Maine Maxims

Two plus months in Maine and there are some definite trends in differences we are noticing as we navigate around the state we now call home.

  1. Cash or CHECK?? – Yes, really. Square is for squares, apparently. It is more common for eateries and just about anyone else to happily take a check if you don’t have cash. But a card? Fuggedaboutit. Go ahead. Leave home without it. But where the hell is that checkbook anyway?
  2. You CAN get there from here (any number of ways) – Between our house and Waterville (our nearest “big” town), my parents’ house in Waldo, Unity (our closest place for quick grocery runs, hardware, postal needs, etc), Belfast (bigger town that is like a mini north end Boise, but a seaside New England version), there are several possible numbered routes, a few dirt road “shortcuts”, lots of zigging, zagging, and meandering, road name changes, and not a few hairpin turns, railroad track crossings, and frost heaves…
  3. …And speaking of frost heaves: A “good road” is (sometimes) hard to find – All these spidery, interconnected routes are subjected to both the ravages of the infamous Maine winter and a lot of heavy trucks that don’t otherwise have a way to get from place to place. Then, of course, there is the added tourist traffic for leaf-peeping season and all the other Maine marvels that make this place Vacationland. Summer road crews scramble to patch things up where the damage is worst and repaint the striping in spite of impatient motorists who will pass five cars in a no-passing zone, ruining the freshly painted lines in the process. Driving in Maine is always an adventure, and Google Maps (which can be notoriously misleading in “normal” places) simply cannot keep up with this maelstrom of motorway mishaps and will often direct you where you are going via roads that are dirt or (worse) start out paved and then just inexplicably become dirt and potholes for a mile or so before the same road changes names for the 18th time and makes you do the driving equivalent of a Triple Axel to stay on it. Needless to say, when you suddenly find yourself cruising down a smooth stretch of blacktop, the reverent words “Good road” invariably fall from your mouth and those of anyone else occupying the vehicle. Ayuh, they do.
  4. Leave a message (AKA Call the landline?????) – In a less populace, more rural state such as this, people tend to serve multiple functions in a community. Our realtor, for instance, aside from being the most amazing, detail-oriented, can-do, hardworking realtor we’ve ever encountered, also functions as a firefighter and town selectman, as well as having many hobbies, a home to maintain, and an active family and social life. So when you call, for example, B&D Well Service, that B&D isn’t some carryover from whomever started a business that was bought and is now run impersonally by people who don’t even know what the original name stood for. Nope. B&D are often a husband and wife named something like Barbara and Dan and one of them functions as the secretary while the other is out performing service calls. Or else, the business is a one-person operation and you’ll need to leave a message for the sole proprietor, who will likely call you back within the hour IF their number is a cell and it receives a signal wherever they happen to be working. But what has been especially surreal for us, neither of whom has had a landline since probably the late nineties/early 2000s, has been the prevalence (owing largely to the aforementioned unpredictable cell service) of phones connected TO THE WALL in people’s homes. We saw them at every farm we visited last year, but are still trying to weasel our way out of plugging a phone into a jack by any means necessary. Tinny, delayed Google Hangouts calls, for the win!
  5. Bugs – Newsflash Former Desert Dwellers! Where water and vegetation occur naturally and abundantly, so too will the crawly, buzzy, pesky ilk of the insect world be natural and abundant. Did you know that there is some manner of fly that is obsessed with nothing but circling your head incessantly. No biting. Just buzz, buzzzzzz, buuuuzzzzz, buu-AAAARRRGGHH!!! And my karma for an entire lifetime of being basically impervious to any mosquito I ever met and stating with absolute confidence on many occasions that mosquitoes don’t like me? Maine mosquitoes think I am delicious. Carpenter ants in the floor joists? Check. Every manner of invasive beetle you can imagine? Got ’em! Ah, well, at least there are no mol… What the hell kind of chubby-cat-marmot-thing-with-no-legs dug up my freshly planted garden??? Not technically a “bug”, I know, but that varmint galls the shit out of me.

Just a few observations from our first several weeks here. And you know what? Even I, the kid who hated dirt and had an irrational fear of all things insect until I was well into adulthood, find all of the above charming, endearing, and so wonderfully Maine. 

 

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Friends at Forty(ish)?

Welp, here we are. Right smack between Mid-Coast and Down East Maine. Milestones have been made. Progress is happening on schedule. Questions have been answered. Ceremonial whoopie pies have been consumed. The journey, nay, the Amble, we started on 13 August 2015 has reached it’s conclusion. We’re just waiting for the final piece of the farmstead puzzle to fall into place. It’s basically all over but the paperwork. So, what, oh Worrying One, is there to worry about?

Friends. Where we couldn’t find land and ultimately live in either Oregon or California, we seemed to make friends and find like-minded folks with whom to network effortlessly. But here, where we do have wonderful network of family with longtime ties to the area, we do not yet have, nor exactly know how to go about making, friends.

One might think this is related to our notorious status as introverts. But no. You see, we’ve become fairly good at functioning in polite society in spite of our natural tendency to prefer only each other’s company. Inherent social awkwardness notwithstanding. Lucky for us, our existing friends don’t seem to mind that so much.

The issue here is distance. This region of Maine has several small, vibrant towns that can all be gotten to by any number of circuitous or slightly less so routes, depending on your mood and maybe the weather. But rolling hills and trees and numerous water features tend to make everyone a bit spread out in the areas where most folks live. And this is exactly what we want ultimately. But being new to the area and neophyte builders, farmers, and homesteaders in general, it would be nice to know precisely where in those areas of commerce and connection, we could find some folks to befriend and exchange ideas with as we undertake our new life.

Edit: I wrote the preceding about a month ago after we had just arrived. Saturday, while we waited for the well to get tested at our prospective property, we met a couple of our very nice neighbors. This was a good place to start. 🙂

 

Fourth Time’s the Charm? It’s Higher Math…

We love beer. This is (perhaps painfully) obvious to anyone that knows us. So a beer that’s truly special or unique to us is bound to have something notable about it.

I posted here about one of the few pilgrimages we took on our Ambling Full Tilt journey: the only reason that we thought to visit Delaware, actually – Dogfish Head Brewery in Milton, DE. Their beers are unbelievably wonderful, almost without fail. For a brewery to have one beer as good as 120 Minute IPA or Noble Rot or Palo Santo Marron would be rare accomplishment. But to continuously crank numerous world-class brews without also offering multiple lackluster or mediocre beers is almost unheard of.

While on the tour of the brewery in Milton there was talk of what had been a unicorn to me: Higher Math. It’s a strong, golden ale (clocking in at 17% ABV!) brewed with sour cherry juice and cocoa nibs. If it was offered by any brewery, I’d be very interested. But when I learned it was a Dogfish Head concoction, it was elevated to nigh-holy grail status. I looked everywhere for it, but came up empty. Even though we had driven across the United States, even so far as the brewery itself, it was no where to be found.

Higher Math was brewed in 2015 for their 20th anniversary, Sam Calagione describes it as a “…massive, cherry-chocolate birthday cake… in liquid form.” We visited the brewery between runs of Higher Math and knew we would just have to keep our eyes peeled if we ever hoped to find it.

Fast forward several months and we were in the Nevada County area in California. We had spent most of the first three months of 2016 looking for homesteading land in Oregon, then in northern California. After a lot of research and our agent’s proxy viewing for us, we had the best lead to date. We decided to drive the 500 miles from Boise to check out the lot and make an offer if it looked as good as we hoped. The first night we arrived in Grass Valley we decided to swing by a place called Long’s Bottle Shop to see if they had any good beer. Not only did they have good beer, they had Dogfish Head! Not only did they have Dogfish Head, they had Higher Math! It was very expensive, especially as we are on an ever-diminishing beer budget (the 12oz bottle was $13). Yet it was a truly special find. We also hoped the property would be good and that we could get an offer accepted. So I decided buy one as our celebration beer: we would crack it open once we had a clear path forward on property!

What actually happened was the antithesis of a clear path forward (and that process has continued to this day). We tried to follow the auspicious signs and wound up on a circuitous, often frustrating path. We made mistakes along the way, but always learned from them. The short story was the property we hung our hopes on was not anywhere near as good as we had hoped. The Higher Math was not to be drank in celebration that night; it would have to wait until we found our property. So it came with us across the 500 miles back to Boise.

About three weeks later we found another property in Nevada County. We were more effective in our remote due diligence, so this seemed a truly solid lead. We made our plans, packed the Higher Math in the cooler and headed back to California. The property did indeed pass visual muster. Our agent prepared and we submitted an offer the first afternoon we were there. We thought for sure the Higher Math was in our near future!

Again, not so; the antithesis-of-clear-path manifested anew. The process of offer; counter-offer; counter-counter-offer; rejection took a painful week to play out but not before winding up at odds with septic consultants and certain county officials. Again, the Higher Math was with us on the trek back to Boise.

Part of the recuperating process from the second land debacle was to search for land prospects in Maine. At first it was more for therapeutic purposes than anything else. But after some initial research Maine started to seem like the best option yet. After some initial conversations with family members (which included an offer to become caretakers of some unused family land), it seemed there was really no downside to Maine. Apart from the winters. But no place is perfect, so we decided to move!

The move has been chronicled on this website. However we didn’t explicitly mention that the convoy across the United States included one bottle of Higher Math that already had traveled 1,500 miles with us. 2,900 miles later the Higher Math had to be one of the most traveled beers in the land!

Once in Maine the search for land renewed. The next property that seemed to be within grasp became another unending headache and morass of complications. The process of offer, acceptance and due diligence ultimately led to our withdrawing our offer; and that disappointment took even longer than the second property. Again the Higher Math celebration was not to be…

Suspecting the third deal would never play out in our favor, we found a fourth property after much searching and began investigating that. No properties are perfect and this last one was no exception. But it seemed to be workable in every way that mattered. Our focus shifted to the fourth property. After as much sleuthing as we could manage without inspectors we made an offer and it was accepted. Thus began the next round of intense due diligence.

Unlike the other properties, though, this one does not appear to have any major issues. The well, the septic system and the parcel boundaries have been the problems that have ended every previous deal. Today we finished the last of the checks that green lighted all these elements. There is quite a bit of work that needs to be done to bring this property up to where we need it to be, but there are no deal breakers.

Did you hear that? We made an offer. It was accepted. We performed due diligence. There are no deal breakers. That means our agent will call the title company on Monday to schedule a closing.

We did it. We completed the first steps toward owning the land upon which we will begin taking the first steps of our homesteading effort. That sure doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment. Yet it’s taken us – believe it or not – six months to the day to get this far!

On January 11th, exactly six months ago today, we walked into the real estate office on the main road in Yachats, Oregon to pick up local real estate listings. We wanted to officially kick off our real estate search over a beer at Yachats Brewing. We even visited our first property in a steady rain that day. And now, six months later, we made the decision to close on a property on the other side of the country.

Dogfish Head Brewing is named for a point (Dogfish Head) outside Boothbay Harbor, Maine, where Sam’s parents had a summer home that he enjoyed visiting. We’ve taken a bottle of Dogfish Head Brewing’s Higher Math on a journey with us, 4,400 miles across the country and wound up only 80 miles from the brewery’s namesake: Dogfish Head. All those miles, months and setbacks…

Yet tonight we get to finally open the Higher Math. Because only higher math can explain why the fourth time’s the charm.

Here’s to Sam. Here’s to adventures. Here’s to friends both new and old. Here’s to home.