No pets, lots of critters

Since September, I have been without a pet for the first time in my life. After our cat died, we were scheduled to caretake Seguin Island and Acadia National Park and it wasn’t the right time to adopt kittens. And now…

Life at home is a little lonelier but it’s a lot easier to leave. Although I often ask myself why we leave.

We are surrounded by critters big and small with little or no work and we are free to come and go without having to arrange housesits, which is always the most stressful part of taking a big trip. Alas, we have no big trips planned at the moment but still…

As I write this, our first hummingbird just returned and is sipping that pink rhododendron in the first photo. We also have goldfinch, blue birds, cardinals, purple Finch, blue jays, nut hatch, eastern towhees and a pileated woodpecker who likes to rat-a-tat-tat a metal sign.

And deer and bear wander around as well.

And the bees, tens of thousands.

This weekend we hiked a new trail in the Adirondacks to Wolf Pond. It was a lovely pine needle lined path, with new bridges for dicey river crossings, and great views of the mountain as a reward.

And I found a new friend. There were rocks at the edge of a pond where we sat and enjoyed the view. A few salamanders were in the water by our boots. I put a finger in the water and sat still. One little guy swam to me and hung out under my finger. The first time it approached, I pulled back while I contemplated whether they had big teeth.

I don’t think they do, do they?

We’ve had lots of wind at home and my neighbor’s birches are permanently listing to port.

And of course with big wind comes falling trees and an exacerbation of dendrephobia. Then on my way home from work the other day, this reebar jumped from the road and pierced my bumper!

This was after I read about a turtle that had smashed through someone’s windshield when it was sent flying by another vehicle. Now I have road debris-aphobia..

I’m not grounded

There have been a few possible bear events on our little road. I set up the electric fence again to protect the bees and their honey. But I wasn’t convinced it was working and our multimeter died last fall.

I tried to test it with a screwdriver but nothing happened. I sucked it up and grasped hold of the net. I could feel the little piezo spark but nothing more. Last year, I got the full voltage shock and this was not it.

I called the guy I bought the solar energizer from. He suggested I test the energize itself. I ordered the tester.

Tim was concerned we would lose the bees so he was in the process of moving the deer fence over to the bees. I tested first the controller and then the fence and they both were getting 19,000 volts. I called my guy again. I confirmed I still didn’t feel anything.

Then he asked me the most important question, “What shoes are you wearing?” To which I replied, my Muck boots, of course. I always wear those boots with the bees.

Voila, that was the answer. I wasn’t grounded! He told me I could confirm this by holding the fence in one hand and sticking my other hand in the dirt. Or even better, get Tim to touch it in his non-rubberized boots.

I declined. Maybe I am grounded after all.

From zero to fifty in one day

I just spent five months with only Tim to talk to. Then we returned to our home in the Adirondacks. Yesterday, I volunteered for a Covid vaccine clinic where I administered 50 doses, and conversed with 50 + people in one day. My brain was fried. But I felt good, I could finally do something.

We wrapped up our time at Schoodic with a flourish. Tim and an old colleague performed Schubert’s Wintereisser to a small, socially distanced, rapt audience. it was beautiful, despite the unheated barn on a snowy day.

I walked my favorite walks one last time.

Our trip home ended with a ferry ride across Lake Champlain, which was so calm it could have been called Lake Placid!

Next island gig?

There was a lot to catch up to at home. Most importantly, my bees were still alive. We had a couple of warm sunny days and they were out gathering pollen. I did a quick inspection, saw new brood, unwrapped the hive and took out the winter insulation. They were quite docile.

Then it snowed and the temperature dropped. Oops. Such an amateur.

This is no surprise. Every year we get spring snow, sometimes as late as May.

So, I will wait and see. And talk to Tim.

Dendrophobia

The fear of falling trees. I have it. I always worry about hiking when it’s windy. Hikers are killed by falling trees. Tim thinks I am ridiculous. The other day, while we were driving as a gale blew, I asked him to look up the word for the phobia. I thought it might be arborophobia, but dendrophobia is the word. We continued our drive, swam at the YMCA and headed home.

The last part of our drive is six miles along a spruce lined coastal road. While Tim was gazing off somewhere, I watched as a medium size spruce fell on the road…right in front of us!!! Moments sooner it could have been us. And that same day, a woman in another part of Maine was impaled, in her car, when a branch somehow came crashing through the dashboard. Be advised.

The past week included a trip to finally see my family, now that I am vaccinated, home to work and back to Maine. I have grown accustomed to long car trips.

Schoodic Peninsula morning

I left early on a beautiful day.

Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

I spent a few exhausting days with grandchildren then headed home to work, which was not as exhausting but not as much fun. I got home to this.

Once again I shoveled a narrow path to the house.

Clouds on my way to work

I took a brief look around, since I didn’t have much time to do anything. The beehive is still surrounded by snow as is my she shed bee shed that I built last summer.

I tucked it all in and headed back to Maine for the final leg of our winter care taking stint. I’ll stay in open fields when the wind blows.  “Well, Jane, it just goes to show you, it’s always something — if it’s not one thingit’s another.” Roseannadanna (Gilda Radner)

Snow here and there

I left Tim in Maine to shovel out wet, sloppy snow. I had my own work to contend with back in the Adirondacks. The northeaster hit us worse than Maine and we got about another foot of dry powdery snow, which landed on top of about 8 inches of crusted snow. I returned to work for a couple of days, but the storm shortened my work day and lengthened my time at home.

We have someone plowing our driveway but with no thought as to how one would navigate the mountains he creates. I spent a good amount of time getting reacquainted with the snow blower and wore a hole in one of my gloves that I now have to darn, darn.

I created only the paths I needed to navigate to the garage, the woodpile, the electric meter and the propane fill. And did some hand digging as well. It looks like a rabbit warren now. And I spent a lot of time jockeying cars around. I was too tired from my second vaccine to ski and a snowshoe to the cabin plum tuckered me. But it was beautiful.

The night before I left, the local coyotes were in full force. I decided to wait until morning to load my car!

Coyotes in the field, although they sound like they are in the driveway

My trip back through the Green Mountains of Vermont was spectacular, if not a little nerve wracking on the mountain road that winds along the river. The trees were completely white but I was not in a mood to stop and photograph them.

Now I am back and happily ensconced in our townhouse in Acadia. Tim left some shoveling for me, so sweet.

My phone played a cruel trick on me this week and reminded me of lovely Deal Island in Tasmania, where it never snows!

How can this bee?

It’s cold in the northern Adirondacks, -15 degrees F this morning with about a foot of dry snow on the ground. My bee hive was prepped for this before I abandoned it and went to Maine for most of the winter.

The tilted cover shielding the entrance prevented the snow from blocking it off. Miraculously, I listened with my stethoscope and they are buzzing and humming inside there. How can it be? They are maintaining a temperature of 90 degrees in a small cluster. What a wonder!

Speaking of stethoscopes, I received my second Moderna vaccine and I know I mounted an immune response. I slept for 16 hours the following day. Well worth it. The one time, other than childbirth, I was happy to feel crook.

Happy cows?

I wonder which one produced this albino calf? I thought it was a sheep at first glance.

There and back

I committed to return home to work a couple of days a month. I should be committed. It has taken ten days of travel and quarantine and three Covid tests to work two days. Needless to say, I won’t be working in January in the hope that travel restrictions may eventually ease again, they have to right?

Before heading home, we took a lovely hike in Acadia proper, around Lake Juniper and up the South Bubble. It included a at least a half mile or more of “board” walk. There was a lovely bridge around the inflow/outflow?

Beaver activity was evident.

Pacman tree

There were some rocks to climb at the end, as there always are, and the views were spectacular.

South Bubble, Acadia National Park

We drove by the Thunder Hole, but the tide wasn’t quite right. We heard little burps instead but will return again two hours before the high tide. A low cave captures air and then releases it in a burst of sound when conditions are right.

This is one of the few working boats we have seen since we arrived in Maine.

There were some gnarly trees along the way.

Determined to take root

We returned home to one of my better quiches. I don’t have power tools in the apartment in Maine so I made a pie crust by grating the butter. It was pretty crisp.

Then I hit the road for the eight hour journey home. The ride went by fast, as I drove through the White Mountains of NH and the Green Mountains of Central VT to arrive home to our mountains in the Adks.

To my shock and dismay, critters quickly moved in. When the cat’s away… This porcupine came lumbering out from under my front porch. I think he thought he was invisible by ducking his head on the other side of the tree he climbed.

He left plenty of sign: footprints all over the deck and some scat!

We had problems with mice in Eddie, our 2004 Ford Explorer, all fall. I had to replace Eddie’s battery this trip (in 8 below 0 temp) and checked the glove box where I had placed a dryer sheet, to dissuade the mice. A few droppings but…they had eaten the plysplit woven key holder I had left in the car. It was shredded and unwoven.

While I did my laundry, I looked for the handwoven bag that holds the clothes pins. I found it in the outside basement alcove, also eaten.

As I reflect on it, this must mean my textiles have good taste, or at least taste good. I cut away the shredded part of the bag and put it back in the alcove in case it comes in handy for a mouse house.

Pregaming

My to do list is done. I set some crazy goals before we headed to our new volunteer gig at the Schoodic Institute in Acadia National Park.

I finished: two more quilts for grand children and one for a friend’s wedding; a lace shawl that had been in the works for two years; hats for coworkers’ kids; and a few woven scarves. The scarves were really a test to see if I wanted to bring the table loom to Maine. I did and did.

As usual, I spent about ten days getting projects together to bring with me and half a day to pick out and pack my clothes.

And we’ve moved into our new quarters. All is well. Today we picked up a humongous order of groceries and took a look around. We can hear the waves crashing from the apartment. We took a hike that almost caused a panic attack when I had to climb down steep, wet rocks, right in our backyard, a National Park!!

We’re downeast, as many of the business names remind us, but nowhere is isolated enough from COVID-19. We had negative tests before arriving in Maine but another Park worker is in quarantine due to exposure so we have our first week off to explore.

Time to make the pizza

We took a nice walk in the woods last week to Boreas Pond. The road was washed out in the same storm that knocked out our bridge. This meant we had to walk the whole 13.5 miles round trip. It was a beautiful day, so why not?

At the pond, we were greeted by circles of ice and a zeppelin cloud floating overhead. We enjoyed lunch and napped before heading out. The ice and snow we had to contend with on the way in had melted but we were no faster leaving. Couldn’t make a pizza that night because it takes a couple of hours to get the embers just right and the oven hot enough.

It will be a beautiful place to explore by kayak next year if we don’t have to portage the 13 miles!

Last night I made pizza in the oven I built a few years ago. Nothing better. Sun sets at 4:30 so I cooked by headlamp and may have been a little giddy.

The pizza cooks in 90 seconds and is fun to watch. I used my telescope while I waited for the fire to be ready.

Actually I was making sure the whole structure didn’t burn down because flames were licking the outside of the oven. I have a laser thermometer and although the oven floor was 800 degrees f, the roof didn’t get hotter than 140.

One day I will line up things to bake: bread, pie, roast, with one fire. One day.

And then he said this,

“Oma, when will you come to my house so you can sleep with me and have a campout?” And just like that, I’m crushed. I don’t know when…

So I try to distract myself instead and make things and take long walks in the woods. I’m completing a batch of quilts for the grand darlings now that they all sleep in their own beds, even if it lets them wander in the night.

Shark quilt
Elli inspecting a quilt top

And a couple for the adults as well.

Just like I “read” two books at a time (one is an audiobook), I generally have about three projects in the works: a quilt, something on the loom and a project on my knitting needles for the evenings while we watch movies.

Tencel scarf on the table loom
Hands spun, hand knit scarf

We leave soon for the Schoodic Institute in Acadia National Park for the winter. What to bring, what to bring? I’m not talking about clothing. We’ll have boots, skis and snowshoes. Oh and a bathing suit to wear in the local pool. That’s always easy.

Which of my many fiber tools? Always knitting needles. Perhaps my portable table loom with premeasured warps? Or a sewing machine? And what about my spinning wheel? Oh my.

This is the first time we can drive to a caretaker gig and it boggles my mind. No dry bags, no dinghies, no planes. I may need limits.