Staying Balanced

Well, it’s the second week of April and a foot of snow fell today…which normally would make me seriously happy but yesterday it was 60 degrees and I prioritized getting my wool sweaters packed in cedar ’cause I was channeling my Martha Stewart and feeling good about it…thank the Gods I kept my snow boots by the door!

The view from my window as I write

We’ve been catching the sun when we can and doing things like tending the bees, repairing broken pipes and taking the plastic off the windows of the Art Studio. The little stream that runs through the campground (between the main side of the park and the walk in tenting area) is roaring, the surf is pounding and the sheep and goats are frolicking and butting heads as though they’ve just come out of a deep slumber. All in all, everything in our little world seems just a bit more extreme (thankfully not Nebraska and Kansas extreme).

With all of the freezing and thawing this year, the drainage pipes took a beating but happily, the bees survived and the hives seem strong.

On Thursday and Friday we attended the Artists and Makers Conference in Lincolnville (when you’re in the campground, ask us about Howe’s Point in Lincolnville…a hidden gem of a beach, but I digress.) We go to this gathering wearing both our Searsport Shores hats and our Makers Guild of Maine hats. We make time to attend because we love being surrounded by small businesses and artists who are inquisitive, fully engaged in their lives and looking for the same sorts of things we are…an authentic and balanced life with time for art, friends, staying healthy and a really good IPA. Of course, there’s a bit of Holy Grail in all of this because we learn from every consultant with a slide show that we could do a better job telling our story if only… tell me, do real people actually check their phones as soon as they wake up and just before they go to sleep? Me…I want a nice latte and a weaving magazine in the morning and a good book in the evening…doesn’t everybody? We saw many dear friends and heard lots of inspiring tales of people following their passion. If you like handmade, fun jewelry, check out our friend Willy Reddick ’cause she’s the real deal! She rows a boat in the winter, hikes and gardens all summer, married an phenomenal furniture maker and is a genuinely kind person. We learned of a younger adventurer and painter who lives just inland from us, Abe Goodale

Maine…home to so many incredible artists!

After all the stimulation of the conference, it felt good to settle in and work on our projects. When we were traveling in Mexico last November, we stayed in a little village that was only accessible by boat and enjoyed the hospitality of a retired restauranteur who had the loveliest outdoor kitchen that he shared with guests. As soon as we enjoyed a lunch in the garden, we knew we needed to recreate a Maine version for ourselves and campers. Fast forward to yesterday…Steve and a crew started clearing the goat pen in the back of the garden and drew pictures for my kitchen. It won’t be as open to the elements as the one we enjoyed in Yelpas but the front doors will slide all the way open and there will be a deep porch where 30-50 people can gather for cooking classes, receptions and music. It’s far more exciting than this computer rendering portrays and if we’re lucky, it will be built in time to enhance our Wednesdays at the Shores in July…I’ll post more pictures as things progress.

In order to make room for the kitchen, the brush pile is absolutely touring!

And to close with a few links you might like to check out:

Fiber College launched on April 1st…we invite you to join 200+ spinners, weavers, woodworkers, painters and other happy sorts September 4-8 here in the campground.

Clean Up Weekend is when we exchange free camping for help with all the Spring Chores we haven’t finished before we open…this year it’s May 17-19.

Meet Bubbles and her momma Beatrix…the newest members of our spinners flock

psst…there’s not a link yet but we’re working on hosting the Quilters of Gee’s Bend September 9-14 in conjunction with the Bluegrass and Old Time Music Gathering…more to follow soon.

Walk with me 

Blog Graphic

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.

Untitled design
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.

pinktulip

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.

collage
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…

1
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.

 

Choosing a campsite

Now’s the time when the reservations start flooding our world…the sun is shining, the tents and RV’s are begging to be opened up and aired out.  In the Spring, most of my morning and evening work hours are spent in front of the computer, answering e-mails, returning phone calls and booking sites.

RV104

RV43

 

RV1and2This is my 23rd summer of this responsibility and I take it as seriously now as I did before I had grey hair and needed glasses.  About two thirds of our guests are either returning campers or have been referred by friends and family.  These folks usually fall into two categories: they either love us and feel like any site in the park would be fine because they know that to the best of our ability all the sites are level, spacious and comfortable OR they have very specific sites in mind and are willing to plan their vacation dates around the availability of those sites.  These are easy bookings because there is a lot of confidence on both of our parts.

swingsite

RV155

RV90

The other third of our guests will be staying with us for the first time.  Like any new relationship, there can be trust issues on both ends of the telephone.  In a perfect world, people will trust me to choose a campsite to the best of my ability based on their vacation dates, site availability and their use of abundant adjectives for ideal site descriptions.  There is a certain amount of compromise required if the only goals are “privacy, oceanfront, July and weekend”…but with a little wiggle room I can usually find something nice.  First, I understand how important this getaway is…when Steven and I travel it’s fiercely important to us too that our time/money is spent as well as possible. Second, almost 100% of our guests understand the atmosphere we offer and want to be part of THIS world, so consideration and friendliness are the norm and not the exception…it’s good to know that your neighbors are wonderful too.  Finally, we don’t try to fill all the sites in the park so when you get here, we’re happy to show you the site we’ve chosen and then offer up any other available campsite.

RV43

RV13

OT16

As I write this, I realize that maybe another good article would be about the difference between campsites and the reason behind some of our policies…stay tuned, because I’ll ponder this while I work in the garden and get back to you.  This would be a great time to comment with questions I should address in the next posting.  In the meantime, I’ve started a collection of photos of specific campsites that should help first time visitors envision our sites. and a request…if you’ve stayed with us before and have some great pictures of you and your family on a campsite…could I have copies please?  you could either e-mail them to relax@campocean.com or put them on Facebook.  I get so wrapped up in the summer, I forget to get outside and take pictures.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

RV11Gold3

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:

FlowerCollage

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.

secondCollage

 

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?

flocksflourishesCollage

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.

trailersforsale

 

The sun was warm but the wind was chill

Things We Did This Week

April is a rough month for us because we’re rested and feeling cabin fever deep in our bones…we want to be outside taking care of projects but because it’s still pretty cold out AND we have plenty of indoor work still left to do, we start behaving like caged cats.

In my world, self discipline starts with list making…so this is what we accomplished this week:

  1. Fiber College Registration has launched…if you haven’t seen it already, visit the website now and then plan on camping here in September for the best week ever (for those who like to work with their hands that is)
  2. We had a wicked storm…lost electricity…lost trees…so this morning we had a big bonfire on the beach with some of the branches that came down over the gardens.
  3. Norma and Steve got the plant nursery going…countless flats of vegetables, dye plants, flowers and curiosities are all being cared for under Norma’s watchful eye.
  4. Did you notice the blog got a facelift?  What do you think?  By May 1st, we should be launching a new website too.  It’s a full time job to keep up with our social media.  If you haven’t already found us, we’re also posting to Instagram with more regularity I’m (Astrig) @campingwithart and Steve is @campingman
  5. Wayne and Mike got 25 new picnic tables made for the Lobsterbake area.  We’re trying a new model with unattached benches…we think it will make it easier for those with less flexible knees.
  6. It wasn’t a “to do” but we had a fantastic lunch with our friends Dan and Selika at Laan Xang in Belfast.  Dan’s going to plant a special mix of grass seeds this year to provide hay for our little spinner’s flock of goats and sheep…and he and Steve were making plans for growing Thai basil and heirloom tomatoes for the restaurant…can’t wait!

Now I feel a sense of accomplishment 🙂 I think I’ll go up to the studio and weave a bit after a cup of coffee.  In case you were wondering, the title of this post is from a favorite Robert Frost poem, Two Tramps in the Mud…this is the entire poem:

“The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day.
When the sun is out and the wind is still,
You’re one month on in the middle of May.
But if you so much as dare to speak,
a cloud come over the sunlit arch,
And wind comes off a frozen peak,
And you’re two months back in the middle of March.”
– Robert Frost, Two Tramps in Mud Time, 1926

January is for Planning

December always seems to be a blur because of holiday decorations, parties and the inevitable bumpy shifting of gears from closing the campground to being closed. By the second week of January we’re rested, filled with happy memories and fueled to begin planning for the summer season to come…impatiently caught between enjoying our icy imprisonment (the road into the campground thawed from its slick icy state just last night) and projecting our thoughts towards the camping, gardening and arts that will fill the summer months.

Icy Days...when the water is coldest, the mussels are sweetest
Icy Days…when the water is coldest, the mussels are sweetest

In our “Ice Prison” as friend Anna calls it, I’ve been spinning, weaving, sewing and simmering in the pleasure of making things to eat, wear and cosset the house in our ever changing vision of what is “perfect”…(yes my friends, Pintrest and I spend a lot of time together 😉  Steven has been playing with his mandolin more and has tackled woodworking projects we’ve been thinking about for years (and resulted in a gorgeous dining table that expands to seat 18 + a floor to ceiling bookshelf that finally contains all of my books and project boxes).  We try to get outside everyday for a ski, snow shoe or slog through the mud as the conditions permit…and then there are the series to catch up on: Downton Abbey- check, Parks and Rec.- check, Better Off Ted-check.

Looking towards summer we’ve mapped out a plan on a large white board that functions as a mind dump for all of the plans we’re making.  The brilliance of a white board is that it acts like a reality check: exactly how many kayak trips, special events, group projects and adventures have we listed?  Right now I’m working on our 2014 Artist in Residence schedule (we have 3 weeks still open if you’re thinking of applying), launching Fiber College and submitting our calendar of events to the myriad of websites and booklets that target tourists during the summer.  Steve’s re-vamping the website with more recent photos, getting us sorted out with YouTube, preparing this summer’s camp wood and ordering seeds for the garden.

While all of this is going on we’re answering e-mails and phone calls, taking reservations and posting the deposits.  Last year was a great year for us (definition: busily filled with people we really like, who really liked being here AND paid our bills);  This year is looking more promising.  Weather is always the wild card but because the majority of our guests seem to be of the “bring it on” mentality, Maine’s temperamental climate doesn’t concern us as much as it does some of our fellow campgrounds.  There’s so much to do within an hour’s drive of the park + the beauty of the beach during “inclement times” multiplied by the comfort of the rec hall (didn’t that new heated porch make a difference last year !?!) and the art studio, we seem to have found the answer to vacationing in Maine…come with the intention of enjoying whatever it brings…because it’s all beautiful!

Speaking of beautiful, a family from Kentucky visited last July and stayed on the second row.  I got these photos in my e-mail yesterday and wanted to share Sarah’s vision of the campground with you while we watch the eve’s drip from the window here in Searsport.  While we always think of the ocean as being the biggest draw to the park, it’s interesting to see that Sarah appreciated the gardens and the goats more.  Thank you Sarah for sharing!

IMG_4710 IMG_4711 IMG_4712 IMG_4714 IMG_4715 IMG_4716 IMG_4717 IMG_4719 IMG_4734 IMG_4750 IMG_4752 IMG_4761 IMG_4769 IMG_4775 IMG_4782 IMG_4805

P.S.  With these photos, the note read…”I
want you to know that I thoroughly enjoyed myself on our vacation at your
campground and in Maine.  After we left your campground we headed down to
Old Orchard Beach.   There were so many tourists and the beach was
crowded and in my opinion, not that clean.  The only thing I found
pleasant was some of the good food we discovered in Portland.  If we ever
make it back up that way (and I certainly hope we do) our destination will be
definitely be farther north where you are located.  The scenery and the
people were something that I will never forget and we will long to visit
again.  Thank you for opening up your property to us and making us feel at
home…”

 

 

 

They came, they saw and they accomplished…Clean Up Weekend 2013

Clean up weekend is a reminder that Community builds dreams. Every week people who see the campground for the first time tell me that they’re blown away by the creativity and the gardens…the general atmosphere in the park.  I think it’s the residual energy of past guests that they’re feeling.  This past weekend really brought that belief home.   This is a hard post to write because the gratitude in our hearts feels too big to put into words… so let me share photos of all that was accomplished and you’ll have to imagine the fabulous pot luck supper on Saturday night where we all felt as though we were a part of something that is bigger than just a mom and pop campground.

Al & Gary building a deck for site #11
Al & Gary building a deck for site #11

Among other things Laurie and family kept the bonfire buring with the brush from winter debris
Among other things Laurie and family kept the bonfire buring with the brush from winter debris

Every fall the oaks dump piles of leaves that need to be cleaned up each Spring.  Thank You Abbey, Haley, Rose, Greta, Greg & Dawn
Every fall the oaks dump piles of leaves that need to be cleaned up each Spring. Thank You Abbey, Haley, Rose, Greta, Greg & Dawn

Cleaning up the Lobsterbake Area
Cleaning up the Lobsterbake Area

Steve Hoage...master leaf blower!
Steve Hoage…master leaf blower!

Just watching the work getting done
Just watching the work getting done

So many leaves!
So many leaves!

We thank Carol for her decorating skills...sewing and designing the store displays
We thank Carol for her decorating skills…sewing and designing the store displays

Roxanne is a painting diva
Roxanne is a painting diva

Diane got called in a hundred directions
Diane got called in a hundred directions

Everything is freshly painted and cleaned for the new season...we turn on the water and there's a fountain coming out of the wall...Thank you Mark and Gary and Gary for having plumbing skills to share
Everything is freshly painted and cleaned for the new season…we turn on the water and there’s a fountain coming out of the wall…Thank you Mark and Dave and Gary for having plumbing skills to share

The bathhouse now has a new front door!  Thank you Steve, Steve and Mike
The bathhouse now has a new front door! Thank you Steve, Steve and Mike

Fred crawled into the Mermaid house and painted the interior bright and new...hope that your back has unfolded Fred.
Fred crawled into the Mermaid house and painted the interior bright and new…hope that your back has unfolded Fred.

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA
New deck for site 11…thank you Steve & Al for leading the project

Roxanne & Linda sanitized all the children's toys
Roxanne & Linda sanitized all the children’s toys

Ask Mary how the painting was endless
Ask Mary how the painting was endless

Fred & Anita catching their breath after a busy day
Fred & Anita catching their breath after a busy day

Bob, making aquaintences
What better way to start a work weekend than with wine, beer, cheese + crackers?

Hank and Astrig make an awesome team in donut production
Hank and Astrig make an awesome team in donut production

Rhonda and Deb tackled the infamous "green shed" with courage...we'll try to keep in neat now.
Rhonda and Deb tackled the infamous “green shed” with courage…we’ll try to keep in neat now.

Just sorting the stuff makes my head spin
Just sorting the stuff makes my head spin

Is Anita getting overwhelmed by books and puzzles?
Is Anita getting overwhelmed by books and puzzles?

SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA
Linda, Jenn, Hannah and the Girl Scouts worked tirelessly in the wet gardens

Hank & Rich re-built the kayak stands
Hank & Rich re-built the kayak stands

Jenn & Thomas pulled cat o'nine tails from the frog pond...Thomas did a frog inventory
Jenn & Thomas pulled cat o’nine tails from the frog pond…Thomas did a frog inventory

Many hands built the platforms for the interns' new cabins
Many hands built the platforms for the interns’ new cabins

Glenn made short work of a dead tree in the group tenting area
Glenn & Darcey made short work of a dead tree in the group tenting area

100's of seedlings were transplanted by the Searsport Girl Scout's group
100’s of seedlings were transplanted by the Searsport Girl Scout’s group

Searsport Girl Scouts made certain that all of the toys were clean and in good working order
Searsport Girl Scouts made certain that all of the toys were clean and in good working order

And then the commercial stove wouldn't work...thank you Steve, Larry and Steve for trying so hard
And then the commercial stove wouldn’t work…thank you Steve, Larry and Steve for trying so hard

Larry and Bob cooked a great BBQ lunch for the hungry crowd
Larry and Bob cooked a great BBQ lunch for the hungry crowd

Mary & Linda transformed the Children's Play loft into a pirate ship...it's fantastic
Mary & Linda transformed the Children’s Play loft into a pirate ship…it’s fantastic

Becka gives the outhouse a coat of fresh paint
Becka gives the outhouse a coat of fresh paint

Becka's husband "Bear" takes on the men's side of the outhouse
Becka’s husband “Bear” takes on the men’s side of the outhouse

The pirate ship is taking form
The pirate ship is taking form…final pictures to follow

Decks and walk ways are set into place...while slipping and sliding in the mud
After a whole lot of brush clearing, the decks and walk ways are set into place for the intern micro cabin community…while slipping and sliding in the mud. Thank you Bob, Gary, Tony, Mark, Dave, Gary, Jim, Glenn, Hank, Bear, Al & Steve…an awesome crew!

Heather tackles the giant lolliepop display for the candy section in the store
Heather tackles the giant lolliepop display for the candy section in the store

Darcy and the giant lollipop construction...note to self...just 'cause it's on pintrest does not make it easy
Darcy and the giant lollipop construction…note to self…just ’cause it’s on Pintrest does not make it easy

Pot luck on Saturday night...challenge question after dinner: "what is the most interesting camping story that you can share?"
Pot luck on Saturday night…challenge question after dinner: “what is the most interesting camping story that you can share?”

Comfort food after a long day in coastal Maine drizzle
Comfort food after a long day in coastal Maine drizzle

There are so many photos we didn’t snap and so many people we haven’t thanked…please forgive us and send pictures if you have them…we cherish the memories;  in the meantime, thank you Betsy for sharing your camera loot!

“Because when you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing. ”  Dr. Suess