Posts Tagged ‘campfire’

Autumn Preparations

This past Sunday we had planned on doing a big hike but life intervened, and my husband had to work. September is arguably the best time of the entire year for hiking.  The temperatures are cool but sunny, with brilliant blue skies; the leaves are starting to change; there are also no fallen leaves as yet to cover tree roots, potholes and other tripping hazards; the lack of leaves also makes the hiking trails still visible; and best of all, NO BUGS!

Rather than hike alone, which I can do any other day of the week, I decided to use the day doing all the chores that would put our house into “autumn mode.”  We will be leaving Maine this weekend for the duration of the Jewish holidays, and returning next month when the cold has already set in, so spending the day preparing the house in this way was quite sensible.

First I went through our closets and drawers, making two piles:  “Put Away” and “Give Away.”  The put-away pile is all our short-sleeved and lighter weight shirts, pants and my skirts, and socks.  Then I brought down our huge storage bin of warm clothes, and filled the closet back up, this time with turtlenecks, sweaters, and down vests and jackets, tights, wool socks, and long underwear. Next to the front door/mudroom I replaced the bug net hats and bug spray with wool hats, gloves, and blaze orange vests (for hunting season, so we won’t be mistaken for a deer by hunters who might be a little trigger happy).  I also brought out the winter blankets.

This mess is part of the closet changeover process from summer clothes to winter clothes.

This mess is part of the closet changeover process from summer clothes to winter clothes.

Then, with some regret, I started uprooting my garden.  The temperatures are such that at this point, nothing is going to ripen further, and weather reports are now calling for frost at night.  So I decided to pick whatever was left (a few red peppers that never got red, a couple of tomatoes and lots of green tomatoes, the rest of my kale and Swiss chard) and put the spent plants into my compost bin.  I turned and smoothed out the soil and added a few scoops of compost.  I will plant lots and lots of garlic in October, so now the space is ready.  I am pretty much done with fishing for the year (although I am hoping to try ice fishing for the first time this coming winter) so I dumped the tub of live worms that were stored in my fridge into the garden soil.

I cleared out the veggies.  Now making this raised bed ready for planting garlic bulbs.

I cleared out the veggies. Now making this raised bed ready for planting garlic bulbs.

I also replaced my tired purple petunias by my front door with some cheerful purple asters.  Right now every store in rural Maine is fairly bursting with mums and asters (and pumpkins, which came in early this year, and corn, which came in late).

Asters at my entry

Asters at my entry

Then it was on to the screen porch.  We took out the screens; I hosed them down and once they were dry, put them into storage until next Spring.  Acrylic panels went up in their place.  The nice thing about the panels is that when the sun is out, even in freezing temperatures, the porch gets to about 65 degrees thanks to passive solar.

Our screen porch.  The screens are removed and awaiting clear acrylic panels.

Our screen porch. The screens are removed and awaiting clear acrylic panels.

I scrubbed the screens and stowed them in the basement until next Spring.

I scrubbed the screens, put them in the sun to dry, and then stowed them in the basement until next Spring.

Next came the wood shed.  Currently we have an over-abundance of cut and split wood due to some trees we took down last year.  They have been drying outside on the wood pile all year and now it was time to stack the pieces neatly inside the wood shed.  Our house is so energy efficient that despite last year’s long and brutal winter, we only used 1.5 cords of wood!  (Typically people might use 6 – 9 cords to heat a house sized like ours, so this is really fantastic.)  We still have plenty of wood stacked in the shed from last year, so I could only bring in about 1 cord’s worth as there wasn’t room in the shed for more due to the wood that was already there.  So I got out some large tarps and covered the wood pile, where it will continue its “seasoning” process (drying) for another year.  I also gathered kindling and put that in a pile, and brought several logs into the house since we will be using our woodstove for the first time this year any day now (according to weather reports, evening temperatures will be below freezing by the end of the week).

Stacking wood in our shed

Stacking wood in our shed

Bringing some logs indoors for our woodstove.

Bringing some logs indoors for our woodstove.

Once my husband finished work, he did the final year’s weed-whacking (the bees, who get grouchy in colder temperatures, were not too happy with him getting close to their hives, and a dozen started swarming him.  He was lucky to get only one sting.) I removed the summer tools from the shed, cleaned them and put them in the basement along with tomato cages and flower boxes, and took out the autumn and winter tools (rakes, shovels, and the long-handled scraper that takes excess snow off the roof) and put them where they’d be handy when needed.

Putting away garden stuff till next Spring.

Putting away garden stuff till next Spring.

The weedwhacker has been emptied of gas, and will be stored till Spring, along with some now-emptied window boxes.

The weed-whacker has been emptied of gas, and will be stored till Spring, along with some now-emptied window boxes that held flowers.

By now I was getting hungry and a bit tired.  That’s when I remembered the huge kosher rib steak that’s been sitting in my freezer for a special occasion.  I originally planned on grilling it for our 37th wedding anniversary last week, but we ended up going to a friend’s wedding on that day and we had dinner there.  I thought a grilled steak would be a great way to officially end the summer.  So we put some logs on our fire pit, made a campfire, and when the fire died down I started grilling the steaks for my husband (I don’t eat red meat) and a turkey burger for myself.

Once the campfire settles down a bit, we'll be ready to start grilling.

Once the campfire settles down a bit, we’ll be ready to start grilling.



We ate dinner outside around the fire, just relaxing, breathing the nippy air, and reliving and relishing summer adventures and looking forward to Fall.  Life is good.

Steak:  It's a guy thing

Steak: It’s a guy thing



The Flying Chicken

Once in a while, events in one’s life become such a comedy of errors that one can’t make this stuff up if one tried.  Today was that day.

Several months ago my husband bought a high-caliber rifle (he does not hunt but he enjoys target shooting).  He has been wanting to shoot the new rifle for many weeks.  Although we have plenty of room on our property to shoot it safely, our dog is petrified by the sound of gunfire so we avoid shooting practice unless the dog is not around, which is, like, never.

My husband joined a gun club that has a very nice shooting range.  But joining was a story in and of itself.  The gun store in town, whose proprietor is a Member of the Board at the range and is in charge of membership, has irregular hours, and the gun store was never open when my husband could get there, so joining up took many weeks of attempts.  Then, when he wanted to go to the range, something always got in the way:  weather (too hot, too buggy, too rainy), hours incompatible with his work schedule, or people visiting us for the summer, making it difficult for him to excuse himself from the company.

But today was the day!  He planned his work carefully so that he could get off exactly at 5 pm, jump in the car, and reach the range with plenty of time to shoot his rifle before closing time.

As they say:  man plans . . . and G-d laughs.

Today I spent the day cooking and baking.  I have friends coming for Shabbat and they are as picky about food as I am – – meaning, we all love good, home-cooked food made with wholesome, natural ingredients, lots of vegetables, salads, exotic flavors, and whole grains.  That kind of cooking takes a lot longer than convenience-food cooking, but it’s definitely worth it.  There’s nothing quite so wonderful as sharing a hearty meal that’s been carefully prepared with good friends and a few l’chaims.   Also, I don’t like to usher in the Sabbath under pressure with the clock ticking.  So I start cooking 1 – 2 days in advance of Shabbat so I can be relaxed and ready well in advance of my guests’ arrival.

I decided to grill some chicken.  First, I made a wood fire in the campfire area.  Only a few days ago, it had been used for hot dogs, hamburgers and toasted marshmallows, but today, I was going to grill some amazing, quality chicken by searing the skin at high temperature till crisp, then reducing the fire to cook it slowly so it was nice and juicy and tender.  It looked and smelled so good that at the last minute I decided to grill a couple of extra pieces, so I could freeze them and serve them next week.  When the first batch of chicken was done, I put it in the house.  When I pulled the second batch off the fire, I put it in a disposable aluminum pan and rested it on top of my car which was parked alongside my house’s front entry way.  While the chicken cooled down, I was busy cleaning up the grilling tools and the fire pit ashes.

Five o’clock came and my husband quickly put his rifle in the back of the car and off he went.  As I waved goodbye I suddenly remembered:  my chicken was on top of the car!!!

One thing about living in a rural area in the Maine woods, is that cellphone reception is pretty iffy.  And just beyond our driveway on the road, there is no cellphone reception at all.  I tried calling, I tried texting – – to no avail.  The call was not getting through.

Finally I texted:


I was cooling it down.

When my husband finally got cellphone reception and got my text message, he was 5 miles from home.

He stopped the car, but there was no chicken on the roof.

(How he missed seeing a flying chicken, I don’t understand!)

But, to his credit (what a guy!), he turned the car around, and backtracking, he started looking for the chicken on the road.

He found it about a quarter-mile from our house.  And after putting the chicken in the car (other than a little gravel that I washed off, not really worse for the wear; luckily he got to it before it was eaten by a wild animal or run over by a truck), he brought that chicken all the way back home instead of going to the rifle range!

Have you ever said exactly the wrong thing at the wrong time?  Because instead of saying “thank you,” I said,

“Where’s the fork?”

And before I could say another word, he was backing down the driveway and went off to look for that fork!

(He did not find it.)

So that is my story of the Flying Chicken.

Tomorrow my husband is hoping to go to the range.

We are not serving the Flying Chicken to our Shabbat guests.

But my husband and I will eat it.  It’s too good to waste.



Camp Savta 2014 – Day 2

Since I live 45 minutes from the supermarket, meal planning takes a lot of thought and organizing.  I really wanted to avoid making a supermarket run when the grandkids were visiting, since that meant a minimum of three hours taken away from their vacation time.  The week before they came, I procured a list of non-perishables from my daughter and did a huge shopping of stuff I would never buy for myself (sickening neon-colored  breakfast cereal, potato chips, fruit roll-ups, pasta, Twizzlers, ice pops, etc.).  Then when I was in my hometown for my grandson’s bar mitzvah, I stocked up on kosher items that I cannot easily get in Maine, such as chalav yisrael cheese, milk, bread, hamburger patties,  glatt kosher hot dogs, and kosher marshmallows (s’mores!).  These items we brought in coolers in the van.  That still left a shopping trip for a week’s worth of eggs, fruits and vegetables to feed 3 adults and 9 children.

I guess the excitement of the trip finally caught up with the kids, because they slept late.  That gave me my window of opportunity to run into town to fill in the necessary supplies.  Fortunately, because we are at the height of summer, there are plenty of farm stands within 20 – 30 minutes of my home, so I was actually able to buy what I needed without the 45-minute supermarket trek to North Conway NH.

I got kale and 4 dozen organic free-range eggs (my grandchildren had never seen brown eggs, nor blue eggs, nor small eggs from a bantam chicken, so this was a curious novelty), and at another farm a little further up the road I managed to complete my purchases with green and red peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, melon, peaches, plums, onions, potatoes and corn.  I was headed home when my husband called my cell phone.

“Uh, listen . . . one of the kids fell and I can’t find the ice pops.  Where are they?  Ok, can’t talk – – gotta go.”

His panicked voice betrayed his attempted calm.  Something was really wrong!

I tried calling back but he wasn’t picking up the phone.  I hit redial and my husband finally answered.

“Look, I cannot hide this from you – – there has been an accident.  We’re getting ready to take “S” (the youngest, age 2) to the hospital.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“Uh . . . he fell out of the window!”

Just then I arrived at the house and ran out of the car.

My husband recounted the terrifying sequence of events:

He had been downstairs in his office.  The grandkids had been sitting at the dining room table upstairs, eating their breakfast.  My daughter was sitting across from my grandson when my grandson decided to get down from the table and look through the window.

Then he leaned forward.

My daughter was only a few feet away, and she quickly reached out to grab him.  But it was too late.  The weight of his little body popped the screen, and he fell through the window onto the gravel-packed ground, 12′ below.  My husband was there within seconds of his screams, since his office door is only a few feet from where our grandson landed, on his back.

My daughter rushed downstairs.  The little boy would not stop screaming.  At least he was breathing!

She examined him thoroughly.  Nothing appeared to be broken, although there was a small scrape on his back from the gravel and impact.  Still, we were worried that there might be internal injuries.

Now here is where they made their mistake:

The first thing they should have done is to have kept him in whatever position he lay.  If he had a spinal or neck injury, moving him could have caused permanent damage and/or paralysis.  The second thing is that they should have called our town’s Volunteer Rescue.  Even though their response time cannot match that of a big city, the trained EMTs could have immobilized him properly and transported him to the hospital, which is located 35 minutes away.

But it’s very hard to think straight in such dire circumstances.

G-d was very, very kind to us and performed a miracle.  Other than a small scrape on his back, the child was completely unharmed.  I dropped my daughter off at the Emergency Room in Bridgton, where they performed a CT scan and determined that all was normal.  The only discomfort for my grandson was having to immobilize him with a thick plastic neck collar for the duration of the scan, with him screaming the entire time.

“Good,” remarked the nurse.  “We like them screaming.”

Versus dead.

Yes, we liked him screaming.  Thank G-d.

The dining room window

The dining room window

The view from the edge:  it's a long way down

The view from the edge: it’s a long way down

The gravel below.  Thankfully he didn't land on the cement.  That's my husband's office door adjacent to where he fell.

The gravel below. Thankfully he didn’t land on the cement. That’s my husband’s office door adjacent to where he fell.

Of course, when something like this happens, you go over and over and over it in your mind.  Ironically, the year before when this grandson had visited us and he was only 1 years old, we had opened the window from the top instead of the bottom for the precise reason that we wanted to prevent a fall.  I had incorrectly assumed that at age 2 1/2, he would not require such extra cautionary measures.  Wrong-o!

My husband was ashen.  He looked like he aged 10 years in those few minutes.  It took my daughter and my husband many hours to calm themselves and recover their equilibrium following the accident.  We just kept repeating, “What a miracle.  What a miracle!”

Originally I wasn’t going to write about our careless accident.  After all, it is supposed to be about a fun vacation with my grandchildren.  It’s not easy to admit that but for the grace of G-d, a tragedy was narrowly averted due to our mindless, careless act of leaving a large window open.  The outcome could have been irrevocably, horribly different, and  I don’t know how we could have lived with ourselves.

But I decided to write about it, because I am hoping that my readers can learn from our extraordinarily stupid mistakes – – the open window and our first-response actions – – and avoid a completely unnecessary tragedy.  Days later, we still can’t believe how fortunate we are – and we are still shaken.

Three hours after the fall, my daughter and grandson were back from the hospital, and my grandson was truly – unbelievably and amazingly! – no worse for the wear.  So we decided to proceed with the day’s planned activity of swimming and kayaking.

My daughter mentioned in passing that she had a strange rash on her abdomen, and would I please look at it.  I wasn’t sure what it was, but I was thinking it might be a deerfly bite, which can be quite painful, swollen and angry-looking, and suggested she try hydrocortisone cream along with some arnica gel.

We have two solo kayaks, and there really isn’t room for two people, even children, in a kayak like this.  So standing in shallow, calm water on Kewaydin Lake, I taught each child how to hold the paddle, how to stroke, to turn, to stop, to go forward and reverse.  I was amazed that even the four-year-old caught on immediately and was extremely adept at kayaking.  I restricted them to an area up to 75′- 100′ from shore, depending on their ages, and of course they were wearing life jackets.  The life jackets turned out to be a fantastic purchase, because they wore them even when they weren’t boating.  It enabled them to “swim” quite far out into the lake without tiring.  The water was unusually warm and they swam for 1 – 2 hours without stopping!  They LOVED it.

The kids were able to swim quite far out with their life vests on.  The kayaker on the left is only 4 years old!

The kids were able to swim quite far out with their life vests on. The kayaker on the left is only 4 years old!

An 8 year old kayaker showing off her strokes

An 8-year-old kayaker showing off her strokes


7 years old


Some of the gang, taking a break

Around 5 pm we decided to call it quits and head home for a cookout.  The boys started the fire and my husband grilled hamburgers and hot dogs.



After marshmallows for dessert, he took the 4 oldest boys over to the campsite for a Boys Night Out sleepover in tents.  The girls and younger kids stayed home and had movie night –  – we watched Mary Poppins on my computer.

After an emotionally exhausting day, we were grateful that the day had ended well.

My daughter’s strange rash seemed a bit worse, but after such a crazy day she was too tired to drive to the walk-in clinic, which is open only from 5 pm – 9 pm.  She said it could wait until the following evening, and we happily headed for bed.








Spring Cleaning

Spring cleaning in rural Maine is quite different from my hometown.  Besides the usual closet changeover from winter clothes to summer clothes, and washing windows and screens, we have to remove the acrylic panels from our sun porch, wash them before storing, and then wash and install screens panels in their place.  There is also a sense of panic that I have to accomplish any outdoor tasks RIGHT NOW before bug season reaches its peak and stepping outdoors becomes temporararily unbearable. We also needed to rebuild our fire pit.  Unfortunately when the snowplow pushes the snow to the side of the driveway, it moves the rocks from the fire pit in the process.  So we have to level the gravel with a rake, put the benches back in place, and gather and rearrange the large, heavy strewn rocks in a circle to create a new campfire zone each Spring.


First campfire of 2014!

This year I had a new challenge:  getting the sand off my driveway.

I still have several layers of sand to remove from the bottom part of our ridiculously steep driveway

I still have several layers of sand to remove from the bottom part of steep driveway

Last summer after seeming non-stop torrential rains washed out the bottom part of our driveway, and with every excavating company overwhelmed with work, we couldn’t find anyone to lay another 4″ layer of gravel to rebuild the damaged driveway.  We finally relented and had several dozen feet at the steepest part of the bottom of the driveway paved with asphalt.  The good news is that we no longer need a 4×4 to make it up our driveway in inclement weather – a bonus for guests who visit us from the city who don’t have AWD vehicles.

The downside is that when our Plow Guy had to sand the driveway during this long, snowy and icy winter (you plow for snow, and spread sand on the ice to provide improved traction), there was nowhere for the sand to go on the asphalt part of the driveway once that ice melted.  Due to repeated treatments, the sand was 4″ deep in places.   Now that the snow is long gone, the sand was creating the opposite problem in Spring:  it was making our driveway precariously slippery in dry weather, and muddy after a rain.  That sand had to go, but how to remove it was a problem to be solved.

Along Maine’s main roads, and in commercial parking lots, huge “sweepers” clean and sweep away the sand.  But there is no such service in my area for private driveways.  I’m in a hurry to get this job over with for three reasons:  1) The sand-coated driveway is slippery when I walk it and I’m afraid of taking a nasty fall; 2) Bug season will get worse, and make it intolerable to labor outside for more than a few minutes at a time; and 3) my driveway needs to be cleaned before the Town’s road maintenance sweeper comes by to clean the street, because when it rains the sand runs down the steep driveway onto the road, and if it does that AFTER the road crew comes, the street will once again be sandy and they won’t come back a second time.

At first I tried sweeping with an outdoor broom, but the sand was just too thick, and the area to be swept is simply too expansive.  Next I tried shoveling the sand with a dustpan into a wheelbarrow, but the wheelbarrow was not only too heavy to push when full of sand, there was no way to evenly distribute that sand when dumped without judicious and tiring use of a rake.  I have to be careful not to dump the sand on the other side of the road next to the pond, lest the Department of Environmental Protection accuse me of destroying the integrity of the soil next to the pond (worst case scenario, subject to fines!).




Unfortunately the only technique that seemed to work was to take a dust pan and bend down to the ground and scoop up the sand.  As mentioned, I couldn’t effectively use a broom to push the sand into the dust pan, it had to be done by hand.  Bend, scrape, fill, dump – – it took me two hours and more than 100 dust pan loads of sand removed – – and by the end of that time not only had I not finished (I hope to finish it this Sunday), I was utterly exhausted. I did as much as I could until I could do no more.  Calling it quits for now, I trudged up the driveway, peeled off my dusty, sandy clothes, and promptly fell asleep for 2 hours!


Amazingly, I do not hurt nor do I have any sore muscles anywhere.  Ditto for when I dragged the sixteen, 40 lb bags of compost from my car into the yard for the raised beds for my new vegetable garden a few days earlier.  In my old (and weaker) life these chores would have been overwhelming, unpleasant tasks and undoubtedly I would have paid someone else to do them for me.

To my surprise, I am finding that I actually enjoy physical labor.  With so many of my friends unwell, I feel so blessed to be healthy enough to be able to do this by myself and know I am getting physically stronger and more capable every day that I live and thrive in Maine – –  even if I ain’t no “yungstah.”

S’mores Are in My Future

Next week is a momentous occasion:  eleven of my grandchildren ages 1 – 12 and two of my married kids and their spouses will be joining us for a fun-filled vacation at our house in Maine.

We devoted today to getting ready for the happy onslaught.  We thoroughly emptied and scoured our attached garage, unrolled an area rug and put several futon mattresses on the floor.  Our garage is now The Bunkhouse.  Better yet, the kids can make noise there, downstairs, during their week-long slumber party, and not disturb the rest of us.

Last year we cleared some more of our land for a future garden patch, but hadn’t yet gotten around to splitting the wood from the trees we chopped down and chunked into logs with a chainsaw.  Our procrastination paid off for a change, as the logs would come in handy for seating.  We chose several hefty chunks and rolled them (they were way too heavy to carry) to our campfire site (our fire pit is little more than a bunch of large rocks in a circle of gravel that my grandsons hauled for me during last summer’s visit, but it functions beautifully).

On Friday I visited Lovell Lumber and picked up several 12′ planed  pine boards, which were cut for me by the owner into 6′ lengths.  What’s kind of neat about Lovell Lumber, besides the fact that it is just down the road, is that you really appreciate the story of where wood comes from and get to see the process of turning a tree trunk into a wood board.  Huge, heavily loaded monster logging trucks  (open tractor-trailers) full of newly cut pine from local forests rumble in on a daily basis.  Lovell Lumber has many outbuildings in their always-busy lumber yard, each one filled with loud machines geared to a specific purpose in the lumber-making process, with sawyers and planers (workers) wearing sound-cancelling headphones who operate the heavy, very dangerous  machinery.  The object is not only to strip the bark from the logs and cut it into wood used for flooring, framing, furniture or paneling, but also to keep all human limbs and digits intact.

My husband is drilling the hex bolts into the boards to secure the benches; while I'm busy swatting mosquitoes.

After drilling holes into the wood, my husband ratchets the hex bolts into the boards to secure the benches.   I’m otherwise occupied swatting mosquitoes.

Next it was off to the hardware store, where I bought 4 1/2″ long hex bolts and some Thompson’s Water Seal.  While fighting off mosquitoes, my husband then drilled the bolts through the pine boards into the logs, and voila!:  instant benches.  I’ll coat the wood with Thompson’s Water Seal tomorrow.  These benches should come in handy when we sit around a campfire and roast hot dogs and toast marshmallows and of course, make  s’mores.

We are very excited about so many kids coming!  But undoubtedly by the end of their stay we’ll relate to this comic a little too well:

For Better or For Worse by Lynn Johnston

For Better or For Worse