Wednesday, December 19, 2007
This is in response to a 'special request for Amy Bouchard's Eggnog Coffee Cake recipe. It's good, as are all things Amy. For a video to accompany the recipe you can click here 'Coffee Cake'. I'm sure it's healthy or they wouldn't give out the recipe.(hehehehe) Happy munching!
Amy's EggNog Coffee Cake
1 ½ stick unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
4 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup egg nog
2 ½ cups cake flour (not self-rising)
2 teaspoons nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup light brown sugar (packed)
½ cup all purpose flour
5 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons nutmeg
½ cup confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons hot water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Cream the butter and sugar together for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Slowly addd eggs, then vanilla and egg nog. In a separate bowl, add all the dry ingredients: cake flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt (sift together).
Slowly add flour mixture to the batter on low speed until it is completely combined (set aside).
Mix streusel: mix brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg and butter together in a separate bowl with your hands until it forms a crumble. You can mix in some walnuts if you wish.
In a greased and floured 10? tube pan, sprinkle ½ the streusel then pour ½ the batter. Add the rest of the streusel then the rest of the batter. Bake for 50-60 minutes until the toothpick comes out clean.
If you make individual small cakes in a muffin tin or pre-formed shapes, you will bake for 15-20 min depending on the size.
Let cool for 20-30 minutes.
Beat confectioners sugar and hot water together to make the glaze. Drizzle with a spoon over the cake.
Sunday, December 09, 2007
It is amazing the little things I missed most about Maine all the years I was away. Simple things such as red hot dogs, or Oxford relish, which became Cains, and is now made to the old relish specifications by a new third company, but marketed still as Cains. And, as you can see by the 'dog' ad above, I wasn't alone. They actually charge something like $80 for two packs of them shipped to you! A hot dog bun fairly unique to New England is another. Top sliced with flat sides begging to be buttered and grilled, that holds the dog firmly so it doesn't fall apart like some side cut buns. This same style of bun is also served steamed lightly in Maine, which results in a soft, warm, feels great in your mouth sensation. The buns, grilled or steamed, get relish and onions that are grilled, steamed, or even fine chopped and raw on bottom and mustard on top, making for an easily held and almost spill proof treat. Some add a light amount of celery salt as well.
The most popular variety of hot dog in Maine is one made with a natural casing. The casing is colored red, and they're commonly referred to as 'red dogs'. Red hot dogs, also called "red snappers," get their red color from a natural food coloring in the form of FD&C reds that don't sound too natural to me, but I eat a ton of'em yearly and I'm still here, and old to boot. And why are they called red snappers? Because the casing has a firmness to it that makes the dog snap when you bite it. They're not to be confused with 'red hots', which is a spicy sausage also popular in places here. They're brighter red than the photos. You have to have red hot dogs when you are in Maine! It's part of the experience. Might even be a law here, although I've never met anyone who hasn't tried them and few who don't want more. They claim you should never order 'one' dog at a stand here as it'll mark you automatically as 'from away' and likely a tourist who'll just have to order a second time in a minute. It happens time after time at every 'dog stand' every summer.
Although many purists, myself not among them, will swear that unless the dogs are steamed they're not properly prepared. I myself like them either steamed or with a nice grill mark adorning two opposite sides. They should NEVER be cooked until they split open and it's sacrilege to boil or 'nuke' a 'snap dog'. Ketchup is pretty much sure to get you amazed looks accompanied by rolling eyes and shaking heads. They're actually a bit closer to an old-fashioned hot dog in that they have a consistency closer to a sausage than to the mass-produced cereal and chicken bit filled dogs available anywhere. Having 'red dogs' in your refrigerator is better than having money in the bank and clean socks in the drawer. You get to decide whether to share them, or keep them secret and just sneak down in the middle of the night to steam one up, load it with your favorite 'gahnishes', and savor every crispy-skinned bite. This, if you're from Maine, will revive memories of years past and GREAT lunches of two Jordan's red dye hot-dogs, a bag of Humpty Dumpty potato chips, and a can of Moxie soda with a whoopie pie for desert. It doesn't get much better than that!
Until next we meet, happy snacking and take care. Thanks for letting me share my mixed up recollections with you.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Well, as the title of this post suggests, I measure my years a bit differently than others. On the day before Thanksgiving Day it's been my habit of long standing to take a sort of personal inventory of the year just gone by. I do this at this time for several reasons, not the least of which is that there's no 'resolutions' involved. This is good for people like me who seldom meet the lofty goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the new year. Also, since this is officially 'Thanksgiving' time in the USA, what better time is there to take personal stock of our lives? In that frame of mind, here are my observations of things that I remember from the past twelve months, in no set lists or order, just my normal rambling thoughts consigned to this post.
I seem to remember the year starting off well, which means there were no looming disasters facing me. The time passed with a few hiccups and too many high points to count. Some of the hiccups were temporarily being bereft of most of my vision in the spring. This caused a great slow-down in my posting and an end to my book reading. Thankfully, this was cured in the most part via a series of procedures performed by the eye and general surgeons at the local Veteran's Administration Hospital. Even though I'm old, my disabilities and injuries are related to either my military or government service, which allows me to avail myself of the VA's services. There were a few other medical snags, some attended to by my personal doctor and the local hospital staff, and some addressed by the VA staff. My personal doctor, who amazingly makes house calls if necessary, keeps on top of our health issues with extreme competence. I nicknamed her the 'Little Italian Lady Doctor' and she fits that description to a 'T'. At any rate, I'd have to rate health issues in the plus column for the year, as I think I'm in better shape overall than at this time last year. So health is a blessing.
The year saw the loss of a great many close friends, many in one short period. Although there were a few exceptions caused by accidents and sudden illnesses, most lived long and productive lives and passed on peacefully in their homes with their loved ones. It also saw the birth of a number of babies to family and friends. The little girl who lives in my first floor apartment has had a remarkable degree of progress since her birth as a 'preemie' with multiple serious health issues. Today she's a normal, healthy, and extremely active two-year-old. A few family members and friends survived major medical problems with minimal lasting effects. Through the magic of the Internet I was introduced to new friends from around the globe, all of whom have added to my enjoyment of life. So overall not a bad year at all as far as those I care about are concerned.
The subject of personal wealth is always an issue in folks' lives, and in this respect, I imagine our lives are little different than the lives of most people. I'd have to say financially we have a good deal less than at this time last year. This is mostly a good thing though, as the reason for most of the missing wealth is giving to family, friends, and worthy causes. My take on money and material goods is that we appreciate and use what we have, allow ourselves a bit of luxury, and any beyond that is wasted unless it's used to do good works and better the lives of others and the world in general. My wife feels the same, and we both attribute it to the way we were raised, having what we needed and sharing any bounty with others less fortunate. As for the true wealth we enjoy, the company of friends and family, the respect of our neighbors, the ability to live in the midst of one of Nature's most beautiful spots on earth, and the overall enjoyment of life, I'd say it's been a truly wonderful year.
As I look ahead I foresee the coming twelve months as being much the same. You could say we're in a rut I guess, but what a wondrous road that rut is guiding us along. Every time I feel a bit melancholy I just have to look around, listen to the life around me, smell the perfume of Nature that changes with the seasons, and ask myself that well-worn question, 'can it get any better than this?' It may be possible, but when I see the blessing column full to overflowing and the 'less good things' column near empty, I don't see how.
So, as the photos above of the area in which we're blessed to reside show, we've got temperatures in the 24F\-4C range and the first snow that's stayed on the ground. That means that one of my four favorite seasons is almost upon us with its dazzling white landscapes, ice decorated trees, the tracks of the local critters in the snow, and a host of other nice things to add enjoyment to our already blessed lives. So I'm off to enjoy the early sunset over the snowy hill opposite us and breathe in the crisp autumn air. Until next time, take care.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Hello again, welcome to Mike's fascination with all things food, continued. Today's topic will take a bit of time, as there are so many ways to cook and eat clams, as the photos show. There's various styles of fried clams as shown above, the best of the best food in my opinion. Then steamed clams, baked in a clambake outing, clam chowder(pronounced 'chowda' here), and others not shown, such as clam cakes, clam fritters, clam dip, etc. Hard to believe that all this yummy goodness comes from a shellfish harvested from tidal mud-flats in the manner depicted in the photo at top. You likely can determine which dish is which, and there ARE more photos of various ways to serve fried clams depicted, wonder why I did that? Another of life's mysteries I guess.
So, on to a brief bit about some of this food. Clambakes are a traditional way of cooking in the summer for family reunions or other special occasions, like tourists wanting to attend one. It basically involves making a pit on the beach and following one of several ways of cooking the ingredients, along with whichever other foods you want to add. It's very doubtful anyone will attempt this at home, so we'll move along to other, more practical methods.
Up first, my favorite, deep fried WHOLE BELLY clams. NOT the little tough clam necks served elsewhere, WHOLE BELLY clams. It’s interesting how each place prepares their clams differently. From clam shacks to fine restaurants, the manner in which these are done are often poles apart. What I feel qualifies as a measure of goodness, is the fresh flavors and juiciness of the clams after they emerge from the deep-fryer. The preference for either a batter, breadcrumb, or crushed corn flake coating is matter of personal preference too. I prefer the corn flake coating because it's lighter. Batter dipped or bread crumbs are also excellent alternatives.
Clams that have had their bellies removed are, to me anyway, unacceptable, other than for a TV watching snack with some ale. With clams and flavor, bellies are everything, plus, fresh whole clams don't usually have that terrible chewy toughness some associate with fried clams. I love biting into one and letting the juicy, tender ecstasy explode in my mouth. The practice of removing bellies is not often seen in Maine. The best clams come sizzling from the fryer, by the half-pint ($3.15) or pint ($6.25), about 16 clams to the pint, so hot you can hardly bear to touch them. Clams served in restaurants are served hot, but not sizzlingly so. They're still a great meal. Folks here generally eat them lightly salted and plain(my way) or gently sprinkled with vinegar or lemon juice. Wonderful road trip finger food.
For the next two ways of preparing and serving clams I'm simply going to provide some easy instructions for steamed clams and one variety of Maine traditional clam chowder. The chowder recipe calls for 'Oyster Crackers', but as these can't even be found in some Maine locales, saltines will do fine if you desire crackers. My own preference is light salt and fresh ground black pepper only. I hope some of you try this super food, although I'm sure that some areas are slightly 'clam poor'. However, with today's air transportation systems and rapid rail, they probably do appear in some unlikely places.
Up here, one of the biggest festivals of the year is the 'Yarmouth Clam Festival' which celebrates all things clam, from shucking competitions to free samples and everything in between. It generally draws crowds of fifty-thousand plus from all over. Some people even plan their Maine vacation trips around it.Until next time, take care and happy eating.
The best part is they are so easy to cook. As the name implies, you are going to steam the clams. Start with a pot that looks too big. You'll be happy to have the extra space. Start with about 1" of water in the bottom and add your clams. Put on high heat and stand by. Steamers contain a lot of natural juice, so you can expect plenty of bouillon when they are done. When they start to steam, be on your toes. If your pot isn't big enough they will often boil over. It takes about 10-12 minutes of hard steaming for them to cook. The shells will gap wide open and the meats should slide out of the shell without sticking. Don't forget to remove the black membrane that covers the neck (siphon) before eating. Serve with the bouillon from cooking and drawn butter. When purchasing, figure on 2 ½ - 3 lbs. per person for a main course, much less for a side dish.
Maine Clam Chowder Recipe
5 cups bottled clam juice
1 cup of flour
1 cup onion, finely diced
10 slices of cooked bacon, chopped
2 tablespoons of margarine
8 oz of cooked clams, chopped
4 medium potatoes, cooked and cut in bite sized chunks
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup light cream
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper
Heat the clam juice in a large saucepan on medium heat. In a separate pan, melt margarine and saute the diced onions until they appear translucent. Add bacon and flour to the melted margarine and stir continuously for 5 minutes. Increase heat on clam juice to medium-high, and with a wire whisk, add flour, margarine and onion mixture to the liquid. Stir constantly, breaking up any lumps that form. Add clams and stir. Add potato chunks, milk, cream, and salt and continue stirring. Decrease heat to medium-low, and allow to simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently to avoid burning or sticking.
Serve hot with oyster crackers (or saltines), adding freshly ground black pepper to taste.
If fresh clams are not available, substitute six ounces of canned clams, including the juice.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
This is the first of a planned series of short posts about my favorite 'regional' foods, most of which contributed greatly to my decision to return here for retirement. The series is a result of suggestions from SWMBO and a very close friend, seems both of them are of the opinion that I can insert thoughts of food into every conversation. Of course, after thinking about it for a couple minutes before my thoughts drifted off toward what we were having for supper, I was forced to concede that they were right. I LOVE to cook, and eating is like a passion with me. I can get lost in cooking a delicious meal and even enjoy my own meals more than most I partake of. Cooking has always come rather naturally to me, as has eating. It seems I've always got something yummy on the brain.
I'm going to start off with one of Maine's best known and most loved comfort foods. Mainers sometimes say that they grew up eating whoopie pies from birth. In Maine, the whoopie pie is more like a cake than a pie or a cookie. About the size of a large hamburger, they're so big that some folks have to eat them in more than one sitting. A big glass of milk or bottle of Moxie is my normal beverage when consuming this calorie laden treat. A whoopie pie is like a sandwich, but made with two soft, hubcap shaped, cake-like outer halves with a fluffy white filling.
Traditional whoopies pies are made with vegetable shortening, not butter. The original and most commonly made whoopie pie is chocolate, but I prefer pumpkin flavored pies to any other. Every Mom and Pop store, grocery store, and many dining establishments have these wonderful items on offer. Most are made by the stores, restaurant chefs, or small local bakeries. These, and homemade, are the only really acceptable pies to me, and others must be of the same mindset, as most large bakery attempts to horn in on this lucrative market have been abject failures. The lady whose photo above shows her displaying her wares, is an exception to this rule. Although small by most standards, her bakery is large for a Maine business. Her pies are to die for and are often sold out almost as fast as they hit the shelves. When you attempt to eat one at a single snack, you'd better be REALLY ravenous!! They're huge, even by Maine standards.
If you'd like to try her pies, or are just curious about this treat, her web-site can be found at Wicked Whoopies. The site gives a short history of her enterprise as well as instructions for ordering her pies, if so inclined. Her bakery is named for her two kids, Isabella and Maxx and is pronounced 'izzamax'. She's a regular guest on a local talk show called '207' and when on she always makes a new variety and they post the recipe on the show's blog page. If you decide to visit her site, I hope you're as impressed as I am with her products. I avoid commercialism, but these are so good I couldn't resist sharing.
So now you have a 'taste' of what will be a theme for my posts until I can get back to my old self. Until next 'meal', take care.
A little chat with the aforementioned close friend has made me realize that I should have included a recipe with this post. Other flavors are obtained by simply altering the 'pie shell' ingredients to produce the desired flavor. Enjoy!!
Wicked Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
PIE SHELL INGREDIENTS:
1 15oz can of pumpkin
2 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups brown sugar (firmly packed)
2 tablespoons molasses
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
3 cups all-purpose flour (heaping)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Beat pumpkin, eggs, oil, and brown sugar together until fluffy. Combine dry ingredients together.
Then add molasses and dry ingredients to your mix until well blended.
Scoop large rounded spoonfuls of batter onto a greased cookie sheet and space at least 2" apart.
Bake for 10-13 min.
6oz. of cream cheese
1/2 stick unsalted butter (softened)
2 cups confectioners sugar
3 heaping tablespoons of fluff
2 teaspoons of water
Add all ingredients in a bowl and beat until fluffy.
When whoopie shells are cooled, place a scoop of filling between two shells.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Yesterday, the sad news reached me that a friend had passed away. She was one of the regulars on a Guest Book that myself, and a great number of folks from around the world, frequent daily. "Sarah" was a friend to all the Guest Book visitors. She was also a frequent reader and sometimes poster on this Blog as well. The photo above is of a boardwalk at one of her favorite places near her home. She'll be greatly missed and fondly remembered by all who knew her. Rest in peace "Sarah".
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Photo: Mosquito Mountain and Moxie Lake in the morning in the fall.
Hi Y'All, I'm easing my way back into the old routines with a new perspective and appreciation for everything and everyone. To paraphrase an old quote, 'an old friend dying concentrates the mind wonderfully', and the recent absence was primarily the result of my trying to absorb the reality of the sudden death of a number of longtime friends and colleagues in a very short span of time. The numbers matter not, but having felt as though I was being, in my own selfish thoughts, subjected to a daily series of body blows, I found myself, for one of the very few times in my life, unable to function properly. It was rather much like a fog had settled in my mind and was growing denser every day. Not a great description, but words are inadequate to describe the empty feeling I allowed to settle within my deepest being. I don't say this for sympathy, just to let you know a bit of the reason I left so abruptly. But, I'm happy to say, I'm pretty much back to being my absentminded, short attention span, and constantly contemplating the next meal, self of old. Although I do have a whole new determination not to waste any more of the time allotted me, and to daily remind all that I love and care for each and every one. Well, maybe some more than others, but I'm trying!!
As I write this at 0625, it's 36.5F\2.5C and the sun just woke up. Another great day of testing my new attitude and my recently regained eyesight. The fall quilt of colors is starting to appear and the pumpkin and apple harvests are in full swing. The place is ready for almost anything that may befall us, short of a major disaster. Other than the car being due for its yearly State Inspection, all is fairly well with the world as I know it. For some reason, even political discussions have taken on a newer, less demanding nature. Just throw the bums out!! All of them, every last elected official, whether deserved or not. A new broom sweeps clean, time to start over. Maybe, since most of us hold our moms in such high regard, we should turn the whole place over to the women. We've had our go and blew it in my view.
Well, enough of that, not going to let a beautiful, sunny day be ruined by anything. Life is too short and precious to waste. A short nap for energy, then off to explore and enjoy nature's gift of autumn. One of my four favorite seasons. Until next we meet here, take care and savor every minute as if it were your last.
Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Hi Folks, Chris at Red Hog Diary bestowed an honor on me recently! Thank you Red Hog. Chris has presented me with the Blogging Star Award, which is "for bloggers who shine their light throughout the Blogosphere. Some do it with humor, others with creativity and others with their kind and thoughtful natures." Everyone knows more than a few of them so why not give them some recognition? Here's what to do if you receive this:
1) Proudly display the Blogging Star Award on your site along with a link to who gave it to you.
2) Mention that it originated at Skittle's Place so she can follow it's journey.
3) Pass it on to any 1 or 2 blogger(s) you think should have it.
This was hard for me, as I typically read about 30 personal blogs per day in addition to several political sites. After thinking it over for some time, and reading back posts on many of the sites, I settled on two personal blogs. The first is A Life Uncommon(Desiree) which has some of the best writing it's been my pleasure to read. The second is Salvageable(Ann) which is a very insightful and uplifting place to visit. Both of these folks have personal blogs that make my daily blog check so enjoyable. Desiree blogs less often than Ann, but it's so well composed that it's well worth the wait, and Ann is just a wonderful story teller and extremely caring woman. Thanks for the great posts ladies.
The second subject is a bit difficult to explain, so I'll simply tell you I'm taking a little vacation from the blog to get my mind 'back on track'. It doesn't involve anything serious, and not a health problem. I've just got a few things I need to sort out before I'll be able to conjure up any memories to post. Just too many things ganged up on my poor brain all at once. I'll be back as soon as I'm able to write as I feel I should, with as much thought and quality as possible. Thanks for visiting, and I hope you'll check in occasionally to see if I'm back. Thanks again for taking the time to read my posts, and for the kind comments from all. Until later, take care.
Friday, August 31, 2007
The day here today is rather cloudy, and a 'coolish' 52F\11C, with our normal 10mph\16kph steady breeze carrying all the magnificent aromas of the woods to our door. I was just outside mulling over how soon the autumn foliage will be enchanting us with its rich tapestry of colors as far as the eye can see in every direction. Our summer season here is famously short, and therefore cherished all the more for its fleeting kiss of warmth and greenery. Some of the trees at this elevation have already started to don their fall finery, and most of the flowers are soon to be only a memory and a few bytes in the digicam. The photos above are some of the simple viewing pleasures to be found on the north side, or backyard, of our home. The house shown is our neighbor to the north, and the trees are part of our own little touch of the local forests. The flowers are those tenderly cared for by my gardener wife, and only a small representation of those she coaxes to life each summer without fail. Some are carefully planted, others the product of the mixed wildflower seeds she strews randomly around the yard perimeter. The last photo is the walkway to my Doctor's office.
This time of year signals the ending of most harvests, the beginning of others, such as apples, and the return to school of the shorter members of our community, with heads ready to be stuffed full of new information. For the older students, it's off to college, high school sports, hunting season, and homework woes. How little they realize that the world after school is much the same, without the summer vacation and the fun, but many of the sorrows, that they find in their lives now. The last of the agricultural fairs are wrapping up soon as well, and the roadside vendors and farmer's markets will soon be gone too. In many ways, it's much like the end of one of life's shorter journeys and the beginning of the next.
One of the many things I missed most, while living in other climates, was this rapid switching from one season to the next. I suppose if you've never had it, or disliked the colder days, you'd not miss it a bit. On the other hand, there are those like myself, who find something joyous in every season, even the blizzards, high snow drifts, and biting winds of our normally harsh winters. What better time to view the world, than after nature has painted everything a clean, sparkling white? Or after an ice storm, when the morning sun twinkles through thousands upon thousands of icicles of all sizes clinging effortlessly to the trees. The smell of a wood fire, the warmth of a meal, and conversation shared with good friends on a cold January night, combine to create a glow within the participants like no other.
As fall gives way soon to the cold of winter, so winter eventually wanes as well, allowing the air to come alive with the smell of maple syrup, more wood smoke, and the smell of new life emerging from the fields and forest floor alike. The ice finally goes out, fishing, swimming, boating, and planting, become the activities of the day, and summer is soon behind. Then, after what seems to many the shortest season of all, if we're among the lucky, we're still able to drink in all the beauty that's giving way to the newer beauty of fall. Usually on a cloudy, somewhat 'coolish' day. Perhaps a day not unlike today. Until next time, take care my friends.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Hi folks, it's GREAT to be back, especially as this is the first time in several years I can actually see things as well as I could in the past. When the other eye is finished the vision should be as good, if not better, than I enjoyed as a youth.
This is just a short account of how it feels to be able to see all the beauty we all take for granted in our busy lives. Yesterday was the first time my brain really figured out the new focus signals to the extent that driving was once again possible, and ENJOYABLE!! As we had cause to be on the road to the University town just to our north, I chose to make the return trip into a "rediscovery" of some of the many sights that had been so diminished for so long. As fate would have it (more habit of neglect really) the camera was left on the computer table at home, an occurrence more and more common as the sight waned. I'll have to retrain myself to always take it as in the past. Fortunately, my wife had taken some photos of some of my favorite local places (within five miles of home),and four are shown above.
The first is the west dam in the river, as viewed from the little island where we often go for easy access to outdoor solitude. The next is a view of the lower part of our hill, which also shows the Town Ski Slope across the river from us. Then a rest area beside one of the numerous local lakes. And lastly, a view of the lake our friends live on, taken from their driveway, looking through the trees where he's cleared away the undergrowth. These places, and many more, are the reason I returned here to such a harsh climate and remote location when I retired.
The little island by the dam is where I decided to stop first, and reintroduce the view to my eyes, and it was nearly like experiencing it for the first time years ago. We live on the eastern slope of the river valley created by one of Maine's largest and longest rivers. Although grossly polluted in years past, and some purist environmentalists would say still polluted, the water is actually now safe to swim in and even drink. This is the result of the 1970s environmental laws pushed through by Senator Ed Muskie, who grew up in Rumford along the river, and was alarmed and saddened by what the river had become as a result of wanton waste disposal by towns and the paper mills along its length. Following the enactment of the Federal Statutes, the State enacted even more stringent laws, and then many mill towns, the one we now call home among them, enacted even stricter laws and created Environmental Monitor positions within the town government.
The island is about one and a half miles downstream from the larger of the town paper mills, and was made into a public park, canoe portage, and picnic area, before opening it up to the people. The dam in the photo is the western part, then the island is about one hundred fifty feet wide before the eastern dam extends across a wider stretch of the river and ends at an old hydro-electric station. The station is inaccessible, and I've always meant to ask how often the thing is online, if ever. If it's working, it's damned quiet! The little island has a small dirt road leading from the mill road and across the bridge below the dam, ending in a postage stamp of a dirt parking lot. Even though there's a sign at the access road, few people other than locals ever wander down it, as it doesn't look especially interesting. There's a nice landing on both the upstream and downstream banks of the island, with a well maintained trail between for the use of the many canoe and kayak enthusiasts, who paddle the river from the source in New Hampshire to the sea.
The joy of the place is in finding it deserted, as we did yesterday, and simply shutting off the car and sitting quietly, listening to the water rushing over the dam. As a couple, we have many things in common, one being the ability and desire to sit quietly for long stretches of time, just enjoying our surroundings. After an hour or so of watching the birds, the fish jumping, the water flowing, and the leaves rustling from the almost constant valley wind, I find it hard to return to the reality that calls us back to the things humans create to vex themselves. Human things done in a seemingly fruitless attempt to make life easier. How much easier can it get than living in the midst of a gift from nature, and marvelling peacefully at all the wonders therein? Until next time, take care.
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
Tuesday, July 03, 2007
This week I learned of the passing of a dear and wonderful man who took me under his wing at a time when I sorely needed direction in my life. It was the beginning of the summer that I left the farm to strike off on my own as an emancipated youth. This was the actual title assigned to my status as a youth of at least sixteen years of age, but not yet eighteen. This allowed me to live on my own freely as if I were an adult. I sought this mainly so as to sample a bit of life beyond working long hours at the farm and before joining the military, which was my post-school goal. I lived with a friend who had recently been honorably discharged from the US Navy after four years as a UDT Diver. He had always been sort of an older brother to me as we lived on farms rather close to each other and often were "drafted" to help out on both his place and ours. I continued to attend high school, worked evenings in a garage and at a lumber mill on the graveyard shift. My spare time, what little there was, was spent doing odd jobs or working for Eddie to get extra cash. If I had an opportunity to go with Eddie for a big trip, both my bosses were nice enough to allow me the time off to go. Seems they both thought it was worth it in the long run, as I worked hard and wherever they asked doing anything they asked.
This was a terrific opportunity for me, as Eddie was a Master Maine Guide for fishing and hunting. He was one of the "Old-Timers" who was a guide prior to WWII, and during the war he taught survival skills to military and civilian personnel for the US Federal Government. For those who are unfamiliar with the term Maine Guide, this is an excerpt from a National outdoor sporting magazine: "To become a Master Maine Guide, a guide must have been working as a guide for ten years, and have had at least five years professional experience in their specialized classification. It should be noted that the process of obtaining a License as a Registered Maine Guide is the most difficult in the country, which is why Maine Guides are held in such high regard." Eddie definitely fit the description to perfection.
Eddie was a close friend of my Uncle "R" and "F" from their younger days, having gone to school with them until they left school to work on farms and he left to work with his father, who ran an "up-lake" hunting and fishing camp. The camp was only accessible by foot or water, and catered mainly to wealthy "out of state" men and women looking for an adventure, fishing, or just plain relaxing. Whatever they came to do, they came loaded with money and very few outdoor skills and always employed guides retained by the camp for that purpose. The guides were independent of the camps, but would pay an "engagement fee" to the camp for arranging guide work for them. This occupation was so lucrative that a boy such as Eddie was easily swayed by the possible monetary gains, and many of the "Old Timers" left school and started out this way, learning at the feet of the Original Maine Guides, a group formed and licensed by the state starting in 1897. For Eddie, it was a natural choice, as he despised being trapped in a school house all day and he had an easy foot in the door with his father owning one of the premier camps in the state.
Eddie started taking me on trips while I was still young and living on the farm. He had no children of his own and took quickly to me for some unfathomable reason. By the time I left the farm, I was already well versed in the ways of the great outdoor and possessed a "mental map" of the huge areas of the state which we'd visited on our trips. My going on the first "money" trip for Eddie came about quite accidently. His regular partner had gotten married and left the business without notice, after the new bride raised a fuss about him continuing in what her "city family" termed irregular and unreliable employment. The next pieces to fall into place were the lumber mill closing for a week for yearly vacations, and the garage business being a bit slow at the same time. Added to the string of lucky, for me anyway, events was the fact that Eddie had earlier that year committed to guiding a party of ten novice "city folks".
Anyway, Eddie asked me to help and offered to pay me 3/4 of the going daily rate, a considerable sum at that time, plus all tips given specifically to me and a portion of joint tips. This was just too good to pass up, especially since I knew from Eddie himself that successful fishermen were often inspired to tip up to $100 for a really good catch. If several had really good days, the $100 multiplied by the number of lucky anglers. This also worked the same with hunters in the fall and winter months. This was like taking candy from babies, as Eddie knew where the best fishing and hunting were to be found. Something he'd shown me as well. My duties generally comprised helping paddle canoes, carry gear, pitch camp, and assisting them in their pursuit of fish or game.
This continued until I left the area thirteen days after graduating from high school, but the lessons learned served me well in my chosen career field and remain with me to this day. The entire time I was "away" from the state, Eddie kept in touch more regularly than any relative ever did, and he was one of the first I visited upon my return. The day I got "home", after retiring to another part of the state, I had called him, and two days later we were up-lake in his ancient Grand Laker Canoe for three peaceful days of camp life and fishing. It was doing that very thing several days ago that saw Eddie pass on peacefully in his sleep after a successful day fishing. I was told that when they found him the next morning he looked like he was simply sleeping and had a big grin on his face. I hope he'd just caught "the big one" he was always talking about. Eddie was one month shy of his ninety-seventh birthday. To a life well lived Eddie. Until next time, take care.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
3) I'm somewhat claustrophobic, although I can work in tight spaces without panicking, as long as I'm familiar with the space and know where the exit is. If in a building, I feel very uncomfortable if I can't see the outside. I also refuse to sit in a restaurant or other establishment unless my back is against the wall, affording me a view of as much of the place as possible.
4) I'll taste almost anything as I said above, but I absolutely detest egg salad, macaroni salad, and potato salad. Yuck!! Especially yuck to egg salad. There's not enough hot sauce in the world to make it palatable. I don't like my eggs in a sandwich either. I love eggs and sausage, easy-over eggs on toast, but no egg in a McMuffin style deal thank you. Strange, to say the least.
5) I love ALL critters, from the most disgusting insects imaginable to cute puppies and kitties. Even though I was raised on a farm where it was necessary to slaughter animals for food, I always consider that acceptable. I hate those who kill any living thing just for the pleasure or thrill they get from killing. If you kill a critter, be prepared to eat it, all life is sacred.
6) I'm extremely quiet and dislike social gatherings. Not really sure why this is, as I've always had to go to meetings, parties, dinners, etc as part of my job over the years. Even now I go to town meetings and committee meetings and say my piece if I feel that things aren't going the way I perceive as the best way for all. But if you give me a keyboard it seems I'm unstoppable .
7) Even though I've always given the impression of being firm in my decisions, I quite often have doubts as to whether I did the correct thing or not. I must be doing okay though, as for 60+ years things seem to have turned out the best for all concerned, at least most of the time.
8) I'm a sucker for kids, critters, and even 'chick flicks' if they're well filmed. I also love opera, jazz, heavy metal, and hard rock. Country music I can tolerate for a time, but a steady diet of it depresses me. Dancing was a favorite activity, especially ballroom, but I can no longer do it. I hate watching "artistic" dance though. I love paintings, photos, and any sort of well done visual art. To me, a urinal is NOT art, nor is wrapping islands in fabric, etc. Cristo sucks in my book.
That wasn't as hard as I thought, boring, but easy. Don't be surprised if I tag YOU, if I can think of anyone whose "tag" thoughts I've not read. Until next time, be well and take care.