Category Archives: Nature

High Summer in Maine

The end of July and the beginning of August is a very sweet time in Maine, and this year, with its warm days and cool nights, has been even sweeter than usual. It feels like an old-fashioned Maine summer, a welcome relief from the past few years where it has been blisteringly hot during July and August.

Clif and I have been soaking up this fine weather. On Friday, our friends Alice and Joel came over for drinks and appetizers on the patio. There were bike rides on Saturday and Sunday. We still don’t go far, but we figure it is better to go eight miles a ride rather than no miles a ride, and we feel as though we are gaining strength.

On Sunday, our friends Dawna and Jim invited us and another couple over for dinner. Dawna and Jim have a lovely home by the Upper Narrows Pond, which truly is large enough to pass as a lake. The Upper Narrows is no farm pond.

The food was terrific.

As was the view.

The company and conversation were, of course, superb.

I wish I could bottle these days and release them during the drear days of late February and March, when everything seems to be gray drizzle and hard, dirty snow.

Away with those thoughts! August, buzzing August, is just around the corner, and Clif and I intend to squeeze every bit of delight that we can out of this lovely month.

Why, on a recent ride down a back road, I even came up with a haiku in honor of this best time of year.

Queen Anne’s lace in bloom
White ducks waddling on green grass
High summer in Maine

Welcome, welcome, high summer!

You Might as Well Jump

For six days of the week, Clif and I eat a healthy, plant-based diet that includes plenty of fresh fruit, legumes, and salads. However, on the seventh day, we rest and eat what we want. We find that a regular splurge once a week keeps us on the straight and narrow the rest of the time.

This week, our splurge was at the incomparable Red Barn, where the fried food is so fresh and so reasonably priced that it has almost become a landmark in central Maine. All right.  Maybe I’m exaggerating just a little bit, but I’m not kidding about the quality of the food and the prices. For a treat, the Red Barn is the place to go.

On Saturday’s trip to the Red Barn, we had mixed veggies—I guess we can’t totally get away from our plant-based diet—and homemade chips. Oh my, they were good.

The place was packed. All the tables were taken, and we had to sit on stools at the long counter in the new addition.

A woman who worked there was wiping the counter, and I asked her, “Is there any time when the Red Barn isn’t packed?”

“Not in the summer, ” she said. “It’s like this all the time.”

And why not? For the veggies, the chips, a drink that we shared, and a whoopie pie we split, the bill came to $11. Plus this is a very local business that pays its employees well. What’s not to like?

While we ate, it rained. The counter where we sat runs below a long bank of windows overlooking the parking lot, and we watched people hurry back and forth from their cars. Trees line the edge of the parking lot, and we saw two small birds—we couldn’t tell what they were from that distance—harass a crow.

By the time we were done eating, the rain had stopped, and we decided to go to Hallowell, to the long concrete deck by the Kennebec River, to see if the sturgeons were jumping.

Sturgeons are a fish that has been around since prehistoric times, and they do indeed look like ancient ones. They are an endangered species, but but according the website Maine Rivers. “the Kennebec River has some of the best habitat for sturgeon in Maine. When Edwards Dam was removed…the sturgeon regained access to their full historic range on the river. In time, these spawning grounds may help the fish to recover. ”

In late June, early July, the sturgeons spawn and jump. Did they jump for us? They did not. All we saw was were some big ripples and an occasional flash of white. But no leaping prehistoric-looking fish.

For some great pictures of jumping sturgeons, here’s a link to a website by Linwood Riggs, a Maine photographer.

And to the sturgeons, here’s a song for you, a blast from the 1980s by Van Halen.

Yeah, sturgeons, you might as well jump.

 

 

Turtle Dreams

Yesterday’s bike ride seemed as though it would be a bust. The air was so heavy and humid that my chest felt constricted. And then there was the heat, which could only be called oppressive.

“Let’s go on a short ride,” I said, and Clif concurred.

We were both disappointed as we are trying to build strength to go on longer rides. But  neither of us had the stamina to tackle hills in the face of such heat and humidity.

“No matter,” Clif said. “There will be other days.”

On our rides, I almost always bring my camera. (One of the benefits of having a small camera is that it can be tucked into a bike bag.)  Much of our ride goes by Maranacook Lake, and you never know what you are going to see: Herons, loons, ducks, geese.

And turtles. We were almost back to the parking lot when I spotted this turtle, resting on a rock. This is a painted turtle, I think, but if anyone knows otherwise, don’t be afraid to comment.

What dreams go through the turtle’s head, I wonder? Dark water, food, finding a mate, avoiding danger? The lives of wild animals are often hard, yet there are moments of relative peace, as this resting turtle shows.

For this human, yesterday’s bike ride was a good lesson—even on a short excursion there is plenty to notice.

What a Day for a Bike Ride

Despite what the calendar might say, summer is here. The leaves are deep green and mature, and the heat has come. While I enjoy summer, I am always sorry to see sweet spring depart in such a rush. Stay, stay a little longer, I always wish, but of course she never does.

On Saturday, summer’s arrival was more than evident. The day was sunny and warm—perfect for a bike ride. We decided to extend our ride from eight to twelve miles, with a mile of it being steady uphill all the way.

Clif packed our bikes on the car,

and  we headed to the parking lot by the public beach.

We pedaled from Winthrop to Readfield, the town next to us,

where we moved from lake views to prospects of fields and a mountain.  How lucky we are to live in such a lovely, rural place with  many fine places to ride a bike.

On the way back, it was downhill for a good part of the way. My bike tires hummed on the road, the wind blew across my face, and I could smell the warm grass of the fields and the cool balsam of the woods. Finally, we were back to the water.

At the beginning of May, I decided the time had come to get back in shape. For various reasons—chiefly, working on my novel Maya and the Book of Everything—I had let exercise slip by the wayside. At my age, it is never a good thing to do this, and I felt flabby and weak. So I went on the exercise bike, the road to nowhere, six days a week.

And now, in the middle of June, I see the payoff. I am not as strong as I want to be, but my oh my the progress I’ve made since the beginning of May. Very heartening.

Onward and Onward!

The Velocity of Spring and the Easiest Soup Ever

In northern New England, spring always drags her pretty heels until suddenly she bursts upon us in all her glory. This year, however, the burst seems to have come at lightening speed.

Here is the picture I took on Monday, April 3, to toast my blog-friends Derrick and Jackie.

Here is a picture I took on Wednesday, April 19, a little over two weeks later.

Even by Maine standards this is fast, fast, fast, and I just can’t get over the velocity with which spring has come this year.

The male goldfinches have begun to turn bright yellow, the phoebes are singing their  “fee-bee, fee-bee” song, and my perennials are poking their bright green leaves up from the cold dirt.

Tra-la, tra-la! Spring is here, and even though yesterday and today have been chilly and rainy, I know that winter is firmly behind us.

Time to remove the leaves from the front garden beds (me). Time to rake the yard and clean up the sand by the edge of the road (Clif).

Because of the chilly weather—very common in Maine in the spring—for supper last night I had soup in mind, specifically a curried chickpea and cauliflower soup.

I poked around  the Internet,  and using suggestions from various recipes, I came up with the easiest, tastiest soup I have ever made. And I mean ever. This is chiefly due to using cans of diced tomatoes with green chilies. Spiced with onion and garlic as well as green chilies, these canned tomatoes are so flavorful that they make an excellent albeit spicy base for a soup, and no additional onion or garlic are required.

Add chickpeas, cauliflower, and a few other spices. Let the soup bubble and violà! You will have a spicy, satisfying soup for a cool spring day. Broiled toast with olive oil and grated cheese makes a fine accompaniment.

In fact, who could ask for anything more?

Curried Chickpea and Cauliflower Soup

Makes 6 generous servings

Ingredients

  • 2 (14.5) ounce cans of diced tomatoes with mild green chilies
  • 2 cans of water, using the chili cans
  • 2 (15,5) ounce cans of chickpeas, drained
  • 2 cups of cauliflower, cut small. (Add more or less, depending on how thick with ingredients you like your soup.)
  • 1 teaspoon of curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon of coriander
  • Salt and pepper to taste. (I added neither.)
  • Splash of milk, optional

Directions

  1.  Put all the ingredients into a slow-cooker.
  2. Cook on high for three or four hours. On low for about eight hours.
  3. When the cauliflower is tender, the soup is done.
  4. Near the end, add the splash of milk—coconut would be lovely—but this is optional.
  5. See what I mean about this being the easiest soup ever?

Around the Yard: Friday, April 14, 2017

Spring, spring is here. This morning, I grabbed my wee wonder of a camera and headed outside. The weather was so warm and sunny that I didn’t even need to wear a jacket.

Now, readers in warmer places might not be impressed by my yard, but to me it is a glorious sight to behold. In the shady front yard, the snow is melting nicely.

A closer look.

In the backyard, it is even better, with just a few patches of snow close to the house.

I sat down for a few minutes to enjoy the birds, the sun, the red buds, and the squirrels.

I hated to go inside and sit at my desk, but there was work to do.

However later on, I’ll be be back outside, cleaning the back garden, feeling the sun, and listening to the birds.

There might even be drinks on the patio.