Tag Archives: Maine

When, What to My Wondering Eyes Should Appear…But Snow, Snow, and More Snow

IMG_8216Last night, as a plane flew overhead, I could tell from the sound that it was snowing outside. It’s hard to describe exactly what this sound is, but I would have to say that it has a muffled quality that is missing during  clear weather.

A little later, Clif let the dog out, noted the snow, and confirmed my suspicions. Unconcerned, we went to bed. This is April, after all.

Imagine our surprise, then, the next morning when we looked out the window and saw that at least four inches of heavy snow had fallen during the night. It was enough so that Clif had to haul out Little Green and clean the driveway before he went to work. And here we were thinking that it was just about time to bring Little Green down cellar for the season and time to bring out the bikes. Not yet, that’s for sure.


A little while ago, the plow went by, and the road is a mucky mess. No walk for the dog today. He’ll have to make do in the backyard. However, as I write, the snow is sliding off the branches of the trees. A few days of mild weather will bring us back to where we were before this mess, and the dog and I can walk on dry roads.

It has been a cold, hard winter in Maine, with lots of snow. Spring is officially here, but it is coming oh so slowly in fits and starts. Meanwhile, California suffers the worst drought in recorded history, and yesterday the temperature in Georgia was 90 degrees, which must be hot even for Georgia in April.

In Maine Lakes Tell Tale of Climate Change, a recent piece on MPBN, Susan Sharon addresses the issue  of global warming and writes, “While the Northeast may have experienced a bitterly cold and snowy winter in 2015, the average temperature on the planet last year was the warmest in 135 years of record keeping. In Maine the state climatologist’s research indicates that by 2050 the annual temperature in Maine will rise another 3 to 5 degrees.”

But what bothers Zach Wozich, an Ice fisherman interviewed in Sharon’s piece, is the extreme unpredictability of the weather over the past ten years, “the big variations in temperatures and snowfall.” This year, he’ll probably have two more weeks than usual to fish. A few years ago, the ice was out before the end of March. That year Clif and I actually went for an anniversary bike ride—on March 19—and Maranacook Lake looked like a huge, gray slushy. Not long after, there was open water.

There is some indication that as the Arctic melts, the jet stream is affected, bringing colder weather to the North East and warmer weather, along with drought, to the West. Only time and observation will tell if this is true. One or two cold winters do not a trend make, and there are other factors that affect the jet stream.

Nevertheless, for next winter, Clif and I will be sure to have a good supply of wood. (We ran out midwinter.) We will have a stockpile of food in our pantry as well as plenty of propane cannisters for our camp stove. Lamp oil is also a necessity and so is stored water in big buckets. For us, no power means no water.

Being prepared cannot change the weather, but it can certainly make fierce storms and power outages easier to deal with.



The Things We Say in Maine

Last Saturday, our friends Dawna and Jim invited us over for dinner, where we deliciously jump-started spring and summer by drinking Dawna’s  homemade margaritas. (Hers are the best!) We also had chicken tacos and a tasty rice dish. What a way to celebrate the end of March and the beginning of what we hope will finally be spring.


After dinner, we settled in the living room and talked about this and that. During the course of our conversation, Jim described someone as being “tough as a bag of hammers.”

That was a new one to me, but when we got home and I asked Clif about it, he said he had heard this before. (Both Jim and Clif are from the Bangor area. Maybe it was a common saying up there.) As Clif and I discussed “tough as a bag of hammers,” one saying led to another, and we came up with a short list of things we say in Maine:

  • Happy as a clam at high tide. This seems like a rather ubiquitous expression that might be said by anyone who lives in a coastal state.  Nevertheless, Clif and I grew up hearing it quite a lot.
  • A few logs short of a cord. Around this time of year, that’s pretty much the way most Mainers feel, but usually it refers to people who aren’t clever.
  • Numb as a hake. This tells you how Mainers feel about hake.
  • The whole of it, rather than all of it. Why we say it this way, I don’t know, but I catch myself using this expression all the time.

Then, of course, there is the way we say or don’t say our Rs, and Clif and I are guilty as charged. We drop them, we add them, and most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing this.

When my daughters went to college, they both were ribbed about the way they pronounced drawing. I know. It only has one R, but we Mainers pronounce it with two RsDrawring. Somehow, teasing be damned, that word just doesn’t sound right to us without the second R.

We add Rs. I often refer to my friend Dawna as Dawner. We drop Rs in Mainer so that it sounds like Mainah. Or, it works like a chahm rather than a charm.

I realize most people don’t speak this way, and on Public Radio, people mostly say their Rs the way they should. But every once in a while someone from New England is interviewed, and he or she drops and adds those Rs just the way it is done in Maine.

And when I hear this, it always warms—or rather wahms— my heart.



Those From Away

IMG_8026In Maine there are two classes of people—natives and those from away. As is the case with many rural states, in Maine there is a tension between these two groups. The natives sometimes resent those from away, who are often more affluent and bring new and outlandish ideas to the state. The latter was especially true in the 1970s, when hordes of young people came here to go “back to the land.” It has also happened more recently with the foodie movement, where so many chefs and cooks have flocked to Maine that many places—especially Portland—have developed quite the foodie reputation.

Those from away often feel as though they will never truly belong, no matter how long they live here, no matter how hard they might work for their communities. A friend of mine once asked in frustration, “How long do I have to live here before I’m accepted as a native?” I wisely refrained from answering. To qualify as a Maine native, you have to go back at least two generations. As Mainers like to say, just because the cat had kittens in the oven don’t make them biscuits.

My husband and I are natives, and we both go back at least five generations. Maine is in our blood and in our bones. We have a history with the state, and this is reflected in the way we speak, think, and even dress. (Oh, yeah! We dress like a couple of Mainers, that’s for sure.)

As natives, Clif and I believe that those from away bring a much-needed vitality to Maine. Any state, any country that is closed becomes inbred, both literally and figuratively. Nevertheless, we understand why there is resentment. To someone who has sold a house in, say, Massachusetts or New York or even New Hampshire, houses in Maine are quite the bargain. For Mainers, not so much, and in some coastal communities, people can barely afford to pay taxes on property that has been in their family for several generations.

Several years ago, I was at a gathering where those from away commented gleefully about how unsophisticated the Maine food scene was when they first moved here.  One woman observed, “Mainers didn’t even know there was such a thing as square plates.”

This might be true, but I winced a little when I heard her say that. Did she really have to speak so condescendingly and unkindly? Of course not.

Fortunately, at least with the people I know, this attitude is rare. Most people from away come here because they love Maine and its unpretentious ways. They rejoice in not having to keep up with the Joneses or anybody else. Often those from away become very involved with their communities, donating time, energy, and money  to various organizations.

Recently, I read a book called The Hollow Land by Jane Gardam. It’s set in Yorkshire, England, and the interconnected short stories revolve around natives and those from away. Over a span of twenty years, a Yorkshire family forms a tight bond with a family from London. The London family rents a house called Light Trees from the Yorkshire family, and while there are tensions at first, they are soon smoothed over by the children, Bell and Harry. Bell grows up to have a child of his own, and at the end of the book there is a conversation between, Anne, Bell’s daughter, and Harry, who is considerably younger than Bell. They are discussing the possible sale of Light Trees and whether people should stay put.

Harry states, “We always knew we didn’t own it [Light Trees]…. Maybe people should stay where they were first put.”

Anne replies, “You great daft thing…What sort of a world would this be if people had stayed where they was born? What sort of a country this? There’d have been no Vikings bringing bees and honey…and no Celts with bronze and jewels and no Romans fixing up roads and laws and no Saxons with books and paintings…”

What sort of country, indeed? And what sort of state would Maine be if people had stayed put? As a native Mainer whose long-ago ancestors didn’t stay put, I can emphatically agree with Anne’s sentiment. Maine would be a much poorer state without the influx of those from away.


Farewell to February, a Tough but Exquisite Month

IMG_7799I never thought I would write this, but I am actually looking forward to March. In Maine, March is a grim, dreary month that we all somehow get through, even though we often wonder how in the world we do. In March, at the beginning of the month, it still snows, but it’s usually wet and heavy and difficult to shovel. It is cold enough so that we must wear hats and gloves and boots. As the month progresses and the snow melts, it brings what every Mainer loves to hate—mud and lots of it.

But this year, February has been so hard—so snowy, cold, and confining—that March will seem like a relief. The days are getting longer—Daylight Saving Time begins on March 8—and I am hopeful that the temperature will rise to at least thirty degrees. Then, I’ll actually feel like going for walk, even if I still have to wear a hat, gloves, and boots.

A restlessness—commonly known as cabin fever—often comes with February, and it came to me in spades this year. I long to be outside, in my yard, in the woods, on my bike. Instead, I am in my house. Fortunately, I don’t have seasonal affective disorder, so I am not depressed. Just antsy. Getting together with friends helps a lot. So does tea and muffins and brunches, some of which had to be canceled because of the weather.

One thing I will say about February in Maine—it is a beautiful month. Yesterday the dog and I walked to the Narrows, where I took more pictures.




Farewell, February, you tough but exquisite month. As the warmer weather comes, I’ll push you to the back of my mind, but you will not be forgotten. Every year begins with you and your sister January, another severe month that keeps us on our toes, confines us, and reminds us that weather really does matter.


Cold Weather Settles over Maine

IMG_7205Last night before going to bed, I went onto the front porch to look at the Wolf Moon, the full moon of January. The porch snapped and creaked with cold as I stepped onto it, and the front yard was aglow with moonlight. The Wolf Moon, soft yet bright and luminous, hung high in the sky, away from the trees, and I could see it clearly. Away from the moon, stars glittered in the night sky, and how beautiful it all was.

Cold weather has settled over Maine, and last night the temperature outside dropped to zero degrees. Much to the joy of those who like ice fishing, the lakes have begun freezing. When I go out for a walk in the woods with the dog, I wear leggings under my jeans. I am not one who likes to bundle up, but I wear a neck warmer as well as a hat. What else to do in such cold weather?

This morning, the house was below 60 degrees—our wood furnace has a difficult time keeping the house warm when the temperature reaches zero. Getting out of bed was not easy, and I slept with the covers up to my nose. When I raised the shades, I saw on the windows gardens of crystals, delicate yet hard.

Native Americans named January’s full moon the Wolf Moon. I have read that they also called it the Hunger Moon, and it’s not hard to imagine how this full moon got its names. In the north, January is one of the coldest months of the year. The time of all things good and growing is long gone, and I expect that for many who lived off the land, it was indeed a time when wolves howled at the moon, a time of hunger.

Not so for those of us who live at the little house in the big woods. Clif and I have—ahem—put on some Christmas weight as the result of a little too much ho-ho-ho. Now it is time to shed those pounds and, we hope, a few more as well.  Time to cut back on the sweets. Time to eat more fruit and vegetables. And, perhaps, just as important, time to get back on the exercise bike. For Christmas, Clif bought me a new seat for the exercise bike, and it is comfortable, far better than the old one.

As I bike, I will read Pedaling the Ends of the Earth by David Duncan. The blurb on the book reads “Four young men come of age in a great bicycling adventure stretching from Spain to Japan.” Duncan wrote the book when he was young—he had just graduated from college when he and his friends went on their trek in the early 1980s—and even in his twenties, Duncan was a good writer. (Duncan has written many other books, and here is a list on Amazon.)

As I ride my bike to nowhere, I will travel vicariously with Duncan and his friends. Occasionally, I’ll think of my own central Maine bike rides, which will begin in the spring. I won’t go far, but that doesn’t make the rides any less enjoyable.


Gunshots and Voting

This morning, I woke up to gunfire. Hunting season began last Saturday, and today in the woods a hunter was getting an early start. This is not my favorite time of year, when people—mostly men—dress in orange and carry loaded rifles in the woods. It is always a relief to me when hunting season is over.

I, too, wear orange when I work in my yard during hunting season, and I usually have a radio with the volume turned up very loud so that hunters will be aware they are near a house.  In November I am grateful that Liam is such a noisy dog who will bark at everything and nothing. More noise to alert hunters.

Today is also election day, in Maine as well as in the rest of the country. Clif and I voted early—a little after 8 a.m.—and already the parking lot was full, with cars lined up on both sides of the drive leading to the town office.  Upon putting my ballot in the machine, I was told I was voter 51, and between all the cars in the lot and the people inside the town office, I was not surprised. Winthrop not only cooks, but it votes, too, it seems.

Normally, I don’t write very much about politics in this blog. I prefer to focus on nature, people, food, the environment, libraries, and other small-town matters. But as someone who freely and proudly admits to being both a liberal and a progressive, I feel as though I must stray, at least a little, from my usual topics. Simply put, today is a real nail-biter day for me and my family. In varying degrees, several family members have been adversely affected by the state’s current administration—I’m not going to go into details—and four more years with the same people in charge is a discouraging thought.

The bigger picture is no better. From health care to the environment to social services to the economy, it feels as though Maine has taken many, many steps back. Nowhere is this clearer than with alternative energy. Because of Maine’s location by the sea, we are in an ideal position to not only produce our own electricity, carbon-free, but to also export it to other states thereby reducing their carbon footprints. Unfortunately, we seem to be no closer to accomplishing this than we were four years ago. Given the state of our planet and the warming climate, this cannot be counted as merely being stalled in one place. This has to count as regression.

And for those who think that Maine’s recent spat of cold winters disproves climate change, think again. Apparently, the melting Arctic ice affects the jet stream, which, in turn, has made our winters colder. Yes, it’s complicated, but it’s a clear case of a warmer world and climate change.

But I digress. All over Maine, people are going to the polls, and if Winthrop is any indication, then voter turn-out should be quite high.

My day began with a bang. Let’s hope it ends with a bang and a new direction.



Enter October

IMG_6678Once upon a time, August used to be my favorite month. The days were hot and dry, the nights were cool, and the mosquitoes were pretty much gone. But as with so many other things, August in Maine seems to have changed—it’s rainier, muggier, and filled with mosquitoes. I was not surprised to read in the Boston Globe that in Maine “precipitation has increased by more than 10 percent, with the worst storms bringing significantly more rain and snow.”  Yes, indeed, and those of us who were born here and have stayed here will find ourselves nodding in agreement.

September, on the other hand, appears to have removed itself from the rainy cycle. In fact it almost seems as though it’s the new August. The days are sunny, dry, and, if not hot, then at least warm. The nights are cool. The mosquitoes are pretty much gone. This September was nothing short of glorious, with plenty of days for bike riding, sitting on the patio, and listening to the crickets sing and the loons call.

But like all good things, September had to come to an end, and now we have October, which I am hoping will also be good, albeit in a cooler way. There is no more bike riding when Clif gets home from work. However, we do sit on the patio for a bit before heading in to make supper. By seven o’clock, it’s dark, and we now pull down all the shades to make the house feel cosier and warmer.

The leaves are falling, and I spend a fair amount of time sweeping the driveway and patio. The hummingbirds are long gone, but the year-round residents—the nuthatches, chickadees, finches, titmice, woodpeckers—still make a jolly flutter and racket as they come to the bird feeders.

Yesterday, I began cutting back the perennials, a daunting task now that my knees are so creaky. “If you didn’t have so many gardens, then it wouldn’t be so bad,” Clif reminds me.

Yes, yes. I know. But I love my gardens, and I will continue to tend them until I can’t anymore. (I hope that day is a long way off.) As with any other task, once I get started, it somehow doesn’t seem as bad.  I began as I always do, with the hostas around the stump in the front yard. This afternoon, which promises to be nice, I’ll do some more cutting, and by the end of the month, all the gardens will be cut back, waiting for the big freeze that will harden the ground. And then snow. If the past few years are any indication, then there will be plenty of it.

While I am sorry to see the end of September, I must admit that I like October—the apples, the fall harvest, the turning leaves, the birth month of my eldest daughter. All these things make it special.

This time of year, I really enjoy making apple pies for family and friends. Macoun apples—so crunchy, so sweet, so tart—are ready, and I have been greedily eating two a day. (To keep the doctor really far away?)

The trees are already splashed with color, and I am looking forward to bike rides by Lake Maranacook when the trees are in a dazzling blaze. While it might be too dark to ride when Clif comes home from work, we can still ride on weekends, and I take rides by myself in the afternoon.

Pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins. Stews of all sorts, and there’s a new red lentil recipe that I want to try out in the next week or so.

And who knows? Maybe the weather will even allow us to grill a pizza or two before it becomes too cold to eat on the patio.

Dare I hope that October is the new September?