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Claybrook Mountain Lodge
July, 2016

In July it was more of hot and dry. The last time we had weather like this was in 1979. We moved to this place in 1977 and the next winter, (78 & 79) there was no snow and bitter cold, followed by a long dry summer. Our shallow dug well in the front yard got so low that we several times lost prime with air in the line. It was so dry that we actually had a forest fire across the south face and over the summit of Witham Mountain. Firefighters had no water source anywhere on the mountain, so we spent 30 hours with mostly hand tools putting it out. By chance we got a rain shower that helped us, or I doubt that we could have stopped it. There is a spring that flows from the top of the mountain; the source of Nutting Brook. The spring and the brook were totally dry that fall. Yesterday I saw that Nutting Brook is only a collection of dry rocks for the first time since then.

Fortunately, we have a drilled well 200 feet deep in bedrock. The drillers pumped at 20 gallons a minute and water rose to about the 20-foot level while they pumped. I drove under our Wolf River apple tree a while back and when the truck scraped under a branch a shower of small apples fell out. When I realized the tree was stressed, I ran a hose under it all afternoon. I have watered it and the garden regularly since and everything is responding nicely. Trees all around us are dropping their fruit early. My beautiful, lush raspberry patch that produced 100 quarts in the last 2 seasons, has yielded only some handfuls. I tried blueberries at the farm and there are so few and small sized that it isn’t worth picking. Our blackberries started the season like gang busters and right now they are loaded with green berries but I believe they will be much undersized if they ripen. The drought in ’79 lasted two years. If we are lucky this one will be short lived.

Early in July, Paul Doiron and his wife Kristen came with Derek Lovitch and his wife. They stayed a few nights and did some birding including a trip to find Bicknell’s Thrush that was very successful. Paul and Kristen are both well-known authors and Paul brought me a copy of his latest book, Widowmaker. I highly recommend it and, in fact, I recommend the whole series. I have them all here at the lodge and I read the last three during our July vacation. For those not familiar, the books are novels about a fictitious Maine game warden. You will recognize some of the place names and descriptions and I am sure you will enjoy the mystery and suspense as you watch the warden progress from green horn to seasoned veteran.

Our old high school friend, Paul Poulin brought his family to visit in July. The last time I saw his children was when we still were working full time at Pierce Pond. Now they are adults and his son has a family of his own. We had a great visit and did a lot of catching up. Following our visit, the Brookline Birding Club came for their annual birding trip. Eddie Giles was unable to join us but Glen D’Etrement led the group professionally as he has sometimes in the past. It was hot and dry but still good birding and a happy group. We are hoping that Eddie will join us for the next trip.

Pat and I had a wonderful vacation in Pemaquid again this July. We left on a Thursday and stayed a couple of days with Kate and Peter in one of the Thomas cottages there. We have spent enough time there that it has become our familiar place. For the second year we rented two houses near the entrance to the big public beach. One house is for the families with children and the other for the 2 older couples. Aside from the public beach there is a small beach in walking distance from our rentals. With Shaw’s restaurant a mile away it is the perfect place for us. Going to the beach is the major attraction and I never get tired of watching the boys run, dig in the sand and catch fiddler crabs. There is a dock on the Pemaquid River where we watched some young girls catch crabs with their grandfather. They would hang a bait bag off the dock and wait for crabs to begin feeding; then they would raise the bag and use a net with a handle about 2 feet long to scoop up crabs. After watching them I drove to Damariscotta and bought nets and bags. After that, almost every day we went to the dock and caught crabs. We were all amazed at how many crabs could be caught in a short time. We kept them in a five-gallon pail and released them all when we were done but sometimes caught so many we filled the bucket several times. Who knew it could be so much fun.

I am always fascinated with the Pemaquid peninsula. There is so much history with the Abenaki encampment and the English settlement with Fort William. I never realized what a rich area it was until I happened upon a book; Notes on a Lost Flute by Kerry Hardy describes the Damariscotta River Valley as a place with so many rich resources that it was a gathering place for tribes from southern New England to Canada. All those people could gather peacefully and socialize because the place had such abundance that there was enough for all. That began to change when Europeans came with firearms. For 50 years there was an alliance between Abenaki and English camps that was of benefit to both. I wonder how things would be different if the alliance had held.

The life of Sally ended in July. We have loved a lot of dogs but never have we had one so sweet and intelligent as Sal. Nine years just wasn’t enough time. When we got her, I wasn’t all that thrilled, but for some reason she bonded with me first and didn’t pay all that much attention to Pat. I was a little irritated that she would follow me everywhere and I would awake to her nose in my face early in the morning. The more I resisted the more she pursued, and I couldn’t resist for long. In all of my life I did not expect to become so attached to a dog. She loved to meet and greet anyone who arrived at the lodge and never once in her life showed anger or aggression. She tolerated almost any wildlife in the yard but relentlessly hounded the chipmunks in the bird feeders. Though she never caught one, she was always excited to try once more. At this point the grief overwhelms any thoughts of a new pup. There won’t ever be another like her. We were so lucky.

                                        “Gang Warily”,
                                             Greg and Pat

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