In the Right Place: Persuasion

If the Town of Brooklin has a heart – and we think it does – it’s a three-chambered one. It consists of a General Store, Public Library, and Town Pier. Yesterday, as you can see below, the crib-style Pier was waiting in a calm and empty Naskeag Harbor; all the winter fishermen apparently were out scalloping.

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Here’s a view from the Pier during some rainy fog earlier this month; that’s Dear Abbie:, rigged for scallops, moored in the Harbor:

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The Pier, which is only about 13 years old, is the ultimate result of a petition being filed with Town (and, then, State) officials by about 10 percent of Brooklin residents. They pointed out that “the thriving fishing village of Brooklin has no town pier, the fishermen — whose livelihood depends on their getting to their boats — haul gear upwards of 200 feet at low tide, sometimes in below-freezing temperatures and frequently in the dark….” Persuasive stuff.

Here’s an image of the Pier after a snow storm last month, when many fishermen were ending their season and bringing in their traps:

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Vanes and Barbs

Let’s face it, the neck, head, and legs of a Wild Turkey are not pretty. But, the rest of the bird is magnificent.

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Wild Turkey feathers, especially on the males, are a miracle combination of engineering and art. Their chest and back feather vanes and barbs refract the light into an iridescence resembling a fine-tailored suit of chain mail.

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Their long primary and tail feathers are colorful, sturdy, and historically were among the best for writing quills, along with goose and swan quills. (We know that the Declaration of Independence was written and signed with quill pens, but are not sure which birds deserve the honor.)

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Even today, there is a surprisingly robust market for Wild Turkey feathers for use in arts and crafts – Amazon will deliver them free to Prime customers. See also the image in the first Comment space. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Mummy Dearest

Yesterday and the day before were perfect days to be outdoors – if you were dressed for 20-degrees (F). The winter woods were silent; with one exception, not a creature was stirring:

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The exception was Yours Truly, the photographer who looks like a bloody mummy when he’s out and about in sub-freezing weather. We have an image of that strange sight thanks to neighbor Jon Wilson. Jon saw the creature taking a shortcut across part of his WoodenBoat School campus yesterday, stopped his car, got out, and insisted on memorializing the weirdness with his cell phone camera:

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Many people have asked about that outfit, which has a number of variations depending on the weather. Yesterday, starting at the top, it was a knit cap, over an insulated head-ear band, over a balaclava hood. On the torso, there’s a cotton (breathable) turtleneck, under a flannel shirt, under a fleece jacket, under a rubberized (waterproof) shell jacket that’s bright enough for hunters to see. On the hands, there are photographers’ winter gloves (thumb and index finger tops fold back) and one ski pole for crossing ice patches in the woods and on the shore. On the legs are an old pair of jeans (long johns not used until the temperature goes below 10 degrees). Finally, on the feet, there are insulated boots high enough to wade through small streams and around difficult shoreline obstacles in Great Cove.

Back to the important stuff. Woods’ streams are icing up, despite the fast-moving water:

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Some marsh and field ponds have relatively clear ice; others have the frosty variety. However, they’re all ready for ice skates and casting Valentine’s shadows.

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On Great Cove’s shore, sea ice is starting to form, but it’s still in its pancake ice form:

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Vision

It’s amazing: Brooklin, a town of about 800 permanent residents, has a public library that is as good as (or better than) many libraries in communities with populations greater than 100 times ours. Our Friend Memorial Library, pictured here, is one of the most-used libraries in the State. It not only provides the latest books, CDs, and DVDs, you can download its e-books; use its computers and Wi-Fi network to surf the web; attend stimulating readings and other get-togethers there, and view its monthly exhibits by our many creative neighbors.


The Library originated in 1896 and, in 1912, moved to its present location on land donated by Brooklin’s Friend family. The FML has gone through several renovations and has had many loyal and generous supporters. Among these were Brooklin’s Katherine and E.B. White, both of New Yorker fame, who were instrumental in revitalizing the library. Katherine, especially, helped form the vision of what a first-class rural library could be. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Insurance

It’s been eye-poppingly clear here, but brain-piercingly cold: 9 degrees (F) at 6 a.m.; 11 degrees as we speak at about 9:15 a.m. The already-frozen field ponds are cracking and moaning as the ice builds and creeps. The image below is of a local pond that looked sugar-coated yesterday morning due to a brief sunlight flurry of fat snow.


As in many rural communities, ours has no central water source. Many of the ponds built near houses and barns were dug as “fire ponds”: small reservoirs that could be pumped by firemen when there was a need. Having a pond also often reduced the cost of fire insurance. Some of the ponds have “dry hydrants”: an unpressurized pipe from the pond water to a hydrant that has a capped outlet to which a hose may be attached. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place; American Idol

Tuesday’s (December 4’s) sunset over Great Cove, shown here, made it easy to understand why sun worship is part of most recorded history.

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The Egyptians prayed to Ra, the sun god, and Moses cautioned the Israelites not to be seduced by the sun and moon and idolize them. The Greeks, Celts, Asians, and other civilizations also payed homage. Many Native Americans, especially the Plains Indians (but including the Iroquois), considered the sun as a life-giving force. Not a bad idea, allegorically speaking. Here’sTuesday’s afterglow:

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Shucks

Here we see Dear Abbie: in Naskeag Harbor yesterday, one of the boats that switched from lobster fishing to fishing for Atlantic Sea Scallops this month:

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These boats had to be re-rigged as trawlers with masts and booms, which pull and hoist the dredges that scrape up the delicious mollusks. Some boats also are platforms for SCUBA divers who hand-harvest “Diver Scallops” in certain areas. Tarr Baby, below, is one of those:

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Scallop fishing is highly regulated in Maine waters, where the season lasts 50, 60, or 70 days, depending on zone. For environmental protection, those fishing days are spread over a few days each month from December into April, with some additional November dates available for diving. The daily limit is 15 gallons (shucked on board) per licensed fisherman.

We get our fresh diver scallops from neighbor David Tarr, who Captains Tarr Baby. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Last Chance

It’s officially The Christmas Season here: the Brooklin General Store’s wreath and holiday lights are out, as you can see from this image taken Monday, December 3:


Historically, one of the many charms of a small town was one or more general stores that could act as community hubs. Most general stores appear to be gone now, but not ours. The BGS is the latest (and best) in a line of general stores that extends back at least to 1872, with minor lapses. The Store’s welcoming lights are the beginning of that “finally home” feeling when returning on a dark winter night. It’s also a place to stop for coffee on a snowy day, such as November 16:


The Store not only sells basic groceries, it’s where you can have breakfast and conversation before dawn; a café for lunch; a place to get gas, oil, and air for the car; a State tagging station for successful deer hunters, and the last-chance to pick up beer, wine, fresh pizza, and/or dessert on the way home. Click on image to enlarge it. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Forgiveness

The weather seems more personal in a small Maine coastal town. You live with it like a companion. When it’s foul, it’s a betrayal; when it’s beautiful, it’s a loving touch. When it’s both, it’s a forgive-me gift. Yesterday was a forgive-me gift. It mostly was the small misery of combined fog and rain:

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Then, at about 4 p.m., the horizon brightened. The low sun suddenly appeared over Great Cove, took a brief bow, and left, trailing behind an immense orange train through the arriving darkness.


Then, a crescent moon in a cloudy sky. (Brooklin, Maine)



Happy Hanukkah!

Neighbor Judith Fuller’s Naskeag Road banner this special morning was a greeting in which we all can join.


(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Finished

It’s the morning of Saturday, December 1, and we’re looking southwest over Great Cove toward some of the smaller islands in Eggemoggin Reach.

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We can’t help wondering what JMW Turner, the patron saint of nautical light lovers, would do with this scene. Brush in a ship of the line in slack wind? No; too much; not apt. A silhouetted hint of a Friendship sloop still fishing the cold waters? Uh-uh; distracting. We decide that grumpy Joe would smile, take a few notes, sketch a few lines, and keep the scene as a memory, unchanged. (Brooklin, Maine)


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In the Right Place: Dullness

In the summer, the tiny Male American Goldfinch is the Beau Brummell of the bushes – an eye-wincing dab of sunshine with a black cap that’s flared at other males. His summer mate often is described as “dull,” even though she’s cute and well-tailored in pin-striped wings.


Now, in the leafless winter, however, little Beau gets his come-uppance (some would say come-downance.) It’s impossible to tell his dullness apart from hers at a distance, although they both remain attractively well-tailored. But, that’s good when you’re hawk food flitting through a gray world.


By the way, research shows that evolution favors brighter yellows for summer male Goldfinches: the brighter their yellow, the healthier they are. Females seem to sense that distinction and virtually always choose the brightest bird around for their mates. (Brooklin, Maine)

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November Postcards From Maine

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November Postcards From Maine

This November, as usual, was mostly gray, rainy, and snowy. But, also as usual, these duller days made precious the 10 to 15 beautiful days of sun and blue skies followed by dramatic winter sunsets, including this one from last night:

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November here is best remembered for three things. The first, of course, is Thanksgiving, which historically involved Wild Turkeys, of which we have plenty. They’re now in their subdued – but still goofy – winter stage:

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The second important November event up here is the White-Tailed Deer hunting season. The bucks seem to know it’s hunting season; we saw only one this month. It was on a misty November night and we nearly trophied him with our car. On the other hand, the White-Tailed does and yearlings were evident this November, if you were willing to go out in the snowstorms:

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Lobster fishing was the third important subject this November. Many lobsters move into the deeper seas in November, which is a signal for the end of the lobster fishing season for most (but not all) of our fishermen. The fishermen bring in their traps to the Town Dock to off-load them, and then store their gear and their boats “on the hard” for the winter.

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The bait hut in Naskeag Harbor remains as of now, but it eventually will be brought ashore. Some of the boats, on the other hand, will remain in the water and dredge for scallops or become platforms for scallop divers.

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Many smaller boats remained in the water until late in the month, when they were taken ashore and stored in boat houses or outside.

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November is the “dropsy” month, when the last vestiges of fall flare and disappear. The Tamarack (Larch) Trees turn golden before they drop their needles; the last of the apples hang on, but usually are gone before December, and the Red-Veined Enkianthus leaves explode in flaming colors before dropping.

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November usually is the month that we get our first significant snowstorm, and this year was no exception. We had some beautiful snow storms that transformed the woods and local sites.

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Finally, perhaps the many moods of November are best shown in Great Cove, where the month’s low sun can turn the sea to diamonds; wind can churn it into froth; freezing temperatures make it form sea ice, and calm, warmer days make us forget that Christmas is coming.

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(All images taken in Down East, Maine, during November 2018.)

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In the Right Place: Riotous

As you may know, we regularly monitor and photograph a mossy-banked, spring-fed stream deep in the nearby woods. It’s a rough gauge of the environmental status and health of our neighborhood. At the extremes, the stream goes dry (when residential wells may start straining) and gets riotous (when erosion and flooding may occur).

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As you can see above, recent snows followed by torrential melting rains have provoked the stream into a near- riotous stage. That image was taken Wednesday (November 28) when the snow and ice was virtually gone from the woods. The imagebelow was taken about 10 days before (November 17).

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: "Wattle I Do with Just a Photograph to Tell My Troubles to?"

We got a big lens close enough to a raft of Wild Turkeys yesterday to take some portraits. Mona Lisa these birds are not.


Their dangling wattles (“chin skin”) and lumpy red caruncles (“turkey bumps”) make them so ugly that they’re photogenic.

These Turkeys are in their quiet winter phase now, so we didn’t see any engorged snoods (“nose hoses”) or pumped up bodies (“strut clothes”) that we see in spring males.


(Apologies to Irving Berlin for the title; he wrote the wistful song “What’ll I Do” – a classic that also is disrespectfully called by some the “Wattles Song.”) (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Last Meal

There are conflicting reports about this year’s appearance of Winterberries: Some have plentiful shrubs and others haven’t seen a single berry. We have a few on our plants. Local legend has it that bountiful Winterberries mean a tough winter and few mean a mild one. These little red berries are a major ingredient in nature’s winter survival kit for 49 species of birds, deer, raccoons, and white-footed mice. The wildlife tend to visit this deciduous holly bush later in the winter because its berries are less nutritious than other winter foods. In case you haven’t seen any this year, here are images from last year’s bumper crop.

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(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Sodden

Its raining heavily as we speak and has been since last night; the snow is retreating fast under the onslaught. November is our wettest month and this November may be the biggest rain producer ever. Here, we have two impressionistic images through our windows this morning:


Below are two realistic images this morning of our raft of sodden Wild Turkeys on their daily ramble through here (taken through an open door):


(Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Curiosity

Here we are last Wednesday (November 21) in light snow in the unique silence of a wooded country lane after it’s been plowed. We’re feeling free in the fresh air and think that we’re enjoying this alone; then, we realize that we’re being watched as  a curiosity.

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Self-consciousness returns. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Character

If you want to peer into the soul of a small Maine coastal town where fishing is still a prideful vocation, you often need go no farther than the harbor on a gray winter’s day. There usually is a working monument to fishing there – the town dock (aka pier), built with local tax and other funds.

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These are stolid landing places where lobster traps and other gear can be off- and on-loaded. The docks have little superficial grace and beauty, but they often have inherent character beauty that can make you feel better just by being near them. Here, we have the Brooklin Town Dock on November 21, the day before Thanksgiving, where stacked lobster traps signal the end of the lobstering season for some fishermen.

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These traps got caught in the November 20 snow storm and soon were dusted off and trucked to their winter storage, usually in a fisherman’s back or side yard. (Brooklin, Maine)



In the Right Place: Tough Birds

It’s hard not to admire the tough Herring Gulls that brave the winter here. Yet, there are those who view these commonest and hungriest of our shore birds as being nuisances and even “winged rats.” Those who view the animal kingdom as a caste system this way apparently have not yet looked at wildlife life close enough. Here we see an adult Herring Gull in its sleek white breeding suit:

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Herring Gulls are useful, good-looking birds. They’re especially wonderful to watch as they race with a high wind at their backs, then swoop up and make wafting landings as softly as snowflakes. Here we see another adult puffed up last week in its speckled winder plumage:

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They often swarm after fishing boats for scraps, which led to a British experiment during World War I: scientists fed Herring Gulls from fake German periscopes, hoping to condition the birds to swarm around the real thing and help detect submarines. It didn’t work; the smart Gulls worked only when they saw food. (Brooklin, Maine)