Category Archives: News

Oh, My! A New Book & A Podcast in the Works

Last night the rain finally came, and what a wonderful thing to hear it dripping from the eaves. It was a perfect rain—not too driving—and I think we might have gotten at least an inch.  Rain is in the forecast for the next few days, and while I like a sunny day as much as the next person, I am grateful for the rain as we surely need it. June has been such a dry month.

Here are a couple of pictures of our rainy yard. (Or garden as my friends across the pond would say.)

Lots of green, as you can see, but as my blogging friend Quercus wisely noted, green is a color, too. Yes, it is.

I am happy to report that Clif and I rose to the strawberry challenge, which I mentioned in my previous post. That is, two quarts of very ripe strawberries that wouldn’t keep long. In two-and-a-half days, those strawberries were gone. Utterly delicious! A good example of what you can do when you put your mind to it.

July is going to be a busy month for me. In the fall, Out of Time, the third book in The Great Library Series, will be published. In the next week, I have to get details about the book to James at Bookfly Design for the cover.  As with any book, there is also lots of picky copy editing to do before Out of Time can be published.

In addition, Clif and I have been working on an exciting new project—Tales from The Other Green Door, a podcast that will air sometime in July or August. The Other Green Door is a spin-off from Out of Time, and it involves two elves, Jace Willowdale and her cousin Thirret Greenwood. They have come from New York City to Portland, Maine, to open a café called The Other Green Door. Jace and Thirret are hoping for a quiet life in this small city by the bay. But because Jace accumulates magical relics from Elferterre, a mysterious dimension, the quiet life eludes them.

Because of the book and the podcast and all the work I must do to get them ready, blog posts for the next month or two are likely to be brief, with maybe a few pictures and a few lines.

Onward, ho!

And stay tuned for the podcast cover.

 

 

 

Juneteenth and Hot Weather

In the United states, today is Juneteenth.  As someone who lives in one of the whitest states in the country, I hadn’t heard of Juneteenth until a few years ago. Here is a description from the New York Times:

On June 19, 1865, about two months after the Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox, Va., Union Gen. Gordon Granger arrived in Galveston, Texas, to inform enslaved African-Americans of their freedom and that the Civil War had ended. General Granger’s announcement put into effect the Emancipation Proclamation, which had been issued more than two and a half years earlier on Jan. 1, 1863, by President Abraham Lincoln.

The holiday received its name by combining June and 19. The day is also sometimes called “Juneteenth Independence Day,” “Freedom Day” or “Emancipation Day.”

In the days before electronic media, news traveled slowly. Hard to believe that it took two months for African-Americans in Galveston to learn that the Civil War had ended. But such was life in the mid-1800s, thus proving yet again that not everything about the good old days was good.

So happy Juneteenth! I hope all who celebrate will find a safe way to do so. In some states, it is a big day for cookouts and family reunions. (That ratty covid-19 just keeps taking.)

A little closer to home…Clif and I finally broke down and bought an air conditioner. We have lived in the woods for nearly forty years, and for most of that time, a fan in the attic pretty much did the trick. At night, when things cooled down, we would turn on the fan and all the hot air would be directed up and eventually out of the house.

But for the past ten years, summers in central Maine have become hotter and hotter. Once upon a time, our biggest worry for the Fourth of July was whether it would rain. Nowadays, it’s whether it will be such a blister of a day that we won’t be able to enjoy the yearly gathering we usually have. (Alas, not this year because of the aforementioned ratty covid-19.)

Last July we had thirteen days where the temperature was above 90° Fahrenheit. And here we are again, on June 18 with 90° weather. (We were there in May, too.) In what universe is it 90° in May and June in Maine? In this new universe of climate change, I guess.

Last August, when I went to get my hair cut, I told my hairdresser that we didn’t have air conditioning. I mentioned how hot and uncomfortable we had been in July.

My hairdresser said, “Laurie, it’s only going to get hotter as the years go by. You really should  consider buying an air conditioner.”

I agreed, and her words stuck with me.

So this year we did it. Here it is, and as Clif has noted, it looks like a maintenance droid out of Star Wars.

We decided to get a free-standing unit rather than one that goes in the window because we figured it would be easier to wheel this into a backroom and store it for the winter rather than heft a unit in and out of the window each spring and fall. It is also a heat pump and energy efficient, which means we might be using it for heat come spring and fall.

Yesterday, just in time to make us glad that we followed my hairdresser’s suggestion, I read in the Times that “Scientists Predict Scorching Temperatures to Last Through Summer.”

We will be ready with our air-conditioning droid.

 

Luck x 2=No Power Outage

As the title indicates, we were lucky yet again. The wind blew, but it did not  knock out our power.  In Central Maine, there were no widespread power outages. This storm was primarily a coastal storm, and that’s where most of the outages were. Sure hope they get their power back soon.

One thing the rain did is take away the snow. As a reminder, here is what the backyard looked like last Friday.

From a slightly different perspective, here is what the backyard looked like this morning.

In deference to the wind, I moved the chairs and set them against the house. The little glass table went downstairs. Out they will soon come.

Now, fingers crossed that Winter is really and truly gone and will allow Spring to show her pretty face. In Maine, Winter’s cold grip is long and is only released grudgingly.

But in the end, Spring always has her way.

Here Comes the Wind Again

Lately, the weather has been a little iffy, even by Maine standards. Last Thursday, we had a Nor’easter that dropped a foot to a foot and half of snow on the state. The snow was wet and heavy and caused such massive power outages that four days later, some people still don’t have electricity.

Now, a rain and wind storm is ripping up the Eastern Seaboard from the South. The forecast is for wind gusts up to fifty miles an hour, which will bring—wait for it—more power outages. Sigh.

By some miracle, we did not lose our power last Thursday. Can we have such luck twice? I am not counting on it, and I have been getting ready—lots of water water set aside, laundry done, the house well heated. The usual.

Yesterday, I made bread. That way, if the power goes out, we’ll have the consolation of fresh bread.

To put a hectic spin on things, two days ago, Clif slipped on the snow, fell, and sprained his ankle. It’s not a bad sprain, and the fall certainly could have been worse. Much worse. But he is hobbling around the house and can’t do much to help get ready.

Therefore, this will not be my usual Monday post with news about the pandemic posted at the end. Instead, a brief one as I have more to do to get ready for the wind and the rain.

Onward and upward! See you on the other side.

 

Something Approaching Normal

Slowly, slowly, my schedule is returning to something approaching normal.  I have resumed posting three times a week and am working on Book Four of the Great Library Series. (No title yet. It might be Library Regained. It might be something else. It all depends on how many Maya books I write.)

It helps that spring has come to our home in the woods. Yesterday, Clif and I put on our jackets and had tea on the patio. The temperature was 50°, but it felt fine to be sitting there.

Sherlock joined us. That chair was set out especially for him. Unfortunately, it seems that felines can contract covid-19. Even though we live in the woods, we do have neighbors, and we might have to keep the cats in this summer. Blogging friends, any thoughts about this?

On a happier note, there are lots of green shoots in the garden.

And I  was able to get a picture of this handsome goldfinch, whose feathers are returning to summer yellow.

But sadness is never very far away. As we sat and had tea, I thought of our daughter in Brooklyn who is confined to a small apartment that is somewhere between 500 to 600 square feet. Dee hasn’t been outside for two weeks or so. She doesn’t complain—that is not her way—but when I asked her how she was doing, Dee did mention that she wished she had a small yard so that she could go out on nice days.

What I wish is that Dee were right here with us, and then she could join us on the patio and watch the fluttering beauties that come to our yard.

Alas, the time for that has passed, and Dee will have to hunker down in her small apartment until the worst is over.

 

Coronavirus News from Maine

From my very own town of Winthrop

Charlie Gove, 90, continues to volunteer at the Food Pantry.  For over 14 years, I volunteered with this fine man. If you click on the link, it will take you to the Facebook page with the article. If you click on the article, it will enlarge, and you will be able to read the piece.

From Maine CDC

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 499

Deaths in Maine from Covid-19: 10

The News from All Over

From Mother Nature Network

This piece by Christian Controneo about greenhouse gases surely falls under the category of it’s an ill wind that blows no good.

We’re poised to see carbon dioxide emissions plummet to levels last experienced around World War II. That’s according to the Global Carbon Project, a network of emissions experts, earth scientists and economists, that tracks greenhouse gasses and advises policymakers on the issue.

From Dr. Sanjay Gupta

Another bit of good news.

As the US heads towards the peak, Europe’s numbers offer some hope. Fatalities and infections seem to be slowing in Italy, Spain and France, among the hardest-hit countries on the continent — and in the world.

And wise words from Queen Elizabeth

I hope in the years to come everyone will be able to take pride in how they responded to this challenge.

The Latest Numbers

Global Cases: 1,280,046

Global Deaths69,789

My own take: Queen Elizabeth knows a thing or two about how a country can suffer. I am specifically thinking about World War II and her own exemplary service, in which she should take a great deal of pride.

There Is No Them, Only Us

I am a fifth-generation Mainer on my mother’s side, descended from French Canadians who came to Maine in the mid-1800s. Many of them had dark hair and olive complexions. They were all Catholic and spoke French. (My own mother did not speak English until she was six.) My ancestors were part of a larger French-Canadian migration that spread out through New England as well as to other parts of the country.

I would like to be able to report that these hard-working French Canadians were eagerly welcomed to Maine, but I cannot. Our story is a sad familiar story of prejudice and discrimination. In 1889, according to the British-American Citizen (Boston), we were  considered to be “a distinct alien race.”

This xenophobic attitude continued to trickle down even to the 1960s. As a small child, I was keenly aware of an “us vs. them” attitude in Maine, with we Franco-Americans being “them,” and the Yankee population being “us.” It was understood that “them” did not really belong in Maine, while “us” somehow had a magical right to be here.

Merriam-Webster defines xenophobia as “fear and hatred of strangers or foreigners or of anything that is strange or foreign.” Because of my experience, I have an intense aversion to anything that smacks of xenophobia.

For example, this incident on Vinalhaven, an island off the Maine coast, where according to the Kennebec Journal,

an armed group of residents cut down a tree to block access to a road to keep three people from leaving their home on Cripple Creek Road.

Deputies investigated and learned there was a general belief by some island residents that the Cripple Creek residents were supposed to be quarantined because they came here from another state and could have COVID-19.

Deputies learned that the trio had been residing on Vinalhaven for about 30 days, which is outside of the guidance issued by state officials, and none have any symptoms consistent with the coronavirus.

Uh-huh.

And then on Facebook, an acquaintance shared this gem: “STAY HOME…Do Not Come to Maine. It’s just Not Fair. Go back where you came from and kill your Own People!”

As it happens, three of my “own people” live out of state.

While I completely agree that folks should hunker down and stay in place, I so object to the wording of the above sentiment. I made this clear to the person who shared it. Unfortunately, as is so often the case on Facebook, that person was unrepentant.

As the coronavirus rips around the world, hitting country after country, the high and mighty and the low, it is clear to me there is no them.

Only us.

 

Coronavirus News from Maine

From Maine CDC

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 275

Deaths in Maine from Covid-19: 3

The News from All Over

From Mother Nature Network

Does it seem like time has slowed to a crawl since you’ve been holed up in your apartment, riding out this pandemic? Well, time marches on all right — to the same beat it’s always kept. But these days, your brain may be processing time a little differently. In fact, according to David Eagleman, one of the world’s foremost neuroscientists, your brain tends to slow things down when you’re under extreme stress.

From CNN

“Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won.” President Donald Trump, who repeatedly suggested last week that a win was near, announced yesterday that nationwide social distancing measures would be extended for another month, days after floating the possibility of getting Americans back to work as early as Easter (which is when deaths are currently projected to peak).

The Latest Numbers

Global Cases: 732,153

Global Deaths: 34,686

My take: I’ve already written enough.

Waste Not, Want Not

Even before the coronavirus struck—when I could go to the grocery store without fear of contracting COVID-19—I was mindful about food waste. I tried very hard to use all the food we had before it went bad. However, if I’m going to be honest, I have to admit I was not always successful. (Remember what Yoda said about try.)

Mostly it was because I’m not very organized. Some people have a lazer-like focus when it comes to keeping track of what’s in the cupboard and the refrigerator. I am not one of those people. Sometimes food in containers would get pushed to the back of the refrigerator, and when I finally opened them, I would recoil in horror at what I saw. The last few slices of bread would get tucked behind the brand new loaf, and green grew the mold.

But a pandemic has a way of focusing the mind, and now I am absolutely focused on every bit of food that is in the cupboard and refrigerator.  I want to put off going to the grocery store for as long as possible, and I don’t want to waste any of the precious food we have.

This picture tells the story of my old ways.

I bought these rosemary crackers last summer. The fresh date is August 2019, and they were 50% off. I had never had Carr’s rosemary crackers, but I have had other Carr’s crackers and have liked them a lot.  I also like the taste of rosemary. Because the crackers were on sale, I bought several boxes, probably not a wise thing to do if you have never tasted a particular kind of cracker.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. These are probably my least favorite of Carr’s crackers. I don’t hate them, but I certainly don’t love them either. We did go through two boxes, but the box above languished in the back of our closet pantry.

Until last week. When I was going through our food, I found the box and put it in the front of our food cupboard. Yesterday I had some of the crackers with some leftover cheese.

Believe it or not, the crackers are still crisp and are not stale at all. If they had been stale, I would have used a trick I learned from Clif’s mother, who grew up during the Great Depression: Put the crackers on a cookie sheet and bake them at 350° until they are crisp again.

I will be having the crackers again today for my lunch, and even though I’m still not wild about them, I will repeat the process until they are gone.

I am truly sorry that it took a pandemic to make me more mindful about wasting food, and I hope it’s a lesson I don’t forget when this terrible time has passed.

Coronavirus News from Maine

From centralmaine.com:

The Legislature approved a supplemental budget package worth about $76 million Tuesday, with funding earmarked to help the state respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

The package includes funding for the Maine Centers for Disease Control to beef up its workforce, increased rate reimbursements for those working in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, additional funding for adult education programs and job training, and another $38 million for the state’s public schools.

And perhaps most important:

The bill also expands eligibility for unemployment benefits for workers impacted by the virus, while also eliminating the one-week waiting period for benefits to start.

From Maine CDC:

Maine’s number of cases of the coronavirus: 43

From NBC:

Gov. Janet Mills issued an Executive Order Wednesday mandating a statewide ban on dine-in service at restaurants and bars, as well as a ban on gatherings of 10 or more people effective Wednesday at 6 p.m.

 

 

 

From Our Small Corner in Maine

Normally, I publish three posts a week, with one of them being a photo for wordless Wednesday. But these are not normal times, and for a while, at least, I will be publishing more posts than usual. This will help me make sense of things in my small corner of the world and leave some kind of record of what we did and what we thought. It won’t be complete, of course. No one record ever is. But it will be my contribution to these extraordinary times.

As of this date—March 17, 2020—President Trump is finally taking the novel coronavirus seriously. It took him a very long time to figure out that he couldn’t bully the virus into submission. The virus doesn’t give a hoot about President Trump. It will go where it can and infect the powerful as well as the weak. Now, let us hope that President Trump actually does something useful. There’s talk of a stimulus package, and I’m praying that some of the money will go to people who really need it as opposed to all the usual rich suspects.

Maine is fortunate to have a strong, smart woman—Janet Mills—for governor. Today, according to NBC News, she “has requested that the Small Business Administration help Maine small businesses get supportive loans to overcome the loss of revenue during the COVID-19 concern….Additionally, Mills sent emergency legislation that would temporarily extend eligibility to unemployment to workers that have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.”

In Maine, as of today, thirty-two people have tested positive for Covid-19, and three are in the hospital. So far no reports of death, and may it stay that way.

Our children are well. (Picture me knocking furiously on wood.) Dee, who lives in New York City, is working from home and can do so indefinitely. Shannon and Mike, who live in Asheville, North Carolina. Tomorrow, Shannon will begin working from home, and Mike will, too, unless he is considered a mandatory employee.

Clif and I have been staying safe and sound in our own snug home, and so far, at least, life isn’t really that different for us than it usually is. We are both introverts and homebodies. Even in normal circumstances, most of our time is spent at home. We cook almost every meal that we eat, so we can’t even say we miss going to restaurants. Although we are introverts, we do miss getting together with our friends, and I have been staying in touch electronically, through messages and phone calls.

While we are well supplied with food and toilet, I have found that there are some things I didn’t think of. For example, the Sunday newspaper to read and then to use as a starter for our wood furnace. As a result, we have been scrounging various sources of paper.

But yesterday I looked outside and saw a solution from nature—pine cones scattered throughout our backyard.

Out I went to gather them.

Clif used some pine cones this morning, and he said they worked really well. Because of the pine cones, Clif didn’t have to use nearly as much paper as he usually does to start the fire.

A moment of triumph for me. I spent a happy hour in the backyard in weather that was brisk but pleasant. The yard is mostly free from pine cones, and they have been put to good use.

What have you been doing in this time of the novel coronavirus?

 

March Giveaway: Two Free E-books from Our Very Own Hinterlands Press

Let’s face it: What with the coronavirus and politics, it has been a rough month. To help you stay home and out of harm’s way, for the next five days—starting on March 10 and ending March 14—we are offering two of our e-books free of charge from Amazon. The books are my YA fantasy novels, Maya and the Book of Everything and Library Lost.

Plucky fifteen-year-old Maya, who travels across the universe with a Book of Everything, might just take your mind off your earthly troubles. Enjoy, stay safe, and be well. Here is the link to the ebooks on Amazon.

Due to Amazon rules, we can offer this for only five days. So act now, and please share this with anyone who might be interested.

Brooding about Politics and Coronavirus

“It appears we are in the chaos that churns in between more stable eras.”  –Heather Cox Richardson

As an American, I know I have a cheerful reputation to maintain, especially for my blogging friends across the pond. And mostly I am pretty cheerful, no small thing for someone who worries. A lot. But there you are—we all have contradictions, and for the most part, I am a worried optimist.

However, lately events have come together to leave me completely frazzled, worn out. First and foremost, there is politics. Between the Democratic primaries and Trump’s responses, everything is on full screech. What got us to this point has been building over the years and isn’t likely to go away soon, but how I wish this country would regain its footing. Everything feels off-kilter to me, off balance. And oh so ugly.

Therefore, when something like, say, the Coronavirus comes along, it makes everything feel even more unbalanced. I know. The virus isn’t supposed to be that bad, no worse than a usual cold or a mild case of the flu, at least for most people. (Some people have indeed died from it.)

But do I have any faith in the leadership at the top to steer us safely through what will more than likely be a pandemic, however mild it might be? No, I don’t. So I do what I can on a small scale. I have a nice stockpile of supplies, and because I am someone who is, ahem, more than a little food obsessed, this makes me feel secure. Dry milk, cereal, canned pineapple? Check. Green lentils, plenty of chocolate, and eggs? Ditto. If things go to heck in a hand-basket—and I sure hope they don’t—we are well stocked. If things don’t go to heck in a hand-basket, then I won’t have to go grocery shopping for quite a while. No harm in that.

Along with having plenty of food, I also live in a beautiful place. For me, the Maine landscape always provide great solace—the blue of the sky, the trees in every season, even when the branches are bare, the hushed feeling of the winter-white woods, the lush green ferns. Every season brings something different. All I have to do is look out my windows to see it.

So I’ll end with a picture of a tree by the town’s public beach, about a mile from our house. Right now, the tree is stark against the sky, but soon spring will come, and with it buds. Then green leaves to provide shade in the summer followed by a glorious burst of fall colors. The leaves drop, and we are back to dark branches against blue sky. A lovely cycle to console me.