Sunday, May 27, 2012

Re-enacting the African Queen?

In case you hadn't heard, Aimee and I are both on reduced workload for the summer. We work on 9-month contract and so can take our summers off unless we are silly enough to sign up for extra work.

We were, of course, silly enough.

We each accepted both administrative and research responsibilities, in varying degree. I have paid research and unpaid administrative responsibilities, while Aimee has paid administrative responsibilities and unpaid research. But both of our research programs require fieldwork, so we are at least outside for that work, even if it is "extra."

But our workloads are less this summer than in other recent years; in fact we both have the lowest level of such responsibilities that we've had for at least four years. I have only one research day a week and perhaps one or two additional meetings, while Aimee will rotate out of her administrative role on June 30th, a day she will celebrate quite fervently, since she's had enough of this responsibility for a while.

So a few vacation-style trips are perhaps in order. After all, we do live in "Vacationland".

The Womerlippis don't really "do" vactions (or "holidays" for you British readers). Farm animals don't take kindly to being left alone for any great length of time. And although at any given time we can find lots of applicants from among our students, farm-sitters are expensive, and usually don't work out that well. It's just not reasonable to expect that a short-term replacement can step into the very complicated operations that run the farm, and also deal with emergencies such as those described in the previous post.

We do take separate trips sometimes, leaving the other to look after the farm. Aimee likes to learn new things in biology, so she takes trips to study up on something, or to go to conferences and the like. I enjoy historical and human ecological field trips, especially to Britain, and regular readers will find reports from several such trips on this blog. Most recently, I've had to visit family, particularly my sick parents, both of which are gone now, and although I've often been able to do some sightseeing while visiting my family, the need to take frequent and repeated trips each year has been a big strain on the family budget, so further British and indeed any expensive excursions at all are "out" until the damage is repaired.

This combination of circumstances pretty much leaves day trips around Maine as our primary vacation option for this year. Which is, actually, just fine. Why not? We are lucky enough to live in a place that other folk spend a lot of money to come see.

And so we have a few such trips planned for the summer. And I will of course detail them faithfully on these blog pages for readers to enjoy.

Here's a report from our first and rather successful such excursion. I had been thinking of a paddling trip for a while, but wanted a nice easy flat paddle to get us in the swing of such things. It helped that I had to clean out the barn attic -- where the canoes have been stored, shamefully disused, for many years -- in order to admit a new and larger supply of hay, since we now own a ram who must be kept safe in a pen all summer, and must therefore eat hay

The boats were duly lowered down and the hay dust and squirrel droppings removed with the hose. I rigged up a rack for the truck and searched up the cooler, paddles, life-vests and, of course, the fishing poles and tackle box.

But where to go?

We live in a state that seems at least one third water. Good paddling opportunities abound, and indeed if we really wanted to paddle a more or less totally unexplored river, we could just hand-carry one of our boats down to the bridge over Great Farm Brook, not two hundred yards from our dooryard, and force our way through the alders into the mile-long flowage behind the beaver dams. With luck, and a fair bit of dragging, we could get all the way to Jackson village two miles downstream. I doubt anyone has attempted this paddle in years, and there are trout in our local brook, to boot,

But I didn't think Aimee was up for quite such a determined adventure right off the bat, so I perused the map and the internet for a while and finally settled on Lazy Tom Stream, up by Kokadjo, Maine, up beyond Greenville on Moosehead Lake.

This area has been the scene for several search and rescue call-outs, so I'm no stranger to Kokadjo and Greenville and environs, but I'd never actually driven up there just for fun. Lazy Tom Stream was cited as a good place to see moose, a small flowage like this would be safe from the stiff breeze forecast for the day (while the bigger lakes would be too choppy for a small canoe), and I could guess there would be trout.

The drive was about two-and-a-half hours. The official put-in is a rough turnaround and campsite just after the bridge (at latitude 49.69 north, longitude 69.43 west), but we missed this amenity to begin and instead carried our boat through alders to a spot just above the bridge.

The water was lower than I had expected, and we bumped over some rocks and had to drag our boat for a bit here and there, hence the title of the post. Not wishing to play the more stereotypically female, Hepburn role, Aimee insisted on taking her turn with the dragging. There were the usual jokes about Humphrey Bogart and leeches, but none attached (although one was found later on the hull).

We were able to reach the "source" of the flowage, a riffle (49.70 N, 69.44 W) beyond which progress would have meant leaving the boat, or dragging it empty. There is deeper water upstream of this riffle, at least according to the satellite picture on Google Earth, but we left it for another day. Instead I tried for a trout, while Aimee studied the local flora and fauna, taking pictures of a freshwater mussel and caddis fly "houses".

There were a few small fish to be caught in the pool below the riffle, but we couldn't stay long enough for that. The dogs had been imprisoned for the day on the porch, which would get too hot in the late afternoon. We ate our picnic lunch while drifting quickly back on the breeze. It was fun to just lean back and steer the boat and let the wind do all the work.

On the paddle back to the put-in we got to see a moose, a yearling cow, who stayed close by the stream for quite a while.

All's well that ends well, and we were pleased with our day out, especially the moose. More to come later in the summer.

Of course, my lovely wife is probably insensible of the rather large amount of husbandly forethought and planning that went into such a pleasant family adventure.

And since she says she doesn't read the blog, we'll just keep it that way.

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Welcome to our Farm Blog.
The purpose of this blog is for Aimee and I to communicate with friends and family, with those of our students, and other folks in general who are interested in homesteading and farming activities.

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