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Best-Laid Schemes…   Leave a comment

7 January 2018

Robert Burns was right… Plan all you want, you’re not in control. OUR well-laid plan was to celebrate Christmas with the family (or however many were around) and head north to the Ballot Box on the day after (Tuesday).  BUT… Lynn contracted a fast-acting norovirus stomach ailment – probably on Christmas Eve – and by Christmas night it was raging in full force.  Luckily I did not contract it so I was able to play the Florence Nightingale role for her while we waited it out.  We hung back until Friday and then headed north once Lynn felt like she could do without a bathroom for an hour or two.

IMG_7924a-33pct25xWe arrived at the house around 3pm – before dark – so the drive up was without incident, but it was C-O-L-D up in mid-coast Maine.  I snapped a photo of the thermometer on the north side of the house at 7:30am on Saturday the 30th… -21°F (-30°C)! A bit chilly!  We’re “weekenders” at the house so we don’t use heating fuel (propane) at the same rate as if we were permanent residents.  We heat with two Rinnai wall furnaces (one in the basement, one on the first floor) and turn them down to the lowest setting – but not off – when we’re not there, so our consumption is less than the average customer.  BUT we only have one 100-gallon propane bottle so we get deliveries at the usual rate during the winter – scheduled for every two weeks. Well, it’s been COLD up in mid-coast Maine lately, and I have a habit of checking the tank gauge when we arrive for a weekend visit. On Friday afternoon it showed about 40%.

Because it was so cold, I would check the gauge each day and watch it go down at a rate that didn’t give me confidence that it would last until next Wednesday (our next scheduled delivery date).  By Tuesday morning of the day we planned on heading south it was below 5% so I called and asked to schedule delivery a day early (for an extra fee, naturally).  We turned the Rinnai’s down to almost the lowest setting, bundled up, and hunkered down to wait for the delivery truck.  Our plan to hit the road by noon was a bust.

Delivery guy finally came about 7:30pm and said he was looking at his 3rd 16-hour day. Yikes! Delivery took about 15 minutes (only 3 of which was actually pumping propane into the bottle/tank), then we set the thermostats to low, shut off the well pump (don’t want it pumping water into the house if a pipe freezes), shut off the water heater (no sense heating water in an unoccupied house), flushed the toilet tanks empty (so they wouldn’t freeze and crack if we did lose heat), packed the car and hit the road.  Got home before 11pm.


Posted 7 January 2018 by Gene Vogt in Uncategorized

To Every Thing (Turn, Turn, Turn)…   Leave a comment

1 December 2017

There is a season… and this season’s “thing” is preparation.  Winters in Maine carry the threat of being harsh, though along the coast I think it’s tempered a bit by that large body of salt water to the east.  We don’t see ten feet of snow very often in the mid-coast region, but it’s not a tropical paradise either.

Our recent visit (21-28 November) was my first since mid-October, so the winter prep chores were way over-due.  I took down and put away the window and door screens, mounted the glass storm insert on the entryway door, weatherstripped all the double-hung windows on both floors, stored all the deck furniture in the cellar, took down the music speakers on the deck and coiled up the speaker wires from the stereo, and pounded holes for and set the snow stakes along the driveway for the snow plow.  Then we set to work putting up our modest Christmas decorations; 300 traditional white Christmas mini-lights on the (getting large) arborvitae out front (set to go on at dusk with no human intervention), more (solar-powered) mini-LED lights along the the picket fence (also set to go on at dusk with no human intervention), a balsam wreath on the 26197859_10214936381309007_3932977264586496989_oentryway door, a dozen crystal plastic snowflakes in the dining area picture window, electric candle-lights in the windows (also set to go on at dusk with no human intervention), a Christmas Packages quilt on the wall in the living room, a small collection of Christmas trinkets scattered around the first floor, and my Dad’s tabletop Christmas Tree (complete with lights and ornaments and presents under the tree) in the living room. Quite festive.  Then we did a deep-clean of both floors – dusting and vacuuming – and dusted and vacuumed the stairway and railings.

In between all the prepping and decorating and cleaning we consulted with our architectural designer about the first batch of proposed plans for the renovation and expansion of the Ballot Box in preparation for our eventual permanent relocation, and just to keep all options on the table we spent time with our friend/real-estate-agent looking at current real estate offerings on the market in the area. That, plus enjoying Thanksgiving Dinner with some family at the Squire Tarbox Inn and Restaurant on Westport Island in Wiscasset and meeting friends for dinner at a local favorite restaurant.  We were busy, but it was a long visit so it was restful and refreshing as well.

We’ll likely get up one more weekend in December, then our traditional last week of the year visit, when we come up on the day after Christmas and stay until a day or two after New Year’s… toasting in 2018 with our traditional Dinner For One video, a tradition we picked up while living in Germany in the 90’s and continue even now.

Posted 1 December 2017 by Gene Vogt in Uncategorized

Where’d the Sign Go… This Time??   Leave a comment

8 October 2017

The IMG_20150815_112732264a-25pct20x“Ballot Box” sign is gone again.  The sign was a gift from Lynn for Christmas 2009.  I had planted a 4×4 post at the end of the driveway by the road to hold the address numerals, and we hung the sign on that post to declare the nickname for our newly-acquired escape destination.  It also helped visitors coming to visit for the first time to find the right driveway in the woods.

BB SignThe sign manned it’s “post” (pun intended) for six years, but back in the summer of 2015 it was showing it’s age a bit – the Maine seasons had faded it a bit and some wood-rot had started to creep in – so I took it down for a month or so while I refurbished it.

My 2015 refurbishment didn’t last as long as the initial stint.  It’s showing it’s age even worse than before, so we’ve taken it down again in preparation for a winter-long restoration.  Not sure how long it’ll be in the shop, but it will return – probably by spring at the latest.  Until then the post will have to go a bit naked.

My chore list for this slightly longer visit started to get end-of-summer-ish, with prepare-for-winter entries.  (I decided to stay up through Columbus Day even though I don’t get it off as a holiday – I plan on telecommuting during the morning before we hit the road south and join all the leaf-peepers heading back to the rat race).  We removed and stowed the window air conditioning units, did some garden cleanup, shut off the drip watering system for the deck plants, paid the annual bill at the post office for the P.O. box rental, and did some house-cleaning.  We also discovered the Ballot Box fridge is failing.  Usually a failing fridge just can’t keep stuff cold anymore, but this fridge’s symptom is that it doesn’t cycle off and on anymore so stuff in the fridge-section freezes.  We set the dial to OFF and it still freezes the milk.  I rigged a heavy-duty extension cord to come up to the top of the fridge and plugged it in that way, so we can reach the plug and are able to unplug the fridge without pulling the fridge out away from the wall.  That’s let’s us cycle it off and on manually at least.  We want to avoid having to buy a new fridge right now as we’re planning on doing pre-move renovations that will include redoing the kitchen so we want to wait until we know what the new kitchen will look like before buying a new fridge.  Timing is everything!

Next trip up will be for the annual Goods From the Woods festival at the local brewery, so there won’t be too many chores taken care of on that trip!

Posted 8 October 2017 by Gene Vogt in Uncategorized

A First for Everything…   Leave a comment

18 September 2017

We had a first-time experience this past weekend.  I guess there’s a first time for everything if you live long enough, and on a scale of one to ten this was not an eleven, but neither Lynn nor I had experienced it before. We had a bat in the house.  It was Friday night. We had just gotten back from a comfort-food dinner (open-faced turkey sandwiches with mashed and veg) at Moody’s Diner 13 miles north of our house (in Waldoboro), and had settled in front of the TV for our usual evening ritual, when we got buzzed by a bat… in the living room.

While Lynn called for her hat from the couch, I stood by the stairs (intending to play “goalie” and keep the bat on the first floor) and researched solutions on my phone.

Basically, there seemed to be four approaches; catch it with a butterfly net (nix that one, no butterfly net available), direct it to an open door or window (if you can), catch it in a blanket (risking injury to the fragile-boned creature), or keep it flying until its exhausted and collapses – then plop a bowl over it, slide cardboard under the bowl, carry the whole rig outside and release it back into the wild.  Option one (butterfly net) was a non-starter, so we opted for option two (direct it to an open door).  Once we had hung a curtain-like arrangement in the stairway in an attempt to keep the unwanted visitor downstairs, I opened the deck door and tried to herd it towards the open door with a straw broom. It must have been funny to watch.  I kept it flying but it was not wanting to be herded anywhere.  Does the phrase “Brownian Motion” ring a bell?

Neither of us were fond of option three (throw a blanket on it), and since the difference between option two (herd it) and option four (tucker it out) seemed insignificant at this point, we closed the deck door (would the ultra-sonic ruckus attract other bats??) and I just kept it flying in the hopes that it would run out of steam.  Sure enough, after what seemed like hours (but was probably only 10-15 minutes) of waving the broom at the bat, it collapsed on the floor, exhausted.  I quickly grabbed a plastic bowl from the cabinet and plopped it down on the floor, over the bat.  There was a few seconds of bat-squawks (I think I was being cursed in bat-talk) but the invader had been corralled.  I found a sufficiently-large piece of cardboard in the cellar, slid it gently under the bowl (a few more bat-curses were heard), carried the whole shebang outside and released the bat on the deck.

It tried to fly through the balusters of the railing, and failing that, it sat down on the deck to catch it’s breath.  I retreated to the inside of the house. We congratulated ourselves on a successful catch-and-release, and settled down to finally watch some TV.  …And of course during the TV show I began thinking about how bat-boy got into the house, and if there were any more hiding above us……  !!

Mice are much easier to deal with… SNAP!



Posted 18 September 2017 by Gene Vogt in Uncategorized

A Weekend By Myself…   Leave a comment

13 August 2017

Lynn’s off on a sisters’ retreat at a B&B in Brunswick, and I needed to 1) be sure to get our Celestron F80 EQ WA telescope at the Ballot Box (it’s the one with the sun filter) to bring down in time for the solar eclipse on the 21st, and 2) check why the webcam’s every-2-minute snapshots were not being posted to the web site,  so I’m enjoying a solitary weekend in the Maine Woods.  We came up on our usual schedule on Thursday afternoon.  I found out that the house web server had not started back up after being updated (thank you very much, Microsoft), so that was easy to fix, and we headed out to dinner at a local watering hole.

We had called for reservations at our local Publick House restaurant while we were driving up because it’s often hard to get a walk-in table during the summer, but for some reason it was quiet and we didn’t need a reservation – go figure!  And we got a great surprise when we got there – they had Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin IPA on tap! What a treat!

Friday was a telecommuting day for me, with a couple of teleconferences scheduled for good measure.  Lynn’s sister Marcia arrived in the afternoon to pick Lynn up and head to the B&B.  I finished my work day and headed over to Oxbow Brewery where they had live blues music by the OGs and food by the Burgers & Freys food truck for the evening. I got myself a “Beef Chief” burger with hand-cut fries – tasty! – and washed it down with a few Oxbow beers. Nice way to start the weekend.

Saturday I power-wire-brushed the hell out of the cast-iron side-frames from the old park bench we used to have at the southern house, then coated them with Rust-Oleum “Rust Reformer” spray-on sealant – claims to “instantly convert rust to a protected paintable surface.”  Sunday I gave the side-frames the first coat of Rust-Oleum oil-based enamel; perhaps I’ll be able to flip them and paint the other side before I leave tomorrow. I’ve cut up slats out of pressure-treated 2x4s to rebuild the bench for use up here eventually.

I got to watch the first two of three Red Sox – Yankees games so far this weekend and should be able to catch the third game this afternoon.  The first game was a disappointing late-game loss but the second game was an old-fashioned thrashing!  I’m listening to Amazon’s Choral Music station while on the deck sipping coffee in the sunny beautiful weather.  That’s livin’!!

Posted 13 August 2017 by Gene Vogt in Uncategorized

Another Year Older…   Leave a comment

1 January 2017

Another New Year’s in Maine.  Lynn and I came up on the day after Christmas and will stay through until the 2nd of January – the best way to ring in the new year – after a peaceful lead-uimg_6974-1200x900p to Christmas and Christmas itself.  Megan and Dan hosted another great Christmas Eve party at their house, with parents and in-laws and siblings and friends, then we had Audrey and Megan and Dan over to our house Christmas morning for breakfast (Eggs Benedict and lox and bagels) and stockings and gifts.  Then Megan and Dan headed to Dan’s parents’ house, Audrey got ready to drive to New Jersey for the week, and Lynn and I headed to my sister’s annual open house down the street.  We did the same things we often do, but it seemed much less frantic this year – nice.

The next day we packed up the CX-5 and hit the road at noon for the ride up to the Ballot Box.  We stopped for lunch in Rowley, and got up here around 4:00 pm (4:06 pm, according to the webcam motion-detection video generated by the car driving into the driveway), unpacked the car, turned up the heat in the house, and headed out to an early dinner at the Damariscotta River Grill – one of our favorite restaurants in the area.

img_7067-1200x900We puttered around Tuesday and Wednesday and got ready for Susan’s and Paul’s New Year’s Eve visit starting Thursday afternoon.  Thursday night we grilled Faroe Island salmon for dinner, and Friday we had tickets for the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens’ “Gardens Aglow” light show where they string about a half-million lights through the trees and let you walk around in the glow after sunset… spectacular.  2016-12-30-18-32-01-1200x675After the gardens, we had a reservation at the Boothbay Craft Brewery’s Watershed Tavern for the premier table in front of the fireplace – a great place to warm up and have a great dinner after admiring a half-million lights outside in the cold Maine winter.

Saturday, we drove north to Morse’s European Deli for a brunch-style lunch and some European food shopping, then we cooked six lobsters and a slab of swordfish for dinner.  Paul and Susan provided a giant 3+ pint bottle of Christmas/New Year Holiday Ale from 2016-12-31-17-49-56-1200x675Anchor Brewing in San Francisco to go with the seafood for our New Year’s Eve feast.  After dinner, we introduced Paul and Susan to the New Year’s Eve tradition that we acquired while living in Germany – watching the 18-minute Burlesque play that captivates German TV on the 31st of December each year: Dinner for One.  None of us lasted until the stroke of midnight.

New Year’s Day we all slept a little later than usual, had a good bacon-and-eggs breakfast with English muffins and coffee and tea, and bid adieu to Paul and Susan.  We’ll stay an extra day and head home tomorrow to return to the real world and begin another year’s trials and tribulations.  Back on the treadmill way too soon!

Frohes neues Jahr!

Posted 1 January 2017 by Gene Vogt in Uncategorized

Dereliction of Duty… Again…   Leave a comment

8 NOV 2016

Sheesh!  Five-plus months since the last blog entry.  Every once in a while I drop the ball big-time!

It’s mostly been a quiet summer at the Ballot Box; we’ve been fairly consistent with our every-other-weekend visiting pattern.  The heat that stifled most outdoor activities at the TreeHouse down south was evident at the Ballot Box as well.  We broke down and finally bought a third window air conditioner for our bedroom (a small one in the quilt-studio/guest-room and a medium-sized one in the living room had served us for the past six summers).  It made sleeping much more comfortable.

Lynn headed up by herself on Tuesday the 14th of June, while I came up on the train on Thursday. We both drove down on Sunday the 19th.  Summer traffic hadn’t ramped up yet so the drive south was not bad.  We added an extra day to the long 4th of July weekend, heading up on Thursday the 30th of June and heading down on Tuesday the 5th of July.  That extra day kept us out of the usual end-of-the-holiday-weekend summer traffic heading south again.

28578171592_5f55ef7f1f_hIn July a former MITRE colleague made good on her promise to come visit us in Maine.  Christine flew north to Logan Airport from the DC area on Friday morning, July 29th, and Gene picked her up and pointed the Cadillac northward (Lynn had headed up on her own on Wednesday the 27th).  We stopped at the best lobster roll shack in Yarmouth ME – Day’s Crabmeat and Lobster  – for the quintessential Maine lunch: Lobster Rolls (we added some fried clams to the feast as well), and arrived at the Ballot Box around 1 pm.  After introductions, delivery of luggage to the guest-room, and a leisurely afternoon decompressing from travel, dinner at the Ballot Box was 2 & 1/2 pounds of grilled Faroe Island salmon and six ears of local corn (for three, not each!).

Lunch Saturday was at Schooner Landing (lobster stew and lobster mac and cheese for Christine, clam chowder and smoked oysters and salmon for me, clam chowder and a Caesar salad topped with fried oysters for Lynn).  The view was spectacular (as usual), the weather was perfect, a great place to while away the afternoon. Lynn wasn’t feeling ship-shape after lunch so she stayed at the house while Gene took Christine on a whirlwind tour of the mid-coast area and Pemaquid Point. First stop was at a new distillery in town (Split Rock Distilling) that was in the midst of a soft opening.  We sampled their offerings, and 28606036871_71234c6548_bGene bought some horseradish-infused vodka and some 175-proof vodka/firewater. From there we headed down to Christmas Cove near the tip of the peninsula for the quaint Maine villages and spectacular viewpoints, and then to stops at some of our favorite lobster pounds to choose where to have a classic shore dinner for our evening meal.  And the winner was – twin lobsters, steamers, and corn for each of us at Muscongus Bay Lobster Pound.

Sunday was the trip back south to dreaded civilization (Lynn stayed up at the Ballot Box for a few more days).  We made a second stop at Day’s Crabmeat and Lobster for lunch, where I showed Christine the trick I figured out for avoiding the tourist lines AND getting more lobster for your dollar… attached to the touristy lobster shack (with touristy lines) is a lobster pound where you can buy live lobsters – AND – pre-picked lobster meat!  No lines at the lobster pound; all the tourists were in line for lobster rolls at the shack.  WE each bought a half-pound container of picked lobster meat for a little more than the price of a single lobster roll (enough meat for more than two lobster rolls in each container).  Then we grabbed plastic forks from the lobster shack, and sat out by the water on a picnic table, eating our lobster meat! Bliss!  We also consumed 18 self-shucked oysters over the weekend (some with some of that horseradish-infused vodka – an awesome combination)!  Clearly, seafood was a top priority on this trip!!  Traffic was better than anticipated so we got down to the Boston area in time to take a quick sightseeing tour of historic Lexington and Concord before heading in to Logan Airport for Christine’s departure.

30497579395_c20acc461a_hThe fourth weekend in October brought the sixth 2016-10-21-18-01-21aannual “Goods from the Woods” party at Oxbow Brewery in Newcastle – my fifth (I missed the first one).  Bob and I have gone to three Oxbow parties now (a tradition!), so this had been planned since before the summer.  Lynn headed up the Wednesday before (the 19th), and picked my sister Joanne up at the Kennebunk rest plaza on the Maine Turnpike.  Jo had been visiting a friend in Kennebunkport (not either of the Georges, or Barbara or Laura) and hitched a ride up for a weekend visit.  Bob and I headed up Thursday night after work.  We stopped at our usual dinner place – Buck’s Naked BBQ in Freeport, and got to the house about 8:30 pm.  Friday was a telecommuting day for Bob and I, and Lynn and Jo poked around the shops in town.  Friday dinner was six boiled lobsters for three of us and a slab of grilled swordfish for Bob. Saturday was the party at the Brewery (a great time, as usual – photos here) and Sunday was a southbound trek for three of us while Lynn stayed at the house for the next week, heading south by herself on the 30th.

Sprinkled in amongst those extra-long weekends and occasional visitors were a bunch of our usual weekends where we head north on a Thursday afternoon, I work by telecommuting on Friday for some or most of the day, we have Saturday to ourselves, and pack up and head south on Sunday.  We’d often squeeze in some favored rituals; puttering in the yard if the weather cooperated (cobblestones being placed around the gardens as edgers, slowly clearing out the future birch grove of anything that’s not birch, attempting to reclaim the meadow on the street-side of the front yard, etc.), grilled Faroe Island salmon for dinner Friday or Saturday night, serial BBC TV shows (Midsomer Murders, Poirot, Broadchurch, Winter, Miss Fisher’s Mysteries, Crossing Lines, Inspector George Gently, Foyle’s War, etc.) on Netflix or Amazon/Acorn at night, and an occasional lobster dinner at Shaw’s or Muscongus or Pemaquid Co-op.

The summer and most of the fall has passed by quickly at the Ballot Box.  Snow stakes and outdoor Christmas lights will be placed on the next visit.  This is the time of year that the line from the Clement Clarke Moore poem comes to mind…  “As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly, When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.”  In case it’s another five months before I get around to adding to the blog, we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and Happy Valentine’s Day!!

Posted 9 November 2016 by Gene Vogt in Uncategorized