Wood, Fabric, and Water

Waking up this morning, I felt as if I had been pounded all over by a baseball bat.  I was aware of most every muscle, including those in my fingers and feet. George’s elbows were trashed. The aches and stiffness were brought on by age and our previous day’s activity–splitting our winter wood supply. IMG_1484.jpgAs we hobbled about today, we were mocked by images our younger selves, splitting all of our winter fire wood with an ax (mostly George), with no discernible physical after-effects. Not any more. Yesterday we rented an industrial strength log splitter. IMG_1487.jpgEven with the splitter doing most of the work, after five hours of heaving logs about, it was a good workout.


Four way split for big logs


We are fortunate to have about five acres of woodland, with some aging trees that need to be culled. A wood stove supplies most of our heat and our smoke this winter will be a fragrant combination of cherry, apple, poplar, and oak. The cherry and apple wood was so beautiful when we split it, it seems a shame to burn it.


Wild cherry (pin and black)



We did have boards cut from one cherry tree to use eventually for new kitchen cabinets. The beauty of the wood is a constant.  But you also never know what you will find when you split wood.  Colors, insects, rot, fungus–all exposed.  IMG_1493


The green elfcup fungus produces an intense blue-green color


George had been felling trees and chainsawing them into stove lengths over the previous months and, to give the wood enough time to season before winter, we needed to get it split. IMG_1483.jpgIt was an enjoyable, rewarding job on a gorgeous cool day. There’s a hypnotic rhythm to working the splitter and the smell of the split wood–especially the cherry–was almost intoxicating. It was a good day.IMG_1529.jpg

Earlier this week, I had another good day that also involved harvested tree and plant products, but in a very different way. Last fall, at the Common Ground Fair, I was gobsmacked by a booth selling fabric imprinted with the shapes, shadows, and colors of real plant parts–leaves, flowers, stems, and seeds.  IMG_1601.jpg

I had never seen anything like it. The incredible fabrics were created by a Maine textile artist, Amelia Poole, who graciously explained the process for imbuing the fabric with the patterns of living plant parts and allowed me to paw through her wares. IMG_1599.jpg

I had a hard time choosing, but eventually brought home four fabric pieces, two of which I made into a dress yoke. IMG_1609.jpg06071609490607160949b.jpg
Happily for me, Amelia gave a presentation this week at a local nature center on her eco-textiles. Her process is called eco-printing, or botanical contact printing, and involves first treating unprocessed natural fabrics with alum, ferrous sulfate, and copper sulfate–a process called mordanting. Then fresh botanicals are arranged on the fabric, wrapped up, and steamed to fix the colors and patterns on the fabric. Amelia brought recently steamed fabrics for us to unroll.


Before unrolling


Opening up the fabric

Because the colors, clarity, and design are all affected by the particular qualities of the plants when harvested, the colors and shapes transferred have endless permutations. So there is an anticipatory wonder in what will unfold with each piece. 0607161311a_Burst02.jpgSeeing the imprint of the plants to fabric felt a bit magical. 0607161311.jpgAnd it evoked a sort of timeless, ancient feel, perhaps because the ephemeral plants will be long imprinted in the fabric in a fossil-like way. 0607161311a.jpgAmelia’s website link is at: Ecouture Textile.

As someone long in love with plants and fabric both, I’m hoping to take one of her workshops. I don’t really need more interests, but this is one that I cannot resist. 0607161328_Burst01.jpg

Finally, in all our spring activity, we have had some watery relaxing downtime. IMG_8284We wanted in retirement to spend time on the water messing about in boats. So, for starters, we bought a lightweight kayak this spring. I can easily lift and carry it and it’s short enough to fit on our truck bed with just a strap to hold it.


The seat is a first class upgrade on our previous kayak

We have a lake below our home that is about an eight minute drive to the boat ramp. IMG_8314.jpg


IMG_8331.jpgThat lake is part of the St. George River system, allowing us to paddle upstream to another lake and then slow-moving, meandering river. IMG_1015IMG_1012IMG_0980.jpgEagles, beavers, loons, and lots that escaped my camera.    The current, you know, really.IMG_0988IMG_1005.jpg


A loon …


snorkeling …



for baby eels

I did fry my cell phone after several hours in the greenhouse-like waterproof pouch.IMG_0974.jpg  It died.  Stupid.  But, nevertheless, our new boat has been a sweet diversion, with much more kayaking to come.


Pollen alert


Oriole nest?


Someone else’s woodpile


The Vixen and The Queen

IMG_8241_edited-1Our resident fox has five kits. Their den is in an acre of woods abutting our land and is visible from our southern windows. At first we saw the vixen–a gorgeous creature–going regularly to a spot by a stone wall. Eventually we started to see other movement in there–small gray animals, looking rather squirrel-like. Out came the binoculars, which revealed some kits.


This isn’t the den, it’s in our orchard-to-be

We’ve been spying on them since. The vixen spies on us, too, keeping a careful watch when we are working in the yard. IMG_7933
She seems to be gone for hours sometimes, presumably hunting, and when she returns the kits all come running. She nurses, grooms them, and lets them explore the surroundings, herding them back if they go too far. IMG_8080One morning, we watched her hunt in the long grass where our orchard will be. IMG_8089She caught a squirrel and some smaller rodents–voles, I suspect. IMG_8012Foxes are considered beneficial here for tick reduction because they kill many of the tick-carrying rodents. No one in the immediate neighborhood has any chickens, so the fox is quite welcome. Apparently this acre of woods has had a fox den for at least a few years. The kits, of course, are ridiculously adorable. They are turning from gray to red and getting bolder. IMG_8256
Lucky for me, they’ve been providing entertainment because I twisted my ankle a few days ago. I was in apple mode at the time, focusing on learning all I can for rehabilitating our old apple trees and creating a new orchard. I had just been to a grafting workshop where we learned whip & tongue grafting.


This was our example of a proper cut. You can see the cut back “tongue” if you look carefully.

Apple seeds, like people, are unique and different from their parent trees, so grafting is necessary to reproduce specific apple varieties. Whip grafting involves attaching an apple root stock to a scion–last year’s branch growth from the desired variety–by cutting both quite precisely with a very, very sharp knife. IMG_8450Needless to say, learning was messy. 20160409_124420.jpgI was pretty good at making the initial cut, but had a terrible time cutting the tongue properly. It got a little bloody. Nevertheless, I went home with eight newly grafted old apple varieties, with wonderful names such as Blue Permain, Yellow Transparent, Rhode Island Greening, Northern Spy, and Cox’s Orange Pippin. If half of them make it, I’ll be lucky.20160409_132501
My other orcharding activity, pruning, resulted in the sprained ankle. Nothing exciting, I just hopped off the apple ladder into a hole and the damage was done. I have a tendency to sprain my ankle at really bad times (twice while on vacation in Hawaii). This time was no exception because the bees were arriving in two days. Fortunately, I know the sprained ankle routine. I iced it, wrapped it, elevated it, watched the foxes, and recovered remarkably quickly (which I attribute to yoga). IMG_8068
That brings us to the queen. She is here, along with the rest of the bees, although she likely is still caged. I ordered a package of bees from a wonderful local apiary, where I had taken beekeeping classes. They picked up a trailer load of packaged bees in Georgia and arrived in Maine with them on Saturday. Each package had 3 pounds of bees and a caged queen.  George had been working on the hive area and it was ready for bees.


We took down a low-hanging branch from a cherry that was shading the hive too much. The flies and a moth gorged on the sap.


IMG_7858We picked up our bees and brought them home.  There are many ways to hive bees, depending on the hives and personal preference. IMG_8145We’re newbies (or newbeeks, in beekeeper slang), so don’t even pretend to be knowledgeable.  But, here’s what we did.  I lightly sprayed the bees with sugar syrup. IMG_8147I removed the can of feeding syrup from the package and then the queen’s cage. She is surrounded by bees here, so you can’t see her. IMG_8162There is a bit of “candy” in the lower third of the queen cage, which the bees are supposed to eat through to get to the queen and release her. That process gives them time to get used to the queen (so they won’t kill her). I gently poked a hole in the candy with a nail (easier said than done) and placed the cage on a frame in the hive. IMG_8158Then I thumped the package on the ground to get the bees in one corner and dumped them in the hive. IMG_8166A bit more thumping, shaking, and dumping and most were out. IMG_8171Then I very gently, without squishing any bees (I think) put the remaining frames in the hive. IMG_8174IMG_8179We gently brushed the bees off the top and, with George’s help (thus, no photos) slid the feeder on and put the quilt and roof on. Success! IMG_8195Blooms have barely started here, so the bees will need to be fed sugar syrup for the next few weeks. I will check the hive on Tuesday to see if the queen has made it out of her cage. In the meantime, the bees appear to be doing well. IMG_8268I find them mesmerizing.
IMG_7887.jpgFinally, the Tom turkey put on quite a display last week, presenting his rear to us from every angleIMG_7900IMG_7898


Zoe presented her belly.

A Blooming Windfall

June garden bouquet of peonies and poppies

June garden bouquet of peonies and a poppy

When we decided to buy a house in Maine, we drew up a wish list. About the only thing on that list that we didn’t get was a garage. But we more than made up for it with two things that were so far above our expectations that they weren’t even on the list–a view that continues to astound and a perennial garden.

The perennial garden was an unexpected windfall.IMG_1296We’ve never stayed in one place long enough to invest in a perennial garden. Imagine how I felt to suddenly have a ready-made garden ready to unfold.IMG_1739

When we moved here at the end of May, there were a few flowering tulips and lots of emerging plants and shoots.

The garden in May.

The garden in May.

I recognized some of the shoots, our realtor recognized others, but some were a complete mystery. An early visitor advised that we take it slowly the first year and–for the most part–leave the garden alone to see what evolved. Who knows, what might appear to be a weed in June could turn out to be a spectacular September bloomer.


Early June

Late June. The peonies were spectacular.

Late June.



It was wise advice. The big artichoke-looking plants, for example, didn’t produce anything like artichokes but instead sent up stalks with prickly orbs, that then became covered with tiny blue flowerets covered with bees. These exquisite, whimsical blue-globe thistles were our favorites. IMG_1060We also were puzzled by vigorous stalks with graceful, but vaguely marijuana-like leaves. Could our predecessors have peppered a few marijuana plants in the garden? The plants didn’t look quite like marijuana, but they didn’t resemble any flowering plants that I knew. I little internet research suggested they were cleomes. And a few weeks later that was confirmed by the delicate but stately-spidery blooms that climbed up the stalks for weeks and weeks.IMG_2052

I realize that we will never have this experience again. We were the fortunate recipients of someone else’s garden, a blooming, living testament of their vision, taste, and labor. I felt a bit like Mary Lennox in one of my favorite childhood books, “The Secret Garden,” navigating the wonder of an unknown garden.IMG_0868

Every week brought us something new. Irises, yes, but what kind? Oh, sweet, vivid deep-blue Siberians. IMG_0695A perennial garden is personal. It reflects the gardeners who planted it. We only briefly met the previous owners of this house, but learned something about them through watching this garden unfold.IMG_2076

They thoughtfully designed the garden for continuous blooming throughout the growing season.







They took account of color contrasts

Daisies almost smothering lavender

Daisies almost smothering lavender


and texture contrasts.IMG_2600IMG_2668IMG_2646

They designed for low-maintenance–no finicky, fussy plants–all well-suited for the site and (except for a few lilies) pest and disease resistant. I appreciated that the garden was clearly designed to attract pollinators and to provide food for birds. We were inundated with butterflies, moths, all kinds of bees and wasps, and an excited group of hummingbirds all summer long.IMG_0599IMG_1120IMG_2631

Finally, they didn’t forget fragrance and included lilies and moon-flowers to intoxicate the night air. Actually the moon-flowers, Datura (a potent hallucinogen), are a bit finicky this far north, strumpets in this Maine garden. Their large, tropical-looking buds slowly unfurled to fragrant white trumpet blossoms, that then became spiky seed pouches. All new to me and I loved this plant at every phase.

Datura buds and furled blossom

Datura buds and furled blossom.  Check out the Cleome marijuana-like leaves on the left.

Sweet-smelling blossom unfurled

Sweet-smelling blossom unfurled

Blossoms turn to seed

Blossoms to seed

Aside from a few tweaks, we will keep this garden as it is. We will add more perennial beds later, but will keep this windfall garden much as we received it.

Our October garden bouquet

Our October garden bouquet

Slow-motion Fall

IMG_2536October 9th and no sign of frost.  We are used to fall in Alaska, an abrupt transition from summer and winter—often lasting only a week or two—that can hardly be considered a season.  In contrast, this year in our part of Maine, fall has unfolded leisurely, with lingering summer temperatures well into September.

I love milkweed

Love to see milkweed.

We have so many apples on the ground from our wild trees that it smells vaguely of apple brandy.

Roadside crabapples--a great year for apples in Maine

Roadside crabapples–a great year for apples in Maine

IMG_2548This slow fall pace has allowed our vegetable beds to continue to produce, and produce, and produce—something we had not expected this late in the season.

Still going strong

Still going strong

Our sunny hillside—near, but not too near, the ocean—apparently creates a microclimate with a longer growing season than areas around us.  It will be fun to see how far we can stretch it.

Our little cold-frame is an attempt to provide greens into the fall

Our little cold-frame is an attempt to provide greens into the fall.  So far, looking good.

Our October garden is an unexpected bounty.  We continue to harvest eggplants, tomatoes (fortunately we had no blight), tomatillos, leeks, fennel, chard, collards, peppers, and carrots from our first planting in May.

The chard has been a trooper. Always abundant and always delicious.

The chard has has been impressive. Always abundant and always delicious.

The birds started eating the sunflowers, so I hauled the enormous flower heads to the ground under the bird feeders, a feast for contentious bluejays. IMG_2429

In late July to mid-August I planted colder-weather crops, which are producing like mad now.

The russian kale, peas, and beets are thriving

The Russian kale and beets are thriving.  It’s dubious that we’ll get broccoli out of this planting, though..


October tomatoes

Peas, kale, beets, more carrots, and even corn—needless to say, we haven’t bought any vegetables in months.  In fact, I’ve had to adjust my mindset this summer so that I don’t feel guilty if we don’t eat everything produced in the garden.  If it’s not eaten, it makes great compost for next year.

The biggest surprise in our first Maine garden was the sheer plenitude.  I planted what I thought would be small islands of flowers among the vegetables.  They properly attracted bees, other beneficial insects, hummingbirds, and butterflies.

October pollen overload in this honeybee

October pollen overload in this honeybee

But they also ran rampant, rioting all over the stodgier vegetable neighbors.  IMG_2472I had to continually cut back the cosmos to give the eggplants more room and the nasturtiums would have engulfed the entire garden if I had let them. IMG_2471

But nothing compared—volume-wise—with the lone tomatillo I planted in May.  I had no idea that tomatillos would even grow in Maine and—because I ignorantly though it would be out of its element—pictured a tidy, compact plant.  Ha.  It was godzilla.  I continually cut it back and it then grew even more profusely, entwining its arms into every tomato and pepper plant in the bed.  IMG_0961A jealous monster.  It gave me two complete harvests, so I have nice jars of salsa verde and roasted tomatillos frozen for winter.

One tomatillo plant. I hated to pull it up, but wanted to give the peppers a chance to produce a little more.

One tomatillo plant. I hated to pull it up, but wanted to give the peppers a chance to produce a little more.  And, it was time to harvest.

Planting in raised beds was a first for me.  Next year, I will plant the sunflowers, pumpkins, corn and potatoes in regular beds.  But, otherwise I am a total convert to raised beds.  They allow for close-planting, with few weeds, and are easy to work.  I planted some things too close together and will adjust next year, but the happy hodge-podge of flowers and veggies, with few rows or open soil, made for a healthy, productive, and beautiful garden.

We fortunately had few garden pests.  This Japanese beetle was bonding with a wild thistle.

We fortunately had few garden pests. This Japanese beetle was bonding with a wild thistle.

If this warm weather continues, we will have to devise some new ways to cook eggplant.IMG_1708

Maine Spring

IMG_0254When we set out on our trip, almost a year ago, I had visions of avoiding winter by following warm weather around the country.  I brought lots of hot weather clothes and flip flops, with a smattering of layers for occasional encounters with cold or rain.  I pictured continuously lounging in warm evening sunlight, drink in hand, tanned and relaxed.

We had a little of that.

Last June at Devil's Tower in Wyoming.

Last June at Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.

But not enough.  We enjoyed some sweet, sunny New England summer weather, but soon after we arrived in Georgia in November—the cold descended.  And it never really let up.  We stayed in Georgia for George’s shoulder surgery, but even if we had moved West as planned, we would have been dogged by unseasonably cold, wet weather.  And we were more susceptible than usual because we were living in a small travel trailer and a poorly insulated beach cottage.  To add insult to injury, while we were cold, shivering, and cold some more, Alaska had record high winter temperatures and little snow fall.  We had traveled to the wrong and ugly end of the polar express.

It did not take me long to break down and buy a variety of pants, long sleeved shirts and coats, while giving the stink eye to my summer clothes taunting me from the little trailer closet.  I needed all of those warm clothes when we left the South in early March and headed to Maine.  We had snow and temperatures in the twenties on our trip north.  Yuck.

It was still pretty cold when we arrived in Maine and we even had snow one night.

Harbor boats in their winter shrink wrap

Harbor boats in their winter shrink wrap



Seals and gulls--they all look cold.

Seals and gulls–they all look cold.

Then spring—tentatively but surely—started to make its presence known.


Skunk cabbage.

Skunk cabbage.

Clumps of frog eggs.

Clumps of frog eggs in a swamp.

IMG_0142 eider

IMG_0018We are back in Massachusetts now for a week and it’s still quite cold, even though it’s late April.

I’m looking forward to summer warmth.  I hope it arrives.  One year it didn’t.  In 1816, after a large volcanic eruption in Indonesia, New England had the “Year Without a Summer,” with killing frosts and snow in June and July.  Summer took a vacation and left old man winter to house sit.  With our crazy current weather, who knows what summer will bring.IMG_9507IMG_0184IMG_0142IMG_9518IMG_0216



Maine-33Maine has been good to us.  We were seeking some down time and we got it.  The weather was the best New England has to offer, mostly sunny, breezy and warm, with little humidity.  The food was amazing—summer garden vegetables at their peak, local meat and bread, and lobster and steamers straight from the ocean.  And three campgrounds—with three slices of campground culture—all different, all good, all doggy.


We spent our first two weeks at Camden Hills State Park, a lovely temporary home.  Years ago, on our only previous Maine camping trip, we arrived at a crowded hell-hole of a campground in Damariscotta where we had a reservation.  Reservation be damned, we turned right around and continued on.  We ended up finding Camden Hills, which was a serene sanctuary in contrast.  On this trip, it lived up to my memory.

The campground is just outside of Camden.  It has an open field with an old farmhouse fronting the road, but most of the campsites are in dense woods.  It’s mostly filled with tents and tiny trailers, a wonderful mix of camping ingenuity, on large, larger, and immense campsites.

Upper loop at Camden Hills with huge sites, as long as you don't need hookups

Upper loop at Camden Hills with huge sites, no hookups

There were not many fifth-wheels or Class A RVs—it was tent country.  Young, middle-aged, and ancient couples set up all manner of tent compounds, including one three room tent with little crawlways between each room.  We watched a couple across from us set up tent, tarp, kitchen, clothesline, and wood pile with military precision.  They were at least our age and undaunted by the impending rain.  We felt almost soft and citified in our trailer.  Well, not really.

In the West, our 22’ trailer is comparatively tiny.  But, in Camden Hills, we were one of the big boys on the block. There were itsy-bitsy tear-drops, Casitas, Bambi-sized Airstreams, and several varieties of Roadtrek/Sprinter vans.

Not only was the campground beautiful and spacious, but it was backed by miles of hiking trails, of which we took full advantage.  The only downside to the park was that it was so wooded and shady that I was afraid we would have moss on the roof by the time we left.

In the Camden woods

In the Camden woods

We emerged into the sun and headed up to Searsport Shores, our second Maine campground.  I think of it as the drinking with dogs campground.  The owners obviously have put a great deal of love into the place.  They have gardens, goats, sheep, weekly lobster bakes, and whimsical ironwork and wood sculptures in paths through the woods.  It is on the ocean and many of the waterfront sites have personal decks (although some look out on the Searsport chemical plant).  It’s a bit crowded, but not too bad for a private park.  When we arrived, George asked if dogs were allowed on the beach.  The response was, “Of course, dogs are allowed everywhere here.”  Almost everyone had at least one dog.  Zoe loved it, with daily swims on the beach and tide-pooling at low tide.

Zoe found her stick at the Searsport Shore beach.

Zoe found her stick at the Searsport Shores beach.

She found a fetching stick that she carried back and forth from the campsite to the beach every day.  We were bad and brought it to the next campground with us, even though there are dire warnings everywhere about transporting pests by bringing firewood from campground to campground.  She still has the stick.

Zoe brought her stick to Freeport.

Zoe brought her stick to Freeport.

Every afternoon, people paraded around the campground conspicuously carrying large drinks.  They didn’t seem to socialize much, so I never did figure out what the drink cruising was all about.  It was fun to watch, though.

Maine seemed much more dog friendly than the rest of New England.  For instance, you cannot have a dog at state park campgrounds in Connecticut or Rhode Island.  In Maine, on the other hand, Zoe was welcomed everywhere we went (except for Miller’s Lobster).  There were lots of places where she could swim and she ate with us outside at the Boatyard Grill in Blue Hill and at Young’s Lobster Pound in Belfast.  She was a happy camper.  And all the saltwater swimming has rusted her collar so much that it’s turning her neck fur orange.

Boatyard Grill

Back of the Boatyard Grill  

Deer Isle Bridge

Deer Isle Bridge–we drove all around Deer Isle and the Blue Hill Peninsula

Haying at Recompence.

Haying at Recompence.

Finally, there was Recompence.  Our third Maine campground was utterly unique.  Recompence Shore is part of a non-profit—Wolfe’s Neck Farm—an educational show farm on a peninsula in Casco Bay near Freeport.

Wolfe's Neck Farm sheep

Wolfe’s Neck Farm sheep

The Wolfe's Neck estuary at high tide

The Wolfe’s Neck estuary at high tide

The estuary at low tide, clamming time

The estuary at low tide, clamming time

It’s not designed for large RVs, but for us it was about perfect.  The campsites form a necklace around the farm, which has sheep, cattle, hay fields, and gardens.  They have a summer camp program, which looked absolutely wonderful, kayak rentals, a farm stand with meat and produce from the farm, and a small snack hut with locally-sourced food.

The farm cattle, Belted Galloways, or oreo cows

The farm cattle, Belted Galloways, or Oreo cows 

Garden sunflowers were covered with bees

The sunflowers were covered with bees

Close up you can see the individual flowerets within  the sunflower

Close up you can see the individual florets within the sunflower

It was mostly dead calm when we went kayaking

It was mostly dead calm when we went kayaking

With birds everywhere, including these cormorants

With birds everywhere, including these cormorants.  

We loved it and hated to leave.




Belfast–Maine not Ireland

IMG_1540Belfast is a little gem of a town.  It is about a thirty-minute drive along the coast from Camden.  But, where Camden is a serene, elegant dowager, Belfast is a quirky old uncle with strange tattoos.  It is a visual smorgasbord of angles, colors, and textures.  And its nineteenth century builders and designers paid meticulous attention to the smallest details, making the ordinary something special.

Belfast bank

Belfast bank

Rooftops from harbor

Rooftops from harbor



The streets are populated by a mish mash of tourists, native Mainers, aging hippie-types, youngish hipster-types, and a few individuals with all of their belongings in shopping carts–the first homeless I’ve seen along this stretch of the coast.


The downtown winds up a hill from the harbor, which was buzzing with activity.


The boatyard was busy, plein air painters were scattered at strategic intervals around the harbor, and boats of all shapes and sizes were coming and going.



This woman was stationed over the painter's shoulder for a very long time

This woman was stationed over the painter’s shoulder for a very long time.

IMG_1537Belfast likes its colors.

I love a red tugboat.  These were almost blinding.

Brilliant, immaculate red tugs.  

Front yards that made me  stop in appreciation.

Front yards that made me stop in appreciation.

Lots of old-style painted ads on building fronts and sides

Lots of old-style painted ads on building fronts and sides

Boat repair

Even a boat repair lot was striking for its colors

And then there was the theater

And then there was the theater

There are some lovely old buildings sadly falling past the point of no repair.


The civil war memorial was striking in its brevity.  I have been reading a biography of E.B. White, who lived one peninsula over.  His mantra for writers was to omit needless words.  No wonder he loved Maine—no need of his reminder here.


When you travel, some towns just strike a chord with you.  For me, Belfast is one of those towns.



Two hikes or sweating with small stuff

Enjoying blueberries

Enjoying blueberries

The hills behind Camden are filled with hiking trails.  We have done little hiking on this trip because it has been too hot for Zoe.  Although our Alaskan girl is slowly getting used to the heat and enjoys her walks, rigorous hiking would be tough on her.  She is, after all, an old dog now.  But we hate to leave her behind.  So, George and I have been taking advantage of the safe, easily accessible trails in Camden for a bit of solo hiking.

At the beginning of my first hike, up Mount Megunticook, I became intensely homesick for Alaska.  Even the lowliest Alaskan hikes are magnificent, with expansive views, big mountains, and huge skies.  East Coast hiking consists mostly of a green tunnel under the trees.  I know it all too well because I grew up on it–lots of roots and rocks, green leaves, and mud.  Not much variety.


Rocks, roots, and a stream

After mentally grumbling for a bit, I got into the physical rhythm of the hike and started to enjoy myself.  And, unlike many New England hikes, this trail emerged from the tree tunnel to several beautiful overlooks of Penobscot Bay.  I felt better.


A bit of rock scrambling near the top


The bay

Megunticook overlook, the hill below is Mount Battie

Megunticook overlook, the hill with the road to the right is Mount Battie

It was nice to be able to hike alone and not have to worry about bears all of time.  And, on the way down, I decided to start noticing and appreciating the small stuff.  Especially the mushrooms, which were everywhere.  There is a woman at the Camden Farmer’s Market who sells Chicken in the Woods, Black Trumpets, Lobster, and Chanterelle mushrooms–all locally foraged–along with the more common varieties.   This is fungi heaven, apparently.


I doubt that this little fungus beauty is edible, but it sure would look nice in an omelet

Indian pipes

Indian pipes

Root patterns

Root patterns

Today I hiked up Mount Battie (we previously drove to the top).  The trail was busy with hikers and I realized that all the years of Alaskan hiking have paid off.  It was an easy little hike by Alaskan standards and I was feeling pretty cocky breezing right by everyone on the trail.

WWI memorial tower on Mount Battie

WWI memorial tower on Mount Battie

Then I came to a group of eight expensively clad and coiffed hikers in their forties.  They looked like country club types, which was confirmed when I got stuck behind them and heard them complain about the pool at their country club.

The women at the back of their group were walking two-abreast and I was trying to decide how best to pass them when one woman said, “Would you like to get by?”  “Yes, please.”  As they gave me room to pass, another woman laughed and said, “Oh great, we’re falling behind the geriatric tour.”

I badly wished that I had an “Alaska Girls Kick Ass” bumper sticker on my pack for them to view as I left those cows far behind.  Ha, eat my dust.  Better an old dog than a rude bitch. Maine-28

Partially chilling in Maine


We are relaxing in Maine.  We intended to head farther north to the Canadian Maritimes, but changed plans after our refrigerator’s death.  It had been ailing for months.  When we tried to get it fixed in Bend, Oregon, the truly unhelpful folks there dismissed its struggle to keep a healthy temperature as just the nature of RV refrigerators.  Their solution was to sell us a little plastic fan for its interior.  Thanks.  Soon after, the refrigerator died altogether.

Our efforts to get the fridge fixed in Massachusetts did not run smoothly, but it looks like we are making progress.  Once they finally looked at it, the service people agreed that the fridge is dead and we now are waiting for parts.  In the meantime, we are enjoying a few weeks of down time in Maine. After our frenetic month of visiting and traveling in July, we needed to slow down.

And slow down we have.  We have been doing lots of cooking and eating.  Everywhere you turn here there are organic farms, farmers’ markets, and aging back-to-the-land baby boomers.  We fit right in.

The seafood is spectacular.  We had fresh lobster, steamers, and mussels at Miller’s Lobster in Spruce Head for George’s birthday.  It is lobster molting season, which means that those with new, or soft, shells are available.  They have less meat but are supposed to be tastier.  Ours was exquisitely delicious. The view was not bad either.

Miller's is right at the dock.

Miller’s is right at the dock.

We watched the lobstermen unload their catches as we ate.

We watched the lobstermen unload their catches as we ate.

We have been staying near Camden and exploring the Penobscot Bay area.  Camden is a picture-perfect old seaport town, full of money, tourists, and quaint shops and restaurants.  It is backed by rocky bluffs—Mounts Battie and Megunticook—and faces the low islands of the Bay.

View of Mount Battie from town.

View of Mount Battie from town.

View of Camden Harbor from Mt. Battie

View of town from Mt. Battie–it was hot and hazy

Another view from Battie

Another view from Battie–not much privacy in that yard

There are meticulously-kept houses of all architectural styles, mostly from the 1800s, many with huge perennial gardens.

One of the many old inns in town

One of the many old inns in town

I loved this stone wall, with huge perfectly egg-shaped rocks lining the top

I loved this stone wall, with huge perfectly egg-shaped rocks lining the top

It's a good climate for perennials

It’s a good climate for perennials

It is molting season for the ducks and geese, as well as the lobsters.  They were gathered in the harbor, flapping their wings in the water and preening, producing clumps of down that drifted along the water.


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The harbor was full of sailboats and a mega yacht named “Grumpy.”


View from the library lawn


A beauty



A lovely old library sits above the harbor, with Edna St. Vincent Millay’s statue on the lawn behind. One of my favorite poets–she lived her early years here and in neighboring Rockland.


We are buttoning down for a thunderstorm and may have to change our grilling plans for dinner.  It is a tough life.

As long as I can roll with my stick, I'm happy

As long as I can roll with my stick, I’m happy