Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Favorite Beaches: Rachel Carson Salt Pond Preserve

Tucked into a quiet little cove just east of New Harbor on Route 32 is the Rachel Carson Salt Pond Preserve. What's not to love with the salty air, ocean blue views, wading (or diving!), creatures, rocks--the Maine coast! It is named for Rachel Carson, a scientist, environmentalist, and influential writer, who had a home in Southport, two peninsulas south. She researched the ocean (including at this very salt pond) and the negative affects of DDT. Her books and articles changed views on the ocean and conservation and effectively helped to see DDT banned.

There are other places in Maine with her name attached to it, but this one was dedicated to her in 1970 after the area was donated to the Maine chapter of the Nature Conservancy, which she helped start, in the 1960s. It wasn't until recently that I learned there are wooded trails on the other side of the road, but I have not had a chance to explore those yet. 

The salt pond at low tide.
From the rocky beach is a view of the ocean, peninsulas on either side, and the large tidal pond for exploration. It's not a big area or marked by a parking lot or large sign. If you blink you might miss it as trees and roses edge the road obscuring the view of it, although after it in either direction are ocean views, cottages, and rocky beaches more visible from your car, and to me they are quintessential Maine. Parking is along the road. Its not the most accessible place for all. There are steps over the embankment to the beach where you can sit and ponder, listen to the waves, stick your toes in the water, hum to a hermit crab or snail, look for sea treasures, or build a rock cairn. 

This season's visits have included foggy and sunny days as seen in my photos, wading, looking for pretty rocks, and breathing in the salt-laden air. Summer in Maine is the best time to visit the ocean.

Read more about Rachel Carson's legacy on the Nature Conservancy page

The Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge in Wells, York County (more south), is also a beautiful natural environment open to visitors. 

Triptyph of the salt pond and rocky beach.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Maine Seasons: Owl Hunting and a Winter Walk at Ocean Point

Even though I grew up in the Midcoast, there are many parts of it that I have yet to explore or even visit once! One such place is Ocean Point, East Boothbay! I had never even heard of it until a Boothbay native friend told me how beautiful it is. The more recent attraction is the Snowy Owl that has been sited the last two weeks in the neighborhood. This is supposedly rare to see in the U.S., but the Cornell Lab "All About Birds" website seems to indicate they often come south from their breeding grounds in the Arctic this time of year. 

Ocean Point Preserve.

So on a mild 40-degree Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we went owl hunting, but we did not see her, although my friend had earlier in the morning. We did get to enjoy a lovely walk at Ocean Point preserve. The walk is less than a mile (.9) through lovely woods with a place to bird watch at the marsh and/or Tibbetts pond. Or you can do the short, short walk of .2 miles that leads straight along the pong to the marsh lookout and avoids the more narrow forest trail. It has been such a mild January that the ice only partially skimmed the pond, so no ice-skaters! One part of the woods has many blow-downs. 

No owls of any kind in the preserve, so we drove along Grimes Cove that looks out to Linekin Bay where the owl has most been seen. I was wowed by the views in this summertime community of ocean-front cottages, mostly on raised supports, not foundations. I had no idea this place existed in the Boothbay region, although it reminds me of many other ocean-front communities in southern Maine.

Looking out to Linekin Bay.
There is on-street parking along the water, which I'm sure fills up fast in the summer months. I will pack a lunch, blanket, and book and come enjoy the views again when it is warm enough to stay a while. My son said he felt like he could see forever. While there are long ocean views, there is also a great view of Southport (another ocean-front town that I only visited last summer for the first time) and the Burnt Island lighthouse. We did see many people out walking, a few toting cameras. This owl has caused a stir and a lot interest for photographers! 

I am thankful to live in this beautiful state and to be having such a mild winter in the midst of Covid-19, so that we don't have to be more housebound than usual this time of year. Get out and walk, if you can!

The Boothbay region has many more walks to enjoy! See the Boothbay Land Trust website

For more on the owl, read the linked local report.

My friend graciously allowed me to use one of her photos!

Snowy owl sits on a railing in
Ocean Point, Boothbay, January 2021.
Photo courtesy Jean Duncan.

Friday, October 30, 2020

Maine Seasons: Fall Walks and a Real Pet Cemetery

Mackworth Island, Falmouth, Maine

Big creepy tree on Mackworth Island.

Just in time for Halloween, I wanted to share the walk I took a few weeks ago when it was still a warmish early fall day. Mackworth Island in Falmouth, Maine, is a beautiful, easy, and not-too-long (1.5 mile loop) walk with ocean views, forest glens, beaches, a fairy house wood, and a real pet cemetery. Yes, indeed, and that brings to mind how...

Maine is famous for horror writer and philanthropist Stephen King, who wrote Pet Sematary, published in 1983. Not being a fan of horror, I have never read it, although anyone who pays attention in Maine knows most of the names of King's horror novels. They are legendary books and movies in Maine's cultural memory. 

Mackworth Island was deeded to the state of Maine by another famous Maine son and philanthropist, Governor Percival Baxter. He grew up in Portland and inherited the bulk of his family's wealth made in canning. (His father, James Phinney Baxter, started Portland Packing Company with William Davis in 1861.) Percival Baxter attended Bowdoin College like his father and brothers before him. Baxter served in the state senate twice and state house of representatives, and then he became Maine's 53rd governor. He is one of the most recognizable names of famous Mainers. Baxter also gave the state his "cottage" on Mackworth. The state started the Baxter School for the Deaf on Mackworth in 1957. It was housed and run on the island until just a few years ago. It did indeed look dreary, run-down, and out of use, and I was not aware of its history until I came home and read up (some of which is, tragically, not savory at all!). The school now works within the public school system in the area and has outreach to other Maine schools. 

As we enjoyed the quiet day walking the island, we came upon a sign pointing in the direction of the pet cemetery, which is encircled with large stones. Within it is a large stone with a plaque of dedication to Governor Baxter's 14 Irish setters. There are also two headstones. One is engraved in memory of Jerry Roan, a beloved horse. And the other is again engraved in memory "To Gov. Baxter Dogs / For Over 40 Years / His Constant Companions / 1887-1926." It's a little creepy or not depending on how your imagination runs wild. (We did not see any wildly misbehaving cats!) Baxter reportedly had a   great love for animals! 

Baxter not only donated this gem of an island to the state but acres and acres surrounding Mount Katahdin, known as the rugged and wild hiking and camping area of Baxter State Park, and another 30 acres in Portland called Baxter Woods. 

If you are ever in Falmouth, take a side trip to Mackworth Island, pack a picnic and sit on one of the beaches or walk and enjoy the views between  the trees. I've lived here nearly my entire life and had never been there. It's worthwhile, and you'll be intrigued by it's history as well along the way. 

For more on Mackworth Island State Park, go here. There are small fees and not a whole lot of parking

but wait a while and a spot may open up, like it did for us on that busy fall Saturday. 

Other Baxter resources: Baxter Woods (on my to-visit list!) 

Baxter State Park--Maine's tallest mountain, Katahdin, is the main attraction. It is the northern terminus to the Appalachian Trail, and even a day hike is not for the inexperienced, out of shape, or faint of heart! There are other trails, camping, kayaking, and water falls, really so much more to do and see then the big mountain (I was greeted by a moose in the road the last time we were there). Plan ahead and make park reservations if needed. 

This link is some Baxter family history in relation to Bowdoin College given at a talk by State Historian Earle Shettleworth at the opening of a Baxter family exhibition at the school in 2012.

And for all things Stephen King, because some just have to! 

You can peak at views of Casco Bay through
the trees on Mackworth Island. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

On My Shelf: The Magic Ship, Set in Maine with a Historical Backdrop

A big ship, summer breezes, and a world about to change.

I finally finished The Magic Ship by Sandra Paretti. I picked this one up time and again, and it didn’t grab me, but this summer it finally did. Maybe reading pandemic style helped as this book is also about lives disrupted and somewhat "quarantined" by a world-wide event, World War I.

It is a tale of summer romances (clean) that emerge when a German liner takes refuge in Bar Harbor during the height of the summer “cottagers’” season, August 1914.

Don’t expect huge fireworks or a scandalous mystery. This is a nice easy-reading story about an unexpected event in the life of a small harbor town and the new and unexpected relationships that change people’s lives.

It also tells a story from Maine history that I didn’t know about, that is of the German ship Kronprinzessin Cecilie holing up on Maine’s coast until the authorities of Lloyd (the North German shipping company that owned it), government officials, and ship officials can figure out what to do about the ship, its passengers, and its cargo (loads of gold!). The passengers are off-loaded (many to their disappointment at not completing their journey in England or Europe as expected) and given passage via train back to New York as is the cargo, but some passengers choose to stay in Bar Harbor, as well as the crew, and that is where the story gets interesting as the lives of the crew intersect with the lives of the summer residents. In the backdrop is the ship, always the ship. Some of the characters are based on real crew members of the Cecilie. The rest are likely fictionalized, but they are believable character portrayals of wealthy socialites of that time.

Author of Note
Also of note is that Sandra Paretti was not a Maine author, or even American, but a German authoress who wrote historical fiction and whose books were very popular in their day. Also Sandra Paretti is not her real name. The author bio in my copy of The Magic Ship says her seven novels had been translated into 11 languages (from German) and that she was a “number one bestselling woman novelist.” The Magic Ship was published in 1979 and listed as $10.95. The end page has a pencil inscription of $12.50, so apparently on the second-hand market, its value went up. 

Last Word
While there is nothing truly magical about this book, and as it was written in the 1970s, it doesn’t have the same catchy themes and writing styles that contemporary authors and publishers use today, I thought it was an engaging read, especially because I am a sucker for old-style straight-forward real-time narratives (old school writing). Plus I love that it is based on a historical event, right here in Maine in the summer.

The "magic" of reading this book is in catching the feel of a place and its people in a short moment in history, in an idyllic summer setting during the heady pre-World War days. It’s a little piece of historical summer magic.
Maine has a fascinating history of coastal exploits; sometimes it takes an old book to make us aware of them. Don’t disregard older books, there are treasures waiting to be mined.

2020's Maine Magic Ship
I read The Magic Ship earlier in the summer, and then this week I read in Down East Magazine, published in its October issue, a story about another cruise ship that just this summer tied up in Eastport, Maine's harbor to quarantine. It was fascinating the way the townspeople were intrigued by the ship and its occupants and tried to connect with them from a distance (pier to deck). Unlike in the Magic Ship, the crew was not allowed to disembark. I had not heard about this ship coming to rest in Eastport’s deep fishing harbor, right along its newly built pier, for a month, while awaiting orders about its next "safe" voyage. The story by Jaed Coffin definitely caught my attention. It's worth a read.

You can read more about the real story of the Cecilie here, here, and here, and its service to the United States military!

On My Shelf: Monica Wood's Books Set in Maine

Maine Settings, Maine Author

I love to read books that are set in Maine. Some are memoirs, some are fiction, and some are children's. Today I want to tell you about two I read by Maine-born and raised author, Monica Wood. One is her memoir and one is fiction.

The first is When We Were the Kennedys.
This title appealed to me because my family name is Kennedy (no, not those Kennedys). This is Monica's childhood memoir of growing up in Mexico, Maine, a mill town, but her name was not Kennedy. 

The story takes place around 1963, the same year President John Kennedy was assassinated. She writes about how she lost her own father earlier that year suddenly when he was on his way to work at the paper mill. It is a sweet story about surviving loss together as a family in a close-knit neighborhood. Although I didn't grow up in a mill town, I can relate to the feel of growing up in small town Maine. I've been to Mexico and can see that mill town feel as I read this. Her writing is clear, and if you like somewhat sad but not downer memoirs, you'll enjoy this. I also love the cover that shows Monica's family in their now retro clothing styles. It screams summer in Maine circa 1965. 

I recently finished Wood's 2015 work of fiction The One-in-a-Million Boy, that also deals with a death, that being of a young boy. It is a sweet story that shows the difference one life, even a child's life, can make. The story is also set in Maine but admittedly it has less of a Maine feel than her memoir. It has a lot of characters who need healing. I at times felt a little lost, and didn't connect well with the parents of the boy in the book. The boy and the older woman, Ona, are very likable, and I wish the story had been more focused on the nameless boy and his 104-year-old friend, Ona.

I recommend both of these books that take place in Maine.

Here is a link of Monica Wood describing her memoir.
Here is a link of Monica Wood discussing The One-in-a-Million Boy.
Here is Monica Wood's website.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Maine (Favorite) Seasons: November

Surviving 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.

Real Fall 
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.

Celebrations Begin
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.

The Great Pumpkins of Damariscotta
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.

Favorite Beaches: Rachel Carson Salt Pond Preserve

Tucked into a quiet little cove just east of New Harbor on Route 32 is the Rachel Carson Salt Pond Preserve. What's not to love with the...