Greetings from the Harraseeket Inn! You know you're getting on in years when singing "Auld Lang Syne" brings tears to your eyes. The holidays can be a very poignant time as we remember loved ones and friends no longer with us, and see their empty chairs at the table. Time marches on, but we carry their memories in our hearts as we march along with it. Many thanks to all of you who made 2013 such a special year for us. Your patronage is much appreciated, and many of you have become like family over the years. Here in Maine we bade farewell to 2013 and welcomed 2014 with another good old fashioned dose of winter snow storms and cold snaps, and tho we're now enjoying a much appreciated January thaw, there's more winter yet to come. Here at the inn we'll be tackling guest room renovations and public area upgrades that we can only get done during slow season. Out with the old, in with the new!
Each new year brings a fresh beginning and many of us make New Years resolutions that last, according to a recent study, an average of only two weeks. For many, the resolution is to lose weight, and starting an excercise regime seems to go hand in hand with that. For others, giving up a bad habit tops the list. But how do we force ourselves to stick to these resolutions longer than two weeks? I may have discovered a way.
Just before Christmas the winter/spring course schedule for Adult & Community Education arrived in the mail. The offerings were broken into categories like Technology Training (Facebook and internet stuff), Senior Series (Knitting/Crochet, Fitness after 50), and Personal Growth & Development (ATV Safety, Maine Driving Dynamics, and so forth). One class in that category caught my eye. Old-Time Fiddle and Banjo Music. "This course will cover the basics of old-time Appalachia and Quebecois fiddle and banjo tunes. Whether you are a beginner, an advanced player or just an enthusiast, come join us for a music filled good time."
What could be a more entertaining way to make sure my New Years resolution to learn something new lasted for more than two weeks? The course was $25. for one evening a week, January through March. I ordered a cheap violin/fiddle, bow and case for
$65, with free shipping. For under a hundred bucks I was going to beat the winter blues by making some music of my own. The first day of class was cold and the training run with my sled dog team was bitter with wind gusts up to fifty miles an hour and minus forty temps with the wind chill. I suffered, but the dogs didn't seem to mind a bit. After finishing evening chores it was pitch dark, ten below zero and time to head to class. Right then and there my resolution almost came to a screeching halt, but I stashed my violin/fiddle behind the snowmobile seat and headed down the mountain to my truck for the drive to town. The next two hours at the high school were good old fashioned fun. The instructor is a logger who has spent most of his life in the Maine woods and does carpentry on the side because loggers don't make much money and he has a family to support. He is also an accomplished self-taught musician who majored in philosophy in college, and was so entertaining that all my fears of fiddle failure due to frost bitten fingers were instantly banished. What's the difference between a violin and a fiddle? "That's simple," he said. "A violin has strings and a fiddle has 'strangs'." Hence followed the colorful history of old-time fiddling in Appalachia and it's origins in the hidden hollers of West Virginia. Week two, lesson two? The beginnings of our first genuine old-time fiddle tune, "Going Down the River", along with the emerging philosophy that this class isn't all about learning to play the fiddle, it's also about climbing out of the fiddle case and engaging in life, something many of us don't learn to do until fairly late in the journey. So the next time one of those Adult Education course offerings appears in your mail box, check it out and sign up for a course or two. Who knows what paths it can lead you down?
Students from the University of Southern Maine's MFA in Creative Writing have been staying with us all week and what a great group they are! If you're a writer or you want to be, this is a wonderful curriculum to check out. Speaking of writing, all my books are now available on Kindle. Check out Nadia Nichols (my pen name) at Amazon.com and download them all for some great winter reading. Don't forget to send gushing emails to my publisher asking when the next book is out!
January is a dynamic month. We've passed the shortest day of the winter solstice and are moving toward spring. The days are getting noticeably longer and there's an energy in the air. The chickadees sing their spring song on mild mornings, already staking out their territories. I saw a lynx on January 15th, on a morning run with my sled dog team. An animal came out of the woods beside a large bog and crossed the trail in front of us. When it spotted the team it froze for several moments standing sideways in the trail. It looked bigger than my dogs. Brush wolf? Coyote? When it continued across the trail I saw it had no tail and no nose, was noticeably tall in the hip and very leggy. Lynx! I've seen bobcat but never a lynx here in Maine. They are big and beautiful and their paws are enormous. I spread my hand out beside a fresh track and they barely spanned the imprint. The crust on the snow off trail was strong enough for me to sit on, but this cat broke through it when he took that first big leap to escape my dog team. Big cat, probably a male. Interesting to note that a 35 lb lynx has a bigger track than a 200 lb mountain lion.
Lynx have been listed as a federally endangered species and studies are ongoing in Maine to determine the population in northern areas of the state. These big cats rely on snowshoe hare as a major portion of their diet, and their population fluctuates with that of the hare, which thrives in regenerating fir and spruce stands. Lynx romance begins in March and the gestation lasts about two months. The kittens are born in May and raised solely by their mother, with whom they travel and hunt until the following spring. This is an interesting link with great pictures of Maine IF& W doing field work in northern Aroostook county, tagging lynx kittens. A certain amount of scientific research by wildlife biologists is necessary to gain a greater understanding of wildlife populations, but I'm glad the lynx I saw wasn't wearing a radio collar or ear tags.
Brick oven pizza in the Broad Arrow Tavern!
Maine is a special place all year round but in winter it is downright magical. If you haven't spent any time lately on a pair of cross country or down hill skis, snowshoes or snow sled, or just building a snow fort or making snow angels like a little kid, (remember those simple pleasures?) maybe it's time you headed north. Take Maine By Train! on the Amtrak Downeaster and forget worrying about bad roads. Freeport's the number one destination for the serious shopper, but all work and no play ? Perish the thought. Winter's the perfect season for snuggling beside the fire and eating great food and lots of it, so taking that winter hike/ski at Wolfe's Neck Woods State Park is just the ticket for burning off those calories. The coastal scenery is spectacular. LLBean has all the equipment and clothing you'll need to outfit your adventure and they provide instruction to boot with their Walk On Adventures and clinics. Check out the LLBean February Break Kid's Camp, what a fun way to make some great memories and teach lifetime skills! We have some great off season packages going on right now;
Inquire abaout our Downeaster Package which includes one or two nights, train tickets and free transportation to and from the train station, or our ever popular Cabin Fever package. These are very special offers that aren't posted on our web site. Call the front desk at 1-800-342-6423 for more details, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here's another very special offer for our newsletter readers. For the entire month of March,(mud season!) you may redeem your trivia vouchers for double their value on lodging at the inn from Sunday to Thursday night. This offer cannot be combined with a package and it's not available on weekends, but if you have a years worth of vouchers, this is a terrific way to cash them in.
For the entire month of February we're celebrating our 26th annual Wild Game Festival in the Harraseeket Inn's Maine Harvest. Our regular menu will also be available. We'll be offering nightly game specials in the Broad Arrow Tavern as well. Don't forget Valentines Day, it's just around the corner. Check out the menu and bring your sweet heart, we'll provide excellent wine pairings to help make your meal a memorable experience. We'll also provide anything else you might need if this is going to be an extra special occasion. We've had some wonderful marriage proposals take place on Valentines Day in our Maine Harvest Dining Room. Our staff will do everything to make your evening (or proposal) perfect, all you have to do is ask.
Flavors of Freeport kicks off the weekend of Friday Feb 21. Famous chefs, food tastings, an ice bar, all sorts of fun stuff going on! Yet another good excuse to do what we love to do best in winter. Eat!
Last month's trivia question was the last easy one you'll be getting for a while. The question was: Who wrote the lines of the following poem: "In winter I get up at night and dress by yellow candlelight,
In summer quite the other way, I have to go to bed by day..."
And the answer was~ Robert Louis Stevenson, from A Child's Garden of Verses
This month's trivia question will require a little more digging. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife conducted a lynx telemetry study between 1999 and 2010. How many lynx were radio collared during that study? All correct answers win a voucher worth $5. toward food or lodging on your next visit. From all the correct answers, one grand prize winner will be drawn monthly to win dinner for two in the Maine Harvest or Broad Arrow Tavern. You may redeem one years worth of vouchers at one time, preferably during the year they were won, but we do understand that everyone doesn't get to Maine as often as they would like!
Good luck, stick to those New Years Resolutions and we hope to see you soon!