Quietude

Good morning everyone. This blog is way too long so you unless you have 2 minutes you may as well just skip to the last paragraph. It took three days but we are finally all dug out. We plowed and shoveled for several hours on Monday and then plowed and shoveled out the neighbors. The weight of the snow snapped limbs off trees everywhere and branches that are normally out of reach arched into the roadways making a snowy slalom course for cars and trucks. Wednesday after an early morning trip helping a neighbor take her pigs to market I borrowed her bucket loader and spent the rest of the day moving snow banks. One resultant bank is about 7 feet tall and 10 feet thick. For those of you sailing with us this summer our kids will have genuine organic homemade Maine snowballs for sale. Please don’t be confused by cheap imitations you might see on TV.

One frequent flyer here on the blog recently wrote a moving comment about caring for our one and only planet. Now I am not here to talk politics or religion but comments like his do give me pause to consider our impact on the world. Moving piles of snow with a bucket loader seems like a luxury when I view old timey photos of snow banks so deep that our monster bank was once the norm.
Around here we burn a lot of wood in the course of a year. Between the house the barn and the schooner we burn 12-14 cords‚Ķ depending. Most of that wood is processed quickly using some very loud but powerful machinery, not exactly Thoreau’s vision of natural splendor but time has value too. Just moving logs out of the woods can take several forms. My dear friend Bruce and I loaded a trailer of spruce sawlogs the other day using nothing more than a line, a snatch block slung high in the air between two tall trees and a pickup truck as the mule. A long line, a little ingenuity, a cant hook and a few well-placed fairleads and, viola, look Ma, no hernia. In another patch of woods our neighbor is currently logging with draft horses. I have very fond memories of a short stint logging with a draft horse in the woods of Vermont when I was in college. It can appear agonizingly slow but in today‚Äôs economic terms Thoreau would be pleased. Compare that technology to the skidder just down the road that has been used to drag a healthy pile of large pine and oak logs from the woods in very short order. So there you have it. Three ways of doing the exact same thing. I pass no judgment but do cherish the relationship I have with my dear friend and take a deep breath of the memories stirred by the smell of horses working in the woods. Don‚Äôt get me wrong. I get as excited by the smell of diesel as the next guy but I am not sure the skidder admires its work the same these horses appear to. I am thankful to be able to move snow banks with bucket loaders but at the end of the day shutting down the engine and hearing nothing but what nature has to say is precious. You know what I mean?
So this is supposed to be a blog about windjammers and old timey schooners. Well if time has the value I believe it does then time in the slow lane gets the same weight as time in the fast lane. Aboard a windjammer we may not sail fast every day but we usually get there, wherever there might be. And at the end of the day the trip to “there” is very good when surrounded by friends and family and the magnificent quietude of nature.

Have a great day. Be well Do good.

Snow Day


Good morning everyone. Please be patient while we dig out from yet another snowstorm that has us buried. Even the birds need to shovel their way to breakfast. The blue jays with their very large beaks shovel a path for the waiting nuthatches. This is the second storm in the last week although this 12‚Äù of snow is much lighter than the last 7″ of what can only be described as cement.
I will keep this quick as the lights have been blinking. The weight of the snow on the branches causes tree limbs to lean heavily on the wires. We have listened to the rumble of snow sliding off the tin roof all night long. It is all beautiful in a wintry sort of way but does cause us to shift priorities on a morning like this. Thoughts of summer sailing adventures are in our hearts but the present is calling in the door yard. This is a good morning for blueberry pancakes from the wood cookstove. Then again… what morning isn’t?

Have a great day. Be well Do good.

Ice Flows


Good morning everyone. A mid-winter thaw has come to Camden, Maine. The temperatures have been up in the 30s for the last week. We even had rain last Thursday. I for one am not ready to see the snow go away. The bees in our field have been taking advantage of the warm weather to clean house. Bee scat and bee carcasses stain the snow all around the hives. This last week I have been working in the barn repairing hatches and skylight screens. My dear friend Bruce is a master machinist and has been helping set up a small lathe that I found on the side of the road. With any luck and a lot of patience on Bruce‚Äôs part I am looking forward to machining new bearings for some of the blocks and might even try my hand at making a marlinspike. To see what Bruce can do with a spinning piece of metal is pretty darn cool. Like any master, he just has a way with his medium that is inspirational. If you don’t believe me try it yourself.
The ice during this warm weather has finally begun breaking up around the schooners at the head of the harbor. Every day the ice flows look different, growing at night and shrinking by day. Nature‚Äôs art is magnificent but recently some ice sculptors performed their magic in the amphitheater overlooking the harbor. And again, masters at work can create something inspirational. I was delighted to see universal consciousness at work. While I was home thinking about the potential in the ice both Jen and Jim Dugan thought to take pictures before nature reshaped its own art work. Jen was there the day before Jim and the light wasn’t nearly as good despite the similarities in composition. Jim nailed it once again.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

Photos by Jim Dugan demonstrating how a master’s eye for light and composition can make all the difference in the world.

A Schooner Valentine


Good morning and a Happy Valentine’s Day to all!

Although it’s not a surprise to anyone, chocolate aboard the Mary Day is a weekly (daily, for some) treat. Mary makes the best chocolate desserts by far and we seem to never tire of them. With much research done this winter we have come up with a new recipe to add to Mary’s repertoire…. and we’re willing to give you a sneak peek, or taste, as to what you may find aboard this summer. It’s a chocolate covered brownie, filled with chocolate chips….ooo, la, la…. It is simply divine and easy to make! We’ve made it this week in honor of Valentine’s Day. We’d love to share with you, however chocolate in this house, as aboard Mary Day, doesn’t last long. Try a batch, let us know what you think and savour every bite!

Brownies fit for a King

¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup butter
2 Tablespoons water
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips (divided)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
¾ cup flour
¬Ω teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons shortening
4 chocolate bars

In a saucepan, while stirring frequently, bring sugar, butter and water to a boil. Take off the heat and stir in one cup of the chocolate chips and vanilla. The chips should melt. Let cool while you mix the dry ingredients. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt and baking soda. Beat the two eggs in the saucepan with the chocolate mixture. Then add the dry ingredients. Stir well. Add the other cup of chocolate chips. These should not melt. Mix well and pour into a greased 9 inch square baking pan. Bake at 325° for approx. 25-30 minutes. As the brownies are cooling, in a double boiler pan, melt the four chocolate bars and shortening. Spread this over the cooled brownies. Option: try topping the melted chocolate with chopped nuts or crushed pepperment candies! Enjoy!

Be well. Do good and have a wonderful, chocolatey Valentine’s Day!

Black Dots Make Me Smile


Good morning everyone. Happy Ground Hogs Day to all. If today’s forecast comes true folklore tells us we will see an early spring here in our neighborhood. What does the groundhog say about your weather forecast? We start a new month, albeit a short one but a month in which we gain an emotionally crucial 1 hour and 13 minutes of light. By months end the sunrise will be at 0620, a full 37 minutes ahead of this morning. Jen and I were shocked how light it was so early yesterday even though it was overcast. So while the weather is one thing we spend much time talking about the light is what really makes the psychic difference here.
One of the things you will find me talking about in blogs, especially in summer, is seals. We have more lousy, unfocused pictures of little black dots on the ledges and every one of them makes me smile. Each picture reminds us how delighted we are to see seals. Harbor seals (phoca vitulina) are the most common seal here in Maine and their numbers have grown from about 5,800 in the early 70s to a number estimated to be well over 100,000 based on a 2001 census. Their recovery since the Marine Mammal Protection Act is fantastic. Maybe a little too good if you ask some local fisherman. So where do all these seals go in the winter? The easy answer is south. Yes, they migrate. We do see a very few here in the winter but a vast majority of seals appear to head for the waters south of here and evidently the south shore of Cape Cod. The largest congregations appear around Monomoy Island near the “elbow” at Chatham. Some seals head as far south as the Carolinas! During one study seals from Penobscot Bay were tagged and tracked directly to the area around the Monomoy Island National Wildlife Refuge. The waters south of Cape Cod do not appear to my untrained eye to be any warmer than they are here in Maine at this time of year but certainly the duration of cold south of the Cape is shorter than here in Maine. The ocean temperature along the coast has hovered around 38 degrees just outside the bays and the air temperature has been well below the average Cape Cod temperature. Perhaps it is the undisturbed wildlife refuge that draws them? Could they be following their food source? Our naturalist/researcher friends Erika and Ethan Rhile who sail on our late June Naturalist/Photography Cruise rescue stranded seals in southern Maine so we know that some seals stay around or migrate here from Canada. The research I have come across raises as many questions as it does answers. What I do know is that I look forward to seeing them return in great numbers each spring with pups in tow. And once again we’ll be taking tons of pictures of little black dots on the ledges, reminders to be thankful to experience such a wonderful and wild place.

Have a great day. Be well. Do good.

P.S. We do get lucky to get really close to seals sometimes as you can see from this photo that Jen took in Stonington with a 300mm zoom lens. The little hole just behind the eye is actually the seals’s ear. Click on the photo to see an enlarged version. How cool is that!