Archive for the ‘Summer’ Category

Welcoming Another Summer, and Beginning to Plan for the Endless Vacation…   Leave a comment

14 June 2017

IMG_7346The Memorial Day holiday offered a perfect excuse to head to the Ballot Box for nine (should have been ten) days. We celebrated the start to another summer season, with our eighth annual Memorial Day Weekend Lobster-Fest on Sunday for Lynn’s side of the family. ‘Twas a smaller crowd than in some past years, but what we were lacking in numbers we make up for in festivity. We had local beer (growlers and bottles) and wine and mimosas and seltzer, 3 dozen Glidden Point Select Oysters (fresh-shucked by yours truly, the amateur shucker) garnished with a choice of fresh lemon juice or Tabasco™ sauce or some locally-distilled horseradish-infused vodka, fruit salad, veggie salad, lobsters, Scottish salmon, hanger steak (for the seafood-averse), and a myriad of desserts. The weather, which had been borderline miserable for the days before, came through splendiferously for the actual day – warm (but not too warm), sunny, and light breezes to keep the bugs mostly at bay.  Pre-party photos (I forgot to take pictures during the party!) can be viewed here.

IMG_20170530_090715099_HDRWe all mourned the loss of our fencepost-mounted swallow-house, which was ripped off the mount the night before the party and raided – the eggs were destroyed. Mr. & Mrs.  Swallow were in shock and hung around the now-vacant fencepost for the rest of the week, looking forlorn. Images of 2014’s fledge-tending can be viewed here.

Our planned visit during the week with long-time friends who live year-round on Little-Sebago Lake in Gray ME was postponed when Lynn found an embedded deer tick on her body the day of the scheduled visit. We decided to visit a walk-in clinic instead and get the tick professionally removed. She got prescribed a dose of Doxycycline for Lyme Disease prevention but we missed a day visiting friends [Editor’s followup: no symptoms!]. We’ll visit another time; we know where they live! [Editor’s followup: and we did!]

The other notable activity during the week was the start of our getting serious about how we want to live up in Maine once retirement (aka The Endless Vacation) finally commences. We’ve had the Ballot Box as a vacation home for eight years now, with lots of weekend visits, some week-long visits, and a few extended (weeks into months) times with Lynn being in-residence. What we’ve come to realize is that the Ballot Box is a bit small (about 950 sq. ft.) for full-time year-round residence for the two of us. We need a bit more space (we both have a lot of toys). Not a lot, but more than what’s here now, so we’ve started exploring possible solutions to the dilemma, which include renovations, additions, or even replacement. We’ve started making lists of nice-to-haves and necessities, and we’re setting up appointments with architects and builders to pick their brains on what’s possible and practical. Nothing concrete yet, we’re in sponge-mode and trying to figure out what we really need. We crossed the swimming pool off the list right away! 😉

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Posted 14 June 2017 by Gene Vogt in Maine, Newcastle, Summer, The Ballot Box

Ten Days of Relaxation…   Leave a comment

5 JUNE 2016

 We wrapped up ten straight days at the Ballot Box, and felt a bit melancholy about heading back south. All good things must come to an end, I guess.  Sigh!  The good news is that we’ll be back for occasional weekends throughout the summer and fall (and winter and spring, for that matter!).

We headed north a week ago Thursday (26 May) afternoon.  I left work a bit early to run the lawn mower around the yard before departing for a week-plus. Mulch-mowing is much faster than bagging as long as the grass isn’t too long (it was right at the edge of being too long, but…). I got the whole lawn mowed in a tad over an hour, mowing non-stop.

We got on the road a little after 4:00 pm. The ride up was amazingly easy; there was traffic, but nowhere near as bad as we suspected for the start of the Memorial Day weekend. We slipped off Route 95 at exit 7 in Maine (“The Yorks, Ogunquit”) just before the tolls to look for some place to stop for dinner and ended up at Wild Willy’s Burgers on Route 1 in York ME.  ‘Twas our first time there and a good find.  Turns out it’s a small chain with five locations; York ME, Rochester NH, and Worcester, Watertown, and Quincy MA. Very good burgers, definitely a place we’ll return to.  Back on the highway, we got to the Ballot Box at 8:31 pm (according to the time-stamp on the webcam-captured image), unpacked the car, aired out the house (a bit stuffy from being closed up), and settled in for some TV – our routine lately is to watch various episodes of British mystery shows (Midsomer Murders, Poirot, Vera, Crossing Lines, Wallander, etc.) on Netflix™ or Amazon Prime™ or Acorn™ via Roku™.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning was spent preparing for our seventh annual Family Lobster Feed™, held on the Sunday before Memorial Day each May.  We had fifteen guests this year – Audrey & Todd, Megan & Dan, Marcia & Tom, Jan & Joyce, Gail & Cam, Kristine, Dylan, Mark, and of course Gene & Lynn. We provided Damariscotta River oysters on the half-shell and fresh tuna sashimi for appetizers, local Maine lobsters, grilled Faroe Island salmon, grilled rib-eye steaks for the seafood-haters for the main meal, and growlers of Oxbow beer (Farmhouse Pale Ale and Freestyle 35 – a dry-hopped German-style pilsner) to wash it all down.  Guests brought everything from work-of-art salad, spicy shrimp appetizers, wine, desserts, and other sundries. A fine time was had by all.  We managed to snap a few photos during the party, but we were a bit busy otherwise!

IMG_2018a 20pctMonday – Memorial Day – was a lazy day after the party. We mostly puttered with cleaning up and putting things away.  I had intentionally over-bought on the lobsters so we would have leftovers for lobster rolls and other things, and I made the most of it with a lobster “triple play”; a lobster omelet for breakfast, a lobster roll for lunch, and one-and-a-half lobster rolls for dinner!

Tuesday I started a long-discussed (and likely to be a long-in-process) yard project – thinning and clearing the young stand of trees on the street-side of the house into a contemplative birch grove.  There are lots of young trees over there, some poplar, some white pine, some unidentified, but there is a significant number of white birches in there as well.  We want to clear out all but the birches, lay down some walking paths, place a few benches at various locations, and make it a peaceful place for restful contemplation.  This will be a long-duration project for sure, but it becomes usable fairly quickly while the work is in progress, so we should be able to start enjoying it fairly soon.  I took down a few trees with my almost-a-toy $65 Homelite chainsaw (until the original chain finally wore out – it was heavily-used this spring) and also ordered a lever-based pry bar device called an UpRooter for pulling up small-to-medium saplings to clear out an area. I’ll report back on how it works when I get my hands on it and try it out.  Steak and salmon leftovers from the Sunday party were on the menu for dinner.

Lynn and I had made arrangements last week to meet up with old friends Martha and Gary at the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens on Wednesday (Lynn and I are contributing members so we each get free admission and each of us gets to bring a guest in free as well, whenever we go). Martha was Lynn’s maid of honor at our wedding, oh so many years ago.  Wednesday turned out to be a gem of a day for garden-gazing… IMG_2087-©-20pct20xbright sun, no humidity, low 70s, light breeze!  We first ate lunch in the café overlooking the main lawn and central gardens at the visitor’s center, then we headed out.  Naturally, I slung my camera bag over my shoulder (didn’t need both flashes so I left one home).  Look what I found in the woods!

Lynn and I treated ourselves to breakfast out Thursday morning; we went to Crissy’s Breakfast and Coffee Bar in Damariscotta. The Eggs Benedict with hash-browns and a side of bacon spoke to us both.  It was another nice day so we worked some more out in the yard and set the first of many granite 5x5x9 edging blocks along the peony garden at the front of the house.  We’ll use the same kind of blocks to edge all the gardens and the to-be-built walkway from the driveway to the small deck at the door, eventually.

Friday ended up being a pretty nice day, weather-wise, so we puttered out in the yard some more.  We got an invitation to dinner and Parcheesi lessons at friends David and Betty Lu’s house in Damariscotta Mills.  Betty Lu made a delicious curry-based shrimp over rice dish for dinner – we brought a growler of Oxbow’s Freestyle 35 to contribute.

Saturday was another half-speed day (isn’t that what vacations are for?).  We lolled around in the morning, then I went out and got some mulch for the gardens in two 17-gallon muck-buckets (to be spread on a future weekend visit), grabbed a couple of Subway™ sandwiches for lunch, and we continued our yard-puttering and deck-flowers-puttering.  In the afternoon I went out and bought picked lobster meat and we treated ourselves to lobster rolls for our last dinner at the house this vacation.

Sunday was our last day on vacation.  We packed up and headed out to meet up with Jan and Joyce for lunch and a visit to the Bowdoin College Museum of Art which is celebrating the acquisition of a supposedly hauntingly lovely mummy portrait, made 2,000 years ago somewhere on the Nile River.

Posted 5 June 2016 by Gene Vogt in Maine, Newcastle, Summer, The Ballot Box

Busy Spring and Summer…   Leave a comment

16 JULY 2015

No blog entries since the end of March – I’ve been derelict in my duties!  We haven’t been up to the Ballot Box much this spring and summer.  After our end-of-March visit we didn’t make it back up until 24-26 April.  The month of May gave us a lot of days in Maine as we spent the weekend of 15-17 May and the WEEK of 22-30 May, which included Memorial Day and our 6th annual Memorial Day Weekend Summer Kickoff Lobster Feed for Lynn’s side of the family. The party was a bit smaller than in other years as both our girls and their beaus had to miss the festivities.  I volunteered to eat their lobsters!  I also installed and wired a new weather-proof hi-def power-over-Ethernet (PoE) webcam under the front eaves of the house to replace the webcam we’ve had in the front window for over four years.  Unfortunately the webcam was weather-proof but the RJ-45 Ethernet connection – which carries network signal and power in a PoE installation – was not. The camera connector shorted out in a rainstorm so I dismounted it and sent it back to the manufacturer for repair.  As of today it’s still not back so we’re back to depending on the front window webcam for visibility until the repaired camera returns.  It will get some waterproof tape applied when it’s reinstalled.

Only one trip north in June (17-21), but it was an emotional visit.  As many of you know, Lynn is an active quilter and actually teaches quilting to beginners occasionally.  She belongs to two quilt guilds, one in MA and one in ME, and soon after Lynn’s automobile accident one of her Maine quilt buddies (Meredith) contacted me to collect email addresses of Lynn’s quilter-friends in MA and elsewhere so she could contact them to see if anyone would be willing to make a quilt block (quilters, you know what that is) to be sewn into a commemorative thank-you quilt to be given to the Rockport Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad (the people who rescued Lynn after the crash).  Meredith collected numerous blocks from thirteen quilters living in at least four states.  She received enough blocks to make two full quilts plus two throw pillows to go on the couch in the fire department lounge/break room.  Lynn is actually alive today because an off-duty Rockland policeman and volunteer Rockport fireman and EMT (one man, two jobs) named Billy Smith, and his RN wife.  He and his wife came upon the accident just after it happened (they were heading out to dinner at a local restaurant that night).  Billy found Lynn unconscious and not breathing.  He cleared her air passageway and sat behind her in the wrecked car, holding her head up so she could breathe until the full complement of the rescue crew arrived to attend to Lynn, cut her out of the car, and take her to the local emergency room.  Meredith arranged with Rockport Fire Chief Jason Peasley to present the quilts at the department’s June meeting on the afternoon of the 18th. This link leads to the pictures from the presentation of the quilts (click on any small picture to bring up the larger version of the picture along with the description and Exif photo details below the picture; hover to the right of the picture to make a right-arrow appear, and click it to advance to the next picture).

We spent an extra day at the BB for the July 4th holiday weekend, heading up on the Wednesday before instead of Thursday (Friday was the holiday for me).  Audrey and fiancé Todd joined us on Thursday and we all gathered at Lynn’s sister Jan and Joyce’s place in Brunswick for a holiday cookout.  A nice way to spend our 41st anniversary.

That’s pretty much it for the Ballot Box visits in the 3+ months since the last blog entry.  We’re off to Montana the end of July for a family wedding, then we’ll attempt to resume our regular schedule of every-other-weekend in Maine.

Posted 16 July 2015 by Gene Vogt in Maine, Newcastle, Summer, The Ballot Box

Another Summer Season on the Mid-Coast Has Begun!   Leave a comment

30 MAY 2014

The unofficial start of summer – the long Memorial Day weekend – was great.  We stretched it out as long as we could, but it was still too short!  Lynn and I headed north the Thursday before, hitting the road about 4pm.  Traffic on the Rte. 128 portion of Rte. 95 was miserable, especially before the Rte. 128/93 interchange (as it often is during the summer, with the usual rush-hour traffic enhanced with travelers getting a jump on the weekend), but it was fine once we got onto the TRUE 95 north, up by Danvers.  From there on traffic was a bit heavy but it moved right along at 65+ MPH (I won’t say how much + !).  Thursday was also Lynn’s birthday (celebrating the 18th prime number anniversary of her birth!) and she requested Thai food for her birthday dinner, so we were planning on pushing through to Damariscotta and eating at Best Thai – our favorite Thai restaurant up there, but the delay on Rte. 128 made us later than we liked so we stopped at Thai 9 in Scarborough ME. Not quite as good as Best Thai, but not bad at all.

After spending Friday and Saturday getting ready, we hosted our 5th annual Kick-Off to Summer Lobster-Feed for Lynn’s side of the family on Sunday. Two of Lynn’s sisters (and their spouses) and a niece and a grand-nephew live along the coast in Maine near to the Ballot Box, and her oldest sister lives by North Conway in NH.  They all came, along with one sister’s mother-in-law (from southern MA) and a nephew and his significant other from San Francisco, so we had twelve in all.  Our oldest daughter and her husband had a wedding to go to in Boston that weekend, and our youngest daughter’s Significant Other had a family crisis, so neither of them were able to make it this year.

OystersI boiled 17 lobsters, all 1-1/2- to 2-pounders, in two batches in my industrial-strength lobster-cooker with its own stand and propane tank – the guys had 2 each!!  I also bought and shucked 3 dozen fresh Damariscotta River Oysters from Glidden Point Oyster Farm for appetizers, and had two growlers of beer from the local brewery that’s only 3.5 miles from the house.   Everyone else provided additional selections (wine, shrimp, hummus, bean dip, green salad, fruit salad, desserts) so it was truly a feast. A grand time was had by all!

For the holiday itself, five of us headed off to the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens for the day, and we had a great time there too (pictures).

We had a last-minute engagement down south on Tuesday afternoon, so we headed back south a day earlier than planned on Tuesday morning, and headed out to the engagement after unpacking the car and freshening up.  Traffic was not bad at all coming down.

The summer “tourist season” has started in mid-coast, and with it the lobster-eating season as well! See you at the lobster shacks in the area!!

Posted 30 May 2014 by Gene Vogt in Maine, Summer, The Ballot Box

The “English Cottage Garden” Begins to Take Shape…   4 comments

As many of you might know, Lynn’s been in planning mode for a while now, designing a quaint “English Cottage Garden” out in front of the Ballot Box, eventually consisting of beds of all kinds of perennial flowers on either side, a bench for sitting and reflecting, butterfly-friendly flowering shrubs along the front of the house, a meandering pathway of rustic, loosely-spaced pavers of some kind with grass and moss and little flowers in between, and a small café table and two chairs as a spot for two friends to sit and chat and enjoy a morning coffee or afternoon tea with a scone or two; all bordered by a white picket fence with rambling roses, and maybe an arbor.

During our very first garden discussions over a year ago, I recognized the fence as being the “cornerstone” for the garden, bounding it and giving visual definition to the project. So we started the previous spring (2011) by pounding wooden stakes into the ground out front as a “strawman” fence alignment. We needed to live with this faux fence for a while to see if it was placed correctly. Indeed, it wasn’t. We made at least two adjustments, one based on the visual symmetry with the house, and the other related to the view of the fence and the future garden from the dining area picture window.

Once we were satisfied with the placement and we had bought all the fence parts and pieces, I went to install the fence but my garden claw and clam-shell post-hole digger was no match for the summer-hardened clay that was hiding six inches below the imported topsoil that had been brought in for the lawn.  So we hired a local “fence installer” who was willing to dig the post holes and install the fence for about the cost of renting an auger. He and his son came last August and did the work, so the fence has been in place for about a year.

Digging the Trench

The Rose Trench

This summer Lynn decided to start the garden construction with the roses along the picket fence, so she contracted with a local landscaper to dig a 3-foot-wide trench in front of the fence about 18 inches deep, to get the clay out and replace it with composted topsoil to make a rose garden where the roots could flourish. This would be the REAL start of the English Cottage Garden (now looking more like a ten-year effort than a quick project!). I expected the landscaper to show up with a front-loader and dig the trench in an hour or two, but he evidently had an employee who needed punishment because one guy dug the trench by hand with a pick-axe, a shovel, and a wheel barrel.  All told, it took about 10 days to dig it by hand, with him showing up for 3-4 hours at a time every other day or so.

Dumping Topsoil

The Finished Garden

After the trench was dug they brought in in a dump truck of composted topsoil and filled it in, and planted the roses that Lynn had been buying at garden center sales and such. Voila! We have a rose garden!  It’s starting to look more refined and cultured around the place now!  My last project for this summer is to dig a trench from the corner of the house where the sillcock is over to the fence corner and bury a 3-inch PVC pipe in the trench so I can snake an extension of the dripper watering system over to the roses and the gardens along the fence.

Posted 17 August 2012 by Gene Vogt in Maine, Newcastle, Summer, The Ballot Box

Through Every Season (Turn Turn Turn)…   Leave a comment

Mother’s Day today… Lynn’s up in the quilt room sewing while I gather up our stuff and prepare to pack the van for our trek back down south.  Weekends go so damn quick up here.  We came up Thursday night after work, getting up here about 10:30pm (ASIDE:- I’m sitting at the dining area table by the picture window as I type this, and a pair of field swallows are scoping out the bluebird house we mounted on one of the posts in the picket fence in the front yard last fall… exciting!).  Friday I telecommuted to work most of the day but we took a long lunch break to hit Nick’s Mediterranean Grill for his authentic European gyros and then to the lumber yard  to pick up some PT 2x4s to build a firewood rack.  After I signed off work for the day I started building the firewood rack and finished it Saturday morning.  Friday night Lynn headed off to her sewing circle while I installed a “U-Show” USM-to-HDMI converter on my laptop then hooked it up to the HiDef TV at the house, remotely fired up my SlingBox back in Woburn, and watched the Red Sox game on the TV at the Ballot Box!  Saturday I spent the day putting up the window screens, finishing the firewood rack, and moving all the deck furniture and stuff out of the cellar and up onto the deck.  Saturday night our friends Merideth and Jimmy came over for steaks, salad and baked potatoes, washed down with delightful craft beers from Oxbow Brewing Company here in Newcastle. We topped it off with a strawberry-rhubarb cobbler creation by Lynn with vanilla ice cream.

Now it’s Sunday, and we’re prepping the house for a visit by our daughter and son-in-law next weekend.  They’re bringing Dan’s brother and his wife up to get some down-east scenery and cuisine.  Lobsters and oysters are on the menu, and we left them a full growler of “Space Cowboy” country ale from Oxbow.  After their visit we’re coming up for two weeks to decompress and host the family lobster feed the day before Memorial Day.  Can’t wait!

Posted 13 May 2012 by Gene Vogt in Newcastle, Summer, The Ballot Box

Summer Has Officially Started!   Leave a comment

We can now declare that summer has officially started; Lynn is firmly ensconced at the Ballot Box until the end of September! We brought her up over the 4th of July weekend. The original plan was to “caravan” up on Friday afternoon with our good friends Peter and Linda, but they called us earlier in the week to let us know that they wouldn’t be able to get away early enough on Friday to make it up to Maine at a reasonable time. They changed their plans to drive up by themselves early Saturday morning, which they did.

That allowed us to drive ourselves up Thursday night after work. We put the “stuff” for Lynn’s summer (at least the stuff we thought of beforehand) in the van and drove up, hitting the road about 8:30 pm and arriving at the Ballot Box about 11:30 pm. I tele-commuted to work for the first half of the day Friday (I *love* broadband internet), and in the afternoon we did some errands;  we hit Sully’s dog-and-brat wagon for lunch (before the bridge in Newcastle, heading to Damariscotta), stopped at the post office to pick up any mail (mostly grocery store circulars; we don’t get much mail up here), and we hit the hardware store for some things.

Peter & Linda at Pemaquid Point Park

Peter and Linda arrived as scheduled Saturday morning, and after a lunch of sandwiches at the house, we piled into the van and headed to Pemaquid Point to visit the ocean and the lighthouse in the park. It was a gorgeous day; bright sun, warm breeze, gentle sea. We hit the Sea Gull Gift Shop beside the lighthouse park after the park, and then stopped for ice cream in New Harbor. In Damariscotta we stopped at the fish market by the bridge to pick up lobsters and steamers for dinner that night, then headed home to work up an appetite for crustaceans and bivalves. 

Gene & Lynn at Pemaquid Point Park

We cranked the lobster pot up on its stand and fired up the side-burner on the grill to boil water for the steamers. With a bottle of Big Claw white wine, a salad, giant lobsters, and lots of steamers, dinner was a feast!

Unfortunately, Lynn woke up with a raging migraine on Sunday and ended up staying in bed all day. Ice-packs for her head, a run to the grocery store for some ginger ale, and a quiet day spent at the house reading and watching movies were the order of the day. We had planned on spending a quiet day at the house anyway, so nothing was forsaken except Lynn’s head. By evening, Lynn was able to come downstairs and get some nourishment and visiting time; the worst was past and she was on the road to recovery.

By Monday morning (our 37th anniversary!), Lynn was tired but pretty much back to normal, so we all had breakfast together and Peter and Linda and I prepared to depart south, leaving Lynn (and the van) up in Maine. The ride down was uneventful – we left early enough to avoid the Route-1-closing 4th of July parade in Wiscasset. Traffic was fairly light considering it was the the end of the holiday weekend.

I’ll be heading up about every other weekend throughout the summer, usually on Thursday night and tele-commuting on Friday.

Posted 10 July 2011 by Gene Vogt in Damariscotta, Maine, Newcastle, Summer