Hodgepodge

IMG_6535February has been a motley month. Outside, the days swing from winter snow, to pelting rain, to a golden, sun-infused, warm calm in a few hours. Back-and-forth, keeping us on our toes. IMG_6354.jpg
Sunrises are working their way north across our hill horizon, but the transition to spring is erratic. IMG_6151We have ice on puddles some mornings, while in the background we are starting to hear the birds’ spring mating calls.

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This bell-shaped piece of ice was hanging over a stream at the edge of a small waterfall.

IMG_6747Perhaps the best harbinger of spring, though, is the maple sap, which has started to flow.

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In modern sap collection for maple syrup, tubes carry the sap out of the tree, to the sugar house. Ugly but efficient.

The Bohemian Waxwings have hung around for weeks, dwindling from enormous flocks to smaller groups of thirty or forty. IMG_6271IMG_6215At first, they were spooked if I even opened a door, but eventually they grew more comfortable with us and I was able to get closer for photos.
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We took a road trip last week to the FEDCO warehouse, a little more than an hour away. FEDCO is a seed, tree, and garden supply cooperative that is one of Maine’s treasures. On the way home, we swung over to Unity, the little farm town that hosts the Common Ground fair, is next to Bryant’s museum, and has a sizable traditional Amish population (previous Unity posts, Finding Common Ground, and Bryant’s).

Now it has another attraction. A world-class chef, formerly at Chicago’s Charlie Trotter’s restaurant, left the high-pressure restaurant life, became Amish, and set up a charcuterie in the woods of Unity, with no-electricity, in the Amish way. His story has received considerable publicity lately (here’s a link to a great NPR piece amish deli) and, after driving down a rutted dirt lane, we found a long line inside the little store. People from all over were patiently waiting to buy sausage and cured meats, while watching what was kind of a show. This former chef, with a long beard and traditional Amish clothing, talked everyone up while he cut meat on fascinating non-electric slicers that looked like hundred-year-old relics. He was always moving, efficiently wrapping the meat and cheese in butcher paper with string pulled from overhead, while his young Amish assistant rang up purchases on an old-style cash register. We went home with some bacon, smoked pork loin, and smoked cheese. I can attest to its deliciousness. I am continually amazed by what Maine has to offer.

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Smoked provolone.

February has been spring-planning time. Our (massively over-ambitious?) seed orders have arrived, we are gauging drainage and soil moisture to plan our orchard and garden bed lay outs. Likewise, we have been paying careful attention to winter sun and wind for locating our bee hive. We ordered the hive early and I happily spent two mornings constructed the frames that will hold the wax foundation for the bees to build their comb.

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We will not be locating the hive in the spare bedroom.

Much more to come on the hive when we set it up for the bees’ arrival near the end of April.

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Building the frames.  I have mise en place for nails.

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Our winter garden revealed a new side this month. It sprouted rocks and shells. IMG_6417When we moved here late last May, we could see some shells and unusual rocks peeking out from under the perennials. But only now, with the snow melted and last year’s greenery gone or flattened, is their loveliness revealed. IMG_6510IMG_6631_edited-1Oyster, clam, mussel, and scallop shells are flanked by small collections of rocks with garnets, mica, rings, striations, and unusual shapes. IMG_6618IMG_6616They are beautiful against the dead winter leaves and stalks. Another unexpected treat from the former owners of this garden. IMG_6611Among the shells and rocks, some sprouts are emerging. Soon we will complete the final first year in this garden, seeing what bulbs will emerge.IMG_6247

Pemaquid, Waxwings, and the February Garden

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We live in the hills and look out on more hills. When the light is just right, a shimmering sliver of water is illuminated on the far edge of our view, letting us know that the ocean is not far away. We decided recently to take a short road trip to the ocean at Pemaquid Point. It lies south of us, on one of a series of irregular peninsulas, formed by glaciers, and extending into the Atlantic between Rockland and Bath. IMG_5729
At Pemaquid, the land ends with a series of striated ledges extending into the water. IMG_5670A small lighthouse and bellhouse perch above. IMG_5665A woman was swept into the sea from these rocks the week before our visit. IMG_5676.jpgIt was during a swell arising from the storm that dumped snow on most of the east coast, but swerved out to sea below Maine. The swell produced some towering waves and one of them took the woman right in. IMG_5693.jpgFortunately, she was fished out with some injuries and hypothermia, but alive. IMG_5678.jpg
Although the sea was less lively during our visit, I stayed high on the rocks. Where I stood, when I looked inland, the sky was brilliantly blue IMG_5712.jpgIMG_5715and, when I turned to the water, there was a bank of shore clouds in beautiful, almost tubular row formations. IMG_5745Unfortunately, my picture-taking was cut short when I found my extra battery was dead. We’ll be back. IMG_5714
Soon after our Pemaquid trip, a flock of Bohemian Waxwings invaded. They have been here off-and-on for over a week.  They fly in over the valley and first settle on one of the larger trees, all facing in the same direction. IMG_6090IMG_6106After some time, with a great swoosh of wings, they all descend on a tree still covered with apples, where they noisily gorge on the likely fermented fruit and then wheel off again. IMG_5776.jpgIMG_5774Their post-feeding frenzy flights appear somewhat haphazard. Perhaps they are a little drunk. IMG_5783But they settle on a large tree again, compose themselves, and fly away in a neat formation again.  IMG_5778At first I thought they were cedar waxwings and there may be a few in the flock. But most seem to be Bohemians. IMG_5780

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This distance shot is blown up, with poor resolution, but you can see the beautiful wing markings.

In any case, they are gorgeous birds and extremely entertaining.

Finally, inspired by bloggers in England, Ireland, and Australia, showing a lovely array of colorful February blooms, I thought I’d share our February garden. After unseasonably warm weather on Thursday, we were unexpectedly blanketed by almost 12″ of snow on Friday. IMG_5865.jpgAs a result, our February garden consists of empty seed pods,IMG_5995.jpg
rocks in snow,IMG_5944
berries in snow, IMG_6003.jpg
spruce in snow,IMG_6057
shriveled rosehips in snow,IMG_6016
a few baby cones,IMG_6044.jpg
and Zoe.IMG_5881IMG_5887

Stoves, Barbies, and a Hurdy Gurdy

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You know those senseless dreams in which, for some unknown reason, you are in a strange place quietly admiring a row of gleaming old stoves and then you step through a door and are surrounded by a frantic buzzing and whirring of hundreds of toys and creepy dolls come alive, and you escape down a hallway to find a room with a billowy roof, full of old cars being driven by stuffed animals and music machines blowing bubbles?  Well, there’s a museum in Maine that kind of feels like that.

IMG_2173It’s called Bryant Stove and Music in Thorndike, a small town just a few miles from Unity, home to the Common Ground Fair.  Bryant’s sells beautifully restored antique wood cooking and coal heating stoves and for those alone it’s worth a visit.  But it also houses a quirky, amazing collection of stuff, from button collections, to dancing Barbie dolls, to gorgeous working gramophones and player pianos.  It is a little hard to describe, actually.

IMG_2248There are three sections in this small museum: the stoves; the toys; and everything else.  The entry section belongs to the stoves, with rows of ornately decorated coal stoves on the right and many vintages of wood burning cook stoves on the left.  IMG_2261IMG_2250They were for sale but sadly we don’t have room for one.   IMG_2257The next attraction was the toy room.  It was an experience.  A switch on the wall brought the room alive from floor to high ceiling. 20150728_103134It was a mechanical toy fantasy land–a frenzy of movement, sound, color, and details–too many to take in–unlike anything I’ve ever seen.IMG_2183IMG_2208 To the accompaniment of carnival music, airplanes whirled, a bear teetered on a tightrope, toys rode on a moving ferris wheel, stuffed animals danced, and–my favorite–Barbie dolls jerkily emerged from a curtain in a fashion show.  20150728_103253

Not your typical Barbie dolls. This was a tap dancing show.

Not your typical Barbie dolls. This was a tap dancing show.

There was way too much to take in.  Every bit of space was stuffed with toys, moving or posed.  IMG_2207IMG_2186It was dusty, kind of weird, very random, and oddly wonderful.   IMG_2191

IMG_2180My favorite part of the museum, however, was the third section, a quonset hut with a billowy roof.

When printing photos, odd details jumped out, such as the feet on the left.

When printing photos, odd details jumped out, such as the feet on the left.

Is that a sausage grinder in the corner?

Is that a sausage grinder in the corner?

It was brimming with a fascinating hodgepodge of machines, from a whimsical collection of air-powered motors, to an amazing evolution of working music-making machines, flanked by old buggies and cars, all interspersed with miscellaneous odd and quirky things.  And stuffed animals were propped in the oddest places.IMG_2219

A working hurdy gurdy

A working hurdy gurdy

There were informative signs throughout and, if he’s there, Mr. Bryant provides a personal perspective on his treasures.  IMG_2240We unfortunately only caught him for a short time.

IMG_2239It takes time to see everything at Bryant’s.  IMG_2246It’s like digging through some amazing person’s attic, or brain. IMG_2217 We didn’t even scratch the surface.  The museum was dog-friendly, but Zoe was nonplussed.   20150728_104122Next time, we’ll leave Zoe home, and have a leisurely browse through this creation of a brilliant, unique imagination. IMG_2243