Monday, June 23, 2008

Summer on Marshall Pond

© Image property of Hale Kai Inc.
This photo shows Sand Beach on Marshall Island, my assignment with the Maine Conservation Corps. I completed my orientation today, and tomorrow morning at 7:00am I will be leaving with my team to spend nine days off the coast of Maine where we will be building and rebuilding trails and constructing tent platforms. It's an experience of a lifetime, and I'm really excited about it for a lot of reasons that are a little hard to put into words right now. There will be no posts while I'm away, but I promise to catch up with stories and sketches when I get back for a few days. I'll be going out on this island three times, for nine days each trip and then finish the season with a trip to Seboomook at the north edge of Moosehead Lake.
Summer on Marshall Pond is a tune written by Pam Weeks.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Marie Sauce ton Pain

I love the smell of homemade bread - the sweet, yeasty aroma fills the house with smiles and good cheer and warmth and all things good. I also love doing so many other things that making yeast bread from scratch doesn't make it to the top of my list very often. There's an easy way to make bread, however, and it produces the same smell and frame of mind as the kind that starts with all the ingredients in their separate packages... frozen bread dough!

Here's a new twist to make it even more special - add herbs or grains to the thawed dough for more flavor! Let the frozen loaf thaw completely; in a small bowl mix about 1/4 cup of your favorite dried or fresh herbs or mix of grains; oil and flour your favorite work counter; as you knead the dough, work in your special mixture until it is thoroughly blended, this will also mean you've worked out all the air and the bread will have a lovely smooth texture; form into whatever shape you want - loaf pan, rolls, long baguette, whatever; bake at 350' until golden on the top and golden on the underneath and hollow sounding when you tap it.
This time I put rosemary, garlic powder, and thyme into the herbed loaf; wheat germ and flax seed into the grainy loaf; and left one loaf plain. The aromas were wonderful, and the breads were delicious!
As well as baking bread, I've been sketching butterflies and catching up on household things while I watch the goldfinches in the feeders... an odd combination of activities that are somehow all connected under the category of "Life on the Alley."
Marie Sauce ton Pain is a really fun French tune that comes from the Portland Collection, volume two. I think this bread would be divine dipped in warm olive oil or in a hearty soup!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Fit as a Fiddle

Yep, that's me, fit as a fiddle... which means I'm amazingly healthy for a forty-year old according to the doctor I saw today for my pre-employment physical. "Hehem," said I... "What about for a fifty-year old?" "Ah," he replied, "even better!"
So there you have it, I am ready to embark on a new journey for the summer, as an intern with the Maine Conservation Corps! Although I don't know many details, such as where I'll be or what I'll be doing or even when I will be coming home, I do know that I will be learning a lot about conservation of natural areas, effective methods of erosion control, and general trail maintenance in a variety of settings over the next two months.
The uncertain schedule has me unable to commit to much of anything until the middle of August. I have a couple of important things between now and then that I am hoping to be home for, but we'll have to see. My orientation and training takes place this coming Monday and I should know more then. In addition to steel toe boots, a rain coat, and assorted other clothing and equipment suggestions, they included such things on the list as a sense of humor, optimism, and instruments! Sounds like a great way to work away the summer!

For now, I feel great knowing that I am as healthy as I perceive myself to be!
Fit as a Fiddle is a contra dance written by the late Ted Sanella.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Blue Jig

We spent the evening at a cool club in Portland called Blue... SK and her friends Julia and Glen were the featured performers, calling themselves "SK and the Experimental Scandinavian Jug Band Project" or something very close to that. They played some wonderful Swedish sets as well as Irish and other styles of music. After the early concert, the place opens up for session playing. Wednesday night is Irish, and I think there might be other themes on other nights. It's a pretty fun place, and the crowd tonight was all friendly and familiar as we've seen most of them at dances or at SK's place.
Blue Jig comes from the Portland Collection, Volume Two.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Bertil Ferneborg Vals

I chose this Waltz title because it had the word 'fern' in it... I didn't find many ferns in the woods this morning. "No ferns in the woods?" you wonder. Well, no ferns in the areas I am studying. I have had this idea of doing a botanical field study since I lived in Fayette years ago. I started a study of our property this spring, thinking I would collect, press, and dry samples but it proved an incredibly tedious job that I could not keep up with. My recent introduction to sketching and field notes have given me new inspiration to study our property - I've marked out 10'x10' areas, three to start with, in which I am collecting data. What trees, ferns, mosses, and other plants are growing? How does the vegetation differ as the land contours change? What are the unnatural landmarks, such as stone walls, iron pins, and old rusted buckets buried in the leaves? What birds are singing and are there animals roaming about? The more I look, the more I want to see. Although I eventually plan to study the entire property, I realize it could take a long, long time at this rate - and that's okay. There will be plenty of casual walks and rambles in which I can get the big picture too.
Bertil Fernebor Vals comes from Waltz Book, Volume Two.

Monday, June 16, 2008

No Red Wing

I need to get some steel toed boots for my internship with the Conservation Corps. Kathie suggested we go to Winterport Boots in Brewer where they sell Red Wing boots - these are recommended not only by Kathie but by the Corps. We stopped at the New Balance store in Skowhegan on the way so we could see what they had to offer - they only had steel toed sneakers which aren't recommended. So, we continued on our way up the interstate. I might mention that any chance to go to the Bangor area is a welcome trip since I get to stop in and see the grandchildren. Even though Winterport Boots is NOT open on Monday - yeah, who would have guessed that!?- we had a lovely afternoon visiting with the family. Paige just gurgles and coos, occasionally stopping long enough to grin and laugh. Avery is full of stories and ideas - we constructed a cell phone tower with his tinker toys and read Dr Seuss books.
The quest for Red Wings and other items on my list of essentials will continue throughout the week. Lamey Wellehan has Wolverine steel toes that will probably work out fine if I don't get back up to Brewer, I'm not too worried about it.
Red Wing is an old tune that can be found in the Fiddler's Fakebook.

Off She Goes

My sisters and I have this profoundly wonderful ability to spring along through our lives, learning and experiencing as much as we possibly can, never really staying 'still' for very long. Deb's fiddle debut yesterday, after only two lessons, is a clear example - as a gift to dad (and mom too), we played a lovely little French piece with Deb playing harmony on fiddle, me playing melody on fiddle, and Kathie playing the chords on guitar (completely by ear since we didn't have any chords figured out). This morning, Kathie headed off for Denver for two weeks of training related to her work. Wendi recently started a new job with new challenges and opportunities. Joline just got her contractor's license, making it possible for her to advance in her position at work. Off we go into whatever new adventures are around the corner!
Off She Goes is a lively jig that can be found in the New England Fiddler's Repertoire.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Happy Father's Day

I've thought a lot about my dad these past few weeks as I've tromped around forest and field, looking at trees and other things. As kids, my sisters and I were part of a 4-H club, the Jug Hill Jack Rabbits. We got to choose some subject to learn about by doing projects - in addition to sewing and cooking (thanks mom for helping with those), I took outdoor projects like camping and forestry. I remember my dad going up over Jug Hill looking for just the right rocks to use for an in-ground barbecue pit, and helping me identify trees - collecting leaf and twig samples to assemble into a presentation board for the county fair. I'd forgotten a lot of the identifying features of even the most common trees, but I hadn't forgotten how much fun it was to figure it all out. So, thanks dad, for teaching me more than just mere facts about things - thanks for teaching me to love exploring and learning and appreciating nature.
Happy Father's Day!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Ruby Throated Hummingbird

This sketch from yesterday afternoon made me think of the way people see things, and how we try to describe them to one another. This ruby throated hummingbird, for example, does not have a ruby throat. To someone who didn't know what this bird was, it might be a point of contention that the description is incorrect, that it might be a hummingbird but the throat is actually green. To the person who knows about the ruby throats, the name is just a name, not a description - they also know that this bird is the female. Sometimes, conversations between two people wind up being difficult, I think, because the names and descriptions we put on things come from our different backgrounds and perspectives, neither one being right or wrong completely. I tend to want to state my case and prove, not so much that I am consumately correct, but that my perspective is as valid as the other persons. It's hard to let go of that, but I think I at least recognize what I'm doing these days! That's a start :)

Friday, June 13, 2008

Hairy Woodpeckers

You may have noticed that my focus has shifted somewhat, in content as well as in the naming of posts. I'm still fiddling on what has become an irregular but still impassioned way, but I've also been outdoors a lot, especially since the fiddleheading expedition a month ago. I haven't been taking many photographs, relying instead on my senses for input, developing my skills at sketching the details.
These hairy woodpeckers (very similar to downies but bigger) can be heard and seen around here a lot. They happened to be hanging out near the driveway this morning, noticed as I sent Richard off for a day of site evaluation in South Harpswell. Me? I'll be working in the garden and the yard - so nice to have the Nature Writing class behind me! I'll probably tuck my field journal into my trusty hod, along with my other essentials like trowel, gloves, and insect repellent!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sketchbook II

After a little coaxing, Richard persuaded me to go for a walk in the moonlight. The fireflies were out. I had been working on my final journal entries and a final draft of an essay, and had a hard time shifting my brain away from the work, but the break did me good - fresh air and good company.
The final Nature Writing class met at the professor's house this morning to do chores and have breakfast before sharing our journals with one another and then leaving. It seems strange to have spent so much time with this small group over the past four weeks and then to have it just be over. I think the experience impacted all of us.
After handing in my journal, I felt a little empty, like something was missing. So, I went to the store and got a few new journals to try over the summer - different weight papers. I also got some nice sketching pens with different sized tips. These two sketches are my first experiments. This particular paper holds up well with a light wash of water, but puckered quite a bit under a good dousing (the top picture). I love the pens though, I can see I'll be using them a lot.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Cedar Waxwing

Here is a sketch of the cedar waxwing. I have always seen them as a community of birds flitting about in the tops of tall trees. This bird was seen and sketched along the banks of the Temple Stream a week or so ago. I love their color!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Colored Aristocracy

Here is a sketch of a painted turtle that I did based on an actual field-collected specimen! I have been taking a Nature Writing course for the past three weeks. Each class day has involved going outdoors and finding things to write about, so I used those newly acquired skills in depicting this little guy who was found in the road not far from the house by Richard, on the way home from a run. After sketching and observing the turtle, we returned him to the approximate spot where he was found. Although there's not much earth-shattering news around here, I thought my faithful and occasional readers alike might like to get a glimpse into the quiet yet colorful world of nature!
Colored Aristocracy is a great tune from the Fiddler's Fakebook that Richard happens to be playing on the piano at the moment, along with a CD. We like to put music on and practice along to someone other than ourselves!