Monday, 25 July 2011

The Birds and the Beads

There's a park a couple blocks from where I live. Due to the proximity to a wastewater treatment plant, some days there's a really funky odor coming from this park and it's unbearable to go anywhere near it. Other days, it's perfectly pleasant. Yet the malodorous nightmare really keeps people away and this park is fairly deserted. It's too bad because it's right on the water and when it's too hot to move you can usually catch enough of a breeze to want a light sweater.

I was sitting there, keeping cool under the shade of a huge oak tree and this guy pops up nearby.

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...and then another and another. A family of four of these odd quails that I have never seen before. At first, I thought they were Bobwhites, which is the only native quail in this area. On second look, they look nothing like a bobwhite at all.

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They walk around the park nervously, clucking to each other constantly, pausing to scratch the earth and nibble on the tasty bugs they stir up.

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After some consultation with and a mystery bird flickr pool, it was concluded that this is a family of Chukars. They are native to the Mideast, India and Nepal and there is an intorduced population of them way out west. How they ended up in Brooklyn is a mystery.

Aside for tracking down exotic species, I've been busy listing pretty jewelry on my Etsy site.

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Most of them are one of a kind originals- I have a couple reoccurring themes but I tend to not repeat myself. They are all very reasonably priced and rather stunning. I will be listing more in the coming days as I have quite a stack of them to photograph still.

Find them here, along with some yarn and roving and lots of other goodies:


Friday, 22 July 2011


If an economically depressed town slips further during a financial crisis, does anyone realize it?


Millinocket is a small town in Northern Penobscot County in Maine. The closest big town is Bangor, which is about an hour and a half south. It's an isolated little community that was built up around paper mills, which caused it to become a boomtown at the turn of the last century. All those trees that blanket the state were processed into paper. The lake where our camp is was once a main place to float the booms of trees out of the great north woods. The lake water is a peculiar shade of yellow because of it- the pine tree bark would shed off in the water, and over time, it caused higher acidity in the lake.

My Grandfather grew up there. He still lives in the house that his father built, on a very quiet residential street on the edge of the mill property.

Sadly, the heavy and sighing of the mills is silenced now. The paper industry packed up and moved to Canada and overseas. While they still log the north woods here, the trees are shipped elsewhere to be processed. The train tracks leading up to the old mill are overgrown with weeds.


While people still do live here, the town has a sad, abandoned feeling to it as most of the businesses have packed up and left. The main street only has a handful of shops still open. The people who are left depend on the tourist who come here- sport fisherman and hunters, snomobilers in winter, and hikers and outdoorsy people really wanting to get away from it all. Thoreau did- he wrote "The Maine Woods" in this area. The Appalachian Trail terminates near here so there are always hikers coming through. Aside from that, there really isn't much going on. My Grandparents have to travel all the way to Bangor for doctors and shopping and entertainment. Roxanne Quimby wants to open a national park here, which most of the locals protest as people depending on hunting and fishing tours would be out of a job.

Old postcard pictures of the town show a kind of Switzerland of the Appalachians.

We took a walk down Main Street with my Grandfather, who walks faster than me. Seriously. I couldn't keep up.







It can't be easy to see the town you grew up in turn into such a sad, decayed place. There are a few cafes on Main that seem to be doing well, a bowling alley, an art gallery and a hiking outfitter. There were so many abandoned storefronts in between. It was really eerie.

This is my grandfather. He's really into maps.


Also, he can kick my ass at many things. He fixes everything. He remembers everything. He hitchhiked across the country several times. He made his own beer. He smoked corn cobs to keep the bugs away. He was a Marine. He loves the Red Sox and listens to every game on a battery-operated radio that is older than I am.


He still chainsaws tree stumps when need be. Really, at 85. He's amazing. He just doesn't stop.

On the way back south, we stopped by one of my favorite places to eat- the classic A1 diner in Gardner.


It's a classic 1946 dining car that's set up on stilts 30 feet up to avoid the nearby river flooding.


Oh, PS...the food is amazing. They have a menu of greasy spoon standards, but they have some above and beyond fancy food as well. They specialize in local ingredients and producers- beer, seafood, condiments. It's really a unique place.




I can't seem to go through the August/Gardner area without stopping in here. I am convinced that it can not be done.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011


I feel super fortunate that we have a camp on an island on a lake in the middle of nowhere. It's remote. It's peaceful. The views are unbelievable.

The remoteness of the place also means that we didn't get electricity or running water until 2 years ago. While hauling all your drinking water across the lake was a bit of a chore, the only thing I truly don't miss about the former camp is this guy:


Getting up to pee in the middle of the night never seemed so horrifying. Indoor plumbing is something I would consider essential to my survival. Having electricity and running has really changed the place- it went from a rustic cabin to very chic chalet in a hurry.


We got gorgeous weather the entire time we were there except for one sudden thunderstorm that blew through right around dinnertime.


It was amazing.















We kayaked and swam and cooked some memorable meals while spending time with family. We watched the spectacular sunsets and waited for the sky to darken to see a billion stars. There were plenty of loons making noise at night and we even saw a bald eagle swoop past. It's truly one of my most favorite places on earth- I grew up spending summers here and I try to get up for a week or so still every year. I feel really fortunate to have a place like this in my life.

Monday, 18 July 2011

Peaks Island

Right off the coast of Portland there are dozens of islands to explore. Some are uninhabited, others have quaint little summer communities, others are populated year-round. Of these, Peaks is probably the most populous and easy to get to.


It's about 20 minutes away from downtown Portland on the car ferry.



Portland is still a fisheries kind of town. There are dozens of places along the waterfront to buy fresh lobsters and seafood.


That's Spring Point light in South Portland, with Portland Head Light in the background.



After a refreshing lunch of chowder, haddock, scallops and lobster rolls with a nice crisp Riesling, we rented some rickety old bicycles and took off to explore the island. Peaks allows cars, but it's not so trafficked that you won't have the road to yourself a great deal of the time.

I found a private-beach front honey stand. Lazy beachy little bees.



There's a face in the rock on a nearby island...he overlooks the lighthouse.




These gulls looked rather sinister. Hitchcock would be proud.


Worth exploring on the island is the ruins of an old WWII era fort. What currently exists is a long tunnel buried with a mound of dirt, which is now almost completely overgrown with vegetation. It's a bit of an effort to climb to the top with flip-flops on.


It's creepy as hell. The Maine coast is full of old forts and abandoned buildings to explore. It's easy to see why so many ghost and horror stories are inspired by the place. Everything is roses, and then suddenly you get a foggy day and BAM it's nothing but unexplained happenings and ghost coming back to point fingers and escaped genetic experiment with the sole purpose to eat your brains.





Also notable on the island:



When you go in, the nice ladies who curate the collection there will sing the praises of umbrella covers. Literally.


I think that living on an island is a good thing in theory. I wonder what I would do if I lived in relative isolation for most of the year. Those umbrella covers would probably be pretty darn sexy after a Maine island winter.