Sunday, September 30, 2007

Apple Picking

I suppose you could go apple-picking in Colorado, although I don’t know for sure…. But, there is something so very New Englandy about apple-picking in the fall.

Upon the recommendation of a colleague, we went to Ricker Hill Orchards, in Turner, probably about a half hour or so south of Farmington. It was a spectacular, perfect, fall day: sunny, just right temperature, and a bit of a breeze. The orchard is located in a beautiful spot, with great views, because it is on a bit of a hill.

They have conventional and organic apples, and we got some of each; I'd have liked to do a little more research about how they grow each kind, as well as a little bit of comparison and taste testing, but, I did not quite manage that. The real highlight, though, was the apple sling shot. Take a bucket of apples (drops), and go wild.

It was one of those days, and one of those experiences, that made me really happy to be in Maine. And, I’ll follow this entry with one about the pie that came from the apples we picked.

Friday, September 28, 2007

31 Mile Lake

One of the reasons that we were excited about moving to Maine (or back East, generally) was that it would put us closer to 31 Mile Lake, Ray’s family summer cottage in Western Quebec. Admittedly, we are still pretty far. But, we can now drive to the lake instead of flying, and that makes a huge difference. 425 miles door to door, and a little over nine hours, including stops for restless and hungry children (and maybe grown ups too). Cheaper and easier all around, though not yet without the accompanying border crossing anxiety...

We did a Thursday to Monday trip, and had three full days at the lake, all of them glorious. For the most part, the weather was unseasonably warm, and I swam a lot, first thing in the morning as well as later in the day. Matt and I had a few really nice long distance swims as well.

Matt was super-uncle, and took Alden out in the canoe(s) many times. Thank you, Matt!

Our second day began with slightly dicey weather, but we forged ahead with an epic up to the north end of the lake boat ride anyway; the light and water were spectacular and the rain really only threatened, no real action.

The last morning, it was beginning to feel like fall. Milo woke up at some ungodly hour, and after effort upon effort, Ray and I finally gave up trying to get him back to sleep. I decided to take him down to the dock (so at least one of us – Ray – could get a little more sleep), set him up with toast and milk, and I managed to go for a really magical morning swim.

Other highlights include:

fun with sunglasses

hanging out on the deck...

family boat ride (not much enjoyed by Milo)

Finally, splashing - very much enjoyed by Milo.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Two Faces of the Farmington Fair - part 1

You’ve got your fried food and traditional rides, gluttony and tackiness and rides intended to scare the pants off of you (just watching some of them nearly makes me ill). That is of course the overriding theme of the fair, presumably of most fairs.

Alden said, at one point, “why have we never been to a fair before?” I wasn’t really even sure what the answer was to this question. I am sure there were fairs in Colorado. But, indeed, we had never before taken him to such an event. Fairs seem to hold some sort of allure, and yet, going to this one, I found myself wondering why… unless you are wanting to do some ethnographic study type thing, in which case the fair seems like a site just ripe with potential, I think the fair ends up just being a bit depressing, and also pretty damn expensive.

On the other hand, I have to remember what it might look like through a child’s eyes, and then, perhaps, it really is magical. I think Alden had a pretty good time. Not so sure about Milo!

The ferris wheel was a kick, and it was pretty fun to see expansively, and from up high. I find myself a wee bit afraid of heights in my adulthood…. But I was able to push back the rising anxiety and pretty much enjoy the ride.

I suppose one reason we have never gone to a fair (in Alden’s memory – I have of course been to fairs in the past), is that they were never right there. The Farmington Fairgrounds are about a mile from our house. We were sorry to miss the Demolition Derby, which happened over the weekend, when we were gone in Canada. But, there was a warm up smaller scale one earlier in the week, and we could hear it pretty well from our backyard.

Two Faces of the Farmington Fair - part 2

The other face of the fair is the traditional county agricultural fair piece, crafts and foods and animals and so on.

I did not get as much of a chance to explore this element as I would have liked to, and I actually look forward to doing this in future years. I had mentioned to my students that we were going to go to the fair, and their advice was this: make sure you go see the animals early on in the week, because by the end of the week, they’re all gone, sold off for slaughter. Well, there you go, that’s real life, I guess.

Alden and I walked around and looked – up close – at a bunch of cows. These were cows that produce organic milk. There was some sort of a display that allowed you to see more about the milking process, but we were walking through this part on our way to the rides, and Alden was too impatient to let me really spend any time there. The main thing I noticed was how huge the cows are. Big, really, really big.

So, after we had satisfied our thrill seeking and gluttonous urges (lucky for me that at this stage, the thrill seeking is still pretty minimal), we walked out through the building that had a lot of the agricultural stuff: veggies and foods that have been grown or baked for fair competitions.

The displays were beautiful and I wished that I understood more about the whole process and culture that leads up to this. What I mean is, who is it that chooses to bring their wares to the fair, and why, and how do they “enter” – either the community of participants or the actual competitions. What do they win, or get? do they sell their stuff? See, you really could so some interesting ethnographic work here. I felt really happy, to be amidst all this bounty, presumably all grown locally, or pretty close to locally.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Love the Chickadees

No, not the birds (well, we actually really love those too, but you can see them practically anywhere). What I am talking about is the license plates.

Maine has been a bit indecisive about their license plate identity over the years. My very first Maine plates, on my first car, were just plain black on white (this would have been back in 1987). Then I think they switched to the lobster, though for some reason those didn’t stick (my recollection is that it was cultural/political, or something. The people who did not live on the coast felt “not-represented” by the lobster plates). Then there were the loons – actually, the loons are specialty conservation plates, and you can still pay extra for them, so there are plenty of them around to look at and enjoy. We love the loons, too (in this case, the birds, really, as well as the plates…), I’m just not willing to pay extra for license plates.

Anyway, now the chickadee is the default plate, and we like it. When I told Ray that I wanted to write a blog entry about our new license plates, and was wondering if we had kept the Colorado plates, so I could post photos of both, he turned out to have thrown them out already. “I always hated those plates!”