Karenhammond's Blog

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

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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.

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!

February 24, 2015

Frigid February on a Small Maine Island

It may be the shortest month of the year, but as we continue to deal with mountains of snow and frigid temperatures here on the island, February seems to be lasting forever. This is one of the few times that I can remember stalwart Mainers actually getting fed up with the weather. A few have taken off for warmer climates, but the rest of us are resolutely hanging on and waiting to turn the page on the calendar. We’ve finally had a few days without snow, although we are due for another six inches later in the week. Right now the cold is the biggest problem…well below zero last night and more chilly days and nights expected. Life has pretty much come to a halt on the island. It’s too cold even for the hardy lobstermen to venture out on the water, and pretty much the only people on the roads are the plow drivers, oil truck drivers, and workmen doing odd jobs like shoveling off roofs. So, how does one spend one’s time when it’s too cold to do much but hunker down inside? Those of us who work at home have no problem keeping busy. Deadlines don’t disappear because of the weather, and in some ways it’s good to work without a lot of distractions. When I sit here in my office in summer, looking out at the sailboats and lobster boats bobbing by, it’s a lot harder to keep my mind on my job. When June comes and our summer people return to the island, there will be lots of questions about why on earth we stayed on through such an historically bad winter. I guess the only answer is, “If you have to ask, you’ll never understand.” The stubborn New England personality is certainly part of it…we don’t like to give in or give up. And as I’ve mentioned before, there’s a certain pride in withstanding whatever Mother Nature throws at us. Nonetheless, spring will never be more appreciated than it will be this year. It’s less than a month away, and while it’s still way too soon to pack away the winter woolies and boots, I did a see a robin yesterday. There’s hope!

Dreaming of a summer lobster bake in Maine. Photo (c) Nathaniel Hammond

Dreaming of a summer lobster bake in Maine. Photo (c) Nathaniel Hammond

Stay warm wherever you are.

January 28, 2015

Blizzard on a Small Maine Island

I hope everyone affected by the recent snowstorm has come through it safely. Here on the island we got about two feet of snow that fell steadily from Monday night throughout Tuesday. Today it is glorious outside–crisp and cold with the sun shining brightly. Great weather for shoveling.
A heavy snowstorm makes the quiet island even quieter. A community-wide pot luck supper planned for Saturday night was postponed and may be postponed again if another storm moves in this weekend as anticipated. But no one really minds. New Englanders are nothing if not resilient, and there’s always plenty to do inside on snow days. We stoke the fire, get out the books we’ve been planning to read, knit, clean closets, and for those of us who work at home it’s a rare opportunity to get caught up on email and projects.
A year or so ago I gave a lecture about Maine life and someone in the audience asked if I “really” lived in Maine all winter. When I replied yes, he asked, “Why?” It made me laugh at the time,

Aftermath of the blizzard of 2105 on a small Maine island.  Photo (C) Karen Hammond

Aftermath of the blizzard of 2105 on a small Maine island. Photo (C) Karen Hammond

but I’ve given his question some thought recently. Just why do New Englanders do battle with Mother Nature year after year and love it? Is it part of the psyche of those of us who were born and raised here? I think so. I think we take pride in toughing it out, overcoming obstacles, and being self-sufficient. And despite that sense of self-sufficiency, there’s also a strong tradition of helping our neighbors. I shovel out my elderly neighbor so she can get her door open from the inside. When my generator battery died just as the blizzard of 2015 cranked up, I called a local boatyard owner to see if he had a battery I could buy or borrow. He not only had one, but he hustled over and installed it. I brought him homemade cookies this morning as soon as I got plowed out. That’s the rhythm of life here on the island, and throughout much of New England. And yes, that’s why I stay in Maine all winter!

January 9, 2015

New Year on a Cold Maine Island

Filed under: Uncategorized — karenhammond @ 10:06 pm
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Although Christmas was warm and rainy here on the island, the new year arrived with a blast of sub-zero weather. Today the ocean was layered with sea smoke, a fog that occurs when the air is colder than the water. It makes for quite a sight to see the huge cloud fog rolling across the water.
Fewer than 100 of us are here all winter, and while we may get together now and then for pot luck or an informal party, for most of us it’s a time to hibernate or to tackle a large project. Life slows down, which is probably a good thing since most of us live very busy lives the rest of the year. I spend the winter writing, and when I see a light at night in my nearest neighbor’s window, I know she is working on her art. A lot of creative people live out here, attracted by Maine’s beauty. Island life is not for everyone, however, and I have occasional visitors who can’t get back to the mainland and “civilization”

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

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

fast enough.
If you love winter sports, don’t hesitate to come to Maine. It’s a great place for skiing, snowmobiling, ice skating, and just taking long walks bundled up in the crisp (ok, very cold) air. With the right clothes and the right attitude, you’ll have a great time.
Happy new year everyone. I wish you a happy, productive, and above all, a very healthy 2015.

December 17, 2014

Christmas on a Small Maine Island

Filed under: Uncategorized — karenhammond @ 9:07 pm
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Here on the island, we are gearing up for Christmas with plenty of snowy and/or gray and rainy days. Luckily we held our annual Christmas open house

Wild turkeys pay a  visit to a Maine island in winter.

Wild turkeys pay a visit to a Maine island in winter.

last Saturday, which turned out to be a decent day, and welcomed about half of the island. It’s always fun to get together at the start of the season because once winter fully sets in we all tend to hole up in our homes and work on our own projects.
From my office window I am watching Christmas lights twinkle through the pine trees, and down on the dock our Charlie Brown Christmas tree is shining brightly in the late-afternoon gloom. Two big ice storms lately have knocked it down twice, but now we have it lashed down tightly and will hope it stays upright for the rest of the season.
A large flock of wild turkeys has been visiting lately, no doubt attracted by goodies in the bird feeders. In the morning their tracks mix with those of deer and the neighbors cats and an occasional animal we can’t identify. I have a feeling our quiet yard is anything but quiet at 3AM.
I wish everyone peace and happiness as you prepare for the winter holidays, however you choose to celebrate them. And remember, if you are looking for a getaway, there are few places more beautiful than Maine under a light dusting of December snow!

November 10, 2014

First Snowfall on a Small Maine Island

Filed under: Uncategorized — karenhammond @ 9:36 pm
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Just 10 days into November and we’ve already had a substantial snowfall here on my small Maine island. It’s always a little dicey when snow arrives before we’re in a winter frame of mind, but being New Englanders, we always manage to cope.
Fewer than 100 of us remain on the island now, with summer residents having moved on to their winter quarters in warmer climates. We’re too far off the beaten path for all but the most intrepid late-fall tourist. And so the island folds back into itself. The little local church has a harvest fair coming up in a couple of weeks, the tiny year-round cafe bustles with locals drinking coffee in the morning, and our charming library is doing a booming business in mysteries as people stop in for books (the old-fashioned kind, with pages!). It’s definitely a time of transition as we move from the bright colors of early fall to the grays and browns of November. The first snow didn’t last long, but the next one is sure to linger

First Snowfall on a Small Maine Island Photo: (c) Karen Hammond

First Snowfall on a Small Maine Island
Photo: (c) Karen Hammond

, making the earth beautiful again. And, right around the corner, we have Thanksgiving and the winter holidays to look forward to. Wherever you are, stay warm and enjoy the season!

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