Morning Dew

In our neighbourhood, we have an abundance of amazing organic farmers.

Trying to support them all is a worthwhile endeavour, and one that we attempt very lightly on Friday mornings at the Damarsicotta Farmers Market. Generally we try and grow much of our own produce, but this year, like a few before it, have been so loaded with our busyness that that simply wasn’t possible.  Enter in- the CSA.

Community Supported Agriculture is an incredible means of enjoying the summer’s bounty while helping the farmer. With a CSA, you pay up front for a season of goods (there are many around that supply milk, cheese, vegetables, meat, winter vegetables, sea food, etc, etc…) and throughout that season you pick up weekly amounts of the harvest.  It’s an amazing method, and worth the upfront if you can manage it. AND if it happens you can’t, many farmers now have been a part of a grant that allows them to take EBT cards for a half the cost while the other half is paid by the state. For many the ideal of a CSA is unreachable, and this makes it possible. See here for more information.

Bringing local home is what it is all about.

This season our family has a CSA through Morning Dew Farm of Newcastle. I’ve known Brady Hatch for years…(about 15…wow…) and met her husband Brendan about 7 years ago when we moved back from Portland. They were just starting up back then, and have since made quite a name and business for themselves in our small midcoast area. Their clientele includes specialty food stores (like Treats), local restaurants (like the Newcastle Publik House, the cafe at The Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens and Savory Maine), Rising Tide and Good Tern co-ops  as well as  just general everyday folk like you and me who happen upon their lovely goods. (Their salad provencal mix is AMAZING…whilst pregnant with my youngest I bought it by the pound and ate it for breakfast…it was the best cure for morning sickness that I found.)

This past Thursday my wee one and I arrived early to the farm and wandered while we waited. Such a lovely farm. (And, as always, it feels so good to see our food growing and know where it comes from!)

(This will be my last post until September, as we are busily trying to put some hard work in on our new house. I am passing the command over to Erin… See you in September in time for the Common Ground Fair! Happy summer all!  xo, ida)

The Alewives Return

No, not married women who drink ale. Fish. Specifically, this fish.

The  alosa psueodoharengus. Read more about the alewife here.

We are lucky enough to live close to Damariscotta Mills, which is technically located in Newcastle. Every year the Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder plays host to thousands of migrating alewives. It’s the oldest alewife fishery in the state of Maine! Watching the alewives return is an amazing sight. The water literally goes black with the fish and the gulls and other birds of prey have a grand time with an easy catch. So, we caught a break in the rain and decided to go welcome them back as they make their journey upstream to Damariscotta Lake.

I really wish I had caught a picture of the bald eagle we saw swooping down to pick up a fish. It was majestic. In a purple-mountained sort of way. Nature at her most impressive.

This makes an awesome field trip for any child fascinated by nature (wait, so any child!), but my one year old was also thrilled by the circling seagulls. We incorporated a study of the alewife into our lessons this week, so Emmaline recited fish facts while watching the action.

Memorial Day weekend will be a perfect time to go visit, as it’s the annual Damariscotta Mills Fish Ladder Restoration Festival. Their website promises a great time: “Join the fun as local cooks create special food–a pig roast on Saturday, homemade donuts and a chicken barbecue on Sunday, and lobster and crab rolls on Monday. There will be live music, activities for kids, demonstrations…probably even some smoked alewives to try.”

We attended last year and can attest that it IS a great time. There was a fantastic fish-centric puppet show and delicious food. Our favorite fabric store, not-so-coincidentally-named Alewives, also located in Damariscotta Mills, always joins in the festivities. According to their website, “Here at the shop, we’ll be painting faces, showing the Alewife documentary, selling ice-creams and sodas, and helping to raise money for the Fish Ladder Restoration Fund. A wonderful time is had by all on this very special weekend, and we can’t think of a better time to visit the shop!” I couldn’t have put it better myself! Any excuse to pick up some new fabric….

So, get yourself over to the fish ladder and mark the festival on your calendars!


The Mills (dreaming of summer!)

After the super bizarre weather at the end of March that had us at the beach, I have been dreaming of the days of summer that had us swimming nearly every day.

My oldest daughter LOVES the water, and always has. My youngest, however, thinks it is the absolute worst thing on earth. She hates it with a real and intense passion. (Anytime she nears the bath, she screams… I have been trying for a while to make it a calm and peaceful experience for her, to no avail. Mind numbing screams. I hope our neighbours forgive us…)

In any case. My oldest is a fish. And because of this, we were at water most of the summer last year, and she learned to swim. Something that, admittedly, took me until I was about 11 to do. (Shameful, huh, growing up on the coast of Maine? My love of water is closer to my youngest’s… I like it mostly for it’s cleaning purposes, but otherwise I like to sit on the sand…) My daughter’s absolute favourite swimming hole is Damariscotta Mills, which is, technically speaking, in the foggy area between Newcastle and Nobleboro.  There is a sweet shallow beach for the wee ones, sharp pointy rocks for the big kids, and a bridge for jumping for the adventuresome types.  Thankfully, my daughter still loves the side where there is a strip of sand and grass for the babies to play.

On some mornings (ones when I didn’t have to rush off to work) we would pack up our cooler full of snacks and head out the door, finding ourselves at the Mills before anyone else. It would often still require a long sleeve shirt for the first hour, and then layers would be shed and my girl would be up to her waist in the cool of Damariscotta Lake. I would have to remind her not to go too far, as much as she wanted to. She was bound and determined come summer’s end that she would swim to the middle. Ah, my little fish.

(The Damariscotta Mills swimming hole is a challenging place to find if you aren’t local and don’t know where you are… But if you can find Alewives Fabrics, you can find it. Just keep going up the hill!)


Damariscotta Shell Middens

Years and years and eons ago, on the coast of Maine there lived a group of oyster eating Native people. (And this is how I begin the story to my seven year old who asks the question, “How did all these shells get here, Mama? And stacked up on each other? And what about those ones across the river?”)

And right then and there, I realize that I have a library trip in my future, and some reading to do. Not to mention going to the Maine State Museum and taking explicit attention when I get to the section on the shell heaps.

All my life I have been fascinated by the people who lived here literally thousands of years ago. When I was my oldest daughter’s age (gulp…23 years ago…) the house we lived in in Phippsburg had the remains of a small fishing encampment in the bottom of the meadow near our house.  These remains were hard to date, some were believed to be prehistoric (not exactly sure how that is possible, but all the same…). When my stepfather was a child the remains of a woman was found- and her ancient bones taken and documented with the state. This was a famous finding- and since many such places have been found. When I was a child a research team came back and worked on the land at the bottom of our field. I spent literally days watching waiting and expecting with baited breath. I knew that they would find something incredible. They did find animal bones, arrowheads, ax heads and other tool pieces. It’s been years since I thought about this, and when my daughter asks about the shell heap remains not ten minutes from our home, I realize my fascination has only barely waned. I make a promise to find out.

And so, low and behold, what I find is that this area, as beautiful as it may be is a dump. Essentially. But in all truth, this is a kind of a dump that I can handle, it’s massiveness  is what is truly impressive. Not only are the heaps enormous, but they are on both sides of this river, which leads one to wonder if the river was the same in structure then as it is now. Or was it smaller? Cross-able by foot? Was at some point in time this dump all the same?  Not too long ago, when Maine was truly a booming industrial site, this land was discovered and the shell heaps were owned by a company that used them for chicken feed.  There are black and white photos of the giant hillside being mined away- a thought that baffles me even further…

A part of me simply loves the mystery. And doesn’t want to find out the gritty details about this sight. About the people who lived here… and the misfortunes that might have come to them. I especially don’t think I am ready to explain to my daughter that the Maine coast was once filled with such villages, and it was only when the English settlers came and brought diseases that the numbers diminished practically over night. (In what was called “The Great Dying,” – a small pox epidemic- about 3/4 of the population of peoples living here died in a two year period.) My white person guilt is just overwhelming and as much as I wish to tell my daughter this, I don’t. Not yet. But I will. Instead we  (I) decide to enjoy the moment, letting her run through the muddy fields, chasing her sweet little friend until they are out of view.

(Whaleback Shell Midden, on Business Rte 1 in Damariscotta, across from the Great Salt Bay school, and next door to the Round Top Farm. Parking is available, and then a short walk down the hill through the field and orchard leads you to the river. Watch out for poison ivy!) (For more information, check out the DRA (Damariscotta River Association).


One Morning Walk

Today it feels as though spring is upon us in Maine. Perfect time to grab our rubber boots, put the baby in the backpack and head out on a discovery walk. Spring on the Midcoast holds the joys of early snowdrops poking through clumps of melting snow and stiff ocean breezes perfect for kite flying and chasing your wayward sheets that have escaped from the line.

We drove into Damariscotta and decided to walk between the “twin towns” of Damariscotta and Newcastle, across the bridge that spans the Damariscotta River and separates the towns, and then down Glidden St. in Newcastle and down a path along the river. This is a perfect walk for mamas with a variety of ages among their children. You can easily sling a baby or use a stroller (jogging, probably), and it’s not too much of a hike for the younger set. Older children will enjoy discovering the beauty of the Damariscotta River, especially walking over the bridge!, plus there are various stone walls to climb on, big, beautiful trees to find sticks and acorns around, and today there were lots of muddy puddles to fall splash in.

We started at the public parking lot down by the water in Damariscotta. As we parked, we noticed the tide was very high (the Damariscotta River is tidal) and the morning sun blinded us as it bounced off the river. My almost-5-year-old reminded me of one of our favorite books, Time of Wonder, by singing, “Oh, with the blue water sparkling all around, all around, with the blue water sparkling all around.”

From there, we crossed the bridge into Newcastle and continued up Glidden Street to the end.

By the end of the walk we were muddy, windswept, happy. Fun sidenote: this walk will take you right by S. Fernald’s Country Store. If you are in need of a cup of coffee, a hot sandwich, or a cold milkshake, this makes an excellent pitstop for whiny mamas and children. (Erin)