Karenhammond's Blog

January 16, 2017

A Maine Island Winter

Happy New Year, everyone. Here on the island winter has definitely made its presence known, although less forcefully than some years. We’ve had a few cat-trackers (the locals’ term for a light dusting of snow–just enough for a cat to leave its paw prints in) and plenty of cold weather, but overall it’s been an easy winter so far. That will no doubt change as we move into February.
It’s a good time to take on a new project….writing a book, doing a major house cleaning, or taking on some job we’ve been putting off during the warm-weather months. On the other hand, with the holidays over, many islanders think about getting away to someplace warm. I’ve mentioned before that the little island store once had a tongue-in-cheek sign out reading “If you’re not here during the winter, you don’t deserve to be here in the summer.” It’s true, I think, that New Englanders in general, and Mainers in particular, take pride in what we can endure. Just part of the psyche from days gone by, I suppose, when guts and self-reliance got our ancestors through the long, cold winters.
If you are coming to Maine this winter, you’ll find plenty to do, including skiing, snowmobiling, ice fishing, skating, sledding and so forth, with no crowds and a totally relaxed atmosphere. And nothing beats sitting by the fire at one of our cozy inns with a glass of wine and the innkeeper’s cat in your lap. As I write this I’m looking out at one of the glorious sunsets that make island living so enjoyable any time of year. Wherever you are, stay warm and

Sea smoke drifts around a small Maine island dusted with snow.  Photo (c) Karen Hammond

Sea smoke drifts around a small Maine island dusted with snow. Photo (c) Karen Hammond

enjoy the season of new beginnings.

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October 18, 2016

Autumn in Coastal Maine

Filed under: Uncategorized — karenhammond @ 8:45 pm

It’s been a long time between posts, so a hearty thank you to all of you for staying with me. A very busy summer found me sailing up and down the Maine coast from Portland to Bar Harbor with lots of stops in the charming villages in between. Now I’m back on the island, happily looking out the window of my tiny office at the magnificent foliage. I love the way the scarlet, gold, and yellow leaves pop against the evergreens and gray-blue water. Fog is moving in as I write…fog, of course, being a common occurrence when you live on an island…and much as I love sunny fall days, I’m hoping some rain moves in behind it. At this point, the entire coast needs a good downpour

A basket of fall flowers brightens an autumn day.  Photo (c) Karen Hammond

A basket of fall flowers brightens an autumn day.
Photo (c) Karen Hammond

.
As it always does at this time of year, the island has grown quiet again now that the last summer people have returned to the mainland. I’m always amused at the summer residents and visitors who rave about island life but then say they could never live here in the winter–“too cold,” “too isolated,” “nothing to do.” Oh well, it’s our little secret how lovely it is here as the seasons change and how peaceful it is when the snow flies! And as for the “nothing to do”….I can only wish!
Enjoy your fall, and if you are planning to come to Maine, now is a great time. The weather has been mild, the crowds of tourists have departed, and it’s a great time to poke through our scenic villages and walk along deserted beaches. Enjoy!

April 20, 2016

Maine….Spring Vacationland

Here on the island things are finally greening up, the crocuses are in full bloom, deer are eyeing the emerging tulips and the sound of the lobsterboats is heard in the land. A few of the very first summer residents have arrived to open up their seasonal homes. They may not be here for the season just yet and will travel back and forth to their winter homes, but they are getting things ready for summer. It’s always fun to see the island come alive again after a long Maine winter.
What we do when we leave the island? There’s plenty going on in Maine at this time of year, and it’s a great time to visit if you’re looking for an early vacation. Check out the Portland Science Center, for example. “Space: A Journey to Our Future: and “The Robot Zoo” are the current exhibits and fun for the whole family. (Educational, too, but you don’t have to tell the kids that!)
Or maybe you’d prefer a leisurely drive along the coast, visiting villages like Boothbay Harbor, Belfast, Rockland, and Camden, staying at some charming inns along the way. Whatever you choose to do, springtime in Vacationland can’t be beat!

Crocuses bloom at last after a cold Maine winter. (c) Karen Hammond

Crocuses bloom at last after a cold Maine winter. (c) Karen Hammond

March 8, 2016

March on a Small Maine Island

Filed under: Uncategorized — karenhammond @ 8:15 pm
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March is always an intriguing month here on the island, with bitterly cold days followed by days like today filled with sunshine and birdsong that make you feel as if spring is right around the corner. All in all it has been a very easy winter, especially compared to the winter of 2014-15 when we were buried under 10 feet of snow. As of right now we’ve had just 35 inches or so, and although there have been some cold days, there have been plenty of mild ones as well.
These are the last days of real winter quiet here. A few summer people will no doubt arrive on the island at Easter, and even if they don’t stay beyond the weekend we’ll notice the temporary uptick in traffic, and lights and activity in houses that have been quiet all winter. It’s a sign of things to come. Some early birds will arrive in April and May, but the big surge of summer people comes right after Memorial Day. It’s always fun to see the island start to come alive again.
How do we spend the winter out here? It’s a question I’m often asked. Once in a while there’s a house party–including our open house at Christmas–or a social event at the island’s little white church, or a trip off the island for dinner and a movie. But it helps to have a project to carry one through from January through March. Not a problem for me since I work on the top floor of our old Victorian house and watch the island’s comings and goings through a window overlooking the water. As I’ve written before, it’s not a life for everyone, but after a busy summer, I appreciate the peace and solitude

Lobster buoys decorate an island shed.  Photo (c) Karen Hammond

Lobster buoys decorate an island shed. Photo (c) Karen Hammond

. And now, after a long, quiet winter, I’m looking forward to seeing old friends from the summer colony and watching the island buzz with activity.

November 9, 2015

Late Fall on a Small Maine Island

Leaf peeping season is over for another year as we all begin the annual cleanup of all those once-glorious leaves that are now simply brown and piled up on the ground. The year moves on. This morning we awoke to frost but also to a wonderful clear day with bright blue skies and puffy white clouds. From my office window I can see whitecaps on the water and an occasional lobster boat, but the pleasure boats have long since been hauled out until next spring.
As I’ve mentioned before, fall has never been my favorite season. I love summer and can tolerate winter and always wish we could move from mid-October directly to winter, thus avoiding the unpredictable weather of late autumn. On the other hand, I’d hate to miss Thanksgiving, which is such a great holiday. I’m originally from Massachusetts, where Thanksgiving is a really big deal. It’s refreshing, isn’t it, to have a holiday that has no agenda except getting together with friends and family.
Country fair season has ended in Maine, but now churches and communities are running harvest fairs and will soon be sponsoring holiday fairs. These are always fun….tables filled with baked goods, crafts, wreaths, warm knitted sweaters and mittens, and plenty of other goodies. If you are coming to Maine in the next few weeks, be sure to watch for these fairs as they are a great way to start your holiday shopping and meet some locals at the same time. Wherever you are, enjoy the season.

Lobster buoys decorate an old Maine barn. Some Maine lobster fishermen fish all winter; others will resume in the spring. Photo (c) Karen Hammond

Lobster buoys decorate an old Maine barn. Some Maine lobster fishermen fish all winter; others will resume in the spring. Photo (c) Karen Hammond

October 22, 2015

Autumn on a Small Maine Island

To those who follow me regularly, my apologies for the long delay between posts. I spent much of the summer sailing up and down the gorgeous coast of Maine, and when I was home my house and garden demanded much of my attention. And then there were the houseguests. When you live on a Maine island

A basket of fall flowers brightens a cool autumn day.  Photo (c) Karen Hammond

A basket of fall flowers brightens a cool autumn day.
Photo (c) Karen Hammond

, you become very popular! I love company and am always happy to see old friends, but of course company means cooking to be done, entertainment to provide, and plenty of cleanup afterward. Anyway, it was a lovely, very busy summer, and I hope yours was the same.
Over Columbus Day weekend I judged desserts at the annual Damariscotta Pumpkinfest, always a fun time in midcoast Maine. If you’ve never been to it, you should put it on your calendar for the same weekend next year. The judging was fun….lots of goodies to sample, although I had a sugar buzz for several days afterward.
Fall foliage in Maine is just past its peak now. Many of the trees are still wearing their gorgeous colors of scarlet and gold, but rain the last couple of days is putting a quick end to one of the most beautiful times of the year. But, each season has its own beauty and before long the snow will be falling and bringing its own special look to the island. Of course after last winter and 110 inches of snow, we’re all hoping for a little less of the fluffy stuff.
Hope your summer was great and you are looking forward to Halloween and Thanksgiving.

July 21, 2015

Castine, Maine

My apologies for the delayed post, but it has been a happily hectic summer with lots of company, time in, on, and around the water, and plenty of fresh Maine lobster and Maine wild blueberries.
Visiting the quaint village of Castine is always a pleasure. It’s a tiny town of about 1300 people and home to the prestigious Maine Maritime Academy, a 4-year college that prepares students for careers in the merchant marine and other maritime careers. If you visit Castine, you’ll no doubt see the cadets walking around town in their uniforms.
The town itself was originally home to the Tarentine Abenaki Native Americans, now known as the Penobscot Nation. One of the earliest white explorers in the area was Samuel de Champlain in 1612. At various times over the ensuing centuries, the flags of France, Great Britain, Holland, and the US flew over Castine as they fought for control. When you visit, watch for the plaques along the sidewalks that tell Castine’s interesting story.
Today many people visit to view the lovely Federal and Greek Revival Homes and the stately American e

A lobster bake on the beach is a highlight of  summer in Maine. Photo (c) Nathaniel Hammond

A lobster bake on the beach is a highlight of summer in Maine. Photo (c) Nathaniel Hammond

lms that shade the streets. On your way to Dice Head Light (you can walk around it, but not enter it) be sure to stop in at the little Wilson Museum, packed full of local artifacts. Castine is also home to the oldest US Post Office (built in 1814) in continuous use. It’s a handsome building, well worth a stop.
Back here on my small Maine island, life has settled down momentarily before the next wave of visitors. We’ve had some hot and muggy days, but with memories of last winter still in everyone’s mind, I haven’t heard a single word of complaint. We’ll enjoy every minute of summer in Maine, and wherever you travel here, I’m sure you will, too.

June 16, 2015

Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor, Maine

I’ve just returned from a long sail along the Maine coast and thought I’d share a few suggestions for those of you planning your own visit here. Acadia National Park, established in 1916, is on the bucket list for most Maine visitors, and with good reason. Its more than 49,000 acres are home to a wide variety of animals, birds and butterflies, and at least 160 varieties of plants.
Hikers will enjoy 1,528-ft. Cadillac Mountain and the panoramic views from the top (go on a clear day if you can). You can also take guided walks or carriage rides through the park, bike on many of the trails, or go kayaking or birdwatching among many other activities.
The park is located on Mount Desert (pronounced “Dessert”) Island, which also boasts the busy tourist destination of Bar Harbor. Here you’ll find shops selling everything from funky t-shirts to high-end jewelry and just about anything in between. Watch for unusual gifts like chocolate-covered blueberries, blueberry wine, Native American-made items, or tourmaline jewelry made from the official gemstone of Maine. Future college students may want to check out College of the Atlantic, a small liberal arts college.

A glacial erratic seen along the Bar Harbor Shore Path. (c) Karen Hammond

A glacial erratic seen along the Bar Harbor Shore Path.
(c) Karen Hammond

And no-one should miss the handsome Abbe Museum with its extensive collection of Native American artifacts. Walkers will enjoy the Shore Path that winds between several Bar Harbor mansions and the ocean. The glacial erratic (large boulder left by a receding glacier) shown in the photograph here is just one of the many interesting sights along the rocky shoreline.
So much to do, so little time! This barely scratches the surface of all there is to see and do in the area. I return year after year, always finding something new, and will be back again in the fall when I find the park to be especially beautiful.
In my next post I’ll take you to the quaint little village of Castine. But for now I’m content to be back on my little island, coaxing much-delayed flowers into bloom at last, and looking forward to the official start of summer.

May 4, 2015

Maine in May

Spring has truly come to the island at last. Long after the crocuses have come and gone elsewhere, they are finally in full bloom here and looking glorious. Extremely cold winters are said to be good for bulb plants and I’m holding out hope for tulips and daffodils. After the long, gray winter I think we are all hungry for color wherever we can find it.
The island remains quiet, probably for a few more weeks. Around Memorial Day the summer people will start to arrive, and when school gets out around the third week in June

Crocuses bloom at last after a cold Maine winter. (c) Karen Hammond

Crocuses bloom at last after a cold Maine winter. (c) Karen Hammond

the island will be buzzing again. We’re savoring these last quiet weeks while also looking forward to seeing friends who are here only in the summer. Of course we have great bragging rights this year, having dealt with the coldest winter on record in Maine along with nearly 120 inches of snow.
I’ve just returned from a few days in New York City. The city is energizing, to say the least, compared to my quiet Maine village of fewer than 100 people. I always enjoy it…the restaurants, the Broadway shows (finally got to The Lion King, which was spectacular), and the shopping, but after a few days I’m also always happy to head home. It works both ways. In the summer a lot of visitors from New York arrive and it always takes them a while to unwind and get acclimated to a much slower way of life.
For now my days are spent alternating between working here in my home office and getting the yard ready for summer. Today the men arrived to put in our dock and float. Summer’s coming….I can feel it in the air!

March 24, 2015

Springtime Comes to a Small Maine Island

Well, not quite. The calendar says we are a few days into spring, but with temperatures hovering between 7 degrees and the mid-20s, we know we have a way to go. Still, I can feel the soft touch of spring just beneath the cold air as I walk around the island each morning.
Finally, the island is no longer silent. Birds have returned and the early mornings are filled with chirps and calls. A dove has perched on a wire outside my office for the past few mornings, enjoying the early spring sunshine. We’ll have to wait a little longer for flowers, however. Several feet of snow still blanket the yard, so there’s no chance of snowdrops poking through. Who knows, we may be seeing crocuses in July! But we’re definitely on our way to good weather and recent glorious sunsets have made the long wait worthwhile.
It’s time for vacation planning. Living in Maine–Vacationland– makes it easy, of course, and I’m looking forward to several long sails along the coast and stops at some of my favorite places like Camden and Castine. If you’re planning a stay anywhere in New England, you might want to check out my book, Backroads & Byways of New England: Drives, Day Trips, and Weekend Excursions, for tips on off-the-beaten-

An early-spring sunset is our reward after a long, cold winter. Photo copyright Karen Hammond

An early-spring sunset is our reward after a long, cold winter. Photo copyright Karen Hammond

track places you’ll enjoy.

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