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

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! 😉

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

Winter Finally Arrived… WHAM!   Leave a comment

5 March 2017

2017-02-17_07-41-19-50pct20x_It was an uneventful start to the new year until recently.  Light flurries, not much snow, so little in fact that I kept forgetting to attach the snow measurement stake to the fence post so we could gauge the approximate snow depth using the webcam image.  Finally attached it on the 15th of January (first appearing on the next day’s noon snap archive) – still mostly bare ground.

Got dustings that hung around for a day or two until the 7th of February, when we got about 6 inches that prompted a visit from my plow man. From then it snowed 6-8 inches every few days so that by the time we showed up on the evening of the 16th of February there was close to 2 feet of snow on open ground. My plow guy kept up with it all (six visits over eight days), but I didn’t contract with him to shovel a path to the door, so that was my job upon arrival… in the dark.

The snow density was significant. It didn’t fall light and fluffy, there was some moisture in it.  Then the temperature must’ve fallen because the snow ended up being a bit stiff.  The best technique for shoveling was to cut the snow into shovel-sized blocks first, then shovel the cut blocks off to the side.  The snow was deeper than a shovel-thrust, so I cut two levels of courses each time.  It took a while, but the blocks were stable so the shoveling only required lifting, not lifting and balancing.

The next morning was a workday for me (Friday telecommuting – thank goodness for the internet!), but about 6:45am there was a knock on the door and the propane delivery guy was there, saying the snow was too deep to drag the propane hose around the back of the house to fill the tank.  I asked if he could come back tomorrow morning and I would shovel a path around the back of the house for him by then. So every couple of hours I would take a break from the computer and go out to shovel more igloo blocks out of the snow in a path around the back of the house.  Lynn took care of shoveling off the deck so we could refill the bird feeders. It was a bit of work to hand-shovel the paths, but I know how to shovel with my legs instead of my back and I took frequent breaks (I had telecommuting work to do as well), so it ended up ALMOST being enjoyable – out in the bright cold air, getting exercise!  The propane guy delivered without a problem the next (Saturday) morning. A full set of pictures (it was pretty in spite of the work) can be viewed here.

Once we left and headed back south, Mother Nature teased the mid-coast area with 3-4 days of late-Spring-like weather (sunny, temperature hitting 65°F), so the ground is back to being mostly bare.  Perhaps winter is over, but one can never be sure.  I’ll put the shovels away sometime in May…

Posted 5 March 2017 by Gene Vogt in Maine, Newcastle, The Ballot Box, Winter

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

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