It’s our day of love…can you feel it? In this virtual reality I feel like singing from the rooftop…
I love my husband! I love my family, I love my flock and little slice of heaven here on the Maine coast. I love the celebrations we host, the friends that we’ve made and the community that holds us tight. Thank you to everyone who supports us in our little world…we continue to promise to give back every step of the way!
I can’t believe how long it’s been since I visited our poor neglected blog…I’m making a new pledge to give it more attention as life settles into a more “normal” rhythm. What more perfect way than to share a videos of the flawless blanket of snow that covered us over the weekend? It’s 30 seconds of “nothing special”…just Penobscot Bay as it sparkles!
Our little bubble of a world has been relaxed and comfortable. The family came for the holidays and then Steven and I settled into our January routine of organizing paperwork, making charts, plans and lists of things we must get done before the snow melts (hear me wishing for a very long winter?). We’ve been pursuing our pleasures…me with the weaving, spinning and dyeing, Steve with the community orchestra and a myriad of other musical pursuits. On these very short winter days, the animals have remained happy and healthy and all of us have been consuming a few too many calories while reading and catching up on Netflix…but certainly the snowshoes helped today, right?
We’ve made plans to expand the playground and reservations are coming in nicely. I’m thrilled to have Elaine back “in the office” with us choosing sites for people. She’s very good at it, because she spent 15 years in the park and really cares about guest experiences. Last year she moved to VA to be closer to family. One of the gifts of Covid was learning that we didn’t need to be in the same space to work effectively. We’ve gotten some very nice press lately and we’ve needed the help. Did you see the article that came out in Conde’ Nast Traveller just before Christmas? We were chosen the Best Campground to visit this year! Wow!
I’ve got to run and feed the flock… but we wish you well and I promise to stay in touch more often.
I’ve missed you too! Astrig
Yesterday a dear friend took me on a short video tour of her office…an affluent space painted bright white, filled with creative people doing important things. But I couldn’t get past how “indoors” it all was…in my world I forget (and have perhaps never really known) that while others covet a balcony or a window view, I shift picnic tables to get out of the wind or into the right mixture of sunshine and shade.
As an example: This morning George our mechanic texted to say that he’d made blueberry muffins this morning and there were two with my name on them in the workshop (George has blueberry barrens). Deb (part of the office/gardening team) reminded me to stop and look at the peonies that Norma purchased for our new garden by the frog pond…full bloom beauties. Steve brought ice coffee to the middle of the garden so that we could plan out which peas should climb which trellises. I guess you could say that we’ve been “#cottagecore” before “#cottagecore” was a thing.
Last week we gathered for Clean Up Weekend…our traditional means of jump starting the camping season, always the week after Mothers’ Day. In case you haven’t heard about it, we trade campsites for help with the chores. The format is always the same: a huge to do list on a big white board, lots of good food and smiles to share and at the end of the day we pour Mermaid Water liberally (pineapple juice, rum and Malibu with lime) and salute the amount of work that was accomplished by so many willing hands. Steve and I are always humbled by the outpouring of support. When we wave goodbye to friends, there’s always a feeling of groundedness that can only come from being surrounded by a village…nothing feels overwhelming anymore. Clean up weekend is the 21st century version of a barn raising or quilting bee.
While all of the activity was swirling around in the park, one of our big concerns was that no one disturb the nesting mallard duck who had claimed the Rec Hall porch all to herself…it made perfect sense because she had soft bags of leaves to nest on (we gather them in the fall to use as bedding for the flock), it was warm and out of the rain and our fountain ponds were close by for fresh water and algae nibbles. She sat on those eggs for 27 days and we were on the other side of the porch when all seven of them hatched. We were so proud you’d have thought we had something to do with the miracle! Momma duck let the hatchlings rest for about 2 hours before she nudged them out of the nest and onto the deck and within 20 minutes they were in the stream swimming like they’d done it for ages…I haven’t smiled so much in ages!
Looking towards the future, planned campground activities are taking shape now that we know that pandemic restrictions have lifted…but in deference to all, we’re choosing to celebrate summer 2021 outside and with socially distanced activities. It was a hard decision but we’re going to hold off on the lobster bakes until 2022 BUT we will be doing other food related celebrations with details to follow in the weeks to come. We’ll still be playing with fire though…Nate Winters will be teaching raku pottery this summer as a family activity. And you know about the Fiber College Touchstone Retreats happening every month…right? The proceeds of the retreats benefit the Makers Guild of Maine projects like the fiber tool and musical instrument lending library.
Tomorrow we will begin to enjoy the rush of folks coming for a Memorial Day weekend camping trip. As I sit here typing on a picnic table in 80 degree sunshine, it’s hard to internalize that it’s still just May…as I articulate these thoughts, Steven reminds me that he know’s full well how warm it is because he feels like he’s a month behind with mowing already…how does that happen?
100 years ago, our campground was part of a coastal farm that stretched from the ocean’s edge to the mountain on the other side of Route 1. Farmers typically fished in the winter and farmed in the summer so the lucky landholders enjoyed the best of both worlds. As we build the hiking trails and gardens across the road, we’ve come to truly appreciate the flexibility we have to work by the cool breezes of the water or hike in the shelter of the woods.
Part of responsibly managing these 150 acres involves culling trees and cleaning up “winter pruning.” As we’ve watched the price of lumber sky rocket, we’re particularly thankful for the white pine that was planted in careful rows 50 years ago under a government program to reforest the coast. Thanks to these trees, over the years many of our buildings have been constructed from the lumber that was grown here (as a side bar, we plant two trees for every one that is cut). These past few months, Steve’s been focused on all things wood, so first the logs went out of the campground…and then the boards came back. The next projects are another tiny house cabin, a big side deck on the garden kitchen for outdoor meals and dancing and another pavillion for gathering…I love the smell of sawdust in the air!
My time has been occupied with all things Campground Office, Maker’s Guilds Retreats and our well loved flock. I’m grateful that we are now exiting the season of zoom and entering the season of face to face . Like many, I’ve been craving real smiles and sparks of conversation with friends old and new. Our friends are trickling back into the campground to help us run the summer season smoothly and we’re looking forward to a fluid blend of camping, food, and creative pursuits. Now that we’re all vaccinated, we’ve been able to share meals, although we continue to choose outdoor encounters over indoor ones ’cause we kinda like it. Last night we cooked pizzas in the wood range (that lives in the garden kitchen that was built with lumber from the campground 😉).
Our 29th annual clean up weekend happens in 4 days. The waterlines have been activated (but not all tested), the powers on and the lists are piling up everyday…supplies to buy, meals to plan, a big chart of who’s coming in and where their specialties lie. Clean Up weekend is the salve to our souls because just when we feel like the chores and repairs are more than we can handle, a calvary of fresh energy comes in and just like the bumper sticker promises, many hands make for light work! Besides, I get to indulge my love of making donuts in the lodge pot on Saturday morning!
We’ve changed things up a bit in the flock too. Those of you know who know our little Binx, know that he’s a fragile old soul that needs a bit of protection…long story short, his partner Bubbles was getting too rambunctious so she found a new home, and little Jellybean was in need of a gentle companion…so we did a little swapping. Don’t you wish all relationships could be so easily re-arranged? Now you know why our kids have 4 legs!
And last but certainly not least, we’re putting more of the touches on the Makers Guild retreats. Our first one is just a month away and I can’t wait! Three wonderful artists are gathering before hand for a bit of self guided professional development…and then they’ll be teaching 20 lucky students how to make a bespoke tunic from fabric they’ve been guided to dye with natural indigo, embroider it with stitches made from plant dyed embroidery floss and then cut and sew a tunic that fits their body to perfection. A tunic sound too daunting…there will be an evening wrap option too. Click here to find out more. In the meantime, keep creating happiness and stay healthy!
I’m feeling my wings unfurl, ever so slightly, as the sunshine is becoming increasingly warm. The days are lasting longer (fun fact: Maine’s longest day is 15 hours and 15 minutes on June 20, 2021) and the ground is drying up just enough to let the crocus burst along the walk to the beach and we can now collect the mail without wearing rubber boots. Whilst everyone I know is still masking in public, most friends are vaccinated and we’re beginning to share meals without hurrying to put our masks back on if we linger at the table. The biggest treat was that for the first time in 13 months my sister came up for a visit when she dropped nephew Nick off to work during his Spring break from school. It was a quick turnaround but long enough to walk the beach, share blood orange margaritas and compare knitting projects that we’ve Face-timed about all winter long.
Steven has been working the grounds and prepping the gardens. We moved the entire raised raspberry bed to make more room for Covid spaced seating near the garden kitchen. Kelin and David have been loading the Spring beds with seaweed, wood ash and composted bedding from the sheep and goats in preparation for the seedlings that are sprouting in the green house like there was no tomorrow. When bending over the garden beds starts to hurt, there’s always pulling cat-o’nine tails in the frog ponds, cleaning up the trees and branches that have dropped during the winter storms. When he doesn’t have his gardening gloves on, Steve’s been wearing an electrician’s belt, working with the crew, laying the groundwork for electrical upgrades (all the while,
growling grousing about the squirrels and critters that nibble the rubber casings) and re-engineering some of the drainage ditches in the ocean tenting area. He’s also been monitoring the brown tail moth webbing in the trees. What little we’ve found has been cut and burned. We’re hoping that we’ve beat the odds and won’t be disturbed by these caterpillars in June. Wikipedia says: “The brown-tail moth is a moth of the family Erebidae. It is native to Europe, neighboring countries in Asia, and the north coast of Africa. Descriptions of outbreaks, i.e., large population increases of several years duration, have been reported as far back as the 1500s.” Lucky for us they only affect Cape Cod and the Maine coast…how can that be?
I get outside every chance I get now that it’s warming up but much of my time has been spent on our non-profit endeavor, the Makers Guild of Maine, 501 c3. Officially we’re the Makers Guild but colloquially we’re known by our favorite event of the year: Fiber College. Last year the pandemic almost put a screeching halt to our September gathering but with the help of many friends we were able to organize an intimate retreat, focused on small classes of woodworking, print making, quilting, embroidery and natural dyeing. By shifting gears from “festival” to “retreat” we found that we actually enjoyed the gathering more because we slowed the pace down, had a chef come and prepare all of our meals and put a priority on lingering and dawdling instead of rushing from one class to another with the fear of missing something in between. SEE? We did learn something from the pandemic: linger and relax are verbs we should keep in the fore of our vocabulary!
This year, instead of one retreat, we’re offering 9 retreats. We’re focusing on the touchstones in our lives…the wisdom passed from one generation to another that we can rely upon to center our ambitions and guide our decisions. Searsport Shores will host the these retreats from June to September. We’ll be celebrating everything from baking bread with heritage grains from the Caucasus to carving wooden kayak paddles in an Acadian style, and making paper with botanicals from the field across the street to enameling jewelry in European traditions. If you’d like more details, check out the website here.
And with GLEE and optimism we’ll be opening on May 14th with our 29th annual clean up weekend…(even if the 28th one didn’t occur, we still get to count it, right?). Come on Thursday or Friday stay through Sunday or Monday and help us with the spring clean up chores we haven’t gotten to yet. What kind of chores? The easy answer is that in our world there’s always something for everyone to do: window washing, twig clean up, raking, gardening, building, building more stuff, repairing stuff that was built last time. Blowing up balls for the playground, clearing trails and cleaning out the cobwebs from the corners we haven’t looked at all weekend. We’ll remain masked, share meals outdoors and enjoy being together. If you’d like to come and haven’t let us know already, please send an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org so that I can give you an updated schedule in May.
Be well, linger in the sunshine and visit when you can!
Step out our door, slip in mud. Walk through the garden, sink into the mud. Skip rocks at the beach, drop into the mud. It’s April on the coast and we’re making dents with every step we take. So it seemed like a good day to tell you about three islands you should consider visiting while you’re here. (thinking about water and land…you see the connection, right?)
#1 Sears Island
In the morning we watch it for the sunrise, in the evening we gaze at the moon cresting the ridge and in the fog we listen to the mooring bells protecting the ships making their way into Mack Point. Sears Island is just across from the campground, accessible by kayak, paddle board, car or bicycle…and completely uninhabited by humans. My buddy Ken wrote about it on this blog a few years back…every time he visits he heads there to jog the roads and the trails…and picnic on the break water. The Friends of Sears Island do an awesome job stewarding this 940 acre gem and if you keep an eye on their website they offer wonderful outdoor education programs for the entire family. You can even get a backpack from our local library that is specifically organized to better explore the island…without question, pack a picnic and spend the day. If you timing is good you can pick blackberries and blueberries for dessert. Interested in clamming? Steve leads a demo expedition every Sunday at low tide…once you know where to dig, all you need to do is get a license at town hall and you’ll be eating steamed clams in pasta every night!
Everything about the journey to Vinalhaven is pleasant. Catch an early ferry from Rockland Harbor and leave your car behind for the day…you can walk or ride a bike everywhere you’ll want to go once you land at the pier. The ferry trip is 12 beautiful miles and you’ll motor past tiny islands, iconic homes on spruce covered points, pods of dolphins and seals and more seabirds than you can name. When you get there you’ll be need to decide how to spend the day…swimming at the quarries? beach combing the sands at Lane’s Island Preserve? Pick buckets of blueberries for tomorrow’s pancakes? or rent kayaks from the local motel in town…on the other hand, you could choose to sit on a bench in the middle of the village and just watch the world go by until it’s time to head back to the mainland.
Before you go, you might check out this video for the pleasure of hearing the voices and stories of those who call these islands home. (North Haven is just across the thorofare from Vinalhaven). If you’re looking for a full day excursion that will delight and accommodate everyone in a multi-generational group you won’t be disappointed if you choose to head to Vinalhaven.
# 3 Deer Isle
Deer Isle and Stonington are quintessential destinations if you’re looking to visit Maine “off the beaten path.” If you enjoy driving through pretty country roads, stopping in picturesque villages and discovering a pebble strewn beach that isn’t even on a map, this is the destination for you. You could bicycle the peninsula but I wouldn’t…there’s not a two inch shoulder in many places. Stonington is the perfect destination to roll the windows down and just soak in the blueberry barrens, tiny farms and stop at every artist studio you can find. It takes grit to live this far down on the Bay and tourists are rewarded by a warm welcome from the folks who call this undulating land home.
Our tiny corner of the world can be boiled down to an equal lateral triangle. Each side is a collection of calendar perfect villages, all worthy of exploring and an easy drive from the campground…90 minutes to either vertex if you drive with intention, hours of pleasure if you let yourself wander…did I mention that there’s lots of breweries and fabulous food joints along the way? Ask us in the office and we’ll map out an itinerary just for you.
In Maine, talking about the weather isn’t just small talk…it’s an art form we hone carefully to keep our spirits up and remind ourselves that we’re not in this alone! For weeks now the temperatures have been wildly vascillating between freezing and inviting. We’ve been rocked by winds that shake the strongest trees and blow the waves way up over the retaining wall…I didn’t have my phone with me the other day to capture a picture but imagine seaweed hanging from a rosebush a football field away from the waters’ edge. The wind is even driving the wild turkeys down to the beach to forage…you might say that we’ve been experiencing an uptick in commuter traffic here on the Bay. 😆
March is more than wind though. March is for boiling maple syrup and Sunday was Maine Maple Sunday. The sugar in maple sap only appears where warm, sunny days and below-freezing nights follow each other for days on end, as they do in Maine’s long, slow spring. We celebrate every year by finding a new sugar shack to visit…this year we were at Simmons and Daughters in Morrill, about thirty minutes from the campground.
It’s tradition to boil hotdogs in the sap, pop maple corn and pour “sugar on snow” for a taffy like confection that we follow with dill pickles…the Simmons family had all of that PLUS maple syrup cotton candy! OMG…we’re going to find a way for you to taste this during one (or more) of the Wednesday Night music jams this summer…it is wicked good! I wished we’d bought more because we devoured the entire bag on the way home only to find out that if you pour vodka and lime over the confection, heaven is born…stir with a pussy willow if you’re lucky!
We didn’t plan it that way but Sunday was definitely about sugar! Before we drove to the maple house we stopped by the Only Doughnut in Belfast. It hurts my Yankee spirit to pay $3.50 for a single doughnut but before you judge, try their chocolate sea smoke glazed creation…no really, when you have the opportunity, don’t pass it up because it’s amazing! This fried confection has exactly the right combination of bitter dark chocolate, smoked sea salt and buttery glaze. In an effort to balance the morning, we took our doughnuts and hiked to the waterfall on the Little River Trail in Belfast…it’s an easy way to feel virtuous 🙂
But Sunday wasn’t just about the sugar…it was about the seafood too. Our lovely friends and beekeepers Sharon and Raymond had us over for the last of the season’s sea scallops. If you are ever lucky enough to buy a bucket of these sweet nuggets, run, don’t walk to get them. They are a treat that doesn’t compare to anything you can buy from a store…they must come straight from the diver and into your frying pan within a few hours to appreciate just how briney and wonderful a scallop cooked in a little bit of butter can be. And if your friends are truly amazing, they’ll match the scallops with 2 pounds of picky toe crab meat broiled into open face sandwiches. It couldn’t be easier or better (and this you can re-create in the summer when you get here). Use the best bread you can find (we have several bakers in the area so that’s easy), smeer the slices with mayonaise, top with crab, add a few slices of good cheese (we like the kind with hot peppers) and broil for a few minutes. Only a cold micro beer can make everything better.
I didn’t plan it this way but clearly our week was about food…maybe next week I’ll pretend that it’s about exercising and losing the winter roll we’ve carefully accumulated! Until then, be well and help the people who surround you…. stay healthy!
Go to the grocery store, chat casually at the post office, arrive 5 minutes early to a meeting and before long the conversation always gets to gardens: how fast the snow is receding? how deep the mud is on your boots? have your onions come up yet? We’re all comparing notes and wishing for the warm breath of Spring. Yesterday, while walking at the Stockton Lighthouse we heard that others were thinking of getting their peas into the ground this week, so when we came home we brushed back the seaweed to do the same…only to find ice and snow. The robins have come home but they’re working hard to get at the worms!
But there are plenty of other things to be done around here…we’ve started shearing and I’m really pleased to tell you that we’re working with a tiny wool mill in Waldoboro so that this year we’ll have more yarn and spinning batts to sell in the store.
Because we have more angora goat wool (mohair) than we have sheeps’ wool here in the campground, this year we’re partnering with Diane Hoppe of Heron Crossing Farm to blend our mohair with her beautiful Finn Sheep…and the bonus is that Diane is an absolute master at creating soft, naturally colored yarns in a myriad of shades for weaving, knitting and crocheting. Because I know myself and my weaknesses, the biggest stress in my days will be fighting the hoarding voice in my head that tells me to hide the yarn…it’s too precious to share! I know, I’m working on it.
Steve’s focus has been tree work…there’s a special window in our guys lives when the ground is hard enough to drive on without making ruts. The snow is gone but the weather is still warm enough that it doesn’t hurt to be outside all day…so they’ve been cleaning up the winter damage, identifying and dropping trees that need removal and marking out where the new plantings are going to go. Since our very first years, we’ve maintained the promise my mother made to plant two trees for every tree we cut or comes down. This moment of excitement comes to you via Steve’s phone this morning as they dropped this white pine to make more space for Mary’s dye garden:
Wishing for you: Wellness, time outdoors and a little dirt under your finger nails!
My life has been Searsport, Maine based for 29 years…with occasional excursions to really wonderful destinations. This year, the furthest I’ve gone is Camden and Rockport to the South and Mount Desert Island to the East. And it still thrills me to walk the beach and the woods everyday.
I’m paying attention to what I’m paying attention to these days. Maybe it’s because my hair is shifting to silver, maybe it’s because I’m keenly aware that I can’t read every book that catches my eye or make every project that looks so beautiful but I’ve made a March decision:
I’m going to I’m going to try and give full attention to the little things that make my world wonderful…the conversations during reservation taking, the turkeys running through the playground and teasing the goats, the walks on the beach and the melting of the ice on the trails…the ship traffic on the Bay last night.
Our Makers Guild is creating an ambitious 2021 program of art, food and music that will happen at the campground. I expect the details will be released by April 15th with registration opening at the same time. To achieve that goal, this week my task is to build out the August program we’re calling Markings: Paper and Light. There will be two class tracks: making organically shaped lampshades with handmade paper and twisted wooden bases in one track and painting and mark making with natural pigments and dyes in the other. There’s nothing more relaxing to me than walking the beach and seeing which rocks and shells make interesting drawing tools…and now I’m look at the goats’ tails and wondering how to fashion their hair into brushes.
Reality is a tough task master: I need 8 hours sleep, it takes 6-8 hours/day to run the campground and administrate the Makers Guild and I really want to weave, sew and hangout with the goats…oh and I like to cook, walk an hour or two each day and spend time cruising youtube with Steve. And I love every single piece of the puzzle I call my life…and am grateful that you are here to share it!
Wow…that’s really all that I’ve got! I’ve been thinking about how much I miss writing on our blog for ages but I had no real idea that my last post was almost a year ago. My only excuse is that it was a year like no other and I’ll leave it at that.
We’ve lost too many friends and family members to Covid to feel as though we want to celebrate but with every loss comes a re-examination of our values and the quality of the lives we lead within our community. The pandemic has amplified our awareness of how fortunate we are to be living in Searsport Maine, a gift that our ancestors never imagined they would be providing when they left the lands they knew to build a life in New England.
I remember that my grandfather kept a touchstone in his pocket. Grampa Avery was a logger from Northern New Hampshire and his touchstone was a well worn river rock that he kept in his pocket and fidgeted with when he was standing in line or waiting for someone to emerge from a shop. It was black and smooth and had an indentation for his thumb. I can’t say why but a month ago we found it wedged in the back of a drawer of his old roll top desk. I hadn’t seen it for at least 40 years but touching it brought back memories of pipe smoke, sawdust and huge calloused hands.
Touchstones is my 2021 word. Our beach is covered with them and I am forever picking them up and trying them on for size…the heart shaped ones are my favorite. Touchstone will be the 2021 organizing theme of our non-profit initiative Makers Guild of Maine and I’ve sewn an amulet bag to hold my phone, earbuds and a smooth piece of lapis that I found in my travels. This summer when you comb the beach for your perfect stone, please share your finding with me. Touchstones need to be felt to be understood; their texture, weight and temperature in our hands give meaning to the stories they hold.
No, we haven’t just been thinking deep thoughts this winter, we’ve been working through the practical too. Our living room has been transformed into a planning space with piles of work including the mundane tasks of comparing insurance policies, sorting a bazillion photos and planning music for our Wednesday at the Shores series. Being outside is where we’d rather be so we’ve been finding plenty of time to hike and cook over the fire during the past months. Like most, we haven’t had any visitors into our home but boy can we enjoy a good meal or drink by the bonfire with friends and family.
I’m going to run now…the texts and the e-mails are piling up while I reminisce about the months gone by.
Please be well and stay in touch. I’m great at e-mail (email@example.com) but only mediocre at returning phone calls (207) 548-6059. We’re planning on hosting our annual clean up weekend May 14-16th and will be opening the park for the summer on May 21st.
Looking forward to posting again soon,