February 2015 Newsletter

 

 

 
bean boots!

Greetings from the Harraseeket Inn! The month of March is such a tease. We get a few warm sunny afternoons and a patch of bare ground slowly emerges. Winter weary, we convince ourselves it's almost time to plant the peas, and then it snows again. The ground turns from brown to white then back to brown. Mud season finally arrives and we pull on our Bean boots and rejoice. Flocks of redwing black birds fill the air with their raucous, raspy song. The peas might not get planted until late April or early May here in Maine, but in March we start champing at the bit. Maybe that's why maple sugaring is such a popular tradition. It gives us something to do while we're playing in the mud.

 

maple sap bucketsMy neighbor taps a few trees on his hillside farm. They're beautiful old trees with huge trunks and broad crowns. Back in the eighteen hundreds a pair of sugar maples were traditionally planted in front of the homes of newly wedded couples and many of those 'wedding trees' stand today. These are the trees my neighbor taps. He uses the same buckets and spiles used by his own father and grandfather and boils the sap in a shallow homemade evaporator pan in an open shed he built just for that purpose just below the farmhouse. It's a tiny operation, only eight taps, but each tap produces about a quart of syrup and these giant maples will provide a gallon apiece, more than enough syrup for gift giving and family enjoyment. My neighbor selects a third maple along the stone wall and shows me how deep to drill the holes for the spiles and how to tap them firmly into the tree. He explains how the sap starts running on the south side of the tree first, and how timing the tap is crucial. Tap too early, before the sap is running, and the tree might heal and close off the wound. Tap too late and you'll miss the run. These warming afternoons and chilly nights of March are perfect.

 

maple sugaringMy neighbor's hands are as gnarly and twisted as the trees he taps. He tosses a few chunks of firewood under the evaporator, where sap gathered that morning makes the slow transformation to syrup. It takes forty gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup. That's a lot of sap. Steam rises from the shallow pan and blends with the wood smoke. He skims the foam from the boiling sap then pauses to gaze southward at the mountain whose darkly timbered shoulders and rocky peak rise above the valley. "I love that mountain," he says as if it's an old friend. His love and respect for the land reflects in everything he does, and it's a privelege to bear witness to it.

 

Maine Maple SundayMaine Maple Sunday is the fourth Sunday in March, and area sugarhouses will be open for tours and syrup sampling. Some offer horse drawn wagon rides, maple candy treats and walks through the sugar bush, great fun for kids! Plastic tubing may have replaced the traditional spiles and buckets in many maple sugaring operations, but there are still some old fashioned sugar shacks out there.

 

Easter bunny and chickThe spring equinox arrives on March 20th. Will the flowers be blooming by Easter or will we still have snow? Only time will tell but my guess is we may have to spend some time in a greenhouse and buy  pots of mixed tulips and daffodils to cheer the day. 

Don't forget to make reservations for our Easter Grand Buffet on April 5th!  Check out the menu on our website and call soon.

 

 


chicakdee!

With April Vacation just around the corner and cabin fever reaching epidemic levels, we thought we'd plant a few fun ideas for parents and grandparents who will be vacationing with children.  All of these activities are free or remarkably inexpensive and adult friendly for those of us who will always be kids at heart.

 

*L.L. Bean's Outdoor Discovery program will be operating in full-force this Spring with a multitude of activities available.  Mostly relative to fishing, they include Fish Tank Talks, Fly-Casting Lessons, Catch-and-Release Fishing Demos, and 1-2 Day Fly-Fishing Courses.  Some of the above activities are at a cost, and are limited availability, so act fast to secure a spot!  A full listing of events can be found athttp://www.llbean.com/llb/ods/33?nav=bc

 

*Wolfe's Neck Farm is always welcoming youngsters to assist them in their daily farmhand duties with their "Farmer for the Morning" program.  Help feed animals, put out hay, collect eggs, sweep the barn and ensure that all of the animals are happy and healthy!  $5/person. 

 

Additionally, from April 20-24th, Wolfe's Neck offers camp programs and activities which may consist of bird watching, planting in the soil, learning how to raise shiitake mushrooms, learning to dye, spin and felt wool and exploring the areas creeks and vernal pools for reptiles and amphibians which has always been one of my favorite spring activities.

 

*Bradbury Mountain State Park is open all year-round, but at last their trails and campgrounds are starting to become more manageable for hikers looking to traverse it's paths.  Plus it's bird watching time and the hawk counters will be up there keeping track of raptor fly-overs!

 

*If your kids or grandkids are interested in getting their hands dirty in a different fashion, corral them up and make a trip to Freeport's own "Smudge: Art Studio for Kids."  There they can work at the studio's various art stations, making as big a mess as they like, creating their very own art and expressing their imagination with paints! Visit their site for more information.

 

Outside of Freeport, just down the road apiece, you can find many other fun and fascinating activities for your kids and grand kids.  Portland is full of fun activities, many of which are featured at their Children's Museum and Theatre!  A few things already scheduled during April break include Live Animal Shows and Earth Day Celebrations featuring interactive science programs, art projects, puppet shows and more!  Keep an eye on theircalendar of events as April draws nearer for more events and activities! 

 

Another popular event just a bit outside Freeport, in the opposite direction, held annually in Boothbay, is the Fisherman's Festival.  In 2015, it will be held the last weekend in April, the 24th, 25th and 26th.  An abundance of fun activities are featured all weekend long in Boothbay, from trap hauling to codfish relay races and lobster crate racing! Spectator events such as a Children's Pageant and oyster shucking will also take place.

 

And of course last but not least, kids always love swimming in our indoor pool.  Nothing is as entertaining as a pool full of kids having a great time, and best of all you can just sit and watch.  Give us a call if we can help plan your getaway.  We'd be happy to help craft a unique and memorable vacation experience for your family!

 

 

mystery tool
What is it?

Last month's trivia question was a real dud.  Even as I sent the newsletter out, twenty-four hour snowfall records were being broken in towns all across Maine, so I gave everyone that trivia question.  My apologies for thinking the snow would let up long enough for Sanford and Machias to win out.  This month's trivia question will have you searching for pictures of old fashioned maple sugaring tools.  

 

What's that tool in the picture and what's it used for?

 

 All correct answers win a voucher worth $5. toward food or lodging on your next visit.  You may use up to 12 vouchers at one time, preferably in the year they were issued.  You must answer this month's trivia before the next newsletter goes out and be patient with my responses, there are over two hundred trivia players.  Also, be sure to check your spam mail folder if you send an answer and don't hear back from me.  We do get a certain number of bounce backs every month which is one of those "black hole" cyberspace mysteries that may never be solved.


 

Good luck, happy spring, and we hope to see you soon!

Penny Gray

The Gray family