The End of October

We finally closed for the season the other day because the wind and the rain made life outdoors too inhospitable for everyone involved…but it’s always with a mixed emotions.  Sure, we’re happy to move into a quieter time where we have long, uninterrupted stretches to focus on tasks at hand but conversely, it’s more fun to talk with guests than it is to dive into the stacks of paperwork we’ve put off for months postponed until the appropriate time.

When the weather turns colder, we turn our attention towards the gardens, getting the flock shorn and the yarn dyed, winterizing the park and doing yard work on steroids (a few of the numbers: 140 picnic tables to contend with, about 15 building to maintain, seemingly miles of waterline to empty and fill with non-toxic antifreeze, and more tractors than a girl should know about that need to be sorted and stored for winter).

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When we’re tired, it can seem a bit overwhelming but we’ve adopted a mind tool that’s helped enormously over the years.  I’ve seen it called reverse gratitude and basically, instead of groaning at the task at hand (like covering umpteen garden beds with seaweed), you remind yourself and (each other) that it’s a blessing to live on the coast where seaweed is readily available to amend the soil.  Instead of groaning over the buckets of apples that need to be cleaned off the playground before the lawnmower can pass a final time, you find gratitude in knowing that the apples will provide treats to the sheep and goats for months and that always makes us smile.  You get the picture 😉

missrumphius

Pictures and thankfulness…I wish I could tell you that I planned this clever segue but I didn’t.  When we welcome people into our world, it’s always with the tiniest bit of trepidation the first time we meet because we put our heart and soul into all of Searsport Shores and if someone doesn’t like it, it’s very hard to be mature enough not to take it personally.  But we know we’re a business and every year we welcome our guests and most serve as reminders that we LOVE owning a campground.  Occasionally someone really leaves an imprint on our hearts because they “get us” better than we can explain ourselves.  Ellen, @noticedwhilewandering, is one of those women.  First she visited the park with her sister, then she came with extended family and later returned for the Old-Time Music Campout.   In the spring we didn’t know her, in September we considered her a friend.  Last week our mailbox was stuffed with a gift, a book that reminded her of us…Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney has been a favorite of ours since the cover drew us in years ago.  Words can’t say how proud we are that when Ellen reads Miss Rumpius’ advise to her niece “You must do something to make the world more beautiful,” she thinks of us.

Our world is more beautiful because our shepard’s flock has increased by one :).  We’re thankful to Denise of Fernwood Nursery in Montville for gifting us one of her gorgeous Bluefaced Leicester ewes.  We call her “Esther the Leicester” and she’ll be growing incredibly shiny long curls of wool for me to blend with the goats’ mohair.  I’ve been spinning and weaving longwools for a long time now, but from this day forward, all of the wool will be raised here at the Shores .  To celebrate Esther, I used some of that yarn to weave fabric for a new winter coat.  In between sessions in the studio, I’ve been mending all some of the holes we manage to make, harvesting the fall vegetables from the garden and dyeing up enough yarn with seawater and cochineal (dried bugs from Mexico) to weave a crimson blanket by Christmas…don’t you just love these long autumn afternoons?

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With the waterlines winterized and the gardens put to bed, tomorrow Steve and I are off to Madawaska (North of Baxter State Park) and New Brunswick to meet with Acadian Fiber Artists we hope will teach at Fiber College next September.  We intend to catch up with some old friends, eat lots of poutine, ployes and potatoes while we’re there and carry back loads of inspiration for the months ahead.  If you follow us on Instagram, we’ll be posting daily pictures of our adventure, I (Astrig) am @campingwithart and Steve is @campmaine

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Until next time…

Walk with me 

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It’s been a beautifully warm and dry spring.  In the past couple of weeks we’ve hosted many more guests than we usually see before Memorial Day Weekend. Some years I cringe at the thought of sharing our muddy roads and cold fog with people who have traveled so far to be with us; but this year, the flowers are huge, the grounds are ahead of schedule (thanks to the weather and the crew’s hard work) and the sun has been kind.

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lupine buds and snow on the mountain populate the gravely soil of the boardwalk

When the ocean is sparkling, it’s easy to feel like we’re living in a magical place, and our tagline “tidepools, gardens, goats and honeybees” takes on a life of its own. We plant with the intention of feeding ourselves, growing herbs for flavor and healing, making things pretty and nourishing the soil.

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There is a seemingly effortless quality in how our grounds flourish in the everchanging combination of groomed gardens and controlled wild spaces.  Really, the gardens are a result of carefully feeding the soil with sea weed, compost and worm castings and the hard work of our dedicated team who spend the summer making the park better…  and choosing plants that thrive in our environment.  We find our plants most often the local fire department and garden club plant sales and from our friends at nurseries who grow plants from seed and propagation…we don’t get our plants from the big box stores.

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from the top left, clockwise: lily of the valley (insert scratch and sniff for a touch of heaven), apple blossoms, sweet woodruff, Solomon’s Seal, hostas by the sea, the rec hall door

Yesterday Sue Riley asked me what the gardens were looking like this week and in particular, the state of the lupines.  I don’t need a big excuse to abandon the office and the computer to take pictures of our world…so take a walk with me, the plants would love to meet you…

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Don’t you just love to forage?  We’ve been eating dandelion blossoms with butter and filling our salad bowls with chickweed and tender lettuce…with some pea shoots and garlic greens to make us feel cosmopolitan.  The flowering fruit bushes are looking promising…the quince, blueberries and bing cherry blossoms are abundant this spring.

It’s hard to believe Memorial Day weekend is upon us…if we won’t have the pleasure of your company, we hope that you’re surrounded by friends and family.  If we are lucky enough to have you share our world…make certain you find time to wander through the gardens.  If you’d like us to draw you a mapped trail of some of our favorite plant nurseries (including stops for lunch and cocktails) don’t hesitate to ask.

 

It’s beginning to feel like Spring

The roads are soft, the air is soft, the plants are greening and the flock is begging to graze in the campground…The days are getting longer and we’ve finally been able to spend more time outside…and we’ve noticed:

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If you’ve camped here before, you know that we have very few problems with black flies and mosquitos in the park.  We never spray chemicals, instead we plant our gardens to attract birds that eat biting insects, have frog ponds that keep the larva population low and every year we add birdhouses so that our feathered friends stay close by.

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And then there’s the critters…the goats and sheep do so much for us here…this time of year they happily keep the grounds clipped and then we clip them for wool that we use in blankets, sweater and rugs…isn’t that perfect?

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And we’ve just ordered new rental trailers for the pleasure of our guests.  Do you know anyone who might want to purchase one of our gently used models from past camping seasons?  They are really quite a bargain because they’ve never been hauled on the road over potholes and problems, never been smoked in and haven’t hosted any pets…at the moment we have three for sale…priced at blue book value less 20% in the month of April…and we’d consider most any trade.

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Columbus Day Weekend~ the last camping weekend of 2015?

My favorite camper of the year.
Handmade is marvelous, don’t you think? The oak leaves are still green…the promise of warm afternoons in our future.

It’s the season of conflicting emotions…yes we’re tired and looking forward to lingering over coffee in the morning and a glass of wine in the evening without thinking about being in the office when guests arrive…but we never close the park with a rush of energy, because we’re always hoping that Fall will last a bit longer and we’ll enjoy the company of campers for “just another couple of days.”  When people call the office to ask when we close, I’m frustratingly vague because it all truly depends on the weather.  When it’s cold enough to threaten our water lines with freezing, we’ll be closed.  Maybe Oct 18th…maybe the 25th…it’s a day by day thing, sort of like farming.

Captured by Karen Martin on Site 15
Captured by Karen Martin on Site 15

Today it’s even more difficult to lay the season to rest because this weekend we’re expecting guests for the Maine Maritime Academy’s Family Gathering while all of our local media covers the tragic loss of four Mainers’ lives on the El Faro…If walls could talk, the sea captains’ homes of Searsport have been privy to private tragedy on the seas for over 200 years…the tides, storms and vagrancies in the weather and we’re clearly part of the cycle.

Was that too heavy for a campground blog?  Mostly we’re feeling “Fall Festive”… honest 🙂 Steve’s been mowing the fields, repairing the seawall from Wednesday’s storm and building a new wood shed…I’ve been putting food up for winter, greeting guests and making foliage tour recommendations and dyeing wool with marigolds, coreopsis and grapes.  My most recent pics show a blissfully mundane life don’t you think?

Our frog pounds seem like candy jars to a couple of blue herons that have been hanging around. It was foggy this morning and I tried to capture this young one...can you see her to the left of the red maple?
Our frog ponds are candy jars to a couple of blue herons that have been hanging around lately. It was foggy this morning and I tried to capture this young one…can you see her to the left of the red maple?
Better than chocolate cake!
My new favorite way to preserve for winter: Slice tomatoes 1/2 inch thick, sprinkle with salt, oregano & paprika, roast in a 250 degree oven for 3-4 hours (an oven in a lobster shack by the sea is best).
Our friends at the Yardarm Motel in Searsport had a bumper grape crop...and shared with us. Yesterday's grapes are today's juice...Welche's never comes close!
Our friends at the Yardarm Motel in Searsport had a bumper grape crop…and shared with us. Yesterday’s grapes are today’s juice…Welch’s never comes close!

Loving the Fall

Once again time has flown…we’ve shifted gears from “full tilt boogie” with summer guests, soared through Fiber College and spent last weekend at the Common Ground Fair and sharing an old time music jam with friends old and new.

How exactly did we keep track of the day to day highlights of our life before we carried a camera/phone in our pocket during all of our waking hours?  Here’s a tour of my tiny, daily captures:

Fall Harvest...another month to go?
Fall Harvest…another month to go?
We hosted our final lobsterbake this weekend...it was an honor to participate in the memorial weekend of a beloved guest...so many memories
We hosted our final lobsterbake this weekend…it was an honor to participate in the memorial weekend of a beloved guest…so many memories
The first annual Old Time String Band Meet Up...next year watch for details, end of September 2016
The first annual Old Time String Band Meet Up…next year watch for details, end of September 2016
Baskets of wool washed for a winter of spinning, knitting and weaving.
Baskets of wool washed for a winter of spinning, knitting and weaving.
The days are getting shorter and the skies are getting bluer.
The days are getting shorter and the skies are getting bluer.
Millie the Jacob lamb has joined our little spinner's flock...we're so happy and Maggie loves the company!
Millie the Jacob lamb has joined our little spinner’s flock…we’re so happy and Maggie loves the company!

I hope that you all enjoyed the solstice and you find time to celebrate these last glorious afternoons of warm sunshine.  We’ll be open for guests until at least October 15th, after that it all depends on the weather…I’m keeping my fingers crossed for languid afternoons until Halloween!

Planning the Garden

It’s not 10 degrees above zero and Steven’s been planning the garden for the past two days.

Only chaos to me...the system works for him

He’s done the seed inventory, ordered a ton few more from Fedco and Johnny’s and started the walla walla, red bull, clear dawn, and alisa craige onions (not to mention the prisma shallots) in the sunny window downstairs.  This year we’ll have plenty of garlic again, new to us varieties of potatoes (desiree, german butterball, green mountain and red pontiac…and banana fingerlings)…all chosen because they taste great and store well and we enjoy them until we start harvesting spinach and salad greens in April.

Maine Heritage Banner Wheat from Growseed.org

There’s also a plan for a plot of heritage wheat because it’s pretty, the goats like it and Steven continues to dream of building the bread oven in the garden.  As usual we’ll have a vast variety of vegetables and flowers all over the campground.  There are also plans for an educational seed saving garden too…so maybe, if the gods of weather are with us, we’ll have a fresh vegetable stand by the waterfall this year…all fertilized from the seaweed off the beach.

Beans and sunflower seeds saved from last year

Me, I’m playing with my wool by the fire until March.