Spring Has Sprung in Maine!

 I was taking a walk the other day around the neighborhood. It was one of those early spring days in Maine, that is warmer than one would expect it to be, with my jacket around my waist and the sun lightly warming up my soul. I happened to look over  and saw this little stream that must go under the road, and into the woods. It’s funny because I walk this loop all the time and never noticed it. There was this little duck just chilling out,  looking about as happy as I felt, welcoming the spring sunshine. 

April in Maine is a time of such hope, the chance each year to start fresh. We rake up all the debris from the winter off our lawns, exposing what will turn into beautiful, lush, green grass once again. Each year there are random Crocus flowers that sprout up in my yard. Once I see the white and purple heads poking up from the ground, I know we are getting close to warmer weather. 

This stream that I noticed for the first time the other day, reminded me of my April vacations off from school as a child. The days were just starting to warm up, most of them would still be gray, but there was always a hint of spring.  We could usually get by with just wearing a light jacket while on our outdoor adventures. The neighborhood kids and I would hop on our bikes and head down the road  where there was a stream. One lucky kid would get the coveted seat atop the culvert. We would look for tadpoles, try a little fishing, skip some rocks, or just be. 

That’s one of the great things about living in Maine, as Mainers we appreciate the little things that each season offers, even as young kids. 

Seeing the signs of spring each year, especially this year offers such hope, hope for a more carefree time.  Once it’s spring, I get eager for the first time I can go outside without a jacket, smelling the wafting BBQ scents as I go on my evening walk, setting up the kiddo’s swimming pool, the sounds of lawn mowers in the neighborhood, and the smell of fresh cut grass. I look forward to having to drive with the air conditioning on, or better yet, riding with the windows down, or having it be so hot, my husband and I both agree, no cooking inside, let’s get takeout! 

You see, even as a kid we relish in these simple pleasures, and as time goes on and we become adults, and are in different stages of our lives, the simple pleasures of Maine still remain an integral part of our happiness. 

Get to know Old Dogs New Digs – A Non-Profit Founded In Maine

In a cozy, warm living room Tala, a 9 year old hound dog snuggles on a couch with a large Flemish Giant Rabbit named Quinn. It’s a sweet sight, that you certainly don’t witness every day. Looking at these two, you would never guess that they are both rescue animals that had recently met and since, have both been adopted into the same loving family. 

Tala had been sitting in a shelter in the southern U.S. for a very long time. Being a 9 year old dog, there wasn’t a line of people waiting to adopt her, like the puppies that she was surrendered with. In addition to being an an older dog, Tala also was battling some health conditions, including needing heart worm treatment and dental work. The shelter works with Kennebec Valley Humane Society in Augusta, Maine. The southern shelter decided to send her up to Maine, to see if her fate would change. It sure did. Kennebec Valley Humane Society partners with Old Dogs New Digs, a non-profit volunteer based organization that dedicates finding foster and permanent homes for senior dogs. ODND quickly found a foster family for Tala in the Bar Harbor area. This foster family also has rescue bunnies and a blind rescue chicken named Ruby. One would wonder how an old hound dog would get along with a chicken and bunnies that have had rough pasts. Tala immediately fit right in with these other rescue animals. She has taken on the role as “mom”  and is very loving and gentle with them. They often play together, snuggle, or just relish in being all together. Tala has since transitioned from foster, to permanently adopted into this family, and is absolutely thriving. 

I recently sat down with the founder of Old Dogs New Digs, Mandy Fisher, and Old Dogs New Digs volunteer, Tammy Merrill to learn more about this local non-profit organization. The ODND staff is comprised of around 30 volunteers. This organization is dedicated to finding foster and permanent homes for senior dogs. In addition to senior dogs, they also help place special needs dogs, and cats as well. They partner with local shelters and vet offices, and work with them to help find homes for the animals. 

Mandy started ODND in Maine about 5 years ago. She always had a passion for helping animals, specifically older dogs. She had been fostering older dogs for years and recognized the need to support them in getting placed in homes. Mandy explains, “ The puppies go quick, the old dogs sit for a very long time in the shelter. These older dogs are overlooked, and to be in the shelter, it’s very stressful for the dog.” She kept seeing the trend of more and more old dogs needing foster homes, with nowhere to go. She decided to start an organization that would help change the future of senior dogs in Maine. “ We started working with a couple shelters and vet clinics, and it grew from there. It was amazing to see the amount of people that wanted to follow the stories of these senior or hospice dogs.” ODND started in Maine, and since has an additional primary location in Colorado. They  have orchestrated finding foster homes and adoptions for over 900 animals in the last five years. They work with shelters and vet clinics throughout New England, New Mexico, Florida, and Costa Rica. Mandy explains the process, “We don’t take ownership of the dogs, we partner with the shelters, they maintain ownership. We provide funding, sheltering, vet care, and promote the animal to find a foster and permanent home.” 

Old Dogs New Digs also supports senior or special needs dogs and cats in other ways as well. They have a whole team that is dedicated to finding a home for an animal whose family doesn’t want to have to surrender their dog or cat to a shelter. “Individuals will reach out to us, who need to rehome their dog. Maybe they just had a baby, or they are going into Assisted Living, and they want to find a home for their dog, so they don’t have to spend any time in a shelter.” ODND will work with the current family, get all the information needed, and find a home for the dog, before the family needs to surrender him or her to a shelter.

ODND also has established a “Community Assist Program.” This is a program that helps families that may otherwise need to surrender their dog due to financial reasons. ODND will assist the family financially so that they are able to keep the dog. They have done a lot of this work since the Covid Pandemic started. Jack, a sweet beagle, was in a very loving home. One day he was in his yard, and a new neighbor dog came over and aggressively attacked him. He was severely injured and needed a lot of care from a vet clinic, but the family didn’t have the money to support that level of care. The owner contacted ODND and they were able to get Jack into an emergency clinic that same night. Jack needed a lot of support, and it was touch and go for a while, but today Jack is healed and thriving and his family is so grateful that ODND could help support the care that Jack needed. 

Old Dogs New Digs fundraises so that they can continue to assist the senior and special needs dogs and cats in our community. They have partnered up with Island Dog Brewing and are having a special event this weekend. Island Dog Brewing is releasing a limited time special release of “SilverHound Pale Ale” in 4-packs. Each can displays a picture of a senior dog that is in need of fostering and/or adoption and also dogs that have already been successfully placed through ODND.  For every 4-pack sold, $10.00 will go directly to support Old Dogs New Digs. 

The 4-pack SilverHound Pale Ale will be released this weekend, March 20th, and 21st. Old Dogs New Digs will set up at a booth at Island Dog Brewing (125 John Roberts Road, South Portland) from 12-5pm on Saturday March 20th, and 12-3pm on Sunday March 21st. There will be raffles with prizes, and ODND will be on hand to promote senior dog adoption awareness. The SilverHound Pale Ale will also be available for curbside pickup. 

We all have that special pet that is an important family member. Sometimes circumstances occur and older dogs and cats can no longer be part of their original families lives, but they still have so much love and friendship to give to the world, and they deserve to feel that love and friendship as they grow older.

You can help support senior dogs and cats by going to http://www.olddogsnewdigs.com to make a direct donation. They also participate in a Clynk program, and Amazon Smile. Follow on Facebook and Instagram for updates! 

Jack

Photo Credit: Danielle Travers, Stray Duck Foto, http://www.strayduckfoto.com

A Year of the Pandemic in Maine

This week marks one year of the first case of Covid-19 in Maine. I remember the weeks leading up to this moment, you could feel this thick layer of apprehension in the air. We all knew other states were being hit, and it was just a matter of time before it came here. I remember going out to get groceries, numerous shelves were empty toilet paper, paper towels, canned goods. I’m not talking a few feet of empty shelves, but the whole aisle.  I took a picture and sent it to my husband at work in disbelief. That is when it sank in that something alarming was coming.

The weeks that followed were full of closures. The schools, daycares, restaurants, bars, stores – shut down. The week of March 12, 2020 was surreal. Every time I heard of a new closure; I was in shock.  My husband would be on his phone scanning the internet, and would announce, the newest developments. With every new closure, the internal alarm would go off. 

In a way, the way in which the events unfolded when the Pandemic first hit the United States, reminded me of the intense emotions of 9/11. I was a Sophomore in College in the fall of 2001. I remember I had the Today Show on as I was getting ready for classes. They broke in and announced that a plane had hit the tower. They just kept saying how sunny and clear of a day it was, and how odd for it to have happened. I went on to all my classes that morning, and I remember by the time I got to my 11:00 am class,  all the events had unfolded and we were left to try to digest everything that had happened.  That night you couldn’t dial out of the campus, and all classes were cancelled for the next day. They are two very different events in our history, but the parallel is the entire country feeling the same things at the same time: stirring up intense feelings of  fear, shock, disbelief, and sadness. Both events created this sense of vulnerability and not knowing what the immediate and long term future would look like. 

This week a year ago, our daughter’s daycare was closed and would not open again until late summer. I was working on my writing from home at the time– so I was and have continued to be able to fill that childcare void. 

The last year we have spent a lot of time outside taking walks and hikes, going on picnics, doing anything we can to get out of the house, in a safe manner. Luckily, Maine has a lot to offer us in that department. I  met some people this summer in Maine that were doing some pretty neat things to stay busy. One couple was trying to go to as many State Parks as possible. Another couple was on the search for the best Lobster Roll and tried a new place each weekend. 

We have learned how to do other activities that we enjoy safely and have been happy about slowly integrating a sense of normal back into our lives. More and more folks are getting vaccinated in Maine and around the country, and it does in a way, feel like the beginning of the end of the Pandemic. 

Everyone has grown from this Pandemic in some way or another. Some saw it as a wakeup call to slow their lives down. Some, realized they are more homebodies and enjoyed the “downtime.” For me, I recognized how important balance is. On the days that I was able to do things for me, that I genuinely enjoy I felt myself thrive. Unfortunately, like many of us multitasking masters,  the days that I can indulge in an activity just for me are few and far between, but I do now realize how important that is. I also realized, the days that we didn’t get outside were the hardest. Fresh air is a magic medicine that can heal your mind, body, and soul. I find the days we are outside; I feel more connected and grounded. 

While the Pandemic is hopefully starting to fade, my wish is that we all take what we learned from this grueling experience and grow as individuals, while remembering and recognizing all the sacrifices that were made, to get us to a better place. 

Hope Is In The Fresh Air – Thorncrag Bird Sanctuary

This weekend the weather here in Maine, was up and down – per usual of Maine.  Saturday, we were stuck inside all day with cloudy, rainy weather.  That is enough to make this “work from home/remote learning day teacher/housekeeper/family manager” ready to get us outside and get us some fresh air as soon as we could.

Sunday, we woke up, and it had all changed overnight. Some sun, no precipitation, and about 40 degrees – we will take it!  We decided to pack up our family and head up to Lewiston (about 45 minutes north of Portland) to do some hiking at Throncrag Bird Sanctuary. Thorncrag is located on Highland Spring Road. The location is really fascinating to me. You drive through the city of Lewiston – which has a very urban vibe  – and then all of a sudden you pull into Thorncrag and you feel like you have been transported to the country. There is a large parking lot, and at the end of the parking lot there is a board that displays all the birds that are in the nature preserve, and pictures of dozens of animal tracks to be on the lookout for. Thorncrag is comprised of 450 acres of wildlife preserve. It is at an elevation of 510 feet – the highest point in Lewiston. 

There are miles of trails and each trail is incredibly maintained and very wide. Each trail is color coded. We ended up walking on the yellow and green trails. One really cool attribute is that on clear days – you can see Mt. Washington from the stone bench at the Height -of-the-land (on the green trail.) You get to the bench, and there is this long corridor that is cleared – and it makes the view of the mountain spectacular. 

We met my in laws and it was fun to see my daughter’s enthusiasm and eagerness to soak up all there is to learn in this outdoor classroom. Her grandparents pointed out different trees to her. She got a kick out of how out of all of the trees; hundreds and hundreds, each tree was a little different. “Look at this one!” We heard, multiple times throughout the hike. 

One of my favorite things about being in the woods – is the peacefulness that can be felt. When you stop walking, listen, and hear nothing – there is something about that, that is so relaxing. You can literally feel your stresses and worries melting away. 

This past year with the pandemic has been the most challenging year for all of us. Many of us have put on multiple hats in order to keep our families safe. Some of us have not been able to see our friends and families, or worse – have witnessed them becoming ill. This Sunday – as we were walking, for the first time in a long time, I felt a huge sense of hope. Hope for the future, hope that the pandemic is improving. Getting outside and moving helps us all feel better.

Passive recreation is encouraged at Thorncrag, such as hiking, birdwatching, picnicking, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, sledding, skating, and taking pictures of nature. 

They also are very involved with the community – hosting several community outreach programs throughout the year. 

One of my other favorite places in Lewiston, that we usually visit every time we are up there is Davinci’s Eatery at 150 Mill Street. This is some of the best Italian food I have ever had (minus the exception of course of my Mother’s cooking who is 100% Italian 😉 They are doing dine in or curbside pickup right now. So you could spend hours hiking and getting some fresh air – and treat yourself afterwards with an amazing Italian lunch or dinner!

For more information including a trail map visit:

Statonbirdclub.org

Davinciseatery.com 

Cross Country Skiing On The Coast Of Maine

I wrapped work up early today and headed to Portland Headlight inside Fort Williams Park located at 1000 Shore Road in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.  We’ve all been to this park during warmer months for birthday parties, picnics, or just to play the role of tourist for a day, but the time to really go to this park is in the winter. 

I threw my old Rossignol skis  into the backseat and headed down to Cape. One of the best things about this park in the winter is how quiet it is. The space is large enough that you can span the entire park and pass few, if any other people. 

While exploring the 90 acre park, you will find reminders of its historical past as an active military installation and the important purpose it served as the first line of defense of Casco Bay. If you park in the lower parking lot, (the first parking lot on your left if you come in through the front gate) you are just a quick walk away from the Goddard Mansion, which was built from 1853-1859 for Colonel John Goddard. In 1900, it was acquired by the federal government, and was eventually utilized as housing for noncommissioned officers. 

As I was skiing, I took in the sights – and even though I have lived in this area for over 15 years – the simple beauty and complex history of this park still amazes me.  I feel so lucky that we can live in the most populated area of Maine, but still drive 5 minutes away and ski oceanside. 

Fort Williams Park is open from sunrise to sunset, 365 days a year. It is dog friendly – and the list of winter activities is pretty deep: skiing, snowshoeing, sledding, and hiking to name a few. If you don’t own skis check out Gorham Bike & Ski at 693 Congress Street, Portland, or www.gorhambike.com.

If you are looking for something to get the family out this winter break, I would suggest you head over to Fort Williams to explore the Maine way of life.  For more information on the deep history of Fort Williams Park, or to donate to the park visit fortwilliams.org.

Island Dog Brewing – Capturing The Maine Way of Life

Before the holidays, I sat down with the owners of Island Dog Brewing, which is located at 125 John Roberts Road, in South Portland, Maine. We talked about all sorts of things related to their business. My focus was on how local breweries were getting through as the Pandemic rages on – but truth is, we ended up talking a lot more about their passion for brewing. Tim and Jim are two guys who really embody the spirit of Maine – from the humble way in which their business started, to the hard work they put in everyday, just the two of them to ensure we can share in their passion, and the low-key, friendly atmosphere in the tap room. They have 15 beers onsite, and change their line up monthly, brewing new recipes, seasonal beers, variations of regular beers, and experimental batches. They are releasing a new beer on February 19th – Maple Cream Imperial Stout. You’ve got to check them out next time you are in South Portland! For more information: http://www.islanddogbrewing.com

Things were looking bright for Tim Francis, and Jim Denz,  owners of Island Dog Brewing in the early winter of 2020 with sales being up from the prior year. If growth trends were to continue to proceed as they had since they opened in 2017, 2020 was calculated to be Island Dog Brewing’s year. It was early March, and the owners were planning a whoopie pie and beer pairing for a winter event. The year prior they had a very successful cupcake and beer pairing and wanted to continue the winter tradition.  They had been selling tickets online – and were sold out. 

The week of March 9th  2020 is when the owners began to sense something huge was brewing. Jim explains, “That week, that is when things started to look bad. Cases were going up; I think that was the week the NBA had decided to stop games. The last weekend we were open was the weekend of March 13th and 14th. That Friday was the weird Friday. That was when people started buying everything in bulk. I remember I stopped at Sam’s Club on the way in, and their meat section was empty.  At that point, everyone knew something was going on.”

The last weekend they were open in the winter, that Friday was ‘dead’, Saturday was slow, and Sunday, was nonexistent. 

Tim was visiting his son out of state at the time, he recounts, “I was in a brewery and the Governor came on the tv and said they were shutting down the state at 9:00 pm that night.” Tim remembers driving home on I-90, which he had driven dozens of times before, but this time was different – barely anyone else was on the highway. An eerie sign on the way home to Maine, that everything had changed. 

Jim first got into home brewing in the early 1990’s. His interest in brewing, stemmed from childhood memories of making homemade wine with his grandfather. “As an adult, I got some books on brewing, and I just kept making beer. I would brew one batch a month, and I did that for over 20 years.” He moved to Maine in 2006, and met his wife, Jody a couple of years later. Jim moved all his brewing supplies from New York, to his new home in Maine, and began brewing again. Over time, Jim became the one among his friends that would supply the home brew for parties. Friends would just come to expect it and raved about the taste.

Tim had worked with Jody in the past, and Jim and Jody randomly ran into Tim and his wife, Melanie at a beer festival. Jim explains, “Tim also made beer, and we both like movies, so we get along really well.” The couples became fast friends. They all enjoyed the brewing scene so much, one day Jody said to Jim, “Why don’t we just open our own brewery?” 

At first thought, Jim was thinking, “There is no way this can actually happen.” However, when they started to look into it, the action plan seemed achievable. Jim began working on a business plan, and approached Tim about partnering up, and the team was created. It took about 2 years of planning, and their hard work payed off. They opened the Tap Room in 2017. 

Tim and Jim split the responsibilities of running the business, aligning tasks with their strengths. Tim manages the sales and marketing side of the business, and Jim does all the brewing. In the summer, even with the Pandemic, Jim was brewing six to eight batches a month. Their brew system is five barrels, which is about 150 gallons of beer. Both Jim and Tim have fun running the (now) outdoor Tap Room. The Brewery was closed in March of 2020 , and opened back up in June 2020, with outdoor seating, and continues to go strong.

Island Dog Brewing works with Central Distributors, delivering to stores including Hannaford Supermarkets and two Market Basket locations. They started with six Hannaford stores and have since expanded to several other Hannaford store locations.

Their Tap Room is outside, and they are following all safety protocols. Their number one priority is to keep their customers safe. They currently have 15 beers on tap – and Jim enthusiastically talks about the new flavors he will be creating this winter, including a maple cream imperial stout being released in February. 

Another way to enjoy the brews, is to order online through their store, most items can be delivered. In addition, the Brewery has curb-side pick-up as well. 

Jim and Tim are so honored to be part of the brewing industry and are especially proud of how the Maine brewers have come together through the Pandemic. They explain, “Everyone is really supportive of one another. Nobody wants to see anyone fail or have an outbreak. We have online meetings on a regular basis, and if someone does something successful, they share what it was that worked. Shawn Sullivan, President of Maine Brewers Guild, has been great about connecting everyone with support. It helps keep your spirits up when everyone is working together.”

Though COVID has affected their business, you wouldn’t know that based on their demeanor throughout our interview. They are proud of the hard work they have put in, truly achieving the ‘American Dream.’ They are two guys, that quite frankly are just fun to be around, and they love beer, which is evident at the Brewery. Next time you are in the area, be sure to check out Island Dog Brewing, Tim and Jim will be manning the taps ready to chat about all things beer!

A Perfect Maine Summer

I grew up in a little town outside of Bangor, Maine. I didn’t realize it as a child, but growing up here was more than the word ‘special’ offers. When summer vacation would start, my brother Chris, and I would run from the school bus, all the way down our long, dirt driveway, eager to put away our backpacks for the summer and partake in some summertime adventures. 

One of my favorite things to do as an adult is to be outside. It doesn’t matter what I am doing, if I am outside doing it, I am happier. This love of the outdoors was created in part, due to the Maine way of life I was raised in. 

There are several acres of woods behind our house. Chris and our neighborhood friends would explore the trails for hours. The hot, humid mid- July sun would be beating down on us, but we were determined to capture that bit of independence and freedom the great outdoors offered. 

We had room to stretch our legs in the woods behind our house, but what really shaped my summers was my time spent at ‘The Woodlot.’ In 1985,  my Dad bought 55 acres of woods down the road, that had previously been used for logging.

My Dad enhanced the logging trails that existed and extended them throughout the acreage. They would become trails that we sometimes walked twice a day, and in the winter would use our cross country skies to glide over. The main trail bends and winds, a few apple trees sprinkled along the way. The trail leads to a large opening when you get to the top of a hill – and this is where we cleared and created our garden. Each spring we would help plant the crops, rows of peas, beans, potatoes, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, and corn. 

Every summer, Chris and I helped to pick all the vegetables. My Dad would drive to the woodlot, filling the back of the pick-up truck with all the tools and buckets we may need. Chris and I would hop on our bikes and meet him.

I remember, it would be hot and humid, many of the days in August that we would be picking. Chris and I would get competitive and see who could fill up their 5 gallon bucket of peas first. The sound of what I would call ‘The heat bug’ would be singing in the background. Dad would silently pick the vegetables that he was so proud of, and once in a while, motion for us to go to a different aisle. 

We spent most afternoons up at the woodlot in the summer, whether it was picking the vegetables, or walking our family dog Dixie, on the trails. My Dad would hook up the trailer and bring the riding lawn mower up to the woodlot almost every weekend, keeping the grass at baseball field length most times. He was also known to bring up a lawn chair and sit up by the garden for hours by himself, taking in all the beauty that he helped create and maintain for his family to enjoy. 

I always knew that our summertime adventures were coming to a close, when my parents would start freezing and  canning vegetables. Once I detected the smell of cooking tomatoes wafting through the house, I knew school would be starting again shortly. 

The Maine way of life embraces the simple pleasures. The outdoors becomes part of your being – who you are. It is my hope with this blog to write about all things Maine, from outdoor activities and destinations, to restaurants and other entertainment. Maine has so much to offer, there are so many unique places  and people that embody the spirit of Maine, beautiful beaches, mountains, farms,  and don’t forget, Portland is one of the ‘Foodie Capitals’ of the country. 

Welcome to The Maine Way of Life!

Thank you for stopping by! This blog combines my love of writing and my love for the state of Maine. I have lived in Maine my entire life, moving around to various parts of the state over the years. I settled in the Portland area 15 years ago after college graduation. I was raised in a small town, and from a young age appreciated The Maine Way of Life. I remember waking up on the weekend and heading outside after breakfast with my dad and brother to work in the garden, helping my dad split wood, and cross country skiing on the trails surrounding our home. Being outside makes me feel alive. I love finding new places to explore in Maine, and also reliving my favorites, and sharing the experience with our family, and now you!

Our way of life in Maine is unique, there are so many places to visit that embody the spirit of Maine. If you are planning a trip to Maine, and want to learn about the places to visit that will ensure you experience The Maine Way of Life you are in the right spot! For Mainers who want to change up their routine and explore our state, this is for you too! Some of the things I will be concentrating on to start are outdoor activities and destinations.

I will also tell you stories highlighting the simple pleasures that make Maine special. Like snow days, and small towns.

So, grab a cup of coffee, or your beverage of choice and come explore The Maine Way of Life!