Monday, November 4, 2019

Maine (Favorite) Seasons: November

How can November be one of my favorite seasons, you may wonder. November can be cold and dreary, a preview to the long winter to come here in Maine. But November IS my favorite month of the winter "half" (more like 3/4s) of the year. I have always enjoyed the first Saturday morning of November.

Usually dawning cold and crisp, the day may start with going to the local Early Bird Sales where the shops open at 5:30 or 6 for deals to start holiday shopping. Maybe I've made
The dogs are hunting season ready
with their colored bandanas.
We enjoyed the sun and 64 degrees on our
south facing deck on the first weekend in November.
muffins, popped a movie on, taken a walk, or curled up with a good book and some tea. Halloween is over, which I have a love/hate relationship with; the weather has snapped to cold, we've started having morning frost, but by noon the sun can feel warm, and maybe we will see a snowflake or two soon (the forecast says, yes, maybe this week!). Hunting season and wreath-making starts as does the craft fair season. Wood smoke curls from chimneys, the sun glints through the bare trees (and with shorter daylight hours and the sun lower in the sky, we get to enjoy what sun there is), and the sun is up in the mornings again with the "fall back"/reversal of Daylight Savings Time. Folks finish up yard work, planting their garlic and other spring bulbs, and finish topping off the wood pile. I've already seen a few pickups with plows loaded on.

November also marks my birthday month, which is followed by the holidays, a time for family and friends, remembering, thankfulness, and looking to the Advent season.
Baby shower cupcakes,
an early birthday candle,
and pumpkin candy represent
 the various celebrations of November.

This year I started November with no power due to a rainy, windy storm on Halloween night. Then I got to host my sister-in-law's baby shower, which is super exciting because this will be my brother's first baby! Next we get to celebrate my son's fall baseball team with a team party.

With all that's wrong in the world, it's good to look around and see what we can be thankful for this November. I choose to keep it simple and focus on all the blessings God has given me. Life is not easy. It throws us curves. We have challenges, bad days, tough years...but God is good, even in November.

Surviving November Links:

Hate "Falling" Back One Hour? Read "5 Tips to Help Your Body Adjust to the Time Change."

Easy Thanksgiving and Christmas Activity to Encourage Gratitude: Make a Gratitude paper chain for your Christmas tree. We did this a few times when my son was younger. Every day we each had to write at least one thing we were thankful for on a strip of construction paper, and we added to them our chain. Then we added to our Christmas tree.

Did you have a November kind of year? Are you in a tough place right now? David Jeremiah is doing his series "When Your World Falls Apart." Good, good stuff straight from years of study, experience, and Biblical teaching.

Tired of Halloween Candy? I love Squash Soup. Here's a recipe, or Panera Bread makes a delicious one that I find in the deli at my local grocery store.

And speaking of squash. My local community hosts an epic Pumpkinfest every year. I wrote about it years ago. It keeps growing, right along with the Giant Atlantic Pumpkins that are grown, weighed off, and then decorated along Main Street and in front of many area sponsor businesses. The weekend is full of tons of activities and a parade, which we participated in for the first time ever with two of the teams my husband coaches. The kids had a blast despite how long it was to wait to start and then finish the parade route!
Parade time at Pumpkinfest.

A literary themed great pumpkin
at Damariscotta's Pumpkinfest 2019

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Maine Seasons: Apple Picking Time

T'is the season for apples, apples everywhere. Even though it seems (to me) that apples are clearly a special Maine harvest because they go so well with the fall colors and cooler temperatures, apples are actually harvested in all 50 states and produced for commercial sales in 32, with Washington state being the top producer. There goes my idea that Maine has the market on apples!
Apple picking is a great
family activity!
Photo at Biscay Orchards 2009.

As for the statement "As American as apple pie"? Well, did you know the apple originated in Kazakhastan and that China is the world's leading producer of apples?

Orange Pippin lists 77 apple orchards in Maine. Another source says 84 apple farms produce 1 million bushels from 2000 acres of orchards.

I think Maine is a great place for apple picking. And now is prime picking season. The weather is glorious, a great time to be outside. I swung by my local orchard to buy an already picked bag of macs because I've promised an apple pie for homecoming.

However, apple picking has always been one of our favorite family activities. Many orchards offer other fall activities such as corn mazes, hay rides, and pumpkin patches, and products like honey, fresh pressed cider, homemade donuts, fudge, corn...yum!

Here in no particular order are my favorite midcoast-area Maine apple orchards:

Hope Orchards, Hope, offers a wide variety of apples with limited picking hours. They encourage you to bring your own bags. I noticed on their Facebook page that last week they had beautiful peaches available. A few years ago they offered pick-your-own carrots, which my husband did to make harissa pickled carrots! Check the website or call for times/prices!

Biscay Orchards, Damariscotta. You can pick your own or stop by for an already picked bag. Here you drive right out to the orchard and really get to wander around and pick to your hearts' content, or till your bags are full. An attendant is there to offer direction to your favorite varieties and bags, and will weigh your apples on the way out. You pay at the apple shack near the road. I have been here a lot with my family and class trips. Friendly locals own and keep the farm going, and it offers beautiful views of Biscay Lake. If its a warm day and you're so inclined, pull into the small beach area to eat your fudge or apple tart from the apple stand. They usually offer samples of apple varieties and tastes of their yummy fresh nonpasteurized cider! So good! Also be aware, they are a cash or check only business!
Orchards often offer more than
apples. One year Hope Orchards
had pick-your-own carrots.

Bailey's Orchard, Whitefield. I hate to say I haven't picked here in years, but when we lived a bit nearer to it, Bailey's was our go-to apple picking spot. This orchard also offers the sense of adventure of walking up (a bit hilly if my memory serves me) into the orchard and feeling miles away from civilization. Its a beautiful orchard set on 100 acres offering up to 50 varieties. In the barn they offer squash and other fall treats.

School House Farm, Warren, is a full-on three season farm stand that has been family-owned and run for 38 years! Along with the full complement of spring, summer, and fall offerings they have orchards that are pick your own, open until November 1, according to the Facebook page. Check them out if you want a full farm stand buying opportunity. They make homemade donuts as well.

Where is your favorite place to pick apples?

All Things Apple!

U.S. Apple Stats: Maine is NOT even on their list of top apple producers! Oh well. How many bushels does the U.S. produce overall? Find out here!

Maine Apples is the website of the Maine Pomological Society! Look for an orchard near you on their website and a lot more on the Maine apple industry, history and recipes.

Want to know which variety works best with your recipe? See this list from the Farmer's Almanac with a few recipes attached.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Maine Seasons: Labor Day Weekend

Its Kieve weekend, or what is known across the U.S. and Canada as Labor Day weekend. To me, though, it will always be Kieve weekend, a weekend that in my youth and teen years signified a church camping weekend at a local camp facility. We would play games, swim, have a camp fire, our own version of the Gong Show, a kids' talent show/music or a movie, church on the lakefront, and lots of great food and fellowship. The weather often follows a similar pattern in Maine over Labor Day/"Kieve"weekend.

Found this baptism photo from
2013 at Camp Kieve Weekend.
Note the cloudy pre-fall weather!
Move in on Friday afternoon and evening was always hot and sticky; by Saturday morning it was cooler, but temps went up throughout the day, enough to move everyone to the lake in the afternoon after family games and lunch. By Sunday morning maybe those in tents were wet from a late rain shower, and it was definitely cooler. Sweatshirts and blankets would come out for church time, and those getting baptized usually were shivering after their holy dunk. After a large all-church cookout there'd be more waterfront fun, and by Gong Show and campfire time, we'd all be bundled up again, with Monday morning dawning cool and damp with cleanup and packout and a little sadness ahead (for end of retreat, end of summer, start of school). Yes, its Kieve weather for sure this year as well, although that particular camping tradition has ended, sadly.
Blueberry and bear-sighting field
at Nesowadnehunk Field
Campground in Baxter State Park.

Across Maine, Labor Day is usually associated with one last camping weekend, closing up camp, picnics, and back-to-school shopping. Although school starts have crept up earlier into the last week of August in recent years, many school districts stick with beginning the Tuesday or Wednesday after Labor Day, which was my experience. Its a good demarcation from summer to fall despite the Autumnal Equinox not arriving for two to three more weeks.

There are many campgrounds across the state, some more remote and woodsy and others that offer lots of spots under trees for campers and tents with theme weekends and lots of activities. Some favorites in the area are

Pemaquid Lake Campground and Duck Puddle Campground, both on Pemaquid Lake, in Midcoast Maine. Both are popular for family weekend getaways, and they also offer seasonal sites. I've never stayed at either but I know many people who have. They offer lots of activities, facilities, and beautiful lakeside and on-lake fun.

Acadia National Park offers some
 of the best Atlantic Ocean views.
Sebago Lake Campground--A popular inland retreat that functions as a day spot for the beach and a campground. Sebago is the deepest and second largest lake in Maine (beat out by Moosehead Lake, another popular hunting, camping, four-wheeler, sno-mobiling area that unfortunately I've never spent much time in!).

Acadia National Park--It has it all--ocean views, beaches, mountains, biking trails, and Thunder Hole! It gets busy in the summer but is a very beautiful place to visit, one of Maine's most popular tourist attractions.
View from Cadillac Mountain, Acadia.

Baxter State Park--Ready to rough it? Like to hike? Baxter is another of Maine's most popular camping/hiking destinations as the park encompasses Mount Katahdin, the state's largest mountain. I can say I hiked it once, and that was more than enough for me. But on my most recent visit three years ago, I discovered there are plenty of other non-uphill hikes for non climbers like me. There are also cabin campgrounds, and I found a place to kayak and admire the mountain from a lake. I walked to see Big Niagara Falls and saw a moose after dropping off the hikers, and observed a mother deer and her fawns while hiking around Sandy Stream Pond. Make reservations early to stay over and to hike. The best way to find out availability is to call. Check the website for history, lots of information, how to prepare, and where to stay.

Here is a link to probably almost all the campgrounds in Maine with all kinds of information about things to do in Maine!

Here is a link to the Maine State Parks Campgrounds:

Happy Camping! 

   Happy Labor Day! 

Happy Fall!

   Happy Back to School!

Daicey Pond Campground offers
great views of Katahdin for non hikers!

What is your favorite camping or Labor Day weekend tradition?

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Favorite Beach: Popham

Maine has reached full-swing summer mode with tourists, seasonal businesses open, and hot weather. Its the weather Mainers dream of all winter long.
Epic castling at Popham is a highlight
of summer in Maine.

Summer tends to be a time of frenetic activity for most Mainers who are trying to cram every ounce of fun (or seasonal work) into the ten or so short weeks of perfect or nearly perfect weather.

These last two weeks we've experience some hot, hot days (for Maine) with temperatures in the eighties and nineties, a Maine heatwave!

How do we survive this massive jump from temps in the forties and fifties to eighties and nineties? We complain! 
And then we go to the lake, put in the air-conditioning units, eat lots of ice cream, and dream of snow.

My absolute favorite way to stay cool is to swim. I have a number of favorite private and public spots where I can do this, and many Mainers have their own family camps or local neighborhood swimming holes. There are plenty of free or low-cost beaches, (take your pick of ocean or lake). And for all the rest, well, drive around and notice all the blue pools that pop on lawns when the temps rise above 80!

Enjoying cool, refreshing Maine
 lakes are a favorite way
to stay cool in the summer

My favorite beaches are Pemaquid and Popham. (I blogged previously about Pemaquid and a favorite lakeside swimming hole we call the Mills.)

Popham is a special and large beach with good rolling waves, large tides, and sand bars. It is 14 miles from Route 1 down the Phippsburg penisula. Go to Bath and head East on Route 209. Its a long but pretty ride! Leave early because depending on where you live its a bit of a ride and on hot days the parking lot fills up quick, in which case you may feel your trip has been wasted. One time that happened we were able to find paid parking at Percy's Store, but sadly that was demolished this year!

Back to the beach. It is one of Maine's treasured (and most popular, according to the Maine State Parks website) sand beaches. So much of Maine's coast is rocky, not the miles of long sands such as are found in New Jersey, Florida, or on the West Coast. Popham is a good place to surf, picnic, search for shells, explore a rocky island during low tide or make epic sand castles. It is a day-long adventure from which you should leave feeling fully sun-baked, relaxed, and starving (because the seagulls have stolen your lunch!)

Popham's glittering ocean (at ends of two rivers)
 and soft sand attract many locals and tourists every summer.

One of my favorite things about Popham is planning my day around low tide, so we can walk over the sand bar to Fox Island. Its hard to describe, but here is a view from up on some of the rocks of Fox Island looking back toward the beach area. Sometimes we spot seals feeding. We wade in the lower depressions of water left behind in the tide's wake waking to and from the beach. It really feels like the ends of the earth, and its magical.

There's much more to say about Popham,
but its an experience to have for yourself. 

Six Tips for Visiting Popham

1. Plan to arrive early, probably by 10 a.m., to be sure you can get parking.
2. There is a fee: $6 for Maine residents/$8 for nonresidents, or use your state park pass.
3.There are no concessions at Popham, so pack a cooler accordingly. (We like to stop at Amato's in Bath for the best Italian sandwiches in Maine. There are one or two places to stop for something along the way, although we never have!)
4. Don't leave, wave, or hold your food where seagulls can grab it. They WILL steal it and enjoy your Real Italian from Amato's.
5. There are changing rooms, outdoor showers, and bathrooms.
6. A beach cart, sled, or pull wagon are helpful for hauling all that beach stuff. Trust me, its a bit of walk to sit near the water or anywhere close (or far away) from other beach-goers!

More on Popham:

Maine's State Parks site.

A great article in the Sun Journal about road-tripping to Popham, with links and some history too.

Happy Summer!