C’est moi!

So, I turned 40. And that amounted to nothing much different except that we had a nice excuse to take a break on a couple of days to celebrate.

Nothing was really speaking to me in terms of ways to properly mark the occasion until I learned that Buddy Wakefield had booked a show in Portsmouth, NH, a mere two hours south of us via I-95. The show was on the 10th of March, and my actual birthday is on the 1st, so that afforded us two chances to goof off. On the day itself, we opted for what we hoped would be a brunch experience on par with our beloved Boise eateries. What we got was passable, but nothing to write home about. However, we did have a wonderful time exploring a place called Cape Rosier that a friend had recommended and shown us how to get to on the infamous Maine gazetteer.

We learned early in 2016 that Oregon was not to be home for us for a number of reasons, many of them especially sound for people who want to farm and homestead. But we still have occasional pangs of missing the west in general and our beloved Oregon in particular. This little spot reminded us of hiking the coastal rainforests there and we had a marvelous time exploring in spite of the persistent fog and access roads being nigh, or completely, impassable that day.

While I haven’t posted here since late December, I spent most of the “off” time from then until about a month ago working on a project that had been on my back burner since the early 2000s. You can see my #100PhotoProject at my blog. This was a way for me to get familiar with my camera again and keep up the practice of both shooting and writing. I’ve found in the month since I completed the project that I definitely need some kind of prompt to keep myself in the habit of doing that work, especially while all of our farmsteading work consumes most other waking moments. I have yet to solidly choose another project, but I’ve had some ideas and Lance gave me one this morning that would keep me more active here on our blog and keep you all more aware of what’s happening here as our farm takes shape. We shall see if that materializes. In the meantime, here is one I took of the ever-elusive moon early in the morning as it was waning last month. This was not part of my project, which had already concluded. Just something to let me know my skills improved a bit during that time. It also might make a nice bookmark…

Finally, the work. The (almost) all-consuming work that has kept us both plugging away at our respective tasks since the 2nd of January and kept me glaring with increasing (and obviously ineffectual) menace at the weather report as the winter has stayed long past its welcome is about to go from the planning to execution stage. Four plus months of research, tedious data entry, calculating, recalculating, software woes, sore bums, and strained eyes will lead ultimately to ONE crucial day of orchestrating the miraculous feat of standing up a full-fledged microfarm with the help of a few friends, family, and minimal machinery. And, while I know that the work is going to get harder before it gets easier and that we have way more than one day of backbreaking labor ahead of us to really see it through to its fruition, the nervous mother in me that has been tending and nursing seedlings along, some since mid-February, will be overjoyed and quite simply relieved just to have the space and the cooperative weather to get these babies outside where they belong and begin the long, arduous task of making sure they are protected and nurtured to the natural end of their short, glorious lives.

I continue to say my metta meditations for them, for you, for us, for me. Happiness, peace, health, safety, and liberation to all beings. ALL beings.

 

XO

DJ

Picture Pages – Volume …Since September

When people ask what we’ve been up to, I find I’m always a bit dumbstruck and I can rarely enumerate more than a few items before trailing off and wondering to myself what HAVE we been up to lately. On the one hand, I know we’re keeping plenty busy because I feel remarkably well-adjusted at a time of year when I am traditionally a bit cagey and morose with the winter doldrums. On the other hand, our days are so much more calm, relatively speaking, than the mayhem of this past spring and summer, that it seems like nothing much is going on around here if thought of at only a cursory level.  Only upon deeper reflection as I write this do I see that we have been bustling with activity even now that we are in the “off” season.

Without belaboring every minute detail, let me see if I can break down the last few months in the form of a photo essay of sorts.

With my desire to try extending our somewhat foreshortened season, Lance built a hoop house structure over our largest raised bed. This was covered with reemay and some poly and we experimented with various ways of collecting and holding heat in our makeshift greenhouse.  I was a bit overly optimistic and late by about a week or so on getting the fall and winter harvests planted, so we didn’t have the success I’d hoped for, but we did get some produce and certainly learned how to do better next time!

My Hoopy Frood made me a hoopy house for my fall bed! #whattaguy #seasonextension #putalidonit #coldiscoming

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While we didn’t produce everything we wanted, I was able to preserve most everything we did and augment our food stores with some purchases from fellow farmers. I spent several days canning and freezing veggies and fruit, and derivatives thereof in the form of sauces, jams, and relishes. I also dehydrated herbs for cooking and tea, and we dried and saved a number of seeds and beans for future propagation.

 

Our little place is about 10 miles due north of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (MOFGA), which is home to the Common Ground Country Fair. We came to the fair when we rolled through here to visit my folks in 2015 during Ambling Full Tilt. It was one of the highlights of our trip, and our one-day visit let us know that that particular resource would be one of many reasons why this would be (and is) the perfect place to set up our homestead. This year, our attendance was for all three days and we scheduled ourselves for as many classes and talks as we could now that we were (are) actually involved in the process of building a micro-farm. There was such a wealth of information to absorb that we often had to divide and conquer and hardly saw each other, let alone many of the little things that make the fair festive and fun. But I did manage to take a break long enough to witness a chicken on a leash…

Chicken on a leash so it doesn't run around like a… Well, you know. #commongroundcountryfair #havechickenwilltravel #mofga

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And Lance picked himself up a custom made scythe with the goal of eventually growing and harvesting cover crops to use as green manure and feed for our future chickens and (maybe) goats.

Lance learning his scythe. #mowah #nocupholderthough #simplify

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Lance is also getting rather handy with powered cutting implements. He’s managed to apprentice himself to our friend and professional woodsman Rob. This has come in handy as we have about a half acre of woods surrounding our property on two sides (and landscaped treelines on the other two sides). One birch decided to save him the trouble of felling it and we found it suddenly toppled onto a couple of our spruces on the east end of the property. We got to use our recently acquired farm truck, Kermit, to pull it out the rest of the way and then Lance went to work turning it into kindling (and logs)!

 

About the time our house was overrun by ladybugs, we started thinking it might be a good idea to snug the place up a bit. They helped us find all the little nooks and crannies that needed sealing by appearing out of and disappearing into them like the ghosts in Pac-Man. We had to evict Inky, Clyde, Pinky, and several (like, more than 50) others so we didn’t have a crunchy carpet blanketing our floor. But Blinky and his lesser known brethren, Blaze, Bitey, Brazen, and Burney are still hanging with us trying to ride out the winter.

Ladybug. Feet. Prints.

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So with most of the little draughts sealed, we decided we had better insulate the attic with something more than the ghosts of ladybugs past and mouse droppings. Lucky us, the gas stove we had ordered (and had to convert to LP and install in place of the temperamental electric clunker we inherited with the house), and the mountain of insulation showed up on the same day.  Motivated by the desire to both eat and stay warm, Lance and I managed to get the stove installed without blowing ourselves up, and he somehow managed to haul 18ish bags of Roxul up through a hole barely big enough to accommodate him, and then install it in the attic without completely ruining his knees or sustaining (too much of) a head injury. Bless him.

NOW we're cooking with gas. Literally. #ngtolp #amateurhourallday #noobs

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This is how insulation works, right? #kindabulky #mainewinterprep #staywarmfriends

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Naturally, colder weather turns our thoughts to food to help us stay warm. Actually, I’m always thinking about food, such is my affinity for culinary creativity. In addition to the aforementioned methods of stocking the freezer and pantry, I added fermentation and wild yeast cultivation to my playbook. I’ve made two successful (and one utter failure) batches of kimchi and so many sourdough boules (and other starter based creations) that I’ve lost count. Lance has also dabbled in wild yeast for beer-making, but the experiment is ongoing, so results will have to be reported by him in a later post.

Future Kimchi. #gottauseallthatdaikon #fermentation #secondtimeisthecharm #foodscience

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As if my food-related endeavors at home weren’t enough, I’ve also been volunteering most Thursdays at the Unity Food Hub, which is where we get our Maine Farm Share (it’s like a cooperative CSA). I’m generally moral support for my friend Sophie, who is the coordinator for the distribution, and help her with distributing shares, but my primary function most weeks is cooking samples out of recipes I have devised based on the share produce for the week. I also occasionally do recipe write-ups for the weekly newsletter that gets distributed with the shares. It’s a lot of fun and a great way to meet and talk food with both patrons of the program and contributing farmers in the local area. Lance and I have talked a lot about establishing a bit of a cottage industry and this might be one way I can share my wares with the community. The angle we are most interested in and find somewhat underrepresented in the offerings around here is zesty seasonings and sauces. It’s no secret that we love our herbs and spices, and I especially love nothing better than crafting tasty sauces and soups. I have been dabbling in making our own curry powders and have already been asked to package and sell my pesto, so maybe there is a bit of a market for such things. We shall see!

Carrot ginger soup for @unityfoodhub . #presentation #localnoms

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Speaking of crafting things with fire, though this is a bit hotter than the sort you’d use for cooking, Lance has also taken up tutelage under Rob for blacksmithing. My poor partner spent 15 weeks of Tuesdays at a welding class he didn’t love (the class was fine, it was the welding he could have done without) in an effort to learn how to repair our vehicles in an area notorious for eating the parts and bodies right off of them. The very last thing he learned, which only had one class devoted to it, was blacksmithing. He thoroughly enjoyed the little bit he did and was glad to find that Rob is a willing teacher and has a shop and the equipment to practice with.

Fun with the forge for my photo project. #100photochallenge #burn

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Lance taking some of his first whacks on molten metal. #blacksmithingpractice #diy #alwayslearning #iliketoplay #ting

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Industrious though we have been, we’ve had some time to get out and explore and indulge ourselves in more leisurely and artistic pursuits. We’ve braved a bit of ice trekking on the bog down the road from our place and taken advantage on a couple of occasions of a splendid trail system that spans from the hills of nearby Unity to the coast in Belfast over about 40 miles of public and private land. I’ve (obviously) abstained from writing very much here, but I have been getting back into photography and doing a bit of writing to go with it in a project called the 100 Photo Challenge on my personal blog, danijamesdayton.wordpress.com. I’ve also been knitting a fair bit and occasionally dabbling in the lost art of letter writing as a part of assembling care packages with knitted and canned goods to send to loved ones.

intrepid

Lance intrepidly testing out the mostly iced over bog while I trepidatiously waited on the embankment.

Dappled. #hillstoseatrail #hikinginmaine

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…(not) The kind you find in a secondhand store. #mostlypostsforthecaptions #raspberryberet #prince #knittingfool

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I don’t have photographic evidence of this, but I’ve also been cutting my own hair and making nearly all of our toiletries and cleaning products from scratch. I don’t have to wear my own knitted hats all the time (I couldn’t anyway because I keep giving them away), so I think the crunchy granola homemade haircuts and products are working out alright. I’ll document more of the latter in the Mad Alchemy section of the blog at a later date.

As the new year approaches, our thoughts are turning to getting prepared for the next growing season. We’ve both enjoyed a decent amount of leisure and writing research reading of late, but soon we’ll need to hit the homesteading books again and come up with a game plan for the farm. It’ll be a lot of work, but it’s definitely not an unpleasant task to peruse the vibrant  pages of seed catalogs and work at building my own while the garden beds and future buds sleep under a blanket of snow.

Some spring inspiration on a wintry day. #seedsaversexchange #bakercreekheirloomseeds #gardengeekery #adifferentkindofdirtydreams

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Wishing you all well as we dream of beautiful beets and busy bees! Happy 2017 and Cheers!

Funky fresh beets. #eyecandy #feastyoureyes

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Another garden friend cruising the nasturtium flowers. #lovethebumblers

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XO

Dani and Lance

Remember, Remember!

The FOURTH of November??? No, that’s not quite how it goes. But that is a significant date. Thanks to the annals of Facebook, we have recently realized that 4 November 2015 is the day we rolled into Tulsa, OK, which was an oasis of friends, family, and memories for me to share with Lance about the place I spent most of my formative years (which years ARE those exactly?). We had hurried there from Roanoke, VA, with nothing of interest for us (except fantastic Eastern Indian fusion cuisine we found for lunch in Nashville by random chance) in between. When we left Tulsa a couple of weeks later, we again pushed through all the way to Albuquerque, NM, in one day just to get somewhere desirable. Though we did have very good Vietnamese food while slightly delayed getting Charley fixed in Yukon, OK, and then fantastic flatbread pizza in Amarillo, TX, that same night. Maybe the trip should have been called Ambling Full Tummy… But I digest… Digress!

So one year ago, we were roughly in the middle of the country, though well past the middle of our trip. But we were still quite far from knowing how/when/where we would end up.  Today we realized that from that point it was exactly six months and countless miles, meetings, and missed targets later (May the 4th Be With Us!) that we pulled up in my parents’ driveway again with Charley, this time with all of our possessions in tow, ready to start our new life in Maine. And that date was exactly six months ago today.

To some outside observers, all this tallying of synchronicity and seeming cosmic significance might appear to be a tedious rehash of mere coincidences. But for us, every moment we spend making our dream manifest, right down to the minutest task, is nothing short of miraculous. We frequently write about awe, wonder, and gratitude because we are full of all of the above. And we are humbled every time we stop to think about what brought us to this place where  virtually everything and everyone is new, and how much we have accomplished and managed to learn in what is a relatively short amount of time.

Six months here already. Closing in on a year since we finished the Amble. I would say “where does the time go?”, but I know exactly where it’s gone. Just about every minute. And I couldn’t be more thrilled to Be Here Now.

Ever humbled,

Dani

Not Eating the Couch

“I firmly believe that we all need to find something to do in our lives that stops us from eating the couch.”

― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

Rest assured, the couch is safe. For now.

What Ms. Gilbert is referring to in the quote above is how a creative mind that isn’t busy creating will actively seek destruction instead. Like the unemployed border collie she mentions  in the aforementioned couch-eating metaphor, those of us with endlessly restless minds will tend to wreak havoc on our environment, others, and ourselves just to have something to do. Most of my adult life up until I gave myself permission to live authentically can be characterized by such cycles of self-sabotage and destruction followed by hopeful rebirth. Falling down just to have a reason to stand up.

“I’m no longer interested in watching you rise from the falls you keep taking in vain just for a reason to stand.”

― Buddy Wakefield, Live For A Living

Lucky for me and my couch (and my life partner and anyone else who has to put up with me), there is no shortage of tasks to occupy my monkey (border collie?) mind these days. The reason I haven’t managed to write anywhere other than in my head for the better part of at least a month is because I have, as some kind of weird insurance against boredom and/or cabin fever in the coming winter months, signed myself up for some extracurricular commitments in addition to the care and feeding of the homestead and myself.

As we tick off the winter preparation musts around the place and bring in and preserve the last of the summer harvest, I’m volunteering time, cooking, and recipe write-ups to the Unity Food Hub, sorting cranberries at a local farm, helping a caregiver friend bring in her cannabis harvest, and playing volleyball forty minutes from home in Belfast. All of this is in the interest of reaching out to and becoming a part of the broader community, as well as diversifying my knowledge and giving me something to write about other than my unending gratitude for having the chance to manifest my dreams in a place that is one big scenic route. No designation needed. Seriously. If there’s an ugly part of Maine, I haven’t seen it yet.

So, while I haven’t been creating in the literary sense, as the trees get more and more bare, our pantry gets more and more full of the fruits of this bountiful region we now call home. I’m creating a food store, community connections, friendships, and a little space for myself to get some exercise and different perspective, a kind of exercise in and of itself. And then there’s all the knitting it was too warm to do, and all the planning for next year’s garden and the beginnings of our ventures into small livestock raising. Not to mention the ongoing projects that will be reconstructing this house and adding outbuildings and landscape infrastructure to the property.

The benefit of having nearly everything you are doing be brand new to you is that it makes you more game to try the unfamiliar and less devastated by failure. Though I am saddened by every preventable loss in the garden and will certainly be worse when it comes to the inevitable loss of the chickens we don’t even have yet, I’m learning to take ego and apprehension out of the equation and just try, try again when my efforts don’t quite pan out as hoped. And Lance and I are both learning that “good enough” is sometimes just fine.

Vegetables and flowers grew. Major hurdles have largely been tackled. We’ll likely survive the notorious Maine winter in our little camp-turned-home, and reasonably comfortably at that. We’re quickly closing in on six months here. And each day that passes, as well as nearly every person we meet, lets us know this is the place our creative minds will be forever soundly occupied with the business of living and cherishing every lovely detail, just the way we hoped they could when we dreamed all this up in the first place.

20161015_0852291

Picture Pages – Volume …

Some recent shots from recent weeks in our new homeland. First up are some from Liberty and Camden, ME, where we went adventuring to celebrate Lance’s 40th a couple of weeks ago.

Playing Teddy's guitar at Liberty Craft Brewing / 8-28-16

Friendly bartender gives musical man his guitar to noodle on at musical man’s mate’s mere mention that he likes to play. *ting!*

Our Airbnb for Lance’s Annibirthary trip was an 1800’s farmhouse. He relaxed into nap mode pretty soon after we arrived, so I took advantage of the time and light to relax in my own way.

From the Floor to the Door

More fun with light and camera filter features from the floor.

sepia-door

Afternoon shadows and aged patina in sepia tone.

Patina

An interesting texture only years can achieve. I’d like to feel the same about my face filling up with lines.

textures-2

A study in textures.

Turn

How many hands?

textures-1

A study in color and texture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My partner. Stalwart, supportive, smart, silly, and sexy. Ardent advocate of all my aspirations. Doer of the sad and dirty details around our place. Adventurous, appreciative, and amazing. I can never say or do enough when it comes to returning all that he gives me, but I’m trying my hardest. Meanwhile, he’s making 40 look good!

ss-cairn

Photographing the photographer photographing the “SS Cairn” on Mount Battie, Camden, ME / 8-29-16

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

peyote-buttons

On the last day of our trip for Lance’s Annibirthary we had to stop in to Liberty Tool Company where, among about a million other things, they apparently have drawers full of peyote buttons. 😉

The following shots are from the Labor Day party at our friend Dennis’ place / 9-3-16. A good time and a great view was had by all.

oinker

A pretty happy piggy.

mowing-by-draft-horse

Mowing the field with draft horses.

sun-flower

Sun. Flower.

wildflower-sunset

Wildflowers at dusk.

lines

Even the man made things can look lovely in the right light.

postcard-evening

Dusky hues just before the fireworks show.

 

 

 

(Former) Residents of the Road

The Amblers and their Ambling Van, Charley just prior to launching the adventure on 8/13/15.

The Amblers and their Ambling Van, Charley just prior to launching the adventure on 8/13/15.

Last August 13th we were waking up in our hammocks in the back of Charley van. Having closed the door for the last time on our first place together two days prior, we were camped out in the driveway of a house my family was occupying at the time waiting for the designated start date of a little trip we called Ambling Full Tilt. August 13th was the date we had chosen because we had purchased tickets several months before we even dreamed up Ambling to a concert tour called Gentlemen of the Road, which was taking a place a few hours northwest of us in Walla Walla, WA. It made a good soft start to a trip that would ultimately take us over 12,000 miles ultimately in search of home.

Home came a few more thousand miles and a few false starts later.  But that time in between, although I would never call it easy, was heretofore the greatest adventure of my life. I occasionally have a chance to go back through our photos or read a post from the road and know that whatever it meant to anyone else, it meant everything to us and we really accomplished something in terms of our development as individuals and as partners.

We’re a pair of sentimental fools and today and every August 13th we will look back with reverence and love on our time as Residents of the Road. We will cherish the wonderful people we met and made friends (or even just shared a good conversation) with and marvel at the open and good nature of most of America that the rest of the world doesn’t get to see. And we will know that every mishap, moment of discomfort, or sheer dismay strengthened us and our resolve to see it through and make a home together at the end. Finally, we will acknowledge our eternal gratitude to our beloved for believing in and cheering us on along the way and beyond.

My ultimate takeaway lesson from this past year is that “it takes a village” for life, not just when we are small. And we know we wouldn’t have gotten so far and learned so much without our mentors and peers who know more than we do about certain things. We still need them today and we will need them forever. Sometimes, when the little bit of media I allow in makes me afraid of a country I don’t recognize anymore, I remember that our “village” is vast and full of people who are kind, selfless, and loving. We saw this firsthand everywhere we went. And we continue to see this as we integrate ourselves into our new community.

Happiness, Peace, and Liberation to all!

XO

DJ

Mushaboom

…And we’ll collect the moments one by one
I guess that’s how the future’s done

How many acres how much light
Tucked in the woods and out of sight
Talk to the neighbours and tip my cap
On a little road barely on the map

Old dirt road
Knee deep snow
Watching the fire as we grow old
Old dirt road
Rambling rose
Watching the fire as we grow well I’m sold

–“Mushaboom”/Feist

How many years have I dreamed and loved the first Feist song I ever heard? I don’t know. I also don’t know what the hell “mushaboom” means, but Leslie Feist is Canadian, so maybe some of my Canadian friends can help me out? I’m still learning all the Maine-ah isms. Oh, vernacular…

Anyway, the point here is that our shift from a perpetual state of being transitory has impressed a few things upon us about this new place we have chosen to plant ourselves. Our root ball has been combed out. We’re stretching our legs. And noticing some marked differences in the process.

For example:

  • People gather here. Routinely. Often daily. With nothing more high tech than a coffee mug or a beer in their hands. And without having had to schedule it weeks in advance via lots of back and forth texts, emails, etc. It just happens. It’s a thing.
  • Those people, who have been meeting daily at the coffee shop or at so-and-so’s place of business for an after work brew, openly invite and welcome newcomers. There is no trial period. No feeling out friend potential via a Facebook stalk. It’s just, “Nice to meet you. We do this every day around this time. Join us if you like.” And they mean it.
  • In that same spirit, neighbors come by, introduce themselves, offer help, invite you to their kid’s birthday party. Seriously. All this has actually happened since before we even closed on the place.
  • Strangers wave to all passerby. Even if they have Idaho plates. Even if they speed limit is 55 and you’re passing in a blink. If people are in their yard when you go by, they wave.
  • Folks are plainspoken, but not generally rude. Helpful, but not obtrusive or, worse, obsequious.
  • Everybody knows how to do everything… Or knows someone who does. There is a remarkable level of know-how, can-do, and general lore in your average Mainer. Rural living in a climate known for more extreme winters breeds a certain amount of self-reliance. For months, we’ve been reading books about all manner of off-grid, self-sufficient, sustainable living. But there is reading about a thing, and then there is putting that thing into practice with myriad variables and the obnoxious, persistent resurfacing of laws by some guy named Murphy. People in these parts just seem to know the how’s and why’s and can tell you about them and offer to help you without making you feel like an imbecile.

Also:

  • We realized when we picked up our truck on Tuesday that before that day we hadn’t seen a stoplight in several weeks. It was almost unsettling.
  • Trips to “town” are a thing and we decide which town we will visit based on our needs at the grocery and/or hardware store. We consume food, Our house consumes hardware goods. Lather, rinse, repeat.
  • There is no such thing as throwing everything in a wheelie cart and parking it at the curb to be taken “away”. Yes, you could throw everything “away” in bags you set outside each Wednesday, but at $1.50 a pop for trash stickers, it’s more economical to sort your recyclables and compost your scraps for free to minimize the trash. More of this, please.
  • Spring peeper song has given way to summer crickets and cicadas. Still. There are times I wake up at night because it is unbelievably, completely quiet and still. I couldn’t tell you the last time I heard a siren. Also, more of this, please.

In sum, to hearken back to the lyrics quoted above: Two and a half acres in the woods with great light and neighbors. No snow yet. Dirt road IS on the map (barely). I am sold.

#livingthedream #dreamsmatchingup #favoritedayeveryday #feist #mushaboom #ourmaineadventure #saltoftheearth #homesteadingfulltilt

 

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. 

 

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. 🙂

 

“The last I heard…”

It started with Maria.

When it comes right down to it, the whole business of Ambling Full Tilt, which gave way to the blog you are reading now, came about because my friend Maria sent me a link to a Craigslist ad her husband Patrick had found for a finished tiny house.  This sweet little home on wheels had been built by some gifted and talented kids in Mountain Home, ID, with the help of their teacher Dave Holland. Maria and I had recently been discussing my love of the tiny house concept and when she passed along the listing, Lance and I both felt as though it set in motion a palpable shift in life as we knew it then.

The monumental message came through in early July of 2015. We were on the Oregon coast, a place we had increasingly been thinking about moving because we both loved it (much like I love Maria) at the cellular level. It felt like a part of our souls. It felt like home in a way that Idaho was rapidly ceasing to do, especially since I had finally decided, as Lance had about a year and a half prior, to stop pretending that the concept of a day job made sense to me on any level.

Cut to August 13, 2015: We had visited the tiny house and loved it, but ultimately decided that we need to do some more research and find out what and where home really would be for us. Our fact finding mission we dubbed the aforementioned Ambling Full Tilt was conceived and underway within three weeks of its inception and we hit the road with a fully plotted out map and a half baked plan.

Six months later we arrived back in Boise, slightly homesick and worn out after spending the last month on the road searching fruitlessly for land in Oregon where we had been flirting with yurting (another option for “tiny” living) and had begun playing a tiresome game of Realtor Roulette. It soon became apparent, though, that we had been homesick for familiarity and friends and not for the place itself. Homesick to sick of the place we once called home took almost no time, and we began to get antsy about figuring out where we belonged.

Shortly after we returned, we visited our friend Mike at his shop downtown and he made mention of the Nevada City/Grass Valley area of California as a place he had much admired long ago and one that seemed to be right up our alley. As it turned out, our friend Marcel we had met and stayed with in Oregon has a cousin in that area and so we were introduced to his cousin Andrea and her husband Frans, who are lovely and every bit as gracious and welcoming as Marcel had been. We like them, we liked the area very much. But two 500-miles-one-way trips yielded nothing but frustration in terms of our land search and once again we realized that a place that had seemed promising wasn’t a good fit for us.

Somewhere in the doldrums of Nevada on our way back from that last trip, Lance asked what I thought the land prospects in Maine, where we had spent the previous September with my parents and worked for a week on a farm as WWOOFers, might be like. The same idea had been in my mind at the time because this was a place we both loved and agreed felt like home, but we hadn’t seriously considered based on the fact that we needed to finish the adventure we were on at the time and thought the winters would be overly much to handle for our liking.

Once we got a look at the prospects for the real estate market and had offers from my family members for some fail safe places to hole up should we still come up with nothing in time to take shelter for the notorious winter, our only real question was: When do we leave? With our commitment to travel to Florida for Lance’s brother Tim’s wedding looming a mere five weeks away, we figured we’d better get to Maine sooner than later so we could at least fly there from the same side of the country and already have ourselves somewhat established by the time we got back. So, true to our MO from the previous major road trip we planned, we set a departure date three weeks out and got to work on the logistics.

With only three weeks to pare down and pack up, five days to get here, and nine days after that to take the Florida trip, we didn’t have a whole lot of time to explain all of this to everyone. And although it was about four months from getting back to Boise to making a decision and heading for our new home, we had a lot of back and forth about where to live, what to live in, and the occasional panic-induced wild hair to just sign up to go work on farms indefinitely or become expats in lieu of hanging around to witness the general state of things here in the US. I don’t think that requires further explanation.

All this is to say that in spite of the nebulous state of things and lack of time to explain the goings on as they’ve happened, the crazy dream of the microfarm and sustaining ourselves has never changed. The Where and the How, yes. But never the Why. So, in response to the oft heard phrase, “The last I heard, you were…”: You’ve heard the last. We’re here. Ever now. And closer than ever to realizing our dream.

We’ll see what happens after our first winter in Maine. 😉