Planting the Garden, Springtime in Maine

We have had some amazing Spring weather for the last two weeks.  Beautiful, sunny, highs in the 60s.  But not a drop of rain until last night.  So, I planted all of my “early spring” veggies the last week of April, and have been diligently watering them.  Sugar snap peas, spinach, arugula, various lettuces, are all in the ground and sprouting.  Our herb raised garden has quite a few plants growing in it from last year — love that — and the chives, tarragon and oregano all look amazing.

Spring chives

Spring chives

Tarragon, planted from cuttings in 2012

Tarragon, planted from cuttings in 2012

I also discovered dill the other day that was not meant to be there.  That’s okay!  I transplanted it to a good square and we’ll see how it goes.  We have also been doing our spring chores because of the great weather, and I painted our entire front porch (back breaking work with something like 75 little spindles to paint, some of which are located behind prickly rose bushes), and Hubby cleaned and sealed our porch and decks.

Our hops plants are growing like….hops.  I think they’ve grown at least 8 inches in the last 3 days (or it seems that way).



The dogs are enjoying the lovely Spring weather too.  Hamp is 4.5 and finally settling down a bit.  Magnus turned 13 a few months ago, but is still getting around well.  I think Hamp keeps him feeling young a bit.  Even when he has to steel himself to go up the stairs at bedtime.  I think his old bones are happy it’s Springtime.



Hmm...Hamp, what's that dirt on your nose?  Digging in the garden already?

Hmm…Hamp, what’s that dirt on your nose? Digging in the garden already?

Camping Shirts 2011 (Acadia National Park)

Lobster Shirts 2011

Our annual camping trip this summer was to an amazing place – Acadia National Park.  We are lucky to live so close to a national treasure.  Now, that may sound pretty hokey, LOL, but it really is a beautiful place….even in August when it’s overrun by tourists from all over the world.  To be honest, it didn’t even really feel overrun to me.  I think that might be part of the beauty of it.

In honor of heading to Mt. Desert Island for our camping trip, the boys requested lobster shirts this year.  I picked out bright green shirts, and red paint (of course!) for the lobster.  They turned out excellent!  I was going to go the easy route and find a template online that I would just trace, but it wasn’t as easy as that sounds like it should be.  I did find a nice looking stencil, but it looked funny to me.  What was wrong with it?  Oh yes, the poor lobster only had 3 sets of legs!  I’ve eaten enough of the miniscule meat out of those little legs that I knew that there should be four!  I just ended up freehand drawing my own lobster actually and they turned out great.  I only used two coats of red fabric paint.  I give instructions on how to make a freezer paper stencil in my prior posts from 2008 (bears), 2009 (moose) and 2010 (bald eagle).

In the picture above, the boys are also posing with their Harry Potter magic wands that the Hubby and I made for them.  A post on that later!  They are well-loved.

Early morning at the campsite

We camped at Mount Desert Campground and had a great time.  It’s in a wonderful, central location, and as tent campers, we appreciated the wooden platforms and the fact that they only allow trailers less than 20 feet.  Being located right on Somes Sound didn’t hurt either!  The boys really enjoyed fishing for crabs with hot dogs off their kayak docks.  We had an amazing time hiking up South Bubble (and an even more amazing time hiking down the cliff side!).  J, who just turned 7 in June, was a mountain goat and had more endurance than the rest of us.   The hike up to South Bubble (and Bubble Rock) was not that difficult and appropriate for most ages.  Instead of going back the way we came though, we decided to go down the opposite side facing Jordan Pond.  That was a steep climb down that involved quite a bit of two-handed rock scrambling (I think it’s called the Bubbles Trail).  The boys did a great job!  We then headed north around Jordan Pond, and went back up the Bubble Divide.  Then went straight up rock stairs to the ridge and then back down again before meeting back up with the original South Bubble trail.  Whew!  That one was a doozy!  Total was about 3.5 miles and the kids did great.  (Okay, I’ll admit it…it stretched my limits.)

Can they move bubble rock?! Glaciers are super-cool.

Top of South Bubble looking out over Jordan Pond. J is wearing his bald eagle camping shirt from 2010.

Down the Bubbles Trail

Back up the Bubble Divide. Only picture I took because I was huffing and puffing too much after this.

We also spent an afternoon biking on the carriage trails and did a 5.5 mile loop on the Witch Hole Pond trail.  There is a beautiful stone bridge halfway along where we stopped for some creek playing and a snack.  J just learned to ride his bike without training wheels a few months ago, and he did a great job keeping up.  He still needs to practice his gear shifting though.  Some of the hills were hard for him.

One of Acadia's famous stone bridges

On the touristy end of things, we did the Diver Ed excursion one morning.  It was awesome!  Diver Ed takes you out in his boat where he dives off the side and collects sea creatures which he brings up for the kids to touch in touch tanks.  All with some awesome video equipment and a 60″ LCD on the boat!  The kids loved it, and it was nice to take a ride out into Frenchman’s Bay.  We were lucky to have some pretty amazing weather.

Morning fog on Frenchman's Bay

Sea Star!

We only live two hours away, and can’t wait to go back for some bike riding for a day trip one day this fall.  If we can find time between K playing travel soccer and J doing the local rec soccer program.

Moosehead Lake

Moosehead Lake in northern Maine is absolutely beautiful.  Last year we went camping there at Lily Bay State Park (great camping!).  This year we decided to rent a cabin.  We went up with some good friends whose boys are near to the same age as our boys.  So, awesome fun all around!  Lots of being lazy, swimming, reading, playing, and feeding ducks.  One day we took the shuttle boat out to Mt. Kineo to hike to the top.  Awesome hiking.  Highly recommended if you are up in the Moosehead region.  Mt. Kineo is on a peninsula jutting out into the lake.  The boys are 7yo and almost 9yo, and didn’t have any difficulty with the climb.  It was definitely rough terrain and a pretty big incline up the mountain, but certainly do-able for the boys.  I’m sure I was huffing and puffing much more than they were, LOL!  The view from the top of the fire tower is amazing, and we need to go back again during fall color season.  It would be amazing.  We brought a lunch and had a picnic at the top before hiking back down the Indian Trail (more steep than Bridle Trail).  So, our week in pictures….

Swimming and being thrown around by Daddy

Our friends jumped off the bridge near the cabin into the river

Flying kites

Mt. Kineo on Moosehead Lake

There's even a Letterbox to find!

Hiking up the Mt. Kineo trail (Bridle Path)

Family shot -- almost at the summit, another 0.4m to go

Have to go up the fire tower for the best view. Just try to not look down through the open metal staircase.

View from the top of the fire tower on the summit.

The boys loved the hike and I think we all agreed that it was maybe our favorite thing of the trip.

A Winter Morning Walk

One of my favorite things about winter is that I can walk on the trails behind my house that aren’t accessible in any other season (too marshy!).  But in winter, it all freezes up, and our neighbors with snowmobiles even drive around and clear a path for us!  So, every morning, I can walk out in my backyard, and take the dogs straight to the trail for a walk through the woods and across a corn field.  It’s lovely.  A few days ago, we had some snow in the morning.  I decided to try out my new camera that I got for Christmas in the snow!

Playing basketball while waiting for the school bus

Because, sure let’s take off the gloves and shoot some hoops in the cold, blowing snow!

Here comes the bus!

So, kids are off to school, and it’s time for that walk before the work-day starts!  If the snow is fresh and not too packed down yet, then I use my snowshoes, but this morning was just an inch or two of fresh snow and the trail was fine with just boots.


It’s such a wonderful start to the day!  The puppies agree!!  Even the gimpy 11-year old loves a good run!

Post-walk snow roll for the pup

Letterboxing at Fort Knox

Fort Knox

Fort Knox

After years of thinking about it, we finally took our first foray into Letterboxing a few weeks ago.  As is often the case, it’s one of those things that make you wonder what took you so long!  We took the opportunity of the long Labor Day weekend to go on a little day trip to Fort Knox and the Penobscot Narrows Observatory.  If you haven’t been and you’re in Maine, I highly recommend both of them!  I’d imagine that the observatory is super-cool right now with the fall color.  Fort Knox was established in 1844 to protect the mouth of the Penobscot River valley from potential future British naval incursion.  The boys really loved exploring all the dark tunnels and rooms, especially the underground storage areas for food!  Ooh, dark and scary in there.  Bring a flashlight!

Inside the tunnels in the fort

Inside the tunnels in the fort

One of many cannons

One of many cannons

Fort Knox tunnels

Fort Knox tunnels

Food storage areas

Food storage areas

Penobscot Narrows Observatory

Penobscot Narrows Observatory

View of the Penobscot River

View of the Penobscot River

Letterboxing is a treasure hunt style outdoor adventure.  A “letterbox” is a waterproof container containing a rubber stamp, often hand carved, and a log book.  You can go online to, or (my favorite), and search for letterbox plants in your area (or the area you are visiting, etc.).  There are clues given for how to find the letterbox.  Such as, “find three trees growing close together, walk 10 paces north, and dig under some rocks to find the box.”  Or something like that.  You have your own personal stamp and log book.  You stamp the letterbox log book with your stamp, write a note, then use the letterbox stamp to stamp your personal log book.  It’s a lot of fun!  Really takes very little start-up costs, unlike geocaching where you need a personal GPS unit.

Our first letterbox was in a picnic area near Fort Knox, and then we also found four letterboxes in Fort Knox.  They all had awesome hand carved stamps.  One of the things about letterboxing is that you are supposed to be careful and not draw attention to yourself.  When you find the letterbox, it’s important to replace it as you found it, hiding it so the casual observer won’t notice it.  This is slightly difficult with a 5yo who is very excited, LOL!  You are also not supposed to share your log book with others.  Part of the fun is discovering the cool stamp, so you don’t want to give away the surprise by showing others your stamp collection.

Looking for our first letterbox

Looking for our first letterbox

K's Ecojot journal that he chose as his letterboxing log book

K's Ecojot journal that he chose as his letterboxing log book

And to top off a perfect day, we saw a sign as we were headed home that proclaimed, “Blueberries – Last Days!”  So of course, we quickly turned and bought 15 pounds of Maine wild blueberries from a local farm.  Mmmm……blueberry jam, blueberry pie, blueberry muffins….

15 pounds of blueberries for $33, how can you pass that up?

15 pounds of blueberries for $33, how can you pass that up?

Blueberry Pie, recipe from Cook's Illustrated, July/Aug 2008, Issue 93

Blueberry Pie, recipe from Cook's Illustrated, July/Aug 2008, Issue 93

I highly recommend this blueberry pie recipe from Cook’s Illustrated.  It was amazing!  Firm filling without any off-flavors from using too much tapioca or flour or whatnot.  The crust uses vodka!  It was so flaky and yummy.  The vodka adds more liquid to make it easier to roll out, but the vodka then evaporates in the oven, so the crust turns out flaky.

Images from the Fair

A Celebration of Rural Living…

Sheep herding demonstration. The dog is attempting to separate the sheep into two different groups.

Check out this fluffy prize-winning chicken!

This was a blue ribbon turkey. Gorgeous, isn’t he?

Shearing a sheep. The boys were allowed to pet her and she was so soft, and just a little damp from being sprayed a bit to make the shearing go more easily.

A plow which was part of the oxen-pulling demonstration, I think. I’m not sure if we were supposed to be sitting on it or not…

Who can resist petting a baby cow?

The Common Ground Country Fair is the coolest fair ever. Well, it’s not like I’m an avid fair-goer, but it’s the coolest fair that I’ve ever been to. It’s put on by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, and this was their 32nd year. Tons of educational opportunities, yummy food, cool activities like cardboard sledding and haystack jumping for the kids, and lots and lots of animals.

MOFGA’s website says that 59,000 people attended the three days of the fair this year. 59,000! Wow! I heard Saturday was extremely crowded, so it’s a good thing we got there early on Sunday morning. It wasn’t bad at all, and we were leaving just as it was starting to get crowded. I restrained myself from the amazingly lovely fiber tents, and only came away with two cool needle felting patterns from A Wrinkle in Thyme Farm, and a nice redware gingerbread boy ornament for our Christmas tree. Impressive. I didn’t think to take a picture of all the lovely yarn, but check out Soulemama’s post. It was hard to step away from all that wonderful fiber.

(The place where I bought the needle felting patterns has a fiber CSA. Ooh….how totally cool is that???)

I was watching someone groom an angora rabbit, with the woman next to her spinning the angora into yarn, and it made me want to raise Angora rabbits! The fair is a dangerous place. J’s teacher told me she was there on Saturday to learn how to raise chickens. Hubby has put his foot down on the chicken idea, but maybe I can convince him that rabbits would be nice…

Bird Songs

This book just came today, Bird Songs: 250 North American Birds in Song. We bought it for my son’s Montessori class as his birthday gift to the class. We are celebrating his birthday at school on Monday and he is very excited to walk around the sun with his globe four times! He wants me to make strawberry and blueberry muffins as the special snack.

In any case, the book arrived today, and oh my. It’s amazing. It’s hard cover and has a built in digital player. You scroll through the numbers until you find the one that matches the number for the bird on the page. The sound quality is wonderful. The boys LOVE it. I also ordered the one that has the songs of birds from around the world, Bird Songs from Around the World, and we are going to keep that one at home. That one hasn’t arrived yet. In any case, I highly recommend the North American one. It really is amazing and a wonderful addition to our home library. There is also a new one out that is called The Backyard Birdsong Guide which we might have to get too. That is more of a handheld type version being a smaller format.

Daddy-Squirrel Craftiness

I just want to share the latest craftiness happening on the Daddy-Squirrel side of the tree. I am very proud of him! He finished the kids’ play structure last weekend. He built the entire thing himself using a plan from a company called Jack’s Backyard. It was built using locally harvested Eastern White Cedar that he got from a local mill. It came rough cut, so he first had to plane all of the wood. Then cut it up according to specifications, router the edges so it would all be rounded off, and then assemble and put it all together. It is absolutely beautiful. The cedar is wonderful, and the kids are having the best time with it. My youngest asked to go swing for a few minutes before we left for school this morning!

It is still missing the roof tarp and some telescopes that I’ve ordered. I had to get the tarp custom made because the platform is a bit bigger than what is apparently standard. Next on the crafty Daddy-squirrel’s list? I’ve asked him to make a kid-sized picnic table so we can seat more people to eat out on our porch. We ate dinner last night out on our screened porch and it was gorgeous outside. I love summer!

Current project underway: Flannel pajama pants with matching appliqued t-shirt. I just need to put in the waist elastic and they are done. After that, either another pair for my younger son, or I promised to make fun practical life aprons for our Montessori class! I also really want to try some freezer paper stenciling as described in The Creative Family.

Embroidery WIP

Just wanted to share my first embroidery project in its “in progress” stage. I’m excited to finish up and create the pillow. Unfortunately, no crafting this weekend went on. We were busy with school open houses, playdates, grocery shopping, laundry, and other such things. We did have several bird sightings at our new bird feeder, which everyone was excited about. Spring is coming…..eventually. We had a whole flock of robins in our driveway when we came home from school on Thursday. That was exciting too!

Black-capped chickadees and American goldfinches at our bird feeder on our back deck.