First the chicadees disappeared. Then it was the snapping turtle in the driveway. The bullfrog so intent on fleeing the marsh it jumped on and over the cat. The colors were ten days late. Bumper Pine Cone crop. One light frost here so far. Paper wasp nests twenty feet up in trees. Toads excavating soft clay like gophers. Red and grey squirrels engaged in a massive turf war. A murder of crows. My neighbor of fifteen years posted their waterfront for the first time.
We are going to get a bunch of snow and major spring floods. My prediction for 2011/2012.
October is marching along. Every morning it is a bit darker as the days shorten. Night chores have to be finished earlier and earlier.
The foliage finally took the hint and we had a blaze of color about a week later than normal. Things were looking pretty good and then we had a couple days of wind and rain. The maples have dropped their leaves-the oaks are still mostly green and the beech are changing to bronze.
We have had one frost on our homestead so far.
I made a trip to a southern Maine island with the falafel mastermind to look at a piece of business equipment.
Twenty plus years ago I had a room mate that had grown up on one of the islands and I had made several trips to the big one, so I was looking forward to the ride on the ferry.
I was relieved when I instinctively recalled where the ferry terminal was located, and we pulled in line as the ferry was loading. FM rushed in to get tickets. An obvious gap in my island knowledge was quickly revealed.
"We can't take the boat on the ferry," FM said as he exited the building.
"You have to make a special appointment and can only go when the tide is at a certain height."
Well this island was a bit different than my memory of the big one, I supposed.
We had to quickly decide a course of action. The people selling the equipment had yet to return our most recent calls. The last instructions had been to call the wife when we got off the ferry and she would give us directions from there.
The island was only 2 miles long, and I quickly calculated that we could walk from one end to the other and still have an hour to look at the equipment before having to catch the return ferry. So we put the car in the parking garage and bought passenger tickets.
The ferry at our gate was being loaded with some cargo, and I dug in my memory if we could go on the ferry at will or had to wait for the boarding call. We decided to try and board, and were quickly shooed off the loading ramp back on to the dock and a rope was strung across the ramp to discourage us pushy flatlanders.
The fellow had enough time to walk back down the ramp to the boat and the boarding call went out and he turned around and came back and dropped the rope. We could tell this ferry line was a stickler for regulations.
FM handed over our tickets and waited for half a ticket back like you do in the movie line.
"Oh, we don't take tickets on the return trip," he said.
FM and I exchanged amused glances and had some fun making jokes about that once we found our seats.
I led him up to the top deck front row for the trip out Casco Bay. An enormous cruise ship was in port, and the size of it dwarfed the city. We went by the old fort, lighthouses, islands. The ferry was underway and FM could only get a busy signal from the wife. Vague memories of how things worked on the islands started to come back to me.
"Don't worry, she will probably meet us down at the dock when we get there. She is most likely on the island grapevine telling everyone that she has company coming."
A couple minutes later FM's call went through and sure enough, she was going to meet us down at the dock when the ferry arrived.
We stopped at several islands and finally arrived at our destination.
Our hostess was waiting for us and we piled in a battered Ford wagon with Arizona plates.
"Don't mind my island beater," she said.
I smiled recalling my room mates car and how cool it was that island folks don't have to register and inspect the cars they use on the island. Because the island is two miles long and everyone knows your car. Where are you going to go? Remember now, you don't need a return ticket and you have to make an appointment to get a car on the ferry !
FM decided to buy the equipment, and once he handed her the money her attitude blossomed. She got on the phone to hubby who was working on the mainland to have him make arrangements to get the equipment off island. The island grapevine is so fast that she knew before we got there that we had tried to get a car on island.
I chuckled again thinking about how that would give the islanders some good chatter for a few days about the flatlanders trying to get a CAR on their island without first making arrangements! We were spared making (or trying to make)those arrangements; things were soon arranged so that hubby would deal with the ferry guys and get it on the boat and FM would get a call to tell him it would be at the port.
We had business completed in plenty of time for the ferry, and it was just a short walk from her house to the dock.
"I will give you a tour of the island while you are waiting for the ferry, hop in, " she said.
So we climbed back in the beat Ford wagon with Arizona plates and had a lovely guided tour of the island, which first began with a soliloquy by our hostess on pondering why the ferry boat which brought us was not the usual boat-it was the MAIL boat, and that Never came on this ferry run.
Then we drove by some men that had been on the ferry looking at plans. I remembered them because I am a bit of an architecture fan and I had wondered what was on those blueprints they were looking at on the ferry!?! and so I had also looked at the two men closely as I walked by them.
Our hostess quickly volunteered the island scoop.
"If a property on the island changes hand, even inside the family from an inheritance, the septic system has to be brought up to code. They are not 'grandfathered anymore'. ( most shoreline homes were originally built to dump their sewage directly into the water.)
A friend of our hostess had given (sold/traded-we were not privy to the technicalities)a piece of land so that several homes could unite in the septic system-most likely a holding tank and some form of leach field. And they had to hire the men to design it, and it was costing $20,000 just for the design.
Wow that was a fun bit of gossip.
We drove by the island store, now closed for the season, but the one gas pump still working at over $5 a gallon. I had noted no gasoline in any container may be brought on the ferry, so talk about a monopoly!
We learned that the island was once a refueling station for warships, and there were huge storage tanks buried on the interior of the island. So the island interior was not inhabited. We had earlier peeked inside a large abandoned cinder block building that turned out to house two enormous motors. They were the motors for pumping millions of gallon of fuel on and off the island back in WW2.
We learned that the island had a deer and Lyme disease problem. Our hostess estimated that there were over 200 deer on the island. She blamed the enactment of a leash law on the deer problem. Because the deer swim to the island and have no natural predators. The dogs used to chase them right off the island.
The island also had a resident beaver population.
We were shown storm damage aggravated by logging. Once big trees are thinned out the rest of the stand becomes susceptible to high winds, creating piles of blow downs.
Our hostess pulled down to the dock just as the ferry was pulling in. Islanders seem to have an innate instinct about the comings and goings of their link to the mainland.
We settled ourselves on the back of the boat out of the wind for the return trip. A nice woman boarded at the next island and sat down next to us.
"I've never seen this boat on this run before," she said.
We nodded our heads in agreement. Our brief stay on the island had found us entwined in the island grapevine.
My thyroid saga has been reduced to one pill six times a week. I was just a tad hyper my last visit so I get to skip Sunday's pill. Then labs in three months to see how that is working.
At my last visit the doc went through the big list of symptoms I had last December and I answered NO to almost all of them. I told him I was glad I went through the treatment because one pill a day is much better than 5 pills 5 times a day and still feeling like crap. lol.
I still have some real thryroid left, and hopefully that behaves itself and doesn't start overproducing thyroid hormone again. That happens rarely-and usually in severe cases like mine. I think that is one reason I was so aggravated it took so long to get to see the specialist after I was diagnosed- because my thyroid raged on for months. There is some rule that objects in motion want to stay in motion...one of Newton's laws?
We had our first frost on the lawn this morning. BRRRRR so cold. We didn't get one yesterday, but other places did. One farm had their front and back field cloaked in frost and I thought that looked like a cold place to live!
Our foliage is a disaster. For the last 14 years the Firebird's birthday has been the absolute peak of foliage here, the height of early color of maples and ash. This year everywhere but the swamps is still green.
We did have periods of wind and rain, and my sugar maples have dropped a lot of leaves before they changed.
I am not the only one to notice, I have seen the foliage story carried on AP the last few days. Many hypothesis abound as to what is going on with the foliage. I don't really have a strong opinion myself-I am puzzled.
The change of fall color is attributed to shorter day length-the leaves stop producing chlorophyll and what remains is the actual color of the leaf. As far as I know the day's length is shortening as it usually does.
As far as weather and temperature, we have not been much different from the norm-we get rain and drought and wind on a regular basis but the the leaves still change every year about the same time.
Fungus is getting blamed-well I hope they find out which one! I heard through the farmer's grapevine that potatoes diseased with late blight have been getting dumped along the shore, and then the moist air coming off the ocean is carrying the blight inland and really destroyed everyone's tomatoe crop here. So perhaps that is what is causing the leaves to drop and not change?
Or maybe those big solar flares triggered the trees to keep growing for a bit longer?
I do know that the Firebird's birthday seemed a little less festive with the autumn colors still in hiding.
My computer problems progressed to the point that if my modem was connected to the phone line, even with the computer disconnected from a power source, the land line had dead air.
So I gave my internet up for lost, relying on my cell phone for limited browser access. Try typing out an email on your cell phone when you are already exceeding 1000 texts a month!
And after my little power struggle with blogger and google over refusing to hand over a mobile number I wasn't going to log into this account on my cell phone, sorry! :D
Somehow, someway, I have been granted a reprieve from the malicious computer spirits and once again have my computer back online.
I really really want to go to New York this week for the film festival. Just to do something fun and glamourous. But that's not happening.
I am house sitting for a friend for the week, and the Firebird turns the big 14. He is really doing well in high school. His soccer team has been doing absolutely awful, but finally at an away game the Firebird scored one of three goals and was promoted up to the JV team. Now he is playing both Freshman and JV games.
I got lost in Waterville trying to find the last one to no avail. The games are a lot further away than in middle school. :)
I quit the farm. Over horse bedding. Seriously, I can't believe it either. The horses have a big concrete floored three sided shelter with a sand based paddock. The younger of the two has been diagnosed with wobbles, a neurological condition that affects the gait and hind end. The Older mare is grossly overweight and has notorious hoof trouble, mostly aggravated by inexperienced help digging between the sole and hoof wall with a pointed hoof pick.
The mare came down lame in the front end-I found an old wind splint but was fairy sure she was having trouble with a knee. This was duly reported to Boss who just shrugged.
The next day I put down a bit of extra shavings and felt satisfied. But there is more to this story. One of my co-workers, the apprentice, only wants a dusting of bedding on the concrete to make it easier for her to clean. So we tend to have this little silent power struggle over it. Because I know as I know horses that horses on concrete should have 12 inches of shavings plus a rubber mat, espcially if they have any kind of leg trouble.
And it should be banked against the walls so they don't cast themselves. (get stuck)
So years ago I was sort of shocked that at the farm they put 3 inches of shavings in the middle and bare on the edges. So when the horses walk in and turn around they spread it down to an inch.
The day I worked I had about an even five inches, which cushioned my feet but I knew it would still seem hard on the legs of those big Norwegian Fjords.
And I got "a note" from Boss Sunday morning.
"Please don't put so much bedding down in the horse barn."
And I returned the note with an explanation, that 5" inches was really the minimum given the overweight lame mare, and I didn't feel comfortable putting down 1-3 inches.
Oh boy. Well, it turns out even though I said I would do what she wanted, since I didn't feel comfortable maybe I should go...
and I thought and said, "so basically you don't want anyone working for you that does not agree with you?"
and that was a yes.
That hurt but I wasn't getting much job satisfaction except from all my animal friends anyhow.
I went right into freelancing at Common Ground Farm, sponsored by Maine Organic Farmers and Growers Association. (MOFGA)
All week I helped a friend prep his food for CG. I ground hundreds of pounds of chickpeas, and ground garlic and hot peppers and made taziki with yogurts made right out of organic jersey milk, and can I tell you how good a cup of Starbuck's Italian roast tastes with the yellow cream skimmed off a five gallon bucket of Jersey milk ?
I just wanted to take a straw and sip it off the top, lol.
Then it was time to make the dough. Hundreds of pounds of flour. 10 pounds at a time in the mixer and the cutter turns out 30 doughballs. 5 or 6000 of them for the whole weekend.
I was out of retirement.
I 3/8 inch diced a five gallon bucket of cucumbers. I inch cubed 50 gallons of lettuce and spinach. I got to run the stove.
The falafel mastermind's claim to fame are the wood cookstoves that get hauled to every show. The dough balls get run through a roller, formerly the rollers to old wringer washers, which was quite the show and threw flour across everyone working the stand.
once flattened, the dough gets put on the middle flattop of a hot kitchen stove, and once precooked, put over the open flame where they "poof" and char and are called"wood fired flatbread". Very yum.
The fresh bread is then filled with falafel, fried ground chicpeas, or gyro..ground beef , lamb, goat..
Well, they have a lot of stuff they put on there, obviously including lettuce and cucumbers, but I was in the bakery end of things for the weekend.
Phish blasted through the speakers, the owner's son being a fan and he also grew up at the stove and bread end himself- since the family has been doing this for almost 20 years now.
I found my groove with the stove while he put the new electric roller through its paces. Boom boom bread! boom boom bread! hahah
These sorts of jobs are transitional; I am considering going back to cooking now that the saplings are a little older.