hats as the wind is cold. We toss hatchets and check out blacksmithing at the Cramer Museum in Camden. “I want one of those,” a stylish woman with a colorful cloth cap says, pointing to my husband’s warm badger hat.

“I love your boots, where can I get them?” a teenager says admiring my furry goat boots.

After parallel parking in a very tight spot, a passerby says, “Nice job.” I used to be able to do it in a space about three feet longer than my car, but years of living in Maine have blunted that skill, and I am pleased some of it lingers.

These comments from strangers make me glow. I didn’t have to get splintered and dirty lugging wood, or overheated in front of a stove to hear the honeyed words. My Yankee ethic says maybe I do not deserve them, but I love them. Some of this flattery is admiring skills, which can be justified as deserved, but mostly it is simply a compliment on choice of apparel or the cheese I serve.

What a simple pleasure flattery is. It conveys appreciation and approval. Sincere flattery is a gift any person can give to another. There is no cost, there is no effort, you simply open your mouth when you see some one doing something well, or looking great, or with an interesting piece of jewelry or artifact and tell them.

Flattery feels good from both sides. How lucky we are to have voices, to be able tell our fellow travelers on this planet that we see them, and that seeing them doing something, wearing something, making something, gives us pleasure. How lucky to be standing in the grocery line, and have the shopper behind us say, “those crackers look great, what aisle did you find them in?” reaffirming that we have good taste, made a good selection, and appear friendly enough that the person feels comfortable asking us about them.

What fun when an admiring comment generates a story. “Impressive,” I say to a woman balancing an armful of groceries. She laughs, and tells me she waitresses, and can line plates up her arm.

Give a gift and get one, flatter someone today.

And I, of course, think you are brilliant to be reading this blog.

Day to day Day trips Festivals Maine Maine destinations Otter Creek

Spring snow, sweet syrup

Boots and shovels then tee shirts and rakes, stoke the stove and open the window, freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw, spring, winter, winter, spring—March in Maine is neither fish nor fowl.

“I’m ready for spring,” even the devoted winter fans have been heard to say as March shifts from cold to warm and back. Spring is a tease, revealing the creamy blooms of snowdrops one day, and then hiding them again under six inches of snow. The winter coats and mittens were boxed and ready for storage, but a recent snow flurry caused us to pull them out and bundle up. For those of us who really love winter, this on-again, off-again is a needed weaning period. We are happy to have one more chance to don our fur hats and feel snow on our faces. The hats were boxed up, but we really weren’t quite ready to stow them in the attic and admit winter was over.

This morning the world was white again. Knowing this may be the last snowfall of the year, we don’t wait, but get up and head right out to play before going to work. But while the flakes are wet and real, there is no threat behind this snow. The winter lion has been declawed. We laugh fearlessly in its face, coats on, but not zipped. We know, too, that the snowdrops and hellebores will come to no harm. This is spring snow, saying a gay farewell. It lacks the seriousness of storms at the start of winter, which bring their cold breath and warnings of long nights and a frozen world. It is wet, and even though it covers the ground, it will soon be gone.

Alternate freezes and thaws are also what makes the sap run. Collecting maple sap and boiling it down for syrup is a tradition for many Maine families. It requires little investment, just a tap, a jug, a pot and a fire.

Syruping fits smoothly into daily life here in the Creek. Half an hour or so to set taps for a few days, then collecting now and then between hiking and dinner, and then boiling in the back yard. When there was more family around, it was done on a larger scale. Now, we tend the fire while making a few starts at cleaning up the yard. An old burlap back is stuffed with the weeds we pull off the garden and becomes a target for a few rounds of archery practice. We swap stories. I tell of my dad boiling sap in the kitchen, and peeling the wallpaper off the walls. I hear of my husband at eight or nine years of age using quart canning jars, the ones that had wire hoop handles, to collect sap, and how he had to collect many times a day. His grandfather helped him make homemade taps from discarded bits of tongue and groove planks. They whittled a slice of the groove side, giving it a point to pound into the tree, and the sap would run down the groove into the quart jars.

While things have improved–we now use plastic hose that fits into an opening cut in the caps of recycled milk jugs–it is still very low-tech. That is part of its appeal. It is also a way to be outside and moving around. Snowshoeing is over, ice is not safe, and biking is only possible on particularly warm days and even then many of the roads in the park are still covered in snow. Tapping trees, hauling heavy buckets of sap, bringing in spruce to keep the fire going, these are all ways to keep from stagnating.

The season is short, too. It is over just before you get tired of emptying buckets and smelling like smoke. These are all perfectly acceptable reasons to tap trees and make syrup. We might do it just for them. The jars of deep gold, thick, sweet syrup are just fringe benefits. Otter Creek Gold is maply, more flavor than sweet, slightly smoky because we boil it over wood, and the best maple syrup on this planet. Sugar, or rock maple trees have more branches and a greater surface area to produce sap. They also have a higher sugar content. Their syrup is sweet, and maply. Our syrup is maply, and then sweet.

But how sweet it all is. How satisfying to make flavorful syrup to pour on flapjacks, drizzle on ice cream, use in salad dressings, meat glazes and baking. We bottle some in tall elegant bottles, make Otter Creek Gold labels, and give them as gifts.

Syrup time is sweet. If you cannot tap and boil, you can certainly taste. Sunday is Maine Maple Syrup Day, and many sugar houses are giving tours and tastes. Go sample, then get yourself some taps.

Bar Harbor Day to day Otter Creek

Last bites and button boxes.

The corn honey from Mexico is dark amber, with a creamy sweetness made sweeter since each spoon carries memories of a week in the Yucatan Peninsula. I pulled it from the shelf to scoop a spoon into my yogurt, but there was only one spoon left. “I’ll save it,” I said, loathe to see the last of the sweet memories used up.

Hoarding isn’t a pretty word, saving is better. It was a way of life for our family and many of our neighbors. It was also practical as well as economical. When we lost a button from our pants, we would sift through the square tin button box to find a suitable substitute. The button box made sense on many levels. It might be seven am, and stores wouldn’t be open, and who wants to take the time to drive to a store just for a button, anyway. Even if you did, you would have to buy an entire set of buttons. Chances are those buttons would not match as well as something found in the maroon and silver hinged box where we tossed our odd buttons.

We saved old clothes too worn to pass on and cut them up for cleaning rags. I recall astonishment at finding you could pay to buy a bag of rags. We saved boxes and bags and wrapping paper, which made it easy at anniversaries and birthdays to gift-wrap a present. If something needed fixing, since we also fixed rather than bought new, the necessary screw or bit of copper or right-sized cork seemed to be always at hand. It was also easily found, as everything was in a logical place and neatly organized and labeled. Nails were in jars and sorted by type and size. Fabric was folded and stacked, similar colors together, plumbing parts went here, drawer pulls and knobs in that bin. The brass hinges from an old door were at our fingertips when we needed to fix the wood box hatch. When I broke the handle on my jewelry box, a far more beautiful ceramic knob was found to replace it.

Saving was practical and economical, and it was also entertaining. When we spilled that button box onto a tray to find a new button for our pants we would find a large ivory fish button with scales carved in its sides, and a set of big, two inch wide discs of shiny bakelite set with rhinestones. Some of these buttons had stories. The tiny seed pearls were from grandma’s gloves, and the pink linen-covered buttons from one of my mother’s elegant city suits. Most, however, had lost their histories, and we would make up our own stories for them, and contemplate what dress or shirt we could possibly use them for.

When I acquired my own home, I continued to save and sort, though not as neatly as the previous generation. I have only moved once as an adult, and that makes this habit of saving something, because you never know when it will come in handy, quite easy. Perhaps a bit too easy. Somewhere in the recent years it has shifted to a compulsion to hold on, to keep that last two feet of green and orange silk ribbon, or the last of that set of homemade paste-paper note cards. Saving them, but for what? In the way I once pulled out odd buttons and enjoyed their history, real or imagined, I save odd bits to tell me tales. I see them when I open a drawer, or hunt for a nail, and seeing them causes me to reminisce. The olive jar from Spain now holds paperclips, and the carved wooden box where I keep stamps stood for many years in my grandfather’s kitchen. These objects have a new and useful function.

But saving to use is different from saving to save. My practical trait of saving has morphed into to a compulsion to hold on. Yes, that was the last of my cool neon markers from Scotland in the drawer. I used the other three with delight about six years ago, and saved the last one, because I didn’t want them gone from my life. Recently, when looking for a pen to jot a note down, to my dismay it was the only thing available. I decided just this once to use it. The ink was dry, it no longer wrote. I tossed it out, without ever having the pleasure of writing with it.

The beautiful tightly fitted white linen jacket, a gift from a long-gone friend, was only worn rarely as I did not want to stain it or ruin it. And now I cannot get it buttoned.

It was hoarding the last shot of Celtic Crossings for years, and opening the cupboard to have it fall out and smash, that has made me reassess. Would I ever have sipped the last drops of that sweet and heady liqueur? I realized the answer was no. I was saving it until it broke, or was wasted. I was no longer saving it to use at a future date.

A new year is here, and it is time for a new approach to saving.

The corn honey from Mexico is dark amber, with a creamy sweetness made sweeter since each spoon carries memories of a week in the Yucatan Peninsula. I pulled it from the shelf to scoop a spoon into my yogurt, but there was only one spoon left. I scraped it into my bowl, and paused in enjoyment over each mouthful.

Day to day

Firsts, sweet and bittersweet.

April first is not the beginning of the year, but it carries a sense of newness, of spring, of the return of life and growth and sun, and so I start thinking of firsts.

I pulled into the drive after work a few weeks ago, and spread out across the field was a patch of snowdrops, their creamy little white blooms hanging shyly toward the ground. Had they been blooming weeks before I saw them, and it took a chorus line of them to get my attention, or did they spring forth overnight? Now I cherish them daily. Sweet.

Bubbling mud? I awoke to a distant repetitive bobbling sound. The early light was a brightening the sky and my room. Bubble bobble. What was it? Gobble gobble. For the first time in my life I was awakened by a tom turkey in the back yard. Sweet.

Sun on bare arms, without shivering. Bumble bees droning by, and the spicy scent of cranesbill geranium as leaves get crushed where we rake. Sweet.

Frogs are back. The ducklike cackle of woodfrogs announce that spring is early this year. I chuckle back at them. For several years I participated in the frog count on Mount Desert Island, and it has become an annual rite of spring. Wood frogs, peepers, green frogs, pickerels and leopards. I learned to listen to them all, and to make frog sounds myself. Trill, twang, chuckle, I stop yearning for snow and ice and exult in the sound of teeming amphibians. Sweet.

Forsythia. So very Yellow! I do not love them, but I love cutting a few branches as the snow recedes, along with birch and other unknown twigs. They bloom and leaf out bright green in the house, while outside branches are still bare. Sweet.

Easter. My mom loved hiding eggs for us as children, and insisted on Easter egg hunts for all her grandchildren as they came along. She would cluck like a chicken, and pull out a candy egg, and brandish it just like a self-satisfied hen. I became assistant Easter bunny, poking jelly beans into balloons before we blew them up and tied them in the yard. We made cardboard chicks and rabbits and stapled them to wooden stakes and set them out. “But mom, it’s drizzling, they won’t want to hunt in this!” I would protest, as we waited for my sisters to show up with their kids. “We will do it anyway,” she insisted. We did. And the grandkids hunted and squealed, and rolled their eyes when we shook a balloon to make it rattle and give them a hint. They dashed about popping all the balloons and gathering the candy as it fell. Every Easter mom and I chuckled about some of our best hides as Easter bunnies. This is my first Easter without mom. Bittersweet.

Mom’s obit

Bar Harbor Day to day

By the way signs

No swimmin, but is swimming ok?

Also referred to as three inches of partly cloudy

Day to day

Same old same old, isn’t it amazing.

Every morning: wake up, stretch, head outside, sunrise salutations, hoop, go to work. So predictable. So unvarying. So monotonous? No, just like snowflakes, each morning is rare and wonderful.

The tide has been out in the early hours, and so the float at Seal Harbor Beach is firmly planted in the sand. Downward dog as a lobster boat hums its way through the boats out of the harbor. Gulls are taking baths, squealing like young children as they splash in the stream that empties into the sea. Cobra pose, and the sun filtering though the water emphasizes the rippled patterns in the sandy bottom.

Then the latte and oatmeal I’d grabbed from the Coffee Shop in Seal Harbor. Not just a latte and oatmeal, but a perfect frothy just-enough-roast-flavor latte, and oatmeal that was slowly cooked, with raisins, brown sugar and creamy hot milk from the espresso machine. I laze on the float, tide still far out, and spoon the thick oatmeal into my mouth. Bliss.

Nine years ago I was here with my mom and dad. Dad was eighty-one and had enthusiastically encouraged my purchase of a light Kevlar kayak. He had made a kayak himself when he was in high school, curving wood over steam for the frame, covering it with canvas, and carving Greenland style oars from pieces of Sassafras the interested owner of the lumberyard had given him. Drip guards were beautifully knotted on either end. He gave me one of them, and promised me the other. We launched from this beach, and paddled out into the waves. Mom, who never learned to swim, stretched out on the float I am now resting on, waved us off, and picked up her book.

Dad, always a modest man, said, “It’s been a while,” as he dipped the oars and practiced a turn. We were in no hurry. We stayed close to the coast, and soon dad was paddling along, smooth shallow dips moving him forward. “Old paddle still works pretty good, doesn’t it?” It did indeed. “Next time I’ll bring up the other paddle, so we can each use one.” We headed back into the harbor, and saw Mom, small in the distance, stand up on the float and wave. Then she turned and saw the stretch of water between her and the sand. She sat back down, peeled off her stockings, picked up book, shoes, and bag, balanced them on her head, and stepped cautiously off the float. The water was above her knees and cold. We watched her concentrating on her steps, then saw her suddenly lurch and fall. The water closed over her head. Dad and I paddled furiously. One brief eternity later her head popped out of the water. She shook it furiously. We stopped paddling a moment, relief overwhelming us both, and forcing out bubbles of shocked laughter. We looked at each other. “It could go either way,” dad said.
We paddled in, assessing her, and doing our best to smother our laughter. She knew, though, and looked at us. It was impossible to tell her mood. “We only laughed out of surprise, we couldn’t help it,” I offered. And, “We paddled as hard as we could.”

She nodded, expressionless. We held our breaths. Then she smiled and shook her head. “What a mess I am, and it was a library book, too.” We hustled mom to the car, holding up a blanket as a makeshift dressing room, and helped her peel off her wet things. Rubbed, then wrapped in a towel, we packed up gear, and hurried home.

Another morning, another memory, stretches at the beach. Time to go to work. Namaste.

Acadia National Park Day to day Maine destinations Otter Creek

Mussels-by-the Sea

It was 50°, sunny and calm, and the tide was right. Implacable Man, Kym and I went to the shore to pick mussels. They are large, tender, pearl-free mussels. So good I can never order mussels out at a restaurant, they just can’t compare.

On the way back to the house there was an eagle on the Tarn. We pulled over to see why he was just standing on a puddle of water, when he began to gyrate and hop and splash. He was taking a bird bath! We watched for ten minutes, until he flew away.

At home, I made a goat cheese, bacon, and spinach salad and warmed some bread on the wood stove. A perfect Maine dinner, and day.

Day to day Uncategorized

Snowseats and Cat gets a Name

Powdery seats

Powdery seats

The snow that brought Cat into our lives is hanging on. And so was his nameless condition. But he is now named. Thank you all for voting. There were two write-ins, for Shackleton and Winston. Every name was voted for, but there was a tie between Mawson and Drosselmeyer. While I was happy calling him the name of the day, The Implacable Man felt it was past time. Kym wrote the two names on a piece of paper for us to draw from, when I suggested letting Cat choose. Kym placed the folded papers equi-distance apart on the floor in front of his snoozing furry form. He opened his eyes, stood up, did a little cat stretch and walked over to one folded piece of paper. He gave it a nudge with his nose, then put his tail in the air and walked off for a snack.

And the winner is: Drosselmeyer. There is no doubt.

Welcome to Otter Creek, Herr Drosselmeyer.

community Day to day Maine

Help name this kitty

He has love, now he needs a name

He has love, now he needs a name

He was found in a blizzard in Northern Maine, outside the police station of a small town on the Canadian border. This was one the wildest blizzards in years, with record-breaking precipitation and high winds.

Over one hundred miles to the south we were driving home from seeing the Nutcracker Ballet. Walking from the concert hall to the car was a challenge. Whirling wet snow thick in the air peppered our faces, we opened our eyes to get our bearings, then they were forced closed against the icy pellets. It was a long ride home, warily passing the pinkish glow from the tail lights of cars that had spun off the road and were buried in the snow. Melissa kept watch for the edge of the road, Kymry gave encouragement from the back seat. There was a good six inches of unplowed powder to slide through and visibility was about 20 feet except when the wind picked up, and then it was a blinding glow of head light reflected off the snow, and nothing beyond the shadowy outline of the hood of the car could be seen.

Nameless kitty appeared on this night, and he isn’t telling us where he came from. Two years old, sick and thin, he stayed outside the police station a week or so, then finally slipped in for food. He was caught and brought to the shelter.

I heard about him a month later, and MOFW and I went north to fetch him. While the shelter did the best they could, unknown time in the wild plus a month in a small cage sleeping in his litter box left him thin, matted, scabby behind the ears and with a persistent sneeze.

Now he is sociable and playful. He is a very mellow and relaxed kitty. During dinner parties he comes out and mingles, rolling over for belly scratching, and swatting at the toys and strings offered him. His fur mats are gone, sneezing has lessened, and he has begun to groom and clean himself.

It is time to find his name.

__ Lumikki Finnish for snow.

__ Drosselmeyer In The Nutcracker he arrives on a snowy night bringing the Nutcracker for Clara.

__ Mawson Antarctic explorer who survived brutal weather and an amazing number of catastrophes.

__ Denali Park and mountain in Alaska, SUV, and great snowshoess .

__ Bombadil A merry fellow from Tolkein’s The Hobbit who wanders and explores the woods, cheerfully eating and dancing with the folk he meets.

__ Other