Posts Tagged ‘rural Maine’

How Rural is My Maine Town?

This past Tuesday I spent the day in Portland at the University of Southern Maine library doing some research.  On the 90-minute drive back to my home, when I was within 10 miles of my home, I realized I needed to use a bathroom.

The last ten miles are really rural.  There are no convenience stores, no gas stations,  or any other kind of store where I could stop in and use a bathroom – – just windy, narrow blacktop along a forested backdrop.  For those desperate enough, there is always the side of the road (cars pass very infrequently) but there were howling, gusting winds of 25 mph and the temperature was below zero, not exactly ideal weather for desperate bladders that can’t wait.

Then I remembered our local library.  Not the beautiful modern one that was still another 20 miles down the road.  But just up ahead, a small, rural library happened to be open, an amazing bit of providence since it’s open only 4 hours a week in total, and this was one of those hours.  That library used to be a one-room schoolhouse from the 1890s until the 1960s, and other than the addition of some shelves to hold the library’s small collection of books, it doesn’t appear much different from how it looked 100+ years ago.

The librarian was most gracious concerning my request.

“You are welcome to use the bathroom, but I have to warn you, it might not be what you’re expecting.”

Indeed.  Inside a supply closet was a medical commode – – the kind ill or elderly people use parked next to their beds when they can’t walk far enough to get to a bathroom.

I looked at the commode.  I looked at the librarian.  I looked back at the commode.  I really had to go!  But not, apparently,  as much as I originally thought.

“Thanks,” I said to the librarian, “but I’m not going to make you clean up after my pee in that pot!”

The reason the library doesn’t have indoor plumbing during the winter is that they can’t justify the expense of keeping the library heated 24/7 when it’s only open 4 hours a week.  Without heat, the pipes freeze, so they need to turn off the water supply to avoid bursting pipes.  Hence the commode for emergency use.

I quickly jumped in the car and raced the last few miles home, where I happily emptied my bladder . . . in my good ol’ flush toilet.

 

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Decluttering: Ah, The Memories

In America, we collect stuff.  I don’t know how it happens, but soon we realize our houses are overflowing with things we had to have but do not need.  I have yet to meet an American rich or poor who does not suffer this sickness.  We live in a tremendously materialistic culture, and are constantly bombarded with advertisements telling us how much we need the latest, greatest, newest, or best.  When we can’t afford it, we use credit cards, because we can’t live without it, whatever “it” might be.  Or it was on sale or on clearance and how can we resist such a great deal?  Even if we don’t need it we might need it in the future.  So we buy, buy, buy. Partly it’s because even the simplest American homes are bigger than most houses in other parts of the world and we have storage space.  And of course, there are plenty of McMansions that can really hold a lot of crap.   I know people in Europe and Israel who don’t have collection fetishes as Americans do, but that’s because their physical environment is so much smaller.  There is simply no room to put anything anywhere, so they desist.  Heck, most homes in Europe and Israel don’t even come with closets!

One thing I love about March and April, even though I kvetch about it, is Pesach cleaning.  This goes way beyond the gentiles’ Spring Cleaning.  We Jews are supposed to turn our homes upside down looking for leavened foods, called chametz , which are forbidden to be eaten or owned by Jews during the week of Passover.  Pesach cleaning and preparations take two weeks to a month.  But in the process, our homes get really clean and downright immaculate.  And best of all, we throw out mountains of stuff that have nothing to do with actual chametz, but are superfluous to our lives.  To be honest, the act of getting rid of stuff and cleaning is an exhausting pain, and we do it strictly out of religious obligation.  But when it’s complete, it’s not only a relief; it’s a release; a cleansing of the soul; redemption.  It forces us to take stock of what’s really important in our lives, and the answer, of course, is not “stuff.”  It is, indeed, a religious experience.

One of the hardest tasks facing a person once their elderly parent dies is getting rid of that parent’s “stuff.”  The thing is, it wasn’t just “stuff” to the deceased.  If they kept it, it was usually because the item had real meaning, whether it was a souvenir that reminded them of a trip once taken, some tschotchke that was part of a hobby collection, assorted memorabilia or photographs of family and friends from younger days.  In other words, a life of memories.

I hate to sound harsh, but . . . well, for the most part, one person’s treasure is another’s trash.  My parents’ memories are usually not my memories.  Going through their clutter helps me better understand who they were and what was important to them, but ultimately . . . it’s still clutter.  And even though I wish I could incorporate their nostalgia into my own oeuvre, and even though I feel guilty as heck getting rid of stuff that I know was an important part of my parents’ lives, in my own house it’s a huge space-taker and dust magnet.  But oh, the guilt!  The sacrilege!

My mom was a life-long collector with fabulous taste.  Even objectively, I can see that most of her stuff is nice.  But: I. Do. Not. Want. It.

It pains me to know that my mother would have been unhappy about my getting rid of her stuff.  Usually there is little I want.  I ask family members if they want it.  Other than a few tokens, the answer is most often “no.”  So I post her things on craigslist, and offer other things to auction houses, consignment stores, and donate things to thrift shops.  I have yard sales, garage sales, and estate sales.  Occasionally people buy stuff that they are really delighted with and then I feel good; because my mother would have loved that her things brought someone else joy and that these strangers appreciate – – really appreciate – –  the same things that she did.  Other times priggish antique and junk dealers swoop in like vultures, offering me pennies on the dollar for things that cost my mom a small fortune.  Usually I say no, because I know how upset my mom would have been by their cold, calculated greed, and that they were buying to make a profit and not because they loved whatever it was that she so cherished.  And so, much of her stuff still sits in my house, collecting dust in cardboard boxes.

For better or worse I may be stuck with my mom’s stuff but if I’ve learned anything, it’s that I don’t want to do this to my kids.  So for the past 4 years, I’ve slowly been getting rid of my own things big and small.   Furniture.  Accent pieces.  Extra cookware and serving pieces.  Things that I no longer use regularly.  Things I needed in my twenties that I don’t need in my fifties.   I always ask my kids if they want it before I get rid of it, and usually the answer is no.  And I try to divest myself of things the same way I tried with my mother’s things:  yard sales, craigslist, consignment stores, thrift stores.  The difference is that it’s my stuff and no one else’s, so it’s easy to give myself permission to let it go.

Fortunately I am not a tschotchke collector (not because I don’t like tschotchkes, but because I am a terrible housekeeper and I couldn’t bear the thought of dusting every few days).  But I have tens of thousands of papers and books and photos that sit in boxes that will eventually suffer either from mildew or dry rot.  I admit it:  like my mother with her stuff, I cannot bear to throw these things away.

The good news is that unlike my mother’s objets d’art, technology has provided me a solution to my media hoarding:  scanning and digitizing.  All those articles I wrote or were written by others I admire that, let’s face it, will probably never be read again, can now be scanned.  (Maybe, just maybe, my kids or grandkids will be interested in my writings and journals and photographs some day?)

I have been slowly going through my bookshelves and re-reading everything.  Not every story brings me the joy I thought I remembered.  So slowly I am dissolving my library; I donate my books to our little rural library here in Maine.  What they can’t use they sell as overstock and that also provides paltry but necessary funds for the library’s use.

But the worst clutter offender:  my photographs.  So far my husband has scanned over 20,000 (!) photos which — and this is almost physically painful for me – – I have then dumped into the trash.  Thanks to an Adobe software program called Lightroom, when he scans the photos, he “tags” them with keywords so anyone with access to our digital library will be able to quickly and painlessly retrieve specific photos based on names, places, family members, events, or approximate dates.  No more going through albums and boxes.  I think there are approximately 35,000 photos total.  But that doesn’t include thousands of slides and film negatives.

Recently I bought a slide and film converter at Costco.  You simply place a negative film strip or slide transparency inside the converter, and in 3 seconds it digitizes the image and stores it on your computer  (essential:  backing up one’s separate hard drive!).  There are professional, expensive converters/scanners out there that do a fabulous job; this one is not that.  The resolution is not terrific and the color renditions and clarity are somewhat off.  But I realized the chance of me or my children (I asked them first) wishing to enlarge a digitized image from their 5th birthday party that happened 30 years ago into a quality 8×10 print copy was indeed remote. Even if I could make prints of all the slides and negatives, it would take an entire room just to contain the albums that would hold them.  It’s nice to view the images and relive the past – – for a few minutes.  Neatly archived, the only space my life’s memories take up can fit on a disk drive . . . or is that just plain, sad commentary?

And then, it’s time to move on.

 

 

 

 

Walking on Water

Although it was considerably warmer today than it’s been, Little Pond, which sits at the bottom of our driveway, is now frozen solid.  It was a rather grey, bleak day, but we still try to get outside once or twice a day, seven days a week, to enjoy the fresh air and take walks no matter what the weather.  We decided it might be fun to walk across the icy pond, and get a different perspective from our usual view.

 

Our dog Spencer stands on frozen Little Pond.

Our dog Spencer stands on frozen Little Pond.

 

It was kind of fun to say we walked on water

It was kind of fun to say we walked on water

There are several large beaver dams at the edges of Little Pond.  Trappers do lay traps here.

There are several large beaver dams at the edges of Little Pond. Trappers do lay traps here.

Cattails along the edge of Little Pond

Cattails along the edge of Little Pond

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We're on the pond looking across to our house, hidden in the woods (designated by red arrow)

We’re on the pond looking across to our house, hidden in the woods (designated by red arrow)

Here is a closeup of the same picture.  You can barely make out our snow-covered roof.

Here is a closeup of the same picture. You can barely make out our snow-covered roof.

footprints on frozen Little Pond

footprints on frozen Little Pond

Our house.  You can see how snow has slid off part of the metal roof.

Our house. You can see how snow has slid off part of the metal roof.

Our 16 x 20 shed was completely stacked with cut and seasoned wood by the end of summer.  The “problem” is that the last few winters have been relatively warm and we haven’t had to use much wood in the woodstove, thanks to our very well insulated house.  Some of the wood has been sitting in the shed for more than 5 years.  The problem is that after a certain point, wood can get too dry and brittle.  At that point it won’t burn very hot and will burn so quickly that it’s not really fuel-efficient.  So this year we decided that rather than adding more cut wood to the shed, we’d just take our extra wood and leave it under tarps until we could make a serious dent in the “old” wood that’s been stored since we first built the house.  Because it’s been very cold, we have been using more wood for heat in general.  I think we still have several years to go, though, before the shed is emptied of the “old” wood, but hopefully we’ll use it up before dry rot sets in.

 

This shed wall was filled with 4 layers of wood stacked 6 1/2 feet high at the end of summer 2014.  We've managed to use up quite a bit by January 2015.

This shed wall was filled with 4 layers of wood stacked 6 1/2 feet high at the end of summer 2014. We’ve managed to use up quite a bit by January 2015.

 

But as you can see, we still have plenty of wood left in the rest of the shed.

But as you can see, we still have plenty of wood left in the rest of the shed.

I still can't believe we split and stacked most of this wood ourselves, log by log - around 20,000 lbs!

I still can’t believe we split and stacked most of this wood ourselves, log by log – around 20,000 lbs!

 

 

Our Pond is Haunted

 

 

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Little Pond

The past couple of weeks saw warmer than normal temperatures and rain so whatever snow is left is hard-packed and icy with many bare spots showing through. Even though the days have been sunny, yesterday and today were quite cold, with temperatures in the single digits at night.   Little Pond, the bog which sits at the bottom of our driveway, is frozen over.

Yesterday I experienced perhaps the most unusual natural phenomena ever in all my years in Maine.

Around sunset I decided to take the dog for a quick walk.  As we reached the bottom of the driveway, I heard a strange, unearthly noise unlike any noise I’d ever heard before, coming from the pond.  As I stopped to listen – – the air was completely still with no other signs of life nor sounds nearby in the vast, bleak emptiness – – the noise came and went in odd spurts, sometimes in a crescendo, sometimes sounding like a low, ghostly howl; knocking; moaning and groaning; at other times like the crack of a whip as it traveled across the pond.   I strained my eyes but could see no activity above the water.  At first I thought it might be the sound of beaver activity under the ice. But the sporadic sounds came from different locations in the pond:  first near me, then the opposite shore, then the far end, and other times from the middle, etc.  There was no pattern nor rhythm, and the sounds varied.  I can’t honestly describe them – – they were unsettling, and ominous, and ghoulish, and other-worldly.  My dog was terribly afraid by these noises – – he refused to walk further and returned to the bottom of our driveway, planting himself firmly there, refusing to budge and anxiously waiting for me to follow him home.  I walked to different parts of the pond’s edge but did not get any closer to solving the mystery.  Instinctively, I felt it was some sort of underwater noise or signaling — since I couldn’t pinpoint its direction or source I still wasn’t sure if the noises were emanating from above or beneath the ice – – but how? Why? What did this mean?  And why, with my daily ventures to the pond over the past 5 years at all times of day and night, in good weather and bad, had I never heard these sounds before?

(This is actually one of the things I love so much about my life in Maine.  There is always something new to experience and to learn, to see and hear and feel.  It’s a near constant explosion of sensory awareness, providing that one is patient and receptive and can slow down enough to be open to it.  And when I slow down, I mean really slow down:  I find a spot, close my eyes, and take several deep cleansing breaths.  Then I consciously work on breathing deeply and quietly and slowly, and open my eyes.   By now I feel my heartbeat has slowed.  My blood pressure is low.  My muscles are relaxed.   I concentrate deeply on listening and seeing and on each of my senses individually, only allowing them to integrate when I feel I’ve absorbed each sense at a high level of awareness.  I may stay in a single spot for fifteen or twenty minutes, or as much as an hour (and by then my dog is usually fully bored and exasperated with me, sighs, and lays down on the ground in surrender).  I guess some people would call this a form of meditation, but I’ve never studied meditation and I don’t really know much about it.  But it is during these periods of concentration and alertness that I’ve been especially successful in observing Nature.  And it never, ever gets old.)

After searching on the Internet, I finally found the sound that I had heard earlier in the day at Little Pond:  “dispersion of sound waves in ice sheets.”  It is an unusual phenomena that has many people scratching their heads.  The sounds were described by others as “creepy” and “eerie” so I was in good company.  I’ve provided some links below so you, too,  can get a taste of the unusual.

Creepy sounds in St. Paul MN:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oOngbi8UQ9s

A frozen lake in Berlin, Germany (with a great explanation of the phenomena):  http://silentlistening.wordpress.com/2008/05/09/dispersion-of-sound-waves-in-ice-sheets/

 

 

 

Simple Pleasures: The Spirit of Giving

A few weeks ago, my eldest grandson, 14, came to Maine to spend some time with us.  One day he accompanied me to the transfer station (a nice word for “The Dump”).  There is no garbage pickup in rural Maine; our local transfer station, about 8 miles away, is open several times a week during set hours and that’s where town residents haul their recyclable and regular trash.

When we went over to the dumpster that holds recyclable trash, my grandson noticed a few new-looking baseball cards sitting on a bunch of discarded corrugated cardboard.  He asked me if I would allow him to climb in the (clean) dumpster and take the cards.

“I think we’d better ask the guys who run the dump,” I answered.  Mostly I was concerned for my grandson’s safety – – I didn’t want them to not know my grandson was rummaging around in the dumpster, only to turn on the compactor and cause a horrific accident.

“You want the cards?  Sure!  Go ahead in and get ’em,” the transfer station employee said.  “And if you’d like me to start saving cards for you, just let me know,” he added.

The worker told us that one of the local residents makes “a little money on the side” by trading baseball cards.  He travels around New England, going to yard sales, auctions, and searching through Craigslist ads looking for baseball cards, which he buys in bulk.  He then goes through the stacks and stacks of cards, quickly filtering out 3 to 10 cards out of hundreds that have collectible value in today’s market.  The rest, he brings to the dump.

“I’ll save the cards for you if you want ’em,” the worker told us.  “Just say the word.”  Sure, I answered, we’d take whatever cards he’d scrounge up.  I didn’t think anything more about it.

A couple of weeks went by and my grandson returned home.  When I next ventured to the dump, the worker scurried towards me, carrying three cardboard boxes.

“I’ve been saving cards for you,” he said.  “And I’ll keep saving them until you tell me to stop,” he added.  I had forgotten about our conversation, but the transfer station worker had not.

I opened one of the boxes.  I couldn’t believe my eyes!  Each box contained at least 1,000 mint-condition baseball and football cards:  3,000 cards!

The initial three boxes of cards saved for me by the worker at the dump.  All were in clean, mint condition.

The initial three boxes of cards saved for me by the worker at the dump. All were in clean, mint condition.

Thanks to this transfer station worker’s kindness, I was now eligible for the World’s Best Savta (Grandmother) Award.  This is not an easy distinction when you’re talking about preteen and teen-aged boys for whom grandparents are most definitely not, in the ordinary sense of the word, “cool.”

I was so excited!  Thanking the worker multiple times  (and yes, I always bake him goodies every year during Christmas season, and make sure to ask him how his fishing and hunting are coming along in the Summer and Fall), I placed the boxes in the back of my car, imagining my grandsons’ faces when I presented them with the cards upon my return to my hometown.  This was definitely a case of one person’s trash being someone else’s treasure.  I emailed my kids, alerting them to my plans.

“Just got a boatload of discarded mint condition baseball cards for the boys.  Should keep them busy for hours!”

“Oh, no!”  was my children’s reply.  “More stuff!” they railed.  “Just one more thing to have to clean up after!” they groaned.  “We already have enough messes!”

“Spoken like a true parent,” I replied.  “When did you guys get so old and tired?  You don’t sound like my kids; you sound like I used to sound when you were little!  Just remember how much you used to love collecting these cards when you were kids,” I added with a dose of Jewish Mother guilt-tripping.

So with Chanuka coming, my husband and I drove down to our home town, and presented the cards to two sets of grandsons, boys ages 6 thru 14.  “I CAN’T BELIEVE IT!”  “THANK YOU SO MUCH!” “WOW!” “Savta, YOU ROCK!” “AWESOME!” “BEST! PRESENT! EVER!” were some of the reactions.  For the next six hours the boys got busy sorting the 3,000 cards.

Some of the grandsons sorting 3,000 baseball and football cards.  Their mother was convinced she'd never get her table back.

Some of the grandsons sorting 3,000 baseball and football cards. Their mother was convinced she’d never get her table back.

I have no idea if they found any treasures; for all I know these cards are totally worthless.  But for six hours (and four hours the following day), there was only joy:  no fighting, no sibling rivalry; the boy cousins had yet another bonding experience; and, completely free of charge and thanks to the simple kindness of my local dump worker in Maine . . .  I was the best Savta in the whole world.

Happy New Year to all!

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:

#STOP THE CAR!  MY PAN OF CHICKEN IS ON TOP OF THE CAR!!!

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.

 

 

The Creed that is Maine

One of the things I love about where I live in rural Maine is that people aren’t just subsistence farmers, they truly care about the quality of the food they eat.  A lot of local farmers are using organic farming methods, seeds that are not genetically modified, and heirloom varieties of vegetables.  Fruits and vegetables are picked when they are ripe.  But the selection can be sparse and the variety limited because of weather.

At my current favorite farm I noticed that the kale is always sweet.  I don’t know about you, but when I buy kale at the supermarket, it often has a slightly bitter edge.  I finally realized it’s because the supermarket kale is probably 3 or 4 days old since the time it was picked.  The kale I buy from my local farm was picked that morning.  It truly makes a difference when produce is so fresh, not only in taste, but in maximum nutritional benefit.

And the eggs!  When you crack open an egg from chickens that have plenty of space to roam around and, well, act like chickens, instead of imprisoned in tight confinement and never breathing outside air, you’ll see that their eggs look totally different from what you buy in the supermarket.  The egg yolks from a naturally-raised laying hen aren’t pale yellow – – they are a deep marigold yell0w-orange color whose flavor is so rich you will wonder how you could ever possibly think of buying a supermarket egg again.

The color of the eggs is determined by the breed of chicken.  There are at least 4 breeds of chickens represented by these eggs.  They vary in size as well.  But they are uniformly fresh and delicious.

The color of the eggs is determined by the breed of chicken. There are at least 4 breeds of chickens represented by these eggs. They vary in size as well. But they are uniformly fresh and delicious.

What I love about Flyaway Farm is . . . everything.  It’s a family farm in the truest sense of the word:  a back-to-the-land sort of family, slightly hippie, living very simply off the grid in a remote area, homeschooling their hard-working kids, growing what they need to survive, and selling the surplus for some extra cash.  Oh my, do they work hard!  There is little respite.  Since they are an organic farm, they are constantly coming up with creative, ingenious ways to thwart the notorious Maine bugs and crop destroyers without the use of toxic pesticides, and improve their soil without the use of chemicals.  Like any farmers, they are at the mercy of nature:  too much rain or not enough; killer frosts.  And still they keep at it, knowing that it’s mostly a losing game but worth the cost because life is good.

There are a lot of good people in rural Maine who barely get by.  Many grow what they need as subsistence farmers and hunt to supplement their food supply.  No one wants to be poor, but I can say with conviction that few people in Maine make it their goal in life to be rich.  Some would arguably concur that Mainers lack drive or ambition.  But most people live in Maine because they want to get away from the rat race, and live slower.  It’s hard to do that while wending your way up a corporate ladder.  Rural Mainers want to make enough to have the basics and a little left over for an emergency or an occasional splurge, but rural Mainers are the least materialistic people I’ve ever known.  Their lives are guided by this question:  do I really need it, or do I just want it?  Can I make something similar with my own two hands, or from spare parts sitting in the shed/barn?   Can I barter for it with something I already have?

 

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At my local farm, I can also buy seedlings for herbs and vegetables for around $2 per plant. The structure above the seedlings is called a hoop house.

 

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Freshly picked greens are put in bags in the stand's  fridge, waiting for customers.

Freshly picked greens are put in bags in the stand’s fridge, waiting for customers.

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The sign reads, “We are committed to using only non-GMO, untreated seeds. Many are heirloom and organic. We feed our plants with certified organic fish/seaweed fertilizer. NO CHEMICALS. It’s healthier for us, our children, and our environment. Thank you for supporting a small family farm.”

 

Each week when I buy vegetables, I write down what it is that I’ve taken (this week it was 4 bags of kale, a bag of snap peas, and some fresh eggs gathered that morning from their free-range chickens), and record how much money I’ve paid.

The owner is not always at the stand, so I write down what it is I've taken and how much I've paid.  You can see the lock box and change box in the rear right corner.

The owner is not always at the stand, so I write down what it is I’ve taken and how much I’ve paid. You can see the lock box and change box in the rear right corner.

I put the money in a little lock box, although there is another box with about $20 in bills and coins in case I need to make change.  It’s all about the honor system and it’s not just a convenience, it’s a creed here in rural Maine.  It’s a great and holy thing when you can trust not just your most intimate acquaintances, but the majority of the population, even if they might be strangers.

When you live in an environment that is consistent in honesty and decency it changes a person.  Life just seems more livable and more meaningful.  And soon, you can’t imagine living any other way.

The thought of returning to the city, where people are cynical and skeptical and mistrusting, because they’ve been burned more than once and expect to be burned again, is astonishing.  Why put up with such ill-begotten behavior if you don’t have to?  And you learn that we all make choices, and then wonder why anyone would choose to live in chaos, or get so used to the corruption of certain values that they forget that life can be different in such a positive way.

The state motto is, “Maine:  The Way Life Should Be.”  There is a lot wrong with the state of Maine, but mostly there is a lot that’s right.  It’s the important things that count:  that basic decency and honor and craftsmanship and pride of place that is the very definition of rural Maine, that is sadly lacking in so many other places.

 

The most popular supplier of organic vegetable, herb and flower seeds, bulbs, potatoes, and trees in Maine is Fedco Seeds.  That’s where I order my garlic bulbs and they’ve been great.  They sell to commercial organic farmers, serious hobbyists,  as well as weekend gardeners. You can order a print catalog or just look online.  Their catalog has a wealth of information and makes for great reading.  They only sell seasonally.  I highly recommend them, and they ship all over the US.