Category Archives: Snow-Gauge Clif

An Anniversary Weekend and Snow-Gauge Clif

Our Anniversary

Last Saturday counted as an action-packed day for two homebodies who can be found most days at their house on the edge of the woods. It was our forty-sixth wedding anniversary, and as is our wont, we planned a day of simple pleasures that revolved around food.

First, breakfast. I made a batch of vegan chocolate muffins from my own recipe, one that I have come to be inordinately proud of. With them, we had veggie sausages. A good start to the day.

For lunch we headed to Augusta to the Red Barn, which specializes in fried food. Both Clif and I are crazy about fried food, but for obvious health reasons, we seldom have it.  But for our anniversary we figured, what the heck, and we threw caution to the wind. We brought our own dairy-free ranch dressing for reasons I’ll explain later. The food—piping hot mixed veggies—were oh so good.

Then it was off to our local supermarket to pick up nondairy cream cheese for a taste test comparison. Clif is lactose intolerant and not just a little bit. Because of this, we are always on the lookout for nondairy alternatives to food we love. Time was when supermarkets in central Maine did not offer much in the way of dairy-free products, but that is changing. On Saturday we found two cream cheese alternatives to go with crackers and drinks in late afternoon.

I am sorry to report that neither of the cream cheeses came through with flying colors. Vevan, the one on the left, had a muddy taste where the flavors were jumbled but nothing stood out, and the Kitehill, while marginally better, had a strange undertaste. Readers, if any of you have nondairy cream cheese recommendations, I’d love to hear about them.

Fortunately, we had better results with dessert. We’ve had this before, so we knew what were getting. The “So Delicious” on the carton is no exaggeration. This frozen dessert is one of the most delicious I have ever tasted, and that includes dairy ice cream. It is smooth, rich, creamy, and filled with chunks of cashews and chocolate. Who could ask for anything more? Its one drawback is the price—$5 for a quart. But since it was our anniversary, we figured we could splurge. Besides, $2.50 apiece for a dessert for a special day isn’t so very bad, and it was worth every penny.


Snow-Gauge Clif

Today is the vernal equinox, and even in central Maine, we are seeing signs that spring just might be coming. I’ve heard the spring songs of cardinals and chickadees.

However, in our shady yard, the snow is still pretty high.

Here is Clif in the front yard.

And here he is in the backyard.

Still a ways to go before we are snow free.



While my favorite genres of music are Alternative Rock and Folk Rock, I am also very keen on Baroque Music. I know, I know. Quite a spread there. When I work on my fiction, I always listen to Baroque music, and I’m particularly fond of Vivaldi.

So on this vernal equinox, here is a farewell to winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons: Winter. In Maine, we still might have a snowstorm or two, but we are definitely heading toward spring.

Septic System Problems, Snow-Gauge Clif & and a Review of Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.
—Joni Mitchell

The past two weeks have been hard ones. First we lost our beloved cat, dear little Ms. Watson. Then, our septic system decided to stop working—toilets wouldn’t flush, and showers wouldn’t drain. As I’m sure readers can imagine, this was no fun at all.

Being Mainers, we tried to fix the problem ourselves. Clif used his trusty plumbing snake to see if he could find a clog. He couldn’t, and we set up a camping toilet in the big bathroom. We used a dishpan for washing up, dumping the water into a bucket and then emptying the soapy water outside. (In the summer, when we haven’t had rain for a while, I sometimes use the gray water on my perennials.) So we had a system, albeit a primitive one.

Eventually, Clif gave up and decided to call the plumbers. I am happy to report that they came came swiftly as did the folks who pumped our septic tank. Finally, after the second time the plumbers came, they found the problem, and with their much larger plumbing snake, they were able to dislodge a big clog that Clif had mistakenly thought was the edge of our septic system.

I thanked the plumbers profusely as they packed up their truck to go off to help someone else with a problem. Smiling, they indicated it was all in a day’s work. For them, I suppose it was. For us, it was something akin to salvation.

Now, the toilets flush, the shower drains, and life is back to  normal. The quotation at the beginning of this piece sums up how Clif and I felt about the situation.

Joni got it exactly right.


Plumbing problems or not, Clif was out with his trusty snow gauge to measure the snow.

Here he is in the front yard by the driveway and then on the walkway leading to the front door.

Over the past week, the weather has been warm and sunny, and the snow has actually gone down a bit. Here are last week’s pictures for comparison.

And here is Clif in the backyard.

Again, last week.

The path to the compost bin was actually muddy this week, and I had to step carefully so as not to lose my Sloggers. In Maine, this counts as progress, but up the East Coast, a nor’easter is blowing, and tomorrow’s forecast is for another foot of snow.

Dang! Snow-gauge Clif and I are ready for the snow to melt, not to accumulate.



Small Things Like These by Claire Keegan

Note: There are moderate spoilers in this review.

With its spare, beautiful writing, this gem of a short novel—set in the 1980s—is nearly perfect. In the Irish town of New Ross, Christmas is coming. Bill Furlong, a coal and timber merchant, works long hours to ensure his customers have enough fuel to stay warm over the holidays. At home, his wife Eileen and their five daughters bustle to get ready for Christmas. In her own way, Eileen is as busy as Bill is. I’m guessing many women will identify with Eileen and the hard work of getting ready for Christmas. I know I did.

While making deliveries, Bill reflects on his life as an illegitimate child raised by a single mother who worked as a domestic servant for “Mrs. Wilson the Protestant widow who lived in the big house a few miles outside town.” Mrs. Wilson, frugal but kindhearted, provided Bill and his mother with a warm, stable home and even helped Bill as an adult. Fortunately, in New Ross, there is little antagonism between Catholics and Protestants.

There is, however, a convent in New Ross where on one side is a school and the other side a home for unwed mothers. The convent, in many ways, is important to the economy of the town and especially to Bill, whose daughters go to school there.

In a tense, heartbreaking way, Bill’s reflections of his childhood converge with bringing coal to the convent and what he discovers. Then Bill must must make a decision that will reverberate with his family for years to come.

I’ll certainly  be reading more of Claire Keegan and have ordered Foster through interlibrary loan.


Snow-Gauge Clif & Book Review: Our Spoons Came from Woolworths

During the past week, we had three snowstorms, and the last one, on Saturday, was a corkah as we Mainers would say. Clif measured thirteen inches with his snow gauge, and the snow was wet, heavy, and hard to move. Our electric snow-thrower, Snow-Joe, just barely managed, and I did a fair amount of shoveling. Nature’s gym, as I like to call it.

Here is a picture or our car before we cleaned the driveway. Only a sliver of red shows through the snow.

More red in the snow as Mr. Cardinal comes to the feeder.

Now, on to Snow-Gauge Clif, who stood in a different place so that readers could see the tunnel that is our path to the front door.

Here he is in his usual place in the driveway.

And in the backyard.

It’s funny to think how in January there was so little snow that we were worried Snow-Gauge Clif would be out of a job this year. But Mother Nature said, “Not so fast,” and we now have snow aplenty. Good for the water table and the plants, but I think we have enough snow. I hope Mother Nature agrees.


I want to thank everyone for the notes of sympathy I received in the comment section of my post about little Ms. Watson. I really do appreciate it as did the rest of the family. A lovely example of how kind words of support really do matter.



Our Spoons Came from Woolworths by Barbara Comyns

Note: There are moderate spoilers in this review.

Recently I have begun following a wonderful blog called JacquiWine’s Journal, which is mostly about books and a little about wine. For a book nerd like me, this blog is sheer delight. Jacqui especially likes novels from the mid-twentieth century, and so do I, particularly if the writers were women. These novel chart the ways women’s lives have changed over the twentieth century, and much of it is for the better. In one book I read, Elizabeth Jane Howard’s The Beautiful Visit—set in the early 1900s—a young girl’s parents forbid her from becoming a librarian because it doesn’t seem genteel enough to them.

Jacqui has introduced me to many good writers, and one of them is Barbara Comyns. Our Spoons came from Woolworths is a harrowing novel of living in poverty in the 1930s in England. The novel has autobiographical elements, and it follows the marriage of Charles and Sophia. Charles is a painter, and, among other things, Sophia works as a painting model.

A more hapless couple you will never meet. Charles thinks only of his painting and cares about little else. Sophia is innocent in most every way, including on how babies are conceived. As a result, Charles and Sophia live in terrible poverty, just barely scraping by. Not surprisingly, Sophia becomes pregnant, and there’s a harrowing scene of labor and delivery in a hospital where poor women go to have their babies. The woman are marched, literally, through the system and are left in their bloody shifts for far too long. In short, there is little tenderness, and the care is  minimal.

Sophia’s fortunes improve because of an inheritance, but once that is gone, life becomes even worse.

Our Spoons Came from Woolworths is a gripping read. Sophia’s voice is plain, steady, compelling. Through it all my sympathies were with her, despite her poor judgement. For her selfish husband, Charles? Zero.

The end is a bit like a fairy tale, but I have to admit it comes as a relief.


Winter 2023: The Return of Snow-Gauge Clif

This is the time of year that longtime Hinterland readers all around the world have been looking forward to—the return of Snow-Gauge Clif. Beginning on March 1 and then on subsequent Mondays, Clif will be out there with his trusty snow gauge—really a yardstick—to record the rate of melting snow. (Even in Maine it eventually melts.) Clif will do this until the snow is gone, usually sometime in mid-April.

So here, on March 1, 2023, is Snow-Gauge Clif in the front yard.

And here he is in the backyard.

And here are few more snowy pictures. Last night, we had a storm that gave us about eight inches of light, fluffy snow. Easy to clean, pretty to look at.

First the backyard.

And then a picture of our house nestled in the snow by the edge of the woods.

In Maine, winter isn’t over yet. Not by a long shot.

Snow-Gauge Clif: The Party’s Over

In Maine, winter seems to be over. For this lifelong Mainer, it is nothing short of astonishing that the snow is mostly gone by the end of March. As I have written previously, in winters past, we always hoped the snow would be gone by the end of April for my daughter’s birthday, and we could celebrate on the patio. Some years we did; other years we didn’t.

However, here we are in this age of climate change, when spring in Maine starts a month earlier, and fall starts a month later. Do I like this? Of course I do. We still have plenty of winter and cold in Maine. Nevertheless, the change is disconcerting. Also, not a good sign about how the planet is warming.

But let us turn to Snow-Gauge Clif. Because of the early spring, this will be his last week this season with his trusty snow gauge.

Here are photos from the front yard, where there are only tiny patches of snow left.

The backyard is no different.

Farewell, Snow-Gauge Clif, until next winter when I think we might start measuring the middle of February rather than the beginning of March.


Long-time readers know that I am working on Book Four of my Great Library Series—the working title is Of Time and Magic. On Saturday, I reached 70,000 words with 30,000 or so to go to finish the novel. Alas, the cover’s deadline is looming, and my plan (hope!) is to have the writing done by May. I know. That’s 6,000 words a week. Doable, but a big push.  Therefore, until Of Time and Magic is done, I will be cutting back to one simple blog post a week, which, with a few pictures and and minimal writing, will probably chronicle spring in Maine.

Friday Favorites will be put on hold until Of Time and Magic is finished. Although I enjoy sharing blogging posts from friends as well as books, movies, and music that have caught my fancy, the posts are more work than you might think.

So onward, ho with 30,000 pages to go! Of Time and Magic will be the last book in the Maya series. But I already have a new book planned that will feature the characters in my Christmas story, The Dog Angel.

Good thing I’m a homebody and don’t mind spending much of the day at my desk.


Snow-Gauge Clif: Let the Mud Begin

On Saturday, March 19, a heavy rain fell as though it were a day in April. If the rain had been snow, as it would have been in years past, Snow-Joe would have gotten quite a work out. Instead, the rain came down, down, down, and most of the snow went away, to be replaced by mud.

Here are pictures of the tracks I made going to the compost bins in the backyard. The mud was so deep that I wondered if I would lose my shoes on the way to and from the house.

As you might have guessed, Snow-Gauge Clif’s job is coming to an end. Barring any last-minute snowstorms, I expect we have a week or two at most.

The shady front yard still has 7 inches of snow at its deepest and a skim of snow over much of the lawn.

The backyard is quite another matter. There is a spot that has 7 inches of snow—where Snow-Joe threw it—but for the most part, the lawn is bare.

Here’s a better photo of the backyard. Note the patio and how the snow is nearly gone. As soon as the mud dries, and we can walk on the lawn without fear of losing our shoes, the blue chairs will come out.

Finally, here’s a photo of our listing clothesline, which is a little on the tipsy side. When the yard dries out, Clif is wondering if he’ll have to reset the clothesline. Never a dull moment at our home on the edge of the woods.


In Addition: Cheers to 45 years!

On Saturday Clif and I celebrated our forty-fifth wedding anniversary. We marked the occasion with an appetizer night featuring dumplings, a cashew dip, and other assorted goodies. Appetizer nights are a favorite at our home, where with a minimum of fuss and a maximum of enjoyment, we have many different treats to nibble.

There was also a toast where we used lovely glasses given to us by our friend Doree Austin on our first wedding anniversary.

After our appetizer meal, we watched a film that I highly recommend—Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, a sweet low-key movie from Bhutan that has been nominated this year for an Academy Award for Best International Feature Film.

Filmed in Buhatan and written and directed by Pawo Choyning Dorji, this charming movie tells the story of a young, uninspired teacher, Ugyen Dorji, who is sent to a remote mountain village to fulfill his teacher contract. Does Ugyen want to go to this village, accessible only by foot and a journey of many days? He does not. Instead, Ugyen wants to go to Australia and follow his dream of becoming a singer.

But up the mountain Ugyen goes, finally making it to Lunana, a poor village that has some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve ever seen. During the course of the movie, lessons are learned and taught. In its own gentle way, Lunana examines the notion of culture, of whether to leave or to stay.  Best of all, Lunana manages to avoid being predictable, which gives the movie a nice twist.

For those who have Kanopy, Lunana is available free for streaming. For those who don’t have Kanopy, other streaming options include Vudu and Prime Video, where the movie can be rented for $6.99.

Lunana is definitely worth $6.99, and so far it is my favorite foreign film of the year.


The Erstwhile Marches of Snow-Gauge Clif

Here we are in the middle of this long, long month, when most Mainers are heartily sick of March marching on. We had a nasty little storm on Saturday that prevented us from visiting our daughter and son-in-law. A March gift.

But, if you look at it the right way, we are making some kind of progress.

To illustrate this, I must start with the backyard rather than the front. Last week there were 15 inches of snow. This week, 7 inches at its deepest with the snow gone from the edges of the yard.

Now to the front yard, which still has 15 inches of snow, same as last week.

Why the difference? The pictures provide the clue. They were taken within five minutes of each other, and the contrast between the two couldn’t be greater. The backyard actually gets some sun. Hence the melting snow. The front yard? Not so much, and in the spring, I swear our front yard is the last place on our road to have the snow completely melt.

The pictures below are from erstwhile Marches. I thought readers might enjoy seeing how much snow we had in mid-March for the past four years. The last picture, taken in 2018, reflects the usual amount of snow we once had in central Maine in mid-March.

As the pictures indicate, the trend has definitely been for less snow and earlier springs. And Snow-Gauge Clif, with his trusty red yard stick, will continue to measure the melting snow to see if the trend continues.

March 15, 2021

March 13, 2020

March 15, 2019

March 19, 2018

The Return of Snow-Gauge Clif

March 1 might be meteorological Spring in the northern hemisphere, but in Maine true Spring doesn’t  come until April. And it isn’t until May that Spring, in a froth of blossoms, really kicks up her heels.

Unfortunately, March in Maine begins in snow and ends in mud. March always feels like a kind of purgatory, an in-between time that seems to last more than its thirty-one days.

However, there are some bright spots in this miserable month. One of them is the return of Snow-Gauge Clif, who, with his trusty yardstick—or snow gauge as readers have dubbed it—makes his appearance the first Monday of March. Then each Monday, until the snow has gone away, Clif is out in the yard, measuring the ebbing snow. (When you live in Maine, north of north, such activities are wicked exciting as we Mainers would say.)

So drum roll, please! Here is Snow-Gauge Clif’s first 2022 appearance.

In the front yard the snow depth is 14 inches.

In the backyard, where the snow depth is also 14 inches. As you can see, Clif takes this noble job very seriously.

How long will it take for the snow to leave our yard? We always hope it will be gone by April 22, our youngest daughter’s birthday as well as Earth Day. But we shall see.

Let the melting begin!






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.

Bring on the Fried Veggies!

We are halfway through March. Although we are still buried in snow, there has been a softening in the air, and as Clif noted, last night the temperature didn’t get below freezing. As far as we can recall, the nights have not been this warm since late fall. So spring is coming, even though we have yet to see her pretty face.

In keeping with planning lots of events for this challenging month, Clif and I headed to The Red Barn for an anniversary celebration—forty-two years! We ordered their crisp, perfectly fried vegetables along with fries and, of course, a whoopie pie for dessert.

More than a little stuffed, on to Waterville we went, to the Colby College Museum of Art. There was a print exhibit, and this wonderful Japanese print caught my eye.  It’s by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797–1858) , and how I love this style. My photo doesn’t begin to do justice to this lovely print.

We also saw a strangely compelling short film called Flooded McDonald’s, where, as the title suggests, a “life-size replica of the interior of a McDonald’s” is gradually flooded.  Built in a pool by the artist collective SUPERFLEX,  this McDonald’s was created with such exquisite detail that it looked like the real thing. Clif and I sat and watched as the waters rose slowly in the deserted restaurant. French fries and burgers floated among paper, cups, trays, and straws. Ronald McDonald fell like an old Soviet statue of Lenin, and it bobbed around for a bit before finally sinking to the bottom. Sounds strange, I know, but this video brought forth all kinds of emotions about our consumer culture, trash, and rising waters due to climate change.

Click here if you would like to see the trailer for Flooded McDonald’s.

We are so lucky to have an art museum of this caliber within driving distance of where we live in rural central Maine.

On a more practical level, here is Snow-Gauge Clif to make his weekly appearance until the snow is gone.

In the front yard, I took a long shot so that readers could behold the glory of our driveway.

The backyard looks a little better.  For now.

As you can see, spring is still a month or so away.