I wish I could say I’ve been along for the entire journey, but still, I’ve been working with Laurie LaMountain to produce Lake Living since 2006, so I’ve been here for sixteen of the magazine’s 25-year journey.
In her editorial note of the summer 2022 issue, Laurie comments about our brainstorming sessions, where with our shared brain we bounce off of each other and do come up with what we both think are great ideas and once we get going the thoughts flow like raindrops pouring out of the water spout. What she doesn’t mention is that we also solve all the problems of the world, or at least our small portion of it. And we don’t always agree, but still we listen to each other and maybe months later recognize that our guts were right or the other one knew best. There’s an article in this issue that ruffles my feathers a wee bit, but . . . as I said, we don’t always agree and that’s fine. I’m sure you as readers don’t always agree with us either.
I think the thing about working on the magazine all these years is that I’ve had the honor of meeting so many interesting people who live right here. We rarely travel far for an interview. And yet if you look at the archived magazines, you’ll see that we’ve covered a multitude of topics.
And the special thing for me about working with Laurie is that she gives me huge, read that as HUGE, leeway to pursue a topic at any angle that I see fit. She also knows what topics I prefer to write about and usually those come my way, but sometimes I have to do what is best for the magazine and leave my personal opinions in my truck. It’s rare, but it has happened over the years.
Enough of my jabbering. On with the magazine!
In the line-up: “Growing Up” about downtown Bridgton by Laurie; “Scribner’s Mill & Homestead” about a living history museum in Harrison by me; “Docks that Stay Sturdy” by Great Northern Docks owner Sam Merriam in Naples; “A Fascination for Fungi” about a local artist’s interpretation by Laurie; “Summer Living,” which is a modified calendar of local events by me; “Summer Bookshelf” by the owners and staff of Bridgton Books; “Click-free Shopping” about Main Street stores that somehow survived the chaos of the last few years and chose to meet customers’ needs without too many online sales by me; and “Salted” about cooking with salt by Laurie.
You may have noticed that we didn’t produce a winter or spring issue. Sadly, that was due to the pandemic and local economy. Lake Living is free and supported by the advertisers. For the last three years, we’ve been unable to get enough winter advertisers, so we combined fall and winter articles into one. And then this year when things became even worse, we couldn’t get enough to support a spring issue that we’d pulled together. Unfortunately, because of that, some of those articles are now in a folder and I don’t know if they’ll ever get published. And even when it seemed we could pull off a summer issue, again there weren’t quite enough advertisers to support the usual 40 pages and this one is only 32. That coupled with the fact that the cost of paper went up 40% this spring, added to the downsized summer issue and again, not all the articles we’d written made it in to the final copy and some had to be edited drastically in order to fit the page count.
But . . . the magazine is out there. On a shelf if you live locally, or in the link I included above. I hope you’ll take time to read it. And then take time to support the advertisers and let them know where you saw their ads because unless you tell them, they don’t know the effect of their dollars.
Happy 25th Birthday, Lake Living! And hats off to Laurie and editorial designer Dianne Lewis, and all those who have contributed over the years.
I always get excited when an issue of Lake Living hits the shelves and the fall/winter one is now being distributed. If you are able to pick up a copy, please do so. And if you aren’t local, you can find a link to it here and below.
The first article, written by Laurie LaMountain, is “Finding Center” about an artist who purchased a building that began its life as a Roman Catholic Church, whose congregation outgrew it, and then for decades as Craftworks, a highly successful retail clothing and homewares store until it closed in March 2020. And now it is transforming into Factor Fine Art Center for the Arts and the story is as much about the building as it is about the man who is behind this repurposing project.
As always, in the fall issue, there is an article about a house renovation, this one entitled “Big Pine Farm,” also written by Laurie. The color scheme reminds me so much of our own kitchen renovation.
Next inside the cover is an article I wrote about a large barn that isn’t undergoing a renovation, but rather is being rescued from listing to the west and possibly toppling over, thus I titled it “Rescue Mission.” I had the great pleasure of meeting and interviewing a young man who is overseeing the project. Keeno Legare grew up looking at (and sometimes exploring) the barn and has a strong desire to continue to preserve the structure.
One of my favorite parts of the building is the silo—located inside rather than out. The article includes some of the history of the barn and the passion its owner, David McGrath, has for it.
“The Home Sauna: Active Relaxation” is Laurie’s third article. This is about one man’s COVID project that resulted in a small building where he can reap health benefits while letting the world wash away.
Laurie’s final article is entitled “Light Breaking.” This is about Laurie Downey, a woman who transformed her artistic direction after working as the set designer for her daughter’s school drama club. “Taking her cue from nature, she initially created a dozen lyos lightscreen patterns from drawings and photographs, or a combination of the two, that mimic rippling water, sun dappled foliage, forsythia in bloom, stands of saplings, and bare branches.” As you can see in the title photograph, ice also informs her art.
My second article is about Forest Therapy in the winter. Maine Master Naturalist and Forest Therapy Guide Jeanne Christie shared with me information about how a forest therapy session works, the values of participating in such a walk, and ways to make sure you stay warm while doing this in the cold season. I’ve participated in a few of Jeanne’s forest therapy walks and highly recommend that if you learn of one of these in your area, you strap on your snowshoes and head into the woods with a guide.
“Night Show” is my final article. The essence of this article is about light pollution from artificial light. “The International Dark Sky Association (IDA) defines light pollution as ‘inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light,’ and goes on to stay that ‘it can have serious environmental consequences for humans, wildlife, and our environment.’” Since writing this article, my guy and I had the opportunity to visit Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, designated an International Dark Sky Place. It’s the first place on the eastern seaboard to receive this designation and only places as remote as Antartica have darker skies.
The article includes information about light trespass and ways we can improve our own indoor/outdoor lighting for the benefit of all. Just imagine—if we all jumped on the bandwagon and turned off or down our lights, the stars would surely amaze us.
The magazine concludes with everyone’s favorite: the bookshelf with book reviews from the owners and staff of Bridgton Books.
That’s a summary. I do hope you’ll either pick up a copy and read the articles and let the advertisers know that you saw their ads . . . cuze the magazine is free to you. And if you can’t pick up a copy, please click on the link here: lake living fall/winter 2021
It feels like forever, but has only been since last fall that we produced an issue of Lake Living. Our hiatus was due to the pandemic and the fact that we didn’t have the usual amount of advertisers (the mag is free to you, so please support the advertisers who make it happen–and tell them where you saw their ads. Thank you.), and stores and other businesses didn’t necessarily want to put a magazine on the shelf. That was all before we understood this devastating disease better.
But . . . we’re back! And with some timely articles I think you will enjoy.
The first article, “Conservation Collaboration,” by yours truly is about Sebago Clean Waters, an initiative that includes Loon Echo Land Trust, Western Foothills Land Trust, Portland Water District, Lakes Environmental Association, Mahoosuc Land Trust, and some bigger entities. I won’t give away how it works because I want you to read the article, but it’s all about clean water and the Sebago Lake watershed and what these organizations are doing to benefit all of us.
In “A Sense of Space,” Laurie LaMountain describes how architect John Cole recreated a lakeside house in a creative way given shoreland zoning laws in Maine. Not only is this an enjoyable read to learn more about how John and the homeowner problem solved to turn small living quarters into airy living quarters, but Laurie also provided valuable information about the laws that govern building beside our lakes and ponds.
Laurie is also the writer of this extremely important topic: protecting our most precious resource. A must read for everyone, both here in Maine and afar.
Up next is another article by me, “From the Earth to the Moon and Beyond,” about the world-class Maine Mineral and Gem Museum in Bethel, Maine, where I had the opportunity to hold this moon rock. You can too! But again, be sure to tell them you read about it in lake living.
That’s followed by the Summer Living calendar of events that comes with the warning that all items are subject to change because one of the take-aways from the last 15 months is that we all need to be flexible. So . . . check websites before heading out the door. I know this to be so true because at Greater Lovell Land Trust we’ve already made some changes since publishing our summer calendar.
“Eat What You Sow,” about three local gardeners including lake living‘s graphic designer, Dianne Lewis, is an informative article by my friend and emerging writer, Marguerite Wiser, Farm Lead at The Ecology School in Saco, Maine.
Possibly one of the most visually colorful articles I wrote, entitled “The Bag Lady,” features Designs by Diana Bags, a Lovell, Maine, business Diana Davis created and her story of how it came to be that’s she’s selling hand-made bags and other consigned items from her boutique and workshop on Main Street. Another one where you need to stop in and let Diana know you read her story here.
And no copy of the summer issue would be complete without book reviews from the folks at Bridgton Books, including owners Justin and Pam Ward, and employees Sue and Perri. There’s something in these pages for everyone, and once again I beg you to shop local. By now you know what to tell them when you step up to the counter to make your purchase. 😉
Finally, Laurie brings us recipes as she always does, this time in the form of “l’apéritif.” If you don’t know what that means, you’ll have to check it out. Well, of course, you need to check it out because ’tis the season.
To say we’re excited to be back would be an understatement. I hope you’ll pour a cup of coffee or glass of lemonade and enjoy the read. Here’s the link: Lake Living Summer 2021
But the thing is that last week I took part in a poetry workshop offered through Greater Lovell Land Trust by Poet Judith Steinbergh. The title of the workshop was “Caring for Our Earth and Waters.” Judy shared various poems with us through a remote gathering and asked us to read them aloud while thinking “about what we might visualize from the images, and how the sounds and form blend together with the image and feeling.”
She encouraged us to make notes and suggested some different approaches: speak to the subject; become the subject; instruct the reader; show feelings toward the subject. She even gave us some beginnings and endings that might inspire us to begin.
And then she concluded with “Poetry Revision Guidelines,” which included such practices as reading the poem aloud several times, questioning whether or not the opening was strong enough, maintaining focus, creating images the reader could visualize, using tight language, finding a rhythm, helping the reader gain insight, and providing appropriate breaks.
We had one week to write a poem, submit it to Judy for comments, and then the big night would come: The Reading.
Just as it’s scary to publish in this blog manner or via Lake Living magazine and other avenues I’ve used over the years, it’s equally terrifying to read aloud–especially when you can see yourself on the computer screen.
But that’s what some of us did the other night for the remote Poetry Reading and you can watch and listen in: GLLT Poetry Reading 2020
My original subject was a pine tree, but after watching the magical emergence of cicadas last week, I knew I had to write about that experience. Figuring out the angle was much more difficult and I tried a variety of avenues. In the end, I chose a style that works best for me, teaching through imagery.
It’s not a done deal, mind you, for it is my belief that there is no such thing as a final draft. OK, so that’s my default in case you don’t think this works or have suggestions to improve my attempt. All comments are welcome. It’s only a draft and I haven’t written 18 drafts yet as I often do with an article. I’m at 7 or 8.
By Leigh Macmillen Hayes, 7/19/2020
To walk into a cemetery on a summer day
And find an insect metamorphosing upon a stone
I begin to understand the process of resurrection.
A life well spent questing sap for sustenance
Prepares to crawl free of its past
And reach for heavenly aspirations.
Through a tiny slit, a spirit no longer contained
Emerges head first as a teneral shape develops
with bulging eyes to view a new world.
Gradually, a pale tourmaline-colored body extends outward
With stained-glass wings unfurling
That provide baby steps toward freedom beyond.
I mourn the loss of your former soul
But give thanks for a peek at your upcoming ascension
From this place to the next.
It is not for me to know when you will first use the gift of flight
As I didn’t know when you would shed your old skin,
And I quickly offer a final goodbye when I see your wings spread.
I rejoice that I’ll spend the rest of the summer
Listening to your raspy love songs
Playing nature’s lullabies upon violin strings from above.
On this day, I celebrate the secrets of a cicada’s life,
Dying to the old ways and rising to new,
While I wander among the graves of others who have done the same.
To all who joined the Poetry Workshop or the Poetry Reading or wished they could, and especially to Judy Steinbergh, I dedicate this post. Thank you for sharing.
Given the fact that the day the spring issue of Lake Living was to be distributed to stores and other businesses throughout the lakes region of Maine was the day the state shut down because of COVID-19, thus meaning Laurie LaMountain had box loads sitting around with no where to go but her garage, and many businesses had completely shuttered their doors and windows and those that stayed open were serving a limited number of customers and didn’t necessarily want magazines, we weren’t sure there would be enough advertising dollars to produce a summer issue.
By the same token, we both felt it was our duty to produce a summer issue. And so we did. It did not come out on June 20th, as would have been the case in the past, but suddenly that didn’t matter. It’s not as long as prior summer editions, but suddenly that didn’t matter. The three to four page calendar spread is missing, because, um, not a whole lot is going on, but suddenly that didn’t matter.
As happens more often than not, a theme emerged. Laurie addressed it in her Editor’s Notes. I’ll just say this: Take your time. And notice.
Be sure to check out the book reviews from Bridgton Books and picnic recipes. Plus read about some wicked cool fish food, Lake Environmental Association’s history, and a few local businesses that are employee owned.
I was given the good fortune to write about my passion for the world beyond doors and windows, which allowed me to weave a bunch of ideas together in a ramble of sorts.
I also wrote about a woman who can take a slab of wood and turn it into a three-dimensional piece of art. Sue Holland’s work is incredibly intricate and always tells a story.
I can’t help but smile every time I look at the cover of this issue. Sports Illustrated move over!
We’ve even got a centerfold you might want to hang on a wall!
This issue of Lake Living is about summer by nature. Pour a cup of tea or glass of wine, click on the link and enjoy the articles: Lake Living Summer 2020
I’m always excited/anxious when an issue of Lake Living is finally published. And eager to share it with others.
Tada. Like magic it has begun to appear on store shelves. The sad thing is that most stores are closed, but the great thing is that if I’ve posted it correctly, you can click on it here. And if you receive this and discover the link doesn’t work, please give me a few hours and then visit wondermyway.com again and surely I’ll have worked out the kinks. Well, maybe.
One of my articles, “Boathouse Mystique,” is about those buildings of yore that still dot our lake shores. This was probably the most difficult to write because most of the structures’ stories have turned into lore, but I had a lot of fun talking with a variety of people and making a few site visits.
My second article, “A Compromised Remodel,” is about a kitchen redo of the past year for my guy and me. It was quite an undertaking and along the way we each had to learn to give a little. Or, maybe a lot. Given where we are in the world right now, it all seems so trivial.
Here’s a peak at what the room liked like before the walls were bumped out.
A different view of before.
For a while last fall, it looked like we were having a daily open house! Our neighbors loved it because for the first time, they could see into the field.
My third article, I don’t have photos for because we used photos offered by NEAAO, as it’s about the New England Arab American Organization that formed in Maine in 2014. The title, “We Are All One At Home” seems apropos in the current spirit of things.
Be sure to also read the articles by Laurie LaMountain and Marguerite Wiser. Laurie shares the story of “A Better Bathroom” about another remodel project, “Designed in Denmark” about some really cool benches you could purchase for your shorefront property, and “On Food” about food and the choices we make. Who knew that would be so timely, as is Marguerite’s well-researched article entitled “Food Sovereignty.”
My final comment about this issue is this: please, please, please as soon as you are able, support the advertisers who support us. Remember, the magazine is free . . . thanks to those advertiser, some of whom have seen their business come to a halt. Here’s hoping it’s all temporary.
For the past few years, we’ve either produced a limited winter issue or no issue at all of Lake Living magazine because those who purchase ads have been wary about spending money during those lean months. And it’s ads that support this free magazine. Everyone wants to be written about, but . . .
After some back and forth discussion with editor/publisher Laurie LaMountain, we decided to produce a fall/winter issue that would encompass the usual “at home” features of the fall magazine, but also include the book reviews written by the Pam and Justin Ward, plus their employees, Sue and Perri, of Bridgton Books, that typically appear in the winter issue.
Tada. Click on the link above and you can view the magazine in its entirety.
Laurie tackled four topics, while I worked on three ideas. Hers include “The Big Idea” about a Maine inventor, “Maine Dwelling” about a guy who flips houses locally, and “A Good Keeper” about winter squashes.
Her most interesting article, however, is one that everyone should read–whether you are a male or female. Don’t let the theme of it scare you. Entitled “Fierce Girls,” and yes that is Laurie in the photo, it’s about WOMEN. And more specifically . . . men-o-pause. When she proposed it, I was curious but not certain it would work. You have to read it.
My articles all ended up with a Lovell theme–probably because I spent most of the summer in Lovell and it was always on my mind.
The first is entitled “Resurrecting the Past,” about the Harriman Barn that Robin Taylor-Chiarello (board member of the National Council on White House History and associate member of the American Institute of Architects) lovingly restored with the help of Timberframer J. Scott Campbell of Maine Mountain Post and Beam in Fryeburg and Builder Bryce Thurston of Lovell.
The marriage marks above were chiseled into the beams when the barn was built in the early 1800s. Scott used his own system as he pulled the timber frame down, and then reassembled it on a different site a couple of years later, but the early marks are still visible.
My second article is about two couples who chose to move north rather than south in retirement. Rather than snowbirds, as we fondly refer to those who spend six months in warmer climes, they are birdsofsnow. Okay, so I made that term up, but really, it does describe them.
In their retirement, they’ve discovered ways to get involved in their communities and that has made all the difference. Heinrich Wurm fills his days with environmental activities, especially as related to Kezar Lake Watershed Association or Greater Lovell Land Trust. Here, he’s studying a spider web. And that’s only part of his local involvement.
Linda, Heinrich’s wife, is a docent with Greater Lovell Land Trust, where she also enjoys looking at the finer details of the natural world.
But one of her main fortes is sharing those details with youth, whether they be her own grandchildren, or kids involved in GLLT-sponsored events, like those in the after-school Trailblazers.
For Elna Stone, retirement gave her an opportunity to pursue her artistic talent and painting local landscapes has consumed much of her time. On the left, she poses beside a painting of Shawnee Peak Ski Area at Pleasant Mountain that she donated to a fundraiser for Gallery 302 in Bridgton. For years, Elna created calendars of local scenes that were sold as a fundraiser for St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.
Helping others either via the St. Peter’s or Bridgton Hospital Cafe has long been a passion for the Stones. Even cleaning windows at church can offer Tom a sense of satisfaction.
In the end, though they all love the life they’ve created in Maine, they admit there are some downfalls. One is that the winters seem to get longer each year. Linda Wurm has found a way to overcome that: a bowl of shells to gaze upon from time to time.
And then there’s my final article. It’s about three entrepreneurial men. They each bring a different talent to the . . . table. Literally. Eli Hutchins of Hutch’s Property and Tree chops the tree down.
Brent Legere of Lovell Box Company and Western Maine Slab Works cuts it into live-edge slabs.
And Eugene Jordan of Jordan Custom Carpentry, Inc, turns it into a beautiful piece of furniture. You can read all about it in “A Tree Falls in Lovell.”
So, yeah. Brew a pot of tea, curl up in your favorite chair, and enjoy this issue of Lake Living magazine.
Oh, and please support the advertisers, including my guy, so we can keep doing what we love to do: learn about the many talented people in this area. I am constantly amazed. I hope you will be as well.
As Laurie comments in her editor’s note, a theme emerged while we brainstormed article ideas. You’ll have to read this from cover to cover to get the full effect.
My first contribution: “The Maine Event” about four local wedding or retreat venues–each one with a unique twist. Even if you aren’t planning a grand event, it’s still fun to peek into the places and meet the people who make the magic magical.
A second contribution: “Summer Living,” which is a listing of what’s happening in the lakes region of Maine this summer. There are several shout-outs throughout this section, including one for our local land trusts and LEA as we collaborate to bring history alive through a series of walks along our trails.
And my final contribution: “You Get What You Give.” This is probably my favorite for this issue because, well, I won’t tell you why. You have to read it. And figure out. Let’s just say I was completely moved by the experience.
Laurie has written about a new venture for a young couple in “A Passion for Play,” cuze Becca and Scott, plus their son Parker, do love to do that. Especially on our lakes and ponds, as well as mountains.
She also wrote about a local farmer who does more than that–something about music and feet in “Geof’s Farm Pedals.” Another gotta read.
And her final piece is about Cannabased Wellness, aka “The Back Room at Nectar.”
Then there are the book reviews a la Justin, Pam, Sue, and Perri of Bridgton Books.
Plus all the colorful ads. If you do live locally, please let the advertisers know that you saw their ad in Lake Living. It helps with ad sales, which are key because the magazine is free to you.
Finally, I just LOVE the cover–thanks to Mary Jewett’s fine photography. It makes me grin every time I look at it.
Lake Living magazine: Summer 2019 is upon us now. 😉
If you are receiving this for a second time, I apologize, but the link to the magazine was incorrect.
I am beyond excited to announce that the spring issue of Lake Living magazine is now available on a store shelf near you . . . or right here!
It’s our “At Home” issue, where we feature articles about home-related items and projects. One of the projects is very close to my heart:
Yup, that’s our current kitchen. But as you can see by the title, change is in the air. You’ll have to read about it. The plans continue to evolve as I write, but we’re close to finalizing them. All that being said, nothing will happen until this summer as we still have a couple of feet of snow in the yard and after that melts, it will be quite wet for a few months. But stay tuned for The Evolving Home, part 2 in the fall issue.
Also featured: “Finding Home” by Laurie LaMountain–about rescue dogs and organizations that place them in forever homes; “Shaker Inspired”–a collaborative effort by Laurie and me about furniture built in Bethel, Maine; “A Patch of Land, part ii” by the up-and-coming writer Marguerite Wiser–describing the efforts of a local couple who have worked hard to turn their farm into a vibrant, year-round enterprise; “Cooking with Clay” by Laurie–highlighting the ever-delightful and creative Rusty Wiltjer, a local potter, and also featuring some cooking with clay recipes; “An Improved State of Home” by Laurie–offering fresh ideas for organizing and getting rid of some of your “stuff;” and finally, “Dear Earth” by yours truly–a heartfelt and funny homage to our wise and wonderful, but challenged Earth.
Please, please, please support the magazine’s advertisers (including a certain hardware store). Without them, we can’t continue to produce this little gem of a magazine (yes, I’m biased.)
And get ready . . . for soon, I promise, the snow and ice will melt and the wood frogs and spring peepers will come to a vernal pool near you.
It all started with an email message from my long-time mentor and former education director of the Greater Lovell Land Trust, Kevin Harding.
Wrote Kevin, “I rarely find a book that I’m willing to recommend to friends and colleagues. I rarely read books on saving the environment because I find them too depressing. I am guilty of feeling totally overwhelmed by the chaos and daily news of political disfunction that makes any kind of progress toward “saving the environment” seem impossible. Despite these feelings, I would like you to consider reading Rewilding Our Hearts by Marc Bekoff. No doubt many of you know this author and you may have already read some of his work. Bekoff can help us understand that the work we do in Lovell is in fact meaningful and productive.”
A professor emeritus of ecology and evolution at the University of Colorado, Boulder, (our youngest son’s alma mater), Bekoff is the author or editor of twenty-five books.
Since receiving the book, I’ve turned up the bottom corner of pages in the foreword and introduction that I want to reread and taken copious pages of notes.
In this book, Bekoff’s intention is to use the big picture challenges of “climate change, population explosion and constant damage to Earth’s ecosystems and loss of diversity” as the backdrop to encourage us all to change how we think and act–especially as it pertains to nonhuman animals.
“Rewilding our hearts is about becoming re-enchanted with nature. It is about nurturing our sense of wonder. Rewilding is about being nice, kind, compassionate, empathetic, and harnessing our inborn goodness and optimism,” writes Bekoff.
In the first chapter, he states, “Our effects on other species are wide-ranging and far-reaching, and we most likely understate the extent of our destructive ways. As with climate change, we often don’t know or fully understand what we’ve done or the extent of our negative impacts. Even worse, we have no idea how to fix the ecological problems confronting us, whether we are at fault for them or not.”
He encourages us to open our hearts and form a compassionate connection with nature–even in those moments when we don’t understand. For instance, in November a friend and I discovered two spiders in the water-filled “urn” of a pitcher plant on a land trust property. The larger spider was alive, while it seemed to play with the smaller dead spider that it kept moving with its hind legs. Was it trying to revive the youngster? Would the two or even the one be able to escape the carnivorous pitcher plant?
Watching something as small as the spiders or as large as young great blue herons is something some of us could easily take for granted, for we are fortunate to spend many hours as observers. Thankfully, we are constantly filled with awe and wonder.
As I read Bekoff’s book, numerous visions flashed through my mind and I thought of the corridors that our local land trusts have worked diligently to create. And with that came the memory of an article I wrote for Lake Living magazine in 2015 entitled “Land That We Trust”:
My happy moments are spent wandering and wondering in the woods of the lakes region. And photographing and sketching what I see. And writing about the experience. And trying to find out the answers. Honestly though, I don’t want to know all of the answers. For the most part, I just like the wandering and wondering.
Passing through a stonewall, I’m suddenly embraced by the fragrance of white pines that form the canopy over what was once an agricultural field. Beech and hemlock trees grow in the understory. Lowbush blueberries, Canada mayflowers, bracken ferns, Indian pipe, partridgeberry, sessile-leaf bellwort, Indian cucumber root and a variety of mosses and lichens add to the picture.
I follow a former cowpath that opens to the power line. At the edge, taller hemlocks and northern red oaks stand high, with a few beech trees in the mix. But my eye is drawn to the ground cover, varied in color and texture. Sphagnum moss, several species of reindeer lichen, British soldier lichen, wintergreen, bunchberries, junipers and sheep laurel appreciate the bogginess and sunshine of this space.
To the right of another opening in the wall, the neighborhood changes. This time it’s gray and paper birch that grow side by side. Nearby, a vernal pool teems with life.
In each space, I encounter evidence of animals, amphibians, birds and insects. Sometimes I even get to see these neighbors with whom I share the land. Gray squirrels build their dreys up high in the hardwood trees, while red squirrels prefer the white pine forest. Deer bed under the hemlocks. Snowshoe hare browse among the birch grove and its vegetative undergrowth. Yellow-spotted salamanders and wood frogs lay egg masses in the vernal pool. Snakes slither nearby. Frequent visitors to each area include porcupines, raccoons, skunks, turkeys, gray and red foxes, deer, woodpeckers, thrushes, chickadees, nuthatches and warblers. Occasionally, I’m treated to moose and bear evidence and sitings.
People, too, are part of this habitat. They recreate along the snowmobile trail that follows the power line. The stonewalls, dug wells and rusty equipment speak to the area’s history.
It’s land like this that our local land trusts work diligently to preserve.
A wee disclaimer: I’ve been a volunteer docent for about eight years and am now education director for the Greater Lovell Land Trust. My involvement stems from my desire to learn about what makes up the landscape that surrounds me.
Sometimes alone, sometimes with my husband or friends, I hike all of the GLLT properties on a regular basis. Trekking along trails with like-minded people who pause frequently to identify and appreciate what they see in any season puts a smile on my face. Something stops us in our tracks every time we explore and we gain a better understanding of ourselves and this place we inhabit.
This past winter, I started recording my outdoor adventures, wonders and questions in a blog entitled wondermyway.com. Sometimes those hikes on land trust properties became the subject for a post.
February 23, 2015: Bishop’s Cardinal Reserve, I’m fascinated by bear sign and love to find claw marks on beech trees. Oh, they climb other trees, but beech show off the scars with dignity for years to come. While bark on most trees changes as it ages, beech bark is known for retaining the same characteristics throughout its life . . . Seeing all the animal tracks and sign, some decipherable, others not so, makes me thankful for those who have worked hard to preserve this land and create corridors for the animals to move through.
March 31, 2015: John A. Segur Wildlife Refuge, It’s one of those places that I could spend hours upon hours exploring and still only see a smidgeon of what is there. I’m overwhelmed when I walk into a store filled with stuff, but completely at home in a place like this where life and death happen and the “merchandise” changes daily.
April 15, 2015: Otter Rocks, A princess pine club moss shows off its upright spore-producing candelabra or strobili. Funny thing about club mosses–they aren’t mosses. I guess they were considered moss-like when named. Just as the mills take us back in time, so do these–only much further back when their ancestors grew to 100 feet tall during the Devonian Period. They make me feel so small and insignificant. And yet, I’m thankful for the opportunity to be in awe of them.
May 3, 2015: Chip Stockford Reserve, There’s something about the Chip Stockford Reserve on Ladies Delight Road in Lovell that keeps pulling me back. I think it’s the history associated with this property that fascinates me. And the questions it raises. From the start, there is a cellar hole and barn foundation. Eldridge Gerry Kimball had purchased 200 acres on January 31, 1880 from Abraham E. Gray. Various journals from that time period include entries about driving cattle over to the Ladies Delight pasture, picking cranberries over by The Pond, as they called Kezar Lake, picking apples, driving sheep to pasture, picking pears, mowing oats and trimming pines. Today, it’s the huge pasture pines, stonewalls and a couple of foundations that tell part of the story. I’ve also heard that this area was used as a cattle infirmary. According to local lore, diseased cattle were brought to Ladies Delight to roam and die, thus preventing disease from spreading to healthy cattle. . . Another story about Ladies Delight hill is that this is the place where people would come to picnic in the 1800s. Did the women get dressed up to enjoy a day out, a break from their farming duties? I have visions of them wearing long dresses and bonnets and carrying picnic baskets. But could they really afford a day away from their chores?
May 10, 2015: Bald Pate Mountain, The “bald” mountain top is the reason I am who I have become. Being outside and hiking have always been part of my makeup, but when our oldest was in fifth grade, I chaperoned a field trip up this mountain that changed everything. The focus was the soils. And along the way, Bridie McGreavy, who at the time was the watershed educator for Lakes Environmental Association, sat on the granite surrounded by a group of kids and me, and told us about the age of the lichens and their relationship to the granite and I wanted to know more. I needed to know more.
June 16, 2015: Bishop Cardinal Reserve, Though we never plan it that way, our journey lasted three hours. Suddenly, we emerged from the wet woodland onto Horseshoe Pond Road–all the richer for having spent time in the land of the slugs, bears and caterpillar clubs. Oh my!
We are fortunate to live in an area where five trusts protect land for us and the species with whom we share the Earth: Greater Lovell, Loon Echo, Western Maine Foothills, Mahoosuc and Upper Saco Valley. This strikes me as a valuable reflection of who we are and where we live.
Land trusts work with community members to acquire land for permanent conservation through purchases and donations. They also create legal and binding conservation easements that allow residents to protect land holdings in perpetuity, while retaining private ownership. Scenic views, wildlife corridors, flora and fauna, and topography remain, subject only to the whims of nature itself, which is ever-changing.
Conserving the land doesn’t mean it can’t be touched. The organizations develop management plans and steward the land. Timber harvesting, farming, residency and recreation continue, while specific wildlife habitat, wetlands, unique natural resources and endangered or rare species are protected. And in the process, they strengthen our towns. Ultimately, they give us a better sense of our place in Maine and opportunities to interact with the wild.
The service area of each of the local trusts include watersheds and wildlife corridors. Greater Lovell Land Trust is committed to the protection of the Kezar Lake, Kezar River and Cold River and adjacent watersheds located in Lovell, Stow and Stoneham.
Loon Echo Land Trust serves seven towns: Bridgton, Casco, Denmark, Naples, Harrison, Sebago and Raymond, and their efforts actually reach beyond to the 200,000 residents of Greater Portland for whom Sebago Lake is the public drinking water source.
Western Foothills Land Trust serves the Greater Oxford Hills towns of Buckfield, Harrison, Norway, Otisfield, Oxford, Paris, Sumner, Waterford and West Paris. The watersheds they protect include Lake Pennesseewassee, Thompson Lake, Crooked River and Little Androscoggin River.
The Mahoosuc Land Trust works in central Oxford County, Maine, and eastern Coos County, New Hampshire. It strives to protect the watersheds and natural communities of Albany Township, Andover, Bethel, Gilead, Greenwood, Hanover, Milton Plantation, Newry, Rumford, Shelburne, Upton and Woodstock.
Likewise, the Upper Saco Valley Land Trust crosses the border and includes the communities of western Maine and northern New Hampshire that make up the upper watershed of the Saco River. Its service area flows from the source of the Saco in Crawford Notch toward the Hiram Dam and includes Harts Location, Jackson, Bartlett, Chatham, Conway, Albany, Madison and Eaton, New Hampshire and Fryeburg, Denmark and Brownfield, Maine.
In addition to their service areas, the land trusts collaborate with each other and local lake associations. Most recently, the GLLT, LELT, WMFLT and USVLT, plus the Portland Water District have joined forces to protect the fifty-mile Crooked River. The river is the largest tributary flowing into Sebago Lake and it provides primary spawning and nursing area for one of four known indigenous populations of landlocked Atlantic salmon in Maine.
Protection is key. So is education, which develops understanding and appreciation. I know for myself, my relationship with the landscape continues to evolve. The mentors I’ve met along the way have played an important part in my involvement and caring for the environment.
All five land trusts offer numerous hikes open to everyone, providing a great way to explore and learn more about the diversity of the natural communities. Staff and volunteers lead walks, stopping frequently to share a bit of knowledge, ask questions and wonder along with the participants. These organizations also offer indoor programs featuring knowledgeable guest speakers.
I’m thankful for the work being done to protect the ecosystem. There’s so much I still don’t understand, but with each nugget of knowledge gained, the layers build. Maybe someday I’ll get it. Maybe I never will. Either way, I’m happy for the chance to journey and wonder on land trust properties.
Even though we can’t all endow the future of our properties, we can get involved to ensure that these organizations continue to protect land for future generations of humans and wildlife so it will remain in its natural state for the benefit of all.
So back to Bekoff’s book, he quotes many biologists and others as he makes the point that when we experience alienation from nature we make bad decisions including “wanton killing of wild species, clear cutting, pollution and other human impacts, and caging of nonhuman animals.”
“What we do,” writes Bekoff, “does make a difference and rewilding our hearts is about fostering and honoring our connections to one another and all life.”
After all, as evidenced in our yard each day and night when the visitors are many, we share this place with and in fact live in the world of our nonhuman neighbors. We need to figure out how to live together–and that premise is at both nonhuman and human levels since we are all interconnected in the web of life.
Though Bekoff’s focus is on nonhuman animals, I do wish he’d also addressed other forms of life, such as fungi, insects, plants, and the like.
He does list what he calls the “8 Ps of Rewilding” as a guide for action: Proactive, Positive, Persistent, Patient, Peaceful, Practical, Powerful, and Passionate. “If we keep these eight principles in mind as we engage one another and wrestle with difficult problems, no one should feel threatened or left out,” says Bekoff.
As the book continues, there are definitions provided for catch phrases such as compassionate conservation and stories of unsung heroes who have made it their life’s work to “rewild our hearts and to expand our compassionate footprint.”
Bekoff is a realist and so am I. He would love to see us all become vegetarians or vegans, but realizes we will not. He knows that it will take people time to unlearn preconceived notions, especially given that the media thrives on misrepresenting animals. He knows that his rewilding our hearts is a concept with a broad agenda.
One of my take-away thoughts was that all of local environmental organizations are working hard to create corridors and raise awareness and awe about the natural world. Of course, we could all do better. But, we’ve already got a good start on doing what Bekoff suggests: “Figure out how to foster a love of nature and other animals so that every generation sees this connection as precious and vital and worth nurturing.”
But . . . he concludes that “if we all made some simple changes to our lives, the world would soon become a more compassionate place for all beings and landscapes.
And he reminds us to be humble and able to laugh at ourselves. Yeah, so um, I was the one who stopped a small group of friends as we moved along a trail on private property because I was the first to spot a great horned owl this fall. Yeah, um. It was plastic. And a set up. I’m still laughing.
Dear readers, if you’ve read this far, you deserve a reward. I know I got a bit off track by including my own article, but I do believe that we’ve got a start on rewilding our hearts in western Maine. Yes, we have a long way to go. Let’s do this. Together!
And remember, my guy purchased this copy of Rewilding Our Hearts at Bridgton Books.
Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence by Marc Bekoff, 2014, New World Library.
I wandered a bit of the Tenmile River Demonstration Forest with Laurie LaMountain, owner/editor/publisher of Lake Living magazine, this morning as we played catch up. Typically, we are in frequent touch with each other, especially while producing a magazine each quarter. But this winter, there will not be an issue, and so our contact has been less frequent.
Making our way via snowshoes was a bit of a challenge for the last heavy snowstorm downed many a tree and it was like maneuvering through an obstacle course.
As I stated in a blog post last year, the Tenmile River Demonstration Forest was donated to the Oxford County Soil and Water Conservation District (OCSWCD) in 1950 by Frank Merrifield, three years after the Great Fire of 1947.
Back in October 1947, catastrophic wildfires erupted throughout Maine during what became known as “The Week Maine Burned.”
It hadn’t rained for 108 days and the dry woods were like tinder. Here in western Maine, Fryeburg, Brownfield and Denmark thought they had a fire under control, but overnight a strong wind blew and gave it new life. About 2,000 acres burned by the next night as the fire spread to the edge of Brownfield.
With the winds continuously shifting, town folks began to panic. Farmers either turned their livestock loose or herded them to neighboring towns. Others packed as many belongings as they could and evacuated.
By morning, most homes and public buildings in Brownfield were mere piles of ash. Stately places including the Farnsworth Place where Dr. Philo Farnsworth, a pioneer in the field of television, spent his summers, had burned. Churches, schools, the post office, Grange hall, library and town hall all went up in smoke–only twenty houses survived. In the end, 85% of the town was destroyed.
According to the property brochure available at the kiosk, “The District Supervisors replanted the property with red and white pine” between 1950 and 1960. “It was their plan to turn the land into an example of wise and sustainable forest management and to use it as an education resource area to demonstrate good conservation management practices.”
Today, we noted some of the work that had been done as we made our way to the Tenmile River for which the property was named. And at the river, it was the amount of water passing through that drew us to a stop.
Standing beside it, we paused for the longest time. As it always does, the sound of the flowing water and sight of the ice captured our attention.
When the temperature dropped, the motion energy of water molecules dropped. At 32˚, water molecules slowed enough to link up with each other and formed a hexagon matrix. At that point, the liquid that once flowed became brittle ice in its varying forms.
There were examples of rime ice coating downed twigs. While frost forms from water vapor, the rime ice formed from water droplets–perhaps in a mist of our recent foggy days. If the temperature of the droplets was below the freezing point, they adhered to any surface below freezing.
Rime ice is hard and depending on conditions can be thick, heavy and white or clear in color. Today’s examples were the former and helped create unique shadows that danced in a way that will never be seen again.
That’s the thing about ice. It is ever changing and the patterns created intertwined with reflections upon the water provided lines portraying all manner of motion.
If you look closely in the lower right-hand corner, you may see the outline of a few people being pulled into the picture–the true water worshipers.
There was also a lady who reached up from her couch to grasp something–perhaps a bird of paradise. It appeared that the heart within her bosom was enlarged with love.
Every second of every day the pattern changes and so our observations were in the moment.
But no matter what, each rendition was a work of art, a sculpture to fill our souls and take with us.
As we took our leave, Laurie and I gave thanks for the opportunity to stand in awe and notice and be filled by the wonder of it all.
Past visits to New York City have always included museums and shows, but this weekend we followed a bit of the familiar path and sometimes took the trail less touristy in an attempt to get to know the area better.
Saturday afternoon, following our arrival via a bus from Worcester, Mass., we walked across the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan, which was a bit veiled in fog, thus softening ordinarily crisp lines.
Begun in 1869 and completed by 1883, the bridge spans the East River and connects the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan.
Among the throngs of people who walked or rode bicycles across, we all wove strands of thread that fit easily into the web long ago created. Some of us paused suddenly here and there, as the arachnid tried to take hold, while others tried to maneuver along the silken dragline writing messages with their feet much the way Charlotte may have within her web.
And a few got caught up by the constrictors waiting at the center.
At last we emerged on the other side, where our attention was diverted by the architecture and colors.
Often, it was the interaction of today and yesterday that drew our notice, joined together as they were with a global reference.
Eventually, we passed through the doorway of St. Patrick’s Cathedral . . .
where many have gathered for centuries to light candles in memoriam of those who have passed from this layer of life to the next and prayed for the future.
And then we slipped into Central Park, where we were again struck by the architecture, especially as juxtaposed against the artificially landscaped natural world.
As we watched the Mallards and Canada Geese, one of our biggest moments of awe was for a goldfish–the largest we’d ever seen.
Eventually, we boarded a train and found our way back to Brooklyn, where a quiet evening awaited.
Sunday morning found us passing below the Brooklyn Bridge, where we could glimpse the more “modern” Manhattan Bridge in the distance.
Again, the skyline was muffled, but its edges softened.
And once more we looked with wonder at the web construction.
Ever so slowly, we moved away even as a paddlewheeler representing the south made its way north.
Despite our thrill at watching water taxis, tour boats, jet skis, sailboats, powerboats, and even a police boat move up and down the river, the local Cormorants and a Herring Gull took it all in stride.
After all, they had feathers to preen.
And the Canada Geese–a grassy park to foul. The irony was that no dogs were allowed, but the geese made themselves quite at home.
Above the Cormorant/Gull condos, Lower Manhattan gave way to the harbor, and we enjoyed the view from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.
Our perch included the sight of Lady Liberty as she greeted all.
And another grand lady, the Queen Mary 2. The last time I saw the QM, it was a previous rendition and she’d anchored in New Haven Harbor (Connecticut) in the summer of 1979. My father, sister, and I drove into the city to catch a view and then we followed the route Queen Elizabeth, who had arrived in town for a very brief visit, would take before departing from Tweed New Haven Airport. Crowds lined the route and we practiced our best QE wave. Humoring us, some waved back. We did glimpse the queen as her motorcade eventually drove by and that was enough to fulfill our Anglophile envy.
But, this weekend we were in Brooklyn to admire New Yorkers, (and we knew the queen wasn’t on the boat), so we pulled our point of view back to the area around us, which included a mosaic structure worth noting. Watertower is actually a sculpture created by Brooklyn artist Tom Fruin. He used plexiglass and steel in 2012 to represent one of the icons of our nation–a water tower.
From pier to pier we followed the promenade beside the river, noting natural places and sports fields filled with athletes of many talents as they played games or worked out.
Eventually, we circled back and then climbed up into Brooklyn Heights, enjoying our meander through a beautiful neighborhood.
And my guy, he became a pro at identifying Sycamore trees for so prolific do they grow in that neck of the woods.
And then, and then we encountered a flock of happy pigeons. Yes, we were in New York City and all pigeons are happy there. It has something to do with peanut kiosks perhaps?
There were the typical blue-gray birds with two dark wingbars,
rusty red version,
those spotted or mottled,
and even pale among the gang.
But really, have you ever taken the time to look at those iridescent colors?
Or that sweet face?
At last we left our pigeon admiration behind and continued on, noting another tree not in our familiar category–the Maidenhair or Gingko Tree.
Its fan-shaped leaves showed off the carotenoids that had been hidden all summer by the green pigment. Fall was slowly embracing the city, but it hadn’t arrived in full yet.
As we moved from a more residential to commercial area, we were surprised to find a barber shop open on a Sunday morning. Given that I’d recently written about barber shops for Lake Living, it was fun to peek inside. And note how many men waited. But, in this city where many work late each day, it made sense that they’d make time on a Sunday morning for a hair cut.
Eventually, our wanderings led us to a hardware store. And not just any kind of hardware store . . .
for it was an independently-owned True Value, much like my guy’s.
And since one of our reason’s for visiting the city was to celebrate his 65th birthday, I followed him in.
Lunch found us eating a slice of pizza from a local pizzeria. It was OK; better than what we find in Maine, but not quite what I remember from my childhood in Connecticut. We did eat in the “garden” where figs grew! I wasn’t quite sure how that related to pizza. But . . . we were in New York.
New York . . . a city where graffiti is understood.
Our day ended with dinner at a small neighborhood Italian restaurant, Santa Panza, where we quietly celebrated my guy’s birthday with the most delicious dinner.
As this morning dawned, it was time for us to look out the window of our hotel and say goodbye to the two ladies who’d waved us in and would wave us out. Miss Manhattan and Miss Brooklyn rotated continuously at the intersection of Flatbush Avenue and Tillary Street.
According to a Brooklyn Public Library’s website: “Miss Manhattan sits haughtily with her right foot atop a chest of money (or jewels?); in her right hand she holds a winged globe reminiscent of a cross-bearing orb, an ancient symbol of authority; a peacock, flashiness and luxury incarnate, is by her side. (The peacock, in the belief system of the Ancient Greeks, also represented immortality/eternity.) The bows of three ships hint at the status of Manhattan as an important port and an international trade hub. She is all dignity, privilege and hubris.
Miss Brooklyn’s demeanor could not be more different. Her expression is gracious, introspective and calm; she is surrounded by a church spire (Brooklyn to this day counts more houses of worship than any other borough); a lyre and a child with a book (a reference to the borough’s patronage of culture and education). The book on the child’s lap is massive. It must be a Bible, another reference to the borough’s spiritual thrust. Her head is adorned with a laurel wreath. In her hands she holds a tablet with the Dutch inscription “Ein Drach Mackt Maght” (“In Union there is strength”), a hint at the Dutch origins of Brooklyn and at the fairly recent New York City consolidation of 1898.”
The granite maidens originated on the Manhattan Bridge, but these sculptures were installed on a pedestal at their current location about a year ago. For us, they were our home monuments much as Pleasant Mountain serves as our home mountain. Not only did they welcome us and send us on our way, but we knew where we’d lay our heads for the night as we approached.
At last, our brief city adventure came to an end, but we trust we’ll return.
Yo, Brooklyn! Yo Miss Manhattan and Miss Brooklyn. Thanks for the welcome. Until we meet again . . .
Of course, I got to hike many a trail with her and so perhaps my review is a wee bit biased.
The article ends with a brief description of several hikes–I tried to choose different levels of ability for those.
All offer incredible fall foliage viewpoints, including Shell Pond off Route 113 in Evans Notch. (Wait a month and it will like this again.)
Then there is the article about barbershops. In the process of writing this one, I learned the story behind the barber pole. Do you know it?
Sitting in four local barbershops was fun–a great way to catch up on gossip and listen to some funny stories. Again I was a wee bit biased as Steph of Steph’s Barber Shop in Fryeburg is our next door neighbor at camp.
And finally, I spent some time with Arborist Josh of J and C Trees and learned more about his talent, entrepreneurial spirit and love of trees.
To say it was a busy summer would be an understatement, but the final product of Lake Living was worth it–as usual. Oh, and Laurie and Perri also wrote articles that will appeal to you.
So . . . as usual, brew a cup of coffee or tea and curl up with Lake Living. You won’t be disappointed.
If you think I’ve promoted this book before, you are correct, for HIKES & Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION by Marita Wiser was featured as the Book of October in 2016.
But . . . I’m thrilled to announce that Marita has published the Sixth Edition, aka 25th Anniversary Edition, of her hiking guide and it’s available at local stores as you read this. Or you can order directly from her, and I’ll tell you how later in this review.
Before I tell you about changes since the Fifth Edition, let me say that I’m a bit biased for I’ve had many the pleasure of hiking the trails mentioned within with Marita, and sometimes her lovely daughters, and she once again offered me the kindness of letting me edit. She even paid me. How cool is that? And then gave me a signed copy.
To top it off, I modeled blaze orange with her youngest, Marguerite! If you’d like me to sign your copy, I’d be happy to do so 😉
To keep things fresh, Marita recast her rating system with two green circles meaning easiest and one green equaling easy. That was to differentiate between those like Holt Pond or Pineland Farms, which have well-groomed and fairly flat trails (or boardwalks–just watch out when wet), from Pondicherry Park or Mount Ti’rem, where the terrain varies more, but still isn’t enough of an elevation change to meet her guidelines for a blue square indicating moderate such as Mount Will or a black diamond meaning hard like Mount Chocorua.
She also added some color photos as you can see from above, but I love that she kept some classics, including a few of her daughters that were taken twenty years ago.
The centerfold map is also in color and shows not only where the trails are located, but their degree of difficulty as well.
One of the final new additions is what she’s titled “The Lure.” What is there about a trail that might attract you to it? Marita spells out those keen features such as “wheelchair accessible,” “plenty of vertical for a cardio workout,” “interesting old foundation,” and “the Rock Castle.” There are more, but you’ll need to purchase the book to read them all.
Among the new trails Marita recommended in this edition is the Red Tail Trail that leads to Black Cap Mountain in North Conway. My guy and I had the privilege of introducing her to that one fine day last fall.
Together, she and I discovered the well-built trail that Bruce, the property manager, and his assistant, Larry, were building on Long Mountain in Albany.
I’d give away all the surprises if I told you more.
Oh, and one more thing I like about this book is that it’s an all-local effort with Marita’s writing, her mother’s sketches, an old friend’s work on the map, my fine editing skills, Laurie LaMountain of Almanac Graphics (and Lake Livingmagazine fame) on design, and production of the final product at Cardinal Press in Denmark. Denmark, Maine, that is.
You may purchase a copy of HIKES & Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION, which is printed on recycled paper with soy-based ink, at your local shop, including Bridgton Books where its long been a best seller. And if you don’t live locally, but still would like to buy a copy, the information on the back cover as seen above provides all the details you need.
HIKES & Woodland Walks in and around Maine’s LAKES REGION by Marita Wiser, designed by Almanac Graphics and self-published at Cardinal Printing, both of Denmark, Maine, 2018
For your weekend reading pleasure, here’s a link to Lake Living–hot off the press.
Of course all of the articles are worth a read, but my favorite is the one I wrote about The Hazel and Owen Currier Doll Museum in Fryeburg, Maine entitled “Dolls on Display.” Even if you don’t like dolls, I think you’ll enjoy the article.
And if you read it, then you’ll understand these next two photos better.
I don’t know when Midge actually stuck her hand out to wave, but I only noticed it this week.
And I have to admit that it’s been a few or more years since I last took a peek. I think she could use some of Hazel’s tender loving care.
There’s plenty more to the magazine, including book reviews from the owners and staff of Bridgton Books. So . . . brew a pot of coffee or tea, open up the link to the magazine, and enjoy.
It’s a sure sign of spring when Lake Living appears on a shelf in a store near you. And if you can’t actually put your hands on a copy, then here ’tis. Those of us who work for the mag have the best jobs in the world as we get to meet so many “wicked cool” people who live and work among us.
While vegetables roasted in the oven for the black bean soup that will be consumed during our Christmas gathering, I stepped outside to get some fresh air on this snowy day.
The bird feeders and ground beneath are always more active during storms and today was no different. At least forty juncos accompanied by one white-throated sparrow have been repeat feeders and occasionally the male cardinal invites his female friend along. Tufted titmice, goldfinches, chickadees, a downy woodpecker, nuthatches and bluejays rounded out the flock.
Though conditions are expected to change by morning, with an ice storm in the forecast, today’s gift was fluffy and light as it embraced me in silence.
Because of that fluffiness, it built up quickly, bedecking branches with puffy clouds of white.
And then, when I stepped into a darker world where the hemlocks grow in a dense grove, I began to notice something.
On every branch of every tree . . .
snowflake garlands . . .
danced. And I was reminded of a story I used to read to my nephew and niece when they were babes–it was based on a legend about a poor family who had no decorations for their Christmas tree. As the tale goes, while the children slept, spiders spun webs of silver around the tree’s branches. The next morning, the family awoke to a Christmas tree sparkling with silver webs. Today’s webs were such and I was richer for the experience.
I’m also richer for other gifts, such as Washington State University’s white cheddar cheese;
an ornament created with birch seeds and their fleur de lis bracts placed between mica sheets from Mount Apatite in Auburn,
a box filled with heartwood samples all labeled,
and just a few minutes ago a lengthy e-mail from someone who had read the article entitled “digging for roots” that I wrote for the winter issue of Lake Living magazine. The gentleman who sent the note had gone out of his way to visit my guy’s store and ask for my address. He wanted to share his own experiences of dipping into the past and suggested a few avenues my guy and I might follow with our search for ancestors.
I’m totally blown away by these unexpected gifts. And forever blessed.
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but indeed, I do. Especially if the book isn’t really a book, but rather a magazine called Lake Living. One look at those vibrant hacky sacks against the snow on the cover of the new winter issue and I find myself mindful, each time seeing a different configuration of the whole or focusing on a single feature.
And then there is the content, from Laurie LaMountain’s editorial comment ending with “Our collective differences have the power to both define us and unite us,” to the book reviews by the staff of Bridgton Books.
Of course, thrown into the mix are the articles, including Laurie’s eloquent feature about hacky sack and relationships, ending with a challenge to all of us. A must read.
And don’t miss my two contributions, “digging for roots” about genealogy and the Fryeburg Historical Society’s Kendal C. and Anna Ham Research Library; and “forever green” about . . . evergreen trees.
Laurie’s been producing the magazine for twenty years and I’ve had the honor and pleasure of working with her for the last twelve. Here’s to the future.
P.S. If you live locally, please mention the mag when you are shopping. Remember, the mag is free and therefore totally dependent upon advertisers. It can’t survive without your support.
Fellow master naturalist Alan Seamans recently sent me an e-mail with this message: “I found a new book that might be of interest to you. It’s called A Beginner’s Guide to Recognizing Trees of the Northeast, by Mark Mikolas, published Oct. 3, 2017. Rather than leaves, buds or flowers, he focuses on bark, stature, habitat, and some other techniques to teach beginners how to recognize about 40 common tree species. It’s a compact softcover guide, very educational, lots of photos illustrating his points. Not text heavy. I like it, and learned many things.”
Book of December
And so I did what I often do when I hear of a book that might interest me and marched into Bridgton Books in search of a copy. Alan was correct. It isn’t text heavy and indeed simplifies things in a way a dichotomous key cannot. Actually, this book includes so many of the nuances I like to share along the trail with folks who are looking at trees for the first or hundredth time and as I read it I felt like I was on a guided tour with a new friend.
Mikolas begins this tree identification book by restricting the focus area to the Northeast–in a zone those of us who live in New England may find amusing for it ranges from our grand states south to West Virginia and west to Indiana and Michigan. As he explains, though, that’s the Northeast as defined by the World Geographical Scheme of Recording Plant Distributions.
The book is divided into two sections–deciduous or broad-leaf trees and coniferous–or cone-bearing trees. And within each section, it’s broken down into individual trees with plenty of photographs to explain each characteristic.
Mikolas keeps it simple and I wish I’d had this book when I first began my journey into familiarizing myself with different tree species. Similar to the approach taken by Donald W. Stokes in A Guide to Nature in Winter, who suggested learning six deciduous trees and the evergreens, Mikolas also encourages the reader to start with the most common, though he prefers the number twelve.
I wondered what I might learn or relearn as I began reading. And found plenty of information, some of it already stored in my brain, and more to be tucked away.
The book begins with red maple, which always has something red to display, but Mikolas also mentions the target fungus that affects only this species, creating a round bull’s eye on the bark. I know from experience that once your eye focuses on the target, you’ll begin to see if on so many maple trees. And as he said, and a forester told me several years ago, here in western Maine, 90% of our maples are Acer rubrum. That’s one thing you don’t have to worry about, except for one instance that I could find, he doesn’t use the Latin names. For some folks, that may be a downfall, but this is a beginner’s guide.
I was pleased that he included the twisting of a sugar maple. Other trees twist as well and I can remember first realizing this while tramping with a friend. We couldn’t understand what was going on. The reason for the spiral growth is on page 26–you’ll have to read it for yourself.
After describing these two trees, as he does periodically throughout the book, Mikolas gives clues on how to tell them apart. For these two, he describes their habitat, bark, twig and bud color.
One of the clues he provides for beech trees is the fact that the leaves remain on the trees all winter. What I like about his comment is that he says this happens on young trees, for indeed, since I started paying attention, that’s what I’ve noted.
He also described the habit of oaks retaining their leaves, but what he didn’t mention was the term to describe this habit: marcescence or withering. Maybe I was disappointed because I just like to say marcescence.
When it came to ash trees, I was pleased that he described the bark as being diamond-shaped, but he added an X to the pattern and that may help when I next look at an ash tree with others. Some have a difficult time finding the diamonds. They don’t exactly glitter in the sunshine.
I was thankful that when it came to the quaking and big-toothed aspen trees, Mikolas acknowledged that they are difficult to identify by bark alone. A few years ago, I spent some time practicing my tree ID with two different foresters and when I asked about these trees, they too, had a difficult time pinpointing the differences. Both were sure we were looking at quaking, but a quick scan of the ground below showed us big-tooth leaves.
One thing I’d add to Mikolas’ description is that on the lower portion of older trees, the vertical lines are similar to that of a red oak. One of the really cool tricks I picked up from the book in reference to aspens is what he calls “birds on a wire.” Again, you’ll need to purchase a copy to find out what he means. Or join me for a tramp.
Another description that brought a smile to my face was how he casted a mature and shaggy yellow birch as “the granddads or old wise men of the forest.”
I had the good fortune to meet one such character just the other day.
In reference to basswood, Alan Seamans wrote in his e-mail message: “I didn’t know you could confirm i.d. of basswoood by the sound it makes when you hit it with a stick!” I didn’t either, but you can bet that’s on my list of things to do–frequently.
Mikolas’ photo essay on the aging of paper birch bark from a teen to an old man is well worth a look. My only disagreement with him in this section is that what he sees as an inverted V over the branch, looks more like an inverted U to me, or as I’ve always described it–a fu manchu mustache of sorts.
Likewise, Mikolas sees black triangles under the branches of gray birches. I could agree with him on that for when I say it’s a chevron, people don’t always get what I’m talking about. One friend, in keeping with the paper birch’s mustache, suggested the gray birch may have a beard–a gray beard. Mikolas also says that gray birches are chalkier than paper–experiment for yourself by rubbing your fingers on the bark and come to your own conclusion on that one.
Turning to striped maples, I was tickled to learn a new common name. He used goosefoot, which describes the leaf shape, and moosewood because deer and moose like to leave their scent by rubbing their antlers on the bark, but a name I hadn’t heard before–whistle wood. Apparently, slip-bark whistles can be carved from striped maple or willow in the spring.
I do wish I’d read this book before venturing to Central Park a few weeks ago. I was in awe of the American elms that grow there, and wondered about their health given that so many elms have succumbed to Dutch elm disease. What I didn’t realize is that what I saw before me was one of the largest and last stands of these majestic trees.
Heading back into a woodland setting, and this one was actually in Vermont, occasionally we stumble upon red pine plantations. It was my understanding that these were planted by the CCC or Civilian Conservation Corps between 1938 and 1942 to provide farmers with a hill crop and others with employment. When walking in the woods and suddenly encountering a sterile environment where trees stand stalwart in lines and there is no undergrowth due to the thick needle cover below, and little diversity in wildlife, one may have entered such a plantation. At the time, it seemed like a good idea and provided work.
In the forest, I often discover hemlock and balsam fir saplings sharing a space. One word of caution when it comes to differentiating between the hemlock shown here and balsam fir needles that are shown on page 188–both have two white stripes of stomata on the underside. There are other clues to help tell them apart and I’ve actually written about such in the upcoming issue of Lake Living magazine so you’ll have to stay tuned.
And then there are the spruces and I have to admit, I have a difficult time with red versus white, though forester friends have said they hybridize. I noticed that Mikolas mentions both, but doesn’t provide the fine details about scent and twig hair. Perhaps it’s enough to know it’s a spruce–especially if it’s spikey to the touch.
The tree descriptions conclude with the one and only deciduous conifer of our woods–the tamarack–the cone-bearing tree that loses its leaves (needles) each winter.
And with that, I will conclude this rather lengthy review. I’m so glad Alan recommended it to me, for it really is a gem. I hope you’ll purchase a copy and together we can head out on the tree trail and get to know our local species even better.
Put A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING TREES OF THE NORTHEAST on your wish list and shop local.
A BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO RECOGNIZING TREES OF THE NORTHEAST, by Mark Mikolas, published 2017, The Countryman Press.
Post script, or maybe it should be post post. This comment appears on my About page, but I couldn’t resist including it here. I’m always tickled and honored when an author responds to one of my posts:
I always get excited when an issue of lake living is published. This spring issue contains great articles including three by moi (so of course they are great!)–groundcover (a quiet garden oasis in Bridgton) , Into the Box (Lovell Box Company) and The Art of Collaboration (where glass meets wood at Studio 448 in Norway). Click on the link and enjoy!