Digging a Hole (August 20)

So, this week, we dug a great big hole. It took the entire week, and all hands on deck, but it’s done!

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I had thought that our dirty jobs were behind us, but there was this one more dirty job to complete, one more time to crinkle up my nose and press on, one more pair of work gloves to replace 🙂 It was dirty work and it was very physically demanding, scraping out shovels of dirt, clay, and gravel, with rocks often so large that only Joe could lift them…The kids typically helped dig on the morning shift, and switched over to apple-picking in the afternoon. It was a welcome refreshment to have a fresh cup of cider delivered to a sweaty afternoon-shoveling crew! One afternoon, they even finished up all their cider making and made us a “Congratulations on your work day!” party! They cleaned the house, hung signs, poured cider, put on some dance music, and shouted “Surprise!” when we came in. Oh happy-end-of-workday!

Another welcome diversion was the robin’s nest overhead of our work zone…The babies hatched early in the week, and all day long, we could watch the mama hunt for food, listen as she called to her hatchlings upon her return, and watch her reward their answering peeps with yummy treats!

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It never gets old, seeing those enormous mouths stretching up for food!

We unraveled most of the mystery of this failed leach field as we excavated. We found the remnants of the pipes, one section crushed under large rocks, another section completely filled with roots, and all of it cracked and splintered and filled with dirt and roots, probably because it had been a parking area for many years, and certainly because no barrier had been installed to protect the gravel below from the dirt filtering down from above. We removed all of the old material, sifted and separated dirt and rocks into separate piles, and ordered our new piping and cover material. Next week, the re-installation will begin!

And as the cider has settled, we bottled it off and put it on the shelf to see if it would carbonate…

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…and it got bubbly!

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More bubbly than I expected, actually! After a couple of days, I thought I had better “burp” one of the bottles, and it erupted champagne-like right out the top and onto the floor! It was such a surprise to see it work so well! So, we had a good laugh, lost a little cider, scrubbed up the floor nicely, and now I’m much more careful with my “burping.” And the bubbly cider, chilled in the freezer, is absolutely delicious!

And amazingly, the kids are still at it! They harvest, they chop, they juice, I make applesauce, and the apples keep coming, and the kids keep asking for more harvesting time!

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But it’s not all shoveling and cider-making around here…Inspired by a PBS special called “Rare: Creatures of the Photo Ark”, the kids have set out to create a photo-ark of their own…Armed with their camera, a small plastic storage box, a white cloth, and a black cloth, they collect our little local creatures one-by-one, and set up a photo shoot!

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The results so far have been really adorable, sometimes surprising, like how I had never fully appreciated the camouflage properties of our sweet little toads…

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…and it’s fun to hear their excitement…”I really tried to get a close-up of the eyes, Mom! You can see, like, their whole little personality in their eyes!”

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And how about that shimmering skin, usually hidden beneath a layer of the moist dirt and leaves where they burrow, but on striking display in this salamander-portrait!

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And who could ever get tired of gazing into the eyes of the little froggies? 🙂

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Along with the apples, the blossoming goldenrod is an icon of the late summer days…

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…as is the return of more frequent rain showers after a couple of dry months!

(photos courtesy of Asher)

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And so, what is the moral of the story of this week…? I guess I’d have to say, a week spent digging a hole is better than a week spent digging yourself out of one!

When Life Gives you Apples (August 12)

When life gives you apples, you make apple cider!

Oh my goodness, the joy and wonder of picking apples! The trees are heavy with them, sunny days bringing more and more ripening, reddening apples, and the kids love to harvest them! The boys climb high in the branches, and Vivi scours for low-hanging fruit…

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Of course, it’s much quicker to pick the apples than it is to make the apple cider! Each tasty apple is pretty small, and so the amount of time it takes to wash, slice, core, and remove the bad spots is pretty significant…Happily, the kids are now old enough to form an assembly line, and so, while Joe and I work outside, our automatic-cider-processing-machine is humming along inside!

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The cider is incredibly delicious, fresh out of the juicer, or popped into the freezer until it is refreshingly chilled, or happy-accidentally-forgotton-about in the freezer until it becomes a decadent cider-slushee!

Outside, the wood pile has begun, yay! We finished leveling a large, flat area, ready to store 10 cords of firewood, and soon we’ll be making our way through the forest, filling it up!

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However, that project is on hold, as something more important has bubbled to the surface, quite literally. Turns out, our septic system leach-field experienced a failure sometime in the far distant past, and over the course of almost a year now, we have filled up the tank enough to discover that it’s not properly draining! It was not a very pleasant discovery, but it is manageable, and I am so grateful for the Lord’s planning and provision that He revealed this to us exactly when we could work on it, and well before winter when it would have become a real disaster! Praise Him for His perfect timing! And so, since the Lord directs us to work with our hands whenever we can, we will be digging out and repairing and improving the leach-field. Armed with our shovels and wheelbarrow and sifter, we’ll be digging out a very large pit, pulling out the old broken pipes, removing clay and dirt, installing a new pipe-system, back-filling with gravel, installing septic-guard fabric, and then topping with a layer of dirt for an expanded wildflower field 🙂 

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This job will not exactly be a bed of roses, but will be another great comfort to complete, once-for-all, fixing it up the right way for many years to come!

The very first hints of fall are in the air, as a chill morning dew set everything to sparkling in almost-frost-like splendor!

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But still, new blossoms are appearing, summertime coreopsis…

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…plenty of cosmos, and lovely little forget-me-nots…

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…and late violets! These little beauties grow only-more-amazing the closer you get!

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Springtime babies are growing up a bit, filling out nicely in their journey to grow into a properly plump little Robin-Redbreast before winter’s chill…

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…or to fuel up for winter hibernation, dreaming of emerging in the spring as a lovely Black Zigzag Moth!

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One night, as we were gathered for dinner time, Vivi was distressed over having bad thoughts. She said, “I keep trying not to think ‘worst’, but it keeps always coming in my head!” It was really upsetting her. So, I started explaining to her that we can’t control all of our thoughts, and that the bad ones can come into our heads from the enemy, even when we don’t choose them…You don’t have to be upset, because it’s not your fault, it’s just what he does, and he’s always doing it. But when a thought like that comes, what you have to do is choose to have a thought about the Lord. So, I was asking her if she could think of a favorite Bible story, or if she could tell me her memory verse, or a favorite song, or if she could just repeat, “I love you, God, I love you, God.” Then Spencer pipes up, “Whenever I have bad thoughts, I think about John’s vision of the kingdom of God! (from Revelation) I usually think about God and Jesus on their thrones and the Holy Spirit standing in front, ready to do the Lord’s will,” and he smiled a big smile. Amen, brother! Then, Asher, my little analytical man, adds, “Sometimes, the enemy tries to tell me God’s not real. But I just point out all the facts that it’s obvious that God’s real, like how God creating everything makes so much more sense than evolution, and how the Bible was given by God, and all the time they discover things that prove the facts in the Bible are true.” Oh my goodness, the joy in my heart to have my little ones learning the difference between the truth of God and the lies of enemy, and what to do about it!

I guess that’s what late summer’s all about – picking apples, making cider, stacking firewood, digging holes, watching the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees, and growing in the knowledge and love and understanding of the Lord!

A Job Well Done (August 6)

And in celebration of a job well-done…a week of steady work, of shoveling and sifting and wheel-barrowing and stump removal and weeding and raking, a week when we asked the kids to work calmly and cheerfully, not to rush, but to be kind and loving to one another, grateful for the chance to do good, honest work for the Lord, a week when lunch was often late, mornings were early, and evenings were dirty and dusty and sweaty, when hot showers were greatly-welcomed and dinner was the last thing standing between tired kiddos and soft pillows, a week when the promise of breakfast at Helen’s if they met their goal had been hanging in the balance…in celebration of such a week a congratulations-outing was in order!

We began at Helen’s, where everyone enjoyed their favorite meals, and the satisfaction of working together to achieve a reward…Vivi: two chocolate chip pancakes…Spencer: french toast with scrambled eggs, sausage, and bacon…Asher: the meat lover’s omelette with white toast…And, with full bellies, we decided to go and see what the ocean was doing!

At Fort O’Brien State Historic Site, the water was silvery under cloudy skies…

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But there were green hills to run on…

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And berries to pick!

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A little farther down the road at Jasper Beach, the sun was shining…

(photo courtesy of Asher)

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(photos courtesy of Genevieve)

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The water was sparkling…

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The waves were mesmerizing…

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The toes were wiggling…

(photos courtesy of Genevieve)

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And the raspberry pie was delicious! (But that’s not at the beach, you have to bring your own :))

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Way to go, kiddos!

Foundations (July 30)

As I sit in the summer sun, looking out over a few bright wildflowers and a wide expanse of shady forest, I am…

Tired…and…Content…and…Grateful!

Tired because pouring a footing is hard work, lol! We had thought that this work would unfold a little bit at a time, since we couldn’t work in wet weather, and since we would have to wait for one section to dry before continuing on to the next…Buuuuuuut, we’ve had a two-week stretch of warm, dry weather, which has allowed each section to cure overnight, and we’ve been able to continue working every day!

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It’s been quite a process. First, dig a 2-foot-deep trench and install the forms for a 9-foot section. Then, wheel 160 lbs. of concrete over to the work area, add water, mix, shovel it into the forms, and pack it tight by hand. Repeat, 160 lbs. at a time, until the section is filled. Once dry, patch any gaps, then do a final coat of mortar along the seam. Finally, staple a layer of plastic wrap to the baseboard, place the sheet of insulation against the footing and foundation, pack dry concrete under the foam board to level it, and then back-fill the trench and rake it smooth, sloping away from the house. We figured out that we’ve transported over 4 tons of concrete over the course of this project. It’s been awesome! But tiring!

Content because it’s Sunday, a day of rest, and as always on this seventh day, I am relaxing and enjoying a beautiful view with my loving family, soaking up the peaceful feeling of another week of work behind, and a week of work ahead that’s not quite here yet 🙂

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Grateful because, as He always does, the Lord has continued to bring spiritual truths to bear in the midst of physical efforts! As we’ve worked on our home’s foundation, and as we’ve taught the children their homeschool lessons on the importance of foundations in our buildings and in our souls, the Lord has continued to work on my foundation as well! For example, as the weeks pass, I survey our small and struggling plants…They’ve had poor soil and dry days, and it continues to look like we will harvest very little this year. So what do I say about this un-harvest? I say, with great thanks, the Lord gives and the Lord takes away, blessed be the name of the Lord! Every day that we’ve spent in this house, I can honestly say that we have done what the Lord has led us to do. Each day, each week, each task, each project, we have prayed about and completed in obedience to the Lord, when it made sense to us and even-more-so when it didn’t exactly make sense yet! Now, after having obeyed in planting, I see little fruit coming to bear…and, naturally, it makes me reflect on much more than just gardening, on relationships and interactions, times when I’ve said something or done something at the Lord’s leading only to face rejection or disinterest or nothing at all…times when I’ve planted in obedience, and seen little fruit coming to bear. And so it fills me with hope! Because, what more could I wish for than to ask the question, “Did I obey?”, and answer, truthfully, “Yes!” Will I follow the Lord’s will only when I receive tangible results? Only when it bears visible fruit? Or will I follow the Lord’s will at all times, in all circumstances, regardless of what my eyes tell me about the results, trusting in His perfect plan that, thankfully, requires nothing more of me than to love and obey Him? And so, in a season of planting, without any fruit bearing, I say “Amen!”, and I will hope in You, Lord, and in the perfection of Your plans, all the more! I like foundation work 🙂

These summer days, working on the land and working on the foundation, have been long days of outside work, in the fresh air and sunshine, focused on some physically demanding tasks, but surrounded by the trees and the flowers and the squirrels and the birds and the bees, a truly delightful work environment!

I wish that I could take a picture of the way that warm sunshine feels on cool shoulders, or the way that cool breezes feel on warm foreheads…

I wish I could take a picture of the bright music of the birds singing good morning to the Lord, or the peaceful evening melodies as they wish Him a good night…

I wish I could take a picture of that sweet, flowery scent that drifts into the kitchen window on a sunny afternoon, or the spicy balsam fir smell that welcomes a step into the forest…

I wish I could take a picture of the excitement in voices that cry out, “Look at this, look at this!”, whether it’s a ripe pea-on-the-vine, or a butterfly in the garden, or an apple branch that is the perfect shape for making a bow, or a salamander guarding her eggs…

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But I can’t! So many little joys of daily life just can’t be captured in a picture…but, happily, some can!

Busy bees…

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Happy toads…

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Tiny shining creatures…

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Growing things…

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And things in full bloom…

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Climbing trees…

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And quiet morning snuggles…

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And so, tired and content and grateful, I look forward to each new day full of the many things that can be captured in pictures, and the many-more things that can’t!

Galatians 6:9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not…

Moving Right Along (July 20)

On the old homestead, work continues slow-and-steady…

The process of building our first timber-frame structure has begun…It will be our woodshed, which I affectionately call our Half-a-Woodshed-Half-Built in memory of Little House on the Prairie, though I know Joe will actually build a Full-Woodshed-Well-Built-with-Additional-Loft-for-Storage. How does it look so far? 🙂

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It’s not a quick project, and has multiple stages, and I’m not sure if we’ll be constructing the actual building this fall or next spring. First, we have to clear and level the footprint of the building, which we’ve begun. Part of that process included taking down some trees, which will serve as various structural elements like posts and beams and braces, and we’ll continue into the forest felling more dead-and-dying trees for this purpose. We fell them, limb them, cut them to size, de-bark them, label them, check them off our list, and pile them up in our timber-pile, waiting for the day when construction begins! It’s a wonderful learning process, planning and preparing from tree-to-shed, and I am just the humble support crew to all of Joe’s plans, guided by the hand of the Lord as He teaches us to do even big things with our own hands!

Woodshed work is actually a filler-activity, which we work on in the times when we are unable to work on our first priority, which is shoring up our foundation. It’s going so well! Joe developed a very methodical and manageable concrete-form process, using materials we already had on the property – dimensional lumber from house demolition, and sticks from the forest! He laid a 2 x 4 along the bottom of our trench, and then used upright 2 x 6s to hold the concrete in tight to the foundation. We work from left to right, shoveling in concrete, which Joe packs in tight by hand, and then presses the 2 x 6 up into place and braces it with a stick.

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The result is this little stem wall unfolding beneath our foundation, supporting the edges and preventing erosion, and providing a two-foot depth for us to insulate against, so we won’t have condensation problems around all the edges of our floor this winter!

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It’s slow but happy work, knowing that this effort will do so much to take care of our home and prepare it to withstand many future winters!

In the midst of our foundation efforts, we took a break to enjoy the 4th of July fireworks in Machias, over the water…

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Work continues on the farm, moving more dirt from our wood-shed area to our farm area, transplanting some struggling seedlings, and even continuing to plant seeds for late crops…

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There’s still not much growing, per se…Everything’s still quite small and seems to be struggling a bit with poor soil and limited sunlight…We did thin out a few turnip-babies that were super-delicious in chicken noodle soup, and we’ve had some carrots and greens from the farm table that we started inside, and a few snow peas, all enjoyed with thanks and dedication to God…but what’s been more fun these days is enjoying what’s coming up naturally on the land!

In the forest, the dewberries are ripening…

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They taste just like little raspberries (they’re also called dwarf raspberries or swamp raspberries), and they carpet the forest floor, so I’m looking forward to lots more munching!

The serviceberries have been ripening on the trees. They’re also called juneberries, so I think they’re a little late this year, but one tree outside our back door is especially large and fruitful, providing refreshing snacks during our efforts! They taste like a combination between an apple and a blueberry, more tart when they’re red and sweeter as they turn purple.

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Most surprising for me has been the crop of dandelion leaves, which completely fill this bowl beneath the turnip and carrot thinnings.

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I’ve always known that dandelions were edible, but I never really tried them. Joe remembers eating dandelion sandwiches with his grandfather as a child, and he really wanted to try them, so he set the kids to harvesting them. It turned out better than I could have imagined! Not only is it a great task for them to gather the leaves, but they’re really delicious, cooked up with onion and garlic and salt and pepper, and very nutritious! And so I am now officially sold on dandelions 🙂

The kids come in often from their outdoor wanderings with little surprises – rabbit strawberries or shiny-winged moths or cool salamanders or brightly-colored pinecones! Their excitement is very delightful as they burst in the front door exclaiming, “Look at this! You gotta see this!”

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The very first thing we planted in our farm, way back before we even demolished the mobile home, was the wildflower garden, and it has finally begun to come to life! The poppies have been the early stars of the show, but the whole area has filled out quite respectably, and the bright colors and the buzzing bees make me smile and think about farming-years-to-come!

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Just a little slice of brightness amidst our work in the dirt and mud and the concrete and the wood-chips 🙂

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On one Sunday-outing, we made our way out to Lubec, the easternmost point in the United States, only an hour or so away from our house. We wanted to explore the town in tourist-season (you know, when things are open!), and visit the West Quoddy Head park to spend some time at the shore.

After peeking into some local shops and figuring out our way around town, we stopped for lunch at the Inn at the Wharf. The deck seating was perfect, with a beautiful view of the bay…

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…and of the ships at harbor, one of which brought in the lobster that we would be eating!

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Our first Maine lobster was greatly enjoyed by all, though the kids were quite content to go back to their burgers and sandwiches after a couple of samples 🙂

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Next, after asking for some directions, we found our way to beautiful Mowry Beach, staring out across golden waters to the Canadian coastline on the other side.

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Spencer had wished for a beach where he could walk out a really-really-long ways (like, all the way out to there, Mom!) , and with the tide slowly making its way out across a wide sandy shelf, he got his wish!

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The air was deliciously warm, with a gentle breeze occasionally stirring, and the water was so still…

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It was clear with a sandy bottom, making the afternoon sunlight dance in golden ripples around my feet…

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…and, knee-deep in numbing water, I could still smell the warm fragrance of the beach roses drifting past me on the summer breeze! It was amazing!

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West Quoddy Head has a wonderful little lighthouse…

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…and a long, rocky coastline to explore.

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It’s a great spot for whale-watching, though we didn’t see any. Several species of whales find these waters to be abundant feeding grounds, and I look forward to the prospect of returning with a picnic lunch one day to spend more time staring out across these blue waters, watching for spouts!

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This month, the day also came for a re-supply run to Bangor. We buy our staples, like flour, oats, rice, and beans, in bulk from a natural foods store there, about every two-to-three months. This month, we combined the run with a bulk order of concrete for our foundation work, and added in a field trip to Fort Knox and the Narrows Bridge Observatory for good measure!

The Penobscot Narrows Bridge, along with its tower-top-observatory, opened in 2007, replacing the previous bridge which had been in-place since 1931 and suffered cable-corrosion beyond repair. It’s a stunningly beautiful bridge, enjoyable just to drive across, and today we would also enjoy the 360-degree-view from the top of the observation tower.

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The nearby Fort Knox, in the same park, is a beautiful old fort made from enormous granite blocks quarried from a nearby mountain. It was built to prevent the British from sailing up the Penobscot River and harassing the new Maine townships after the Revolutionary War.

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It overlooks the Penobscot River, and the town of Bucksport on the other side…

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It is complete with cannons of all sizes…

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…granite spiral staircases…

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…long passageways with interesting, dark storage chambers for flashlight-exploration…

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…and rooftop-grassy-spaces with sweeping views!

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The following Sunday, we stuck close to home. We spent the morning in our forest…

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…and the afternoon at nearby Jonesport beach!

The air was warm, the breeze was cool, and the sun was in-and-out through a hazy fog lying close along the water. The tide was high, and the clear water was nice and shallow for a long ways out, just deep enough to sit in a floatie, or paddle around on a boogie-board!

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“Look, Momma! Momma, look! I can swim, I can swim, I can swim!”

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The summer days come and go, the projects inch slowly forwards…And tonight, at dinner, Genevieve said, “Daddy, when are we going on a trip? Like, when are we gonna pack up all our things and go to a new land?” Oh how wonderful! Well, if the Lord wills it of course, but until then, we’ll just keep enjoying ourselves right here!

Summertime, Summertime (July 2)

Some days, I feel like anything is possible. Some days, I feel like I am woefully inadequate for what lies ahead. Both are true. So, regardless of which truth I feel each day, I remind myself to hold tight to the one truth that is more fundamental than either – “With man, it is impossible, but with God, all things are possible!”

The remainder of the mobile home demolition was a serious work-effort, as we peeled off layers of steel roofing, bagged up insulation, pulled out framing, and then moved down to the final level, the flooring, pulling off sheets of linoleum, tearing up 3/4” plywood, bagging up more insulation…

And then, if that wasn’t quite enough, the removal of the flooring revealed just how much porcupine poo had piled up underneath!

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It was 18” deep, filling sections of the frame about 20 feet long and 8 feet wide! And, since it was mingled with trash and fiberglass, it wasn’t really “organic” enough to be spread in the forest, and also had to be bagged and disposed. Yep, that’s right, there I was, shovelin’ porcupine poo, about 40 bags-full!

But now, having it reduced to the metal frame is a great feeling! And we all threw our work gloves away and bought new ones, because, happily, that was the last of the really gross clean-up work 🙂

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The farm seems to be growing so slowly, I expect because of all the cool, rainy days. Our seedlings are still seedlings, and not even the cool-weather crops are very far along. Sometimes I can’t imagine that anything will produce this year, but I remind myself that the garden belongs to the Lord, and I trust in His perfect plan, vegetables or no vegetables!

In the meantime, our next project is the foundation. We thought that what we would be doing was a little bit of repair work packing in some concrete to support a corner, followed by wrapping some insulation board around the perimeter, and then backfilling with gravel. It was going to be a fair job, but after a little research, the job got a little bigger, because we learned that we should dig down two feet all around to install the insulation…

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And then bigger still when we dug down, and the loosely-packed gravel underneath our foundation fell away, and we realized that we’ll actually be pouring a footing all the way around the house. Which is what we planned to do initially, but had come to think wouldn’t be necessary…And so we’ve come full-circle, back to a big job, to stabilize the erosion and properly insulate, to ensure future stability and eliminate condensation and moisture inside. It’s the right thing to do, but there was a moment (or more) when I had to strongly remind myself that with God all things are possible, because the enormity of the task loomed up a little high.

But I remember, and always remember, that when He reveals to us what is to come, what needs to be done, what can be achieved, it always comes to pass, whether I’ve ever thought it possible or not, lol!

And, gentle as ever, He cushions the moments that are difficult with many, many moments that are beautiful…Summer at the beach continues to unfold, and I am so grateful that the children get to experience the lovely casual enjoyment of spontaneously deciding, “Work’s done, it’s sunny, let’s go to the beach!”

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Sometimes it gets a little backed up on the expressway, you know, bumper-to-bumper…

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But it’s so relaxing once you make it to the tide pool 🙂

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And, besides the pocketfuls of pebbles and seaglass, there’s often something new to see, something I can’t figure out, and have to Google to identify…”Cluster egg sac Maine coast”, click on Images, and the answer is, Common Whelk egg cases!

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Of course, the main attraction at the beach is the water!

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A few boogie-boards, purchased at Walmart in Florida last summer, have gone a long ways, from the sugar sands of Destin and floating a Florida river, up to the North Atlantic waters of Maine!

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Of course, sometimes, you just feel like running around…

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…sometimes you run out of steam…

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…sometimes, you get the wave…

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…and sometimes the wave gets you!

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Brrrrrrr! These are no bathtub-temperature Florida waters, not even in June!

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But that’s okay, no hard feelings, it’s all a day at the beach!

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This area really wakes up in the summer, or “the season”, and there are quite a few little outings and activities to enjoy. There’s a bit of archery training at the nearby Pleasant River Fish and Game Club…

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There’s a visit to a beautiful little barn down in Cherryfield, where we got to meet the horses, and even take a ride!

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A short drive down US-1, Darthia Farms hosted an open-farm day, complete with horse-drawn wagon-ride…

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And then of course, at home, the world is filled with the little wonders of summer…Birds’ nests…

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So many wonderful salamanders, abounding beneath mossy logs, smooth and cool with their gentle little feet and nudging noses, Eastern Red-Backed and Dusky and Blue-Spotted and Eastern Newt …

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Baby birds, following their mommas around, being fed and learning how to fend for themselves…And, magically, one little guy who came down to the ground, and was only too happy to be patient with us all admiring him before we put him back up in the tree for momma to feed!

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Weird mysteries to unravel….Why, you ask did I take a picture of a piece of straw?

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Because it’s actually a worm!

A Horsehair Worm, apparently named because people used to believe that they were created from actual horsehairs that dropped into puddles…Harmless, weirdly wonderful, another on a long list of surprises, when I thought that pretty much, if you’ve seen one worm, you’ve seen them all 🙂

And, finally, the lovely, haunting, flute-like evening song of the Wood Thrush, wrapping up another summer evening, and reminding my heart that He is listening…

Spring Approaches Summer (June 11)

Here I sit, looking out over the sunny water…

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…listening to the sounds of the gently rolling waves, the calls of the seabirds, and the chattering of 3 children digging 1 large hole in the sand…

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…reflecting on the fact that over a month has passed since I last sat down to write…Over a month of springtime, and here we are, fast approaching summer…The spring season has continued to be an alternation, a week of warm sun followed by a week of cool rain, the coming summer held back by the reminder that this is, after all, a northern land…And the Lord has gently and perfectly mirrored the rhythm of the weather with the rhythm of our work…A cool, misty week for cleaning up the mobile home; a warm, sunny week for planting in the farm; a cool, misty week for hauling loads of garbage and taking the kids’ annual grade-level testing; a warm, sunny week for more planting in the farm…No matter the weather, there is alway something to do, and we find each thing coming to its proper pausing-point just as the weather shifts and a new activity comes to the forefront. And everywhere, there is the beauty of the season unfolding around us!

This was the old mobile home, right off the front corner of the house. It had been abandoned for many years, even for many years before the house was abandoned 6 years ago, but had been left standing with all of its old contents still inside, to which had been added assorted bags of things to be “stored”. It was not only old and abandoned, but falling apart, with holes in various areas of the walls and flooring, and one section of the roof caved in. It looked to me like a monumental effort, and one that had been waiting for some warm and dry spring days to make it more manageable…

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As it turned out, one week of focused attention made a significant difference! We began by tearing off siding and pulling out what was left of the insulation, having tarped over the hole in the roof to give some of that soggy trash a chance to dry out. As always, we pulled out everything and sorted it into trash, recycling, metal, and burn piles.

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As we worked our way down, we opened up new walls, and then we could reach even more garbage, lol!

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By the end of the week, and several trips to the dump, all that was left was a frame, a huge burn pile, and a huge metal pile!

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It was hard work, and often gross work, pulling out rain-soaked piles of the lifetime accumulations of a household: clothes, books, magazines, dishes, medicines, toiletries, christmas decorations, paperwork, rugs, and piles-and-piles-and-piles of porcupine-poo…

I was super-grateful that this week was cool and misty, never quite raining, but always a little breezy and on the edge of a sprinkle…And I thought how very-much-more-unpleasant this task would be during a sunny week, on warm days full of aromas and bugs, yikes!

Some things inspired laughter, like an issue of “Your Healthy Home” buried in the porcupine-poo…

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…and some things inspired delight, like when we accidentally uncovered a mouse nest with 5 sleeping babies, and happily watched their mama relocate them all to a safe place!

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Most things were just old and moldy and waterlogged and gross…Asher kept asking me, “Mom, what’s wrong?” until he got used to seeing my “mobile-home-face”, as I gingerly pulled out soggy garbage and stuffed it into bags.

Some things were interesting, though too dilapidated to actually make use of, like an old spy-glass, a machine that you used to make your own records, scuba gear, a hand-held harpoon for fishing…

One thing, a baseball bat, was set aside for later use on the final stages of the mobile home demolition…

Most things were simply loaded into the trailer, bound for the dump, bringing our tally of tons-of-garbage up near 10.

But one thing, one magical thing, was inside of a box, inside of a bag, inside of a filing cabinet, so that it was actually clean, and the kids were allowed to use it…Sparklers!

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What a fun way to wrap up a week of demolition and disposal!

After a week or so of moving dirt and planting seeds in the farm, we returned to the mobile home to finish the job. We brought out the baseball bat and took turns knocking out the 2 x 4 framing until we were able to pull the whole thing down! The future holds more dismantling and more trailer-fulls of sheet metal and plywood to the dump, but I would say that the worst is behind us on this project!

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Sometime during our farming activities, around the middle of May, black fly season arrived. We didn’t recognize it at first. We just kept saying, “These gnats are pests! And I think they bite, too…They definitely keep trying to get in my nose and mouth.” And then, after a couple of days under the pestilence of gnats, I said to Joe, “Can you check the difference between gnats and black flies? Maybe they’re the same. I hope they’re the same, because I really don’t like to think that we still have a pestilence of black flies to come after this pestilence of gnats!” Sure enough, the two are one, and there is only the one pestilence to endure! They are a pain, to be sure, swarming around your head any moment you stand still, even crawling into sleeves and pants legs to deliver their bites, which swell overnight into hard, red, sore, itchy bumps that last for a couple of weeks…But there are a couple of things I like about them! One is that a breeze drives them away instantly, and a brisk walk outdistances them. Also, as soon as the sun dips over the horizon, they’re gone for the day. And, when they get into the house, they don’t chase you anymore, but are irrestistibly drawn to the windows where they can be mopped up efficiently. The silly things don’t even pay any attention to the fate of the flies being demolished right next to them, but patiently await their turn with the wet-wipe! They say they’re active for about a month until they’re gone for the year, and also that this year is quite severe, so it’s nice to know that we’re almost through with them, and that this was kind of a worst-case scenario.

And after several warm-spells of work on the farm, we’re basically finished planting! Each of those little stakes along the rows and mounds names something that we’ve planted, from lettuces and greens and cabbages and broccoli, to beets and radishes and turnips and rutabagas and parsnips, to corn and beans and peas, to onions and garlic and leeks and scallions, to tomatoes and celery and peppers and basil and dill, to a herb garden full of chamomile and thyme and chicory and parsley and mint and cilantro and nasturtiums and chives and wintergreen and sorrel and sweet woodruff, to wildflowers and sunflowers…So very many things to try out this year, all snugly in the ground with prayers, and seedlings in various stages of sprouting!

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The spring days have many more benefits than draw-backs…The bees are buzzing in the trees, quite literally! The apple trees are heavy with their fragrant white blossoms, promising future apples…

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…and the hum of the bees is a constant background to outdoor activities, much more pleasant than the busy-street-drone or neighbor’s-lawnmower-drone that I’ve more often experienced…The birds are forever singing, and each new song sends us scrambling for binoculars and our Audubon app, trying to figure out who’s who! Some of our little songbirds, like the White-throated Sparrow and the Winter Wren, are frequently heard and almost never seen, while the Red-breasted Nuthatches and Black-capped Chickadees remain friendly and familiar companions. The Broad-winged Hawk often soars by overhead with its piercing cry. And some, like the Yellow-rumped Warbler, the Magnolia Warbler…

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…the Blackburnian Warbler, and the Northern Parula, seem to spend just a little time here on their way to somewhere else. Some friends are frequent visitors…The feeders attract Chipping Sparrows and Nuthatches and Ruby-throated Hummingbirds (so far a juvenile male and two females)…

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…as well as one pesky little fluffy rascal…

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A diseased poplar tree draws a Yellow-breasted Sapsucker…

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…and our window frame is attracting the nesting efforts of a pair of Eastern Phoebes! They build a mud nest, and I’m still not sure they’re really going to do it, but they’ve been working at it on-and-off for three days now. It’s pretty amazing to watch one come in under the eaves, and hover right at the window to dab mud onto the window frame!

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There’s no better music than the song of the birds with the buzzing of the bees, and it makes the farmwork days super-pleasant until the bugs drive us inside behind the comfort of screened windows!

The springtime forest is gracefully carpeted in the pale green and sparkling white of Starflower, Dwarf Dogwood, and Wild Lily-of-the-Valley…

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…and the promise of future blueberries hangs from low branches…

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Springtime bouquets from serviceberry and apple branch make their way inside to keep me company in the kitchen…

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…even as we begin to enjoy the first proceeds from our garden, radishes and greens that started inside in our farm table!

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And I am still continually surprised as the kids discover bugs that I have never seen, heard of, or imagined before!

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We enjoyed a beautiful super-low-tide outing to Acadia, on the Schoodic Peninsula side, with much splashing and turning-over-of-rocks…

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There’s something very grounding about watching my wee-children explore vast landscapes, and I always enjoy seeing them, and capturing them, as the tiny bright dots that they are in their surroundings! As I walk along, I feel about medium-sized, and sometimes I feel kind of vast as I look closely at all the tiny pebbles and critters around my feet…but then I look up and I see my kiddos ranging far and wide along a tidal river under a stretch of forest and an expansive sky, and I remember how tiny we all are in this wonderfully wide world!

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Out at the point of the peninsula, with the tide coming back in, we enjoyed the view of the open ocean…

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The surf was crashing, and you could sit and feel like you were right in the middle of the sea…

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But still, the little mussel nurseries were tucked snug away in crevices undisturbed by the noisy waves…

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…and the barnacles calmly wisped the micronutrients out of the plentiful waters. It was mesmerizing!

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We made our way down to a quieter cobble-beach-cove where, like good little shorebirds, they built a nest of rocks…

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And then on the way out of the park, we stopped for a meal at The Pickled Wrinkle, which I had always looked at and said, “What in the world?” It was sunny but slightly chilly out on the deck, as we browsed the menu and tried to figure out where the bizarre name came from!

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Turns out to be a nice little restaurant, named after a historical staple of the lobster villagers’ diet. Wrinkles are sea snails that often get pulled up in the traps with the lobster. Whenever caught, the fishermen would set them aside and pickle them, storing them as an excellent source of nutrition in case of a hard year. Our family was divided, 2 for and 3 against, on the issue of yumminess :), but the rest of the food was very good, and inspired Asher to want to return the following weekend for a birthday meal!

On another day, we happened to cross the Pleasant River near our home at low-tide, and enjoyed the experience of walking right out into the middle of the river!

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For his birthday, Asher had some very specific plans – that kid knows what he wants! His day began, as always, with a rousing “Happy Birthday” chorus, after which, per request, I served up fried eggs and bacon and biscuits for breakfast! Next, Asher was ready to blow out 10 candles on 10 birthday cookies, and open his presents, which he received with great surprise and joy.

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His next request was a day of bird-watching at Acadia, culminating in birthday lunch at the Pickled Wrinkle, which he had so-greatly-enjoyed the week before, and so we set off on a lovely forest and shoreline wander!

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After a late and delicious lunch, Asher was ready for his next treat – a couple of games of pool with Daddy!

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And then we were homeward bound, for the next activity on Asher’s birthday schedule – playtime at our stream! Armed with a couple of sifters, the small stream was a wonderland of pebbles and water spiders…

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…and frogs!

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What a wonderful way to turn 10!

And today, in summer fashion, it’s a Sunday at the beach! Though still a little chilly in the breeze, and a little chilly in the water, it is still decidedly a glorious summer day!

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Good-bye mud season, hello sand season!

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Spring Cleaning (May 8)

At this house, spring cleaning is at a whole different level this year!

We have a few different projects going on at the same time. One is the ever-ongoing trash removal, as we continue clearing the space in front of our house that will be used for gardening this year, combing carefully over the land, up through the forest edge, removing every little bit-and-piece of styrofoam, plastic, old carpet, miscellaneous car parts, food containers, etc. 🙂 Spencer says, “Finding trash is my favorite! It lifts my spirits! Because every piece of trash that I find, I know that’s one less piece of trash that’s on our property!” He’s so right.

Another project is the leveling and grading of the land around the cabin. When they made the site for the cabin, they scraped the ground level, and pushed the dirt up into a berm around the rear corner. Unfortunately, it channels a lot of water under and along the foundation, eroding away the ground underneath, so that needs to be corrected. On the up side, all the dirt that we take from the berm goes over onto the farm, to even out the slope of the land, and get some looser soil up on top of the compacted ground.

It certainly takes all-hands-on-deck! Here, you see the dirt-removal-crew in full swing….

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Joe and I run the cart, which we have since (thankfully!) upgraded to a very nice wheelbarrow.

And here, the operator-in-charge-of-rows is removing strips of grass for planting. On the left side of the path, the land is level and grassy, so for now, we just pulled out the grass and planted directly. But on the right side of the path, the land slopes away and is very compacted, so that’s where we decided it would be easier to put in raised rows and mounds to plant into. Over time, as we continue to add dirt and compost and all that, the whole area will basically become one level.

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One morning, upon looking out the window at the cleared land, at the rows and mounds and the beginnings of our farm, Vivi exclaimed: “How beautiful!” I agreed whole-heartedly, of course, but others may be thinking, “Ummmm….” 

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In a way it doesn’t look like much, but consider its history…First, it was completely overgrown with thorns and scrub-brush and alder saplings, from the forest line right up to the walls of the house. Then, it was cleared and filled with all the piles of rubble from the demolished rotting decks and the sorted garbage and recycling from emptying the house. Now, it’s clean and clear, with a dry path to the front door, and beginning to produce the seedlings of all kinds of yummy vegetables – so, you can kinda see what she means, lol!

And then, of course, there’s the demolition of the mobile home, but that’s a story for another day!

A Sunday outing to the Petit Manan Reserve introduced us to a beautiful forest trail…

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And a wonderful boulder-and-sand beach!

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We watched a pair of Greater Yellow Legs perched on nearby boulders, listening to their unique trill before they flew out across the waves…

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…and admired the beauty of a squirrel in bright sunshine, lively and glowing – just look at that tail!

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On my birthday, we continued our tradition of birthday breakfast at Helen’s!

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And then, since we were in the area, we went out to explore Jasper Beach in Machiasport.

It turned out to be a really cool rocky beach, with huge cobble-dunes! The kids ran up-and-down the hills, rolled down the hills, jumped-and-slid down the hills…

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The rocks were really beautiful, so smooth, and so many different types and colors…We did a little research and discovered that this is actually a rare location geologically, being predominately rhyolite, a lovely smooth, pink mineral that is only found in a handful of other locations in the U.S. 

Plus, it’s just simply lovely 🙂

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I was excited to see a Loon in breeding plumage, fishing off the shoreline…I was kinda thinking I might have missed the breeding plumage, as they leave the coastal waters and head for freshwater lakes to breed, so this was really exciting for me! They are so strikingly beautiful and graceful!

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And a whole flock of Eiders paddled about.

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We explored down to the end of the beach where a stream outlet creates a brackish pond and a sandy delta beside high cliffs.

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As always, a day at the beach reduces the borders of my vision down to the small space of pebbles immediately surrounding my feet 🙂 Snailshells and quartzite and seaglass, oh my!

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But there was a bit more to explore than that! The cliffs were full of hollows and clefts and arches and bridges…

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Some were dry, some were full of teeny dripping cascades and clear fairy-pools for humble inhabitants…

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All in all, a great place for an outing, with the measure-of-success always being kids-crashing-in-the-car!

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We returned again on Sunday, a different sort of day, with bright sunshine, strong breezes, and very tall crashing surf!

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This time we meandered over to the other end of the beach, where there were boulders and tide pools and a sand beach.

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On the way, Asher discovered a sweet little urchin among the cobbles (and actually trying to eat one of the cobbles!), and we carried him along with us to the tide pools to release him.

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There, we got to see the wonderful magic of all of his little feelers or feeders or whatever-they-are, coming out of the spines and waving about in the cool water. Whatever is in the water has gotta be yummier than pebbles!

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Back at home, Vivi’s sweet little bench finished drying. You can tell it’s dried when the legs begin to fall out. 🙂 Then, it’s time to give the legs a final wedge (which you can see by the darker stripe within the circles), and finish the surface. Joe carved these little grasses, which he then colored with a pencil and burnished with beeswax.

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A sweet little bench for a sweet little princess!

Throughout our work and play, the springtime awakening of nature is all around us! The frogs are singing, the birds are nesting…

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…the endless variety of insects are beginning to stir…

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We constantly hear new birdsongs, identifying new little visitors that are coming for the summer, or just passing through. We often hear their songs long before we’re able to find them, cute little warblers and sparrows and wrens, so small and quick and difficult-to-spot in the budding brush. Beneath roots and leaves the salamanders are beginning to stir. The small clear leaf-bottomed ponds in our forest, called vernal pools, are full of clusters of frog and salamander eggs.

Seedlings are sprouting slowly in the farm, and inch-by-inch we are making our way along in our new Maine life!

Prepare Your Fields (April)

Proverbs 24:27 Put your outdoor work in order and get your fields ready; after that, build your house.

With our snug-little-cabin all in working order, though far from finished, the Lord has put it in our hearts to put first-things-first, according to His Word! I really enjoy how He reveals His order and methods for how to live life, which always make so much sense, and keep things from getting overwhelming!

And so, on those warm winter days, and now that spring has sprung, we have concentrated our efforts on clearing all trash from the perimeter of the house, preparing the area where we will be planting our garden and establishing our firewood storage for next year. Where initially we thought that there was one trash pile on one side, recent excavations have uncovered trash piles on three sides of the house, lol! Carpets and shingles and sofas, oh my! And oh-so-many plastic bags and tin cans and nails-upon-nails-upon-nails…

And then, too, we finally were able to tackle the pile of appliances that came out of the house, dismantling them for recycling. In one small house, there was a washer and a dryer, a water-heater, an enormous microwave, and four various-sized refrigerators! It has sometimes been hot and dirty work but, working together, we have sorted and shifted all the debris down to the end of the mobile home, ready to be hauled off in loads for disposal. 

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The next order of business is to complete a couple of burn piles, and then to rake out our planting areas. From the front of the house, we have an area of about 70 x 40 feet that we can dedicate to farming first off. We have a single pathway down the middle (made of log-slices from timber that we’ve cleared, and following the septic line where we don’t want to do any digging or planting anyway), and we’ll be planting row crops like onions and cabbage and broccoli and beets and such on both sides, where we have the most sun.

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We’ll have one long line of sunflowers down one side, separating our farm area from the mobile home, with the added benefit that the sunflowers will also hide the eyesore from view, while still allowing access for us to dismantle and haul out, and will also begin to clean the soil there from the years of whatever-has-been-leaching-out-into-it. Along the other side, we border the forest, and we’ve left several tall saplings that we hope will be good poles for growing beans, and we’ll plan to intersperse most of our tall crops there.

And, of course, as we work, I am sometimes inspired to clear a shady spot or two where we can enjoy a drink of cold water and sit and watch the garden grow! 

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We have a local wildflower mix, which we’ll sprinkle over the top of the septic tank on one corner of the farm, as well as over a previous-trash-pile-that-we-cleaned-out on the opposite corner, to make things pretty and attract all the wonderful pollinators to our farm 🙂 We also picked several seeds to scatter in the forest itself, things like wild onions and mountains spinach and sweet woodruff and wintergreen that will begin to fill the forest with good grazing for us and our woodland neighbors! There will be an herb garden somewhere, and we have some grain crops like flax and wheat and oats that we want to sow in small patches near our driveway so that we can start to learn how to grow and harvest and use them…We have a compost pile to establish, and we’ll be moving dirt around from high spots to low spots, to level some places and to get more nutrients into our planting areas, and we’ll be setting up stakes and poles and trellises as needed…

Besides farming, we also have a wood-shed of some sort to build, so that as we work on our land, we can be putting our winter firewood aside and drying, and we have work to do around our foundation, to grade the land properly from the house and reinforce some spots where erosion has occurred.

It will be a year of great experimentation, and this month, our primary focus is getting it all started! 

There are still small inside projects from time to time, like when Asher asked for a slate top on their work desk, for note-taking and sketching…

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Or when we hung our two hammocks inside, dramatically increasing our seating capacity, haha!

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But any major household projects will have to wait, and most of our work these days is outside, with an eye towards putting our outdoor work in order and getting our fields ready.

As always, it’s a work-play mix, and one Sunday found us exploring a new trail system about 20 minutes from home, called the Pigeon Hill Reserve down the coast in Steuben. 

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It was a thirsty walk…

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And the kids were worn out by the end!

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Of course, there’s always bread to bake…

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…and sometimes there are logs to balance on…

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…and a new spinny-dress to enjoy…

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and nature to admire! Asher has taken up an interest in photography, and trades off with his brother capturing those little wonders of the world that catch his eye…

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On Joe’s birthday, we continued our tradition of birthday-breakfast at Helen’s, and then went on a treasure hunt around our property, which Asher organized. Each stop yielded a treat and a puzzle piece, which came together at the end to reveal a mystery animal that Asher had drawn – a weasel!

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 Followed by birthday cake and lunch, and then a trek out to the stream where we watched a nuthatch that seemed to be making its nest in a dead tree-top, and then sat on the shore and watched the water flow by, it was a great way to spend a warm and sunny day!

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Easter took us out into the forest again, hunting eggs dyed with orange peels and onion skins and berries, as well as snacks and treats, and a special series of things to help us remember the Easter story – 30 pieces of silver, crosses, and one empty “tomb”! Praise the Lord, He has overcome death and the grave, drawing all of us to Him!

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Spring is a magical time when things are awakening, migrating, arriving, nesting and breeding…We’ve begun to hear the little frogs called Peepers (though we haven’t found one yet), and to see new birds, like an Eastern Phoebe, singing all around our property to defend his territory!

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We seem to have a nesting pair, though I’m not sure where their nest is – I hope they are successful!

The kids asked to use some of their own money to buy some birdseed, and we set up a few rocks and logs outside the window at their learning area, where we’ve begun to see some new visitors, like this Pine Warbler…

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…the Hermit Thrush…

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…the female American Goldfinch…

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…a female Purple Finch…

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Each new arrival is greeted with a flurry of excited shouts, “Look, something new, something new!”, followed by a series of “ssshhh, ssshhh, ssshhh”-es, as we grab cameras and binoculars and gently slide the window open to get a good look, and then a quiet patter of footsteps as Asher goes to get the bird book and starts identifying 🙂

Familiar visitors like the squirrels and the nuthatches are equally as delightful to watch, and the kids are often distracted from their schoolwork to sketch them or take photos or videos…

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Nothing’s leafing-out yet, so you can still see a long ways into the forest, but everywhere the mosses are puffing up as the snow melts away, and pink maple buds are growing. We see a lot of water on our land – lovely clear pools, but it does make one think that the potential is high for mosquito and black-fly season…We shall see what’s in store for us there. I hope we also have lots of critters around to eat them all before they eat us!

So, here we go, time to work outside and plant and prepare…Mud season, here we come!

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Spring is in the Air… (March 31)

Spring seems to be a very back-and-forth event here in Maine, and the month of March has greatly alternated between snow-storms and sunny days, between warm spring previews and freezing it-aint-springtime-yet reminders! The time has gone by quickly, and we’ve been undertaking a wide variety of activities, and learning a lot. Each day remains an exercise in asking, “What should we do today, Lord?” and following His plan to the best of our ability!

The work is always pleasant, though it sometimes seems slow-going. It’s not always what we expect, but it’s always exactly what’s needed. For example, on one particular sunny day, we felt we were supposed to do some clean-up. We segregated a large metal pile and dismantled a fallen-in shed, loading up our trailer with almost 1,000 pounds of metal to take over to the recycler the next day. As soon as we dropped off our recycling, it began to snow, and promptly re-buried the spots that we had just cleaned out! If we hadn’t done the work that day, it would have had to wait for another few weeks, and I could just feel the Lord scheduling our activities, better than we could do it even if we did pay attention to the weather forecast, lol!

So, let’s see, what have we been up to this March?

We enjoyed an outing in the last of the deep snowfall…

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…where the kids built a snow-man along the ATV trail, complete with a bowl of salad and a cup of coffee!!

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One cool, gray day, we took a drive through the bright winter blueberry fields, and saw the snow-buntings wheeling and swirling across the hills, almost too fast to follow, definitely too fast for me to get a picture of, with their beautiful white bodies and black wingtips…This is the southern end of their range (strange to think), and they will soon be on their way further north for the summer!

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We visited Acadia again on a lovely sunny day, which was, however, not warm! This beautiful, still pond is actually frozen solid. At our last visit, it was covered in snow, and covered with the distinct pitter-patter of river otter tracks, but today, it was a sheet of glass!

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Along the coast, the water was brilliantly bright in the winter sunshine, but we did all of our bird-watching from the warmth of the car!

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The sap has been running, and we’ve taken our first steps into making our own maple syrup…We started with a few trees close to the house to see how it would work. We collected the sap…

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…and poured it into a big pot on the wood stove, just letting it simmer away throughout the day, filtering it a couple of times as it boiled down.

It’s said to take about 30-40 gallons of sap to make 1 gallon of syrup. Our first gallon of syrup yielded this little spoonful of amazing golden sweetness! It was like a combination between maple syrup and honey, very bright and almost flowery-tasting, and it smelled exactly like cotton candy! It was just enough for each of us to have a dollop on a pancake. 

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So, we decided the maple-syrup thing was worthwhile, and put out a few more taps for the year. We’ll venture further into our forest to tap some more trees next year, but at this point, it’s just a nice treat that we’ll finish out the season with. We’ve already enjoyed a second batch, which we happy-accidentally overcooked until it reached the sugar stage! Maple sugar was delicious on buttered toast! It’s hard to imagine doing this in really large quantities, but for now, it’s just easy to pour sap into a pot on the stove, which is busily heating our house anyway, and wait for the magic to happen!

We also set up a sawmill so that we can begin making planks for future use. A downed cedar made a great work surface, after Joe cut a v-groove in it to hold the logs. Then, with an attachment that fits on his chainsaw, he can slice down the length of a log to make planks.

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It’s a neat combination of modern power-tools and old-fashioned hand-tools. The chainsaw makes it much quicker to take down trees (only dead ones right now), and the attachment makes it much quicker to make a board, but it’s still just as fast for us to haul the logs with a pair of logging tongs, and flatten the surfaces with an adze, and de-bark the planks with a draw-knife. 

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Some of the planks have been set aside to dry for future furniture projects, like chairs and tables, but some went right into our garden table, a quick way to get some vegetables growing inside while it’s still too early to plant outside.

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And some wood is used green, right away, to make simple stools and benches…

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Bringing in wood from the forest has the added benefit of the occasional surprise-science-project! I don’t know what this was, maybe some kind of little spider egg-sac, but it was amazing to see, and we spent a lot of time being impressed by it under the microscope!

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A spider spinning filaments of gold? That sounds like the mark of a glorious Creator, right there!

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Joe found that he can make his own tools right here at home, cutting and shaping blades in the workshop, tempering them in the wood stove, and making handles from the beautiful applewood that we brought with us all the way from our house in Bellingham!

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We’ve gotten pretty good at cooking on our wood stove and little propane campstove, and we can even make our own bread now! Asher is taking more and more interest in cooking (though, really, he takes interest in pretty much everything), and especially likes to take over any chopping duties.

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Oh, my happy little chef!

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And on those wonderful, warm, sunny days, we keep moving forward with clean-up and trash removal, having hauled two more trailer-fulls of debris off for disposal…

And we enjoy the forest! The forest, which continues in all seasons to be a source of beauty and wonder!

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The sunny spring-like days bring out the liveliness in all the little forest creatures, with squirrels and chipmunks running and chattering and birds chirping and fluttering, and the occasional porcupine sun-bathing in the upper branches!

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Oh, this cute little guy…We really threw him for a loop when we demolished the fallen-down shed behind the house. We caught sight of him the next morning as he made a round of our property, and he just paced back and forth where the shed had been, thoroughly confused, and finally sat up on his hind paws to consider the mystery,  before ambling off to one of his favorite snooze-holes under the mobile home. I hope we get to see his reaction after we demolish that thing!

One morning, Joe caught sight of a Bohemian Wax-wing out of our window. They winter here, and leave in the spring, and we had the good fortune of watching a flock get all fueled-up for their journey, munching on last year’s apples that were still hanging on the branches. 

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They were amazing to watch, and to listen to, inspiring a full-fledged nature observation outing, right in our driveway, armed with notebooks and pencils and binoculars and cameras for these wonderful little birds!

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Although sometimes the observer was nowhere to be seen…

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…and sometimes we were the ones under observation! This squirrel spent half of his time chasing the waxwings away and grabbing apples, the other half balancing an apple the size of his head in his mouth as he made his way down to the ground to eat it…And when he was done, he wandered over to check out Joe and his camera equipment!

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Wonderful!

One day, we took a walk on a sunny day to see how the stream was flowing – only to find that it was still under snow and ice…Yay, still a winter wonderland! Spencer had the idea to give the stream-bank a try as a sled run, and soon we all joined in, on what must be the last sled-run of our season (I….think….)!

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It does, of course, tend to get a little snow in your boots…

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But it was well worth it!

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So, to take stock of the month of March, we’ve got a snug little house that saw us through the winter, we have ordered all of our seeds for this year’s planting, we have starts growing in the garden table, we’ve made some maple syrup, we’re baking our own bread, we’ve got an operational workshop, and a functional small sawmill, we can temper steel, we can harvest all our own firewood, we can make lumber, we can make green-wood projects like utensils, bowls, and stools, and we’ve got lumber drying for future furniture, we’ve completed third- and fourth-grade curriculum for the boys, and Vivi’s progressing through Kindergarten, and we’re well underway with our outdoor clean-up efforts! Every day, we read the Bible, every day, our school lessons are brought back to God, every day we see Him in His creation all around us, and we thank Him for his provision, for our food, for His strength and grace and mercy and love…It’s a good life!