On Summertime Sadness: Saying Goodbye to the Maine Summer

It turned chilly outside this week. After a very long and very hot summer, you would think I would be thankful. I am, after all, a Texas girl who moved to Maine, in part, to escape the heat. But, today, I feel the melancholy—the melancholy for summer that I feel in Maine more than anywhere I’ve ever lived.

I love all of the seasons in Maine, maybe even mud season because I know what’s coming next. Well, the season after black fly season. Yes, that one. Summer.

Growing up in Texas, we didn’t have seasons like we have here in Maine. It went from long hot summer to like two weeks of fall right into a messy, icy, windy winter. Fall is the best, right? I hated not having fall growing up. In Maine, fall is heavenly, magical, but thinking about fall leads me to a melancholy for summer.

Summer in Maine is like nowhere else. Even though my husband and I work way too much in the summers, the culture here reminds us to take breaks. Swimming is important. Hikes are important. Enjoy the water. Cook out. Watch the fireflies—and the stars. These things are valued here, and this makes summer extra special to me.

The summer is winding down. My oldest son is going back to college. I will begin longer homeschool days with my youngest son soon. And, pretty soon, the beautiful fall will be here.

But, for now, I feel melancholy that summer is passing. Though I enjoyed it, I always feel as if I never enjoy it enough. I want to do more, to take more of Maine in, to spend more time relaxing in the sun, watching the chicky girls eat watermelon, and listening as the hummingbirds zip by to the feeder.

A couple of years ago, at the end of summer, I heard a hummingbird commotion one evening on our back deck. We had two hummingbirds who had been visiting our feeder and our hearts all summer—a male and female we named Mack and Clara. We could tell them apart from the other hummingbirds because Mack was particularly short and stocky, and Clara had an unusual shape to the back of her head. They hung around a lot and seemed to have a nest in a nearby tree.

We loved watching those beautiful birds.

One evening in late August, I heard Mack and Clara making a lot more noise than usual. When I looked out the door, I was mesmerized by the beautiful dance and play Mack and Clara were engaged in. I had never seen them play like that and for so long—and with me so near with the camera.

It turns out that Mack was saying goodbye. It seems the male hummingbird will head south early to find a place for the couple. We never saw Mack again, and, after about another week or so, we never saw Clara again.

I had hoped that Mack and Clara would find us again the next year, but it was not to be. We had more adorable hummingbirds, but they definitely weren’t Mack and Clara.

When I think of those beautiful birds and the summer and how soon both the birds and the summer will be gone, I definitely feel the melancholy. I start to feel regret for the things I have wanted to do all summer but didn’t.

But, in writing this post, I have decided that it’s not too late. We bought a canoe this summer but haven’t taken it out on the water yet. This must be done. I’m also determined to make it to the Blue Hill Fair another year to mark the end of my summer with a James McMurtry concert. But, most of all, I want to take an afternoon nap in the warm air with the wind blowing through the leaves in the trees, making that magical whishy-rustly sound.

And I want to hang out with my husband and boys just a little more, just doing nothing, just visiting. We are always so busy with work, the chickens, the house, the garden, running to activities. For a bit, I want to stop time with my family and just do nothing. Surely, that’s possible in the summer time, right?

These are my goals. I don’t want too many summer regrets this year. What are your goals for the end of summer? How can you avoid summer regrets?

Let’s make a deal to say goodbye to this beautiful Maine summer (or summer wherever you are) with meaningfulness, and share your thoughts on summer in the comments below. I really want to hear them!

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On Blueberries, Muffins, and Blueberry Thieves

blueberry muffins

So blueberry season is now upon us in Maine. One of the reasons I love the Maine summer is that we have three berry seasons: We start with strawberry season; then the raspberries come; and we end on blueberries.

We kind of have a fourth season of summer in Maine, but it has nothing to do with berries. I think it’s called the “melancholy that our beautiful summer is almost over” season, but that’s for writing about later. Right now, it’s blueberry time!

I love blueberries. I mean, I don’t have the history with blueberries that I have with strawberries, but I love them so much that, two years ago, for my birthday, my husband bought me six blueberry bushes to plant in our garden.

It was a bit of a rough go at first. There was a bunny who ate both leaves and berries. Then, one of the bushes got sick. Still, last summer, we had a small but delicious crop of blueberries.

But, this year, things were looking great. All six bushes were loaded with berries, and I was so excited!

Until the unthinkable happened…our ducky-ducks ate all the blueberries!

There were like 50 to 70 berries left at the top of the very tallest bush. Our sweet little ducky-ducks (aka blueberry thieves) ate everything else! I am talking about hundreds and hundreds of blueberries. Those stinkers! Still, I can’t be mad at them because they’re cute, and they’re just doing what ducks do.

My husband fenced off most of the garden, but he didn’t fence off the blueberries. We paid for this and learned a hard lesson. Next year, it’s the fence!

But, we still had like 75 to 100 berries left, and I, being the optimist I am, thought this would be just enough to make a good batch of blueberry muffins. I have this amazing blueberry muffin recipe (see below), and I wanted to make a batch with our own blueberries.

Unfortunately, those little ducky-ducks were very persuasive. As I was picking those beautiful blueberries on the tallest bush, a few of our chicky girls came over to “share.” They’re so cute, I couldn’t resist sharing some. But the next thing I know, the ducks are with me.

There they were. Chewing hopefully on the blueberry bush next to me (on one that had already been stripped) and looking at me from the side, as if to say “Oh, mama, we love the blueberries. Please share with us.”

And if you think I’m making up that look, you have to meet our ducks. Believe me, they know what they’re doing.

So what am I supposed to do but share blueberries? So I did.

image of duck
I ask you, is this not the face of a persuasive, blueberry thief?

I think we still have enough for one batch of muffins, but it looks like it’s going to be another year of purchasing and picking blueberries from a local farm. Of course, that’s OK because that’s awesome too.

If you live in Maine, here’s a great blog post from Diane Atwood’s Catching Health offering a list of places you can go to pick blueberries. It’s an awesome resource!

And, once you get your berries, you might want to try them in this delicious bed-and-breakfast-style blueberry muffin recipe.

As an aside, I’ve never been to a bed and breakfast, so I don’t know what kind of muffins you would get at one, but if I had a bed and breakfast, you could get these blueberry muffins there. They’re a hit with my whole family—and our neighbors. Plus, they’re super quick and easy to make.

Blueberry Muffins with Crumb Topping

*Please note that this recipe was adapted and “remixed” from several recipes years ago, so I have no recipe to credit here.

blueberries from garden
This is all we had left after the thievery and the begging!

Ingredients for Muffins

1 ½ cup of flour

¾ cup of sugar

½ tsp. salt

2 tsp. baking powder

¼ cup canola oil

½ teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

almost ¾ cup of milk

1 ½ cup of blueberries

Ingredients for Topping

½ cup light brown sugar

⅓ cup flour

1 ½ teaspoon cinnamon

¼ cup soft or melted butter

Directions

In a large bowl, mix all of your dry ingredients for the muffins together. Add the wet ingredients and be careful on the milk. It really does need to be a little less than ¾ cup of milk. Too much milk seems to really negatively impact the muffins. After you mix the wet and dry ingredients, fold in your blueberries.

Use fresh blueberries your ducks didn’t steal if possible.

Muffin Batter
Be careful not to squish the blueberries too much, or your batter will turn purple, which is kind of pretty, I guess.

For the topping, mix the sugar, flour, and cinnamon. After you have mixed those well, add ¼ cup of the soft or melted butter. The topping should be crumbling just a bit, so if it’s too moist, you can add a dab more of brown sugar or flour.

blueberry muffins
So yummy!

Put into a 12-muffin pan and bake for 15 to 16 minutes at 375 degrees.

It’s a pretty easy recipe and so delicious. I hope you enjoy!

 

On Peace and Beauty

Schoodic Point

“In the presence of nature, a wild delight runs through the man, in spite of real sorrows. Nature says, — he is my creature, and [despite] all his impertinent griefs, he shall be glad with me.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

When I was a little girl, I lived right smack-dab in the middle of Texas. There’s not a lot of water there. My aunt and uncle lived on the Atlantic coast in southern Florida, and I so vividly remember my visit to their home when I was nine years old. The first time I saw the ocean, I cried. I felt the excitement in my chest and all over my little body. When I first stood on that sandy beach and gazed into the blue horizon, I was overwhelmed by the beauty and magnificence of the ocean.

Fast forward to my adult life, and I have found a way to live close to that ocean that moved me so much when I was nine years old. The coast at Acadia is where we visit the ocean every summer. The first time my youngest son ever saw the ocean was at Acadia. We celebrated his 5th birthday at Sand Beach, and when family members come to visit us here in Maine, we always head to Acadia.

Happy Birthday on the Beach
We celebrated our son’s birthday at Sand Beach in Acadia National Park.

When I learned that this year marks the 100th anniversary of our beautiful Acadia National Park, I wanted to spend a little time reflecting on its beauty and how much I love having access to the ocean.

Every summer, we make our trips to the Maine coast, but Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park is our favorite, so much so that it has become our summer ritual to visit, enjoy the breath-taking views, and spend time together as a family. These visits also re-energize my soul.

The first thing we do is head to Winter Harbor, and every time, we stop for lunch at Chase’s Restaurant for some delicious fish n’ chips. In fact, Chase’s has the best fish n’ chips I’ve ever tasted, but, most importantly, our youngest son, our picky eater, just loves the fish n’ chips as well.

Chase’s is a small, family restaurant located on Main Street in Winter Harbor, and it’s right on the way to Schoodic Point. After we enjoy the delicious fresh fish, fries, and slaw, we head to Schoodic Point for the breathtaking views.

Schoodic Point
This is one of my favorite pictures I’ve taken at Schoodic Point in Acadia National Park.

Just hearing the waves crash on the rocks is relaxing to me, but when I see how much my youngest son enjoys exploring the rocks and water, I’m in heaven. Even our oldest, our grumpy teenager, seems to enjoy Schoodic Point, and fortunately, it turns out there are Pokemon and a cell phone signal there—and a cell phone signal is not always guaranteed in middle-of-the-trees Maine. This is certainly important information for anyone with teenagers. Our son captured a water Pokemon at Schoodic Point, so there you go. That’s reason right there to check it out.

Of course, for me, it’s about the Nature, not the Pokemon. Our family enjoys these summer trips so much, and, each year, when the weather starts to warm up, I start missing the ocean and Acadia. I’m from “away,” but I’m thankful that my adopted state has such easy and beautiful access to the ocean, a place where it feels good to feel insignificant. When I look at that water, the water that’s been there for millions and billions of years, I remember that the tiny worries of my life just do not matter.

They do not matter.

It feels good to remember that.

I’m a nature girl (well woman), but I wasn’t always. When I first read Emerson in college as an undergraduate, I had no idea, really, what he was talking about. But, now, Nature feels like scripture to me. I need to feel the earth, connect with the water and animals. Sometimes, it’s in my own backyard. Sometimes, it’s on the coast.

My youngest son once told me once that he thought Nature was so beautiful because God wanted us to notice it. I think there’s so much wisdom in this, and I know that places like Acadia remind me to stop and notice that God is all around us—in Nature.

What are your places that connect you to Nature, that energize your soul? I’d love to hear about them!

On Random Acts of Kindness

bouquet of flowers

This week was a tough week for me. I learned that my main part-time job, the one that was going to come with some health insurance, is not likely to be funded. This is especially problematic for us, as it seems I have an ulcer, which is just no fun at all. Also, my mom, who had been visiting for 10 days, went home to Texas, and my heart was sad.

So my heart has been heavy, and my mind has been worried. But I don’t mean this as a sob story. In fact, I am forever an optimist, so I just always have this feeling that things will be okay. I mean, my husband and I have to work hard to make it so, but we do, so it is.

But this week I also had some beautiful and thoughtful random acts of kindness that helped me stay even more focused on the positive, and these acts seem to have replenished my soul. Because of this, because of how wonderful it feels to have random acts of kindness bestowed upon you, I wanted to devote my post this week to writing about how important these are and maybe offer some ideas about how we can provide some random acts of kindness in the coming week.

Yesterday, I received the most beautiful act of kindness in the form of a call from a friend inviting us to “camp.” If you’re not from Maine, you may not understand what “camp” is. Let me tell you: “Camps” are fantastic! Essentially, “camps” are little cabins on the water, and the water is everywhere here in Maine. So, if you don’t have a “camp,” it seems you are really missing out on the magic of Maine in the summer—unless you can find someone to share “camp” with you. We don’t have a “camp,” so yesterday’s “camp” share was lovely and just what my soul needed.

I had been working at the computer for most of the day, and it was a hot one here in Maine. It was about 90 degrees, and when you don’t have air conditioning, 90 degrees feels really hot. My husband was outside working on our yard and my youngest son was helping him when the phone rang. Our dear friend wanted to know if we wanted to go for a swim and a boat ride.

Oh, we did!

It was the best Friday afternoon I’ve had in a long time. The water was refreshing. My son had a blast swimming in the lake. We were taken for a boat ride around the lake to see the loons and the lily pads. Sunfish nibbled on my toes, and my worries felt far away.

I was thankful beyond words, but this was just one of many beautiful, random acts of kindness for me of late: My neighbor picked me a beautiful bouquet of flowers from her garden; my husband researched and sent me a list of all the natural remedies for ulcers; my friend from afar sent me an awesome chicken lady t-shirt—for no reason, just because; one neighbor brought corn on the cob over for the chicky girls; and another neighbor brought over a Lego set for my youngest son, even though we decided not to have a birthday party for him this year.

bouquet of flowers
This is the bouquet my neighbor picked for me from her garden. I nearly cried at its beauty and the kindness. The flowers reminded me of a wedding bouquet, and since my husband and I got married at the JP, I never had a wedding bouquet–until now, that is!

These beautiful gestures add up and remind me of what a lovely world kindness makes.

So, this week, my goal is to bestow some random acts of kindness, and I have a few ideas to share. I don’t want to be a product promoter, but there are some lovely, small and inexpensive gifts that I would like to share, just to plant some ideas for others. And, other things on my list are free or pretty much free. They will just take a little of your time.

  1. Make someone something homemade.

While I still can’t knit, I can crochet, and I know someone who really wants some homemade potholders. It’s my goal to send her a couple. But, if you’re better “maker” than I am, sending someone a knit cap or a homemade scarf for the fall are random acts of kindness that will just make someone’s day, or week, or month. The one time I received a knit hat in the mail was over a year ago, and I still treasure it!

  1. Send some LL Bean Maine Isle Flip Flops.

While I could probably write a whole post on the awesomeness of LL Bean products (and, one day, maybe I will), I’m pretty sure everyone needs at least one pair of these. I feel like the lobster ones are the best, but I’m Mainer biased.

  1. Write a letter or send a postcard.

I think we just don’t write enough in the old-school kind of way. My mom started writing me letters every year on my birthday, and I treasure them. Every single one of them makes me cry in a good way. But I know some people who collect postcards, so sending a unique postcard with a kind message can definitely lift someone’s spirits.

  1. Bake something for someone. 

If you don’t have to send something in the mail, a baked good is a great gift, be it a loaf of bread or some muffins. Right now, it’s raspberry season here in Maine, so I am planning a raspberry-peach pie for someone tomorrow. I hope it’s yummy, and I hope it’s enjoyed. Every year, at Christmas, our whole neighborhood exchanges baked goods, and I treasure every baked-good item. But why wait until Christmas? Baking something for someone seems like an amazing random act of kindness.

  1. Send a copy of Jes Maharry’s Free Spirit coloring book and some colored pencils.

If you know someone who loves to color, I think this book would be an amazing gift. Jes Maharry is an artist who usually works in jewelry and does a lot of designs with animals. My wedding ring is a Jes Maharry ring. No diamonds. Just a simple, rustic band, and I love it. I’m guessing someone you know would be so pleased to get one of these in the mail. Plus, coloring is so therapeutic, right?

While it was a tough week for me, random acts of kindness really helped me keep my positive outlook on life. If you’ve been thinking about sending some random acts of kindness to someone, I highly recommend doing it now. One of my dear friends wrote a beautiful mini essay about how you never know what trauma someone is going through. It’s true. You just don’t. And we all have our worries, struggles, and traumas. Let’s help each other out with some random acts of kindness.

I’m evidence this week that they can make all the difference.

 

On Strawberry Scones

scone ingredients

It’s strawberry season here in Maine, and strawberries are my favorite fruit. Of course, during blueberry season, I’m convinced blueberries are my favorite fruit, but strawberries and I go way back.

When I was little, I loved strawberries with a passion, but, when I was growing up, we didn’t have a lot of money for things like fresh fruits, which meant I didn’t get a lot of strawberries. Still, every year, on my birthday in May, I would get a strawberry cake, and I would be in heaven.

I think strawberries became even better in my little child mind, and I’m pretty sure I built up a myth about how delicious they taste, though they’re pretty delicious. Still, I admired their color, texture, and juiciness to an unusual level, I’m sure. When I would see other children eating strawberries, I was undoubtedly too envious.

So, as an adult, when my husband and I started our garden, some of the first things we planted were strawberries. My husband built me two large raised beds, and we filled them up with June-bearing strawberries. Having to wait the first year, because you can’t let the plants make berries the first year they are planted, just about killed me.

But, now, we are all set, and as I fill up my bowl with the strawberries I pick in the mornings, I feel a little bit like my life has come full circle. I have plenty of strawberries, and I love that we grow them ourselves.

fresh strawberries
These strawberries were picked fresh for scones this morning. The harvests are still a little small, but the berries are really just getting going.

I even have enough to share, though I have found myself far less generous with our strawberries than I am with the other foods we grow in our garden. I may need to work on that, but, then, strawberries and I do go way back.

Anyway, since the glorious strawberries are upon us, I wanted to share the best strawberry scone recipe I have found. I have searched for nearly a decade for the best scone recipe, and I finally found one that, with some adaptation, worked very well, I think.

This recipe has been revised quite a bit but adapted from the beautiful cooking blog Pinch of Yum.

Makes 8 Giant Scones

Ingredients:

2 cups flour

½ cup sugar

1 Tablespoon baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup cold salted butter, cut into tiny cubes

1 egg

¾ cup heavy cream

1 to 1 ½ cups fresh strawberries, cut into small pieces

additional heavy cream for brushing before baking

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

3 Tablespoons milk

parchment paper

Directions:

In a large bowl, mix together your dry ingredients. Then, add the tiny pieces of butter and cut the butter in using a cutting-in tool (I don’t know if those things have a particular name, but I have one pictured here). Then, mix in the egg and the heavy cream with a wooden spoon.

scone ingredients
Here are some of the key ingredients. I have no idea what the cutting in tool is really called, but it is a must-have for baking with butter.

Once things start to get a little bit mixed, you will likely have to use your hands. The dough is dense, and I usually have to work everything in with my hands to get things mixed.

Now, it’s time to add your strawberries. Using your hands, mix in the strawberries as much as you can without squishing them too much, though some squishing seems to be inevitable.

Bring the ball of dough to your counter covered in flour. Using flour on your hands to help keep the dough from sticking to you, spread the dough out into a relatively flat circle, as you can see in the picture.

Cut the dough into 8 triangles and place them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Now, brush on some additional heavy cream to make sure the tops of each scone are covered with the cream.

scones pre-baking
These are the scones pre-baking, cut from the flat circle into triangles. They will rise quite a bit, so that’s something to keep in mind.

Bake at 385 degrees for 16 to 18 minutes, depending upon your oven. I highly recommend you start checking at like 15 minutes because you never know.

When the scones are golden brown in the edges and can pass the toothpick test, they are done. Try not to overcook them.

While they are cooling, mix the powdered sugar and 3 Tablespoons of milk to make the glaze. The glaze should be pretty thick. If it’s too thin, it will just be absorbed by the scones, which is not as good, in my opinion. Brush the glaze on each scone after the scones have had a chance to cool just a bit. It’s okay if they are warm, just not hot.

Serve warm if you can, and enjoy!

strawberry scone
These strawberry scones are heavenly! I promise!

These strawberry scones were made with fresh strawberries from our garden, but if you don’t have strawberries growing in your back yard, check out this excellent blog post from Catching Health with Diane Atwood for places in Maine where you can pick fresh strawberries right now.

If you don’t live in Maine, come visit us at least. We have the best berries. I might be willing to share some.

On Chicken Shaming

You may have seen the images of the chicken shaming that have been going around social media in the past few weeks, and I hope they made you smile as much as they made me smile. The one about the chicken who ate the mouse whole really made me giggle. I haven’t seen my girls do anything like that, but I have seen them take down some pretty large and pretty gross things, mainly fat grubs.

The images got me to thinking about my own girls’ behavior and how hilarious our chickens are. They make me laugh all the time, though they can also be a real pain sometimes, and those chicken shaming images made me want to share with the world how wonderful, awful, funny, and wild our chickie girls are.

Now, let me tell you, shaming your chickens is not as easy as it seems. I don’t know about other people’s chickens, but my girls are pretty tame. Yet the first time I tried to hang a sign on one’s neck, I felt like the worst chicken mama in the world! My poor sweet girl was so scared and seemed convinced the sign was going to be the death of her. Needless to say, this broke my heart and made me realize that I was going to have to find an easier way to shame my chickens and share their cuteness with the world.

I could only manage a few, as word spread quickly amongst the girls that mama was up to no good, so I could only put the signs I made near the “guilty” chickens in question. It worked pretty well overall, but I have many more stories to tell, like how the chickens have completely dug up our yard or how they moan and groan and squawk and cry to the high heavens until they are let out to free range each day.

But I’ve captured some of what it’s like to live with chickens, I think. I love these stinkers!

chicken with small egg

I don’t even know how this happens, but, a couple of times, one of the girls will lay a mini egg. It’s adorable but not worth much. There’s no yolk–at least there wasn’t a yolk in the first one we found. But, of course, I’m fine with a tiny egg every now and then. It’s just too funny that this happens.

This next one is Guineveve, and she’s one of our newer babies. She’s an ISA Brown, and we found out that this breed originated in France. Unlike our 17 Rhode Island Reds, each of the ISA Browns looks a little differently than the next one, so we’ve been able to name these girls.

Guinevieve is the most beautiful to me, but she’s also the most aloof. She lets us pet her, but she doesn’t come running to us like the other girls. And, most worrisome, she doesn’t seem to like hanging out with her sisters very much. She even roosts by herself at night.

Well, this week, we thought we’d lost her, our first loss. If you read my original post on counting chickens, you know how much I worry about losing one of our girls. Guinevieve seemed to be our first casualty this week.

It was time to put the little girls up for the night, and my husband said he could only find 7 of 8 baby girls. The girls are sleeping in the garage right now, so I was sure our chicken was somewhere in there. But, when I went outside and looked at the baby girls, I realized the missing girl was Guineveve! Considering her loner behavior, I thought maybe she was really gone.

Hiding Chicken

I thought surely she had flown out of the open garage door and had been chased into the woods by one of the bigger chickens, only to be eaten by a fox, hawk, bobcat, or some monstrous, chicken-eating creature in our woods. It was getting late, and we looked for an hour with flashlights, calling for her. I was crying, and my husband seemed to feel so badly. I was trying so hard to tell myself that I had to deal with this kind of thing, that this kind of thing has happened to our neighbors times 10, times 20! I had to be tough.

I kept going back and looking in the garage, just to be safe, but still, just 7 of 8 little girls. But, then, after a little more hunting, my husband said, “I wonder if she’s still in the garage somehow,” and it dawned on me–I had not looked up really high. I just assumed she could not get up to the rafters in our garage.

Guess what! That’s where she was! When I opened the garage door, looked up, and saw her little white tail feathers, I was happy, relieved, and bemused that this little stinker had caused such a commotion. So we still have Guinevieve, but she’s getting shamed this week!

chickens with sign about squirrels

And, though I love our chickie girls more than I can say, I have to admit that the girls can often be stinkers–even a little mean. I have to stay on them and “be the rooster” sometimes, but, when they can, some of them will be little bullies. This spring, several of them have taken to bullying the poor little squirrels in order to take the seeds from the squirrels we feed. Or, perhaps, they do it out of spite because I see how enviously the chickens look at the squirrels when the squirrels are running free in the mornings while the chickens are still waiting to get out of their pen. I’m pretty sure those squirrels are getting the evil chicken eye.

So, this week, my mean girls get shamed as well!

Finally, after spending this morning “chicken shaming” and scaring some of my girls half to death with my little signs, my husband said that I should be shamed myself. I think he’s right. Our little chickie girls are sweet and beautiful and, sometimes, downright ornery, but I never want to make them feel badly. So my final sign is for me.

author shamed

And, since I wasn’t able to tell all of my girls’ ornery stories via pictures, I’ll just have to tell more stories in the weeks to come. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from raising chickens, it’s that those girls are always up to something and always completely entertaining!

On My Favorite Things About Living in Maine

If you’ve never been to rural, wooded Maine during black fly season, you can’t understand just how bad it is. When I first moved to Maine and people told me about “black flies,” I was like, “All flies are black.” But these are flies of a different sort.

They are small. They are mean. And they are legion.

Right now, as we work in our yard, garden, or take care of the animals, we are followed by a cloud of biting black flies. They go up your nose, down your throat, in your eyes, and I have to comb my hair several times a day to rid my long hair of the pesky little carcasses.

It’s been a tough week in the insect department here in Maine.

But my husband says that this is just what keeps the cost of real estate down in what, otherwise, has to be one of the most beautiful places on earth. So this week, to keep my Zen and remember why I love Maine so much, I am devoting my post to some of the things I love about living in Maine. Keep in mind, I am from “away,” which I will have to explain to some of my readers in another post at a later date.

1. Mainers dress for practical purposes.

I’ve never been one for wearing fancy clothing. In fact, there’s evidence of an epic battle my poor mother endured throughout my childhood in a picture of my first day of school when I was five years old. She put me in a pretty dress. It was itchy. I hated it. I let her know about it.

All of my life, I have preferred comfort over style, which was not the most popular approach to fashion when I lived in the Dallas area. And, since I’ve been working from home the last few years, my focus on comfort has become even more pronounced. I wear my pajamas and house slippers just as long as I can every day. In fact, I used to walk my oldest son to the bus stop on our road in my robe.

My sweet neighbor knitted me some mittens to match my robe for the chilly mornings at the bus stop. Yes, Maine is awesome like that.

But this is always how I know for sure I found my people. I sometimes have to travel for work and make presentations at conferences. It’s then that I become very much aware of my struggling fashion sense. I see suits, heels, manicured nails, and perfect lipstick at the conferences, in the restaurants, at the airports. I am out of sorts for sure.

But, when I am headed home and get on my last connecting flight to Bangor, I see LL Bean boots and bags, jeans and sweaters, and all kinds of reasonable-to-me clothing, I am thankful to be with my people again.

Bean Boots
These are my Bean Boots, and I love them. They are pretty hard to come by, as they are really popular. Apparently, Mainer style has spread to the rest of the country, but my son worked at the LL Bean call center last Christmas and helped me get on the list! These practical and comfortable boots are symbolic of Maine comfort to me.

2. Your neighbors will truly help you in times of need.

I’ve never seen anything like the neighborhood support I have seen in Maine. I think we might be particularly fortunate in the neighbor department, but I have heard others say the same things about how kind and helpful their neighbors here are.

I first realized this when, shortly after we moved here, I had to have surgery. On the second day after my surgery, our next-door neighbor arrived with enough stew for two dinners and a large batch of homemade rolls. It was touching and so kind and so needed.

But that was when we had first moved in and didn’t know many of our neighbors yet (we are a family of introverts). Last summer, my husband was injured in a chemical burn incident involving some super-caustic concrete. For real, it takes two of us to run this house and care for the boys and our animals. Having my husband injured so badly was both scary because I was worried about him and exhausting because it meant I had to run the house alone, but we would soon get help.

It wasn’t long before our dinners were arriving at the door, neighbors were pulling the weeds in our vegetable garden, and one neighbor helped my husband finish the critical chicken pen. It was like a little rally of support, and it touched my heart.

Still, these are just a couple of many stories of kindness and support we get from our neighbors. Even growing up in rural Texas in the 1980s, I didn’t see anything like this, and Texas is a really friendly place.

Writing about this kindness in Maine totally makes the black flies more tolerable.

I was recently having a conversation with a family member who was telling me that people just don’t care about each other enough anymore. I told him I had seen evidence to the contrary in Maine. I think he might want to move here.

3. The ocean.

There’s not too much I need to say about this one. We live about 40 minutes from the coast, and we can visit any time of year. The ocean speaks to me, as I know it must to so many others. We have a lot of ocean in Maine. The ocean is good for my soul and always a treat. I grew up in the middle of Texas and saw the ocean only a few times in my young life. Yeah, I’m thankful to live near the ocean.

Schoodic Point
This is Schoodic Point overlooking the Atlantic in Acadia National Park. It is breath taking!

4. Even though the winters are long and can be tough, they are beautiful.

My former department chair told me that you just have to find the beauty in the winter. It’s true, but it’s not hard for me. I do like the cold anyway. Every time I visit my home state of Texas in the summer, I am convinced I will die walking between the house and the car and the car and the house. So the cold is fine with me.

But the winters here are long, and, sometimes, especially in February, the negative temperatures feel brutal to this southern girl.

Yet the beauty of these long, brutal winters gets me through it. The snow on the pine trees. The ice on the rocks. The serenity of freshly-fallen snow. These experiences are amazing and wonderful to me. Maine is a beautiful place in the late summer and early fall, the most beautiful place on Earth, I am convinced. But the winters are spectacular to me as well, and even though they are long and tough, there’s something really empowering about coming through one.

Just don’t forget to take your Vitamin D.

yard in Maine in winter
This is a picture of winter in our front yard. Love!

5. Halloween.

Just wait until Halloween. I can’t wait to blog about Halloween in Maine. For now, I’ll just say this: Halloween is my favorite holiday, and Mainers “do it up” right!

When I first moved to Maine, I lived in Bangor, and I couldn’t believe the decorations, the costumes, and even the fortune teller at one person’s house. Now, even though we live in the country, I am impressed with the way Halloween is handled. The treats are big, meaningful, and full of love. Even though our oldest son is 19, some of our neighbors still make up treats to send home for him with our youngest, who is way into trick-or-treating.

I love Halloween in Maine. It’s like the Halloween I imagined from my childhood, and I am thankful to live here.

Just writing about all of these lovely things about living in Maine is helping me get my Maine Zen back. Of course, it helps that I am inside writing. My poor husband is outside working in the garden getting eaten alive I’m sure. But we’ll get through this, and, as soon as this is posted, I will go outside to help my husband. I will not be defeated by those flies!

Even though I’m from “away” and can never be a real Mainer, I’ve learned to be tougher from living in Maine. I’m still a little wimpy though, so I’ll probably be complaining about the black flies all the way to Father’s Day. I’ll try to keep it to a minimum though.