October 2010 Archives

10/03/2010

Southwest Harbor Oktoberfest 2010

It’s almost time again for residents and visitors to the Acadia area to taste the full spectrum of Maine brewing expertise. On Saturday, October 9 from 12 noon to six pm Smuggler’s Den in Southwest Harbor will be alive with hundreds of beer lovers in three huge tents. Last year, 4000 people attended and with good weather 2010 should equal that. This is not to say that rain and  cold should affect anyone’s decision, the tents keep things dry and sheltered, at least until you have to make a run to the port-a-john (bring an umbrella just in case).  This year’s list of brewers include the following:

  1. Belfast Bay Brewing Co.
  2. Allagash Brewing Company
  3. Black Bear Brewery
  4. Marshall Wharf Brewing Co.
  5. Gritty’s
  6. Maine Beer Company
  7. Sea Dog Brewing Co.
  8. The Shipyard Brewing Co.
  9. Sunday River Brewing Co.
  10. Atlantic Brewing Co./Bar Harbor Cellars/Bar Harbor Brewing Co.
  11. Kennebec River Brewery
  12. Geary’s
  13. Sheepscot Valley Brewing Company
  14. The Liberal Cup
  15. Oak Pond Brewing Co.
  16. Sebago Brewing Company
  17. Peak Organic Brewing Company
  18. Penobscot Bay Brewery/Winterport Winery
  19. Blacksmith’s Winery
  20. Fatty Bumpkin’s Maine Draft Cider
  21. Andrew’s Brewing

$25 gets you into the brewtent with ten tickets for samples and a souvenir glass. Persons who want just to tag along for the music, food  and mayhem can get in for $10. This year, the wristbands you get with your admission can be used for discounts at local restaurants.

The food is not to be missed either. Among the standouts are SW Harbor’s Chow Maine, Bar Harbor’s Mainely Meat BBQ and Nostrano. The food tent features the live music of Mark Kanter & The Bluesboy Review and The Mainly Country Band, each trading one hour sets throughout the day.

Finally, the third tent features crafts and art from vendors throughout Maine. I will be focusing on the ultimate India Pale Ale. Current favorites include Marshall Wharf’s Cant Dog Imperial IPA, which is unavailable in bottles. In fact, my only visit to the brewpub in Belfast required such a long wait I had to give up. I had high hopes for  Allagash’s Hugh Malone IPA, which at over $16 a bottle should have been downright spiritual. The  folks at Allagash are mostly inspired by Belgian style ales, which I think is great, but I must confess that I can’t handle much of the yeast bite/sourness unique to the style. Hugh Malone sounded like an exception, but I should have known that “Belgian style IPA” meant cloudy and sour. Without wanting to sound too judgmental, the two styles just don’t belong together. Atlantic Brewing’s Special Old Bitter is good–if they bring it. Geary’s Hampshire Ale is my standard, though not called an IPA it is full bodied with nicely balanced boiling and finish hops.  I look forward to trying other highly hopped offerings from Marshall Wharf  (Big Twitch), The Liberal Cup (Old Hallow), Sebago (Fry’s Leap and Full Throttle), and Peak Organic (IPA). See you there! I’ll be the one with the smile.

This was last year's sign! Dates are wrong!

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10/09/2010

Mark Twain Weighs in on Seasons

Mark Twain, Feb 7, 1871

Mark Twain is celebrated as our first true American humorist, drawing on local color and speech and weaving stories which embody a unique American viewpoint. Among his early works was Roughing It, a rambling narrative about his directionless early years wandering the American West.

As we head into another fall and winter in Maine it is useful to hear from Twain’s impressions of New England as it relates to the changing seasons. After several years in Nevada and California he had this to say (chapter 56):

One of the queerest things I know of, is to hear tourists from “the States” go into ecstasies over the loveliness of “ever-blooming California.” And they always do go into that sort of ecstasies. But  perhaps they would modify them if they knew how old Californians, with the memory full upon them of the dust-covered and questionable summer greens of Californian “verdure,” stand astonished, and filled with worshiping admiration, in the presence of the lavish richness, the brilliant green, the infinite freshness, the spend-thrift variety of form and species and foliage that make an Eastern landscape a vision of Paradise itself. The idea of a man falling into raptures over grave and sombre California, when that man has seen New England’s meadow-expanses and her maples, oaks and cathedral-windowed elms decked in summer attire, or the opaline splendors of autumn descending upon her forests, comes very near being funny–would be, in fact, but that it is so pathetic.

Although a tropical landscape seems especially inviting to New Englanders in about February, it’s nice to hear Twain’s warning:

No land with an unvarying climate can be very beautiful. The tropics are  not, for all the sentiment that is wasted on them. They seem beautiful  at first, but sameness impairs the charm by and by. Change is the  handmaiden Nature requires to do her miracles with. The land that has  four well-defined seasons, cannot lack beauty, or pall with monotony.  Each season brings a world of enjoyment and interest in the watching of  its unfolding, its gradual, harmonious development, its culminating  graces–and just as one begins to tire of it, it passes away and a  radical change comes, with new witcheries and new glories in its train.  And I think that to one in sympathy with nature, each season, in its turn, seems the loveliest.

Right now in the Acadia area of Maine we have one of those seasons. A nip of frost, rapidly reddening leaves, low autumn sun and sudden weather changes awaken new (old) instincts as our human animal prepares for the coming challenges. It’s a great time to visit as lodgings are cheaper and restaurants and other attractions are still open. It is an especially great time for Californians to visit if they want to see the “opaline splendors of autumn”.

"Opaline Splendors of Autumn"

Read the full book as well as many others of Twain’s at http://www.mtwain.com

Here is a page which features my distant cousin, actor  William Hooker Gillette, giving his (audio) impression of  his friend and neighbor Mark Twain. This is the closest thing we have to Twain’s voice.

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10/13/2010

Maine: First Dry State in 1851

From the New York Times, 1851

Maine occupies a unique position in the history of the temperance movement. It banned the sale and consumption of alcohol in 1851 and remained officially dry until the repeal of National Prohibition in 1934; a total of 83 years! The world’s first Total Abstinence Society was founded in Portland in 1815. This places Maine squarely at the beginning of the movement, and for a while temperance laws were referred throughout the country simply as “The Maine Law”.

To understand the motivation behind the movement, it is necessary to recall the drinking habits of Mainers of long ago. An entertaining way to find out is to watch The Strange Woman, a 1946 movie starring Hedy Lamarr. The movie is set in Bangor, Maine in 1824 and is free to view on line here. In the movie, the rum swilling crowds of lumberjacks and dock workers create a constant backdrop of chaos which is historically accurate. Our country was founded on drink. Even the Puritan ship Arabella carried three times as much beer as water for its transatlantic voyage in 1630. As trade with the West Indies increased, Mainers developed a taste for rum, especially along the coast. Cheap rum replaced beer and other homebrews, and the effects of the stronger drink began to be recognized for its negative effects. By 1785 The Falmouth Gazette became the first Maine newspaper to advocate temperate use of spirits. But as the years passed,  consumption rose, reaching a peak in 1830. Social ills like violence, spousal and child abuse and loss of work became rife (see the movie). The rise of the temperance movement started out as just that, a movement to temper or moderate one’s consumption of alcohol. But by mid century a new temperance movement emerged, one which took no prisoners and made no compromise.

Neal Dow

The leader of this movement was Maine’s “Napoleon of Temperance”, Colonel (later General) Neal Dow. He was the first to embrace the idea of a legislative solution to fight alcohol consumption as well as a total abstinence stance. This was in contrast to Maine’s governor at the time, William King, who besides being the founder of the first temperance association, enjoyed drinking wine. The Maine Law was established in 1851 and its influence spread nationwide.

This no-compromise approach was not without problems. First, there was Portland’s Rum Riot of 1855, when rumors spread of a cache of liquor in the city hall. One person was killed. Second, the movement was overwhelmingly Protestant. The Irish and other Catholic immigrants were left out and bore the brunt of blame for illegal consumption. Finally, Prohibition never really worked. People kept on drinking and the criminal infrastructure necessary for supplying booze grew. The Maine Law was unpopular as was the loss of personal freedoms necessary for its enforcement. Life among the summer visitors to Bar Harbor continued in its usual spirited way.

From 1920 to 1934 National Prohibition created a huge demand for smuggled booze, and Maine was well positioned for this activity. Our borders were long and sparsely populated; Quebec and the French islands of St Pierre and Miquelon had no problem supplying the drink.

In the end, Prohibition served if not to eliminate drinking, to raise awareness about its adverse health and social effects. In this way, the original intent of the temperance movement, to encourage moderation, became ingrained in our society. Our state motto, “Dirigo”, means “I lead”. Maine certainly lead the way toward moderation.

visit the webpage "Rum, Riot and Reform" at mainehistory.org

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10/17/2010

Oktoberfest 2010 Afterword

The back of the line.

The beer tent was packed to the gills! Attendance seemed to equal or exceed last year’s. Once again, the star of the show was Marshall Wharf of Belfast. The new procedure for the avid sampler is to get in the twenty-deep Marshall Wharf line, get your glass filled and then return to the back of the line for next time. Marshall Wharf had a unique strategy of offering 11 different beers, available three at a time throughout the day. Their sign is a giant chalkboard, so the current offerings are written and erased as needed. You could easily use up all your tickets just on this one brewery. Excitement was generated and a shout went up when they announced a switch to a new trio of beers.

While MW really seemed to have nailed the Oktoberfest popularity contest, it must be remembered that breweries which don’t put their brews into bottles don’t have the inertia and expense associated with a bottling line. I don’t know how many of Saturday’s offerings could be sampled at any given day at the brewpub. I do know that for all their effort, I still have to go to Belfast during open hours if I want to taste their beer again. While the chalkboard and changeover hoopla may seem like gimmickry, their beer was fantastic. It is obvious they produce beers dense with ingredients, and no corners are cut. I vote for Cant Dog IPA as best of show.

Marshall Wharf bartender Seth

Some brews deserved more attention!

There were other fine offerings from other breweries. Since my tastes run toward highly hopped brews, I sought out the IPAs (India Pale Ales). Legend has it that Ales sent to India during the British occupation were infused with a high level of hops in order to preserve them for the long voyage. I found Sebago’s Frye’s Leap IPA and Geary’s Imperial IPA to be very good and deserving of more attention. Maybe if they got a chalkboard….

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10/20/2010

MDI Cranberries 2010

The wild cranberry crop on Mount Desert Island is still awaiting harvest, except for the several pounds I collected on Sunday the 17th. What was different about this year was the high water level: you have to harvest from a boat and reach into the water. The berries can be seen under 3-8 inches of water. Sticking your hand into late October water sounds cold, but as you glide over 6″ of water in your kayak you realize that, if you’re lucky enough to have a sunny day, the shallow water heats up fast. I have to say that harvesting this way has it’s advantages. No need for rubber boots or waders, no wet knees, no balancing act getting out and in. Also, the submersion in cool water seems to preserve the crop and extend the harvest. All the berries seemed to be at the same point of ripeness. And the berries float, so if you lose your grip they pop to the surface.

This little trip is never crowded

There’s really no reason not to get out and harvest your own. There’s a huge supply; the Northeast Creek flooding is hundreds of acres and it can be accessed from Rt. 3 in 15 minutes by kayak or canoe. Just park by the bridge 2 miles east from the MDI side of the causeway to Trenton. Perhaps the water level has dropped since my outing, so you may have to end up using boots. It is a beautiful time of year but weather and wind can change quickly, so be prepared. I would have had difficulty getting back if I had soloed in my eighteen foot canoe; the headwinds were very strong. The kayak was just fine.

Turn right at the hummock in the distance

The meandering Northeast Creek has quite a few boulders just under the surface. You may find yourself suddenly high and dry. It takes five minutes of paddling to leave the roar of civilization behind. Bird life has dropped a bit with the colder weather. Still, I saw ducks, kingfishers and great blue herons as usual. After 10 to 15 minutes of paddling you will emerge into the great boggy area where trees are rare and the water spreads out. Bear right at the hummock (photo) and you will find yourself following a canal where berries can be gathered from either side. If you don’t see them, paddle a few more minutes and check again. You should see this under the water:

If the water level is the same as it was on Sunday, you can just push your kayak into the grassy vegetation and start picking. Otherwise, look for a slot to run your boat into and get out. I always set my paddle vertical so I can spot my boat from afar. Watch out for holes in the bog mat if you’re walking-I’ve gone up to my knee sometimes. Can’t make it this year? Make sure you plan for 2011. Come for Oktoberfest and cranberries starting the first Saturday in October. We can set you up with lodgings and kayaks. Share your favorite cranberry recipe in the comments below!

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10/24/2010

Coastal House Problems In Lamoine

This dormer had to have all the trim and siding removed and ice and water shield installed. Rain blew in and dripped from the first floor ceiling.

This post is for anyone considering building or buying a house on the shore along the Maine coast. It may well apply to any windy, water exposed location. I work on mistakes made by builders and homeowners. First, save your heating/cooling money for heating only; or rather for heating and more insulation. Air conditioning really isn’t necessary unless climate change drops on us like a bag of rocks. Look at the historical weather data here and compare it to where you live. The few uncomfortable summer days (2 days over 90°F in 2010) can be dealt with by closing up the house or at most, a single window unit. Heating systems are marketed to be elaborate and expensive, but the more you insulate, the smaller and less complex your heating system needs to be.

Next, I suggest covering the whole ocean side with ice and water shield, not just Typar or Tyvek. Especially important is to use it where a second floor is recessed from the first floor roof like on a dormer. Imagine standing with a power washer and spraying your ocean side, that’s what a November or December storm is like. Horizontal rain.  This happened to me while I was building my house, I was lucky to see the effects before any damage resulted. The water shot right through my Typar housewrap.

I have not had a problem with ice dams on the roof, but I have seen quite a few on other houses. A friend had to install ice melting cables on a brand new addition because the builder didn’t use ice and water shield all the way up to the skylights. Again, I would use as much of the stuff as I could afford, especially on the ocean side and especially around any heat-leaking penetrations, right down to the eves. Don’t forget the valleys.

Windows: Don’t skimp. Andersen 200 series isn’t meant for shore exposure, 400 series is. I heard this from an Andersen representative. Friends with 200 series have leaks.  Also, look for a window company which warrants it’s windows against seal failure for as long as possible. This is the seal between the two panes of glass, and is especially important for skylights.

Siding: I loathe vinyl, but I can’t claim it underperforms if ice and water shield is used underneath on the ocean side. We have red cedar bevel siding and keep it up with Cabot solid color stain. The stain was applied before installation so the back side is protected. One coat lasts 5 years, 2 coats last 15. My next paint job is scheduled for 2024, I painted last year. I expect the south side will last maybe 11 years while the north side will go for 18. If you are considering cedar shingles, make sure you like the look of curly, discolored shingles. It may not be for you. Finally, avoid like the plague finger-jointed primed pine trim. The lumber yards still sell it, but it is a disaster waiting to happen. It will begin to rot out in 4-5 years. Builders still use it.

Architects love to get creative on the ocean side. They like huge windows and lots of dormers and intersecting rooflines. I like to tell people to imagine an overturned bowl and to try to build a house as close to it as possible. Think of the surface to volume ratio. Think of a big roof area toward the south for collectors or photovoltaics, with an ideal slope. Minimize windows on the north side. Build double walls to get in more insulation. I did double 2X4’s and filled the space with 8 inches of fiberglass. Put your garage on the north side. Consider three season rooms and porches that can be closed off in the heating season.

Some day you might do this

Not heating in the winter may be thought of as an option for vacation home owners. Realize, there will be consequences if you turn off the heat for the winter. The dew point will move inward, meaning that moisture will condense on interior walls, on clothing in closets and other confined spots like on the backs of couches. You will arrive in the spring to a strong mildew odor. Vinyl flooring will shrink and pull away from the walls in low temperatures. Plastic tubs will do strange things too. A little forethought would remedy this. Avoid plastic. Open closets and pull stuff away from walls. Keep a dehumidifier set to keep the air dry. Tell the plumber to slope pipes for easy drainage.

Finally, plan on a variety of energy options. If the price of heating oil becomes outrageous that pellet stove in the parlor will be welcomed. Will your heating system work if the power goes out for three days? It happens. Consider a standby generator. It needn’t be the automatic variety, just enough to run the fridge, the water pump, heating system and a few lights. I have a battery power back up for my computer that will last for two days. Our heating options include oil, solar, propane, wood and electricity.

I don’t mean to make it sound like living on the Maine shore is a struggle for survival, but there’s a certain satisfaction to having prepared for the worst, especially when the November gale is howling outside and you are warm and cozy on the inside.

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10/27/2010

Rumors by Neil Simon now playing at Lamoine Grange

Our resident playwright and theatrical director Carol Korty is now putting the finishing touches on our  talented acting company, Lamoine Community Arts (LCA) and their production of Neil Simon’s  farce Rumors.  Carol has graced us with her talent for many seasons and we marvel at how we became the chosen spot on the map for her “retirement”.

Rumors is a very funny play about what happens when upper class New York suburbanites attend an anniversary party in which nothing seems right and everything goes wrong. Mystery gunshots, missing persons, crashed BMWs,  and domestic squabbles give rise to a full spectrum of rumors and lies, all designed to protect and prop up an over-privileged and under-worked  group of “friends”. Watching their attempt to evolve false explanations and how they crumble is the fun of it all, and the ending is the twist which gives an added zing. So impressive was this ending that, I completely missed my cue to dim the lights in rehearsal. I hope to do better on Friday, October 29, when the first performance happens at 7 PM. Three other performances are scheduled for 7 PM on Saturday, October 30 and Saturday, November 6 with a final Matinee on Sunday, November 7th at 3 PM.Here in rural coastal Maine it is sometimes difficult to find cultural activities we may have had access to in large cities, especially in the cooler months. The solution for most of us is to create our own. In Lamoine we all try to help when people care enough to put a production together; by volunteering for food, set construction, advertising and of course, showing up to see the play. So get on over to Lamoine Corner (where Rt 184 makes a sharp turn east) and get ready for some laughs. The play is free but donations are accepted. 

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