Archive | January 2018

Crystal Glaze

The ice storm two days ago left everything on the farm glazed in a layer of shimmering crystal.  Every twig and blade gleams in the sun, a fantastic winter landscape.  The slightest breeze sets the branches swaying against one another in myriad musical chimes.

The day after the storm was warm and some of the ice melted.  An ice coating about 1/4″ thick remains, bending limbs and boughs dangerously toward the snapping point.  Every so often, an overloaded branch breaks with a resounding crack.  The supple birch trees bow to the ground with the weight.  Most will never stand straight again.  We will probably have to cut this birch as it leans right over the driveway now.

We lost power for over two and a half hours during the storm.  Some still have not gotten their electrical supply restored.  Dinner the night of the storm was ham and cheese sandwiches by candlelight instead of the turkey stroganoff I had planned.

The day after the storm I drove to town.  In one place, a downed, dead electric line snaked across most of my travel lane.  The stressed-out utility workers merely cut the line and left it to collect later.  Large trees were uprooted and hung dangerously over the road in other areas.  Our neighbor lost several major branches from his pine that fell close to the road.

Although the ice can be dangerous and a serious inconvenience, for a brief time it turns even the most mundane landscape into a glittering wonderland before the temperatures rise and the glaze drips away into memories.

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Ducktrap River, Lincolnville, Maine

Today’s gloomy snow, sleet and freezing rain inspire memories of a warm, sunny early September day spent hiking along the Ducktrap River of Camden Hills State Park in Lincolnville.  With temperatures in the low 80sF, blue skies and a negligible breeze, the weather was perfect for my husband and me to enjoy a belated anniversary get-away.  Lincolnville is a small, picturesque blip on Rte 1 just above Camden.

Ducktrap Harbor was named for its peculiar topography.  Ducks entering the area could be trapped by cutting off their exit.  The high trees surrounding the water did not allow the birds to achieve enough altitude to escape hunters’ guns.  Ducktrap River flows into the harbor and then into the Atlantic Ocean.  This river is one of only eight in Maine where native wild salmon spawn.  It is a pristine waterway running through protected woodland.

Tall, old-growth trees crowd the trails, their roots throwing up obstacles for careless hikers.  To walk the path safely requires constant monitoring of foot placement.  The air is scented with a fragrance of conifer needles baking in the sun, moist soil and moss and the faint tang of the nearby ocean.  The silence of the trees is disturbed by frequent rustlings of birds and small mammals in the underbrush.  Birds call from the branches overhead, their songs mingling with the distant cries of gulls and other seabirds soaring above the canopy.

An easy twenty-minute walk (notwithstanding the ankle-turning roots) leads to the river.  In September the water level is low, exposing the bed of granite, basalt and metamorphic rock.  Water pools between the rocks providing cool sanctuaries for schools of tiny fish.  In places the rocks are slippery with damp moss, while in other spots tenacious flowering wild annuals display their blooms.  Cicadas whine in the early autumn heat.  The water is a refreshing treat for hot hikers’ feet.

Farther upstream, the incline of the land levels, reducing the water to a sluggish flow amid earthy banks and pocket wetlands.  The trail meanders along the banks, crossing small, dry streams.  Sometimes the way veers deeper into the woods, leading through thick stands of fern.  Unusual red bracket fungi sprout from the trunks of occasional dying trees.  The forest floor is carpeted with moss, partridgeberry, wild cranberry and wintergreen.  

The trail finally turns from the river, circling over a small hill, past the Tanglewood 4-H summer camp (empty in September,) traversing a thick forest of maple, birch, oak, pine, spruce and balsam.  Hikers must use care when reading the trail map or a wrong turning can lead to an extended walk back to the starting point and the waiting car.  Overall, a most enjoyable afternoon’s excursion, and fodder for a lovely winter daydream.

From the Deep Freeze

There has not been much to report these last few weeks.  The most popular topic of conversation is the bitter cold of mid-winter in Maine.  We have just suffered through at least three weeks with daily highs barely clearing 0F.  The coldest nights reached -20F here at the farm.  The chickens, horses and rabbits do fine in this sort of weather with proper shelter from the wind and wet.  Hens drop off laying when it’s very cold, so we only got one or two frozen eggs per day from 19 layers.

The chill is hard on wild animals, especially the song birds.  The feeders are emptied quickly.  The resident cardinal pair made sallies to eat the red holly berries from my outdoor holiday arrangement by the front door.  Cary and Kai, our year-old cats, sat for hours in the window waiting for the cardinals to show up.  All the feeding birds provide plenty of entertainment for the cats.

We’ve enjoyed several winter storms including a blizzard with 18 inches of snow four days ago.  There is now about 3.5 feet of snow on the ground.  Running the farm tractor to clear the driveway has kept me occupied.  I was also busy a week ago with a frozen washing machine drain that caused an entire load worth of soapy laundry water to dump across the bathroom floor.  The hot water supply line to the washer froze as well.  I was worried the leak was from a rupture to the pipe in the wall and was so grateful it was only waste water I had to mop up that I didn’t even mind the mess!

The great news is that the January thaw is here.  Today we hit 19F!  Tomorrow is forecast to be above freezing.  And the two days following that, the weather people say, will be in the 40s with rain.  Maybe it will warm up enough to allow the heavy snow load to slide off the roofs so we can stop the back breaking labor of roof raking.  Once the January thaw arrives, the back of winter is broken.  We will still get some chilly days and maybe even a few more Nor’easters, but the endless days of sub-zero weather are behind us.