Monday, October 31, 2016

The Rover's Return

Fall is coming slowly to an end. It really is our longest season here in Maine, starting in August when the leaves of swamp maples first begin to show color, and ending in late November or even December with the first nor'easter that falls and stays. That's nearly five months, some years. Spring is long too, from mud season in late March or early April to the first hot, humid weather in late June, but that's only about two to three months. High summer, with all the heat and heavy humidity, is usually less than two months, and sometimes less than one. I personally measure summer by the presence or absence of fireflies after dark. Winter can be very long here, though, depending on when that first lasting snowfall occurs.

For which we're grateful. It keeps the riffraff away. But, considering that winter in Maine means snow, and lots of it, you have to have everything ready, or you'll be caught short.

I didn't mention either road repair or blackfly season, both of which overlap these other, more formal seasons, and both of which can hinder your movements more than the weather does, except, perhaps, for snow.

And then there's hunting season, the cusp of which is Maine's month-long rifle season for whitetail deer, now upon us.

The leaves are almost completely gone from all the trees except a few beeches, birches, alders, and tamarack. The tomato plants are black from frost, although there are still edible berries on some, trying desperately to ripen. I picked the last of the eggplant, tiny little things that Aimee says will be bitter, and a couple of blue Hubbard squash. I thought I'd make ratatouille with the eggplant.

We take nice walks with the dogs, but now we have to worry about deer hunters. Since our road is a dead end, and because the dogs bark whenever a truck comes, it's usually easy to know when there's a hunter in our woods. It is possible, although not likely, for a particularly motivated hunter to come in from the other side of the woods, nearly two miles away on the Bog or Village roads, but no-one ever does. Hunters are not usually that athletic. But even so, we all wear orange, including the dogs, and don't stray from the gravel roads as we might have done earlier.

Edana doesn't know much about hunter safety, so she's unaware of the reason she has to wear a bright orange vest. But she likes pumpkins and apples and the apple juice we get from the orchard, and enjoyed her first Hallow'een last night at the village library, so fall is a hit.

I've been reminding her that it will snow one day soon to prepare her mentally. She probably will be happy, not sad, to see the fluffy white snow, even if it will restrict her movements further. She likes to watch kids sledding on TV, and her favorite book is "The Snowy Day".

With the advent of the white stuff in mind, though, I have as always been working down a long to-do list of pre-winter chores, now nearing completion. This process has been slower than usual because the only time I have to do this work now I have a kid is four or five hours on Saturday morning, when Aimee takes Roo first to swim class and then to do the week's shopping.

Time and money, money and time. The hardest job to get done was the Land Rover's muffler, not so much because it was hard mechanically, but because our finances were strained by the purchase of the trailer and the annual property tax bill. I had to wait nearly two months before I could afford the replacement. But it's done, and, after the usual two hours messing with annoyingly intermittent defunct lights and horn, the Rover is over at the local repair shop, ready for inspection, with two Camry wheels and snow tires for fitting in the back to boot. Afterwards, I'll take her to the local short stop and top off the gas for the winter. When it's back we'll fit the snow plow.

There's still a little fence to take down, as well as the greenhouse frame to fix, and the trailer to winterize (a new chore, that I have to teach myself to do), but these amount to less than two hour's work for next Saturday, and once the Rover Returns (slight "Coronation Street" pun there for you British readers!) and the plow is fitted, it can snow if it wants to.

We're ready.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Leaf peepers

Aimee planned a leaf-viewing picnic -- on a train. This is the Belfast and Moosehead Lake Railroad, a volunteer-run local railway heritage preservation organization that offers rail tours a few times a year.

Edana, who has read about trains in books and seen them on TV and possibly from afar, was very excited to go on the train. She got so worked up that she became upset when we stopped to quickly pick up some groceries, and I had to placate her with a story or two while mommy did the shopping. But eventually the great moment arrived and our kid got to go on a train.

The day was gloomy and not the best of days for leaf-peepin', as Mainers say, but the train was full. There was one particularly loud extended Indian family with several kids, all speaking Hindi ten-to-the-dozen. This reminded me of Sheffield, of course, and even made me a little homesick, but I'm not sure the very middle class American retirees sat next to them enjoyed the spectacle quite as much.

The train rocked and rolled a few miles down the tracks. Being used to British trains, I was surprised at how much our coach car, a former Amtrak stalwart, rocked from side to side. I was glad that we didn't pick up speed. I expect it would have derailed.

We've considered using the train to get to Aimee's folks in VA, and indeed, we could go all the way from Portland to Staunton, VA, twenty miles from H-burg, on the train, but my experiences with Amtrak have not been that positive. I expect we'd get delayed, and then we'd be on a train with a kid and a bunch of luggage for two or three days. At least in a car you can go to a motel and rest.

Anyway, our picnic was very successful and our kid was very happy with her train ride.

In other news, the kitchen range has now been replaced with a fancy new one. I've dismantled the old one and determined the fault, a failed oven igniter unit, but the repair part may be more expensive than the value of the range, which has rusty feet from Mary-dog's unfortunate habit, when she grew geriatric, of piddling on the floor next to the stove.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Pork load

Here's the fruit of at least some of our labors. Three pigs, properly butchered, await delivery to various freezers belonging to Unity College faculty. Total hanging weight was 539 pounds. Average per pig 179 pounds. Spot on the 180 pound target.

And what a lot of very good food!