Still Playing in the Mud

We’re wet. I know, April showers bring May flowers but enough is enough. Our critters are walking around flooded pastures, our driveway is slick with mud and potholes Wait, this doesn’t sound like a good promotional piece for visiting Maine does it? Let me start over…

The gods have given us ample reason to sit in front of our planning notebooks, big white boards and computers these last couple of weeks. We took advantage of the we weather to attend the Governor’s Conference on Tourism in Augusta. Held in the Civic Center, about 500 of us looked around while we listened to statistics, best practices and lots of advice (OK, maybe we were looking more than actively listening). In our defense, these gatherings are about networking, right? After Steve and I got over the surprise that we’re no longer the “young ones” in the room, we enjoyed catching up with folks we’ve known for decades in the Office of Tourism, from the Arts Commission and so many of the lodging and experience providers we’ve come to love from all over the state. Because Maine is so geographically huge, we often only connect in realtime during these sanctioned gatherings before “the season” kicks into gear. My favorite takeaways were the Maine Wine Trail and Wilbur’s of Maine Chocolate Confections who gave bags of chocolate covered almonds as parting gifts…the very definition of sweeet!

Both Steve and I had grandfathers and uncles who worked in lumber/hunting camps in the 1930’s and beans have always been a weekend tradition

While Steve attended a session on Search Engine Optimization, I went to the State Library and museum for an update on Maine’s Bicentennial plans for 2020. The packed room was full of eager participants but the majority of details still feel rather vague. If everything works out, there will be tall ships in Belfast and Bucksport (5 minutes and 12 minutes from the campground), a statewide beanhole bean suppah (every community in Maine will hold a public supper on the same night) and lots more that still exist in the “fingers’ crossed stage”. As I learn more, I’ll share but if you’re really interested, it would be a great idea to follow the progress on the official website and all the rest of the social media outlets. In the meantime, I dropped into a rabbit hole to give you more information about the importance of beans in Maine’s history…the hole was too deep so I climbed back out but you might want to click over to the Maine Folklife Center for a little more information and make it a point to listen to the Good Old State of Maine song recording .

Authenticity is everywhere…what a blessing!

I didn’t sit down today to give you a blow by blow report of our time in Augusta but it’s turning out that way. We left Searsport for the tourism conference early because of a snow storm and because of the extra half hour, I got a chance to indulge in a favorite practice: hunting through the racks at Goodwill. Although I’m pleased to say that the expedition led to a couple of great linen tunics, the real pleasure was waiting for me at the door. You know how it is when you’re standing in a line that doesn’t move quickly and you scan your environment with no particular attention? Well I noticed Leo standing by the exit and without really thinking about it, my mind slipped him into the box of “oh, he’s not quite right” and that was it. But after I checked out I found myself right in front of him and when I smiled and said hello, he returned my greeting with a spark of happiness that caused me to pause and chat. Leo spoke with charm and I could have easily spent the day with him. A native of Augusta, he was fluent in English, French, Greek and Italian because he grew up in the tenement housing of the textile mills. The necklace he wore was made of bear claws and seeds and hand carved wooden beads. He has since lost the majority of his eyesight but even without being able to see, he carved the wooden feather on his walking stick to the point that it’s almost transparent and wood burned it by heating a nail in the fireplace during the winter. In our short time together Leo told me about earning a living by guiding sportsmen in the Northern woods. He told of places where the lumber jacks had abandoned camp during the recession and left the cast iron pots still sitting on ancient ashes. He spoke of salmon and moose and bear with the same facility I talk of campsites and reservations. He and his wife have lived off the grid their entire lives and he showed me the horsetail brush he made to brush out the gunpowder from his rifle. I’m not making this up. Leo was the diamond of my day and that 15 minute chance encounter has enriched my life…I wish the same for you.

Don’t forget about our Free Clean Up Weekend on May 17th

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 😉

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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…

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Hoop Dancer Jen Appleby July 16-19

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Jen guiding morning mindful stretch 

Hello future hoop friends!

My name is Jen Appleby and I will be bringing Wingspan Mindful Movement to Searsport Shores July 16-19th. I am a hula hoop dancer from Lisbon Falls Maine and I love helping kids and adults alike find joy in learning to hoopdance. I am a long time mover and have dabbled in tai chi, yoga, ballet, and baton before finding a home in hoopdance as ‘flow art’ five years ago. I love engaging in the physical exploration of moving with a prop and expressing myself through dance. Hoopdance is truly an art and a science. It also affords a person’s mind and body a uniquely creative means to connect to the present moment and to one’s own personal, physical experience. Hoopdance is good for balance, flexibility, attention, energy regulation, stress reduction, weight loss, core toning, immune strengthening and self-expression. I will hold two sessions daily on the 17th and 18th with an evening jam on the 16th and a morning mindful stretch on the 19th. Morning classes will focus on meeting the day with gently and gracefully. We will gather on the beautiful ocean deck and focus on using the hoop as a tool for meditative stretching. In the evening we will jam out on the bball court during which time I will demo some basic dance moves and offer one to one instruction as we all dance together. Both classes are open to all ages and abilities, though the am. class may be more conducive to children over 12. I will have hoops available for use as well as purchase. Please give yourself the gift of silly and serious fun. Come join the circle!

Giant bubbles!

I will also be blowing giant bubbles and will have them available for purchase!

Ever wondered what is the biggest bubble you could blow? Come join Jen before hoop class on the basket ball court and experience the giant fun of creating enormous soap bubbles. With some basic know how, the right weather conditions and a little patience, you too can enjoy this whimsical and mindful art. Jen will have wands to try and wands for purchase. Come be amazed and then stay on for hula hoop dance party!

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Day of Love

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Today’s agenda:

Blueberry scones, lemon curd and a new blend of dark coffee from Green Tree Roasters in Lincolnville…sitting in a sunny window with a good friend

Answer e-mails and return phone calls

Worm the goats, trim their hooves and feed them handfuls of sunflower seeds…so they know that they’re loved

Walk the beach when the sun is highest…the Steve and I will be hunting for purple sea glass, the hound will be hunting for pee messages

Homemade Turkey Pie (the turkey was grown on Betty’s farm in Winterport), cranberry sauce from a can and a bottle of cold white wine we’ve been saving for a “special occasion”…chocolate lava cake and Gifford’s vanilla bean Ice Cream

Check e-mails & phone messages

A “chick flick” and followed by a long hot sauna and a run through the snow…early to bed.

 

I’m well aware that the easiest way to make the Gods laugh is to tell them your plans…so I’m just keeping my fingers crossed…

Love to you too!

Walking the Beach

There was Spring in the air today…I heard more chickadees and phoebes than I have in months, the ground smelled warmer and the goats hung out on their rooftop soaking up the sun…I hope this isn’t a cruel joke…

J.J. the hound and I walked to Moose Point State Park…

This is what we saw:

No breezes all the way to Castine

The perfect piece of driftwood for the garden

Spiney Urchin or the perfect image for a winter beach greeting card?

An invitation to sit and contemplate the world

When we got back we accomplished more tasks from the list…insurance phone calls, banking phone calls, a new Dog aquarium sign ordered…and the beginning work on new business cards…boy I’m efficient!

And the wind howled…

The storm came out of the Southeast…it started raining in the early hours and didn’t stop for 48 hours…it was warm and there were times I thought for certain we’d find our sky lights and roof shingles scattered across the playground in front of the house.  Sunday morning we had enough snow for a good ski…this is what things look like on Tuesday afternoon.

The stream that cuts through the campground

This all washed in during 48 hours

The answer to the goats' prayers...acorns in January. Can you see that the hillside is strewn with sea urchins too?

Flotsam, jetsam and boulders strewn across the seawall