A Bird Tale

Every year barn swallows make their nests in the rafters of our barn.  Usually there are two pairs.  The first, and likely older, more experienced pair raised a nice brood in the nest they made several years ago, attached to a rafter about a foot below the ceiling.  The babies are grown and the family has left the area.  The second pair built their nest of mud, moss, chicken feathers and horse hair on a rafter so that it sat only six inches or so below the metal roof.

The last few days have been scorchers with temperatures in the mid-90sF.  On the second day of the heat wave, Friday, my husband found a baby swallow on the barn floor.  We got a ladder, I climbed up and put the little one back with its siblings.  I counted five or six babies without getting too close.  Their heads were drooping down out of the nest and they were panting.  It was so hot up under that roof with the midday sun blazing down.

The next day everyone was in the nest and seemed fine.  It was another very hot day and we went away to the lake.  That evening the nest was still full.  Then yesterday morning, with temperatures once again in the mid 90sF, I went to check and see if any babies had fallen from the nest.  Disaster.  I found three dead babies on the floor and two on death’s doorstep.  If there was a sixth one, I never saw it.  Apparently the little ones had thrown themselves from the nest because it was just too hot.  The parents were not around.

I gathered up the dead babies for burial, so sad.  They were already well feathered, maybe 10-12 days old.  The two living birds could not lift their heads or make a sound.  I took down the death nest, put it in an old stainless dog bowl, popped the babies in and carried them in the house.

One bird was more aware than the other.  I carefully opened both beaks and dribbled in water with a pipette.  The alert one drank right away.  The bad-off one made some weak swallowing motions, but much of the liquid dribbled back out.  By this time baby one was making little beeping sounds.  I covered the babies with some downy chicken feathers from the nest, put the bowl in a box to keep the birds warm and went in search of bugs.

Here on the farm, we have a plentiful supply of insects, especially the biting kind.  I quickly discovered that when you need to catch a bunch of bugs, they are easy to see, but hard to grab.  Finally I went out to where the horses were grazing.  Soon I had a good supply of deer flies, horse flies and face flies.

More than half-an-hour had elapsed since I’d left the babies.  They were more alert.  The stronger one was gaping its mouth for food as soon as it heard me.  The other one could at least lift its head.  To open the mouth of the weak bird, I very gently pressed on both corners of the beak until it opened wide enough to fit the pipette tip.  Soon it was swallowing well and I started feeding it insects, too.  I began playing parent bird, catching flying insects and pushing them in gaping mouths.  After a few mouthfuls, the little birds wriggled their hind ends over the edge of the nest to defecate.  Then I knew they were fully hydrated.

I caught several dozen bugs that were flying around the horses.  It took thirty minutes to get eight or ten insects.  Those patient horses saw so much of me they started ignoring me as I came across the field to them with my fish net for trapping flies and tin can for holding them.

Between hourly feedings, I left the babies to rest in their box.  As soon as they heard me coming, the babies would start in with their little beeping cries and mouths wide open for food.  All afternoon and evening through the ninety degree heat I caught and fed bugs.  I developed a true understanding of what parent barn swallows have to do.  By night time, both babies were quite strong and taking food and water well.  They only ate a few bugs and a sip of water at each feeding before falling fast asleep.  The cats were fascinated by the babies’ cries, of course.  Cary in particular wanted to see all about what was going on.

After it got dark and I couldn’t catch flies, I rehydrated some of the freeze-dried mealworms I keep for the chickens.  Dipping them in plain yogurt made them more nutritious, and the birds gobbled them right up.  Finally at 10:30 I tucked the babies away for the night.

This morning the little swallows were hungry at five and ate several good feedings of mealworms in yogurt chased down with water before nine o’clock.  They were both raising their heads and begging for food.  We had noticed the parent birds hanging around so I decided to try reintroducing the babies.  I made a little shelf on a rafter about two feet from the old nest site that was a foot below the ceiling with a wood board above it to protect from the hot roof.  Then I set the bowl with the nest on the rafter and duct taped it to the wood to make sure it was secure.

I hid around the corner, watching to see if the adults would find the babies.  They flew in the barn in no time.  As soon as the little ones heard their parents, they started beeping.  The chorus of warbles and chirps that came from the adults was a sound to warm any parent’s heart.  The swallows were so excited and overjoyed to hear their babies.  Quickly, they found the new nest spot.  They scoped it out carefully, then mama bird scooted in to see the babies, followed by papa.  What a racket!  They were one happy family.


Yard Bird Stew

Half of all the chicks I hatch each year are little roosters.  That means at least thirty-five young male birds have to find homes.  I only sell pullets with a rooster to make sure some males go quickly.  Everyone wants hens—roosters, not so much.  By selling trios and quartets, two or three pullets with a cockerel, I assure five or six roosters leave the farm.  Luckily there are people looking for just roosters and I usually sell ten or so that way every summer. By fall there are usually at least a dozen or more extra males hanging around.  I reserve two or three of the very best for my own flock and will keep a few more of the nicest roosters through the winter to sell at a premium in the early spring when people are looking for breeders.

Sometimes in early fall I take several of the ones that are least desirable for breeding on a one-way trip to Greaney’s Turkey Farm, the last stop for many fine eating birds.  Greaney’s takes care of the slaughtering, plucking, cleaning, butchering and cooling of the birds. After the quartered birds are vacuum bagged, I pop them in a chest with ice and bring them home for the freezer. Some people may be squeamish about eating animals they have raised from eggs.  Not me.  I know that while they lived, the roosters had the very best of lives, free ranging and enjoying happy times with their siblings.  They ate healthy foods and lived as well and naturally as modern chickens can hope.  They make very good eating for farmers.

The breed I raise, Ameraucana, is a dual purpose chicken.  This means they can be used for egg and meat production.  They have good-sized, well muscled bodies.  A cockerel slaughtered at about six months dresses out around 3.5 lbs, the perfect size to make stew.  The only problem with eating yard birds, as the chickens running around the yard are called, is that they can be a bit tough.  All that exercise really conditions their muscles.

The secret to good yard bird stew is brining.  Soaking the meat in a salt solution will tenderize it.  After the bird is slaughtered, the meat should be allowed to rest in the refrigerator for a couple days so the rigor mortis wears off.  Then the meat can be cooked or frozen.  This recipe will make a nice stew for four or five people.  Start three days ahead of the planned meal.

To make the brine, add 3/4 cup salt to three quarts of water.  Bring to a boil in a 6 qt pot.  Let the brine cool completely.  Place the quartered chicken in the cooled brine, assuring all the meat is submerged.  Cover the pot and store in the refrigerator for two days.  Then drain off the brine, rinse well and refill the pot with cold, fresh water to cover the chicken.  The fresh water will pull out the salt.  Refrigerate overnight.  In the morning drain the water, fill the pot of chicken with fresh water again and let sit in the refrigerator for the rest of the day.

About two hours before dinner time, drain off the water, rinse the chicken well, then add two quarts of water and cook the chicken until it starts to pull away from the bone.  Shut off the heat under the pot, remove the chicken from the pot, let it cool until it can be handled, pull all the meat from the bones and cut to bite size pieces.  At this time any excess fat floating on the broth in the pot can be skimmed.

Turn the heat to medium, put the cut chicken in the pot with 5 or 6 peeled, sliced carrots, 5-6 peeled medium potatoes, a cup of fresh or frozen green peas, a couple cubes of chicken bouillon, celery salt, pepper, rosemary, sage, marjoram, oregano and onion powder to taste.  Cook until veggies are just getting tender.  Remove cover and reduce heat to low, simmer for fifteen to twenty minutes to reduce the stock.

At this time dumplings can be cooked in the pot or the stew is ready to serve with fresh buttered bread or rolls.  To make dumplings, mix 2.5 cups all purpose flour, 1/2 cup white whole wheat flour, 4.5 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 3/4 cups milk in a bowl until a soft dough forms.  Drop the dough into the stew broth by tablespoons full.  Cover and gently simmer for 12 minutes.  There will be no tough chicken in this stew.

Bonyun Preserve, Westport Island, ME

To combat the onset of stir-craze due to endless days of isolation from the COVID-19 outbreak, my thoughts return to a beautiful preserve we visited last fall.  We’ve now spent two full weeks at our farm with no close contact with other humans.  The next sunny day I plan to travel to Westport Island, near Wiscasset, Maine, to enjoy Bonyun Preserve.  It is easy to avoid human contact in the woods of Maine.  We are lucky to have so many active land preservation groups here.  Without their work, our access to the gorgeous Maine coast would be severely limited.

Bonyun Preserve is 68 acres of land with frontage on the Sasanoa River estuary, a tidal saltwater area.  There are over 2 miles of walking trails through mature forest, skirting tidal creeks, over a wooden bridge and along shore front.  Several interesting islands dot the off-shore scenery and the remains of a 19th century tidal mill used to saw wood and grind corn.  The best time to get the full scenic effect would be the several hours around high tide when the mud flats are covered. 

Bonyun Preserve is valuable as a home for many species of birds, amphibians, reptiles, mammals and invertebrates.  So much of the coast of Maine is developed for private homes that large tracts of wild land are becoming increasing rare.  The wildlife needs a place to live and roam if we are to keep Maine’s natural beauty.

The preserve was donated by the Bonyun family.  Bill and Gene Bonyun were popular folk singers and folklorists in Maine.  They purchased the land in 1940 and their children donated it for public enjoyment.  The trust that holds the land plans to expand the size of the parcel with additional purchases.  What a gift to future generations!

And a Porcupine in a Pear Tree

This would not make a great Christmas present, but it’s what you get here at Phoenix Farm:  a porcupine in a pear tree.  This little guy is quite young, still growing its big quills.  There have been several porcupines feeding on the fruit dropping from trees in our orchards.  Most of the critters stick to the apple trees.  This one is braver.  The pear trees are the closest to the house.  Pears must be really delicious for the porcupine to risk contact with humans and dogs to feast on the fruit.

Porcupines remind me of sloths.  They seem almost in slow motion most of the time.  Their eyesight is poor, as well.  It is no wonder so many dogs go to the vet to have quills removed.  The only defenses these animals have are quills and the ability to slowly climb trees.  Every time I take the dogs out in the orchard I have to check for porkies on the ground.  Often, there is one sitting and munching fruit.  I talk loudly, sometimes have to clap to be heard, and the rodent ambles to a tree then hauls itself ten to fifteen feet up where it sits and peeks down at intruders.

Here is the working end of the rodent, the back end and tail.  Porcupines lash their tails to implant quills.  Older porcupines have backs bristling with long whitish quills.  When I worked as a vet tech, I spent many hours removing quills from the mouths of hapless dogs.  Sometimes we’d see the same dogs two or three times in a row, and they still didn’t learn to leave the porkies alone.

So far this fall our dog Max has gotten a few quills in his nose while trying to smell a bristling rodent.  Luckily, they were easy for us to pull out. I’ve seen dogs with hundreds of quills embedded in their mouths.  They need to be put under anesthesia to remove the quills in a time consuming operation that can get quite expensive.  One vet I worked with used to joke that he kept a porcupine ranch and released a new batch whenever he needed extra cash flow.

If you have a fruit orchard and find piles of chewed up fruit chunks lying around, you have a porcupine at work.  How the rodents get any sort of nutrition out of their method of consuming fruit is beyond me.  They seem to just enjoy slicing the fruit into piles.  Maybe they are after the juice?  The fruit wasps (at right center above) appreciate the porcupine’s work.  The wasps have been gorging themselves on pears until they fall into stupors, too full to fly away.

This has been such a good fruit year that even after I’ve harvested all we need, there is still plenty on the trees and ground for the wildlife.  The fruit attracts deer, bears, coyotes, turkeys, various rodents and several species of song birds.  And I must not forget how my flock of chickens hurries to eat under the trees every day when they are released to free range.  The abundance is short-lived.  In a few weeks all the fallen fruit will be consumed.  It’s nice that I never have to rake drops in the orchard.


Donnell Pond Reserve, Hancock Co., ME








The Donnell Pond Maine Public Reserved Lands in Hancock County near Sullivan are part of over 15,000 acres of barely touched wilderness.  There are many walking and ATV trails through the forest and several mountains to enjoy in addition to crystal clear Donnell Pond.  Above are two views that comprise a near panorama of Schoodic Bay from Schoodic Beach on Donnell Pond.  On the right is the foot of Black Mt and on the left, the base of Schoodic Mt.  The beach is unbelievable, with coarse yellow sand that extends into the water as far as I could see.  Even with the cloud cover and chill of early September in the air, I was tempted to take a dip in the pond.

This year for our annual mini vacation, we decided to stay between Acadia National Park and the Schoodic Peninsula.  Our home away from home was a lovely Airbnb in Sullivan. The post and beam house was right on the ocean with a gorgeous view of the bay. This is the sunrise over Flanders Bay from our bedroom window.
The first day of our stay, we climbed 1049 ft Black Mountain. It’s a good thing the sky was overcast because the climb would have been too hot for us otherwise. As it was, we got fairly sweaty by the time we reached the top. The trail is moderately steep and sometimes crosses bare rock faces or scrambles over boulders. We started at Schoodic Beach, passed through a thick oak and pine woods, then began the ascent. The tree species changed to fir, spruce, maple and beech as we gained altitude.

Many of the beech on the mountainside are afflicted by Beech Bark Disease that has been destroying the species statewide. The trunks become riddled with cankerous sores until the trees are killed. A scale insect accidentally imported to Nova Scotia from Europe in the late 1800s has spread through most of the eastern seaboard.  The insect opens wounds on the trees which are then invaded by a fungus.  The fungus kills or severely weakens the tree.

It is so sad to see the stands of silvery-barked beech that once provided nuts for the wildlife now reduced to standing rotting wood.  I hope some of the trees develop natural immunity to this scourge before all the beech are lost just like the chestnuts.  There is evidence that certain beech trees do have immunity and over time these trees should become prevalent in the woods.

Nearing the summit, the forest changes again to include large fields of reindeer moss (a lichen) and other lichens and mosses.  This year these plants are doing particularly well due to the abundant rainfall.  Another plant to benefit from the excess moisture is the fungus.  Mushrooms popped up all along the trail.  The most abundant were bright yellow species.
This small dead maple leaf was surrounded by tiny white mushrooms. I’m not a fungi scholar so I don’t know the names of the various mushrooms, but I do like the great variety of their shapes and colors.  The forest floor was also covered with laurel and wild low bush blueberry and cranberry. I enjoyed a few late season berries, yum.

The summit provided spectacular views of the surrounding area and also a pleasant breeze off the ocean, welcomed by two perspiring hikers.  We somehow missed a connecting trail at the top that would have taken us over to a small mountain pond.  There is always next time to see that.  We descended through impressive cliffs made of slabs of granite.  In places the stones formed natural steps.  The trail back to our car was relatively flat and passed through a lowland boggy area.  Cedar, spruce and maple towered overhead.  Moss and mushrooms lined the way.

The Black Mt trail is only one of many in this reserve.  Next door to the Donnell Pond Unit (as the State Forestry Service calls it) is another unit, the Tunk Lake Reserved Lands with more mountains, streams and ponds.  This area of Maine is particularly beautiful.  It is also not heavily used.  The scenery is very similar to Acadia Park without all the crowds.  We did not encounter a single soul during the several hours we spent around Black Mt.  Passing through the reserved lands is Black Woods Road, a designated scenic bi-way linking the towns of Franklin and Cherryfield.  This drive along Rte. 182 is well worth the time.

There is even a ghost story associated with the highway.  Back at the turn of the last century, it is reputed that a newlywed couple were traversing the road at night.  Their horse was frightened and their wagon went off a long drop.  To this day there are reports of motorists at night encountering a woman in white standing in the road who disappears.  Although I’ve driven that way many times both during the day and after dark, I’ve never met the ghost.  I have seen many miles of old growth forest and idyllic waterways.

A Shivery Update

This is an update to the shivery tale I wrote of on the 13th.  For those who prefer not to read about psychic experiences, just skip this entry.  I am merely recording my perceptions, my actions and what occurred as a result.

A week-and-a-half ago, when the family was out of the house, I went to the neighbors to deal with their troublesome entity.  Prior to my visit, I met with a gifted psychic.  I like to get her impression of the entity I will be contacting.  In this case she felt the ghost seen by the neighbor child was a man who was hesitant to pass over due to his misdeeds in this life.  The psychic warned that this ghost was not benign.  He had ill-will toward the child and was oppressing her.  I suspected the oppression extended to the others in the home as well.

After several days of energy building, I entered the house.  As always, the place felt heavy and dark to me.  I frequently get this sensation in areas that have hosted many years, or layers, of lives.  Wearing various crystals that are supposed to improve my vibration, I proceeded to cleanse the house.  Everyone has their own method for smudging.  I light several sticks of incense and carry them with a bowl underneath to catch the ash.

First, every door and drawer is opened so the incense smoke will flow freely.  Beginning on the north wall of the cellar, I blew the smoke toward the corners of all the walls.  It is important to make your intentions clear by chanting (I mostly chant silently) a benediction sanctifying the house to the light, that only good may remain.  Because I suspected the long, dark crawl space in one part of the cellar was a good hiding place, I spent several minutes blowing smoke in the hole.  It was a still day and it took plenty of lung power to move the incense into the space.  Suddenly the smoke was blowing back in my face instead of moving away with my breath.  I felt something flow past me out of the crawl space.

I continued to smudge the cellar, then went upstairs to sweep the main floor.  Smoke had to be sent into every nook and cranny; the tiny attic space, every closet, even into the oven and microwave.  Then I sealed every entryway with finely crushed Himalayan pink salt.  Last, I sat at the table with the incense still smoking, lit a white candle, read aloud the 23 Psalm (my favorite passage) and rang a small, high pitched brass bell.  Then I concentrated on listening to whatever entities were present.

I got the distinct impression of two individuals.  One was an older male named James who was from around the 1840s.  The other was younger, a child.  I’m not sure if it was male or female.  This entity had been there considerably longer than the James person.  I informed both that they were dead, no longer meant to be in this place.  I enjoined them to think of their loved ones and to look toward the light.  I saw them take the hands of those who came with the light for them.

When they had left, the house felt brighter and lighter as though a weight was lifted.  I closed all the doors and windows.  Before I left the property, I buried the remains of the incense in the snow to end the communication.

Then I waited to hear about any changes the neighbors noticed.  A week later I spoke with them.  The shadows seen from the corners of their eyes had disappeared immediately.  Since the day of the cleansing, there had been no more tampering with the controls for the woodstove, something that had been happening every night.  The child no longer heard noises in the closet, saw toys moving or had her hair touched.  She was sleeping all night in her room without nightmares.  The father said the house felt more cheerful to him.

This is all great news!  I am hoping the bad times have ended for this family.  The oppressive, unhealthy influence seems to have left their lives.  Sometimes after a cleansing, all the entities present do not leave.  They find ways to hide and work their way back into the house.  The next few months will show if I have to go back and repeat the process or perform something more aggressive.  So far, so good.  Except, my neighbors told me about someone they know who is being troubled by an entity.  And the work goes on…

A Shivery Tale

This is a chilly tale for the dying end of the year and the rattly-cold bones of December.  One of my neighbors is a little girl of ten.  I will call her Jill.  She is cute and sweet and very personable.  I learned that, much to everyone’s surprise, Jill’s first report card for fifth grade included two failing grades.  She had always brought home good report cards, As and Bs, mostly.  No fails.  Since I have experience with tutoring, I offered to help Jill a couple times a week with her homework.  Assistance was needed for math and social studies.  Math was her worst subject.  For those who have encountered it, this is Common Core Math.  Just the name can be scary!

I did some quick brushing up on Common Core math and realized it’s not very tough.  Seems the education planners of America want students to learn how to do math in their heads rather than with paper and pencil or…gasp…a calculator.  Once attempted and understood, Common Core is just like every other type of math:  an exercise for the mind, similar to a game.  For those who advance on in the Sciences, math is an essential tool.  For the average Joe, math is great for figuring out change, making sure the boss got your paycheck right, or perhaps useful in a home carpentry project.  It’s nice to be able to at least have an average showing in math.  Failing the subject is not so good.

The first several lessons with me, Jill struggled.  The biggest problem seemed to be her inability to concentrate.  She could not recall information she had just heard.  The poor child could not remember how to do a long multiplication problem from one example to the next.  Forget long division, a nearly impossible feat for her.  Yet, she knew her times tables nearly perfectly.  She was a good reader, although her vocabulary and spelling needed work.  What was going on here, that suddenly a child who could memorize multiplication facts could not remember what she had learned from one problem to the next?  Her attention span was only seconds long.  She started yawning after about ten minutes of math.

I began to suspect that Jill had a problem with getting enough sleep.  Children can’t concentrate if they are sleep deprived.  Her parents verified that she often went to bed late and then woke in the middle of the night.  Multiple times per week the parents would be roused by Jill sitting on the floor in their room watching tv in the wee hours of the morning.  They did not know why.  I decided to ask the child.

What she told me came as a surprise.  She was afraid in her room.  There were noises at night, scratching and scampering sounds like mice in the closet and on the shelves.  Her cat, who slept with her, would hear the noises and investigate.  It never caught a mouse or other critter.  The toys in her room would move on their own, rocking and sometimes falling over.  She could see dark shapes passing around her from the corners of her eyes.  And worst of all, something played with her hair.  Locks would be lifted in the air and often pulled by an unseen hand.

Jill had told her parents she was afraid of noises in her room.  She asked her dad if he believed in ghosts.  Yet she did not elaborate on the subject and seemed to accept pedestrian explanations for the noises.  Then I learned she had seen an actual ghost several times.  There was an old man sitting in a chair out on the back lawn.  He would wave to Jill and when she returned the gesture, he would smile.  The first time she observed this apparition, she was less than three years old.  When she asked her mother who the man was, her mother could not see anything.  Perhaps that was the beginning of Jill keeping the things she saw and heard to herself.  Unfortunately, by the time she got to be ten, these things were affecting her school performance.  She could not sleep at night because the ghost, as she called it, would not let her.

Determined to help Jill, who is only an innocent and defenseless child, I set out to learn what I could.  I told the parents just what was going on.  They were receptive to the extraordinary story and the dad admitted he saw shadows walking around all the time as well.  Articles often went missing, and strange, unexplained occurrences were a regular part of life for the family.  The home where Jill lives is built on the foundation of a house that burned.  The rock-walled cellar must be at least two hundred years old.  The home and land have been in Jill’s family for many generations, so the entity troubling her could well be an ancestor.

I have taken it upon myself to help Jill and her family.  With several episodes of dealing with ghostly visitations under my belt, I can offer some support and assistance.  In addition to instructing in school work, I am also Jill’s new psychic tutor.  Primarily, I am a confidant whom she can trust and who has the personal experience necessary to draw out the fears she has kept hidden.  I’ve taught Jill how to protect herself from being intruded upon by entities when she is sleeping.  She has also learned that she can speak to the ghost, telling it to go away and leave her alone.  This entity may be following her.  She described an event that happened this week in the school library.  She was reading by herself and some invisible person started plucking hairs out of her head, one at a time.  Ouch.  She told it to stop.  She must have said it too loudly because the people nearby gave her strange looks.

The girl likely has psychic potential and may be a magnet for entities throughout her life.  I want to help her understand and accept who she is, and how to control her abilities to protect herself.  Maybe one day she will choose to pursue honing her psychic gifts.  In the meantime, I will consult with a learned psychic who has advised me in the past before I attempt to contact and move on this lingering ghost.  My hopes are that within a couple weeks the problem can be cleared from my neighbors’ lives and Jill may once again bring home great report cards.

Traffic Accidents

This accident happened a few days ago on our road.  We own about one-third mile frontage on Rte. 139.  It is a high speed road with vehicles routinely traveling in excess of 70 mph.  The speed limit is 55.  The route connects the western part of the state with the interstate highway system and it sees more than its share of heavy truck traffic, speeding commuters and tourists in a rush.  The volume of traffic passing our house on this road is higher than the volume of traffic moving through our town on the interstate highway.  Hard to imagine there are so many vehicles roaring by our home every day.  But, it is true, the state has done traffic surveys.  Rte. 139 is a wide, well-built roadway with full breakdown lanes so that four vehicles could pass abreast, if they tried.

The accident occurred around 4 pm, just before twilight on a clear, dry day.  There was plenty of daylight.  I was in the house and heard two huge bangs very close together.  Since loud road noise is a fact of life here, I didn’t think much of the bangs until traffic started backing up by the house.  Checking out a window, I could see vehicles parked in the road with their emergency flashers going.  Looked like the trouble was about one-quarter mile away.

I walked up through our orchards and found one small SUV sideways in the middle of the road (seen in the photo above,) a tractor-trailer rig stopped about 200 feet down the road and a van backwards down the slope from the road in our woods.  The SUV was smashed front and rear and the van had the front end crushed.  A tire had come off the trailer of the 18-wheeler and rolled down the road at high speed to strike an oncoming car.  All traffic was at a standstill.

The driver of the SUV was trapped in his car.  He was moving around inside, but could not get out.  The van driver was out and seemed ok.  The semi driver was unhurt as were the occupants of the car hit by the tire.  No one could get the doors of the SUV open.  The SUV was steaming from a broken radiator.  Luckily none of the vehicles was in danger of fire.  As I studied the damage and situation of the various involved vehicles, I could guess at what happened.

The SUV was stopped in the road, waiting to turn left up a driveway.  The van driver somehow failed to see the blocked lane and slammed into the rear of the SUV at high speed.  I couldn’t see any skid marks on the road that would indicate braking by the van.  The impact from the collision drove the SUV into the first rear tire of the 18-wheeler, which was also likely going at highway speed of at least 50 mph.  The truck would have been just regaining speed after climbing a short hill.

The force of the SUV tore the truck tire from its mount and sent it careening down the road.  It rolled at least 100 feet before striking the car.  Luckily, it was just the tire without the heavy steel rim.  The van was whipped sideways by the collision and sent slipping backwards down our hillside until our trees stopped it some 80 feet from the road.  The slope is steep, about 40-45 degrees.  How the van driver could have not seen the turning car and maneuvered around it in the wide breakdown lane is beyond me.  The first crash I heard was the van hitting the SUV.  The second was the SUV hitting the truck.

We live eight miles from town.  It takes fire and police at least ten minutes to respond to accidents out our way.  People were doing what they could to help the accident victims.  The road was completely blocked, the endless traffic piling up for miles on both sides of the crash.   Finally we could hear sirens in the distance.  Before long rescue had secured the site and police were routing cars on a detour.  It took about an hour to extricate the SUV driver.  A firefighter and a police officer told me everyone in the accident would be all right.

After I heard no one lost their life, I began to think about what was lost.  The van and SUV were obviously totaled.  The trailer truck could be repaired.  The car hit by the tire was not too badly damaged.  Our land was damaged.  The broken van destroyed a small ash tree that stopped its descent.  The van then sat leaking oil and antifreeze for three hours.  Smashed plastic, metal and glass was scattered over our property.  When the van was finally towed out of the woods, it left a trail of oil and anti-freeze all the way up to the road.

This accident is at least the sixth I can think of that has occurred on our land in the last thirty years since the old road was rebuilt and turned into a high-speed, high-volume connector.  Every accident has resulted in some sort of damage to us.  Killed trees, rutted fields, leaked fluids, debris strewn far and wide.  We get to clean it up.  We never hear from the individuals involved in the crashes.  There is no compensation for our time or aggravation.

Who gives a second thought to the property owners damaged by irresponsible drivers?  The destruction is not at a level that makes a court claim worthwhile.  How do I charge a driver or insurance company for the polluting fluids leaked on my land?  Or the time and energy it takes to fill in the foot deep channels left in a soggy field after a car goes across it?  Or how about the effort required to pick up thousands of large cotter pins spilled from a truck that rolled into the orchard?  Not to mention hours spent collecting bits of smashed plastic, glass and metal car parts or the cost of disposal.  The giant truck tire is still lying beside the road near our grape vineyard.  It will likely be there till spring when the state cleaning crew makes a hurried pass through our area.

No, our sort of injury does not make the pages of the newspaper.  Rescue and police personnel do not clean up wrecks beyond towing away the large bits and sweeping the small bits to the roadside.  It’s difficult to not feel considerable resentment for the road and the traffic.  Beyond the noise, air pollution and thoughtless littering from thousands of vehicles, there is always accident cleanup.

Town of Sandwich, Kent, UK

My daughter and I just returned from a twelve-day trip to England to visit my mother, who has lived in the UK for about thirty years.  Usually the trip involves tours of local attractions.  This year we went to the town of Sandwich, located near the English Channel between Margate and Dover.  At one time Sandwich was one of the greatest ports in England and is still one of the five Cinque Ports designated by the Crown to protect the coast.

Sandwich is renowned for containing some of the most complete sections of medieval town.  Tourism to view the antiquities began in the 1700s and has not abated.  We stayed at the King’s Arms, an inn built in 1580 on Strand Street.  At that time the street fronted the Stour River.  Since then so much silting-in of the waterway has occurred that there are houses with large backyards on the river side of the street.  The inn was originally called the Queen’s Arms and named for Elizabeth I who visited Sandwich.  The name was changed in 1687, during the reign of James II.

The inn is a charming and largely original structure.  Features such as the cheerful common room with its giant fireplace, huge exposed wooden beams throughout, narrow, steep staircases, and door clearances under six feet high are all proof of this house’s nearly 450 year history.  Our room was number three and our window was the middle one with the orange glow above the parked car on the right side of the first photo.  The elderly single glazed window was quite drafty.  Luckily the weather was warm during our stay.  We had a large, comfortable room with a fireplace that has been closed up.  The included full English breakfast was very good.  The psychic in me is certain residuals of long-gone lives still remain in our room and in the entire building.

Many of the streets in Sandwich are like the one above.  It is single lane, yet accommodates two-way traffic.  Medieval buildings crowd close, their jetties overhanging the sidewalks.  The lane above, Church Street, runs between the King’s Arms and St. Mary’s Church to intersect with Strand Street.  Walking along the streets can be challenging as the traffic is sometimes heavy and the sidewalks are narrow or non-existent.  Many are roughly paved with cobbles.

Sandwich has a long history.  It began as a small settlement on an island in a large, deep harbor.  In AD 43 the Romans established Rutupiae (Richborough) on this harbor.  The population of the area rapidly expanded as the army used Rutupiae for their base in the conquest of Britain.  Sandwich, once known as Lundenwic, stood near the harbor entrance to the wide, deep, important Wantsum shipping channel that ran all the way to London from the sea.  Massive storms with tidal wave surges deposited so much silt with major flooding that the harbor was partially filled in, leaving Richborough high and dry and making Lundenwic the new port town.  After the Romans left, and the Saxons were invaded by Danes, the name was changed to Sandwic, meaning sandy town.  Over time the name morphed into Sandwich.

In the 900s, the town moved to higher ground as continued silting formed a peninsula from the original island.  The channel remained deep enough for large ships.  By the eleventh century Sandwich had become a major English port with a large population and great wealth.  In the middle of that century it was designated a Cinqueport with obligations to provided armed sailing vessels and fighting men for the king in times of war.  In return Sandwich received money from surrounding towns to help with the arming of vessels and men, and privileged trade with the continent free from customs and tolls.

Ever at odds with England, France staged several raids on Sandwich.  In 1217, they burned much of the town.  A toll ferry carried traffic across to Thanet until a bridge was built.  A version of it stands today.  The structure was originally a drawbridge but was rebuilt as the current single lane swing bridge.  Traffic approaches the bridge through the Barbican or David’s (Davis) Gate (photo above.)  The town had been granted the right to have its own municipal court as a cinqueport privilege.  A Guild Hall with a court room was constructed in 1359 that still stands today.  The town had a mayor and all the eligible men of voting age participated in town business including serving on juries.

The Great Storm of 1287 brought a devastating tidal wave storm surge carrying so much silt that the harbor was filled in.  The river remained deep enough for good sized ships to navigate so Sandwich continued as a port two miles inland from the sea.  A wide place in the river called Sandwich Haven provided safe docking for trade ships.  The French attacked several more times including in 1457 when the mayor was killed.  Since that time all the mayors of Sandwich wear black robes of office to signify mourning.  In the 1450s the king became so concerned about attacks by the French that he ordered the town better fortified.  More and higher walls were built and stronger gates.

The end of Sandwich’s days as a port city occurred in the late 1550s when Pope Paul IV lost a large ship. It sank right at the mouth of Sandwich Haven.  Soon silt and sand built up around the wreck effectively stopping up the entrance to Sandwich for large trading vessels.  Attempts to cut a deeper passage failed.

In the 1560s, craftspeople escaping religious persecution in Flanders and France came to England.  Queen Elizabeth granted the refugees licenses to set up shops and manufacture in different parts of England.  Several groups of Dutch weavers moved to Sandwich and began manufacturing broadcloth using wool produced in Kent.  They employed small vessels to carry their goods out to markets.  This created a boom for the Sandwich area.  The photo above is of the Sandwich Weavers building where the Dutch sheltered when they arrived in the area.  Over time many of these weavers became wealthy.

The Dutch influence in Sandwich can also be seen in architecture, ditches, drainage works and farm fields.  Because the area was once part of the sea, it is low, flat and damp.  The Dutch had experience with such conditions.  They drained fields to create farmland and grew crops such as grains, carrots and celery in the sandy soil.  A ditch called the Delf (Old English for ditch) and connected sluices were added in an attempt to bring better water to the town.  It was notorious for unhealthful conditions due to fouled drinking water.  Today the sluices can still be seen, stagnant water filled with duck weed and looking like tiny canals standing below street level in front of homes.  The Delf did not improve conditions as people continued to foul the open waterways and contract illnesses.  An attempt to pump in clean water failed in the 1620s.  The town didn’t have reliable clean drinking water until the late 1800s.

Prosperity brought by the Dutch began to fade in the early 1600s when King James I set up a company of merchants and granted them sole rights to trade in Europe.  With its commercial life strangled, Sandwich faded as a port for anything but the superior crops produced in the area, including its famed carrots.  Poverty became a problem for the locals until tourism began to restore some employment.  The town drew visitors to its quaint, narrow streets and blocks of antique houses.

The fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montague (1718-1792) is fabled to have eaten meals made of slices of meat between pieces of bread while gambling in the Guild Hall around 1762.  The sandwich is named for him.  In 1759 Thomas Paine lived for about a year on New Street in a small brick house.  He had settled in Sandwich after marrying.  His wife died a year after the marriage.  He later departed for the American colonies and found fame there as a patriot.

Today Sandwich has much to offer visitors.  Experience the adventure of staying in a medieval inn, take a leisurely stroll on the walkways by the Quay, enjoy a meal in one of the many fine establishments, amble through the ancient streets or hike along a segment of the well kept Coast Path which passes through town on its way around the entire southeastern seaboard.  Sandwich has something for everyone.




Maine Eats

When people travel, they often like to sample the authentic flavors of the places they visit.  Well, you can’t find a more authentic Maine establishment than Karen’s Hideaway on Rte. 27 in Boothbay.

Conveniently located for tourists right on a main artery to the ocean and all the coast has to offer, don’t blink or you might miss it!  After Shore Hills Campground, keep watch on the left.  Karen’s food trailer is across the road from Adams Pond and parked next to the Maineiac Fresh Seafood shop.  This is where she gets the ingredients for many of her delicious offerings.

We found Karen’s a couple years ago when we were hungry after a long walk on the ocean-side trails that abound on Cape Newagen, also called the Boothbay, Peninsula.  Being an epicurean adventurer, I’m always ready to try a new place to eat.  My husband Tim’s motto is “I can get a hamburger anywhere.”  We were both very pleasantly surprised at the amazing food served up by this humble kitchen.

You know the seafood is going to be super fresh.  It is caught daily and brought over to the lunch wagon from next door.  I ordered the crab melt basket and Tim got the burger basket.  If you ever go to Karen’s don’t make this same mistake unless you are extremely hungry–lost in the woods for a week hungry.  The baskets are served with an overflowing heap of the best french fries around.  They are thick, crispy outside, and soft inside with no trace of oiliness.  I can’t believe we managed to eat all those fries except once you start, you just can’t stop.

Tim’s cheeseburger was comprised of 12 oz of fresh ground beef on a big, soft bun.  He put it all away!  My crab melt was made with two pieces of Texas toast from the grill, stuffed with an obscenely generous amount of fresh crab barely held together with mayo, and topped with melted swiss and American cheese.  When I’m feeling really adventuresome I get the crab melt with bacon, lettuce and tomato, so yummy!  The fries in the photo below are just a small portion of the total provided.

On the side are served a choice of Karen’s pineapple coleslaw ( I usually skip the coleslaw, but not this one, it’s divine!) or her loaded baked potato salad.  I can’t find enough descriptors to do justice to the deliciousness of the spud salad!  It is filled with cheddar cheese and bits of bacon with hints of real baked potato in the skin and sour cream.  Since Tim doesn’t like anything with mayo on it, I get both the sides, yay for me!

You place the order at the window with Karen, a gregarious lady with a ready laugh and sharp Maine wit.  When we told Karen our trip to Boothbay was an anniversary celebration, she confided that she and her husband had been married even longer than our 35 years.  I suspect her husband runs the seafood shop.  Ordering is done from a laminated menu.  Be careful to specify whether or not you want a basket or you will be inundated with fries!  One basket meal provides plenty of fries for two.

While the food cooks, patrons enjoy the authentic Maine atmosphere up back behind the trailer where several tables with umbrellas are arranged in a small clearing in the woods.  A resident chipmunk will keep you company.  Note the proximity of one table to the portable outhouse, dining at its finest for the tough Maine natives who happen by.  The wall of a nearby shed has been painted with a scene from the Boothbay coast, it’s almost like eating right at the shore.  When your number is called, your meals are presented on a tray for ease of transport back to the picnic table.

After such a satisfying repast, we are usually ready to hit one final hike before heading home.  On our last visit we enjoyed a stroll on the Cross River Preserve trails and were rewarded with this view of the Cross River.