Saturday, December 7, 2013
A lot of friends are calling from back home to see if the time has come for U-pick apples here in Maine -- an excellent pretext for a visit to my cabin in the fall -- but the truth is we're still working on corn.
Down the road a piece is Pineland Farms in New Gloucester, and farther away is Bow Street Market in Freeport -- two places at which we make regular stops for just-harvested corn (which, for nonfarmers who are curious, is best determined by smelling how earthy and moist the cob still is), fresh coffee, prime meats -- and no feeling of crowds or overwhelming inventory.
As I spend less time in the kitchen and more on walking trails and the road or at work, I find that I am growing increasingly intolerable of mega-stores of all kinds. It might be that I am already on sensory overload by the time I stop by a grocery store, and too much selection raises the hairs on the back of my neck.
After all, I have passed the acquisitive stage of life for the most part; I'm likely to find a stash of seashells, pine cones or acorns as intriguing as new clothes -- not a great evolution for the sake of fashion, but nature is a lot more engaging for me than haute couture.
Now that the harvest is well upon us -- the cranberries about to be drawn in off the vines, the apples tugging down the branches in the orchards, the squash and pumpkins piling up -- my mind has turned cold and clear with scrutiny of the season and the landscape.
The roadsides on the main road that is the last stretch toward home have been cleared of trees about 6 feet deep on either side -- a maintenance effort I am assuming has something to do with power lines, and maybe snow.
But I am still an early-on Mainer, so there might be some other explanation for the routine that I just don't know. What has caught my eye, though, is that the brush aside, there is greater opportunity to study the cattails or perhaps snap off a last little piece of wild carrot before the freeze gets fierce and the foreshadowing of snow more certain.
The reputation of hard winters in Maine comes as a cautionary tale from several people who already know me to be extremely fond of the cold (How could it be otherwise, sending this name ahead of me like a luge?).
My landlord stopped by a few weeks ago to make some repairs and an improvement designed to ease my recovery from ankle surgery: He added a 2-by-4 bannister between the first and second floors so I wouldn't have to call on the visceral primate skills of climbing backward on all fours, like a chimp or grasshopper, up the stairs to the peak of the A-frame and a bedroom full of windows -- perfect for recovery during fall foliage season.
He managed this and all the other tasks he had planned for himself that afternoon with speed and the help of his father. Together, they whipped through the little cabin like dervishes, adding a new appliance here, tending to minor electrical matters and plumbing there. At one point, the landlord -- taciturn in that way I have come to regard as part of the genetic makeup of Mainers -- paused, turned to me and said in characteristic understatement, "You're going to want curtains on these windows before winter."
He didn't have to say it with words; I heard it in the tone: "Unless you want to freeze to death out here."
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