Archives

Dug Jars

These old Dundee marmalade pots were found in a trash pit on property in Wiscassett, Maine that was recently purchased by my brother.  This summer while he was excavating in preparation for erecting power poles he dug out these jars plus a couple dozen old Coca Cola bottles and some assorted other odds and ends.

My brother piled the finds in 5 gallon buckets and brought them to me.  They were all covered and filled with thick clay.  After a considerable amount of cleaning, and soaking in bleach, these pots look fairly presentable.  They have some staining from rust, a few small chips and a couple are crazed.  These and the rest of the goodies from the pit date to around 1949-1955.

For some reason, old pottery marmalade pots are sought after.  Perhaps people like them for decorating.  They measure about 4.25″ tall and would be useful to hold things like pens or coins.  These five recently sold at auction in my eBay shop for $70.  A pretty good return on a few hours of elbow grease.  Thanks brother for the generous gift!

I still have to clean the Coke bottles before they can be listed.  They are all from Maine or New England.  Those bottles are not likely to be as valuable as the marmalade pots, but they will sell well.  I also have listed some interesting old toiletry bottles and jars from the pit.  They were quite dirty.  Some still contained remnants of the original product including the hair pomade and hormonal cream.  The contents were black and sticky, a real joy to clean out.  These all are from the same era, the early 1950s.

The pieces are, clock-wise from the top left, a Lentheric aftershave or cologne bottle, a Tame by Toni creme hair rinse bottle, milk glass jar for Paglo Pompom hair pomade, with real lanolin (I’d love to smear that stuff in my hair!) and, Helena Rubenstein Estrogenic Hormone cream, purported to reduce wrinkles.  The Tame bottle says “the new invisible hair dressing that rinses on.”  Tame was a new product in 1953.

My brother also dug out some old locally bottled soda bottles that have already sold.  I have listed some household bottles for Clorox bleach, Vermont Maid syrup and perhaps an old Milk of Magnesia bottle that is dark blue glass, a couple old milk bottles from Maine and an amber bottle that once held Felton’s rum.  He also found the lid for a French pate pot and the enameled cast iron top for a Volcanic color Le Creuset roasting pan.  The roasting lid is too corroded to rescue, unfortunately.

Altogether, the trash pit was a good find with some well preserved treasures from mid-century America.  It is interesting to see what sorts of products a particular family in Wiscasset used during the early 1950s.  Perhaps not as exciting as excavating a medieval, Roman or pre-historic trash midden, but entertaining enough for me!

Advertisements

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.

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.

Joyful Yule!

Joyful Yule to all!  This shortest day of the year finds the farm tucked into an 8″ blanket of snow.  The temperatures struggle to the 20sF during the day and dip toward zero at night.  This morning the sun favors us with a watery, weak glow, halfway to its zenith at 8:30 am.  The light has a yellowish cast due to the angle.

We modern humans understand how the tilt of the Earth determines the seasons, unlike our poor ancestors who huddled in fear through the dark and cold.  What if the sun just kept fading and didn’t return?  No wonder sacrificial rites were performed during the depths of night and celebration ensued when the daylight lengthened.  Today we know spring will return and our fear is more of how warm the world is becoming.

The last couple weeks haven’t felt too warm!  Chickens snuggle on the roosts, sharing body heat, and don’t lay eggs when it is so chilly.  The horses are wrapped in thick winter coats.  They stand in patient reverie awaiting the next feeding as icicles form on their long whiskers.  Angora rabbits are made for cold weather.  Six inches of angora fiber is just the thing to keep a bunny toasty.  The dogs delight in snow.  They would spend hours romping in it if we let them.  The cats pine for their outdoor cage, which must come down in the winter or be destroyed by snow.  They content themselves sitting in the windows and chattering at the multitude of wild birds flocking to the feeders.

The feral pheasant may still be around.  Last week he came into the barn twice to eat scratch grain I left out for him.  Then we got a brutal storm with snow, wind and cruel freezing rain overnight.  The pheasant has not been seen since.  The scratch grain was still disappearing so I figured the bird was coming in to eat.  Then I surprised four bold mourning doves who flew right into the barn to take the offerings.  I moved the scratch into the lower barn where I know the pheasant will look, but the doves won’t dare to venture.  Yesterday the pile of grain was depleted and I thought there were some larger bird footprints in the dust.  So, perhaps the pheasant still holds his own.  I’m rooting for him.

Now there is little for us to do but turn our heads from the wind as we trudge through winter chores, sit by the woodstove and let the heat work into the bones, finally read that book we’ve wanted to get to, catch up on inside work, nap.  And wait for spring.

Winter Has Arrived

Overnight we received the first measurable snow of the winter.  I’d guess it’s about 7″.  The stuff really came down for a few hours.  I especially like the way the heavy snowfall dampens the sound of traffic on the road running past the farm.  After a while, the highway empties and the road noise of any stray slow moving vehicle is muffled.  I can almost imagine we live in the country and not beside what has become, in my lifetime, a major thoroughfare.

This may look chilly, and the ground beneath is frozen, but the air temperature is nearing 32F.  With a ten-day high of 38F forecast for today, it looks like the snow may be here to stay.  Next week the weather prognosticators call for more snow.  Several days of snow.  Yesterday my husband and I worked from mid-morning till near dark to finish all the little chores that must be done before snow arrives.  We sat, smugly content, and watched the white pile up.  Now I look forward to a long winter’s rest disturbed only by a few barn chores, some snow plowing and the occasional jaunt outside for cold weather exercise.

Dodge Point Reserve, Newcastle, ME

Recently, we celebrated our wedding anniversary with an afternoon strolling the lovely trails of Dodge Point Public Reserved Land on the tidal Damariscotta River in Newcastle, Maine.  We visited near low tide so much of the river banks were exposed.

The reserve incorporates 521 acres of mostly wooded land with over 8000 ft of river frontage.  The land was once a tree farm and is circled by an easily hiked two-mile long roadway once used for the farm.  It is aptly named Old Farm Road.  Several trails branch from the road to access the interior of the property.  Below, my husband Tim invites us to step into the woods.

The trail quickly leaves the hot summer sun for the deep, quiet shade of fairly thick forest with many huge, old growth oaks that somehow escaped the chainsaws.  A passage beneath the trees in late August involves the sound of periodic disturbances as acorns drop from the high limbs.  I think of Chicken Little and hope no acorn happens to fall on my head.  In many places the forest floor is thick with tiny oak trees about 8-12″ tall, the result of last year’s acorns sprouting.  One in a thousand may survive to become a huge tree some day.

Ice Pond

This land was once divided into several farms in the 1800s.  Old rock walls run through woods that at one time were most likely pasture.  A few minutes hiking brings us to Ice Pond.  The fresh water feature created by damming a small stream provided ice for local residents before the advent of electricity and refrigerators.  Today the pond supports a thriving community of water life and affords a clear swimming hole.  Three painted turtles sunned themselves on a log as we passed by.

After Ice Pond the roadway slowly drops to the river.  In places plantations of tall red pine provide a park-like atmosphere.  Beneath the pines flourishes a healthy growth of ground nut.  This wild relative of the peanut was a food source for native populations millenia ago.  Beyond the pines, a trail leads to the shore.  The Damariscotta River is deep enough for good sized craft to navigate.  At the north end of the shoreline are the remains of a brickworks.  The only evidence of that industry to be found now are the thousands of broken bricks littering the riverside.  In the 18th and 19th centuries red bricks were made here and shipped downstream.

Much of the shoreline is ocean-like due to the brackish water and tidal flows.  The long, gently sloped banks are sand and gravel interspersed by large rocks and the bodies of giant trees felled by the slow erosion.  Tim discovered a gigantic “bouncy tree” his name for tree trunks that spring up and down when jumped upon.

The banks and mudflats support a healthy population of clams as evidenced by the many empty shells.  In places sandy spurs jut into the clear, slow current providing enticing swimming areas for hot days.  We followed the river for several hundred feet before returning to the woods.  Completing the circumnavigation of the preserve brought us back to the parking area.

The beautiful and easily accessed Dodge Point afforded us a delightful escape for our romantic matrimonial celebration.  I think some day soon I will bring the grandchildren to enjoy this place.  Here is a link to a website for the preserve:  http://www.damariscottariver.org/trail/dodge-point-public-reserved-land/