A Few Days Down East

Once again, I seem to have strayed off the farm, so here I am with yet another travelogue, rather than my usual ranch type ramblins.   Let’s start off in the wharf district of Portland, Maine, where I was surprised to find that cobblestone streets still exist.

Cobblestone street

There are many fine shops and restaurants in the wharf area,  and there are numerous opportunities to take part in “touristy” activities, as well.  Having a little salt in my blood, I opted to focus on things with a maritime flavor, so I decided to take a sightseeing cruise on Casco Bay,  which is where Portland, Maine is located.

Schooner on Casco Bay

Casco Bay is a lovely and picturesque body of water, where you are certain to cross paths with a variety of interesting vessels, such as the schooner seen in the preceding photograph.

Portland Head lighthouse

Casco Bay and the surrounding waterways are dotted with many navigation lights, some with lighthouses, such as the Portland Head Lighthouse seen above. 

Cape Elizabeth light

Another light with a house on the grounds is the Cape Elizabeth Light (seen above), located in what is called the “two lights” area of Cape Elizabeth.

Ram Island Ledge light

There are several lights that are located on islets or rocks within the waterways.  This one, called the Ram Island Ledge Lighthouse has a boat launching pier for access to the light.  The light is now automatic, however it used to be manned in shifts of two-week duration.  That is, except for those stormy occasions when ocean conditions might strand the keeper for many weeks at a time!

Tugs escorting a tanker ship into Casco Bay

Whether manned or automatic, the purpose of the lights is to keep vessels off the rocks.  In the photograph above, you can see two tugboats racing to catch up with a tanker ship headed into Casco Bay.  After passing the Portland Head Light, they will assist the tanker in the berthing process.

Land based civil war era fort

There are many Civil War era forts located in and around Casco Bay, such as this land based fort seen above.

Fort Gorges, Hog Island Ledge, Casco Bay

There are also island based forts located in Casco Bay, such as Fort Gorges, which was active from 1857 until 1946.

Fort Williams

Down in Cape Elizabeth you can hike around the remnants of Fort Williams, which saw active use from 1872 until 1963.  Nearby is the Portland Head Lighthouse, which offers a fine museum for visitors.

DeLorme globe named Eartha

If you head northeast out of Portland, you will soon come to the town of Yarmouth, and if you pay close attention, you are liable to see the world’s largest rotating and revolving globe!  Located in the DeLorme Headquarters, this globe is name Eartha, and is the largest printed image of the Earth ever created (photograph courtesy of The Map Store).  The globe has a circumference of nearly 130 feet and a diameter of over 41 feet.  It represents one of the largest computer mapping databases in the world.  The printed data comprises 140 gigabytes of information.

Kennebec River

Continuing on from Yarmouth along Highway 1, you eventually come to Bath, Maine.  Bath is situated on the banks of the lovely Kennebec River, and because the banks along this deep river slope gently, and because deep water lays close to shore, this location has been utilized as a shipbuilding area for quite some time, hence Bath’s nickname – The City of Ships.

Maine Maritime Museum

To commemorate and preserve the shipbuilding heritage of the region, the citizens of Maine have contributed time and money to create the Maine Maritime Museum, which houses an amazingly vast collection of maritime paraphernalia and artwork.

Boatshop and storage on the grounds of the museum

Located at the site of the historic Percy & Small Shipyard, the campus of the Maine Maritime Museum contains many buildings to house the collection.  Above are portions of the old Boatshop.

Mill and Joiner Shop

The white building is the Mill and Joiner Shop, where authentic shipbuilding machinery is on display for visitors to see.  The large white skeleton that you see is a mock-up of the stern bow section of the schooner Wyoming, which was the largest wooden vessel ever built in America.  The skeleton sits in the old shipyard exactly where it was originally built (except for being slightly upslope from the shore, for environmental reasons).

Bow section of schooner Wyoming

Looking in the other direction, you now see the mock-up of the bow stern section of the Wyoming.  It is difficult to get a sense of scale and perspective from these pictures.  Let me just assure you – this vessel was huge!

Craftsmen working on a small boat

On a smaller scale, these two craftsmen were putting the finishing touches on a traditional Maine “Susan” boat.  Although these men are painting the boat, the boat itself was built by the Bath, Maine sixth-grade class from September 2006 until May 2007.  This boat will be raffled off to some lucky ticket holder, and the proceeds from the raffle benefit the Maine Maritime Museum.

Trap display at the Maine Maritime Museum

The Museum has a wonderful exhibit entitled “Lobstering and the Maine Coast.”  Within this exhibit (which is housed in it’s own building) you will find displays covering all aspects of the lobster fishery and trade, beginning with it’s early origins and continuing to today’s methodologies.

Did you know that in the early days,  lobster were so plentiful that they washed up on shore?  And that local officials decided to harvest the washed-up lobsters to feed inmates in the local jails and prisons?  And that the inmates, becoming sick from having to eat lobster morning, noon and night began rioting and creating havoc?  Imagine – protesting regarding TOO MUCH lobster???

Ship under construction at the Bath Iron Works

Anyhow, back to the Bath, Maine area.  You are looking at a destroyer that is currently under construction at the Bath Iron Works, which is a General Dynamics company.  This facility builds the Arleigh Burke Class AEGIS guided missile destroyers for the U.S. Navy.   Bath Iron Works, in conjunction with the Maine Maritime Museum, conducts tours of the Bath Iron Works (on a limited basis).  I was fortunate to get on a tour, but I cannot share any pictures of the experience with you, because cameras and photography are prohibited while on the grounds of the shipyard (or at any other defense contractor’s location) for security reasons.   I can say, however, that the tour was well worth taking.  The size and scope of the fabrication process that you can see here is absolutely amazing.

Anyone hungry for dinner yet?

Eventually, with all of the sightseeing and walking around, you are bound to get hungry.  Poking around all the coves and inlets brings you into a lobster fishing village or two, where you are sure to run into the local lobster shack, which can be as simple as a converted bungalow, like the one you see in the picture above.  So are you ready for some famous live Maine lobsters?

Lobster people at the Estes Lobster House

No, not like this lobster (which is the work of the proprietors of the Estes Lobster House, located at the bottom of beautiful Harpswell Neck).

Twin lobster dinner, with all the fixings

This is more like what I had in mind.  In my humble opinion, this is the perfect Maine dinner.  Two steamed whole Maine lobsters, accompanied by corn-on-the-cob, cole slaw, drawn butter, and of course, a bottle of the locally brewed Lobster Ale.

Now that’s what I call eating!

UPDATE - December 20, 2007

George Rolt commented that my captioning of the bow and stern sections of the schooner Wyoming was in error.  An examination of a launch day photograph included in the following information sign at the Maritime Museum shows that George is correct.  I have corrected the post accordingly.

Schooner Wyoming

The People Pond

We are fortunate to have several ponds scattered around our property.  Previously, I had written about three of them: the catfish pond (remember the discussion about flocculant?),  the carp pond (recall “The Grassing of the Carp”),  and the spring-fed pond (which shrank dramatically during the dryness of last year).

There is another pond on the property, which is the subject of this post.  I call it the “people pond.”  As caretakers of the land and stewards of the animals, we strive to provide an aquatic environment conducive to the well-being of all the wildlife that reside at this location – so why not the human inhabitants, as well?

Unlike the other ponds on the property that automatically adjust themselves to exist in all seasons throughout the year, the people pond needs a little extra effort and management.  In the fall, the people pond needs to undergo the process of winterizing.  The people pond must be cleaned, and the water chemistry adjusted for the long winter to come.  Pipes, pumps, filters and other equipment must be drained of all water, to prevent expansion damage that would occur if water were allowed to freeze inside of the equipment.  The water level is drawn down, and the people pond is covered for the duration of the cold season.

In the late spring, usually around Memorial Day weekend, we anxiously undertake the annual ritual of opening up the people pond for the summer.

Winterized people pond

The winter safety cover shown in the photograph above serves two purposes.  First, it serves to protect against accidental people pond incidents, and second, it keeps dirt, leaves and debris out of the people pond during the winter months.  In the center of the cover sits a sump pump, equipped with an automatic sensor switch, which keeps the cover drained of water from rain and melting snow.

People pond winter safety cover fastening system

The cover is attached to the decking that surrounds the people pond by a series of heavy elastic straps, which are held in place by bronze retractable anchors embedded in the deck.

Telescoping strap anchors

The retractable anchor tend to accumulate debris over the course of the winter, so it is necessary to wash them off with a strong stream of water from the garden hose.

Protectant applied to anchors

Before screwing the anchors flush into the deck, I find it helpful to spray them with a little lubricant first.  The product that I like to use for this purpose is either Bull Shot, shown above, or Boeshield T-9, developed by Boeing Aircraft Corporation.  Either one of these products contain a wax-like ingredient, which assures that the protectent will adhere to the anchor even in wet conditions.

Gizmo for winterizing the people pond skimmer

The turquoise gizmo that you see beside the skimmer assembly is just that – a Gizmo ™.  This device is used to seal the water return lines in the winter, after they have been cleared of water.  If you look closely at the photograph above, you can see the hole down at the bottom of the skimmer that the Gizmo screws into.  With the Gizmo properly in place, any rain water that manages to get into the skimmer and freeze will not ruin the equipment.  As the freezing water expands, it will cause the Gizmo to collapse in on itself, thus sparing the skimmer from damage.

Cleaning the people pond cover

The people pond cover needs to be cleaned and thoroughly dried prior to summer storage.  As you can see from the photograph above, it is not particularly good form to be standing around taking pictures as your better-half does all the work!  Thank goodness for the blur function of my image editing software, or you might see the “salute” I received for my blunder.

Storage bag for people pond safety cover

The people pond cover folds nicely into a breathable nylon storage bag, which will find it’s way into the equipment barn for the summer.

People pond now open for the summer

Now that the cover is off the people pond, all that remains is to raise the water level, adjust the water chemistry, prime the pump and filter units, and install the hand rails and exit ladder.  Notice the clarity of the water in this picture.  This is what the water should look like immediately upon removing the people pond cover.  If the water does NOT look like this, then somebody did not properly adjust the water chemistry prior to winterizing the people pond the previous fall.

Our people pond has been quite a project.  Compare the photograph above with the picture that is shown below.

People pond in it’s less glamorous days

This is what the people pond looked like when we bought this house.  It was in dire need of some TLC, needing a new liner, winter safety cover, pump and other necessary equipment.  The water was filthy and gross, containing slime, algae and assorted creatures.  It did not deserve to be called a people pond.  Now it does.

A Project Long Delayed

Luna Moth

This morning, after finishing my cup of coffee, I headed outside to begin my chores.  George (our faithful yellow lab) accompanied me as I made my way over to the milking barn, where I spotted this lovely Luna moth that you see in the photograph above.

Luna moth resting on shop door

The Luna moth was resting on the back door of the milking barn, and seemed to be completely oblivious to my presence.  He ended up spending most of the morning clinging to the door, perhaps taking advantage of the shade on that side of the building.

Milking barn before repairs were made

This is what the milking barn looked like when we first bought this property.  It was in pretty poor shape, and was being used to store mostly junk.  Step-by-step, we have been undertaking a renovation of this building. 

We are now converting the front room into a tack room ( a room where we will store saddles, pads, blankets, bridles, halters, leads, crops, carrot sticks, reins, bits, farrier tools, brushes and combs, fly spray, medications, and all the hundreds of other things you find are necessary to keep horses).

One-time dairy barn

Here is the front of the milking barn as it looks today.  We call this the “milking barn” because it was built and used as dairy barn in the past.  This 36′ x 25’ building is constructed from cinder block, and is comprised of two equally sized 18′ x 25′ rooms.  The room toward the front of the building (with the full-length windows) formerly contained a stainless steel milk storage tank, and was thus called the “tank” room.  The milk was picked up every other day by a dairy wholesaler, who transported the product to a major milk processor.

Rear of former dairy barn building

This is the rear portion of the building, which is where the cows would be milked daily.  The room on this side of the barn was obviously called the “milking” room.  Inside the milking room were eight stalls arranged in a herring-bone pattern on either side of the room.  In the center of the room was a four foot deep milking pit, where the person doing the milking would stand to work, much like the pits that are used in an oil-change garage for the mechanic to position himself under the vehicle.  Grain was stored in hoppers located in the attic above the milking room, and a system of chutes would automatically supply strategically placed feed troughs with grain for the eight cows being milked.

We are in the process of converting this room into a workshop, so that I will have no excuse to not get my equipment maintenance and repairs done in a timely manner.

Interior of shop side of barn

Excuse all the things laying around on the floor, but I just completed the painting of the inside of the new “shop” this morning.  In the picture above, you can see where the 4′ deep milking pit used to be located.  We have filled in the pit with tons of gravel, and topped it off with a 5″ reinforced concrete slab.  Now that the shop has been painted, I will install work benches and storage shelving.  After that, I will plan out and install conduit for 110v/220v electrical service to locations around the shop, where I will place my compressor, drill press, etc.

Looking out a window of the new shop

The shop is in a great location far from the house, so noise from power tools and equipment will not be a bother to residents in the house.  The horses, which I can keep an eye on through the many windows in the shop, may not like the noise, but they can always stroll over to another pasture if it is bothersome to them.

Looking out another shop window

I can also keep an eye on the equipment barn, which is located out another of the shop windows.

Looking out yet another shop window

The hen house (sorry, it’s still not repainted yet) is in view of the shop, so I can keep a watchful eye on things over there, as well.

My helpers are waiting for me outside this shop window

And all the while, my trusty “helpers” can keep a keen eye out for me, too.  They certainly wouldn’t want to miss any of my foibles, as I run amok in my new shop!