Posts Tagged ‘Maine’

Atop Sabbatus (again)

sabbatus1Sometimes I just feel like getting out there, but don’t really have time for a full-blown hike.  We had lots of chores to attend to around the house, and by the time most were complete it was already late in the afternoon.  That’s when we headed to Sabbatus, which is only 5 or 6 miles from our home. It’s an easy uphill loop hike of 1.4 miles total, but the grade is enough to get my heart beating and make my breath short.  The view at the top is always inspiring (two weeks from now it will look entirely different as autumn paints the leaves red, orange and gold).  It was comforting to go there on the anniversary of 9/11, and to be surrounded by peace and beauty.  It made me wonder why anyone would choose violence and hatred and dissent and terror over serenity, peace, beauty, unity and love.  It helped me forget the vitriol and negative emotion that our current US elections have inspired.  For those few minutes, I had no bills to pay, no paperwork to clean up.  Just for a moment, in that wide expanse, no one was sick or hurt and all was well with the world.

May it be only be so!

 

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An Absorbing Morning

The foliage is starting to turn and the nights are definitely cooler.  I’ve been putting off a chore I hate – painting – but I could put it off no longer.  The trim on our house is now 6 years old, and looks scraggly and worn.  If I waited to paint until Fall I risked the air being too cold for the paint to dry properly, not to mention the possibility of rain.  It was now or never.

I spent a couple of hours scraping loose, peeling paint and smoothing the remainder.  My husband helped by putting our very tall and heavy ladder against the house. Carefully balancing the paint bucket in one hand and the brush in the other, I leaned against the ladder just so, praying that my balance would hold and I could get the job done without calling in an expert.

It went better and quicker than I thought it would.  A new coat of paint is an amazing thing:  the house looks new again.  What I didn’t realize is that my Standard Poodle, Truman, was concerned about my being so high off the ground on the ladder.  He was determined to not let me out of his sight, so he got as close to me as he could – – directly under the ladder.  I couldn’t see him and didn’t know he was there.

His cream-colored fur absorbed the dark bronze paint drips nicely, better than any drop cloth.  When I rounded a corner, he did too – – by cocking his head and leaning his neck against a freshly painted post.  Soon he resembled a pinto-colored horse.

Naturally I didn’t discover my dog’s new look until the paint had completely dried.  I spent the next twenty minutes with a scissors and electric clippers, cutting out huge chunks of hardened, dark bronze colored fur from his head, neck, ears and back.  Now he resembles a molting moose, and it isn’t pretty.

 

 

A Haven of Mentschlichkeit*

Yesterday I had an experience that perfectly sums up why I love living in the White Mountains, and it has nothing to do with hiking, camping, or kayaking.

I traveled the 45 minutes to my “local” supermarket for my weekly shopping trip.  As I stood in line, there were four people ahead of me.  The first, an elderly person, had just received her receipt, which came with a separate tape that printed out a coupon: “Spend $75 on your order and get $5 off.”

The lady turned to the person next to her in line.  “Oh, why don’t you take this coupon and use it on your order?  I’m just a single person living alone, and there is no way I can spend $75 on my shopping.”

The man was delighted.  “Thanks!” he said.  But when the cashier totaled his order, he was many dollars short of the $75 to benefit from the coupon.  He certainly could have pocketed the coupon for use the following week.  But instead, he turned to the person next to him, and said, “Here, maybe you can use this coupon.”

The scene repeated itself.  The woman in line was delighted, but equally dismayed when her order also did not total $75 (I guess New Englanders are frugal food shoppers!).  That’s when she left the coupon for me.

Amazingly, and what was probably the first time in my life in the history of my shopping at any supermarket, my total was much less than the required $75 purchase.

I wish I could say I am a saint . . .  but frankly, under normal conditions, passing on the $5 coupon to someone else, especially a stranger, would simply not have crossed my mind.  Normally I would have stowed it in my wallet for future use.  But seeing this remarkable generosity and how good it made everyone feel about others and themselves was contagious.  One good deed truly does lead to another, or as we say in Jewish thought, “mitzvah goreret mitzvah.” That’s worth more than $5.

I passed it on.

*Mentschlichkeit: a good, honorable and noble person who exudes integrity, decency and kindness

 

 

 

Maine: The Way Life Should Be

Recently I hosted a friend from my hometown who was in need of a break from the stresses of daily urban life.  I invited her to join us up in Maine.  Thankfully, she had a great time!  The restorative powers of the White Mountains never cease to amaze me.  Here is an excerpt from her note to me:

Since I have gotten back, everyone I meet says I look so relaxed.  I am trying to hold on to the feeling.  You don’t know what you did for me in inviting me back.  I wish I could figure out how to include such experiences in my life.  Maybe we can fit in one more visit before you leave.  I wouldn’t even mind coming in stick season now that I love it so much!!!

This fills my soul.

Evans Notch – Spring 2016

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Two weeks ago Truman and I climbed Little Deer Hill and Big Deer Hill, a total of 4 miles round trip.  Short, but sweet, there are some steep parts but it’s not a killer hike.  It had really warmed up — 64 degrees with brilliant sunshine – but the key here is that it was nice and breezy, which means NO BUGS when hiking! Hooray!

When I pulled into the trailhead parking lot, there was only one other car. Up we went to Little Deer Hill. We passed the NH-ME border marker.

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deerhill1During the entire climb up that mountain, we caught the wind coming off of Evans Notch.  The summit views of Mt. Meader, and No. and So. Baldface Mountains were clear and lovely.

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deerhill3After admiring the view from the top (where Truman sat like he was King of the Mountain; he owned it), we went down the other side of that mountain, and then up to Big Deer Hill. The view from the top of Big Deer Hill looks down upon Deer Hill Bog, which is only 3 miles from my house.  Unfortunately on this side of the mountain, there was no breeze, so the blackflies were swarming and I didn’t stay more than a minute.

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We were the only ones on the entire mountain; the only noise was of the breeze and various songbirds.  We got to the dam on the bottom of Little Deer Hill, explored the shoreline, and headed back to the car.  There must have been 20 cars in the parking lot trailhead upon our return!  Now you know where people from Maine and New Hampshire go when they call in sick on a Tuesday morning!  Nature lovers find a beautiful day hard to pass up.

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I really didn’t want the day to end, so I drove to the Basin for some pictures. The wind was gusting and actually blew my scarf right off my head.  It was a gorgeous day and I was back home in time for lunch.

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Happy Sunday

This past Sunday was one of those days when everything went right.  Now that we’re in the midst of blackfly and tick season, hiking gets pretty uncomfortable when the weather is sunny and calm.  Saturday it was a sunny, gorgeous 80 degrees, so I made sure to wear a bug net whenever I took the dog for a walk.  Unless it’s really breezy, the blackflies love to swarm all over you.  For the past two weeks, I’ve been pulling off a minimum of 10 ticks a day from my dog, and 5 ticks from myself, despite the use of repellents.

So I was not disappointed to wake up to a blustery, cloudy Sunday in the 40s.  Although rain threatened, at least it meant that we could go walking unmolested by bugs.

But first, we needed to dump our trash and recyclables at the transfer station.  I was delighted to find several great books at the freecycle station.  When I finish the books I will return them to the freecycle area so someone else can enjoy them.  I also contributed several old garden pots that I had no plans to plant to the giveaway pile.

From the transfer station we continued a few miles up the road to visit our friend Paul’s building site (I guess you could call it tresspassing since he wasn’t there).  Paul is building a new, off-grid home there and is doing everything singlehandedly.  For the past several months he’s been busy grading the area, and raising the site with packed dirt since the house will sit along the river and he has to worry about a flood line.  We were really impressed with the attractive retaining wall he set.  The house will overlook the river, where I’m anxious (with Paul’s permission) to bring my kayak and try a little trout fishing.

By now the skies were looking a bit mean so we thought we’d forget a hike and just take a scenic drive.  We went up the Crooked River Causeway and then drove west on Route 2, taking in the grandeur of the northern White Mountain Peaks.  We turned into a parking area at Rattle River trailhead, which is part of the Appalachian Trail, and decided to walk the gentle 1.8 miles to the shelter erected for the benefit of thru-hikers.  (A thru-hiker is someone who hikes the entire length of the Appalachian Trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine.) We figured a little rain wouldn’t hurt us.

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Fortunately, the weather held, and there were no bugs! The many small flumes and cascades along the Rattle River were incredibly soothing and beautiful.  Although we’ve taken this walk several times before, it never gets old.  The last time I was there I was with our dog Spencer, who died this past September.  Now we were accompanied by Truman, our 7 month-old Standard Poodle puppy, and it was fun to experience the walk through his doggie eyes and nose, as he exuberantly discovered the joys of the Rattle River trail for the first time.  It made the old new again.

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It was also lovely to see trillium, a type of wildflower in purple or white, in bloom.20160515_133817

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From the Rattle River we headed over to Gorham NH to do my week’s worth of food shopping at the Super WalMart (the only major food shopping in that area; it saved me a trip into town later in the week).  I know a lot of people who hate WalMart and won’t shop there out of principle, but ask anyone living in a rural area and they will tell you that WalMart is a blessing.  The one-stop shopping saves rural folks from traveling 100 miles into the closest city to supply their needs, and at reasonable prices.  I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was a large selection of organic produce at this WalMart!

From Gorham we traveled back on Rte 2, but instead of returning the way we had come, we went down the 113, which is Evans Notch; it’s one of my favorite drives in the area.  The views are magnificent, the Notch is filled with dozens of challenging hiking trails, and there is always a chance of seeing a moose.  We didn’t see a moose, but we did see very fresh, recent beaver activity along a river.  The beavers appeared to be decimating the entire shoreline, working on felling several large trees simultaneously along the riverbank.

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Thanks to the longer days, when we got home there was still time to sow some beet seeds in the raised-bed garden.  I’ve also planted garlic, kale, and some winter squash, and last year’s strawberry plants are doing nicely.  My only garden disaster (so far) is the complete failure of my apple orchard.  Although I attended a university extension course on apple growing, fed them, talked to them (and God),  pruned them, and generally babied my apple trees for the past 5 years,  I had yet to see  even a single apple blossom and no apples, despite a proliferation of leaves!  Even putting a beehive next to the trees didn’t help them pollinate. Finally, finally – – four apple blossoms!

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Will they make it?  Who knows.  I’ve been vigilant about removing insect nests that hatch worms and devour young apple leaves on an almost daily basis.  I’m trying to keep the orchard organic, so pesticide is a no-no.   Meanwhile I have 8 organic apple trees that mock me daily, a life lesson and humbling reminder of the fact that despite my best efforts, I am not always the one in control.

 

Spring 2016

There is a saying in Maine:  “If you don’t like the weather, wait a moment.”

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And that pretty much sums up our early Spring.  As of last week, even the most stubborn ice melted from the lakes and ponds as temperatures ramped up to the 50s and 60s.  The woods came alive with sound:  Canada geese and various wood ducks mating and nesting; Spring Peepers; beavers emerging from their dams and whacking the water with their tails; a long, harmless garden snake emerged from the rock in front of me and slithered away; the newspaper warned homeowners to put away their bird feeders as bears emerge from hibernation.  And then, today, a “polar vortex” swooped down and splashed us with violent winds and fierce cold.  After this past week of warmth, tonight’s temperatures will see a low of 4 degrees F.

While still warm, I took the opportunity to empty a year’s worth of discarded fruit and vegetable peels, spent coffee grinds, and crushed eggshells – – now turned into rich, earthy soil – –  from our compost bin.  It filled two huge wheelbarrow loads and I transported it to my orchard, where after aerating ground near the trees’ roots, the compost provided some fertile food for the apple trees and there was even enough left over for the blueberry bushes. It was great to touch the warm earth, and feel the sun on my face, but best of all, it was a pleasure to work the soil and complete all my early gardening needs without the hum and sting of blackflies, deerflies or mosquitoes.

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Inspired by a week of beautiful days, Truman (our new puppy) and I hiked and bushwhacked in the woods near our house.

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On one of these walks I met a new neighbor who built a cabin last year on land that her grandfather had bought when he was in high school, back in the early 20s.  Now all the descendants of this man – a son and daughter, cousins, nieces and nephews, are slowly reclaiming parcels for self-sufficient homes and cabins of their own. It’s a wonderful legacy and I’m sure he’d be thrilled that the extended family remains close, and that it’s his large, remote parcel bought so long ago that brings them together.   All of them see themselves as stewards of the land, ensuring that its natural resources will not be misused, but will provide them with the wealth of clean air, pure water, and fresh produce from the earth to their tables, and a lasting appreciation of the glory, beauty and power of nature in these woods.

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Although I’m not a fan of daylight saving’s time, I did appreciate the ability to take evening walks with my husband after his workday ended at 5.30 pm, knowing it would still be light when we got back, even if we walked 3 or 4 miles.  Away from the city, it’s such a pleasure to be less distracted, live slower, to breathe deeper, and be able to focus more easily on sights, sounds, and the ones we love.

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