Unlike my home town, in which magnificent blossoming cherry trees, crabtrees and redbuds herald the onset of Spring, here in the Maine mountains it’s not so much about a show of color, since most of the trees are pine, birch, maple and beech. Rather, it’s a time when our little world seems to wake up after a long, hibernating winter.
Yesterday we saw our first moose tracks along the bottom of the driveway. Usually the moose begin to surreptitiously visit the pond at night around this time of year. As it warms up and the blackflies become unbearable the last two weeks of May, the moose start visiting the pond during the daytime to get relief from the incessant biting of the blackflies as well as ticks, mosquitoes and deerflies, and it makes for some exciting encounters and great photo ops (from a safe distance).
The North Conway Daily Sun (North Conway is just over the border from us, in New Hampshire) reports that the bears are already up to an unusual amount of mischief in populated areas. It seems they’ve figured out how to open car and truck doors and they’ve been vandalizing vehicles in the middle of the night (no one around here locks their cars or trucks when parked at home, since there is almost never any theft). How do police and NH Fish & Game officials know it’s bears and not people doing the vandalizing? One bear left behind scat (yep, stinky bear poop) on the front and back seats. Sticky, sandy paw prints were left inside the car as well as on the doors. (No, detectives did not fingerprint – – I mean paw print – – the vehicles). Imagine being the person stuck with detailing that vehicle!
One bear let himself in to someone’s car – – and then managed to become trapped when the door shut behind him. After ripping the lining on the doors, visor, and dashboard, it broke the front side passenger window and finally managed to escape. There have been more than a dozen bear break-ins reported since the end of April.
The bears’ only objective is food. They are hungry after a long winter of hibernation. In most cases, vehicle owners had left snack food in their cars.
One 400-lb bear – – after being trapped and moved to a different location many miles into the forest – – returned, so it was again trapped and – – sadly – – euthanized. But the bear break-ins have continued so clearly that bear did not act alone.
Lt. Chris Perley of the Conway Police Department urged residents to safeguard their food and garbage. He said drivers should lock their vehicles at night to protect against four-legged invaders.
“These bears can open a door, but as far as we know, no one has ever reported any bears that can pick a lock,” he said.
Meanwhile, because the days have been cool and windy, I’ve been dashing like a madwoman to get my garden planted before the blackflies become intolerable. The breeze keeps the bugs away.
Everywhere you look Maine-uhs are tilling soil in preparation for the short growing season. No one has really started planting yet except Yours Truly. That’s because the “frost date” in my part of Maine is until May 15, which means one risks losing whatever one has planted to frost if planted before May 15. But I will be travelling at the peak planting dates, and I wanted to avoid those pesky bugs, so I decided to take a chance and plant a little early this year.
I planted rainbow Swiss chard and red bell peppers; lots of stevia (a plant whose leaves have 3x the sweetness of sugar; you dry the leaves and crumble them into whatever needs sweetening and it’s unprocessed and calorie-free); and lemon verbena (the dried leaves make wonderful tea that completely relaxes me without making me feel drowsy; it seems to relieve my insomnia),
I also planted geraniums and marigolds alongside; they act as a repellent against bugs and will hopefully reduce pests without the use of insecticide. I still have to buy some kale and tomato seedlings in the coming week. The garlic that I planted in the Fall is doing really well.
I managed to prune the apple trees, too. The first buds are slowly appearing.
As a final touch my husband drilled some pots onto the entry stair posts, and I planted some purple petunias to make the front door a little more welcoming and less austere.
I am leaving much to chance, since I will be traveling to Israel for a couple of weeks starting next week and I won’t be around to water, so hopefully there will be adequate rainfall while I’m gone.
The bright sun has the bees buzzing around their hives. It was warm enough today to make some yogurt (it cultures only in warm conditions; I have it in my car that is parked in the sun).
The only thing I haven’t been able to do yet is go fishing. With the stiff breeze, the water on the lake gets very choppy and I’m always over-cautious when it comes to kayaking this time of year. The local lake and pond ice melted only a week ago (this is known as “ice out” and contests are held in every town throughout Maine for residents to guess when “ice out” will take place each year) and the water is still freezing cold. If I were to capsize the kayak, G-d forbid, it would be difficult to make it to even a close-by shore before hypothermia set in. So until the wind dies down, I am not going to venture out in the kayak to try my luck with fishing, even though I of course wear a life-vest whenever I am on the water. Just this week someone was rescued from a lake when their canoe tipped, and the person needed to be rescued because hypothermia set in so quickly due to the very cold water temperature. In his case, though, the lake was populated with other boaters. Around where I live, things are very quiet, and it’s more than likely that no one would be around to rescue me if an accident ensued. Better safe than sorry.