Category Archives: Nature

From Fried Chicken to a Golden Marsh

On Saturday, Clif and I went to Augusta, Maine’s small capital city, about ten miles from where we live. It was to be an afternoon of errands. The day was very fine—ridiculously so for Maine in mid-October—and we decided to slide in a couple of diversions to go with our errands.

First, and probably most important, we went to the Red Barn for lunch, and shared a basket of their delicious fried chicken.

Because the day was so warm and sunny, we were able to eat outside at one of the Barn’s many picnic table.  I know the chicken takes front and center stage, but you might have noticed Clif’s Hinterlands Press t-shirt in the background. (A little unplanned advertising of our very own press.) Yes, the day was warm enough to be comfortable outside in a t-shirt.  Let’s just say that the crisp days of autumn have yet to come.

After all that chicken, did we have room for dessert? We did, but not too much, and we split a whoopie pie, Maine’s official state treat. They are wicked good, that’s for sure.

Suitably fueled, we did our errands. My bruised leg is much better, and I think this is in large part due to the arnica gel I have been putting on it. (Xenia, of the blog Whippet Wisdom, suggested doing this. Many thanks!) Nevertheless, I stayed in the car for some of the errands and let Clif do the walking.

After the errands, on the drive home we stopped at a nearby marsh to get some fall pictures.

This marsh falls under the category of “looks are deceiving.” The pictures indicate that this marsh is somewhere off the beaten path, deep in the country, far from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, this marsh is along one side of a busy highway with a wide breakdown lane. A good thing, too, or else it would be impossible to safely take pictures of this beautiful wetland. Even with the relative safety of the breakdown lane, it is not a peaceful area to stop and take pictures. Whiz, whiz, whiz go the cars. Still, it is such a lovely place that I can’t resist stopping, from time to time, to take pictures of the marsh.

Although we need wild places for creatures to live, and I am a firm believer in land and water conservation, I am also grateful to have this marsh off the busy highway between Augusta and Winthrop. I see it whenever we go into town. Every season brings fresh delights to the marsh, and right now it is golden in its autumn glory. Spring and summer bring a progression of light green to dark green, and in winter there is the stark beauty of ice and snow.

In many cases, nature is not an either-or proposition. Nature is all around us, in the wilderness, in the countryside, in suburbs, even in cities. (I’ve been told that Central Park is an excellent place for bird watching.)

All we have to do is look.

 

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A Glorious October Day, But No Biking for Me

Yesterday, we got much needed rain, but today the weather has cleared. The day is warm—ridiculously so for Maine in October—and the sky is blue. A perfect day for a bike ride, except that my leg is just not up to it. My right leg, which hit the bar of my bike as I fell, still has a bruise with the circumference of a small grapefruit.  (Fortunately it doesn’t have the mass, only the width. ) I hobble. I rest. I hobble some more. I rest some more.

I am grateful that I didn’t break anything, but I feel a bit glum about not being able to go on bike rides, and I suspect I won’t be able to go on any until next spring. As soon as my leg stops hurting so much, I’ll be riding the exercise bike, that road to nowhere.

Despite my sore leg, I was able to take some pictures this morning, of the sun streaming into the woods and onto the trees. The changing leaves have not been brilliant this year—too warm, too dry?—but still they are lovely.

As the ferns change from green to tan, they light up the woods.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, I hope to get into town, with the car, of course, and take some pictures of trees by the lake.

Spring and fall are such glorious seasons in Maine. Spring has the flush of youth, and it bursts upon us in a rush, with a froth of blossoms and an oh-so tender green. Spring never stays as long as we would like as she runs headlong into summer.

Fall, on the other hand, comes in an aching blaze, and on nice days, there is such a glory of bright leaves and blue sky that you can almost forgive fall for binging the shorter days that eventually lead to cold winter. Almost.

In the fall, our thoughts turn to soup, and I have two of Farmer Kev’s butternut squashes that are begging to be made into soup. I also have some of his onions and garlic. My little garden has a frenzy of herbs, with the oregano being completely out of control.

Clif will help me chop the vegetables and herbs, and who knows? If my leg isn’t too sore, maybe I’ll even make a batch of biscuits to go with the soup. My biscuit recipe comes from my mother, who surely made the best biscuits in Maine, if not New England.

Anyway, these are all things to perk me up. I still wish I could go on a bike ride, but these fine October days, with their beauty, along with the plan for soup and biscuits, chase my glum thoughts away.

 

 

 

The Solace of the Seasons

Yesterday, the calendar flipped from September to October, and I could not have imagined a more perfect fall day. The night before, the temperature dipped to a little below 50°F, and during the day it rose to 65°F with nary a hint of humidity.

A perfect day for a bike ride by Maranacook Lake. The cloudless azure sky was a sight to behold, and the water—I know.  I see it everywhere—was Maya blue. Best of all, there were no snakes on the road, very common in Maine in the fall. I suppose the warmth attracts them.

Oh, for three or four more months of these perfect days. For the farmers and the nursery garden owners, rain at night, between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. until there is enough water to satisfy those who grow things. Then warm, sunny days for those of us who like to bike, walk, and sit on the patio. I realize that’s asking for a lot, but if I were in charge, that’s how the weather would be.

Right now, the leaves have just a hit of color, and there is still a lot of green.

Apples have begun to ripen, and I bought a small bag of Cortlands, crisp and tart, at the grocery store. My plan is to go to Lakeside Orchard and by a big bag of the beauties. That way, when I invite friends over for coffee and tea, I can serve warm, fragrant baked apples with just a touch of vanilla ice cream on top.

I’m always sorry to see the end of summer—the profusion of flowers, the nights on the patio, the warm weather for bike riding. But the apples, the blue of the sky, and the asters remind me that fall brings its own pleasures.

At night, the crickets are still singing and should continue until the cold silences them.  However the hummingbirds—those feisty yet ethereal creatures—are gone, and yesterday I took in their feeders and gave them a good scrubbing. Out the feeders will come next spring, when the cycle begins again. a cycle that is old but is never stale, always a delight, always renewing.

With all that is going on in our country, in the world, this cycle brings me great comfort.

This photo is for you, Quercus

 

 

A Sweet Sweat Bee

Busy, busy getting ready for Shannon and then Dee. But so exciting to have them here to celebrate birthdays.

Busy or not, Clif and I have still found time to go on bike rides, and today—-with its bright overcast—the light was perfect for taking pictures of flowers, especially this aster with its little visitor.

Now, back to work!

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.