Posts Tagged ‘blackflies’

First Fish 2014

Brook trout from Kewaydin Lake, Stoneham, Maine

Brook trout from Kewaydin Lake, Stoneham, Maine

I’ve tried fishing for the past 3 days without success.  There has been wind with whitecaps on the water, and the  water temperature is still VERY cold despite the unseasonably warm days of the past week (in the 70’s and 80’s).  As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been reluctant for safety’s sake to go out in my kayak, because I’d be alone and there are no other people around.  With the water this cold, capsizing would result in hypothermia and it’s just not worth the risk.  I thought some Maine-uhs would think I am wimpy for my over-cautious attitude but I was quite surprised by their responses.  They agreed that it would be foolish to take a chance.  There is no room for “machismo” because people in my area of Maine have too often seen the tragic results of reckless behavior  from ill-prepared and irresponsible hikers, boaters, snowmobilers, and mountain climbers.  Many local folks volunteer on Search & Rescue teams and nearly every time they are called for a rescue operation, the rescuers’ lives are put in danger to assist someone whose foolish  behavior got them into trouble.

So for now, instead of using my kayak, I’ve been fishing from land, on the water’s edge – – not my favorite style because when you’re standing still you might as well wear a sign for the blackflies that says “Bite Me!”

Tomorrow we’re leaving for 2 weeks on a trip to Israel!  But how could I not catch at least one Maine fish before we go?  So today I decided to try one last time.  The wind had abated, the day was really warm, and as bad as the blackflies were (they stick around from Mother’s Day to Father’s Day), when the blackflies are biting, the fish are usually biting, too.

As I stood at the edge of pristine Kewaydin Lake in Stoneham Maine, the water was so clear that I could peer at least 10′ down into the water.   I got lucky – – a school of brook trout were swimming back and forth in front of me, even jumping occasionally up out of the water and back in again, so I knew where to aim my rod and reel.  I find that trout are much harder to catch than perch or bass, because they are very finicky about bait, and they are very sneaky – they are great at nibbling the worms right off the hook without getting caught.  Indeed, today was no different – I lost several worms without getting a fish – – but finally I caught two brook trout just in time for dinner.  I was thrilled – it was the first time I had ever successfully fished for trout!

Trout are much easier to handle  than perch or bass because their scales are not hard and sharp, and they are much easier to clean.  After gutting them and cutting off the head and tail, I dipped them in egg, dusted them in seasoned flour, and pan-fried them in a cast iron pan.  Only 30 minutes had passed since they had been caught – – talk about fresh!  They were delicious!  We made a small campfire  in our fire pit and ate alongside it.

After dinner I checked the Maine Fish Stocking Report.  They noted that the Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife had stocked Kewaydin with 90 brook trout on April 30 – – two weeks ago.  I guess my timing couldn’t have been better, although it almost felt like I was “cheating”  because it was as if the trout were swimming around waiting for me.

It was a great last day to be in Maine before our big trip.

Stay tuned to hear about our adventures in Israel!

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Spring Has Sprung

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.

Not yet.

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),

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Yes, our landscape is rugged. So rugged, and full of tree stumps from old logging, rocks and roots, that I simply cannot till the soil. We got estimates in the thousands of dollars to have it excavated but that was not exactly cost-effective for a vegetable garden. Hence the raised beds.

 

Good overview of the solar panels, composter (to left of solar panels), pots and raised bed garden.

Good overview of the solar panels, black plastic composter (to left of solar panels in bottom corner), pots of herbs,  and raised bed garden.  We’ve never planted grass because we don’t want to have to mow more than necessary, and we want to keep the rugged look of our land.

 

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Stevia and Lemon Verbena, red bell peppers, and tomato cages awaiting tomatoes, along with marigolds, geraniums, and petunias. Our woodshed is in the backtround on the left; our house is in the background to the right.

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Stevia and Lemon Verbena

 

In this box I've planted some chard and will add kale next week.  I had to be careful to choose vegetables that would not grow too tall, lest they throw a shadow on our solar panels, which powers the house.

In this box I’ve planted some chard and will add kale next week. I had to be careful to choose vegetables that would not grow too tall, lest they throw a shadow on our solar panels, which powers the house.

 

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 had covered the planting box with straw mulch to help the garlic overwinter.

I had covered the planting box with straw mulch to help the garlic overwinter.

I managed to prune the apple trees, too.  The first buds are slowly appearing.

Tiny leaves are forming on the apple trees

Tiny leaves are forming on the apple trees

 

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 photoshopped an artistic filter onto the picture, but this is really how it looks)

(I photoshopped an artistic filter onto the picture, but this is really how it looks)

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).

We can see the pond at the bottom of the driveway quite well in winter.  Probably by next week when the foliage returns, the pond will no longer be visible.

We can see the Little Pond across from the bottom of the driveway quite well in winter from the house (you can see very blue water peeking out from behind the trees if you look carefully in this photo). The pond will no longer be visible as soon as the foliage returns, probably by next week.

 

 

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.

Lapham Ledge

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A pink lady’s slipper along the trail. These wild orchids are protected flowers in Maine.

In the midst of a heat wave of 90 degrees (but thankfully, not humid!), we decided to go on an easy 2-part hike, knowing that if the heat became too strong we could easily turn around or just do one of the parts.  One thing we have learned, is that we are not in a competition.  Hiking for us is more about fun than physical prowess or putting ourselves under pressure to be superjocks.

We decided to hike Bucks Ledge and Lapham Ledge, a hike so easy a two-year-old could do it.  These two ledges offer magnificent views of western Maine mountains, rivers and lakes.  Almost immediately, however, we knew we were in trouble.  Much of the hike offered little protection from the unrelenting sun.  There were also plenty of mosquitoes who made mockery of our bug repellant.

The good news is that when we made it to the top of Lapham Ledge, there was a nice breeze.  It was still plenty hot, but the breeze made it tolerable and the bugs were at a minimum since they prefer still air.  The views of Bryant Pond were lovely, too.

The view from Lapham Ledge to Bryant Pond

The view from Lapham Ledge to Bryant Pond

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That said, it was hard to gather the momentum needed to continue further up the trail to Buck’s Ledge, so we decided to quit while we were ahead.

Upon our return we awaited the predicted severe afternoon thunderstorm, and severe it was!   It only lasted 15 minutes, but the trees were nearly bent double by the force of the wind and torrential rain that followed.  In fifteen minutes, the temperature dropped 15 degrees, from 90 degrees down to 75!  Thankfully it meant that it would be nice and cool by bedtime.

Fortunately, thanks to the super-insulation of our house, really hot days have been manageable, which is fortunate considering we don’t have air conditioning.  Usually there is a 15- to 20- degree difference between interior and exterior temperatures.  Twice since our move to Maine the temperatures have hit over 100 degrees, but our house was never hotter than 85 degrees.  The biggest difference is that days with high humidity are rare, and heat waves only last 2 or 3 days at most, unlike my hometown where a heat wave lasts the entire summer amidst humidity that makes everyone’s minds go to mush.

That said, there is a major downside to Maine that is seemingly inescapable:  bugs!  We have blackfly season, deerfly season, mosquito season, ladybug season, cluster fly season, and, for me, the most terrible of all:  midge season.  Midges are also referred to as “no-see-ums” with good reason.  They are so tiny they are mostly invisible.  They fly right through screened windows and attack mercilessly, leaving bites that leave you insanely itchy and scratchy for weeks.  For the past two years they were so bad that we simply couldn’t take it anymore, and we left Maine for our hometown, hoping for some respite.   Fortunately by the end of July most of Maine’s  biting insects are gone until the following Spring, with August, September and early October among the most enjoyable months to visit Maine if you are “from away.”