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 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).
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 😉
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?
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
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.
This 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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or put them on Facebook. I get so wrapped up in the summer, I forget to get outside and take pictures.
Cross Patch Farms of Morrill, Maine has begun their 3rd season selling produce at the new and larger farm stand located on Route 1 in Serarsport just across from Searsport Shores Campground.
The new building replaces a much smaller stand origianally built in 1973. Mr. Treat owned the property at that time, he had a big garden and wanted to honor the heritage of the property which had been a working farm from the shore to the top of the mountain since the 1800’s. The little red farm stand was very popular with locals and folks from away for the fresh produce and enjoyed national fame as the setting for a Nutrisweet ad.
Steven and Astrig Tanguay of Searsport Shores Campground now own the property. Last year Steven noticed a sign that read “duck” on the front of the stand, thinking the Cross Patch Farm was expanding their product line he asked to buy some duck for supper only to find the sign refered to the need to “duck” your head to keep from hitting it in the doorway, “The building was starting to lean a bit too much,” said Steven Tanguay, “so I decided to replace it with a new building.”
When you stop in at the farm stand you’ll meet Ann Ambrose smiling behind the counter.
Ann manages the stand for Terry and Roxi Whitney who run Cross Patch Farm. Four generations of the Whitney family work on their 25 acre farm growing produce.
Ann is having a great time decorating the new space. She says the new stand has far exceeded her expetations! It’s much larger, Ann is able to display many more procucts indoors.
The crew at Searsport Shores provided the labor with the help of Larry Dolan of Morrill. The pine siding for the farm stand was milled in Winterport from trees downed in the November storm last year. The cement came from State Sand and Gravel, other building materials were purchased locally from EBS and Viking in Belfast.
I think the two-hour drive from Searsport to Portland is much like the old advertising slogan for another New England favorite, Dunkin Donuts – it’s worth the trip! Corny, I know, but if you’re like me and you don’t mind rocking out to some of your favorite road trip songs during the drive, the ride to Portland can be a pretty good time, too. I really dig downtown Portland, so naturally when I arrive in the city that area tends to be my first destination. It can get a little challenging if you don’t know your way around, and in the summertime traffic can get quite heavy. But that’s OK, as long as you can find a parking spot, you’re golden. Exploring this part of Portland is a much better experience on foot because it’s easier to make frequent stops to check out the cool little shops along the way. I almost never create an itinerary for a trip like this because there are so many possibilities here, and it can be tough to choose. Besides, sometimes it’s just more fun to be spontaneous! If you start your excursion in Congress Street, you’ll have easy access to lots of small art galleries, shops and restaurants while you meander your way over to the cobblestone streets of The Old Port. The Old Port is home to tons of local pubs with lots of local character, unusual emporiums and unique stops.
If you happen to wander near the area of the Portland Lobster Co. near Long Wharf, take a look at the collection of locks attached to the chain link fence. The sight is pretty interesting, but when you look a little closer, each lock carries a message of love. It’s something that folks have been doing all over the world, and it’s a pretty neat thing to see gestures of love on display in this way, and stuff like this always makes me smile. If you’re into cycling, there are a few outfits around the area that rent bicycles for the day, and this method of transportation will allow you to see what’s happening around the city much quicker than you could on foot, or in a vehicle during the summertime, for that matter. And it’s great exercise, too, which you can look back on with pride as you’re ordering that second beer with dinner (more on that later).
If you’re into adventures on the water, you won’t be disappointed if you book an afternoon of sailing on one of the region’s historic schooners, like the Schooner Frances, or hop on the ferry and spend an afternoon at Peaks Island. I am always amazed at how easy it is to leave the fast-paced atmosphere of the city behind in the Portland area! The city also has about 70 miles of walking trails, so a peaceful stroll is never too far out of reach, either. And hey, what’s a trip to Portland without seeing a ballgame? Seeing a Sea Dogs game is a great alternative to the longer (and pricier) trip to a Boston Red Sox game. To me, the experience is just as fantastic due to the simple fact that it’s baseball. This sport has always been a summertime love of mine, even long after I traded my bat and glove for a writer’s notebook. Hadlock Field really captures the local spirit as it relates to New England sports. It has its own version of Fenway Park’s Green Monster, the Maine Monster, and a lighthouse emerges in center field each time the Sea Dogs win a game or every time a player hits a home run. If you think of it, bring along a baseball glove; if you’re even a little less clumsy than I am, you might be lucky enough to catch a game ball! If the rain clouds happen to come through the region during your trip, no problem.
You could always check out the University of Southern Maine’s Southworth Planetarium for a laser light show. I have, and it’s something one has to see for themselves to truly appreciate it. It’s just pretty cool to enter a building and feel like you are at the center of the universe, even if it’s just for an hour or so. If you’re looking for a fun and funky place to dine, look no further than Silly’s. Meals here have interesting names like The Imperial Thai Fighter, a dish featuring Portobello mushrooms or grilled chicken with sautéed vegetables and miso ginger sauce on a bed of brown rice. Aside from the Star Wars reference, which I thought was pretty sweet, I especially like the décor – comfy bench seats, tall tables and throw pillows everywhere you look. It would be a lot like eating a great meal at home, if I hired and interior decorator and if I was a decent cook (and anyone who knows me well knows I am not). They’ve got a nice selection of Maine brews, which is excellent for someone like me because I love to try new and different beers, and if I like what I try I’ll almost always order a second (it’s OK, remember? I did that hour of cycling earlier). Well, I think that’s going to do it for this lady, I’ve got a long drive filled with road trip songs and some great Portland memories ahead of me. Until next time, safe travels!
This is the first in our guest writer series”What’s Cooking in Maine” by our friend and accomplice Alice Seeger of Belfast.
Yesterday brought us a layer of fresh snow…and scallops for dinner. But this story actually started in June, 2014 when I attended Maine Fare Festival in Belfast. I spent two tasty hours learning about the sweet, succulent scallops harvested in the coastal waters of Maine. Touge Brawn of Maine Dayboat Scallops gave a scallop cooking demonstration, she’s probably the most knowledgeable person on the subject. As she shared her knowledge of scallop fishing and state regulations she prepared and handed around samples of simply prepared Maine Scallops. I couldn’t wait till scallop season for a chance to try some of her recipes!
Touge explained the scallops harvested in state waters are strictly managed by the Maine’s Department of Marine Resources (DMR) in an effort to maintain a healthy population of scallops. Maine scallops are harvested by either diving or dragging using small boats that return to port each day. They are ‘dry packed’ using no preservatives. The scallop season runs from December 1 to April 15 to avoid conflicting with the lobster industry. If, however, the DMR determines the scallop population too low they can close some fishing areas much earlier, making Maine scallops not only superior to other scallops but also somewhat rare. Add that to the list of great reasons to live in Maine!
The best way to get good Maine scallops is to know a fisherman, or get them from a reputable fish monger or lobster pound. Young’s Lobster Pound in East Belfast offers scallops, but I bought mine in Stockton Springs at the Main Street Market (10 minutes from the campground). If you’re not in Maine you can order dry packed scallops online from MaineDayboatScallops. The color of fresh scallops should range from pale beige to creamy pink, and the meat should have a clean, fresh smell with a moist sheen.
There are lots of wonderful recipes available for scallops. Pan seared, poached, skewered and grilled, immersed in lime juice for Ceviche, simmered in cream for chowder, by starting with fresh Maine scallops it’s hard to go wrong. Of course bacon always works well with any scallop recipe. Add honey to bacon drippings for searing scallops and you’ll think you died and went to heaven. The other day I was inspired by a sign on the sidewalk outside Vinolio on Main Street in Belfast. I decided to give this combination a try.
Seared Scallops with Bacon and Cauliflower-Parsnip Puree
1 medium head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), cut into 1-inch pieces (about 6 cups including stems)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt or coarse salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 or 3 good sized parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
Place scallops on a paper towel to remove moisture, sprinkle with sea salt and a bit of freshly ground pepper.
Place scallops in a bowl and toss with 2 tablespoons of Blood Orange Olive Oil, marinate for at least one hour.
Put cauliflower and parsnips with a pinch of salt, and 1 cup water into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower and parsnips are tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Pour off the liquid. Working in batches, puree in a food processor, filling no more than 2/3 full each time. or use an immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper. Cauliflower-parsnip puree can be refrigerated up to 2 days; reheat over low heat until warm, stirring occasionally.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Arrange bacon strips on a rimmed baking sheet, bake until brown and crisp, 15 to 20 minutes, checking often and turning slices as they brown. Remove from pan to a plate covered with paper towels to absorb excess bacon fat. Keep warm.
Place 4 tablespoons of Blood Orange Olive Oil (or strained bacon fat) in a skillet. Heat skillet to screaming hot! Be sure to have your fan on, it will produce some smoke and watch the skillet.
Add scallops, be sure they do not touch one another. Sear scallops for about 2 minutes, each side.
Spoon cauliflower-parsnip puree onto plates, add crumbled bacon, top with scallops.
Give them a squeeze of lemon or a dash of Grapefruit White Balsamic Vinegar.
IMHO the best part of having holidays here on the coast is that we’re not inundated with commercial pressures for celebrating…we still feel like part of the main stream when we make our cards and gifts at home. Our Christmas parties revolve around music, local food and show and tell, with a fair amount of wine, beer or mead.
The during the last couple of weeks, the wind has been whipping around and we’ve been kept indoors with ice storms which is just fine with me…no superfluous driving! We’re making lots of crock pot dinners that simmer all day long freeing us to play more and still come in for a warm meal. While Steve’s been working with his guys on the new hiking trails in between storms, Alice and I have been spending a majority of our time in the studio weaving on the looms and printing holiday cards.
If you haven’t treated yourself to a sheet of linoleum and a couple of pots of paint…you haven’t been having enough fun!
Would you like to receive one of our hand printed cards? Leave a comment below before December 19th and we’ll send you a greeting from Maine…with all our love and ink smudges!