Category Archives: Living in Place

Snow-Gauge Clif: Week 4

The fourth week of March has brought some big changes to our yard in the woods. The past few days have been warm—60°, very mild for this time of year—and sunny. The snow has shrunk to the point where it seems we are in April rather than March.

Our shady front yard still has a fair amount of snow, but it is slowly melting.

In the backyard, however, real progress has been made, and much of the snow is gone. The expression on Clif’s face indicates he can hardly believe there is so little snow in our backyard in March.

Last week, going against Tootlepedal’s wise advice to the contrary, I decided to tempt the weather gods. Grabbing the metal shovel from our dilapidated shed, I chipped ice and shoveled snow from our patio. Normally, I just let the snow and ice melt on its on, but this year I was keen to have the chairs back out so that I could sit in the sun on nice days. And, because Clif and I have not yet been vaccinated, safely have friends over from time to time.

Voilà! Snow-Gauge Clif taking a much-needed break after he was done with the exhausting work of measuring snow.

Today, the temperature rose to 60°F, which really is a heatwave for this time of year. My friend Judy came over for a visit, the first since around the holidays.

How nice it was to sit in the sun and chat with her. We were actually both a little hot.

Will the snow gods send us an early spring blizzard? Perhaps, but I sure hope not.

Stay tuned!

 

Snow-Gauge Clif: Week 3, 2021

Last week, Clif and I took a walk on a March day that was so warm I took off my jacket. Hats and gloves were optional. But this is Maine, and today, with the windchill, the temperature has dipped to 0°F.  No walks are planned for today.

Fortunately, Snow-Gauge Clif did his measuring yesterday, when the weather was less brisk. And despite the cold temp, progress has been made. The snow has gone down, and the driveway, for the first time this winter, is mostly clear of snow.

In the backyard, which gets more sun, there has been even more progress.

There are actually a few teeny tiny bare spots on the patio. (I’m thinking of cheating this year and shoveling the patio so that we can have friends over when the temp hits 50°.)

The garden emerges, and there is bare ground. Joy, joy, happy, happy!

Best of all, a closer look reveals the first green shoots of the season.

Despite the whipsaw nature of March, we are cheered by these small glimpses of Spring.

Snow-Gauge Clif: March 8, 2021

From last week to this week, the snow has barely melted. It is, after all, early March in Maine, which is much like February—still in winter’s grip with the possibility of one or two major snowstorms. The temps go well below freezing at night, and when we get up in the morning, the house is a tad below 60°. A little brisk, as we Mainers might say.

Here is Snow-Gauge Clif in the front yard.

And here he is in the backyard.

Outside our living room window, icicles hang from our shrubs.

But as we make our slow way through March, I can feel a softening. For one thing, the days are longer. It is light well before 7:00 a.m., and it doesn’t get dark until 6:00 p.m. Sheer bliss from the days of December, when the dark closed in at 4:00 p.m.

Also, perhaps most cheering of all, the birds have begun their spring songs—chickadees, tufted titmice, cardinals. How I love to hear them. The bird feeders need to be refilled frequently as the birds are coming more often than they did during the winter. Perhaps they are fortifying themselves for the hard work of starting and raising a family.

This week, the forecast is for temperatures to be in the 40s and even the 50s. A regular heatwave after the cold of February.

Am I ready? You bet I am.

As soon as the patio has a clear spot for the chairs, and the weather is consistently mild—above 40—we’ll begin having socially distanced visits again.

The Return of Snow-Gauge Clif, the First Week of March 2021

Long-time readers of Notes from the Hinterlands will know what March brings to central Maine—the return of Snow-Gauge Clif.  Each week until the snow is gone, usually sometime the end of April, my husband, Clif, will venture forth with his trusty red yard stick to record the melt rate.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but by the time March rolls around, even Mainers who like winter—guilty as charged!—are ready for the snow to melt and for spring flowers to start blooming. But in northern New England, Winter is no hurry to make way for Spring.  We just have to wait. And wait. And wait some more.

So without further ado, here is Snow-Gauge Clif, measuring the snow the first week of March 2021.  When this picture was taken, it was raining, and there was about a foot of snow on the ground.

Here is Clif in the front yard.

And then in the backyard.

We always hope the snow will be gone by April 22, which just happens to be our youngest daughter’s birthday.

  • Although I am confirmed homebody, this time of year my thoughts turn to places that are warm and free of snow. “Island in the Sun,” by Weezer, exactly captures my longing to escape March in Maine. (As I write, the rain has stopped, an Arctic wind is blowing, and the temperature, with the wind chill, approaches 20 below zero. And that’s Fahrenheit, friends. Plus we have lost our power.)

Shadows in the Backyard

Yesterday was a glorious winter day—sunny, bright, and warm with a hint that spring might be on the way. Before making soup for our supper and doing a bit of decluttering down cellar, I headed outside to see what was going on in the backyard. The weather was so warm—at least to this Mainer—that no gloves were needed. Or wanted.

Immediately, I was struck by the shadows on the snow.

The broad sweep of blue grey, in the shade, at the far end of the yard,

the wisp of a tiny evergreen tip that had fallen into the snow,

the solid square of the bird feeder favored by the cardinals,

the hook for our hummingbird feeders, tucked down cellar until late spring,

the bulky outline of trees punctuated by the slim slats of the fence at the edge of the woods,

and finally me, with a wave of my hand, to blogging friends near and far.

 

Red Tent on Ice

On Saturday, Clif and I took a walk to the Narrows Ponds to see if there was any activity on the frozen water. At 40°F, the weather was reasonably warm—for February—but as we would soon find out, a brisk wind made it feel much colder. Never mind. Clif and I are Mainers, and if we can’t stand a little nippy weather, then we don’t deserve our north-of-north status.

The Narrows Pond Road has some snow, but not as much as it often does this time of year. In February, the banks are usually much higher.

The closer we got to the Narrows, the harder the wind blew. Did I bring the half-fingered gloves so that I could more comfortably take pictures? I did not. Lulled by the balmy temperature on our house’s thermometer, I left the half-fingered gloves at home and wore regular ones. This, of course, meant I had to take off my gloves whenever I snapped a picture. As the old saying goes, we grow too soon old and too late wise.

On the Lower Narrows, there was only one ice fishing shelter—it can hardly be called a shack—and I have never seen anything like it. A smart-looking tent, the shelter gave the impression that the family had set up house on the ice and was going to stay there for rest of the weekend.

A quick look on the Internet was all it took to let me know that ice fishing tents are readily available at a range of prices. I’m not exactly sure why I’ve never noticed one before. Maybe it’s because I don’t walk on the ice anymore and therefore don’t see the variety of shelters?

Anyway, after having seen this snappy shelter on our walk, I’ll be on the lookout for others.

Today, my blogging friend Judy, from New England Garden and Thread, wrote, “I always find it interesting that there are people and houses out on the ice when you can actually see open water…”

Judy, it happens in Maine, too, and here is a broader shot that includes the open water and the red tent shelter, which is no doubt far enough away for safety’s sake. But still.

Ducks, who have no reason to fear thin ice, cluster on the edge and observe the goings-on.

Across the causeway, on the Upper Narrows, there is little open water, only a sliver by the road and culvert.

Oddly enough, there are no ice fishing shacks on this side. Just a wide expanse of snow-covered ice with two shadows watching.

 

 

 

 

The Cat Days of Winter

We refer to the hottest time of year as the dog days of summer.  However, right now in Maine, winter is at its coldest.

Frost gardens have grown on the windows.

Perhaps we can refer to this cold season as the cat days of winter?

The frigid weather has finally frozen the lakes, but there are no villages of fishing shacks as there have been in past winters. I wonder if Covid-19 has discouraged people from gathering on the ice. I miss the busy hubbub of activity that the villages bring to deep winter. This year the lakes seem so quiet.

But there is always the consolation of bare branches against a bright blue sky.  The pandemic cannot take this away.

The first blizzard of the season is blowing up the East Coast. My New York City daughter has reported that it’s snowing like crazy in Brooklyn. Soon, it will be snowing like crazy in Maine, too. A foot is predicted, but we shall see.

However, we have plenty of wood for the furnace, and our snow thrower, Little Green—with its belts repaired—is ready to go.

Time to make a white bean soup for tomorrow so that after we’re done cleaning up the snow, we will have a nice meal that can be reheated with little effort.

Winter is a lot of work, I know, and staying warm can be expensive for those of us on a tight budget. Still, I love this hunkering down time of year, when the world is cold and white on the outside and snug on the inside.

The Danish and Norwegians have a word for this notion of coziness—hygge—and I am sure many of you have heard of it. As someone who loves all things cozy, I feel as though this word, this concept, was made for me.

Essential, perhaps, for a woman who was born north of north in the lower forty-eight states, where winter can start in November and often doesn’t let up until the end of March or the beginning of April.

Taking Pictures on a Brisk Day

On Sunday, the weather was fine but very brisk, even by Maine standards. There was a wind—not a gentle one—and with the windchill it felt even colder, below zero.

Nevertheless, faithful blogging friend that I am, I headed to Marancook Lake in hopes of seeing some ice fishing shacks to photograph. I know that blogging friends who live in warmer climates are fascinated by the notion of ice fishing, which is a yearly event in Maine.

But Sunday’s cold snap aside, this winter has been warmer than average, and the lakes have been slow to freeze. Last week when I went to Lake Marancook, there were no ice fishing shacks. Taken from our local paper, here are the guidelines that prudent folks follow: “The state recommends keeping off any ice that is not at least 4 inches thick. It’s recommended that snowmobiles need at least 5 to 6 inches, and cars and small trucks need 8 to 12.”

Had the week been cold enough for the ice to freeze 4 inches thick? Would there be ice fishing shacks?

Just barely. I found two shacks rather than the lively village that is usually on the lake this time of year. In the photo below, you can just barely see them in the distance.

Here’s a closer view.

And closer still.

Those who have taken pictures in cold weather know that it is really hard to do so wearing gloves. (Perhaps there are special gloves for cold-weather photographers?) Therefore with bare stinging hands, I took these pictures, and I did not dawdle to admire the views. Snap, snap, snap, and I was back in the relative warmth of the car.

I drove home the long way around, going by the Narrows Ponds, where there were more ice fishing shacks. But there were too many cars in the small off-road parking area, and if the weather allows, I will take a walk sometime this week to see if I can get some more pictures of ice shacks.

Here’s a final picture from Sunday’s Maranacook Lake series. Just in case in anyone needs a reminder.

Stay warm all you hardy souls who live in the frozen north!

 

A January Kind of Day

Last Friday was the kind of January day that makes a Mainer glad to be alive. The sun was shining and the sky was a brilliant blue that only comes in winter. A good afternoon to be out, but as my holiday vacation is over, I had much work to do, and it therefore fell to Clif to do various errands.

“But take the camera,” I said. “And get some pictures.”

“All right,” Clif said, and off he went.

Winthrop is a town of lakes, ponds, and streams. While not an island, our town is surrounded by water, which brings life and beauty to the area. After seeing the pictures of drought from blogging friends in different parts of the world, I have come to greatly appreciate all the water we have in Winthrop.

On that beautiful sunny Friday, Clif headed to Maranacook Lake, about a mile and half from our home, in the opposite direction of the Narrows Ponds. There is a public beach, where our daughters learned to swim. There is a sweet little park with picnic tables and grills, a perfect place to sit and relax on warm sunny days.

But in January, there are no swimmers or picnickers, and the beach and park are empty.

Instead, we have sky, snow, and mostly water, some of it frozen, some not. Note: I did not fiddle with the colors at all. They are exactly as Clif took them.

In a usual winter, life on the beach and the park heads out onto the ice, where fishing shacks are set up, and hardy souls go fishing. The frozen lake becomes a village where people fish and talk and laugh and children play. While I am not into ice fishing, I always enjoy seeing the villages, a bright accent in a frozen world.

Unfortunately, there are no ice shacks on the lake. As the open water by the shore indicates, the weather just hasn’t been cold enough.

But a cold snap is coming, and February is often as brisk as January. So there might be time yet.

Clif and I will be watching.

The Weather Gods Laugh

This weekend, our friends Beth and John came over for a socially-distanced visit. The weather forecast had indicated that the temperature on both Saturday and Sunday would be in the mid-30s, which it was. Unfortunately, when Beth and John came on Saturday, there was also a brisk breeze, which made it just that much colder.

Here are Beth and John, bundled up.

With the cold, they could only stay an hour, but it sure was nice to see them. Naturally, we talked about the horrible events on Wednesday. How could we not speak of this day of infamy when it hasn’t even been a week since the mob stormed the Capitol? We are all still reeling.

Then the weather gods enjoyed having a little laugh at our expense. The weather on Sunday was still and sunny and thus felt much warmer even though it was still in the mid-30s.

A perfect day to walk down to the Upper and Lower Narrows Ponds, which are big and deep enough to be considered lakes. (I’ll write more about the Narrows in a future post.)

The sky was a brilliant blue that usually only comes in the winter in Maine. Here is a picture of a pine tree against the sky.

The lower Narrows, churned by a current that runs through a culvert under the road, still has a fair amount of open water.

Enough for a few ducks resting on a skim of ice.

The Upper Narrows, on the other hand, has a sweep of snowy ice. Friends who live on the shallow end have told me that folks have begun ice fishing.

A short walk, but a good one. So cozy to come back to a warm home, make a cup of tea, and have a nice long talk with our eldest daughter.

Technology is no substitution for seeing her in person, but it certainly is better than nothing.