Saturday, December 8, 2012

Cabin Christmas - from Down East Magazine

The December, 2012 issue of Down East magazine includes a wonderful Christmas excerpt from Louise Dickinson Rich's treasured memoir, WE TOOK TO THE WOODS.  Dickinson and her family spent many years in the lakes of western Maine during the Great Depression, and she wrote about it. We recommend her books. WE TOOK TO THE WOODS makes a fantastic winter read.

You can link to the article here. 

The photograph was taken at a sporting camp in western Maine, Bald Mountain Camps in Oquossoc.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Deepening Silence

It's the end of our cabin season now. We're packing everything up. The canoe is stowed safely away. All liquids are boxed and ready to go. We turned the potted geraniums and impatiens out in the woods, setting them upright in their own soil, hoping they'll last a few more weeks on their own.

While working outside, we notice the silence more this time of year. On cloudy days the chickadees are silent, and the migrating warblers give only the smallest, highest calls. The brown creepers are quiet too, hopping up the tree trunks looking for bugs. How different this silence is compared to when we arrive in spring, when birdsong fills the air. We catch a few loon calls, the kingfisher chatters on sunny days, and at night the barred owl calls out in the woods.

Most of the cabin owners have left, so there are no motorboats, and no conversations float across the lake. And once the snow falls, which can begin any day now, there will be weeks of deeper silence until the deer hunting starts. Then the snow mobilers and ice fishermen arrive.

But these sounds we will not hear. As we return to the city for the long winter, we'll keep the treasured silence in our hearts.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Roaring winds

After torrential rains last night, a cold front raced in from the northwest. All day the forest roared, wind ripping through the tall trees that swayed in the gusts. Whitecaps raced down the lake. Fortunately our little cabin faces east into a cove and is somewhat sheltered from the northwest gales.

All day the animals were nowhere to be seen. They can't smell or hear danger when the wind is high so they can't sense predators. Only the red squirrels chattered from their safe nests, as the trees rocked back and forth in the wind. At one point I stepped onto the porch and a lone robin hopped out from under our porch. He or she was hunkered down waiting for calm. The cat stayed in all day, only now near sunset did the wind die so he snuck out for one quick run. No doubt we'll be after him with the flashlight soon.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Taking the dock out - ballooning over the stream

The season-end ritual of taking the dock out of the water is always daunting. Whether you are taking a multi-stage fixed dock out of the water in sections, or horsing a floating dock up onto the beach, it's a big job. Some years we've had a team of friends to help, temperatures in the 40's, everyone inside directly afterward for hot coffee. Some years it's been just us two, trying not to put our backs out, not exactly enjoying the process.

This year, however it went much more smoothly. We finally realized that we've been making it much harder on ourselves by putting the 'connector section' on top of the floating part before winching it up tight on the beach near the rocks. The connector section weighs over a hundred pounds! So this time we did it without the connector weighing down the floating dock. Piece of cake. Where in past years we struggled for an hour, inching the dock up with the come-along and rusty chain round the big pine, this year we pulled the dock up tight in about fifteen minutes  Done. Here is a photo of the dock all put away for winter.

It was a beautiful day - sunny and in the 70's with a very light breeze. As I was putting waders on at the dock, I noticed spider webs flying up into the air, seemingly out of nowhere. Then I traced one of the strands to the top of the dock post, where a medium-sized spider was standing - a long strand flying above him in the light breeze. Suddenly he jumped up, and the wind carried him right out over the stream, as he held onto his long web/balloon. I hope he knew where he was going because it's about 300 feet to the opposite shore. I've read about this, but have never seen a spider 'ballooning' before. Just like the end of CHARLOTTE'S WEB.

Here we huge mammals were struggling over moving a dock a few feet, and this little creature fashioned himself a balloon and flew away.

Follow this link to a great blog entry about a family in Minnesota who hired the local highschool football team to take their dock out!  The link is here

Friday, September 28, 2012

Seasons endings and beginnings

Up in northern Maine it's the first of two weeks of the moose hunt. I was just down by the water enjoying the deep silence and heard eight shots - a couple of miles away. I'm hoping the lovely cow moose we've been admiring all summer is not the recipient. Fortunately tomorrow it will be raining, and that's the end of the first week. No hunting in Maine on Sunday.

Sunday is the last day of fishing season on most Maine inland waters. Today while walking I saw an up-lake neighbor out on his bass boat fly casting along the shore of a rocky cove, one last time. Most folks have their boats out of the water, save him and us.

On Monday, birding season starts so we'll be hearing the shots of folks going for ducks and geese and partridge.

For Maine's outdoors enthusiasts, the seasons change with the calendar. But the denizens of the forest and water have their own timetables. Right now a solitary loon is calling outside our cabin. He or she is cruising the 'stream', perhaps calling to others to join up for migration. There are still several weeks until freeze-up so he or she has lots of time to find a group to move off shore or down south.  

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Last Hummingbirds

The activity at our six hummingbird feeders has dropped off to a few straggling visitors. Yesterday I heard them buzzing around, but didn't actually see any at the feeders, though the liquid levels in the most popular feeders are down a little this morning. The sun's declination is lower each day now. Maybe that's how they know to go south.

The seasons march on. The birch leaves are yellowing and falling. We had an energetic thunderstorm yesterday. A few hours later, the brief revisit of warm humid weather was swept out with chilly (but refreshing) northerly winds.

During the summery stretch a good friend visited. We got in some fantastic fishing and a hike up a granite ledge trail where we saw no one else for hours. Saw two dozen geese land in the Stream, two beautiful honking V's come up the lake and land a way beyond us, welcomed by the others already waiting there.

Perfect ending to the visit with a gourmet popover breakfast up-lake, hosted by veteran lake campers and season followers. We said our goodbyes until next year.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Dark Days at the Cabin

This summer has been very sunny overall. Recently we've had weeks of gorgeous sunny weather. One cabin friend says that this has been the best summer ever, weather wise.

Wouldn't you know that today, after a glorious sunny start, the clouds rolled in. We do need the rain, so I am not complaining.

I'm wondering how to keep the cabin from getting too dark in feel on a dark cloudy day. Our place is all wood - and it has a warm glow to it. However, on days like today and those later in the fall, the depth of the forest with its greens, greys and blacks reaches into the cabin somehow. Cutting down a hundred trees to let in the light is not the answer. What to do?

1. Turn on the lights. All of them. I do this but the warm wood seems to soak it up. Besides, it's a waste of electricity. I suppose if we had painted everything white we wouldn't have this problem. I shut most of the lights off.

2. Just use lots of the light in the area where you are at the moment. Doing that now.

3. Get busy and stop thinking about the light/dark issue. Bake something; work on writing; read.
Yes I know that is the right answer. So I will sign off and do just that.

Friday, August 31, 2012

The Last Day of August

Our errands done, we go fishing. We take the Lund down the ‘stream’ toward the lake, zigzagging among the dead-heads, tall grass, pickerel weed patches and boulders. Gary stops and puts the motor in reverse to clear the weeds.

The afternoon sun is milder somehow than even just a week ago. Some grasses near the shore have turned brown. The geese gather there, a few more each day, eating in the grass, waiting for the hundreds who will soon join them.The tips of maple branches are turning crimson.

As the boat glides through the channel, small bass and pickerel dart past in the bright green underwater grass. Boatmen scatter around us. Huge dragonflies zoom overhead. Soon they’ll die off, but for now they are powerful airplanes, droning above us and landing on dreiki -  freshwater driftwood – the old roots and trunks of fallen trees. A kingfisher poses on top of a huge tree root base lying on its side in the water. Its roots fan up and out, like a pair of Hindu dancer’s hands. They grow larger each summer as the water level drops. The bird poses there until we get too close. It flies off and circles over the stream.

We start casting as soon as we pass through the maze of Clorox bottle marked boulders at the entrance to the lake. No luck in our usual weed bed, but across the way in the cove, we put on heavier lures and start catching bass, white perch, and a few yellow perch. One bass is so small that I can hardly tell he was hooked. I hold him up and inspect him, as I get him off the lure. A micro-bass, he is the size of a Christmas ornament, an exquisite miniature.

The breeze is light, but steady. Clouds build to the southwest, but we can tell they will bypass us. The sun turns orange in the haze as it hangs over the treetops.  A Sandpiper stands on a rock nearby and bobs its head. We call him Bob. (Hours later, Sibley's guide tells me that he is a Yellowlegs Sandpiper.) We troll out over the deep hole where the big fish are hanging fifty feet down at the bottom, per our fish finder. None take our lures, as shiny and flashy as they are.

We weave back up the stream at sunset. The water turns pale blue to match the sky. Shy ducks, smaller than mallards, slip along side us and fade into the weeds, trying to stay out of sight. Gary casts for pickerel on a Skitterwalk but no luck. Pulling up to the dock we find Jasper waiting for us on the shore, which in recent weeks has transformed itself from boulders to a sand beach.

The full moon rises, a ripe persimmon. The crickets' quiet songs ring through the woods.

One month from now this will be a different world. But on the last night of August, the stillness of late summer is rich with quiet wonder.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Turf Wars

So we made it back to the cabin earlier this month. At first, it seemed like everything was in order. We walked in, listened for anything vaguely like a mouse skuttling. Hearing nothing, we started to unload the car and get organized. The cat went right into the crawlspace under the cabin and within about half an hour, caught a mouse. Hmmmm. We didn't think much of it until we opened one cupboard and found that a mouse and his friends had had a major party in a big kleenex box. It was totally shredded, with a generous sprinkling of black rice. It cleaned up pretty quickly. So we thought all was well.

A while later, we noticed a groundhog (muskrat) sticking his head out from under the shed next to the cabin. Our backyard was full of delicious greenery. At first we let him be. The cat was fascinated with him. They didn't bother each other. Then we learned that they can make big tunnels and burrows under buildings, and that those facilities would likely be inhabited by other critters down the line. So, we decided he'd have to go. We planned to get a "Have A Heart" trap to do some 'catch and release.' However, before we took that step, we played some Tower of Power out in the shed at a good volume. He or she wasn't a fan, and we haven't seen him since!

We thought our experiences were quite unique, until a neighbor told us of a relative of his who unlocked his summer place up north, only to find lots of duck scat all over the house, a pile of duck feathers, and then a very smelly and very dead duck in the middle of the living room. Apparently the poor thing had flown down the chimney (they'd left the damper open) and couldn't get out.

Today I was filling my car with gas and half-way through, I happened to look at the area around the gas tank opening. There was a miniature wasp nest, complete with an actual wasp on it!  I managed to fill the tank, close the lid, and get home. My husband kindly took care of the nest.

Friday, March 9, 2012

What will we find when we get there?

It's several weeks yet before many of us venture to our camps, cabins and cottages that are boarded up all winter. Just about two full moons from now, we'll be packing up, and venturing back to the woods to check things out.

Now is the time when we start to wonder what we'll find when we pull into the driveway. We'll smell the air, car windows down, and listen to the crunch of the tires on the gravel driveway festooned with pine needles.The cabin will have been waiting for us, silent and empty, for six months.

What will we find? Will there be dead mice in the wastebasket, lured there by the blob of peanut butter? Will there be live mice? One year we opened the cabin door, and the cat snuck by us. Once inside, he pricked up his ears and scampered up the ladder to the loft, commencing a week of nightly hunts, his favorite entertainment. Last year, we were grateful to find not one, not even a trace of one. Dead or alive.

Will we find piles of dead cluster flies? Yes. Especially since it's been a relatively warm winter. We did put up fly strips in the fall, but I bet they will have been overwhelmed, given the warm days that spur on hatches.

Will we find traces of moose visits? Always. We'll find broken off branches and stems of small birch trees, and piles of tater tot-like moose nuggets near the porch, places a moose might stand, out of the wind and snow. Heck, one of these years I'm sure we'll find some on our porch. Why can't moose enjoy a little porch therapy too?

Will we find piles of chewed up pine cones, courtesy of the red squirrels? Of course.

Will we find that the floating dock is still tied to the tree between the rocks? Yes. It always is.

Of course one worries about break-ins, but our neighbors check in on things for us. We have learned to relax about that somewhat.

And when at last we roll into the driveway and get out of the car and slam its doors, will we find the air so thick with silence that it pulls the tension right out of us?

And when we open the cabin's front door, and see the piles of cluster flies, the bins, the porch furniture piled up, all in the state of chaotic winter storage, at that moment will we find that longed-for smell? Will we breathe deeply, savoring the pungent scent of the wood - maple and hemlock - that has been curing all winter?  I hope so!

Here's a photo of a Jamestown, TN log cabin for sale. It captures the mystery of arriving at a silent cabin by car on a crunchy gravel driveway. Looks like a lovely place. Link to property

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Very Pinteresting Indeed

Have you heard of the program Pinterest? If you like cabins and cabin decor, you should check it out. Pinterest ( is a free program that allows you to organize images (photos, drawings, etc.) according to your own categories. And then you can share them with your friends, and pin up the images you like on your boards. You can 'repin' what other people have posted on their boards too.

One of my nieces invited me to join. (It takes a bit of time time to get approved if you request to join without being invited.) It is a fantastic way to collect ideas about cabin decor and design. Personally I have a 'board' where I pin everything rustic, another one for 'cabin dreams', another for decor ideas using twigs and branches. The only down side is that it gives you a bad case of cabin fever!  Here is a photograph of what looks like a cabin bedroom. This has been 'repinned' by more than 5,000 people. It appears a lot of folks would like to be sleeping in a cozy cabin just about now.