Maine’s winter woods—it’s a different world without snow

Pitcher plant in winter

With little or no snow covering the ground, the woods this winter felt like a foreign land. The underbrush was completely exposed, and fallen logs, normally deep beneath a covering of white, were there for any passerby to see–and trip over. Frost-rimed holes edged in green moss revealed the winter home of a red squirrel, […]

Feeling Sappy

Our backyard sap boiler

Sitting by the fire, sap simmering in a stainless steel pan, sparks fly bright and hot, drifting high into the black sky before fading. I am alone, but connected to the perhaps thousands of fellow Mainers tending their syrup with me tonight. Freeze, thaw, hot, cold, this is the season of contrast. Cold nights and […]

When is the ice safe? Ice-walking in Acadia

Last light on the Bubbles.

  “When is the ice safe?” I am asked. There are plenty of answers to this, but the only right one is: “It depends.” Safe for a skater does not mean safe for a snowmobile. There is a generous amount of info out there on judging ice safety by its color, whether it is early […]

Good-bye, Egg Rock Light horn, I will miss you

Egg Rock seen through the fog.

Wild winds and rough water are deafening, but through it I hear the steady, reassuring drone of the horn at Egg Rock Lighthouse. I listen to it a few minutes longer than I would have in the past, because soon it will no longer be calling out in fog and storm. The Egg Rock horn […]

Walnut shells, spiders, and how to cure a fever

A hand-made card from an artist friend illustrates a folk cure for ague.

We were in the land of voodoo when fever struck, but were not tempted to hunt down a magic potion or healing charm. Back in proper old New England, however, we discovered a cure even stranger than anything any voodoo queen could have offered. While visiting New Orleans my husband came down with fever, chills, […]

Yes, Virginia, there is a small-town American Christmas (or, we find newts in the toilet and Santa is exposed.)

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My village, Otter Creek, has an annual Christmas gathering that is part comedy of errors and part a magical suspension of time and personal differences. It is held in the former church, which has lofty ceilings, beadboard walls with old crackly varnish, long windows with colored glass fanlights, and it feels like Christmas even in […]

Fifty shades of yellow OR, I am curious (gray)

Pale yellow, the bog creature emerges from his hiding and approaches.

A golden glow has taken over the landscape. This is an autumn of intense color—hot pink, burning red, neon chartreuse—but dominating them all are the yellows. Leaves, apples, grass, I saw yellow everywhere I turned. I saw fifty, no, a thousand shades of yellow. I recalled a best seller with a similar title. I had […]

Appleloosa: The Year of the Apple

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Red apples and golden yellow, apples that are pink with stripes, green with tan specks, and blushing rose. Small cherry-sized bitter-fruited apples, mammoth thick- skinned pie apples. Apples to eat, apples to store for the winter, apples to make ciders and sauce—this is the year of the apple. Trees are loaded with fruit, so big […]

How do you say “Firewood?”

Campwood seller gives message to wood thieves

Campers need bonfires, and bonfires require firewood. Every summer roadside stands appear along edges of roads near campgrounds up and down the coast, and, optimistically, quite a few miles away. This is a seasonal business. I doubt anyone makes a career from selling firewood—it is just one of many jobs that is another piece of […]

Brush, brush, brush your garden…

My sister-in-law's wall of beans.  PHOTO: Liz Iaquessa

Some people brush their hair, or their cat, or their teeth. We brush our garden. Viney plants such as peas, beans and cucumbers are easier to pick, and produce more fruit when off the ground. There are many ways to do this—stakes, metal cages, or netting—but pea brush is free, and the silvery grey branches […]