Greenhouse Happy

With the genial warmth of April fully upon us, greenhouses and growing operations all over Maine are opening. We ventured out to one of the largest around — Moose Crossing Garden Center on Route One in Waldoboro. We resisted going on opening day, but only barely. And we were delighted and amazed by all they had to offer so early in the season.

We went in search of pansies and strawberry seedlings, but found a wealth of variety and color in the warmth of the large pleasant greenhouses.

It’s a wonderful field trip for kids who love to pick out their own plants and ride between fragrant rows on wagons. And for color-deprived mamas at the end of winter.

wagon riding

violas

happy faces

in the cart

greenhouse

strawberry babies

english rose

perennial view

geraniums

Now we truly love starting plants from seed here at Your Midcoast Mama. Nothing is more wonderful than seeing seedlings unfurl in their little starting pots or trays; there is no better lesson in patience and nurturing. But there is something luxurious about the instant gratification of buying trays of gloriously colored flowers and sturdily-started reliable seedings. After the longest week of spring, getting my children back to health, it was oh-so-necessary to bask in the tropical warmth and bounty of these greenhouses.  This mama highly recommends a visit, if only to gawk at the incredible variety of annuals, perennials, shrubs, trees, bushes, vegetable starts, and herbs. Especially on a dreary, drizzly day. Is it supposed to rain next week? We might just have to return to be enveloped in bright and fragrant warmth.

Moose Crossing Garden Center is located at 3033 Atlantic Highway (Route One) in Waldoboro. Drive north of Moody’s Diner and you can’t miss it. They welcome children (even those who find plucking flowers irresistible) and their friendly staff members are eager to answer questions (including about which fairies live in which flowers) and will even listen happily to incessant yodeling between the rows of flowers.

(Erin)

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!)

(ida)

A March Beach?

What a week we’ve had on the coast of Maine. The Vernal Equinox arrived with unusually high temperatures (60’s, 70’s, um, 80’s?) and bright blinding sunlight. Everywhere the crocuses have opened their cups of violet and gold. It seems like we skipped over mud season, maple syrup season, and spring thaw and went straight into summer. This isn’t really a good thing (drought, bugs, poor sap harvest) but there’s one wonderful thing about summer in March: the beach.

We decided not to fight it when, for the fourth day in a row, the day dawned bright and warm and as bright blue as anyone could ask for. I packed my car with blankets, buckets, snacks, and children and headed for Pemaquid Beach. We met another mama and her girls and enjoyed the sun and sand and off-season quiet and freedom. When else can you be on your favorite beach in seventy degree weather with no one else around?

Even though there were babies enjoying the sand….

And mamas enjoying the sun…

… this story belongs to two little girls reveling in a seaside adventure of digging for treasure…

and exploring “far out” beyond the reach of their mamas…

and getting thoroughly soaked and sandy and happy in the process.

The day belonged to the children as they reminded us mamas that smelly mussel shells are as good as gold, that waving to our shadows is magical, that getting wet in the sea is a vital part of a hot March day. It was almost too good to be true.  (Erin)

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Pemaquid Beach is technically “closed” from October 15th – May 1st (after May 1st a strict “no pets” ban goes into effect), but if you’re hearty, you can park outside the gate and walk in. Just remember you’ll have to fend for yourself restroom-wise! In the “on-season,” there are restrooms, a snack shop (with darn good french fries), ample parking, bathrooms/changing spaces, picnic tables galore, sand chair/umbrella/toy rentals, though no lifeguard on duty. Fees are $4/person, children under 12 free. For more information, visit the Bristol Parks and Recreation page.

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).

(ida)

Rachel Carson Salt Pond Preserve

Just north of New Harbor on Route 32 sits a tiny treasure I must have missed a hundred times before discovering this summer. Credit for my discovery goes to my mom, who has visited the salt pond for years just to sit in her car and enjoy the view. But you really must step out of the car (carefully, as parking is directly on the road!) and climb the tiny staircase down to this amazing spot.

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It doesn’t look like much, but for me and my little ones, it was almost magical. Logan was completely immersed in exploring the pool for little creatures.

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Of which he found a few…

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And I utterly enjoyed taking photos of him standing in the pool of salt water, making tiny ripples…

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But the rocks! Oh, the rocks. If you like rocks at all, this is an awesome spot. It was all I could do to control myself and refrain from taking any home. They are all so fabulous!

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Of course this spot is best enjoyed at low tide or thereabouts, as it is underwater at high tide. Check your tide charts before heading out (or check online here). Read more about Rachel Carson here.

(marisa)