Clams Connect with Conservation in Lamoine

At our Lamoine Town meeting on April 7th citizens passed the Frenchman Bay Regional Shellfish Conservation Ordinance with 6 other nearby towns, closing the last unregulated clam flats in the state of Maine. Frenchman Bay has been luckier than most areas in the last five years,  it has missed the red tide closures that have hit the rest of the coast every summer.  Everyone flocked here though, and our clam flats are feeling the pressure of so many commercial clam diggers looking for a good spot. Many folks say the harvest is down by over 40%. Over the past several years, most of Maine’s clam flats have been repeatedly closed to diggers because of “red tide,” an influx of microorganisms containing the toxin that causes paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP). The toxin doesn’t affect the shellfish, just the people who eat them.

There has to be something good about red tide, a terrible toxin to people, and I think it’s silver lining is that it  led to conservation for clams. The new ordinance goes into effect in June 21st, 2010 if all the towns pass it. Three more have their votes coming up in May.

SeaCat's Flats

Did you know you can dig clams in Bar Harbor or Southwest Harbor, you just have to pay $40.00 for a license for a non- resident?  It allows you one peck (2.33 gallons) per day, and it’s good for a year. For a day’s license you will spend $10.  Strict attention has to be paid to closures due to red tide or pollution; go here to find out.

Finally, some new protection for the clam flats around Lamoine, Hancock, Franklin…..The sad news is that no longer can tourists just run right out in Lamoine and dig up a bunch of clams. Now they will have to hook up with a resident of one of the 7 towns who has purchased his recreational license and watch the clams get dug or purchase a non-resident recreational license. For a small fee per year ($11) one peck of clams can be taken every 24 hours-a great deal compared to the island. This is a small piece to play in a much larger effort to keep clams on everyone’s table for the future.   One peck – between 15-18 pounds is quite enough clams for a large group of folks; assuming one pound per person or 4 ounces of meat.    It’s a generous amount, and usually more than the casual clam digger needs.

Of course to collect clams you also have to check that the area is open for clamming. There are three reasons that flats get closed. The first is to re-grow clams babies. The second is pollution – usually this can occur after a very heavy storm that has washed out debris from the land and point source pollution. The third reason is red tide, and it’s usually a regional closure.

Lamoine’s shores are called eastern Frenchman Bay.
To check for closures in our area, you can also call this number for the Marine Resources Hotline* Division II: Includes the area from the eastern shore of the St. George River to the Canadian Border. Their number is 667-3373.

If you are calling from a touchtone phone and want access to red tide closures, press 1 now. If you want information about the current status of a flood closure, press 2 now. If you want information on the status of conditionally approved harvest areas press 3 now. If you want information on swim beach monitoring, press 4 now. If you are calling from a rotary phone, stay on the line and you will hear all messages

The ordinance also includes a trespass violation. If a landowner warns a clamming person not to trespass once, and it happens again, they can be fined. After three violations of any sort the digger loses his license. This should make many folks along the shore happy. It’s pretty disturbing to come back home after work and find a strange truck or car in your yard. Commercial diggers are courteous and hard working however, and now they will be local. If you buy a license, make sure you have it when you dig!

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Lamoine and the French Connection

This is a continuation in my series on Acadia history. We last visited the early settlement of Mt. Desert Island and touched briefly on the part played by  Marie Therese De La Mothe De Gregoire and how she was granted title to the eastern half of the island. Her timing was such that she was able to assist friends and family escaping from the atrocities of the French Revolution, setting them up with tracts of land. One of these compatriots was Madame Rosalie Bacler de la Val, who also became a land speculator. She joined forces with some of the other landholders and envisioned a French colony just across Frenchman Bay from Madame Gregoire’s Hulls Cove, in what is now Lamoine, sometime around 1790 (from the New England Magazine, August 1900):


We can be fairly confident that in Lamoine, or as it was once known, Fontaine Laval, the early days were filled with as many bonjours as hellos. Madame La Val’s visions of a French cultural outpost may have crumbled with her fortunes–her business partners were said to be incompetent. But a scan of the graveyards and historical texts show a fair number of French names.  Louis des Isles emigrated from France to Lamoine about 1791, no doubt at Madame la Val’s invitation. He married Mary Googins, and both family names exist on Lamoine’s road signs.

As for Madame la Val, her misfortunes were only temporary. Sadly, she gave up on Maine but prospered in British Guiana, where she married the governor, owned several plantations, lived the high life and died wealthy.

So what about our town’s name? With Madame la Val’s exit went her name for our town and until the late 1800s we were known as Trenton, or rather included in the larger town of Trenton. In 1870 we broke off and chose the name Lamoine after an early settler, Andre LeMoyne, not coincidentally, a Frenchman. Lamoine’s French heritage is directly attributed to France’s help in the Revolutionary War. Without France, we would have been beaten at Yorktown. For a unique site about early Lamoine history check out Carolyn Holland’s

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Getting the Best Lobster Value

Vegetarians, please look away. This post is for people who can’t wait for their Maine lobster. Finding a fair place to buy here on the shore is not that “hahd”, we know local Lamoine fishermen and women you can buy from. But then there are all those other questions, like, “What does the meat actually cost per pound?” and, “Which size lobster has the best price per pound of meat?”, and finally, “What about soft shell versus hard shell?”. Truth is, I’m not sure I can answer these tough questions without a little research. I will make the sacrifice for science and buy three different sized lobsters so we can get to the bottom of this. I will not be able to answer the soft shell question as at this time of year, all lobster are hard shell.

One of the assumptions about lobsters that I hear a lot is that there will be more meat as a proportion of total weight in a larger lobster. This is what I want to test. If I do find this to be true, then the question will be whether the extra meat will be worth the extra cost per pound for a larger lobster.  There are usually three sizes, or rather size ranges of lobsters. The first is 1.0-1.25 lbs, the next is 1.25-1.5 lbs and the third is over 1.5 lbs. Usually each larger category fetches an extra $1 or so in price.

Now I have my three lobsters. The smallest  is 1.03 lbs and costs $7.79 per pound. The next is 1.42 lbs and costs $8.79 per pound while the biggest is 1.74 lbs and costs $9.79 per pound. After cooking by the method below it’s time to weigh the meat. I will ignore the little legs and interior meat for this test. The smallest lobster has 2.54 ounces of meat for a ratio of 2.46 ounces per pound of whole lobster. The cost per pound then is $50.55. The middle sized has 2.45 ounces of meat for a ratio of 1.73 ounces per pound of whole lobster. The cost per pound is $81.46. Finally, the biggest lobster has  4.037 ounces of meat for a ratio of 2.32 ounces per pound of whole lobster. The cost per pound is $67.54.

First of all, is anyone else floored by the cost of the cooked meat? These prices are quite surprising! The rule of thumb is that meat only makes up about 20% of the lobster by weight, so it is logical that it should cost at least 5 times the price of the whole lobster.

The other shocker is how the weight of the meat seems to have little to do with the overall size of the lobster. Perhaps the question could be resolved with more data, but I can’t afford it. Maybe the meat proportion has to do with the way the lobster are handled; maybe storage in a winter pound denies exercise and the bigger ones lose more muscle mass?

I end up with more questions than I’ve answered. Now I’m going to have to try this again with fresh caught lobster from the boat instead of the supermarket. But first I’ll need to let my bank account recover.

• How do I prepare my lobsters?
o Fill a large (I use 5 gallon) pot half to two-thirds full with water.
o Add two large handfuls of seaweed (from the shore-low tide) to the pot.
o Set your burner to high heat and bring water to a rolling boil. This may take some time!
o Add lobsters to the pot head first, making sure that they are completely
submerged. I like to cut off the claw bands.
o Cover the pot tightly and return to a boil as quickly as possible. Watch for foaming!
o Once water is boiling again, cook the lobsters 10 minutes for the first
pound and 3 additional minutes for each additional pound. Example: cook a
two-pound lobster for approximately 13 minutes.
o When the lobsters turn a bright orange-reddish color and their tails curl,
they are done.
o Prepare some melted butter and lemon for dipping while the lobsters cool down.
o I like to provide some heavy duty scissors to open up the shells, a large discard bowl and plenty of napkins!

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Geocaching in Lamoine will lead you to SeaCat’s Rest

Have a GPS? Want to find treasure? Want to create a mystery for others to solve? Like to have fun without spending a bunch? Like going on line and want to combine history and geography. Try Geocaching…..

All of a sudden about four years ago we started seeing more folks drive down our road, stop at the middle, and then turn around and leave. It turns out our drive was part of the Geocach adventure. This is really a treasure hunt activity. We have a group of deer that use our meadow/woods as their sleeping place. As a result, you can see them every day as they wander home and wake up to seek out their breakfast. A picture of one of our does turned up on a Geocach website standing beside our driveway.

winter drive

Find a small box or container that contains some objects. Take an object, leave an object. The main adventure is to find some lovely spots while learning a bit of history. I think half the fun is setting up a spot around your own house and watching, waiting for others to find and enjoy the discovery.

The clue is a GPS location. Then there are some descriptions of the area, clues really. In addition, some suggestions as to what you will find at certain times of day. For example, since we have a deer yard near us, you can almost always spot a doe and fawn right after sunset around the field to the east of our driveway. In the morning, you may see the eagle our neighbor feeds near their pond. In the Fall you might even see two eagles, one with a white head, and one without, as the parents train their young eagle to hunt and scavenge food.

road to SeaCat's Rest

For more information on Geocaching,,,,go to their website

Geocaching is a high-tech treasure hunting game played throughout the world by adventure seekers equipped with GPS devices. The basic idea is to locate hidden containers, called geocaches, outdoors and then share your experiences online. Geocaching is enjoyed by people from all age groups, with a strong sense of community and support for the environment. Search for a geocache below or learn more about getting started.

A lot of folks are not aware, but almost every GPS for the automobile can be utilized to find specific coordinates, so take the challenge and add another layer of fun on your next vacation. An email off of a geo-cache site recently had this advice to an upcoming visitor to Maine.

When are you coming to the state? It would be nice if there were an event going while you’re here. There are many on Mt Desert to do that are nice. Hunters Beach Hunt (GCGPXG) by Parmachenee (2.5/3) is one I especially like. Hope you have a great time.

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Starting the Peppers in Lamoine

The summer breezes off the ocean, which start up about 10 am are not good for growing peppers or tomatoes. While they lure visitors escaping the heat from the rest of the country, those 70° F winds can frustrate seaside gardeners. It works like this: The sun beats down on the land. The land heats up the air above it. The air rises and creates a low pressure which gets filled by the cooler heavier air over the water. And that is the origin of the on-shore breeze. It is pretty much independent of the prevailing wind direction, which at our spot happens to be southwest to northeast anyway, adding to the breeze. Move a quarter mile inland and the breeze warms up. This ocean tempering is responsible for our microclimate; cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter, as long as the saltwater doesn’t freeze (it didn’t this winter). The ocean temperature is very slow to change. The constant churning of the tides keeps the water pretty cool in summer, at a maximum of about 63°F. In winter it usually drops only to the mid 30’s.

Bhut Jolokia, hottest pepper on earth.

Anyway, back to the peppers. My solution was to build a greenhouse. This, along with a few wind barriers creates a place where heat-loving vegetables can grow in our long but cool season. I’m nuts about peppers. I search the world looking for the hottest. The current front runner is the Bhut Jolokia from the state of Assam in India.  This boy is like pepper spray in a pod at over a million Scoville Heat Units. A few weeks ago I burned my hands just planting the seeds. I don’t have much use for this toxic produce but I’m committed to growing a few plants each year just to keep up the seed stock and to dare the occasional hotshot to eat a rice-sized slice.  I can feel sweat on my forehead just thinking about it. I got the seeds from The Chile Pepper Institute, part of the the New Mexico State University. A recent article reports that this pepper is being weaponized by the Indian military; they’re using it to make a “Chili Grenade” to use in the fight against terrorists!

My main crop is the standard yellow or orange bell pepper which this year I am growing from seeds taken from a supermarket pepper. Last year I was picking this variety from my greenhouse into December. I don’t heat my greenhouse; freezing temperatures usually don’t get inside until December at the earliest. My other favorites are sweet yellow banana and jalapeño. Both of these varieties are early and prolific. Colored bells are the crowning glory but yellow bananas are the workhorses. I also grow a few other hot peppers for custom paprikas. After tasting your own paprika you can’t go back to store-bought!

While the sun is strong but the pepper plants are small I squeeze in a crop of spinach or other greens. These are sewn in directly as soon as the ground thaws and temperatures moderate. The greenhouse produces food for us almost year round, and many plants come up year after year without being planted. We have a few bunching onions which serve as an emergency supply when we’re out. Claytonia has popped up and will be starring in a salad soon. Cilantro/coriander has seeded itself and claims a corner. Spring is here!!

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Rent a House for Family Memories & Great Meals

Thinking back on my childhood, I loved that we spent a week in one nice spot. Renting a vacation home can create family memories, enable you to spend quality relaxing time together as a family. Cooking together for me enables a family to provide a merging of home life with vacation excitement, just what the kids need.

Many folks don’t think about cooking on vacation, but it is key to making your children feel at home in a strange new environment. Our family created four memory filled vacations by renting places with a home-like environment and spending time exploring the surrounding area. Cooking one or two meals together gave the adults a chance to explore the new and unusual foods, but gave our children the security of knowing that if they wanted their normal food, it was available to them. Also at our place, you get privacy and your own out-door space to enjoy the fresh air, water and woods all around. A picnic in your door yard, as they say in Maine.

Eric Clapton's Chelsea Residence

It also stretched our dollar further, enabling us to stay longer. We stepped into urban shoes in London, renting a flat in a nice building in a beautiful area a few blocks from Eric Clapton’s house. We were entertained just by walking around the streets by the history and pace of a large city. We spent days in museums and loved the theatre excitment. Being able to get around with mass transit was a nice difference to our rural lifestyle.

Going to a wedding, we spent a week on a small lake in rural Michigan – and created a stable place for my aging father who never likes to travel. Having his own room where he could walk out and mingle with all the kids and their kids’ kids. We were able to have a barbecue and eating became a celebration in itself. The small kids spent endless time exploring the shore and water. We got a house large enough for 4 groups to stay together.

Granada from Alhambra

We spent a week exploring southern Spain, staying in a condominium.  I have to say, because it was the cool season, we really only used the place at the start and end of our day, spending the rest of the time driving through the surrounding area.  We explored some incredible historical cities, ruins and Alhambra. Driving in Spain was an adventure. We were able to visit the Picasso museum in Malaga, something not easy to forget. Cooking with local food was an adventure too. It enabled us to sample local cheeses and thrive despite the local custom of eating dinner after 10pm, our usual bedtime….those Spaniards!

We spent anther wedding week in southern California, LA land. Staying in a house where again three families were under one roof. We were able to host the rehearsal dinner party there, around our own pool. I have to say that getting around on the highways was a bit challenging for this rural resident.

So keep looking at renting a house for vacation this time. The best part is accommodating a group size of your choosing, whether it is a family of 4 or a family gathering of 16. Vacation memories await you.  If you need a two bedroom suite on the ocean, please consider our SeaCat’s Rest.

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Maine Coon Cats / One Cat Too Many…..

How do you know you have one cat too many?    Well, you start with one or two and build up slowly till weird things keep happening.   Then you are stuck.   SeaCat’sRest has one cat too many at this time.   There.  I’ve admitted it.  A very nice cat named Blacky is available for a new home.   She loves people but not other cats at this point in her life.   Anyone want a warm, fuzzy, happy to be alone lap cat?

Maine coon cats are really the topic of this blog.   They are the latest two additions to our home.   We have a pair of cats with all their parts and the thought was that we would have kittens available to start a home business of sorts, but that has not happened.    But the resulting conflicts of  the cat-kingdom have forced us to do something we have never done before, keep a cat in one room.   My office has become the home of our male coon cat Photon- the one on the ladder.   Now I work from home, spending 70 hours every other week in this room, so he is not alone by any means.   He is not very excited about that limitation.   However our other three cats agree with us that that is the best solution.

Maine coon cats are an interesting breed.   They are larger cats, they both love water and play in it.   They will follow you around, wanting to be near you and just hang with you when you go about gardening or chores around the house.  Want to find our cat Sophie?   Run some water in the bathroom and she shows up.    I have two “water buckets” around the house just so she can splash around every day.    If I don’t do that, she will splash out all the water in the cat’s water bowl.    Photon has his head butt welcome to folks that come to see him.   If you sit in the right chair he will climb up and push his face into your face to say hello, purring like crazy.   They love to climb and spent a lot of time climbing ladders to the roof this summer while Bruce was painting the house.

I know, spaying our cats will solve this problem.    I will do that eventually, but I’d still like to see some kittens and there is always my outdoor cat pen for the summer cat-house. In the meantime, if you want to get to know a couple of Maine coon cats (outside of course!) before you get your own, come on down and stay at SeaCat’sRest. I also have to give honorable mention to our third wonderful cat Murlmel, who is a Norwegian forest cat (the orange cat on our photo page. Blacky, who will be 15 this year is the cat that no longer likes other cats around. She is a true Maine barn cat, and has a wonderful relationship with all of our guests.   She is the one looking for another place to call home.

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The Lamoine Town Dump

OK,  so they don’t call it the dump anymore. After the dump it was the sanitary landfill, then the transfer station. In some towns it’s called the Recycling Center. It’s the place everyone in Lamoine visits once a week unless they pay Rusty to pick up their garbage. It’s also the place treasures are found.

Cool stuff found at the dump.

One of the smartest things some unknown solid waste person came up with was the Swap Shop. The Swap Shop is one of the highlights of many of our visitors’ Saturdays, and is a separate building well removed from the trash. People bring in books, dishes, vacuum cleaners and other appliances, electronics and toys and before they leave, pick out a few things to bring home. Some things need no fixing,  some need a simple repair, others get returned the next week. The book collection is extensive. I call it the Lamoine Landfill Lending Library just for fun even though most of what ends up in landfills these days is ash from the Orrington waste-to-energy plant. Last Saturday I picked out a book from 1934 called Dry-Gulch Adams by Peter Field. My brother-in-law likes westerns so I thought I’d have it on hand for his next visit. Just for fun I looked it up on amazon and they had one used copy for $125! Any buyers? Other big finds include watercolor paintings, drills, rice cookers, keyboards, ice augers, vacuums and radios.

We try to get our real trash down to one or two bags a week by separating out glass, plastics, metal cans cardboard and paper, all of which have their own destinations at the transfer station. Maine also has a 5 cent bottle return law which the transfer station makes available as a fundraiser. In 2009, $1,718 was raised for various community groups. Overall, the State of Maine recycles 36% of its waste (by weight) and another 35% ends up in the incinerator at Orrington. The rest goes into landfills.

Need some flower pots?  A length of rope? An aquarium? Wait until Friday or Saturday before running out to the store and swing by the transfer station’s swap shop. Not only will you keep things out of the landfill or incinerator, you may get what you need for FREE!

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Lamoine’s Seal Cove Farm

A little over two miles from SeaCat’s Rest is a fantastic seaside goat dairy.  Seal Cove Farm has been in existence for just over 30 years and is part of a growing trend toward hand-crafted local cheeses.  These cheeses are as different from Kraft as Maine’s Geary’s Hampshire Special Ale is from Bud.  About 125 goats freely roam the rocky farm and a roadside farm stand is opened from noon to 4PM, closed Mondays.  Seal Cove cheeses can also be purchased locally from Hannaford Supermarkets, Sawyer’s Market in SW Harbor and the Town Hill Market, but if you want a wider selection, go to the farm stand.  You will also have the option of taking a tour of the farm, meeting the working dogs and finding out about how cheese is made.  At the farm stand you will have the choice of feta, fresh and aged chèvre and blended varieties.  Feta is curds of goat or sheep cheese cured in brine, while chèvre is simply the French word for goat.  Seal Cove feta is made from goat milk, but your supermarket’s feta may not be.  Chèvre is by definition, made from goat’s milk only and is characterized by a somewhat more acidic flavor than cow’s milk cheese. The protein content is higher, the fat content is similar but is considered more digestible. Goat milk is said to be more similar to human breast milk.

Seal Cove also offers some cheeses made from blended goat and local cow milk.  Cheddar-like “Olga” has a semi hard rind and is aged for over 60 days. “Pearl” can be compared to a brie and “Moo Maine” is all organic cow’s milk. Many of these offerings are available with spices, herbs,  fruits and nuts and make superb gifts.

A trip to Provence, France in 2002 gave the owners the opportunity to learn local French goat cheese making techniques and so they have brought that knowledge to Lamoine.  You don’t have to go to France.  If you stay in Lamoine for your Acadia visit, it’s a bike ride away!

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The Vacation Noise Factor

Barking dogs, busy roads, chainsaws and jet skis can ruin a beautiful spot.  How about that neighbor who feels he has to share his mufflerless motorcycle sound with everyone within a half mile? You can’t tell from the pictures or web pages. There’s a certain rule of thumb here in Maine. I don’t know why but the freshwater lakes are where you go if your idea of fun involves internal combustion. Here you will find soulmates who drive their speedboats and jet skis around in summer, snowmobiles in the winter and ATVs year round.  I was concerned about this when we bought our place in Lamoine on the ocean (Frenchman Bay), but my worry quickly evaporated.  I remember the first year we spent here the loudest thing was a woman singing opera across the water, and then a bagpiper a few days later. Neither of these has happened since. I miss the bagpipes.

Many people who stay with us ask about noise. We are sure to mention the airport 5 miles away but little airplanes are a lot quieter than they used to be.  Pleasure craft on the water are a rare occurrence; we get maybe one jet ski per year, usually on the Fourth of July. Lobster fisherman are more picturesque than noisy. The nearest road is not that busy, and it’s at the end of our quarter mile driveway.  The real source of most of the noise here is the birds. Crows and gulls are the loudest. When they fight the eagle he adds his squeeky wheel. Loons warble at sunset and in winter the long tailed ducks cackle in great flocks on the salt water.

I admit, I’m kind of anti-engine. I mow my lawn with an electric mower, trim my trees with an electric chainsaw and clean my house with an electric power washer. I own no outboard motors, motorcycles, snow blowers or motorized garden gadgets. I do have a generator for when the power goes out.  It’s quiet here. Not graveyard quiet but certainly buzz quiet. If you want to leave the buzz behind, stay at SeaCat’s Rest.

Long tailed ducks, Clangula hyemalis, just off our shore in February

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