Tardy Greetings – Easter 2018

  Images (Mostly from Maine)

Excuses!

It’s East­er, the Year is no longer new and already shows signs of wear. We are very late get­ting this out. Still, des­pite our tardi­ness, we wish you a Happy East­er and hope that the bal­ance of the year treats you well. Here is a short update on our 2017 highlights.

Hol­i­days

Avid read­ers of these columns may remem­ber that I com­plained about a lack of hol­i­days in 2016. So, it was good to get back to our Fall and Christ­mas hol­i­day routines in 2017. We man­aged to get two weeks in Maine in the Fall and two weeks more in the Low Coun­try over Christ­mas and New Year.

The Maine Event

For the Maine event, we drove up through Bal­timore, New York City and New Eng­land to get there. It was an enjoy­able 675-mile jour­ney, even the New York por­tion. We ren­ted a large well-appoin­ted house on a bunch of rur­al acres in Waldo County. ‘Large’, because one of my daugh­ters and her hus­band flew out from the UK and joined us there for part of the time and we needed the space. ‘Well appoin­ted’ because the house’s own­ers made it that way, they have excel­lent taste and an eye for detail. ‘Rur­al’ because we like peace and quiet and ‘acres’ because its good to be able to let the Viz­slas run around.

It was a short drive from the house into Bel­fast. Home to sev­en thou­sand people, it’s not a big place. We spent a day there on a pre­vi­ous trip and looked for­ward to more time to get­ to know the town better

It’s on the estu­ary of the Pas­sagas­sawakeag River as it flows into the waters at the head of Pen­ob­scot Bay. It’s a big nat­ur­al har­bor. Pleas­ure craft, work­ing boats and fish­ing boats, are every­where on the water. We had expec­ted that but soon found out that there is more to Bel­fast. The people are resource­ful, hard­work­ing, friendly and enga­ging. There is a palp­able and per­vas­ive pur­suit of excel­lence and ori­gin­al­ity almost every­where. It seemed to me that many of the folks there were of ‘Scotch Irish’ her­it­age. There are hun­dreds of farms in the town’s hin­ter­land, and they con­trib­ute as much as all the sur­round­ing water to its char­ac­ter. It has the usu­al super­mar­kets, chain stores and fast food joints on its peri­phery but the town centre is lively and full of life. If there is an empty store­front any­place, we didn’t see it.

These three estab­lish­ments caught our ima­gin­a­tion dur­ing our stay;

Chase’s Daily
A fam­ily run café cum res­taur­ant cum flower and veget­able store with an integ­ral art gal­lery. The pro­duce comes from the fam­ily farm in Free­dom ME in the hin­ter­land. It was a James Beard Found­a­tion Out­stand­ing Res­taur­ant Semi Final­ist in 2017 and serves mainly veget­ari­an dishes using the pro­duce from their farm.
Video – Chase Farm and Chase’s Daily
Farm­ers’ Markets
The United Farm­ers Mar­ket of Maine oper­ates a big cus­tom built facil­ity that opened for busi­ness in 2017. Open mid morn­ing to mid after­noon every Sat­urday. Sev­enty stalls with an amaz­ing range of loc­ally pro­duced food­stuffs and artis­an­al items. We were blown away by the qual­ity of the pro­duce. We learned after­wards that there is anoth­er Farm­ers’ Mar­ket in the Town called The Bel­fast Farm­ers’ Mar­ket. It runs 0900 to 1300 every Fri­day and oper­ates from one of two loc­a­tions depend­ing on the sea­son. I ima­gine it is every bit as good as the Sat­urday affair. Doing things by half isn’t in the loc­al genes sets.
Col­burn Shoe Store.

Opened for busi­ness in 1832. It is the old­est shoe shop in the USA and is still act­ive in the ori­gin­al site. It con­tin­ues to serve the loc­al com­munity selling a range of foot­wear that meets the needs of farm­ers, boat­men and fish­er­men as well as every­one else that endures the long, bru­tal Maine win­ters every year.


Get­ting the Dogs Walked

After a few days pok­ing around look­ing for a good place to walk our dogs, we found ourselves at Sears Island. It is a nature reserve con­nec­ted to the main­land by a short gated cause­way. It has miles of wooded paths and tracks and some tar­mac road­ways too. But the trust­ees ban cars bey­ond the cause­way gate. It was ideal for our pur­pose and made an enorm­ous dif­fer­ence to the hol­i­day. If the dogs are happy and get exer­cise, we are happy and get exer­cise too — so there are no losers. We met oth­er dog walk­ers, and it was good to watch the dogs play with each other.

Headed for Hilton Head

We spent Christ­mas and New Year on Hilton Head Island SC. It’s in the Low Coun­try close to Beaufort and Fripp Island where we have spent hol­i­days before. Posh­er than neigh­bour­ing towns and well organ­ised, it’s replete with smart gated com­munit­ies and golf courses. I hadn’t real­ised pre­vi­ously that the beau­ti­ful Hilton Head beaches are so dog-friendly. Out of the sum­mer sea­son, dogs are allowed at all hours and off leash provided they are ‘under con­trol’. So we enjoyed all that. The beaches are well organ­ised and ten­ded daily.

Winterization of the HVAC
Win­ter­iz­a­tion of the HVAC

The cold spell las­ted for most of the last week, and so the Viz­slas and we had the beach to ourselves. We were fine except that the heat­ing arrange­ments for the house we ren­ted stopped work­ing one night. Kar­en dis­covered that the melt from the snow and ice on the roof was fall­ing into the HVAC (heat pump) out­side and re-freez­ing into icicles which pre­ven­ted its fan from turn­ing. We broke the icicles off and placed a large beach umbrella over the unit to divert the roof melt away from it. All was well, and warmth flowed back into the chilly house.

Leamington Rear Range Lighthouse
Leam­ing­ton Rear Range Lighthouse

The down­side of HH, for me at any rate, was the lack of pho­to­graph­ic oppor­tun­ity imposed by all the gated com­munit­ies. Get­ting access to almost any­place is tedi­ous. For instance, the his­tor­ic Leam­ing­ton Rear Range Light­house is inter­est­ing and the last remain­ing of its type in SC. Range light­houses had for­ward and rear lights some dis­tance apart. Ship­ping approach­ing the nearby Port Roy­al Sound took a course to align one light behind the oth­er and thus be on the right head­ing. The for­ward light was on the beach, but it is long gone. Sadly, mem­bers of the pub­lic can only reach the remain­ing rear light by trans­it­ing through one gated com­munity to the nearby gated com­munity where its tower stands on a golf course. I would need mul­tiple vis­its to work out how to get a good image, have a good sky behind it and so on.

Fairy Tale Harbor Town Lighthouse
Fairy Tale Har­bor Town Lighthouse

Har­bor Town Light­house is bet­ter known than the Leam­ing­ton Light but was built in 1969 as a tour­ist attrac­tion in the mar­ina. Even so, there is a manned gate to nego­ti­ate to get to that. I couldn’t be bothered. It was nev­er a real light­house and would be more at home in Disneyland.

Bluffton

In the event, I was drawn more to Bluffton. It’s a small town full of char­ac­ter close-by to HH. It’s on the main­land on the bank of the inter-coastal May River. Its lively char­ac­ter and eclect­ic mix of build­ings and store-fronts make it more our kind of place. I made sev­er­al trips to the Church of the Cross in the town. Both the build­ing and its loc­a­tion are remark­able. Con­sec­rated in 1857, it is con­struc­ted almost entirely with heart pine (Cypress). The wood is unfin­ished on the exter­i­or and fin­ished in the interi­or where it has a beau­ti­ful pat­ina. The church stands on a bluff by a wide stretch of the May River. The grounds are replete with Live Oaks and Pal­met­tos but afford unhindered views over the river. The sun­sets out over the water are glor­i­ous and attract a large num­ber of vis­it­ors to the church grounds.

The Bluffton Oyster Com­pany lies just a little up the May River from the Church of the Cross. It may look ram­shackle from the out­side but serves up and sells Oysters, Shrimp and oth­er sea­food har­ves­ted in loc­al waters. This short film about the res­taur­ant and sea­food store is inter­est­ing and has excel­lent views of the river and inter-coastal system.

Bluffton Oyster Com­pany Film

I wanted to pho­to­graph the shrimp boat docked out­side the res­taur­ant. I rose before dawn and drove up there. I inten­ded to get some images just before the sun came up and with a full moon over the river. Sadly, I hadn’t taken account of the big orange flood­light they used to light the exter­i­or of the dock and premises dur­ing dark hours. So I hung about in the fri­gid tem­per­at­ures on an adja­cent dock until the sun appeared on the hori­zon and the orange flood­light turned itself off. The full moon had fled the scene by then. I did even­tu­ally get some images but will have to pho­toshop out some large intrus­ive con­trails that dis­rupt the sky. Over­head jets are always present over the East coast. I would have gone back anoth­er time but I had left it too late and the hol­i­day was over.

I was chilled to the bone and shiv­er­ing. I hadn’t brought along warm cloth­ing, it was South Car­o­lina after all. How­ever, it didn’t end badly. I had one of the most wel­come break­fasts for a long, long time in the Corner Perks Café in the town after that. A big mug of cof­fee, an egg and saus­age banjo and a bowl of cheese grits. Simple pleas­ures are the best.