our world is Amber’s world this summer

Any new adventure is exciting, especially one located at such a special place. However, agreeing to pack up my life and move into a camper for three months, three hours away from my home, was more than a little nerve racking. Hello! My name is Amber Jenkins, and I will be working at Searsport Shores- and blog posting- all summer.

urchins, sea life, marine biologist, Maine, camping, Searsport, ocean, fun, happy
searchin’ for urchins’

I’m currently a junior at The University of New England, studying marine biology and animal behavior. I want to rehabilitate animals, specifically sea life, and release them back into the ocean. I also have an interest in art, with a few of my pieces currently in an art exhibit in Rockland, Maine. For those of you who know Searsport Shores, it seems like this is where I would belong. With the ocean and artwork embracing me with every step around the campground, I should feel right at home every day. And so far, I do.

urchins, sea, ocean
Sea Urchins

As we have taken the first few steps into June, the campground is thriving. The honey bees are about, the birds are singing, the leaves are finally green, the sky is a clear blue, and -knock on wood- the sun is shining. The past few weeks have been quite rainy. Although lovely for our gardens, it doesn’t help the seedlings we have been planting on and off throughout the short dry spells. Tomatoes, corn, popping corn, strawberries, scallions, golden & red potatoes and wild parsley are a just few of the veggies you can sink your teeth into come mid-July.

On top of gardening, I have been very busy. One of my first tasks was putting up a billboard with a mermaid as tall as I am, about 5’10. It certainly was a crazy start to my week. I got to go to a farmer’s market and I tried gelato made with buffalo milk, which is apparently much healthier than cow’s milk for you because of the extra calcium.

buffalo, milk, gelato, new, yum, food
Love Trying New Things

I got to lead a beach and nature walk, in which I got to share some knowledge about the ocean & the sea life. I’ve also managed to improve my lawn mowing skills, and along with my newly acquired goat wrangling abilities, I’m feeling pretty good about myself. I now know how to drive a tractor and I must say; I think I may start diving it around instead of the golf carts.

tractor, Maine, girl, riding, red
Chugging Along

I’m currently learning how to run the store, which is a huge job in itself. I do enjoy it though, and the people here make my job a lot easier.  I hope you’ll say hi when you come in!

xo,

Amber

crabs, Maine, summer, sun, invasive, fun, hunting, girl
Hard To Be Crabby With This Job

Photo Safari 

April melted into a memory quicker than it ever should. May is following along the same path. We haven’t suffered the dramatic weather that we’ve seen in other parts of the country but I think in 45 days, we’ve had 6 without rain. Cold, gloomy and punishing if you want to get outdoor chores accomplished. A perfect excuse to work in front of the computer and play in the studio if that’s your inclination. Yup, I’ve been more happy than I probably should be considering how much work needs to get done before we open.

Rather than list off our chores, here’s a bit of a photo essay of our days:

We met with Shae of Knotty Goat farm and she’s agreed to make her special soaps for our store…we’re going to have Slippery Mermaid and Sultery Neptune…curious?  It’s really fun to work with another shepardess who LOVES her animals and her life!


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I made new cushions for the Frog & Faerie cabin with Steve’s worn out jeans and printed fabric from a shopping trip of 20 years ago.  The quilting style is Gee’s Bend…the ladies will be coming up from Boykin Alabama for Fiber College this fall and I want to honor their style.
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We’ve been propagating like crazy…with 40 acres on one side of the road and 150 acres on the other, we have alot of planting we’d like to do.  We’ve been taking advantage of these weeks of wet weather to root dozens of forysthia, pussie willows, lindens and dogwoods to brighten up the woods for years to come.
We’ve designed a new billboard…but the prep work is a bear!  Working between the raindrops we’ve finally got the background prepped and painted.
This fall we’ll be hosting three events in September: Fiber College, Vacationland Jam Camp and the Old Time Music Campout.  Nancy and Joe Segari of “Eat at Joe’s” Food Truck have agreed to provide the food right here on the campground.  Their menu is local, fresh, organic…and whenever possible kosher and gluten free…I wish they’d move in!
Painting, painting, painting for the billboard!
We have a new favorite place for Pie!  Searsmont is a charming village about 15 minutes from us and the General Store makes the BEST pie…definitely worth the drive and if you’re lucky enough to be here for an early evening of pie and light music…Go!  Did I mention there’s a micro brewery in the same village square?  Fraternity Village General Store
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We’ve got new mugs in the office.  Do I hear you say that’s not much of an accomplishment?  Au contraire my friends!  There are hundreds of styles, endless handles, multitudes of color combinations, manufacturing ethics to consider…and then the graphics.  It took two years of thought and conversation followed by two weeks of actual research and waiting for samples.  But we’ve got them now!  In red, green, blue and orange.
There’s terrific hiking right from the campground…miles of trails with oodles of waterfalls this time of year…just pack an extra pair of boots because you can’t avoid wet feet this time of year.
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Shearing done…wool sent to Aroostick County for processing…just waiting for the yarn.  I’m yearning to get it into the dye pot and on the shelves for a limited sale of “Searsport Shores” yarn…we need a mermaid kind of name 😉  This is a not so great shot of Esther our Leicester…she’s tired and cranky from all of the rain.

If you don’t like it, wait a minute

When I’m taking reservations, one of the most frequent questions I’m asked is “what’s the weather going to be like when I’m there?”   25 years later I’m still stammering over the response.  The honest, child-me says “your guess is as good as mine.”  The best advice I have is to always anticipate 30 degree fluctuations;  As long as everyone packs an extra pair of shoes and plenty of layers of clothing to add or remove, the vacation will go smoothly.

Tuesday we had a blizzard…more than 30 inches of snow and it was wonderful.  Today (Sunday), the thermometer was nudging 55 at around 1 and I had to wear snow shoes to walk around the park because the snow on the ground was so wet and heavy; it was wonderful.   My point is, when you are in Maine, live like a Mainer: never be far from 2 sweaters but be prepared to strip down to your t-shirt…and be flexible with your plans…I thought I was going skiing this weekend in Camden, instead I got to tend a couple of gardens and soak up the sun.

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Cutting pussy willows along the beach this afternoon…listening to the ducks squawk about being disturbed

 

Winter Life

 

You know, I write on this blog all of the time…the problem is, I do it in my mind as though I’m sending psychic post cards to friends yet somehow I have a million reasons for not actually sitting at the computer and typing you a note…if you are on instagram, you can find me there almost daily and Steve is there a couple of times a week.  Instagram is my goto for keeping in touch because I love having a mostly uncurated window into other people’s lives…and scrapbooking my own.

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As a quick catch up, in November, Steven, Dad and I went to Colombia, South America to soak up the sun and culture.  We wanted to learn more about their government supported eco-tourism practices.  We visited Cartagena, Santa Marta and Jardin, staying in ecohousing options and talking with local business owners whenever possible. We learned that while hobbit house habitations are a cool concept, they are not particularly friendly to guests with mobility issues and bungalows of bamboo can’t be translated into Maine cedar cabins no matter how hard I try.

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Here at the campground we just got our first real snowstorm yesterday and I’m feeling jubilant!  I swear it has been nothing but ice and grey weather for weeks on end…a dismal contrast to the blue skies and bright sun we’re usually treated to at the beginning of the year.   On the front burner of our lives, we’re working with friends from Belfast to create a new website. Like so many conversations, we find it easy to say “I don’t like that” or “that’s pretty good” but when it’s time to articulate the specifics, we can’t seem to find the words so we’ve brought in the professionals to help us update our story.

First came the site map created by the wonderful illustrator Lisa Griffin

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We LOVE this map but couldn’t figure out how to translate its “feel” to our website so we asked Belfast photographer and graphic designer Sally Brophy to help us…one question for you (and we’d REALLY like to hear from you): If we used a mermaid in our logo (not the Disney kind but our billboard kind)…would you think us too childish? Once the web layout and colors are chosen, we’re going to work with Ned Lightner the local cable producer to tell our story with short videos…watch out friends, we’re keeping up with the times ;).

The reservation side of our world is bubbling along nicely…people are starting to get excited about camping and we’re looking forward to a good season.  That reminds me, we’d love to host a new worker camper couple…have any suggestions?

In the meantime, be well and please stay in touch.  If there are things that you love about campground websites, please tell us…if there’s a trend that you hate…tell us that too.  We’d never be the park we are without your input and once again we’re asking.

With hugs from a bright window by the Bay,

Astrig

PS…in case you hadn’t heard, our free clean up weekend has new dates this year: May 19-21

 

The Rains of November Have Held Off

Hasn’t it just been the most magnificent Fall?  We’re just putting away the sheets that protected the cilantro and beets in the garden because we’ve harvested all but the last straggles.  Steve’s found that by planting winter rye on top and around the chard we can protect it from mild frosts and we’ve identified the warmest spots in the garden and planted the kale there this year…hint, look for where the cat o nine tails thrive, this is a warm spot.

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Since my last post, we took that trip to Madawaska and the Saint John’s Valley for the first snowflakes of the season.  At the risk of not having you visit our corner of the world, you should find a way to drive to the County…we saw it in the beginning of November when people said it was bleakest and still found it absolutely wonderful.   We went to talk with artists about participating in Fiber College 2017.  We met with quilters, weavers, historians and a snow show maker…and ate great food at every turn (The yellow ployes were my favorite).  It’s a different world up there…you hear more French than English but it’s a colloquial French whose rhythm and lilt is enchanting.  If you think life here is pastoral, up there it’s a different pace still where tractors create traffic jams and women speak poetically about the beauty of handwork and potato blossoms (described to me as sheets of delicately colored gauze in shades of pink, blue, yellow and purple laid out over lush green fields for as far as the eye can see).

We stayed in a log cabin beside a beautiful pond 5 minutes from downtown Madawaska.  Debbie and Danny built the cabin from logs grown on their land and every inch of the cabin is furnished with their skillful woodworking and gleanings from all over the Valley.  I never imagined how many things you could do with Moose Antlers 😉  You can check out their website here and tell them Astrig and Steve sent you.

stjohncollage

As much as possible I’ve been weaving in the studio.  Look at “Maggie’s Rug!”  She’s a Navajo Churro sheep that Steven bottle fed since she was as small as a chihuahua (you can find videos on youtube of the time she “grew up” in our house).  She was born almost black and has finally faded into a lovely cafe creme.  We shear her twice a year and I’ve been spinning and saving her wool all this time so that I could make a rug that shows the color changes of each six month period of her life…and here it is…just off the loom last night.  The rug’s going to warm the floor of our little getaway cabin, so this afternoon we all walked over to see how it looked…don’t you think the rug would make a good poncho?…and Steve looks a bit like a caballero 😉

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Although I could easily get lost in my world of wool, when it rained yesterday, I finally sat down at the computer and design a new rack card for next year’s distribution.  Twenty four years ago we did everything ourselves which meant typing up an information sheet and taking it to the copy shop and having it printed on colored paper…no pictures, nothing fancier than choosing between a tilde and asterisk for bullet points and deciding if it was worth the 3 cents/page to have it folded for an envelope mailing.  We dreamed about the day we’d pay someone to make a “real brochure.”

In a blink, computers got more powerful and suddenly we were supposed to be desktop publishers…then we dreamt about when we’d be big enough to pay someone to design our brochures “like the big guys.”  A couple of years ago, we got there and found out it’s not that easy because we didn’t have the words to accurately project our vision…and revisions are very expensive and we weren’t all that satisfied.  Today with cloud software and a dreamy mac, we really can do it ourselves but imagine Steve and me sitting in our PJ’s, coffee in hand, trying to decide if we’ve “told our story” in the elusive 8 seconds you have to grab the attention of those standing in front of a brochure rack. There’s the technical challenge of having images that work for print media (high resolution, uncluttered, truly representative) and the more complex challenge of refining our message into the words that will resonate with “our people” using as few words as possible.  Honestly, I wish those teens from Macedonia lived next door!  At any rate…we sent this off and ordered 5000 copies…with our fingers crossed.

rackcardcollage

It’s fun to close on a really high note, last week Steven and I accepted the Heritage Award from the Belfast Area Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the Treat family who came before us, our own family and the friends who help us ever day.  We were celebrated for the 50 years Searsport Shores has contributed to the prosperity and individuality of the region.  It was a surprise and an honor to be selected.  When I was young the concept of roots and legacy meant little to me but as the grey hairs have started to highlight my pony tail, I’m gaining a new appreciation for what it means to be part of something bigger and look forward to when our nephews may be interested enough to join our world.

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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?

woolwork

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…