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).

picmonkey-image

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 πŸ˜‰

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

astrig

Until next time…

Overlooking Long Cove

Overlooking Long Cove

It’s been cold and I’ve had a seemingly never ending cold…but things are looking up. This morning Steven and I walked the railroad tracks behind Long Cove in Searsport to catch a better look at a freighter with amazing cranes on the deck. The trees aren’t budding yet but at least the branches are filled with finches and other real tweets of Spring…hee, hee.

Closed for the Season

This morning we ate waffles smothered in cranberries and apples from the property and celebrated our first morning of being “officially closed.” By every account this has been the most enjoyable camping season both Steven and I can remember. Guests were more relaxed, the weather was mostly cooperative and our staff were a complete pleasure to work with. “Officially closed” means that the waterlines were drained and filled with anti-freeze, the bathhouse was shut down and the answering machine has a new message…looking forward to seeing you in 2014.

Now we can begin trimming trees, mulching leaves on the garden, harvesting seaweed and taking care of the little things before the ground is blanketed in snow.

Draining the last of the waterlines.
Draining the last of the waterlines.

The goats are on acorn duty while Steven works on the waterlines and I knit in the sun.
The goats are on acorn duty while Steven works on the waterlines and I knit in the sun.

Last night we had our first frost but there was enough warning to pick all of the dahlias.  These are the last two of the dinner plate dahlias...easily 8" across.
Last night we had our first frost but there was enough warning to pick all of the dahlias. These are the last two of the dinner plate dahlias…easily 8″ across.

Fall Projects

In my mind I was going to create one of those catchy slide shows…you know, the ones that click through 100 amazing photos in 2.5 minutes accompanied by some up-beat music…that’s why it’s been so long since the last posting. But the weather has been spectacular and I’ve found a thousand reasons not to be in the office doing computer chores…so here are a few of the photos that may some day make it into the snappy slide show…

Our last two weeks in snips:

This Fall's honey harvest was bountiful...and the honey tastes of apple blossoms.  It's going to be a sweet winter!
This Fall’s honey harvest was bountiful…and the honey tastes of apple blossoms. It’s going to be a sweet winter!
Tray after tray of honey cells...interestingly the color of the honey is the same color I get when we dye our wool with oregano plants.
Tray after tray of honey cells…interestingly the color of the honey is the same color I get when we dye our wool with oregano plants.

I spent Columbus Day Weekend on Deer Isle at the Haystack School of Crafts. The program is open by lottery and I won a slot in the Blacksmithing class…it was SO MUCH fun…exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. I loved the molten metal and being surrounded by all of the artistic souls…the hammering was seriously hard work. Steven stayed home and kept the campground running smoothly…how lucky am I?

Arriving at Haystack on Friday afternoon...3 days of learning the art of blacksmithing for Astrig...heaven.
Arriving at Haystack on Friday afternoon…3 days of learning the art of blacksmithing for Astrig…heaven.
My principal project was a door handle shaped like a honey bee for the pizza oven Steve is building at the studio.  Doug Wilson was a fantastic teacher...that's me with the acetylene torch (just a few days ago I didn't know what acetylene was)
I wanted to make a door handle for the new pizza oven…a honey bee of course. Doug was a fantastic teacher…that’s me with the acetylene torch to make the coil for the bee’s body. (just a few days ago I didn’t know what acetylene was)
I wanted to make a door handle for the new pizza oven...a honey bee of course.  This is Jeff Towe of Mount Desert Island.  He was the Blacksmith's assistant...a full artist in his own right and such a wonderful teacher...he guided me through the bee...and did the heavy pounding so that I wouldn't feel bad.
This is Jeff Towe of Mount Desert Island. He was the Blacksmith’s assistant…a full artist in his own right and such a wonderful teacher…he guided me through the bee…and did the heavy pounding so that I wouldn’t feel bad.
Hanging out...gorgeous
Hanging out
Steven started the pizza oven at the art studio...he's using clay from the property.
Steven started the pizza oven at the art studio with Mike and Larry on Columbus Day Weekend using blue clay from the property
Getting taller...
Getting taller…
Today's the day we harvest the wool
We’ve harvested all the fall wool…pounds and pounds of mohair for winter spinning projects
Betsy helped me shear Trevor...as she scratches his ears I clip.  It takes a real sheep shearer about 8 minutes to clean an animal...we took about 4 hours to get the job done but can report happily that we didn't draw blood
Betsy helped shear Trevor…while she scratches his ears I clip. It takes a real sheep shearer about 8 minutes to clean an animal…we took about 4 hours to get the job done but can report happily that we didn’t draw blood
The foggy morning and Maggie's going to get a haircut.
We saved Maggie for last…this is her first haircut since she came into our living room last March…click the link below to see her first video

https://searsportshores.com/2013/03/13/little-maggie-the-lamb-first-week-at-searsport-shores-campground-pt-1/

Steve's hand was steady and Maggie was as compliant as an angel
Steve’s hand was steady and Maggie was as compliant as an angel
Maggie munching broccoli after her hair cut
The new Maggie munching broccoli caption][caption id="attachment_3926" align="alignnone" width="361"]Working the dye pot...the objective was to match the colors of the dahlias in the dye garden...mission achieved! As soon as the wool was washed I start working the dye pot…the objective was to match the colors of the dahlias in the dye garden…mission achieved!
Taking time for a hike.  Late this summer we acquired 100+ acres across the street and have plans to develop hiking and biking trails for all of us to enjoy
Plans for the winter? Late this summer we acquired 100+ acres across the street and intend to develop hiking and biking trails for all of us to enjoy