Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Twelve Months in Waldo County — John Lightner

I have sometimes been asked what my favorite time of year is. Truthfully, I don’t really have one. Every season, every month has something unique to offer. I can’t imagine sacrificing one month’s benefits to afford more of another’s. Here follows a list of some of my favorite events and activities in a Belfast calendar year.

January — New Year's Dip

This year, Pia Gibson lured me into participating in the New Year's Day plunge and I have to say that jumping into Penobscot Bay with a crowd of enthusiasts is a wonderful way to start the year.

February — Ski Touring

For me, February means cross country skiing. One of the reasons I moved to Belfast was to be able to ski out my back door and I haven’t been disappointed these last few winters. I know that skiing at our new home will be equally satisfying.

March — Maple Syrup Season

I have slowly been refining my technique and have recently been able to meet most of my family’s annual syrup requirements (which are considerable). The 2011 season has been astounding and I already have almost three gallons of syrup in my basement. All this from just a dozen taps in five trees. We will need to get busy planting sugar maples if we want to incorporate home boiled syrup into our diet at BC&E.

April — Spring run-off

Technically this starts in late March. Time to dust off the old canoe and get in the fray for the St. George and Passagassawakeag whitewater races. Hi water or low, sleet or sunshine these are great races to participate in or just to watch. If the competition isn’t your thing, it is equally great just to paddle these and a handful of other great runs around the county. I did just that last weekend and made a leisurely run down the St. George river in Searsmont. We were a party of two canoes, a raft and a handful of kayaks. The day was sunny but crisp and we took our time, basking in the sun when we could; bailing out the boats beneath the rapids. A much different experience from the race.

May — Planting Time

Ideally, I would have started some of this in April and perhaps even March if there is an early spring, but I seem to get most of my vegetable garden organized and planted in the month of May. Who would want to work in the garden without a black-fly net anyway? I do fantasize about there being a greenhouse in my life someday.

June — Sailboat Prep

We have quite a few sailors in our community and most of us put off our boat maintenance until just before we float. As far as work goes, there are few things more worthwhile than messing about in and under a boat (with apologies to Rat) in anticipation of launching. Often there are a few improvements or new gear to be installed. It remains to be seen if or how boat storage will be worked out at the Ecovillage, but I have hopes for a more communal atmosphere around sailboat prep once we move in.

July — The CoHo Cruise

The past two years we have put together a joint sailboat cruise involving Cohousing boats and friends. Penobscot Bay is famed as a sailboat cruising ground. The first year featured a memorable full moon reach across Penobscot Bay to our anchorage at Holbrook Island. We rafted up and had a five boat platform at our disposal. Kids had the run of the decks and the parents found a safe haven in the Gibson’s big catboat cockpit. We haven’t managed more than three days, but we aspire to longer adventures.


If you can’t figure out what to do in Maine in August without my advice…..

September — Around Islesboro Race

The first Saturday after Labor Day, the Northport Yacht Club (three miles from downtown Belfast) hosts an open race around Islesboro Island in the middle of Penobscot Bay. The starting gun goes off at 10:00 AM and, depending on the prevailing wind and general forecast, forty to fifty boats set out to sail around the island — twenty-eight miles as the crow flies. Most of the boats aren’t serious racers and there is a great informal atmosphere, but it is a race and many of the boats will take a shot at hoisting their spinnakers even if it is the only occasion all year they will take the chance. Last September’s race (2010) saw twenty-five knots of wind at the start with the race beginning downwind. The sight of forty mostly over-canvassed boats headed off down the bay was spectacular.

October — Bald Rock

Early October is usually peak foliage in Waldo County. Just driving around is wonderful enough, but with the bugs driven underground and lots of clear weather, it is a great month to do some hiking. This might lure me out of the county to nearby Acadia, but there are plenty of great short hikes within fifteen miles of Belfast. Bald Rock in Lincolnville marks the northern end of the Camden Hills and offers unbelievable views of Penobscot Bay in reward for just an hour of mild uphill work.

November — Winter Prep

Like June, November is a month that features a significant amount of prep work for the coming winter. For the last three years this has meant storm window installation and weather-proofing, catching up on my woodpile and moving it close to the house, putting chains and the plow blade on my tractor and finally putting the garden to bed. Looks like I will be able to forget about quite a bit of this in my new home, but I’m sure we will find plenty of other projects to occupy the time.

December — Pond Skating

Some winters on the Maine coast this season will last for several months, but with the relatively snowy winters of the last three years, the season has been a short one. Nevertheless, there are few activities more pleasurable than strapping on a pair hockey skates on a crisp December afternoon with a pond full of black ice in front of you. Throw in a dog or two, perhaps a pick up hockey game and maybe a home built ice boat and you have the makings for a memorable day. When the ice is really good you can skate for miles and miles along the shores of dozens of scenic ponds.

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