December 30, 2011

A snow blower for Kerstin's Birthday

Alden, Joseph, Sandy, Joseph, my Mom and I all pitched in for a snow blower for Kerstin's birthday this year. When Alden and I picked it up from the store, the sales clerk gave us the low down on the operation and Alden listened intently. When we presented Kerstin with his snow blower, Alden covered all the features for him.

December 24, 2011

Chanukah 2011

We celebrated the first 3 days of Chanukah with Joseph, Sandy, Geoff and Karen this year. Alden is learning his baruchas!

December 22, 2011

Alden Sings

The Stepping Stones school Alden attends had a Christmas show last week. It was held at a lovely mansion in Augusta (Governor Hill's Mansion).
The program was crazy long... 37 songs all together... It lasted at least two hours (Alden's songs were over an hour) we waited as long as we could but finally had to go.

At least half of the performance Alden looked lost. He did step up on a couple songs... and then he went and cuddled with his teacher for the last part.

Here is Alden at about 50 percent performance level.

December 1, 2011

Advent Calendar

We are doing advent calendars this year and did the first day today. It is something that fascinates Alden. The chocolate is the cheap kind, but he loves it and thinks the tiny doors and numbers are swell.
I have one and Alden gets the other one. Ilana wants nothing to do with this nonsense.

Here's to 23 more days and figuring out how to tie it in with Hanukkah the end.

November 30, 2011

Alden Loses Tooth!

Today Alden lost his first tooth! The thing had been wiggly for several weeks and so we took him to the dentist in September. His dentist said that it was a little early for a loose tooth, so maybe he had some trauma... we could not think of any mouth-hits he had taken, so it may just be that he is ahead of the curve in this regard.

The last straw was brushing teeth tonight when the chomper twisted under pressure from the toothbrush. It came out when Alden spit to rinse, easy as you please.

There was no pain and no fuss, in fact Alden was pretty excited by the whole deal. We have a little plastic mouse-box our dentist gave us, so the tooth goes inside the box, under the pillow, and the tooth fairy will come and replace it with something awesome.

November 28, 2011

Winterizing the bees

For the past month we have been feeding the bees sugar water, hoping it will help them have enough food to make it through the winter. We also acquired some bales of straw to use as wind blocks.

Over the weekend we took away the sugar water, added an inner insulator board and wrapped the hive in some Styrofoam insulation and tar paper... This is the final step in winterizing the bees

The insulator board goes under the bottom cover and the bottom cover gets flipped, which means the bees clinging to the bottom cover get exposed to the cold. Bees shut down at around 45 degrees, which was about the air temperature over the weekend. So when we flipped the cover there were about three or four dozen bees freaking out. We tried to brush them onto the porch of the hive with old Goldenrod stalk with mixed success. I think we got most of them eventually, but it stressed everyone out.

Here is the hive, ready for winter, with a bale on the NE and SW sides, wrapped in tar paper with the entrance on the bottom open and an air vent at the top. I hope we will see the bees next February.

November 27, 2011

Thanksgiving Chores

Thanksgiving was small this year. Ilana was out of the country taking a class for work, so Alden and I had the run of the house. We were able to get quite a bit done over the holiday.

I was able to get chores done that Ilana may have frowned upon due to the mess factor. I finally plastered and painted the sheet rock I hung on the bedroom ceiling (maybe three years ago... yipe). I threw down many drop clothes, but cleaning the dust was still a challenge.
I completed the woodshed with help from Karen (who watched Alden), Darrell (who helped with the walls and roof), and Scott who helped with the roof and wood stacking. All the wood is now safe and dry in its new home.

At the end of the holiday weekend, Ilana came home in a new used car. Since the truck got totaled a few months back we have been keeping our eyes out for something new to drive. Our friend James was getting a new vehicle so we were able to adopt his old Camry. We are all very excited about it.

November 15, 2011

Getting ready for winter

Summer is over and fall seems to be flying by. It seems lately we have been keeping our collective heads down and pushing forward.

I have been busy with chores all summer and fall. I have been renovating the house piece by piece, with the latest additions being a new closet (i.e. replacing a hole that lead to the basement) a new downstairs bathroom, finishing the downstairs hallways, a new upstairs guest room, a new equipment shed, a new compost heap, more weatherproofing around the house, and various landscaping projects. I also completed a new firewood shed in last week. Some of these projects have been over a year in the making. The bathroom was started over a year ago and I took a victory lap when we got working fixtures.... eight months later the last of the drywall was painted.
Alden and the floor of the soon to be woodshed.
Alden and the new compost heap
The corner of our new tiny guestroom

New Bathroom

Alden has been growing in leaps and bounds. He became fully potty trained awhile back, and he's now able to sleep through the night without accidents. He recently started making his own breakfast so we can sleep in (we place a bowl of cereal on the table and a cup of milk in the fridge and he puts them together by himself). He knows his letters and numbers and is sloooowly learning how to draw, although he still has no patience for it yet. His motor skills need to be honed so he knows more than he can do. His bargaining and negotiating skills are pretty advanced and he is very good at verbalizing what he wants. He still has a hard time talking about his day, the "what happened at school today" question is usually met with either vacant or distant looks and he requires additional prodding for answers.

Alden was rewarded with a homemade a train cake after he had no nighttime bedwetting for a whole week. No more diapers for this family - yippee!!

Ilana developed a new garden plot and headed our CSA membership garden all summer. Lately, she has mostly been taking advantage of travel related to work, for classes and workshops.

October 18, 2011

Wintering the Bees

We started getting the bees ready for winter by feeding them medicated sugar water and reducing the hive entrance. In another month we will lock them down for the cold weather, but right now the days are pretty mild and they are still finding pollen from somewhere.

October 10, 2011


When we bought the house there was a room on the east side of the kitchen. It was heated by an electric monitor heater and primarily used for laundry, storage, and had a large chest-freezer. It had wood paneling and a hatch that went to the basement and another that went to the attic. There was a fiber tile ceiling and linoleum floor stapled down over a plank sub-floor.
When we moved in we got rid of the chest freezer and moved the laundry machines to the basement. We christened the area the 'Mudroom' and it was an off-and-on storage area for things as we did renovations on the house. About two years ago I started chipping away at making the space usable, which not only included the mudroom, but the area above and below as well. The first project to be done was the basement, because it was the easiest. Next was making a functional second bathroom (sink and toilet) which was completed about a year ago, but not finished... just functional.
About a month ago I got the bathroom finished enough. There are still a few bits and bobs I want to do, but for the most part it is complete. Toilet, shower, sink, tile, lights, shelves, cabinets, and the rest.

We also had the outer walls insulated, new electric and plumbing, and new windows along the way.
We did everything ourselves except run the plumbing.
Tah Dah!

October 9, 2011

Food initiative

On Oct 9 we went to the Oaklands Farm to help support a local food initiative
It is part of a food local food initiative started by our friend Sarah. There was a big community turn out and lots of kids for Alden to play with.Karen and Kenny at the event

October 2, 2011

Skunks 4, Woodchucks 3, Racoons 3, neighbor's cat 1

One more skunk catch and an eventful night when we got this lovely couple brings the trap count up to:
Skunks 4
Woodchucks 3
Racoons 3
Neighbor's Cat 1
All but the neighbor's cat were taken to the beach.

The traps have been quiet for awhile and I hope this will be it for the season

October 1, 2011

Monhegan Island Visit

We took a trip to Monhegan Island a few weeks ago to see Uncle James, an old family friend who has known Kerstin his whole life. James traditionally rents a little cottage on the island for two weeks or three weeks every September and has been doing so for over 30 years. The boat ride to Monhegan was Alden's first oceanic trip and we got to see Minke whales on our return! Alas, they only surfaced for a short while, and I didn't get my camera out in time to snap a pic.
We walked around the island and did a little tidepooling and boat wreck climbing. Then we hiked up to the cliffs on the opposite side of the island where we enjoyed stunning ocean vistas.

We also took a jaunt through town, which was filled with beautiful gardens and butterflies. One house had chickens, so we stopped to watch them for a while.

Alden's favorite part of the island was playing a chase and hide game along the road. Thankfully, there are very few motorized vehicles on the island and the roads were mostly empty, so Alden was free to run about as he saw fit.It was really great reconnecting with James on the island, although it was only a brief visit. We were lucky enough to see him a week later when he stopped by our house and joined us for a rousing evening of poker.

September 30, 2011

Bee Robbing

We did not have enough honey to harvest this year, so instead we let the bees consolidate their bounty.
To keep warm in winter the bees get only two boxes, so we took the third box off the top and placed it next to the hive.
Since the box was no longer part of the hive the queen pheromone quickly vanished and all the bees from the hive started ransacking it. It was like a giant abandon warehouse full of gold just appeared! By the end of the day all the honey was removed from the comb and all the bees were in the two-story hive. If you look at comb you can see it was torn into and robbed without the care that the bees usually uses.

September 23, 2011

3 skunks

Over the past two day we have captured three skunks in our traps, baiting them with catfood or sausages.

On the first day we got a young skunk

On the second day we got one young skunk and one old one.I transported them all away to the beach. I hope now our bees can sleep in peace and not be so cranky.

September 21, 2011


Not sure if this critter was eating our bees, but he was in our trap, so it was off to Peacock Beach with him.

September 17, 2011

Autumnal Garden Bounty

We had a frost advisory last night, so Alden helped me pick some of the remaining frost sensitive vegetables in our garden. Here's what we hauled home yesterday. We've tried a few new crops this year which are pictured here - sweet potatoes (woot!), mellons (meh) and Korean sesame leaf, or ggaennip (fun!). I'm most proud of my sweet potatoes, pictured in the upper right, which are not easy to grow in Maine, but thrived in our newest plot. The mellons got a slow start - the worst of our cucurbits - and flowered late in the season. The fruits may not be ripe yet, but I didn't want to risk the frost damage, so I picked them anyway. The sesame leaf has been fun to experiment with. We received these seeds as a gift from our friends in NY who are Korean and American. They love this stuff and grow it in pots on their rooftop garden, so they thought we should give it a try. I had no idea what to expect, but they did well. The plants grew about 33" tall and produced beautiful, serrated cordate leaves with a really assertive and unique flavor. I'm at a bit of a loss to describe it. It's almost a minty, oniony cilantro, but it holds its flavor when cooked, so it's amazing in enchiladas and soups. Sesame leaf also makes a great wrapper for ceviche, sushi, and dolmas, and infuses a brilliant flavor to meats when stuffed in fish and grilled. I've really grown to love it and we're all having fun coming up with new ways to use it.
And of course, the tomatoes. We had reasonably good luck with the tomatoes, but they got septoria relatively early in the season and I didn't keep on top of it, so our plants were reduced to shriveled brown snarls much sooner than they should have been. We grew Orange Banana Paste tomato this year, which makes the sweetest tomato sauce I've ever had. Luscious is the only way I can describe it. We'll definitely grow this one again. The tomatoes pictured above were collected over a week or so and made about 8 cups of tomato sauce, which we froze and squirreled away. We also grew a variety of heirlooms and sun gold cherries, which are so sweet and tempting I don't think they have ever made it out of the garden.