Category Archives: Winter

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Friday Favorites: March 4

I’ve decided to bring back Friday Favorites, where I highlight some of the things that have made me happy during the week—music, TV shows, movies, podcasts, food, nature. On the third Friday of the month, I’ll feature books I’ve read and tie in with Donna at Retirement Reflections, who is one of the hosts of the monthly “What’s on Your Bookshelf?”

Each Friday, I’ll provide a short list of nifty blog posts from some of my lovely blogging friends. Let me tell you, it’s not easy to winnow the list down to a few choices. So many good posts from blogging friends near and far. But never fear! I will get to everyone eventually.

In the comments section, if you are so moved, feel free to let me know what has made you happy this week. It doesn’t have to be anything grand or exciting. I’m especially fond of simple pleasures, and I always enjoy getting suggestions of what to read, watch, or notice.

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This week I watched—all right binged—the delightful sitcom Abbott Elementary, a mockumentary about a group of teachers and the challenges they face in an inner city school in Philadelphia. The humor is gentle rather than uproarious, and this a show with warmth and heart. The ensemble acting is fabulous, and each of the actors shines like a tiny jewel.  Abbot Elementary is an ABC show that’s also available on Hulu.

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Nifty Posts from a Few of the Lovely Blogs I follow

The Sydney Opera House aglow with Ukraine’s colors. Birds, gardens, kangeroos. Gerrie, of Canberra’s Green Spaces, features them all in a recent post. As always, this Mainer is agog over the beauty of Australia.

On the blog Now I’m Sixty-Four, Platypus Man takes us on a tour of the Burghley Sculpture Garden. Oh, be still my trembling heart. I have always loved sculpture gardens but had never articulated why. Platypus Man hits it right on the piton—as we Franco-Americans would say. He writes “In galleries and museums sculpture is contained, hemmed in by walls and ceilings, often difficult to fully appreciate. In sculpture gardens and parks however, sculpture sits comfortably within a spacious, natural environment, with room to breathe. And the sculptures and the landscape in which they sit enhance one another: the gardens and parks frame the sculptures, while the sculptures become visual anchors within their surroundings.” Yes, Indeed!

On Going Batty in Wales, there’s a recent post about the kindness and generosity of a blogging friend from far away. This line really struck me: “I never thought that writing about my simple life in this rural backwater would result in my having wonderful friends all over the world.” Same, same, same. And what a delight!

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This incredible performance of songs from the Broadway musical  Hadestown was recorded on NPR in the “Before Times,” as Stephen Thompson put it—just before Covid cracked down on the world. Wonderful, wonderful music, and the last chilling, thrilling song, “Why We Build the Wall” is especially relevant.

 

 

River of Change

Last Wednesday the weather was so warm for February in Maine that it broke records.

The driveway was filled with puddles and melting ice.

On that warm February day, Clif and I went on a rare outing where we got take-out from the Red Barn in Augusta, about ten miles from our town. Mostly we cook and eat at home, and our meals are vegetarian. However, while we will not eat mammals or birds, we do, from time to time, eat shrimp, clams, and scallops.

At the Red Barn, we ordered fries and the Barn’s delectable shrimp. Then we headed down the road to Hallowell, to the parking lot that overlooks the Kennebec River, which is neither wide nor mighty but is nonetheless dear to us.

As we ate, we watched the river. It was iced over, but because of recent rain and the warm weather, there was a skim of water on top. A strong wind blew the water this way and that, as though it were sand.

When we were done, we headed to another spot on the Kennebec, where there’s a turnout with a deck, and you can look down the river into Augusta, our state’s capital. In the distance, a little to the right, is the white dome of the capitol building.

The cropped picture reveals a small black smelt shack, also in the distance. If the thaw continues, the owner will have to remove it lest the shack be carried downriver.

On the deck are posters, in both French and English, that describe how important the Kennebec River was when goods were moved by boats and ships. Back in the day, rivers were superhighways. Because of  this, Hallowell was once a bustling community, and there are many fine old homes that are remnants of a more prosperous time.

But times change. Trains and trucks displaced river ships, cement displaced granite, and refrigerators displaced ice. The Kennebec is no longer a superhighway to and from the Atlantic Ocean. Deprived of a vital economy, Hallowell fell on hard times, and in the 1960s and 1970s, it was a dumpy, depressed place. The river, too, fell on hard times, becoming dark and dirty, polluted by the many factories lining the banks.

But all is not gloom and doom. Thanks to the Clean Water Act of 1972, wildlife now thrives on the river, and the Kennebec is a place of recreation and rejuvenation for humans. Artists and creative types, drawn by affordable homes, moved to Hallowell, and the once depressed town has become funky and vital.

The Kennebec River and Hallowell are object lessons in how change can be both good and bad. Sometimes change is out of our control, and we just have to cope with it as best we can.

But sometimes it’s not. And to borrow from the Serenity Prayer, it’s up to us to have the wisdom to know the difference.

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Nifty Posts from Some of the Lovely Blogs I Follow

Ju-Lyn, of Touring My Backyard, featured the fascinating bat flower.

Despite these turbulent times, small pleasures abound in this post from Thistles and Kiwis.

Tootlepedal’s blog always features fabulous photos, but in a recent post, with some help from his son-in-law, he outdid himself

In a timely post on Robby Robin’s Journey, Jane provides maps of Ukraine that really clarify the geography of the area.

Katie, of the Cozy Burrow, never fails to amaze with her beautiful creativity. Sew on, Katie!

On Retirement Reflections, Donna does her bit to spread peace with with three travelling copies of The Little Book of Inner Peace. What a wonderful idea!

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This is more than a little Christmasy, but I couldn’t resist sharing Aimee Mann’s cover of Joni Mitchell’s The River. The song is so lovely, and it fits beautifully with my own river post.

 

 

 

When Life Gives You Temperamental Weather, Cook

Maine weather tends to be—ahem—temperamental, but for the past two days, it’s been a real whiplash. On Saturday, the temperature soared to 50°F. In Maine in February that, my friends, is akin to a heatwave.

For the first time in a long while, there were puddles in the driveway, and patches of tar peeked through the ice. (The stripes across the driveway are tree shadows.)

Dreaming of spring, Little Miss Watson stared out the window.

However,  despite the warmer weather, none of us—including Little Miss Watson—were tempted to go outside where the dirty snow was piled high and the sides of the road were mucky. Instead, we stayed in and cooked.

Now, the food we make would never be considered restaurant quality or bakery ready. Often, our creations look a little wonky, off center even. Simply put, we are home cooks.

Our pizza wasn’t exactly round.

And our Valentine’s peanut butter cups? Well, judge for yourselves.

But both the pizza and the peanut butter hearts tasted better than their rough looks might otherwise indicate. What we lack in finesse we usually make up for in taste.

The chocolate muffins, on the other hand, had a pleasing muffiny shape. These muffins are egg free and dairy free, but judging from the flavor, you’d never know it. I’ve developed the recipe on my own, and for those who feel daring, I have included it at the end of this post.

Along with food, throw in board games as well as movies and that was our weekend.

And this morning—Monday—when I got up, the temperature had dropped from its high of 50° to a brisk 10°. In two days’ time, the temperature had dropped 40°.

Time to make some more muffins, I think.

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Cocoa Muffins, Egg Free and Dairy Free

Ingredients

  • Three tablespoons water mixed with 1 teaspoon psyllium husk powder  
  • 1 cup almond milk (oat milk or soy milk would work fine, too.)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sugar plus a little more for sprinkling on top
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 4 tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup of peanut butter chips or chocolate chips (optional)

Directions

  1.  Preheat over to 400°F.
  2. Grease or spray muffin tin.
  3. In a large bowl, mix the 1 teaspoon of psyllium husk powder with 3 tablespoons of water. Let it set a minute or two until it jells.
  4. Into the jelled psyllium husk powder whisk in the 1 cup of almond milk, 1/4 cup vegetable oil, and 1 teaspoon of vanilla.
  5. Stir in 1/2 cup sugar.
  6. Sift together the 2 cups flour, 4 tablespoons cocoa powder, 3 teaspoons baking powder, and 1 teaspoon salt, and mix into the sugar/psyllium mixture just until flour is moistened. Note: The batter will be very thick. The muffins come out fine this way, but a tablespoon or two of additional milk can be added for a thinner, batter, which also makes good muffins.
  7. Fold in peanut butter chips or chocolate chips, if using.
  8. Fill muffin cups 2/3 full. Sprinkle sugar on top.
  9. Bake 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the muffin comes out with a few sticky crumbs.

Makes 6 large muffins or 12 medium muffins.

Winter Deepens: White on Red

Deep winter in Maine and another snowstorm last Friday. The birds flocked to the feeders and ate their fill, trying to keep warm in the frigid weather. This red beauty always catches my attention. If you look carefully,  you can see the snow falling in front of the cardinal.

I wasn’t sorry to see more snow. The gardens now have a good layer to protect them from the extreme cold.

But I do wonder: Can a pig fly when there’s snow on his wings?

In the backyard, I like the way most of the bee balm stems stand at attention.

In the front yard, there was also red. By late afternoon, the snow was up to our car’s hubcaps, and we knew the time had come to clean the driveway and walks.

Judging from the snow on the deck’s rail, I would say we got about six inches.

Inside there was red, too, with my little book, which came in the morning ahead of the storm. In a rare example of getting ready way ahead of time, Clif and I have been working on the Dog Angel for the next holiday season, when—we hope—we will be going to craft fairs again.

More white on red, just like outside our home during the winter. I hadn’t made this connection before, but now that I have, the book’s cover pleases me more than ever.

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In the winter in Maine there is no better time for movies, and on Sunday we watched Joel Cohen’s incredible The Tragedy of Macbeth. As a word person, I have been smitten by Shakespeare since I was in seventh grade, when we read a couple of his plays out loud in class.

In Cohen’s version, the words are still there. This is Shakespeare, after all. But oh the cinematography! Shot in black and white completely on sound stages, this play of murder and madness has the pitch and look of a fevered dream—internal,  psychological, and utterly compelling.

Tour de force is often overused, but that’s what this movie is. If you like Shakespeare, do watch Cohen’s The Tragedy of Macbeth. The  short trailer below gives some idea of the tone of the movie.