Posts Tagged ‘lake’

A Lot Can Happen in a Month

Immediately upon completion of the 30-day mourning period for my brother-in-law (shloshim), we returned to Maine from our home town, driving 10.5 hours through the night.  We arrived at 7 a.m. on July 4th.

The first thing I noticed was the holes in the driveway.  In June, a snapping turtle had been busy sloooowly coming up the driveway each day at dusk for about a week to dig a hole, lay some eggs which resemble ping-pong balls, cover up the hole, and sloooowly make her way back to the bog at the bottom of the driveway.  Now, in July, the eggs must have hatched in the past 2 days, for the shells were still leathery.  The baby turtles had torn their eggs open under the ground, and literally clawed their way to freedom digging through the packed gravel on the driveway, making their instinctual pilgrimage to the bog below.  It’s quite a miraculous journey, as many local creatures such as raccoons, fishers, herons, hawks, crows and snakes prey upon the babies, or manage to dig their way underground to steal and eat the eggs from the nest before they hatch.  Once grown, though, the snapping turtle has only man for a predator (you’ve probably heard of Turtle Soup, a real delicacy in China).  When threatened the snapping turtle’s bite is powerful and could amputate someone’s fingers.

Leathery remnants of hatched snapping turtle eggs.

Leathery remnants of hatched snapping turtle eggs.

Another weird thing was the bees:  I saw that the Bee Man had added some new hives, a sign that the numbers of bees are increasing and honey production is in full swing.  Indeed, the scent of honey was heavy in the air (and smelled heavenly).  The morning of our arrival all looked well, but by the end of the afternoon, shortly before dusk, the bees  appeared to be resting in a swarm on the outside of the hive – – tens of thousands of them!  I looked up this phenomenon on the Internet, and found that this is called “bearding.”

Bearding is a form of hive air-conditioning; the bees depart the immediate brood nest area in order to help keep it at the desired temperature (too many busy bee bodies = too many BTUs). When you see all the bees outside the hive an hour before sundown, you’ll also notice the following morning (early a.m.), most if not all, have gone back inside the hive because the outside air temperature (and thus the hive temp) has dropped – again, just a way they regulate the brood nest temperature.

"Bearding:"  When the temperature inside the hive gets too hot to handle, bees cool of by hanging out around the outside of the hive at the end of a long day.

“Bearding:” When the temperature inside the hive gets too hot to handle, bees cool of by hanging out around the outside of the hive at the end of a long day. (Click to enlarge to see tens of thousands of resting bees “bearding.”)

While we were away, it had rained 10 of the last 15 days, and the first two weeks of June were scarcely drier.  Our house was practically unrecognizable upon our return, due to the heavy foliage.  The lilac bushes and blueberry shrubs I had planted with such care, along with 80 sunflower plants, had been swallowed up and overwhelmed by weeds, brush, grass, thorny raspberry and poison oak.  The trunks of the apple trees were similarly covered.  In the Maine woods, in the battle of Man vs. Nature, nature ultimately always wins.  (Or as a Mainuh once bemoaned the state’s poor economy, “The only thing Maine knows how to do right is grow trees and lobstah.”)  Weed-whacking was the order of the day (not the most ideal way to spend a holiday day off), and it was made worse by a searing heat wave that included lots of humidity.

Once the orchard was trimmed, I could see that the garlic had really grown tall.  The type of garlic I planted is not like the kind you get at the supermarket.  In order to survive the Maine winter (garlic is usually planted in the Fall), a special type of garlic, called hard-necked garlic, is used.  Although its strands cannot be braided due to the stiffness of the greens, it is very potent and delicious.  Towards the end of the growing season, each planted clove forms a curly “scape” with its own little seed bulb.  It is recommended that one cut the scapes off so the garlic bulb under the ground will not divert its nutrients towards the scape, and the bulbs will reach their maximum potential in size.  But the scape cuttings can be used to garnish a salad or sautéed or steamed, and are quite delicious in their own right.

The curly, bulbed end of a hard-necked garlic plant is called a "scape."

The curly, bulbed end of a hard-necked garlic plant is called a “scape.”

My husband was completely exhausted after doing the weed-whacking, and had lost probably 5 lbs. in sweat (eeyew).  We jumped in the car and drove to the lake, which was completely devoid of other people, and dove in the cool, clean, refreshing water.  We had a great swim!  From there we returned home, had a light dinner, and decided to go see fireworks.

Fourth of July celebrations are taken very seriously and enthusiastically in rural Maine.  In especially small towns, two or three towns will combine their celebrations and have  several events during the day, including a parade (which most of the residents participate in, so there are few spectators), a 5k charity race, a pot-luck picnic lunch or dinner, with proceeds also going to charity, and of course, fireworks.

Ebenezers Pub in Lovell, Maine is world-famous, which is something of a surprise since it’s basically in the middle of nowhere about 6 miles down the road from our house.  Ebenezer’s is  known for their impressive inventory of beers, with 1000+ beers available at any one time and at least 35 varieties on tap.  Once we took some guests there, and the claim that they are world-famous was met with rolling eyes and guffaws.  But sure enough, a couple of patrons sitting at the bar had motorcycled there all the way from Virginia on a beer pilgrimage, and another couple had come especially from Belgium!  It’s low-key and friendly and despite the many boutique beer offerings, there is not a trace of snobbery or sleaze.  Ebenezers adjoins Kezar Lake Country Club, whose golf course is open to the public, and it’s a perfect venue for watching the fireworks provided by the Lovell Volunteer Fire Department on a hot night, sitting on the grass, glass of (exotic) beer in hand.  (Check out the pub’s website, they have a great list of things to do in the area should you ever decide to come visit us!)

What made it really special, however, was the crowd of 150 people of all ages.  When the fireworks began, the entire audience spontaneously started singing a whole medley of patriotic songs, including the Star Spangled Banner, God Bless America, and This Land is Your Land.  It was really quite touching, not to mention patriotic.  I guess the patriotism is not that surprising, since most of the residents here are direct descendants of the original patriots, colonists, and founding fathers who created the United States of America.   This is their heritage at the source and by golly, they certainly do embrace and celebrate it.

Today, Sunday, is the last day before the 9 days leading to the Tisha B’Av fast day and prayers, which commemorate the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.  During these upcoming nine days there are several restrictions.  No swimming or boating.  No laundering.  No eating meat.  So naturally, in between scrambling to get all my laundry done, I made kayaking, fishing and swimming a priority, since I cannot partake of these activities after today.  I did manage to catch several fish:  2 small yellow perch (not known as good eating fish so I threw them back), a brown  trout which was too small to keep and also was returned to the water, and finally, a nice-sized white perch, which, when sauteed with the garlic scapes mentioned above and some freshly-snipped parsley that is also from my garden, made a tasty and healthy lunch.

2 o'clock:  just-caught white perch sauteed with freshly picked parsley and garlic scapes from my garden.

2 o’clock: just-caught white perch sauteed with freshly picked parsley and garlic scapes from my garden.

By being away from Maine during the crucial month of June, I missed the prime planting time for a summer or fall garden.  So my packets of many varieties of kale seeds and beets and cucumbers will sadly have to wait until next year to be planted.  Because frost appears as early as September in Maine, the growing season is very short, and if you do not seize the day to plant in a timely manner, you simply lose out until next year.

It is good to be back!  And this will be a busy summer:  awaiting the birth of a new grandchild in Chicago, and entertaining eleven of my grandchildren at the same time in mid-August here at our house in Maine.  Stay tuned!

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Striking It Rich

We returned to Maine on Sunday night, and the next day, after the rain cleared and the sun shone, I decided to go hiking.  Ten days before, I had gone walking in the woods in Evans Notch, on an easy, underused 5-mile-long trail that meanders along the Cold River.  It was my “farewell hike,” as we would be traveling the next day to our hometown for the holiday of Shavuot, along with the yahrzeit of my mother-in-law.  We would be in our hometown for only a week, but it was wonderful to see our kids and grandchildren again and reconnect with friends.

The water was flowing nicely, when I reached an area of quiet, deep water.  The water was crystal clear, and lo and behold, I saw two groups of thirty brown trout, all 18″ – 21″ long!  Sadly, I didn’t have a fishing pole with me, but I promised myself to return.

Brook trout in Cold River

Brook trout in Cold River

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(too bad this was taken with my cell phone, instead of my camera and polarizing lens . . . )

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I walked back to my car and drove a couple of miles further to The Basin, where I parked my car and ate a picnic lunch.  There I met a retired gentleman who was fishing at Basin Pond.  He and his wife were staying at the campground there.  Within 15 minutes he had caught his limit of 5 brook trout.  When I told him about the brown trout I had seen in Cold River, his eyes lit up.  He told me that New Hampshire Fish & Game sometimes stocks their “old” breeders there, which makes sense, since several nearby lakes have been stocked recently (Kewaydin Lake, near me, was stocked a week ago by Fish & Game with 400 trout).

This guy caught 5 trout in 15 minutes

This guy caught 5 trout in 15 minutes

One of the brook trout he caught

One of the brook trout he caught

The Basin in Evans Notch, site of my picnic lunch

The Basin in Evans Notch, site of my picnic lunch

Another view of The Basin

Another view of The Basin

Now back in Maine, I was eager to revisit this “secret” fishing hole and I encouraged my husband to come along after work, so at 5:15 p.m. we drove to Evans Notch, parked, and walked the 20 minutes to the site I remembered.  Alas, even though we spotted the fish, they were not biting.  Disappointed, we made our way back to the car and began the 6-mile drive home.  We turned down the dirt road at Deer Hill and halfway to our house at the 3-mile mark, my husband spotted a cow moose (female) at Deer Hill bog, grazing in the water.  Our first actual moose sighting of the season!

Cow Moose at Deer Hill Bog

Cow Moose at Deer Hill Bog

The itch to fish was not over, however.  It was now 7:30 p.m.  and there wouldn’t be much daylight left, but I dropped my husband off at home and set out alone for Kewaydin Lake.  Within a mile of our house, along the road, I saw a cow moose walking along the road.   I couldn’t believe my luck – – two moose sightings in one day!

The sunset on Kewaydin Lake was beautiful, and best of all, the fish were definitely biting!  I caught a smallmouth bass almost immediately and called it a day. . . or so I thought.  As I neared my house in the near-darkness, I suddenly sensed a shadow – and as I slowed my car I saw a bull moose, his antlers in velvet, running alongside my car.   I stopped and watched it run off into the woods, and then continued home.  About 100′ feet before reaching my driveway, I saw a moose calf walking along the road.  That’s four moose in one day spotted in my neck of the woods . . . a new personal record.  I only felt bad my husband had missed the excitement.

Two years ago, my husband and I made a deal.  I had bought him a fishing license, but he was just too grossed out impaling a worm on a hook to continue fishing!  Since non-resident fishing licenses are not cheap ($64 a year), I told him that unless he could get over his phobia, I would be putting the fishing license in my name the following year.  And so, I have been the family fisherman ever since.  He told me if I would catch the fish, he would clean it.  I guess he thought that he wouldn’t have to make good on this promise, since I am a newbie and don’t really know what I’m doing.  And I was beginning to wonder if the only fish we’d ever eat would come out of a can:  I caught plenty of fish, but they were either not good eating fish (yellow perch) or too small to meet Fish & Game regulation size.  I always had to throw them back.

Well, now it was payback time.  The fish was still alive and swimming in a water-filled ice chest, surviving the bumpy ride home.  I left my husband the gruesome task of killing and cleaning the fish.  It seemed cruel to let it die by slowly suffocating out of water.  In a fit of manliness my husband got the idea to behead it quickly with an axe and proceeded to clean it at the kitchen sink.  Now, why killing and gutting a flopping fish is less gross than threading a worm on a hook I don’t understand, but I’m not complaining.

I dipped the fish in a beaten egg white, dusted it with flour seasoned with pepper and parsley, sprayed some oil on an iron skillet, and moments later the fish was sizzling in the pan on the fire.  I was careful not to over cook.  It was truly the sweetest, most tender and delicious fish I have ever eaten – and certainly the freshest!  (Not to mention expensive – I called it “my $64 fish” – since this was the only fish caught so far on the new fishing license.)

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For me it was a kind of test.  I wanted to know if I was capable of “hunting” and eating my “prey,”  albeit in a kosher manner.  Or would I be too sentimental?

I guess I’m too cold-hearted (or perhaps I was too hungry!) but I confess I was not particularly emotional about the entire experience.  Yes, I felt bad about the poor fish to some extent, but it also gave me an appreciation for the workings of nature in HaShem’s world, and the idea that He has created things for our sustenance – –  that is a chesed (kindness).  The fact that we have to work so hard for our food makes it impossible to take life and death casually or for granted.  I’m not saying I don’t appreciate the convenience of going to the supermarket for my food!  But by shopping for our food we have lost that hunter-gatherer connection, and the many important life lessons that go along with that.  Fishing does serve to reconnect us to those primal and spiritual roots.

What a great Maine day!

“Sukkot” in Maine

An ice shack on a frozen lake January 2011 (click to enlarge)

Maine is known for its fishing; the fact that the lakes and ponds freeze over does not stop anyone.  Ice fishing is a very popular sport and hobby; several towns and ice fishing clubs hold “ice fishing derbies” and people compete for the most and largest fish caught.  Depending on the lake, the varieties of fish caught include trout, salmon, perch, largemouth bass, pike, pickerel, togue and splake.  Personally I don’t know much about ice fishing because I have yet to venture out on the ice and ask a devotee to explain the whole concept to me.

For one thing, there are few women into ice fishing.  That’s because it tends to be one of those “male bonding” things (which usually involve lots of beer and televised sports).  So you can kind of understand what’s been keeping your Intrepid Reporter from knocking on the door of an ice shack and peeping inside.  That, and the below-zero temperatures.

First you chop a hole in the ice.  It’s not that easy when the ice is 3″ – 12″ thick. This link on youtube shows someone drilling with an augur:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bMwNuBR450E&feature Fishing lines are laid in the hole, in the water, and then it’s a matter of waiting until the fish bite.  This requires checking of the lines every few hours.  You can’t just let the lines sit for a day or two; the ice must continually be broken up so the hole won’t freeze over.

I spoke to one woman whose son and husband go ice fishing.  (“I’m not into it,” she told me, “I think it’s boring.”)  Obviously it’s not real interesting twiddling one’s mittened thumbs in zero-degree temperatures for several hours waiting for the fish to bite.  To combat the boredom and the cold, many people build or buy ice shacks.

If it weren’t for the flat roof, ice shacks look identical to the sukkah that Jews use in October.  It almost makes me think that Mainers must have been one of the 10 lost tribes, and somehow their ice shacks evolved from this tradition.  From what I’ve been told of the fancier ice shacks, their interiors sport a sofa, propane stove, and a satellite-enabled television, where men sit drinking beer and watching football, ice hockey and basketball games and talking about whatever men talk about as they bond, warmed by portable heaters.  The shacks are unloaded on the ice via pickup trucks or snowmobiles, who tow them with ski runners on the shacks, whose weight is amazingly supported by the thick ice as they drive out on the lake in search of the perfect spot.    Here is a youtube video of an ice shack being hauled out onto a frozen lake:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f2D_Bv20bAQ&feature Of course every year there are always stories of pickup trucks and shacks that venture out a little too early in the season when the ice isn’t quite thick enough, or wait a little too long at the end of the season when the ice starts to melt, and they fall through the ice.

Most of the shacks are pretty basic, just a simple door and four walls of plywood banged together.  The more luxurious ones are larger, have windows, and may be decorated or painted on the outside.

This is a nice report on one Mainer’s ice shack:

From the Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, comes the following information about ice safety:

“Thick and blue, tried and true. Thin and crispy, way too risky.”

The ice traveler should look for bluish ice that is at least 4 to 6 inches thick, in order to support people and their gear. Even if the weather has been below freezing for several days, don’t guess about ice thickness. Check ice in several places. Use an auger, spud, or axe to make a test hole, beginning at shore and continuing as you go out.

If ice at the shoreline is cracked or squishy, stay off. Don’t go on the ice during thaws. Watch out for thin, clear or honeycomb-shaped ice. Dark snow and dark ice are other signs of weak spots.

Choose small bodies of water. Rivers and lakes are prone to wind and wave action, which can break up ice quickly. Avoid areas with currents, around bridges and pressure ridges.

In the wintertime, outdoor enthusiasts frequently need to know how thick the ice is and whether it is safe to walk across it.The American Pulpwood Association has published a handy reference chart that gives a good rule-of-thumb for ponds and lake ice thickness.

The chart below is for clear, blue ice on lakes. Reduce the strength values by 15% for clear blue river ice. Slush ice is only one-half the strength of blue ice. This table does not apply for parked loads.

“Wait for a long cold spell, then test the ice thoroughly.

Ice Thickness Chart

Ice Thickness
(in inches)

Permissible Load – Clear, Blue Lake Ice
(Reduce strength values for other types of ice)

2

One person on foot

3

Group of people walking single file

7 1/2

Passenger car (2 ton gross)

8

Light truck (2 1/2 ton gross)

10

Medium truck (3 1/2 ton gross)

12

Heavy truck ( 7 – 8 ton gross)

15

Heavy truck ( 10 ton gross)

20

25 tons

25

45 tons

30

70 tons

36

110 tons

What if I break through the ice?

If you break through the ice, don’t panic.

  • Don’t try to climb out – you’ll probably break the ice again.
  • Lay both arms on the unbroken ice and kick hard. This will help lift your body onto the ice. Roll to safety.
  • To help someone who has fallen in, lie down flat and reach with a branch, plank, or rope; or form a human chain. Don’t stand. After securing the victim, wiggle backwards to the solid ice.
  • The victim may need treatment for hypothermia (cold exposure), artificial respiration or CPR

“If your feet are cold, put on your hat.”

  • That may seem odd, but it’s good advice. Most of our body heat is lost through your head and neck. So wear a hat and cover your face and neck.
  • Dress in layers. Wool, silk and certain synthetics are best; they’ll keep you warm even if they’re wet.
  • Insulated, waterproof boots, gloves and a windbreaker are very important. Take extra clothing.

Mush!

Mainers do not spend the long winters at shopping malls. This is partly because there is little disposable income in Maine; but mostly, it’s because there are maybe two shopping malls in the entire state.  Nor do Mainers mope, immobilized and catatonic, around their woodstoves, waiting for Spring’s arrival.  The newspapers are full of activities that celebrate the cold.

Children playing at a park, 6 degrees F. The yellow sign says "Freezin for a Reason!" (click to enlarge)

The other day I drove by a church whose billboard announced their “Ice Skating Rink Now Open!”

My synagogue back home doesn’t even have a social hall! (Though it’s standing room only, even without a skating rink.)

This past Thursday thru Saturday in Rangeley, Maine there was the Snodeo.  As the name suggests, this is a snowmobile rodeo, with a great variety of events, including trick riding, obstacle courses, daring gymnastics and races (top speed last year was 130.4 mph!) – all on snowmobiles.

Snowmobilers (click to enlarge)

Site of the Musher's Bowl: Beautiful, frozen Highland Lake in Bridgton, ME, with tracks from snowmobiles and dogsleds (click to enlarge)

We decided to attend an event a bit closer to home.  This weekend was the 16th annual Musher’s Bowl.  There is no such thing as “weather permitting.”  The temperature hovered between 6 to 11 degrees F, but we weren’t going to let anything stop us from a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity . . . to go dog sledding!

We gathered at Highland Lake in Bridgton Maine, where our musher/sled guide, Andy Chakoumakos of Lovell, ME, awaited us with his 6 Alaskan Husky mixes.  The dogs howled, bayed, barked and leapt into the air in anticipation of the upcoming ride.  They were very excited and obviously love to shlep their human cargo, even fatties such as moi. (Each dog can pull about 180 lbs, and we had 6 dogs for us 3 riders.)

That's me sitting in the sled just before the start of the ride. The restless dogs are anxious to get going! (click to enlarge)

There were two ways to ride:  seated in comfort, or balancing precariously on a sled runner (a ski) in the back of the sled alongside Andy.  My spouse and I traded positions halfway into the ride so we’d each have a chance to fully experience the joys of dog sledding from two different vantage points.

As we round the corner over frozen Highland Lake, you can see other sledders in front of us (click to enlarge)

It was a blast (of cold air)!

Now I'm standing and my husband is sitting - you can see his boots in the foreground as the dogs dash over frozen Highland Lake (click to enlarge)

enjoying the ride (click to enlarge)

We learned there are many types of sleds and different competitions, as well as different breeds of dogs developed for the various types of rides.  Siberian huskies are known for their endurance, but they are slow, so they typically are not used for short, sprint-type races.

No, pullng the likes of me did not cause this dog to collapse! (He was giving himself a back massage)

Alaskan huskies are mostly a blend of huskies, malamutes, and hounds, whose combined traits of endurance, speed, drive and cold-weather tolerance make them a winning mutt combination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the site of the "freezin' for a reason" polar plunge, a fundraiser for a local animal shelter. They had to chip away several inches of ice in order to reach water. (click to enlarge)

After our ride we passed a “swimming pool” that had been chipped out of the 5″ thick ice.  The previous day, fundraisers for the local animal shelter had participated in a “polar plunge” in their bathing suits (!) in 10 degree weather.

 

This beautiful apple orchard with the million dollar view was the site of the dog sled races. You can see a sled racing behind the small shack in the distance (click to enlarge)

We drove a short distance to a beautiful apple orchard, which was the site of dog sled races, as well as skijoring races.  Skijoring is a relatively new winter sport, consisting of a single skier who wears a belt that is tied to a long leash, at the end of which are 1 or 2 dogs.  The dogs pull the skier along a cross-country race course; it is a timed event.

Sled racing (click to enlarge)

pushing for the finish line (click to enlarge)

Skijoring (click to enlarge)

Skijoring (click to enlarge)

The races were attended by dozens of spectators who stood for hours in the extreme cold.  One guy commented to me, “I can’t believe you’re wearing a skirt in this weather!”  I answered, “Always the lady!” and he laughed, but the truth is, I was probably dressed warmer than he was.  Besides heavy wool socks and neoprene and rubber waterproof, knee-length boots, I was wearing long johns and sweat pants under the polartec fleece skirt; and a thermal undershirt, a polartec fleece top, an arctic-weight fur hooded winter parka, plus a wool hat, ski goggles to protect my face against icy winds, and fleece gloves.  It was so cold that several times I missed some good shots when my camera froze!  However, I personally never once felt cold and even my toes were toasty!

with all this clothing, it's hard to move (but at least it's tznius!)

(click to enlarge)

Every so often a very cool-looking ATV (all-terrain vehicle) with tracks would groom (smooth) the trail.  I wish I could afford one of these with a snow-blower attachment to plow our steep driveway!

at least my dog was concerned...

When we arrived home we decided to try walking on the frozen pond across from our house. Now we can truly say we’ve “walked on water.”  However, the pond’s edge turned out to be not as frozen as we thought (it was covered with about a foot of snow so we couldn’t see it so well).  I fell deep into a drift, the bottom of which turned out to be the not-completely-frozen pond!  My spouse seemed to find amusement in my sinking through the ice and hitting freezing cold water!  My loyal dog (more concerned than my spouse, I might add) was busy trying to rescue me.  My husband, on the other hand, was busy laughing and taking pictures as I flailed my arms and hoisted myself back to solid frozen ground like a beached whale (or make that “wail”). (It sounds more dangerous than it actually was.  The water was only about 6″ deep, and I was wearing waterproof boots, but because I was stuck in a snowdrift it was difficult to extract myself.  Honestly, my husband isn’t the sadist I’m making him out to be.)

(click to enlarge)

We returned to the house just as the sun was setting behind the mountains.  We heard that a serious cold snap would be hitting our area this evening, so my spouse quickly refilled the wood cart and brought it inside the house so we’d have plenty of fuel.  We love the challenges of winter weather in Maine, but in -25 degrees F (without windchill!) it’s just downright dangerous to be outside, and that is the forecast for this evening, so we want to make sure we have plenty of fuel within easy reach.

We ended the day with a bowl of homemade spicy chili – yum!  It really hit the spot.

We really do love it here and are constantly grateful, amazed and in awe of the number of once-in-a-lifetime experiences we’ve had so far!

(P.S. According to our thermometer, it only got down to -13 F last night, not the -25 F that was predicted)