Maine

Posted by Ellen

 

Words on the wall at Fort Williams park, Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

Posted by Ellen

 

The evening before graduation, seniors from Deering High School are skipping rocks on the cobble beach at Fort Williams Park in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

Posted by Ellen

 For the kitchen table, Marion brought us lupine from her yard in Warren, Maine. Sharing the vase with the flowers are leaves of mint. 

 

Posted by Ellen

 

This birdseye view of the harbor at Camden tells the seasonal story all up and down the coast of Maine. The boats are back.

Posted by Ellen

 

At Wilbur's Chocolate Factory in Freeport, Maine, there are no oompa loompas, and thus a need for some serious antique confectionary equipment. This machine carries melted chocolate straight up on a vertical conveyor belt with little hooks to snag the stickiness. At the top, the chocolate spills down a chute. At the bottom of the chute, some of it collects in a cup, where it cools a bit and thickens to a suitable consistency for hand-decorating the tops of candies with little squiggles; the rest spills between tiny rollers carrying a parade of naked candy centers in need of chocolate coating.

After they get their chocolate coats, the candies roll along into a little air conditioner, which chills them to room temperature in exactly seven minutes.

Posted by Ellen

 

School's out this week for February break, but there's basically no snow hereabouts for the kids to play in. For Joshua, Emily, and Andrew, a trip to the artificial snow at Seacoast Park in Windham, Maine, solved the problem neatly. The kids went tubing all day Monday, and came home to . . . a forecast for plenty of snow on Tuesday. Winter's coming back to northern New England; the rest of the country can relax now. 

Posted by Ellen

The old Eastland Hotel in downtown Portland has a lot of windows and a lot of bricks.

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The Grand Trunk Line went bankrupt in 1920. Cost overruns on its expansion to the West Coast stressed the company, and its route planning out west proved unfortunate, too far north to compete with the fledgling Canadian National Railroad, which eventually absorbed it. The Grand Trunk's U.S. lines were assigned to a holding company that used the Grand Trunk name, but they too declined and faded in the mid-twentieth century along with the railroad industry in general.

The Grand Trunk station in Portland, on India Street near the waterfront, was demolished in 1948.  These pictures actually show a different Portland train station, Union Station on Congress Street near St. John Street, which handled southbound passengers and freight. Union Station opened in 1911 and was demolished in the1960s to make way for the I-295 highway.

Portland lost an elegant building that day--the current Amtrak station is basically just a corner of the bus station lobby--but by all accounts, the destruction awakened people to the importance of historic preservation. And though it couldn't have been foreseen in the 1960s, when urban renewal was thought to lead to future glory for America's cities, Portland's old buildings and cobblestone streets have turned out to be what saved this town--people have learned to make money off of "quaint."

 

Posted by Ellen

To be more precise: at least one mitten came off late in the afternoon of Christmas day when Hank and Al had at it on the bluff above Kettle Cove, on the nearly snowless southern coast of Maine. It wasn't a real fight, just a little sibling rasslery.

Posted by Ellen

Old-school deadheads are logs that sank to the bottom of a river or lake during the logging drives of the last century or the century before that or even the century before that. Before the railroads reached the northwoods, loggers went out in the forests every winter, cut down the trees with axes or cross-cut saws, and dragged the logs down to the banks of the nearest river. Come spring, they would drive the logs downriver to saw mills or later paper mills.

The log drives were operated every spring in Maine from the 1770s until the mid-twentieth century, especially on the Penobscot River, which became the most important logging river in the world, transporting hundreds of millions of board feet of lumber every year to the mills in Bangor.  When the Penobscot was high and water was running fast,, logs piled up in dangerous logjams. When water was low, the logs slowed and beached themselves on the rocks. Either way, inevitably, some logs became waterlogged and sank.

Down at the bottom, logs eventually lose their bark and become slimy, but the wood is perfectly preserved in cold water and can be dried out and used for anything. While millions of logs are streaming by on top of the water, it is not economical to salvage the deadheads at the bottom. Today, the economics are different.

If you want to cut standing timber on state-owned land, you have to pay the state about 40% of the estimated value of the lumber you will sell. If you want to salvage deadheads from a lake or river in Maine, you'll have to pay 20% of the lumber value. This year, two underwater logging operations tried to make a go of it in the state.

They use pontoon boats equipped with fish-finders, which have no trouble locating the logs. The guy working Moosehead Lake irigged up a mechanical deadhead retrieval system with grappling hooks and winches. The guy working the Penobscot River dives with scuba equipment to snag the logs for his winch. Either way, on a good day, they might bring up six or eight logs, lash them to the pontoons, and haul them to shore, where they'll eventually be carried by truck to a sawmill. The process is time-consuming, and it's not cheap, but the wood is of a quality that is no longer available in standing forests--old-growth lumber, sometimes two or three feet in diameter, with the close-packed growth rings reflecting slow centuries of maturation.

The ecological issues are tough. On the one  hand, after decades or centuries underwater, the deadheads have developed a niche of their own in the riparian ecosystem, feeding insects with their bark and sheltering baby fish.. Also, the logs cannot be removed without stirring up a lot of sediment and disrupting all the critters in the water. On the other hand, the more salvaged lumber we use, the fewer new trees we'll have to cut.

This picture is a still from a newsreel about diving for logs in the Penobscot.