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…

Lobsterbakes on the Beach

What’s the best way to celebrate the summer on the Maine coast? With butter dripping down your chin and wood smoke drifting through the air as the seafood steams in its bed of freshly harvested seaweed. Add a layer of scent coming from the homemade bread hot out of the oven and brought directly to your table. Oh, and don’t forget the boiled Maine corn on the cob and roasted onions that are so sweet you could save them for dessert…but you won’t because I’ll be making you a fresh, seasonal dessert…maybe strawberry shortcake when the strawberries are still warm from the gardens (the ones by the goat house) with freshly whipped heavy cream or maybe a chocolate lava cake…always with Gifford’s Ice Cream made close by in Skowhegan.

The "Maine Event"
The “Maine Event”

Saturday nights in July and August,  Steven and JT start the fires early in the afternoon and start cooking after Dad gets the seafood from the local fishermen. We limit the number of dinners we serve to 40 people and we guarantee that you’ll leave completely satisfied…but reserve your tickets ahead of time because the dinners are often sold out the week before it’s time to sit down.

Dinners are $54/person and when you order you can specify that you’d prefer lobster or a hand cut steak. There’s a $18 option for those who want to participate but because of size of appetite or taste preferences, would prefer to have all beef hot-dogs instead of lobster and enjoy all the other trimmings.

Because of the way we serve dinner, everyone coming down to the festivities must have a ticket and we don’t have a way for you to share dinners. If you have children who only eat PB & J, bring a picnic blanket to tuck near the kayaks and they can have a picnic under your watchful eye while you enjoy dinner.

We’ll take care of everything…you only need to think about bringing a bottle of wine or beverage of your choice if you’d like something other than our strawberry lemonade.

The menu:
Fresh from Penobscot Bay
1 1/2 pound Maine Lobster or a man size hand cut steak
Locally harvested  Blue Mussels
Steamer Clams
Maine Grown Roasted Corn and yellow potatoes
Melt in your mouth New England style sweet onions
Homemade Rolls
Lots of real butter
Homemade Seasonal Dessert and Maine made ice cream
Strawberry Lemonade and Hot Coffee…you bring the drinks of your choice.

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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And the decorations were hung with care…

At the campground, we’re a mile from Searsport and about 5 from Belfast so we’re just as apt to go in one direction or the other.  When we head South to Belfast it never fails that we pinch ourselves as we drive over the Passy Bridge and hear a little voice that says “wow, I can’t believe that I live here.”

If you’ve visited before, chances are you know Belfast when the sun is warm and pansies or geraniums fill the countless window boxes…life on these streets always feels expansive & festive because you’re never far from the water and many people are on holiday.  In the winter, the atmosphere is intimate…a real village.  We know most of the people we see and the excitement is subdued (think Yankee)…the bite in the air makes us rush past the classic architecture and decorated doors so that we can quickly warm up with a freshly made treat or a bit of retail therapy (and an occasional tidbit of gossip because we know most of the shopkeepers too;)). There’s talk of an upcoming party or what music will be playing close by…less prosaically, lately the conversation often begins with “do you guys have electricity” or “how’s the ice down your driveway?”

Walk with us…

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Wreath and Lobster Buoys greet visitors to The Purple Baboon
The Good Table
The Good Table dressed for the Holidays
Belfast, The Ocean House
The Ocean House

 

Do you remember the rundown version of this building from years past?  It’s been reincarnated as the Ocean House, with renovations completed in October. It’s now the new home of Brambles (previously on the left side of Main St close to the Green store). Soon there will be a new restaurant on the lower level, I can’t wait to try their brick oven pizza!

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Elves working at MM Jules Christmas Shop

 

 

More pictures if you’re so inclined…:

Meeting New Friends

Where exactly did October and November go? In my has been filled with washing & dyeing fleece, putting the gardens to rest, weaving a new blanket and trying to adjust to the rhythm of being alone in the park with Steve and the critters…you’d think that would be easy to transition into our winter rhythm  but in fact it feels like walking around in high heels after you just lost one of the heels…all off kilter.

As our days are getting shorter (it’s getting dark by 3ish and nightfall by 4:30) we’re trying to get a few things started so that the launch into 2015 is smoother.  A highlight has been getting to know the Somalian group from Lewiston Maine.  Our initial inquiries had been because of their beautiful basket weaving (we’re thinking Fiber College) but we quickly found that we want more…more smiles, more exchanges and more friendships…so we invited a delegation to the campground for a pizza party with friends from the campground and local community. A week later we met at Atiya’s for a Somalian cooking lesson.  Now we’re talking about having a Somalian culture week as part of the campground’s artist in residence program…weaving, henna dyeing and cooking. As we get the timing right, we’ll post more details…for now we’re off for a ski on the Mountain across the street.

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Emma, Dee and I discussing how to surmount the language barrier and include our new friends in next summer’s plans.

 

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It’s wicked cold but look how green the grass is!

 

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Pictures to send home to friends and family who couldn’t make it to Searsport

 

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Our dear friend Mary Jean checking out the Somalian Baskets
Atiya treated us to a cooking lesson.  Back in Somalia she was a well known cater.
Atiya treated us to a cooking lesson. Back in Somalia she was a well known cater.
Howa gives me an original henna tattoo for the holidays
Howa gives me an original henna tattoo for the holidays

Picture Perfect

First we tried to stage a picture by the bee hives...
First we tried to stage a picture by the art studio…

Tidepools, gardens, goats and honeybees…the four words we’ve decided encapsulate our image of Searsport Shores.  But in February there should be a 5th word…art.  This is the month we figure out the weekly artist in residence program that fills our summer with so much creativity and do a large amount of our planning for Fiber College in September.  By the end of the week we’ll have the schedule fully updated and I’m really excited…we should have a seamstress and a wood carver, a quilter and a bread maker…and a silk painter and a book maker…see what I mean? Exciting!

Don't you love the bold, corduroy graphics against the blue and white of Penobscot Bay?
Don’t you love the bold, corduroy graphics against the blue and white of Penobscot Bay?

Last week Steve and I went to Boykin Alabama to make arrangements for the quilters of Gee’s Bend to join us here at the campground in September.  We brought home one of Lucy Mingo’s quilts…yesterday we took advantage of the fresh snow for pictures for the new rack cards…

The snow is crunchy, the gulls are screaming and we can't stop laughing.
The snow is crunchy, the gulls are screaming and we can’t stop laughing.