Flander's Lane, Washington Maine

Flander's Lane is named after my grandfather, Roland Flanders. It is a short dirt road with a few camps set on Washington Pond. There are tales that Flander's Lane is haunted. At least that's what my grandfather says.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Lunch with Bald Eagles

Daddy Bald EagleSo it was lunch time at our little Maine cabin by the lake, and all of us were sitting around the table enjoying our B & M Baked Beans, when all of a sudden I see this giant Bald Eagle swoop into our swimming spot, grab a rather large White Perch from the water, and land in the Pine Tree just outside our window.

At first all I could do was go, "ba bla bub ba bla bluh buh ba bah..." and while I babbled incoherently I managed to grab my camcorder. I snapped about 24 photos and a little bit of video before it was over. A young eagle soon joined the elder, landing in the same pine above. The two shrieked eagle sounds back and forth, saying things like, "This is how you do it, Jr. You just swoop down, grab that fish, and land it into a tree and tear it apart like this. Hold on tight, don't let it fall, and eat it up quick - gulp gulp." The younger eagle distinctly said, "Wow Dad, you are way cool man! That fish didn't have a chance with you around! Swish - Slap - Slunk!!!" Teenagers these days. They talk so funny.

Young Bald EagleIt's easy to spot the younger eagle, as the young one still has brown feathers in the white part of the head, and the body is a lot smaller. At first I thought they were mates, but it was Grampy Flanders that told me it was a young eagle. I told Grampy that I saw two eagles and he asked me if the smaller eagle had brown feathers in the white area of the head, and I said that it did. He goes, "That's not the eagle's mate, that's a young eagle, and the parent is teaching the baby how to hunt." Grampy seems to know everything around here. It's so great to learn from him, as the young eagle learns from the eagle elder. Ahh the mysteries of nature passed on for generations to come. It makes me feel at one with the cosmos don't you know.

Since I got so many photos of the two Bald Eagles, I thought I would put them all together and share them with you. I put together a slide show gallery, just click the photo of the daddy Bald Eagle to check it out. There's even a little Mpeg video clip, where you can hear my kid humming in the background while she eats her baked beans. Wow.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Malisa Island

Malisa IslandJust outside the cove, past the beaver's log home, there are a series of little eenie weenie islands before we get back to the deep of Washington Pond. Today kayaking around, my wee one asked to land on the largest of them all. Well... why not?

Now these are small islands, and it does not look like anyone ever spends any time on them. They are strange, full of bricker brack, scratchy twigs, burnt looking clay earth, and broken trees. There was an easy place to land, so land we did.

There wasn't much room to explore, and to be honest, I just didn't like it there. I didn't want to trample the bushes, and I was afraid of ticks, bugs, and who knows what. Uninhabited land, well... should just remain uninhabited I figure. It's freaky to be doing such adventurous things with my little one. I have to keep her safe you know.

I ask my kid what we should name the island, and she says Malisa Island. I have no idea where she comes up with this stuff. I mean, she's 2 years old, and she has an answer for everything. Here she is looking out across the lily pads from the shore of Malisa Island. Just look how gray the clay soil is here. Somehow the gray clay weirded me out. It just didn't feel friendly here. All the dry sticks and gray clay seemed so bone like. Not like Loon Island that is covered in yummy blueberry bushes. I decided that I didn't want to spend much time here, so we hopped back into the kayak, and went home for a swim.

Night SwimmingAhhhh, now this is the life. Here it is nearly sun down, and it's still warm enough for a swim. Life is good here on the lake. On these hot muggy days, the only place to be is here floating around on the lake. Just look at that sky.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Sun Turtle

Sun TurtleAnother day, another kayak trip on Washington Pond. Today we take a trek around the bend to a wooden bridge that was just built about a year ago. It looks like they plan to build a new home on the small peninsula found across from our cabin on the "wild side" of the lake. (I hope the new inhabitants like coyotes. There's tons of them over there).

The cove that goes under the bridge is home to lots of bull frogs and sun turtles. When ever we enter that area of the lake, we see so many colorful heads of little sun turtles poking up out of the lake.

If we are real quiet, and just allow the kayak to glide up to the bridge, we don't even bother the sun turtles, and it's easy to dip a hand under them and hold them. They don't even seem to mind. The two of us take a little while to look them over. Sun turtles are so colorful. Their shell is dark green and black, their heads are mostly dark green with bright yellow stripes. The underside of their shell has a lot of orange stripes, with a cute yellow belly.

The average conversation goes like this: Sun Turtle, "Oh! Don't eat me, don't eat me!" Then I go, "I won't eat you, I just want to have a look at you." Then the turtle says, "Oh, OK, in that case, I guess it's alright." Then I tell the turtle, "You are so beautiful." The turtle always blushes a bit, and says, "You think so? Gosh!" (You see, sun turtles are very humble, and easily embarrassed). Then I say, "Can my daughter have a look at you?" And they always say, "OK, just be careful." "Of course" I say, and we have a wonderful time just spending a few moments together looking each other over. I think the turtles are just as interested in having a look at my 2 year old as my 2 year old is interested in the sun turtles. It's a nice exchange.

Returning the turtle to the muckOnce we are done, my little comrade returns the sun turtle back to the murky muck and decaying leaves that make up the cove under the bridge. It's kinda gross, but hey, it's their home, so who am I to judge?

Soon these small turtles will be a foot or more across their shell. They seem to grow so fast. Each time we return to this spot, they've doubled in size. We've gotten to know a few by name, and it's nice to have gotten to know some of the locals during our stay here. We've exchanged addresses, and plan to keep in touch over the winter.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Loon Island

Loon IslandThe weather has been sunny and hot, so my little adventurer and I have been out on the lake kayaking all over the place. About a mile away in the middle of Washington Pond is a nifty spot called Loon Island. During my whole life here in Washington I've never known the Loons to nest there, but none the less, everyone calls it Loon Island because they are often seen fishing near the rocks that make Loon Island so difficult to reach. (Loons nest in swampy bog areas in the cove, near the shore. It's far too rocky here, and there are far too many human visitors for Loons to make a home on Loon Island).

Loon Island is a small island with an X shaped trail through the middle of it reaching each side of the island. The edges of the island are very rocky, with giant boulders just under the surface, so it's very dangerous to get close to the island with a motor boat. Canoes and kayaks are the most common way to reach the island. Loon Island is the first place where me and my 2 year old captain have ever landed and gotten out of the boat together. Now it's her favorite place to go on a hot summer day.

The local campers of Medolark and Medomak often come here to sleep out on warm summer nights. They even have a very well built fire pit to accommodate them during their overnight stay. It's a really nifty place, and a lot of fun for us both to explore. We carefully land the kayak, step ashore, and spend the day just enjoying the isolated feeling of being on a little island, just the two of us. Once in a while a family of boaters will pass by and say hello, but for the most part we are all alone on our very own island.

Travel HammockI have a great item called The Travel Hammock that I got at L.L. Bean. I just tie it off to two trees, and we are ready to kick back and live life like Skipper and Gilligan on our little deserted isle. After a nice nap, we like to put on our Teva Sandals to protect our feet, and hop into the pebble beach on the southern side of the island. The beach is a shallow basin that never gets too deep, and the two of us can splash around for hours. This is also where we land the boat for easy entry to Loon Island. We've tried different areas, and this is by far the easiest place to set shore.

Swimming at Loon IslandI can't believe the adventures my little two year old has already had this summer, and it's only half over. All she does is talk about Loon Island, and every morning she pulls at my shirt begging to go there. How can I resist?

It's so nice to have such enthusiasm for our little adventures together. It's hard to find an activity that always connects, so to have something this special to share with her is priceless. I mean, just look how happy she is splashing around the stony beach at Loon Island!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Time To Mow The Lawn

Grampy Mowing The LawnAbout every three days or so, if the sun is shining, Grampy Flanders wants to mow the lawn. Just look at him go. Trying to take a photo of my 82 year old grandfather on his professional Skag lawnmower was not easy. The guy is going about 30 miles and hour across his yard, and pretty much every photo I tried to take was a blur.

There he goes past his garden, taking sharp turns, going up and down the hills. He has a tough time getting from the living room to the dining table, but look out when he's on his lawnmower. He's like Mario Andretti out there. When it comes time for the guy to get an electric wheel chair, forget it. Just put him up on his Skag mower and let him go. This is a man that survived the Battle of the Bulge, has kicked cancer twice, outlived his woman, and does not know anything about slowing down. I love him more than trees.

I go up to Grampy's house pretty much every night around 7 PM to spend a little time with him before he settles in to sleep at 8. He likes to hear what I've been up to all day, and he has a lot of knowledge and information to impart to me. He really knows this area well. I can ask him any question about kayaking the lake, different places to go, farms, towns, sights to see... the guy has spent his whole life here, hunting and fishing in the great outdoors, and knows all there is to know, period. I mean, come on, he's got a road named after him. Does he live here, or does 'here' live because of him?

His garden is doing great this year, we enjoy the chard, radishes, peas, green beans, and cucumbers so far, with a lot more to go as the season unveils more fresh Maine produce from his small garden. When I was a kid growing up here in Washington, all this land was vegetable gardens. He and his many friends would farm it all, and divide all the harvest. This gigantic lawn he now mows was once farm land that fed many families. As he got older, it all became lawn, and now his garden is just a few rows that feed him a little of this and that to keep fresh food on his table.

I remember following him as he plowed this very soil with his tractor collecting worms from the ground for fishing. I'd fill a few cans with worms, that he'd put in a large wooden box that he stored in the basement, and he'd feed them some corn meal to keep them alive. Whenever he'd take me out on the lake to go fishing, we would visit his box of worms for bait.

Skagg LawnmowerOut front he has a really nifty apple tree that is grafted together and it grows three different types of apples at once. It's amazing to see three different varieties of apples growing on one tree. The guy really knows his stuff. Part of me wishes I never went off to college, when all the real learning to be done was here after all. I mean, just imagine the stuff I don't know...

Now about twice a week I wake up to the sound of the Skag mower and I know Grampy is out there mowing his huge lawn. It always makes me happy to hear the roar off in the distance. He takes a lot of pride in keeping his grass well cut. It's nice to run around with my kid out there. So much room to run. It's sooooo green. The grass is very soft to roll around in. At times I hang a hammock between the pine tree and an apple tree, and we just lounge away in the shade. The smell of cut grass is heavenly.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Snapping Turtle

Snapping TurtleWe all went out to Grampy Flander's garden to pick some green peas with my kidling, and it was all nice and good for a while, until this giant snapping turtle poked her head out of the leaves. I was a bit surprised to have a giant dinosaur so close underfoot, so we quickly moved the wee one out of the way.

This amazing creature was slowly making her way to the bog across the street from Grampy's house. When I was a kid Grampy told me to stay away from the bog. He told me it was bottomless. A bottomless bog? I found that hard to believe. In fact, it made me all the more curious about the bog.

I have to admit, I would play there whenever I got the chance as a child, (which was not that often), but enough to have several stories about the place. The frogs there are the biggest I've ever seen. The water is also full of long evil black eels. At times folk would toss in eel traps, and I would see the eels in the traps. I'd pull them close to the water's edge just to see the writhing eels in the traps before I pushed them back in for the trapper to collect later. It's not cool to mess with someone else's traps, so I always tried to put them back as I found them. Those black eels are so creepy, I just had to give them a look.

As kids we used to play a game where we would take a long branch, and remove all the twigs and leaves, except for a leaf at the very end. We would tickle the nose of any bull frog we saw, just to get them to bite the stick and leaf. One could easily lift the frog this way until they let go. I'm telling you, these bull frogs are really big. Any frog that weighs in at 1.5 pounds or more is a lot of frog. At night the frogs make a lovely croaking sound, and I love falling asleep to the sound of frogs and crickets.

Maine SnapperI worried that the snapper would get run over trying to cross Liberty Road on her way to the bog, so I decided that I would get a barn bucket, and help her across. I used an old wood handle to guide her into the bucket. I simply told her that I had no intent to harm her, in fact, I wanted to help her cross the road safely. She looked up at me and gave me a wink, crawled into the bucket on her own accord, and away we went to the bog. No struggle at all. She never bit the pole, or resisted. It was as if she understood every word I said.

The old bog was even more wild than I remembered it from 30 years ago or so. All the trees along the bog's edge were chewed up by beaver. Most of the smaller trees were toppled over, laying in the bog. It's amazing that beaver can chew through so many trees. There are coyotes that hang out here as well, so I was sure to keep my wits about me while all alone there with my new turtle friend. Just by crossing the road, and walking down a small hill to the bog, I suddenly felt so alone in a place that is very dark and strange. I'll have to come back and photo it all for you. It's so spooky and wild feeling.

The snapping turtle walked slowly to the bog's edge and slipped into the water, and just sat there looking around. She turned her head to give me one last look, gave me a thank you, and slipped deeper away from sight. I was glad to help her cross the road. Too many turtles don't make it across Liberty Road. Traffic goes too fast here. Huge logging trucks and dump trucks speed by day and night. Even turtles as big as this don't stand a chance.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Beaver

BeaverIn the very middle of the photo, you might be able to make out the cute whiskers of a beaver making his way up to the shore. I was out on my kayak entering the cove, and for the first time I got a glimpse of the beaver that has built a log home along the entrance to the swampy bog that is the cove.

I really enjoy getting up early and setting out on the lake with my video camera. It's an amazing experience to see all the critters that are out this time of day. Being able to capture any of it on camera is a real task. Most of it is sheer luck.

I put together another short video for you all to see. It's a little video trip out on Washington Pond. It's so sleepy and dreamy. Now I know why my daughter tends to fall asleep when we go out kayaking. It's so quiet and soothing. Today we see more loons, a beaver, beautiful lilly pads and their yellow flowers, all these little birds (swallows?) eating bugs over the water, and when I start my exit out of the cove, behind me we can hear a whole pack of coyotes howling where I had just been. So spooky. To think I was so close to so many predators without knowing it, and I'm sure they saw me, but I didn't see them. The thick morning mist hides a lot from my view.

I never know what will be around the next turn when I enter the cove. The tall grass along the edge could hide pretty much anything. I always wonder if I'm in any danger. Out here no one would ever know if anything happened. Boats with motors can't get in this far, and most folk on canoes and kayaks would weigh too much to get in this deep. I don't weigh much, so I can paddle to places where no one ever goes. I like these remote places, I feel like I get to see wildlife in it's untouched state. The solitude, and unknown dangers seem to give me a bit of a rush.

I hope to some day see the moose that folk talk about. He isn't seen very often, but if he's around, the cove is where he'd be. There's a set of ledges that come down to the water giving easy access for deer and coyotes to get a drink. I see their tracks in the soft earth along the ledge. Some early morning I hope to see them there. I am curious about the coyotes. I hear them every night just after the sun sets. Howling at the moon, fighting over a kill. Their aggressive nocturnal sounds are a reminder of just how wild it is here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Maine Loons

Two LoonsI could not sleep because when I woke up at 5:30 AM, I could not hear rain. You see, I've been waiting all week for the rain to let up so I could venture out on my kayak with my video camera. Early mornings, as the thick mist rises from the lake, all the critters come out to play. I wanted to get out there and get some photos.

I have no idea what I will find when I venture out this early. My mind wanders to the possibility of seeing a giant moose, coyotes or the dreaded fisher. I have to say it's not easy kayaking and shooting video. I keep the video camera going the whole time so I don't miss anything. I hold the camera between my knees as I paddle. It's a bit awkward, and it makes me appreciate all the nature photographers and National Geographic folk that make it look so easy.

This morning as soon as I set out, there were two Maine Loons doing what they do best, just looning around. These are really big birds up close. I love the black and white contrast of their feathers. They look like an ink drawing just floating there in the lake. So simple and so beautiful.

Maine LoonThe lake is perfectly still this early before the sun makes wind and waves. One stroke of my paddle, and my kayak moves silently so that I can zoom in and get amazing footage of these rare birds. Loons make bizarre sounds, and up close one can hear them talking to one another. They say things to each other like, "hey, c'mon over here, there's some fish just below me" and stuff like that in little throaty honks. I'm amazed at how far they swim when they disappear under the water. They go under with a *blurp* for just a second, and then in an instant, show up a few hundred feet ahead, next to their mate, almost by magic.

This Loon couple was very distinct. One of them was mostly white under the wings. Not as black as it's mate. I have no idea which is male and which is female, but I'm guessing they are a couple... but if so... who's tending the eggs? Perhaps they are friends, and their mates are back at the nest, as I believe that Loon couples take turns warming the eggs. I can't wait until August to see little baby Loons riding on Mama's back. That'll be a hoot.

I managed to get a few minutes of Loon video for you all to see. I can't bring you all to the lake, but I can bring a little bit of the lake to you.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Rainy Day At L.L. Bean

Our friend the frogIt's been raining a lot this week, so here's a frog. It's a nice frog. He let me pet his back a few times, and then he did a little hop, and I pet him some more. What a nice frog.

My kid is bouncing off the walls in our little two room cabin. There isn't much for her to do during the rainy weather.

We tend to get cabin fever on these rainy days, so we do stuff like head off to a place called Beth's Farm to buy food, donuts, and juices. All kinds of fresh homemade stuff. The wee one and I go out and play on the old swings, as the rain had let up a bit when we were there. We also like to look at the bee hives where they get their fresh honey. Beth's Farm is nifty. It's nice to be able to buy food right where it is grown.

L.L. Bean BootSunday we couldn't take another day inside the cabin watching it rain, so we packed up some snacks and headed to Freeport to visit L.L. Bean again, where it wasn't so rainy. I swear I'm addicted to the place, as I've pretty much purchased every item in their camping catalog. Often more than one. The three of us are living like kings and queens out here due to all the nifty Bean stuff I got. Here's a short list so far: A kayak, two folding hammocks, two sleeping bags, my Gore-Tex rain coat and shoes (I got two pair, they were so comfortable), a welcome mat with a moose on it, several dry bags to keep cell phones and cameras dry during our kayak trips, a personal flotation device for me and my kid, as well as sweaters, shirts, cardigan sweaters, hooded coats, and Teva footware for all three of us. I also got a Wind N' Go lantern, several shake flashlights, all which need no batteries ever, a way cool Leatherman all in one tool, as well as a backpack to carry it all in. And to top it all off, several pieces of Lodge cast iron cookware and a grill so I can cook over the fire pit in style.

I feel like an unofficial product tester for L.L. Bean this summer with all this outdoor gear I've purchased. Here's a photo of just a few things from Bean's. So far all of it has performed above expectation except a couple items that I returned for store credit. L.L. Bean is great in that they have a 100% satisfaction guarantee, so when I purchase anything I know there is no risk if it does not live up to my expectations. I just bring it back the next time we head off to Freeport, take it to Customer Service near the front door, and they offer me refund or store credit in about 5 minutes flat. I prefer store credit, as there's always something I don't have yet.

L.L. Bean Camping GearIf you L.L. Bean guys are out there, I'm your man, make me a product tester, and I'll give you all my ideas on ways to better these products. I have many critiques and needs that only field testing here at the cabin brings up. I'm pretty much camping out 24/7 with my wife and daughter from June - December (or whenever the lake freezes our water source) this year, so I'm putting this stuff to the extreme test for sure. Just click the comment link below to contact me, I'd love to help you guys make these great products into even better items. I think I'd be good at it. I live for good design. That's why I shop L.L. Bean in the first place, they're the best.

Here's an extravagant desire: I asked a service rep at Bean's if they had MP3 player accessories, like powered speakers. They don't. Like where's the line of MP3 player gadgets for hiking, tenting, camping? What gave me the idea that Bean's might have such things is that my new backpack has a headphone port and MP3 player pocket, but I want a small set of powered tent speakers that run like the Wind 'N Go, no batteries needed. Yeah. (I like my music to go with me, and there is no high end audio place in the whole Freeport strip - just clothes, clothes, shoes, and more clothes). Has anyone in Freeport heard of the iPod? I'm amazed there is no Mac Store there, across from Ben & Jerry's or something. I've heard that the iPod is rather popular among the on the go high spenders, so there's gotta be room for MP3 player camping accessories, and L.L. Bean are the folk to do it right. They do sell waterproof holders, but I want gadgets like ski hats with embedded headphones (like the baseball hat with lights on the brim)... Waterproof kayak speakers that also hold and protects the player... Let me know when you guys have those in stock, I'm ready now. I like powered speakers, because they do not limit one's hearing quite like headphones. One can hear everything around them, and if one is kayaking or hiking, one needs to hear what's going on, but some soft tunes in the background can be nice.

Ahhh my head is in the clouds. I'm hoping the rain will let up so my little weasel and I can go out kayaking, but the forecast is cloudy, chance of thunderstorms all week, with no end in sight. I really look forward to our time on the lake together. It's all about the lake, and when the weather is cold and rainy, I'm just in a small room with a kid losing her mind. The weather has got to let up, as I'm running out of ideas on what to do inside day after day. Got any rainy day activity ideas for a two year old? Let me know. Please.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Dad's Orange Tractor

Dad and his little orange tractorWhat can you say about a guy that will drive his tractor 3 miles all the way from his house in the rain just to fix our little road? He's either the greatest guy in the world, or he's just plain nuts. Maybe a little of both, I'll let you decide, because I'm on the fence with this one.

The culvert pipe that drains the swamp to flow under our driveway has over the years teeter-tottered it's way into a big hole that needed filling. Every time a car would pass over the hole, the muffler would scrape making a horrible sound. Something had to be done.

Previously I had dug a hole in order to fix a broken pipe so our kitchen sink would drain properly, and when we were done, we had all kinds of extra dirt... I mean I had more dirt than hole, so when Dad saw my pile of dirt, he goes, hey I'll bring down my tractor to fix the hole over the culvert. Two problems solved with one pile of dirt. Amazing.

Fixing the drivewaySo one rainy day making lunch, I look up, and here comes Dad down the hill in his little orange tractor. I had to look twice to believe my eyes. He doesn't live that close to the cabin. He didn't have a trailer to move the tractor... he must have driven here in the thing on the side of the road, farmer style. Life here in Maine is funny that way. Folk just drive their farm vehicles along the ditch from field to field to do their day to day tasks, and in the same fashion, here comes Dad.

He did the job in about 10 minutes. It looked like he was having fun plowing the dirt all around, smoothing it all out. He came back later with his pickup truck full of dry pine needles that he raked up back at his place. He sprinkled the pine needles over the fresh dirt just so it didn't clump to car tires, shoes, and boots. All in all, it was a high quality job that would have taken me days if I was to use my shovel and a bucket, which was my intention. I don't have a big orange tractor.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Hand Carved Fork & Spoon

Hand Carved Fork and SpoonMy dad cut down an old crab apple tree in his back yard. He brought me a bunch of it to burn in my fire pit, but I've always wanted to try carving apple wood. Fruit wood is known to be great for carving, and although I have never carved wood before, I thought it would be fun to make a wooden fork and spoon. I decided that the motif should be mythical creatures, so I made a Mermaid Fork, and then I made a Pan Spoon.

I don't have proper wood carving tools, in fact all I have is my Van Hoy Snap Lock, which is a very arty urban pocket knife, not really intended for carving. I'm not exactly sure what it's true function is meant to be, all I know is that an Osteopath I met at a party gave it to me for Christmas after I told him about a very effective herbal complementary care program to help his wife that had cancer, and was going through the whole chemo deal. After his wife kicked cancer, he gave me this very arty knife as a thank you. I love being self educated about beneficial herbs and natural health care. It has brought me the good life that I live. I also enjoy being able to share what I know with others, and I'm always glad when they believe that it helped them.

So when I wanted to make a fork and spoon set, I just did the best I could using my nifty Van Hoy. When it came time to hollow out the spoon, my dad once again came to the rescue with a "U" shaped chisel that he happened to have in his tool shed. It took me several weeks of carving, as my hand got really tired fast. I felt like I was going to have giant palm muscles and look like a freak if I didn't pace myself. I'd be walking around with giant bulging palm muscles... I mean... folk would wonder... "why does he have such large palm muscles?" Weird.

Mermaid Fork and Pan SpoonSo regardless of my freakishly large palm muscles, here they are, all sanded smooth. I started the Mermaid first, but I moved onto the spoon and completed it's sanding first. As soon as we used the spoon, and washed it, the super smooth finish picked up some tooth from the water, and some detail was lost. So I decided to complete the fork, get it all smooth, and then sand the spoon again so I could take a photo. Now that I have a picture of the completed set, we can get on with stirring food with these things, although their perfect smooth finish will be lost as well as some detail. But I have to use them... ya know?

I'm now working on a really long ladle spoon for stirring the Dutch Oven when I cook in the fire pit. I need a wood spoon that's long enough that I still have eyebrows after I stir the Dutch Oven. I'll take a pic of that when it's done. For now, here's the front and back of my Mermaid Fork and Pan Spoon.

If you'd like to make your own hand carved fork and spoon, I suggest wearing gloves, and put something like a chunk of thick leather in your lap so you don't slip and sink your knife or chisel into your leg. My dad gave me a pair of thick leather gloves that didn't fit him, and each time I slipped and snagged the leather instead of a finger, I looked up at the sky and said, "Thanks Dad."

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Wharf Spiders

Maine Wharf SpiderUnder the wharf and deck area at the lake live these huge Wharf Spiders. This is a photo of a small one about 3 inches across. They are very territorial and at times may try to chase you off the deck when they are in a bad mood. They build webs under the dock and catch lots of bugs, and some say small fish and children.

All I know is that they creep me out, and have all my life growing up in Maine. I remember several occasions as a child here on Washington Pond being chased off the dock by some big grand daddy Wharfer that knew I was no match for him. I would even go to say my mother, who is afraid of nothing, (and just might kill you if you make her mad), is terrified by these gigantic Maine spiders. It's good to know there is something on this here earth that makes that woman back down a bit.

Wharfer SpiderEvery day when my wife and 2 year old venture out for a swim, as they go down the wood steps into the lake, the Wharfers scamper away to not get stepped on. To see their cute little toes casually step along the same path where these monsters live is a bit unsettling for me.

Let me tell you this: Nature is NOT your friend. The Environment has no intention of saving YOU. Pretty much everything out there wants to eat you in one way or another. Whether it's the coyotes across the lake, the mosquitoes, or simply bacteria, nature wants a big bite of you. Sure I love it here. I have a lot of respect for nature, and keeping the land pure and protected. I just happen to know that nature has very little respect for me.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Chipmunks

Maine ChipmunkHere's a much cuter way for us to dispose of our watermelon rinds instead of feeding the slugs. Now I just put them out by the fire pit, and during the day we can watch the chipmunks nibble on the fruit. There are tons of chipmunks here in the pine grove. They chatter at us as we come and go. What could be cuter than chipmunks?

Their eyes are so beautiful. They have huge black eyes outlined in white fur. They let us get really close, so they don't seem too afraid of us. I mean, we're making them fat with all the watermelon we eat, so I guess we have a symbiotic relationship going on.

This is way better than putting the watermelon rinds down by lake where the slugs take over. It was so gross that putting the rinds in the sun to dry up is a way better solution. It's tough, no one has lived here in Grampy Flander's cabin for a long time, so there have not been any people here for years. People create a lot of waste no matter how "aware" one tries to be. When we shop, we try and be mindful of packaging. We buy products in paper instead of plastic. I can use the paper to contain other things, and when it's used up, paper is good kindling for the fire pit.

chipmunk nibbles watermelonIt's nice to sit inside, look out at the lake across the fire pit, and watch the chipmunks scamper around, competing for the watermelon. At night there's a chipmunk that has figured out how to get into our ceiling space. Once in a while I can hear her run across the top of the suspended ceiling. I've even seen her outside on the roof, where she disappears under the eaves of our bathroom.

One late night I smacked a mosquito on the ceiling, and by chance the chipmunk must have been sleeping in the same exact spot, because it startled her, and me. We both jumped out of our skin, and the chipmunk made a big sound and ran across the top of the ceiling to collect herself. After that she was wide awake and ran around all night over our heads making tons of scratchy sounds. It drove me nuts.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Kayak Trip

Kayak Trip
The wee one and I headed out for our first kayak trip together on Washington Pond the other day. The boat is loaded up with several dry sacks full of safety gear, my cell phone, compass, and whistle.

Across the lake the woods are really wild. Late at night coyotes are heard howling and fighting, and it can sound really scary. Loons and Hoot Owls fill the night with their cries. The lily pad bog is home to beaver, snapping turtles, and moose. When we are out and about, any of the above may be seen. Just today we saw a huge snapper, the shell must have been two feet across. He was up on a large rock with his neck stretched, basking in the morning sun. As we got closer, he just hopped in the water and swam away. We were both amazed at the size of the critter. Along with him on the rock were about 4 or 5 sun turtles. Now we call it Turtle Rock, and will visit it often.

I have to admit my adrenaline is way up when I have my 2 year old along with me on these kayak trips, but her enthusiasm and excitement is just too great to exclude her from this sight seeing sport. This is by far the most amazing Dad and Daughter time together we have ever had. Just the two of us out on the lake together checking out every nook and cranny of this feral place. Every time we go beyond the bog into the shallows full of lotus flowers, the daughter goes, "Wow... Land of the Lost!" I can't argue. All we need is a Tyrannosaurus Rex chasing us from the shore and the scene would be complete. As it is, I constantly wonder what is around the next turn. It is indeed the land that time forgot.

There are no cabins or people on this side of the lake. It is completely wild. Several Loons can be seen as they dive for fish. We pass close by the beaver dam in hopes of seeing some action. The kayak can go places most boats could never reach. The two of us silently skimming across the water's surface. It's magical. The green lily pads, bright yellow lily pad flowers, and white lotus flowers add so much color to the water's surface in the bog. We are so alone out there. It's so overwhelmingly beautiful, perfectly still, and creepy at the same time.

Every morning she begs to go out for a boat ride. The memories this is going to create will last a life time... for us both.