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Monday, October 19, 2015

More Maine... A Lot More!

Returned to Maine... and glad to have been back for another visit!

The Maine theme has not changed. Need more be said?

Maine is like a really great dessert... like when one desires a second helping and then has it. 

Once upon a time the maple syrup process started out this way.

The above scene (left) was recorded at the Farmington Fair (In Farmington, Maine, of course) in September 2012. This was only an exhibit but it did remind me about the way Ted and I made maple syrup back in the late 1960's when we visited my grandparents in Milan, Quebec, during the Easter school break.

Yes! Once upon a time the Easter school break was more than a week long.

Anyway, I purchased a container of dark maple syrup from that shack on the fair grounds and brought it home. Maine's dark maple syrup is good, very good, but as much as I hate to admit it, Quebec maple syrup is still the best. I don't know why, but Quebec maple syrup looks different and tastes different. 

Is that even possible?

This scene below reveals the rest of the story... I can almost hear Paul Harvey's voice now.

The visiting city folk in 2012

A friendly greeting from "Fair" folk in September 2012. Ya just gotta wear some plaid while in Maine!

Farmington's 2012 version of the pumpkin patch... that tag on the large pumpkin says it weighed over 500 pounds! Did Charlie Brown ever check out this pumpkin patch?

Visiting the Farmington Fair is much the same. The fair does not seem to change much each year, but a visit to the museum barn on the fairgrounds reminds us how much the world and the fair have indeed changed.

This next scene is for the big-city folk... I suppose that includes me now.
The Farmington Fair with all the rides, lights, food stands and arcade hype, but don't forget to check out those barns with real farm animals.

 Moving on...

A living room so reminiscent of those found in the homes of the older Hebridean descendants who still lived in the Scotstown-Milan area of Quebec in the 1940's, 50's and into the 60's.

My two cents worth... okay... maybe five cents here.

The above scene depicts an era before the 1950's but as mentioned, wall-papered living rooms like this persisted in homes into the 1950's and 60's. 

In the Scotch homes, living rooms were for guests and visitors. Family and friends almost always gathered and sat in the large kitchens; those were not just places to cook in. During the summer, sitting on the verandah was more likely and definitely cooler if a cooking fire was going.

All her life, Grandma owned and used a treadle sewing machine similar to this one. In autumn, a small auxiliary wood stove was brought inside the dining room to augment the kitchen's wood stove heating through the winter. Rather than a bellows organ Grandma's living room was home to a piano. Wood only rocking chairs faithfully waited in almost every room in the house. 

Homemade and hand made from saved scrap materials, braided carpets of all sizes adorned the floors of most rooms; bare wood floors were cold in winter! My grandparents never own a hand-cranked grammophone, but Aunt Edythe who once lived across the street had one identical to that large one in the corner.

True, this scene is in Maine and about Maine, and here I have briefly reminisced about the Hebridean Scots who once lived in Quebec, but that particular area is just across the border from Maine and homes on both sides were very much the same.

Grandma's pantry had all these items shown except for that one with wood handles on the top right... and she used them all too. Do you know what that small glass bottle with the crank is?

Kie has a grater identical to the one shown above; (center item) same make and model too. It's something ancient that Mom passed along to us after Kie came to Canada. Anyway, 35 years later our grater still sees regular use.

If you were wondering... that small glass bottle with the hand crank is another grater.

Care to take a guess what this is?

Scary looking... but today's versions work the same way. The oval metal plate says Hamilton Beach and they are still making mixers these many decades later.

Only one of the many paintings exhibited at the fair. This entry won second prize in its category but definitely attracted the attention of the few Asian visitors who attended on the fair's opening day this year.

Michael Chase of Alderun Wood Creations at the Farmington Fair on September 21, 2015. (Photo borrowed from the Daily Bulldog)

Kie and I together with Ben and Catherine attended the 2015 Farmington Fair the day before this image was recorded. For the record we were all returning visitors.

Michael Chase was getting set up that warm sunny opening day morning. Taking advantage of the quiet I stopped there and spoke to him for a while; quite a while I suppose because the others I was with gave up waiting for me and wandered off.

Anyway, several years earlier at the fair I had seen him at work on his mini-lathe. Three years ago I purchased one of his small works, a curly maple turning, and we also chatted briefly. 

The turning signed: the real deal
This Sept 20th just passed was my first time returning to the fair since 2012 and I wanted to thank him for some of the wood turning suggestions he made and advice he offered back then; they truly made sense later and helped me with my own turnings.

We also had quite a discussion about different types of woods and their characteristics in turning, lilac wood inparticular. Before I moved along and out of the way, Mr. Chase generously offered me a lilac turning square to try out.
Next year's fair is less than a year away now, so if you are looking for something unique, a little bit different and further afield, then definitely head to Farmington, Maine for their annual fair.

And don't forget to check out Mike Chase's Alderun Wood Creations exhibit!

The display did not reveal how many hours went into the making of that log transport but surely they were many. I thought about calling to find out the asking price but didn't. The area code is 207 should you be interested. That mottled walking stick was nicely done. Walking sticks I make at home occasionally so I do check out others' stickwork with a critical eye.

You just have to admire the creativity of these displays; different year after year... here are a few faces.

Now on to the next place... 

Old Orchard Beach on the Maine Coast.

One tidbit that may be useful for Montrealers trying to decide whether to head east or west: Montreal is closer to Old Orchard Beach, Maine than it is to Toronto, Ontario.

True, but of little comfort if the journey starts out in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area)

Kie and I have been visiting Old Orchard Beach since 1981; back in those earlier years we were Montrealers. Anyway, Ben and Catherine first visited "the beach" five or six years ago and have been very happy to make more than one subsequent visit.

Ben, Catherine, Kie and Don on Old Orchard Beach... I wonder how this beach got its name?


Ben stepping in and actually touching the North Atlantic Ocean's water. Ben wanted this scene recorded to do a little boasting... the image was destined for friends who live on the far side of the Pacific Ocean. I was only too happy to help... cuz ya haff ta brag ya visited Maine!

A look inside the Clambake seafood restaurant at the Pine Point end of the beach. Order your food in the front, go sit in the very back and you'll be greeted by an amazing panoramic vista of the Scarborough Marsh... gulls included. One more thing... the next time you see Priscilla, ask her if she tried the lobster flavour ice cream.

Along the highways in passing...

If we stopped to grab an image of every unusual sign that tugged at our curiosity, then we would never have arrived at our planned destination. This said, some spots you just have to stop at anyway.

Along the eastbound side of Highway 2 and about half way between Gilead and Bethel.

More of the unusual that abounds. One day I may actually stop there and take a look.

Main Street, Freeport, Maine.

I always knew L.L. Bean was not the only store in town, it just seemed like it for a long time.

"When Pigs Fly" Don't let the name fool you. Nothing is fancy about this place either. But... inside is sold what is probably the best bread in the world. They definitely have my endorsement!

For years I overlooked and ignored this nondescript store that is located on Main Street in Freeport, Maine, and not a far walk from L.L. Bean. That was until several years ago when Paula discovered the shop, bought a loaf of bread and then insisted that Kie and I try it. We immediately went to this store, took a look inside and then bought more bread.

Over the years I have seen and tasted loaves of bread that look and feel similar but that is where the similarities end. No bakery that I know of can make bread as good as what is sold here When Pigs Fly. Don't take my word for it though; go and try it!

If you're a shopper doing the outlets but only make it to Kittery, Maine, then you'll find another When Pigs Fly store on Highway 1 just a short drive northward from those shops in Kittery.

Sunny September day on Main Street, Freeport, Maine. (2012)

Don, Paula and Ben inside the L.L. Bean flagship store. (2012)

My type of shopping - Catherine, Ben and Don testing out the wares. This porch is the outside of one of the L.L. Bean stores in Freeport. Try finding something like this in one of the big cities. (2012)

One more stop to make.

Perhaps while driving northward on Interstate 95 as you approach the exit for Freeport, you've noticed that unusual lighthouse part of the structure (shown on right below) and wondered what that was.

On the west side of Highway 1 and sandwiched between Interstate 95 is Grace Robinson & Company.

If you're at all into knitting, needlepoint, etc. then, in their own words, "Grace Robinson & Company has been providing the finest knitting and needlepoint fibers in Freeport for over seventeen years." 

Then again, if you're not, in the back of the store there's a cozy corner with comfortable padded wicker chairs to sit and wait. I know... because I have done some waiting in there. 

This cute little critter kept Ben and me company while Kie and Catherine studied the store's inventory.

In and around Rangeley.

Maine is also home to many craft breweries large and small. Here is a sampling from Shipyard's fare.

This year my "Visitor's Choice Award" goes to...

During this year's visit to Freeport we did not stop in at Gritty McDuff's, however, back in Rangeley, Ben and I split a bottle of this stuff that we picked up from Rangeley's IGA. I can't tell you whether or not the almost black ale tasted like black flies, but is was different... and okay too. One thing is certain, you never want to experience real Maine black flies... trust me on this one at least.

Ripe Rangeley chokecherries
This year in Rangeley, those geniune wild, find-and-pickem-yourself blueberries were scant, scrawny and very scarce; mid-September was most probably post-season just too late. Anyway, chokecherries were plentiful and just about near over-ripe. 

As young kids Ted and I loved stuffing ourselves with those rather tart and sour treats. Unexpectedly and usually with very undesirable results, we both discovered what a natural laxative was. I can't say I yearn for these now. 

Tastes certainly change over time and grabbing this image was close enough for a taste. 

Whether you're just passing through town while touring for the day from elsewhere or planning to spend an entire week, no visit to Rangeley is complete without a visit to the iconic Red Onion located in the center of downtown on Maine Street. 

All roads head downhill into Rangeley. If you notice you're heading uphill again and still haven't found the Red Onion, then you've missed it... believe me, it's really not that hard to find.

This homey establishment may never make it on to Guy Fieri's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" however the food served at the Red Onion is good and inexpensive. Then again, the experts don't know everything everywhere.

Did anyone ask Kie if she tried the Red Onion???

Kie tried the Red Onion. We all did!
 No hills! I promise!

Located in Rangeley itself, the Hatchery Brook Trail does not have any hills. 

This trail is a forested, short easy walk for all ages to explore, and is especially suitable for those who don't like walking on trails in the forest.

Take along your camera too! 

Without ever leaving town you can record scenes that will convince the city folk back home that you bravely ventured miles deep into those rugged wilderness forests of northwestern Maine.

Now here is something else you're not likely to find in the big city...

A low-tech heating system. Contact me if you don't know how it works.

No... Red Claw Ale does not taste like lobster.
Live balsam trees and twigs.

Our Family pilgrimage continues...

Sarampus Falls on the Dead River is near the only rest area, complete with a couple of picnic tables and a genuine outhouse, situated along Highway 27 between Eustis and Coburn Gore. 

This link will take you there for a Google look.

Now that you've seen the location, that's all it is.

This said, I have lived long enough to see five generations of my family stopping and visiting this unremarkable location beside the highway. Whether it was a family picnic, or for taking pictures; taking a break from driving, or simply the curious trying out the outhouse. (more like someone desperate in the car unable to wait to take that break in civilization)

My maternal grandparents lived near Megantic, which is about an hour's drive away, and my grandfather really liked travelling along this route that was once known as, The Arnold Trail. 

A few years before he died, my father recounted the details of this following story to me.

Usually in late August or early September, my father would load us all into his ancient early 1950's Chevrolet, and we would all head off to Sarampus Falls simply for a family picnic and a tour down to Rangeley. 

1959 would be a little different. Perhaps distracted, my father sailed past the US Customs border check point without stopping and continued along the highway. 

A very short time later a police car stopped my father and escorted us all back to the border. Following a brief stop, a lot of questions, a quick search of the car and then quite few apologies from my parents, we were all on our way again to the picnic site.

Two mothers, two daughters, one grandmother and one granddaughter... all in the same location at the same time. Kie, Kimberly and Kiera at Sarampus Falls in Maine in September 2009.

The above photo was taken looking downstream. The following photo was taken in exactly the same location but looking upstream. Grandma (above) would have been one year old at the time this older photo was taken. Note the plaid attire in both photos.

Ted and me at the standing on the same rocks in September 1959.

Me... now an old-timer... making another visit in the same month but 56 years later. Okay, so I wasn't wearing a plaid shirt on that day. Excuse: it was kind of very warm.

Ben and Catherine at Sarampus Falls - their first ever visit to this location. (2015)

In case you are wondering...

Curious when I talk passionately about Maine, people here first ask me where Maine is, as if they have never heard of Maine before. I'm glad it's a well-kept secret here... that anonymity keeps the crowds away.

An eventual question that arises is, "When is the best time to visit Maine?"

The busy intersection in downtown Rangeley, Maine, in January.

My answer: any time.

Oh dear! 
Make that deer instead... unexpected road hazards and distractions...

Deer on a road within the town and we were not even out looking for wildlife.

The last words of this posting shall go to the local wildlife...

It took me a while to figure this one out, but after I saw all the out-of-state weekenders' plates dawdling extra-slow along the highways and back roads around Rangeley, then I understood... this was for those ever hopeful moose gawkers.

Same close as before: 
I just can't wait to get back to Maine again. 

The Oddblock Station Agent