The Old Pine Tree

Out there 

Last week I went to Wiscasset to visit Chewonki for work. What a special spot they have, and what interesting educational programs available for kids. I was there to meet someone and check out a new biomass boiler*, but I got to see all of their fuel systems. They had every fuel source except natural gas (doesn’t reach most of Maine, let alone a somewhat remote forested peninsula). I saw a (non-working) fuel cell. The control board looked like something right out of LOST. I also saw a biofuel conversion system, and a (noisy) geothermal boiler. The last thing we checked out was the wind tower that was perched on a hill on the farm that bordered the ocean. 

We had lunch with the kids in the dining hall, a space that is heated solely by passive solar right now (because the biomass boiler isn’t hooked up yet). Food is always locally sourced. We were served baked haddock, roasted root vegetables, and rice cakes (cooked with onions, garlic, and herbs. they were surprisingly indulgent). The students were high school Juniors who were there for a semester. One of the girls cabins had the ability to go off-grid and was powered by a solar panel the girls had secured to a hiking pole. If their lights dimmed a little before they were ready to shut them out for the night they could get on a mountain bike and cycle for extra power. For the entire semester they take the same classes they would at the high schools they came from (around Maine), but all of them are focused around environmental education. These 17-year-olds knew how to run a blower door test and do an energy audit, and where helping to run a farm.  

And that’s not all. Chewonki also has an animal lab and an aviary. In the animal lab there was a young alligator, turtles, bats, lizards, and a tarantula. The aviary recently adopted two baby screech owls, which they had in the courtyard after lunch for people to view (but not touch!**). The aviary also had a bald eagle whose wings were too weak to fly because of an old injury. He was quite the talker. Also, he looked just like a turkey. 

I was lucky to get to spend so much time at Chewonki and really see what they do there. My co-worker joked that he would pick me up at the end of the semester. Yes please.

*you’re so jealous

**they are so cute. All you want to do is nuzzle them.

There is something beautiful about the cold

In something that is so clear and crisp, sharp and real. It demands attention and almost shines in its intensity.

What it means to live Maine: Part I

When I moved back to Maine in 2010 buying local was cool all over the country and everyone was doing it (and everyone was a hipster. Old Navy had started selling skinny jeans). Even Republicans.

Maybe the fact that buying local was cool made Maine cooler than it’s ever been before (also probably because, thanks to the original hipster, LLBean - boots, flannel, ruggedness - was suddenly cool, which meant everything I’d ever known was turned on its head). In Maine we take it one step further. Not only are people fiercely passionate about supporting local businesses (it often gets political), but people tend to live locally. 

Aside from leaving for work a few days a week I do everything in town, usually without my car: frequenting local restaurants (the selection gets better and better every year), watching minor league sports, hitting the parks to run or throw the disc, drinking local brew (kombucha, beer, cider, smoothies), seeing intimate musical performances, and so on. 

One big way I live locally is to maintain a garden. It doesn’t get any closer to home than growing your own vegetables. I love giving away jars of dilly beans or pickled beets and being able to say “made with organic beets grown in Portland”. 

Getting my hands in local soil, growing local produce, eating local, healthy food. Just one way I live Maine.

What it means to live Maine: Part I

When I moved back to Maine in 2010 buying local was cool all over the country and everyone was doing it (and everyone was a hipster. Old Navy had started selling skinny jeans). Even Republicans.

Maybe the fact that buying local was cool made Maine cooler than it’s ever been before (also probably because, thanks to the original hipster, LLBean - boots, flannel, ruggedness - was suddenly cool, which meant everything I’d ever known was turned on its head). In Maine we take it one step further. Not only are people fiercely passionate about supporting local businesses (it often gets political), but people tend to live locally.

Aside from leaving for work a few days a week I do everything in town, usually without my car: frequenting local restaurants (the selection gets better and better every year), watching minor league sports, hitting the parks to run or throw the disc, drinking local brew (kombucha, beer, cider, smoothies), seeing intimate musical performances, and so on.

One big way I live locally is to maintain a garden. It doesn’t get any closer to home than growing your own vegetables. I love giving away jars of dilly beans or pickled beets and being able to say “made with organic beets grown in Portland”.

Getting my hands in local soil, growing local produce, eating local, healthy food. Just one way I live Maine.

Things I’ve never done

1. had a dirty martini*
2. touched an electric fence
3. gotten a tattoo
4. liked Garrison Keillor

*actually I tried one recently. I didn’t like it. Maybe someday I will? Probably not.
A morning at the coffee shop

One older guy ranting about communists, a two and a half year old demanding a poppyseed bagel, and a man bragging about his literary agent. No, I’m not in Brooklyn.

Popping in at Knox Hollow

Last weekend my family and I popped over to Knox Hollow Brewing for dinner and some brews. They’re just a small brewing operation (getting bigger every year), so you’ve got to know someone to get some*. Some day perhaps it will be available to the general public, but until then, I will just have to drink it for you and report back on how awesome it is. 

I’m not a big beer drinker. I usually prefer a pint of dry cider or a glass of wine. But the beer that Knox Hollow brews is good. Last weekend I had the hefeweizen, the blonde, and I tried the mint chocolate porter (which was done so nicely, the chocolate was subtle and was richest at the finish, as opposed to being thick and overpowering throughout, which is often the case). 

Always a treat. Thanks again, guys!

*At least that’s what I tell myself

Change of heart
I was craving something less than healthy, like an Amato’s sandwich, but then I went for a run in the cold and dark and all I wanted was something hearty and healthy. So dinner tonight was homemade miso soup and a bowl of dressed kale.

Change of heart

I was craving something less than healthy, like an Amato’s sandwich, but then I went for a run in the cold and dark and all I wanted was something hearty and healthy. So dinner tonight was homemade miso soup and a bowl of dressed kale.

One last look
The moon over the West End, still wearing autumn in spots.

One last look

The moon over the West End, still wearing autumn in spots.

These Days

Last night I made a veggie soup that was so perfectly healthy and cleansing and filling all at the same time. I’ve brought it to work with me for lunch so I can continue to do well by my body.

I’ve been thinking about change, and how sometimes it comes on like the tide slowly rolling in over the sand. It could be exhausting, or it may be gentle; I think that is up to us to decide. Today I see it being more of the latter. Maybe change can be meditative?

I am full of a wealth of emotions right now. I’m joyful, and grateful, and excited, and hopeful. I’m also feeling sadness for others going through hard things, and for things I’m reluctant to let go of as the tide of change comes in even higher.

I’ve recently come face to face with the amazing community of people that support and encourage me. How absolutely humbling to see so many people believe in me.

I’m thinking and writing in vague metaphors and comparisons. I feel a little whispy, like the bare white birch, a feeling I’ll sit with for now.

Fragrant Fall Baking 

Spices and squash and satisfaction.

Sassy Ass

At Knox Hollow Brewing trying all the beers, including the Sassy Ass.

Sassy Ass

At Knox Hollow Brewing trying all the beers, including the Sassy Ass.

Gratitude is a powerful thing

In the past few weeks I’ve been frustrated. I’ve been kind of frustrated at work (it has been so busy my mind feels like it melted), I’ve been frustrated with my commute (an hour each way three times a week, and soon I’ll be in the car even more often), and I’ve been frustrated with daylight savings and the changing light. Maybe I’m in a pattern, where my frustrated thoughts lead to more frustrated thoughts.

I often write about gratitude and appreciation, and I’m getting better at using it as a tool to change my perspective. I recently started a gratitude journal in order to help me do that. I have read that the benefits of doing this include improved sleep, less illness, and increased happiness (results seen in kids, too!). I’m on board with all of that.

I don’t write in it every day, but when I do, I list three things I am grateful for that day. It’s that simple. I do it right before bed, so that the last thoughts I have are positive. It’s pretty awesome to look back at previous entries every now and again and realize how much joy is in my life. 

Regardless of how much frustration is there (which often changes), there is always this big bundle of greatness right there next to it. It is taking practice, but I’m working on it. For example. This week, when I felt particularly frustrated at a coworker, I would instead focus on a coworker whom I was grateful for. I have to be in Augusta for part of the week (or as we lovingly call it here in Maine: Disgusta) and I’m always frustrated at how unappealing and out of the way that City is. But I also know of a few, off the beaten path, woodsy sections I visit on my daily walks, and I’ve been trying to instead focus on those moments where I get to be outside, enjoying the fall, and being exposed to the natural world during my work day. On my long commute I am grateful for the sunrises and sunsets I see, the frosty fields, the miles and miles of trees, the silhouetted, lanky pines against the darkening sky each night, the quiet harbors, and the migrating birds. It’s honestly a beautiful way to start the day. Which is just one way to think of it (perhaps the healthier way).

image

Gratitude is a powerful tool. Lean on it

Your dinner is served

Homemade vegetarian french onion soup (soupe a l’oignon). I am lucky, and full.

Your dinner is served

Homemade vegetarian french onion soup (soupe a l’oignon). I am lucky, and full.

I tell them you learn to write the same way you learn to play golf, you do it…and keep doing it until you get it right. A lot of people think something mystical happens to you, that maybe the muse kisses you on the ear. But writing isn’t divinely inspired — it’s hard work.
New batch of kimchi

I like to have home fermented foods in the fridge and it has been awhile, so I threw together a batch of kimchi. It’s wicked spicy!