Saturday, November 5, 2011

Really old camp shirt

What's your oldest camp shirt? Mine is more than four decades old. OK so I'm dating myself, right? When I was 15, my dad bought this camp shirt for me. It's really not a camp 'shirt', it's a wool Pendleton-style shirt you wear as a fall jacket. At the time, he told me that I'd have this shirt forever. It's something you just keep for a long time. And he was right. There were many years when I was abroad, and many years when I never wore it. But it has lasted beautifully.

So after all this time, it's back in fashion. It's a blue and white 'Buffalo plaid' wool with a vintage straight fit. It keeps me toasty warm on these cool fall days. The label inside has my maiden name and 'camp nickname' still written in indelible marker. The commercial label reads "Rough Rider Clothing" by Woods Base Canvas Company Ltd., out of Toronto and Winnipeg, Canada. I can't find anything on-line about this company, so perhaps it went out of business. In any case, this year, after all these decades, it fits more beautifully than ever before. I put it on, and it keeps the chill away, and makes me think of my late father. How many times we raked leaves together and I'd be wearing this shirt. From now on, it's going to get a lot more use.

Monday, October 3, 2011


The last weeks before we close up the cabin are here - it seems like we just got here. However, the leaves are turning fast now. The days and nights are cooling dramatically. We'll get a possible frost by the end of the week.

In our area, many seasonal camp owners have been gone for weeks. Now, the last of the summer people are departing for southern climes. We went to a bonfire the other night - circling the fire in camp chairs was a huge group of 'snowbirds' taking off in the next few days. They were already making plans to meet up at restaurants in Florida.

The birds in our 'stream' - Canada Geese, ducks, teals, herons and loons, are coming and going on their migration south...until this morning when shots rang out, announcing the beginning of bird hunting season. It was a rather noisy day here today, and I wonder if any more migrating birds will even bother stopping here, if they get the word that it's not a safe rest stop right now.

Up the lake, a couple of beavers are making a massive beaver hut. They slap the water when you get close to them. They're piling up carefully trimmed sticks and they're patting mud on the outside of it. They are clearly planning to stay over the winter.

Not us, though. Our cabin, like many others up here in the woods, is not made for wintering over. When the day comes to leave, we'll be more than ready. But the moment we get home, we'll start longing for next spring. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Edmund Ware Smith Book Discussion

Recently we traveled an hour by car, through mists and rain, to get to a book discussion. Hosted by the historical society of the Maine village of Grand Lake Stream, the discussion focused on the works of Edmund Ware Smith (EWS), our favorite Maine woods author.

The visit was well worth the drive through moose territory. When you drive in late afternoon and night time around here, you have to keep a sharp eye out for moose in the road. Unlike most animals, when headlights hit moose eyes, they don't glow - and the dark brown hulk of a moose can be hard to see. So it's a bit risky driving at night on the quiet roads of Downeast Maine.

We arrived safely and found enthusiastic fans of EWS packed into a small room. We sipped mulled cider and discussed his work, his prose and the stories of the author's time in the lakes that surround Grand Lake Stream.

All his works are out of print now, which we all agreed was a shame. They are engaging, beautifully written, charming, funny and poignant. His love of the north woods and the characters in it shines through in every sentence. He brought the area around Grand Lake Stream - all the lakes in the Grand Lake watershed - to life and put them on the map for his generation.

To me, his most iconic essay is the one wrote about the day one of his sons drowned in Sysladobsis Lake (known as "Dobsy" or "Dobsis" for short). It's quite mysterious, this particular essay, and tragic of course. Yet the incident solidified the author's deep ties to the area that would last for the rest of his life. That essay is from his A TREASURY OF THE MAINE WOODS.

Attending the book discussion was a fellow named Harry Bailey, whose great grandfather and grandfather were caretakers at the Dobsis Club where the incident happened. Mr. Bailey passed around a letter from the author to his grandfather, and included in it was a photograph of Mr and Mrs. Smith with their son.

Here is a list of his book-length works. You can find them on e-bay and amazon, and at your local public library. He published many of his essays in national magazines.

 The list above was found on - it has an excellent account of his life.
The link to the website is here.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The storm passing in the night

Last night we could hardly sleep. The still air was saturated with humidity. We noted that it might be the last warm and humid night of the season, but noting this didn't help us. A while later, having never quite fallen asleep, I turned over. Distant lightning lit up the woods like a swarm of papparazi. It flashed again and again, silently, but each time, it lit up the entire sky. The cat watched from the window sill. I wondered what the moose and owls and mice and voles were doing? Were they awake watching, or ignoring it and doing whatever they usually do at night? Finally a distant echo of thunder rolled down the lake. When it grew louder, I got up and shut most windows and unplugged the computer. Then I stood on the porch in the dark. The storm would pass us by, just to the north. The thunder only grew so loud, and the breeze only blew a little. After a couple of perfunctory rain showers, the storm was gone. Then we fell asleep.

A link to the photograph above can be found here..

Friday, September 2, 2011

Amazing hostess gift

Recently we had some friends over for lunch, well, 'dinner', the big meal of the day, at noon. One couple brought a nice bottle of wine, which matched the entree, happily, for I didn't have the right kind in my cupboard.

The other couple, the wife of whom is never to be outdone in the creativity department, arrived with a basket in her hand, saying, "I brought some ladies to tea!" A photograph of the 'ladies' is below. Needless to say, this is about the best hostess gift ever given or received in the State of Maine. Underneath the little plate (the 'tea table') is a jar of home made wild apple sauce. Note the parsley hair, and the little elastics tying the gingham 'napkins'.

Thanks to our lake neighbor Julie who stopped in from a marathon solo kayak voyage and took a picture of it for us.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Nothing stays the same

I've been gone to the city for a couple of weeks, and returned to 'camp' to find that even in late August, the season has begun to very subtle ways. The strawberry leaves are brown at the edges. The bunch berries have 'berried out' brilliantly. The goldenrod are blooming, and the crickets are quieter now. Hardly any sign of the hummingbirds, which usually stay until just after Labor Day. This reminds me that nothing stays the same up here, as in life. We've got a new neighbor building a log cabin, and a new family has bought a place over in the next cove. They shoot off fireworks and play their boombox loud at night on the weekends. Has the neighborhood gone to the dogs? Hardly. But it's different. Yet the blueberries are super-abundant this year, and the loons laugh in the early morning as always. Still, the cool breezes today seem to have banished the doldrums of summer overnight.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Campworthy Car is No Car

 After a few weeks of study, comparison and test drives, we decided not to buy a new 'campworthy' car to preplace my 1993 Saturn. Why? Nothing seemed just right. Of the small SUV's and Crossovers we looked at, nothing hit the sweet spot. Mileage, good repair and maintenance reputation, adequate road clearance, heated seats (yes that was my one 'must have'), cargo space and price never converged in one vehicle.

So instead, I'll take my husband's Ford Escape, and he'll get a used pickup. Actually, he's been talking about doing this for a long time, but I had it in my head that I would find the perfect nice small SUV that would be 'just right'. Instead, all the cars we looked at seemed 'just wrong'.
I will continue to be on the lookout for a small crossover SUV with the following: highway mileage over 30mpg, heated front seats, decent road clearance, a good reputation for maintenance, sun/moon roof, and good cargo space. Oh yes and it should be priced around $20,000 with all these features. 

Until then, I'm sticking with the Escape. Which suits me just fine!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Most Camp-worthy Car

My beloved 1993 Saturn bit the dust this week. I am still in mourning for this car that saw me through so many years - 16 years of ownership (I bought her used). Many trips to the north woods and the big city. It just plumb rusted out underneath...and the 'ball joint' went out. The verdict from the repairman was that it is no longer drivable.

So, I am on the lookout for a camp-worthy car that can take punishment on dirt roads, with errant rocks and ruts and puddles. And that will get good mileage so that my 30 mile drive to buy groceries doesn't cost a bundle.

They closed down the Saturn brand in 2008 or 2009, so I don't want to go with a used Saturn, though I will remain loyal in my heart to that car concept and company forever. So far, I have looked at Subaru Outback and Forester, as well as Honda CRV. I was ecstatic with the mileage of the Ford Focus and the new Ford Fiesta, but their clearance is so low I'd be damaging the undercarriage on my first trip to camp. But the Honda's and Subaru's have much lower mileage than my dear old Saturn which easily got 38 mpg on the highway. Other suggestions from friends have been the Mini Cooper Countryman, and the VW Golf Diesel.

My ideal would be a slightly larger Honda Fit with a higher clearance, or an Outback with good highway mileage.

Will update you, faithful readers, on what I find. But as a female driver, with a life in the city as well as the woods, a compact SUV would be ideal. I would take a Honda Fit in a heartbeat if it wasn't so low to the ground.

If any of you have suggestions, post a comment. I'm thinking this topic might even be worth a newspaper or magazine article.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's that time, at last!

We are in the final throes of packing to open up the cabin for the season. We just backed the trailer into the garage. The post mistresses on both ends are all set.To-do lists are everywhere, and piles of things are starting to appear in the house. Big plastic square bins are the best for packing. You can snap their lids on and stack them up nicely.

Friends from the cabin are checking in; and the snowbirds are slowly driving north. Warblers have arrived here and are singing like mad, which means we'll be up north in time for their arrival there. Strong southerly winds are likely propelling them along. We hope to get there before the hummingbirds arrive.

Seasonal migration is a big undertaking for humans. I wonder how the migrating birds prepare; probably they gorge themselves on bugs as they fly north, trying to keep up their body weight. At least they don't have to worry about to-do lists.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

First night at the cabin

Some close family members bought a cabin today. They called us from their new place as they sat before the fire, savoring the moment.

There is nothing like the first night at your cabin. The air is filled with a wild sweetness, and the night sounds of the woods keep you awake. The cabin logs expand and crack. Spring peepers and choruses of frogs sing all night. A couple of owls may pay a visit and hoot for a while. Loons laugh in the far cove. Who knew it could be so noisy in the middle of the woods in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night?

Soon, though, those sounds become a lullaby, and not just when you're at the cabin, but during the months when you're away, in the city. How many nights I've laid in bed at home, or even traveling far from home, lulling myself to sleep with thoughts of a summer night at the cabin with the windows open to the night sounds.

That very first night in your cabin is a special milestone. So, here's to you, new cabin owners!  May you make many wonderful memories in your well deserved piece of paradise!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Excellent Essay in Downeast Magazine - "Cabin Noises"

Meg Adams has written a beautiful essay in the February, 2011 Downeast Magazine about waking up at her family cabin when sleeping in the loft. Bravo, Meg!

Here's the link to the story:  "Cabin Noises" by Meg Adams

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Tomorrow it's midwinter. It's about 90 days until our big drive north to the cabin. That's assuming the snow melts and the mud dries enough for us to make it the last mile into camp.

Until then, near Boston winter is at its most robust. The deepest cold periods are done and now it's all about the snow. It's piled up to about four feet beside the roads. Ice dams glisten on the roofs. We're out shoveling so often we don't need to greet our neighbors anymore. Yet there is gradual melting, and we can feel more power in the sunshine each lengthening day. Today goldfinches appeared at our feeder, the yellow in their feathers still muted. But when they chirp and fly in dipping arcs, they're singing of the spring to come.

Meantime, we read our books about the north. We connect with our cabin friends by e-mail and phone. We're already planning the season.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

For Old Time's Sake - Happy New Year!

Tonight we say goodbye to 2010. Many of us will sing "Auld Lang Syne" but few of us will understand its meaning. In Scotland it is sung not only at New Year's but also at funerals, graduations, changes of government, and so on. The song asks: Is it right that old aquaintenances be forgotten forever? It then answers: we...'ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne (for old times' sake).

So, Happy New Year, and may you create many wonderful memories in 2011, the kind worth remembering in song, verse, or just in your own grateful self.