Category Archives: Living in Place

Brew Well. Do Good. Have Fun.

Last night, we went to Winthrop’s very own brewery, aptly called Van der Brew. It was trivia night, sponsored by Bailey Public Library and hosted by Nick Perry, Adult Services Librarian.

The modest exterior of Van der Brew, previously a Paris Farmers Union (a farm, home and garden center) belies the good vibe of this brewery.  

But the sign’s logo says it all: Brew Well. Do Good. Have Fun.

The spirit of this logo infuses the brewery. This is from Van der Brew’s website: “Making great beer isn’t just about the brews. It’s about building community, bringing people together and supporting local businesses and organizations that make our towns great places to live, work and play.”

Yes, yes, and yes, and Van der Brew is certainly making our community a better place.

Confession time: Not to put too fine a point on it, but I am not a beer enthusiast. Instead, I am more of a cocktail girl, and Van der Brew doesn’t serve cocktails or wine—only beer and soft drinks. But Clif is a beer drinker, and the atmosphere, which encourages all ages, is so much fun that a soft drink is just fine with me.

Yesterday we arrived early to get a good table and chairs for our trivia team, the Great Library, named after my very own series of YA fiction.  Here are pictures of the interior before the crowds arrived.

And here is a picture of our fearless trivia leader, Nick, who has been leading trivia nights at various places for ten years. Go, Nick!

By the time trivia night started, the place was packed, and there were around eighteen teams. Liz, one of our team members, told me that a couple months ago, on Van der Brew’s first trivia night, there were about six teams. Clearly, the word has spread about Nick’s trivia nights at the brewery.

Along with being a fun night, donations were also taken for the library for a much-needed proposed parking lot nearby. By the end of the night, the box on the stand was filled with donations.

Also, at various times the line for beer and soft drinks was long, which meant Van der Brew also had a good night.

So how did Team Great Library do? Well, I am sorry to report that we weren’t at the top. We bombed on questions regarding sports and geography, but we did pretty well with books and movies. Big surprise! We talked ourselves out of the right answers a couple of times, which was irritating. As a result, we came in ninth, smack dab in the middle.

But we had a lot of fun, and Clif and I will return on February 14 for the next trivia night.

Many thanks, Nick, and many thanks Van der Brew for this fun event that brings our community together.

 

Living in Place

For a New Year’s resolution, Clif and I have made a plan to use our car less and thus reduce our carbon emmissions. Our intention is to cut 1,000 miles from our yearly total, which was 7,800 last year.

Because we live in a rural community with no public transportation, a car is a necessity for us.  We must drive to the grocery store, and we must travel to sell books. Nevertheless there are plenty of ways to cut back, and one way is to become more involved with our town—Winthrop—which has a fantastic library and a new brewery, both of which sponsor many events each month. (This Friday night at the brewery is trivia night. Yes, we will be there.)

Another way is to go for walks and appreciate the natural beauty of the town itself, including our very own wooded road.

Whatever the season, there is something to notice. Sometimes the trees even look back.

As we walk, the crows are always watching. I was lucky to snap a picture of these two before they flew away.

Then there are the brown leaves on the winter trees,

and the little stream that winds through the woods not far from where we live.

I call this kind of close attention “living in place,” and it seems to me that focusing on what is nearby is a kind of meditation, which, in turn, can lead to an abiding of love of where one lives—town, city, country, or suburb.

In this time of climate crisis, a love of place is of utmost importance. Because in the end, we pay attention to what we love. We nurture it. We take care of it. We don’t destroy it.

Viewed in this light, living in place might be the most important thing a person can do.

Welcome, July!

July is here, and what a beauty of a day with sun, low humidity, and a temperature that is just right, warm but not too hot. The window by my desk is open, and as I work I can smell the sweet air coming from the trees and the woods. The birds are singing, and when I look outside, I see green, green, green. Nature is calling “come outside.” Unfortunately, I must work at my desk.

June was a cool, rainy month, and while it didn’t bother me personally—I am comfortable in a broad range of temperatures, from 65°F to 82°F—it has not been good for vegetables and hay. Everything is late, late, late, and farmers are worried about how they are going to feed their animals. The fields are too saturated, and the hay can’t be cut. This sounds like an old-fashioned concern from bygone days, but Maine is a rural state blessed with farmers young and old. We have plenty of goats, sheep, cows, chickens, and horses as well as tourists. While drought is never welcomed, I do hope that July, August, and even September will bring abundant sunshine so that the hay can be cut, and the farmers can feed their animals this winter.

The perennials in my gardens are doing well, and here is the view of our front yard.  Still mostly green, with a touch of yellow. I have made my peace with having a garden with subtle colors and have even learned to love it. (But, oh, how I still drool over the gardens of some of my blogging friends. You know who you are.)

Here is a closer look at some of the yellow against, of course, a hosta.

July is the time for fledglings, young birds that are mostly grown up but still follow their parents around and depend on them, at least to some extent, for food. I have an extremely soft spot for these fledglings who are on the cusp of independence. Such a harsh, dangerous world for them, and it touches me to see how the parents tend to clamoring offspring that are no longer small.

Because we live in the woods, we have the opportunity to see the fledglings of many birds—crows, nuthatches, gold finches, to name a few. The other day, it was a woodpecker, eating from the bird feeder and then feeding the fledgling who waited patiently underneath.

Best of luck, fledgling woodpecker! May you thrive and mature to raise families of your own.

Little Visitors

The green season—our happy time—has begun. Yesterday was sunny and warm enough for us to wear t-shirts as we worked in the yard. We had tea on the patio, and we will do this every nice day until it gets too cold, probably until the end of September.

We have lots of little visitors in the backyard, and I always bring out my wee camera when we have our tea.

There are the will-o’-the- wisp hummingbirds. (I’ll keep trying for a clearer picture. Unfortunately, the light is always low during tea time.)

Since we live on the edge of the woods, we have lots of woodpeckers. I believe this one is a hairy, but birding friends, please correct me if I’m wrong. After all, how else will I learn? (My other challenge is distinguishing the house finch from the purple finch. Oh, the challenges I face.)

The flash of red of the male cardinal still delights me, and his melodious song is just as enchanting. As I have mentioned in previous posts, cardinals are a relative newcomer to Maine. My mother died eleven years ago, and she never saw one in our backyard. How thrilled Mom would have been to see them here, and I wish she had live long enough to enjoy their beauty.

Because we feed the birds, rodents abound, and as long they stay outside, I don’t have a problem with them. I must admit that I have a soft spot for chipmunks, who stuff their cheeks with seeds and other good things to eat—hence the term chipmunk cheeks for anyone who has puffy cheeks. Chipmunks are a sweet, little rodent, and they never try to come inside.

The same cannot be said for red squirrels. A kindly person might call them saucy. A more critical person might mutter about their noisy, fractious ways. I seen these little animals drive away the larger gray squirrels from the feeder. Ditto for crows and blue jays. Red squirrels don’t hold back. When Clif and I are on the patio, they frequently scold us for being in their territory.

But it’s not all fun and games on the patio. Here is another visitor that’s not quite as welcome as the others I’ve featured.

After the cool, wet spring we’ve had, these biters are out in force. However, thanks to Facebook friends, we have recently discovered All Terrain Herbal Armor Natural Insect RepellentReaders, not only is DEET-free, but it actually works. All right, you will smell like a citronella candle, but that sure beats the chemical smell of DEET. After I sprayed Herbal Armor on my arm, I watched the mosquitoes fly toward my bare arm then veer away. (The above picture was taken before I used Herbal Armor.)

So take that mosquitoes, and welcome, beautiful June. With its low humidity and warm but not hot days, June is the perfect month.

if I had superpowers, I would trade in miserable March for an extra June.

But, I don’t. This means I’ll have to squeeze every bit of pleasure out of this wonderful month.

 

 

Enter March and the Return of Snow-Gauge Clif

Today, I flipped the calendar from February to March, and I said in a grumbling voice, “Oh, boy! Here it comes.”

Long-time readers might recall how much I hate the month of March, and I know many, if not most, Mainers feel the same way. March—damp, muddy, and soggy—is such a miserable month in Maine that it deserves to be labeled a season unto itself. Potholes the size of the Grand Canyon open in our roads, and yesterday I almost lost the car in one not far from our mailbox. (Yay for the Winthrop road crew, who bravely came this morning to fill the hole. I don’t think any of the crew disappeared, never to be found.) Little kids lose their boots in the mud. Adults walk hunched over, waiting for spring. Dear blogging friends, if ever you decide to come to Maine, do not come in March.

For those who have birthdays in this month, thank goodness for you all. I salute you, even though you didn’t have any choice in the matter. You are the bright points in otherwise dismal month.

In anticipation of the March blues, I have filled the month with interesting activities—a concert, a lecture, a movie, a friend over for pizza, See’s chocolates, and—ta, dah!—an anniversary outing. Yes, Clif and I got married in the not-so-lovely month of March. What can I say?  We were both college students and getting married on our spring break seemed like the thing to do. It was the 1970s. We were more casual back then.

This first day of March brings the return of Snow-gauge Clif, who will be making weekly appearances until all the snow is gone, probably sometime in mid-April. He was such a hit last year, that we decided to bring him back.

Here is snow-gauge Clif in the front yard.

And here he is in the backyard.

Will there be more snowstorms this March? Does New York City have the best pizza? You bet there will, and one is slated for Sunday and Monday, eight inches of wet, heavy snow.

Until then, bring on the chocolates, bring on the movies!

Once More to the Frozen Lake

Yesterday, on my way to pick up the Sunday paper, I decided to swing by the lake to see if the ice-fishing village had expanded.  It had.  And although the pictures don’t indicate this, it was actually quite lively on the ice, with people calling to each other and moving between shacks.

I think this little green shack looks especially fetching as it peeks through the branches.

And this shot gives an idea as to how close to shore some of them are.

While I was taking pictures, I heard the muffled roars of far-off snowmobiles, which, as someone who cares about the environment, I know I am not supposed to like. However, as a Mainer who rode on snowmobiles when she was  young, I have a soft spot for them.

Growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, I had what is now referred to as a “free-range childhood.” When I was eight, we moved to the rural town of North Vassalboro, and I was allowed to roam the fields and woods as I wanted.

This was not unusual back then. My friends had the same freedom, and somehow we set reasonable limits on ourselves, with our range being about a mile’s radius from where we lived.

We climbed trees, we rode ponies, we picked strawberries in backfields, and in the winter, as we got older, we rode snowmobiles. My parents had a little Arctic Cat with a pull starter that was easy for me to use. And off I went, sometimes by myself, sometimes with my friends, buzzing around the countryside but again, never straying much farther than a mile so so from home. Not exactly good for the environment, but oh so much fun as the sharp air hit our faces when we went up hill, down hill, and through the woods. Then back to a warm house for hot chocolate and cookies.

Funny how a trip to a frozen lake will bring back memories.