Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Whet your appetite

Another Common Ground Fair comes and goes leaving me smiling, dreaming and planning already for the next growing season. Here's what I know from just a few hours in paradise (a/k/a Unity, Maine):

Tamarack balm heals. Ray Reitze – author, teacher, naturalist, Master Maine guide – passed some around at his talk "Plants & Trees for Herbal Medicine". A few hours later my sore cracked finger was cured. Really. His balm recipe was shared but requires waiting until the sap rises in February. Anyone know where I can get some now?

Good Karma Farm's Hippy Hippy Shake is a very good soap but Citrus Clove Clay is certainly THE BEST. Ran out of cash before I saw their gorgeous yarn.

Bette Davis Eyes (worst song of the 80s?) now might just be the greatest song ever...but ONLY if the Toughcats are covering it.

Compost is garden gold. Raised beds deliver more food in less space with less work. This from the master, Ed Smith. After Smith's talk I purchased his Vegetable Gardener's Bible (LOVE IT) and scored a free copy of MaryJanesFarm (thanks, Lyman's Farm Store!). Santa, I want a broad fork and some manure for Christmas, pleeeeeeeeeease.

Apparently I'm growing a medicine chest in my backyard. Berry trend du jour: Elderberry. There are claims that even Dr. Oz (of Oprah fame) is recommending it for warding off colds and flu.

Toki Cards are my kryptonite. Every year I buy more and every year people ask me where I got their cute birthday card. How could anyone resist "Squirrel Tea Party"?
Composting toilets are a great old idea. I want one and I want a root cellar. Not necessarily in that order, or near each other. Talks on how to construct both were offered.

If you need an old reliable for your seed garlic Harry Brown's Pink Musical Garlic is the one.

I probably shouldn't raise livestock, although I threaten it every spring – the garden needs the manure. Visiting the animal fairgrounds fed that yen enough for now.

Better festival food than this does not exist. Fried shiitake mushrooms...NOT greasy, just crispy. Umami mia, they were tasty! Onto a Maple's Cardamom Ginger Milkshake – even better than I remembered, like drinking a chai cloud. Heaping platters of fresh potato crisps doused in Sewall's organic cider vinegar. (In a spray bottle. Neat!) Tried to hit Maple's one last time – Spiced Pumpkin was calling to me – but the line was about 30 deep ALL AFTERNOON LONG. No worries, my true favorite was waiting just beyond the Pine Gate – Woody, I.M.H.O., outshines all ice cream makers anywhere else in Maine. Tiger Tongues all around please! (If you have to ask then you better try him next year.)

Not enough time in the day or in the weekend. There's always next year.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Show girls

If a picture is worth a thousand words then one look at Endless Summer Dahlia Farm is worth a thousand pictures. Located just a few miles down the road from Birchwood Motel, you'd think I'd have paid Endless Summer a visit by now. Put this on your list for your next trip to Camden. Late summer/early fall is the best time to catch the surreally spectacular showy blooms in all colors, shapes and sizes.

ok, not worth a thousand words – camera still out of commission

Wander past hundreds (thousands?) of the most incredible blooms, all clearly labeled. Clipboards and forms are on hand should you care to place an order for bulbs.

Fall approaches and there just isn't enough color left in our gardens and pots save our begonias and the one sweet pink dahlia bulb gifted to me last spring. If I can put away the begonias each fall, what's a few more dahlia bulbs? Next fall's colorful payoff will be worth the effort. Now where's that order form?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Gone fishin'

from the archives -- camera still broken!
The day or two of quiet that always happens right before Labor Day marks the intensity of summer passing. Quick! Time to throw up the NO VACANCY shingle and play before the fall season kicks off.
This year's destination – Reid State Park – one of our fave beach spots just a little over an hour drive from Birchwood Motel. Choose mellow lagoon swimming among the tidal pools or crashing waves on open ocean sandy beaches.
Finish up the afternoon at the Five Islands dock in Georgetown with some Annabelle's ice cream. Great ice cream not included this ranks one of the sweetest harbors in Maine.
Get a better visual and peek at the latest post from my favorite Maine blogger.
Home for a quick shower and then dinner at the new place in Camden – Long Grain. OH. MY. GOODNESS. A tasty fresh change-of-pace at a very fair price. Sharing our steamed dumplings, spring rolls, pork noodles, kimchi, spicy greens with tofu while drinking some cold beer from French & Brawn (it's BYOB until mid-September) made the day complete. Ah, summer.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Taking a bite out of summer

One of only four Birchwood cherries from 2010
© 2010 Iris Eichenlaub

My trusty digital camera is on the fritz. Images tend to inspire my writing so ... no photos, no posts. Lucky for me friends are willing to share. Iris sent me this snap (check out Unfurlingferns) taken in our backyard.

Other news from Birchwood Motel:
• Our green efforts are getting noticed. Birchwood Motel is now a certified Environmental Leader in Hospitality!
• FINALLY free WiFi is now available in ALL guest rooms. In past the sound-proofing between rooms made this difficult. Thanks Heriz-Smith for solving this problem in an economical fashion.
• 3 more lines were added to our solar dryer to accommodate our busy day linen turnover. Sheets dry in under an hour on sunny days. So wonderful!
• Noticeable evidence uncovered that others are following suit. Borax – usually in plentiful supply – is SOLD OUT at our local store for weeks now! Keep it up, Camden.

Busy days of summer are here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Kermit was wrong...

It is easy being green, at least Iris makes it seem that way.

Despite yesterday's rain folks came out for our "Green Your Laundry" event. Inspired by and led by the talented Iris Eichenlaub – author of "Creative Endeavors in a Busy Life" blog – the morning discussion was a lively exchange of ideas and a hands on demonstration of DIY laundry soap.

Iris in action – an honor for to have her speak at Birchwood Motel

grate 3- 4 oz. bars of Castile soap – many hands make light work

the happy innkeeper mixing up our Birchwood formula – join us on Facebook to get the recipe

double i. alert: my favorite item in her chemical-free household gift basket -a scouring pad hand knit from twine...oh that Iris!

Stay tuned for more green-inspired events and news from Birchwood Motel as our season progresses.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Greening your laundry

Announcing Birchwood Motel's new solar dryer — ok, it's a clothesline, but a pretty unique one, huh? To celebrate our return to line drying — construction on the main house caused a 3 year hiatus – Birchwood Motel will offer a "Green Your Laundry" Workshop.
Blogger Iris E. – Creative Endeavors in a Busy Life — will lead the talk/demo at Birchwood on June 23 at 11am. Learn how to make your own laundry detergent, share ideas, save money and lighten your chemical load. All attendees may take a detergent sample home. Workshop is free but advance registration is appreciated. To register friend/like Birchwood Motel on Facebook and leave your RSVP there.
Chores are so much sweeter under a blue sky, warm sun
and new pergola that looks out to Penobscot Bay

Thursday, June 3, 2010

green before it was cool...

These days just about everybody makes this claim. But Birchwood Motel has long walked the walk. That is until construction around the main house caused a three-year hiatus from our 40+ year history of hanging clean laundry out to dry. But our solar drying days will soon return. Christian Andrus, of Pine Ridge Carpentry, suggested a few years ago our place needed a pergola. Eric, of Birchwood Motel, suggested we combine that idea with the return of the clothesline. Take a peek at the first stage of what will soon be the fanciest clothesline in town, if not the world!
Next year, should we grow grapes on the arbor or hops...I vote for hops!
Why all the effort? Sun-dried linens smell great (begone chemical softeners and dryer sheets!) and the UV rays lend additional bleaching/sanitizing power and all without financial and environmental costs.
Gratitude to Iris E., Creative Endeavors in a Busy Life, for inspiring us to put this plan into action. Please check back in soon. We'll be posting a shot of the line in action and update you on how our new laundry formula from craftingmamalibrarian is working.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Gently down the stream

Friday I tweeted that the weekend would be gorgeous. Heeding my own prediction we took the kayaks out for a run on the St. George. Bluest of blue skies, shining sun, no wind, bald eagles and osprey with catch in their claws soaring just over my head, a seal following behind our kayaks. Just the most perfect day.

Sweet pea back on the water
Pulling out of the water in Thomaston put us right near Billy's Tavern, a great Irish pub just behind the main drag. Time to stop for a pint of Boddingtons and a mound of handcut french fries (chipotle mayo and curry ketchup on the side). Hey, we earned it!
Done for the day, reward time
If you are looking to paddle around Midcoast – perhaps during a stay at Birchwood Motel in Camden – my only recommendation is Ducktrap Kayak in Lincolnville. Whether to buy or rent they have the best gear, great prices and offer sound advice.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Signs of the season - Smoothie Shack reopens

Looking for relief and a sweet treat after a long ride to Maine? Pull over at the pineapple flag, just past the Union Street/Elm Street stop sign crush. Alicia's adorable Smoothie Shack awaits serving up incomparably thick, fruit-packed smoothies of perfect consistency. (She cites the machine and the quality ingredients for making the difference.) Freshly prepared wraps are also available. If you want to do more than grab and go a picnic table and a few chairs are available for lunch in the sun.

Sweet Alicia recommends Tropical Breeze to an indecisive customer

Owner/chef knows her audience. Tropical breeze is a hit.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Coulda, Shoulda, Woulda

Still feeling glib over our El Camino post that ran before Maine. The Magazine. (Birchwood Motel, so on the pulse!) Rockland is featured in their "48 hours in" section. So great. Seemed tumbleweeds blew down historic Main Street when we first arrived. Now vibrant, aliveRockland celebrates the best of Maine and remains a favorite local place to visit, stroll, dine, enjoy.

Urbanite roots foster our passion for finding the local latest greatest and sharing this with our guests. Lest Maine. The Magazine ever scoop us, here's a list of posts we had intended, but just didn't get to, in 2009:
supplier to top restaurants and the place to call for air-shipped seafood. Jess's...THE FRESHEST.
June marks the start of Gin & Tonic season – Sweetgrass Winery's Back River Gin or nothing!
Suzuki's Sushi Bar
Tableside pickles keep us busy during the short lunch wait at Morses'

Add those to your return list, Anthony Bourdain. Your first Maine visit is a charmer but you just scratched the itch. Next up – Common Ground Fair. Some lamb kabob, a little cardamom ginger ice cream, arts & crafts, music, ag fair stuff with a twist...this 32 year strong scene put the loco in locavore, being seriously into local, green and organic way before it was cool. Call us, Tony. (But maybe leave Zimmern at home.)
loofas are grown from a gourd...who knew?
Foodies, artists, outdoor enthusiasts and other kinds of hipsters know choosing the Birchwood means a comfy bed, a wicked clean room and waking up with change in your wallet so you can indulge in more of Midcoast. Our loverly view, light breakfast and good, strong locally-roasted coffee (fair-trade, organic!) included each morning is just a bonus.

Hey, Maine. The Magazine – don't get scooped's not too late to write us up!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

A Love Note on Perseverance?

Happy Anniversary, Kimi and Pat. Twenty years ago the first of our close friends wed. Boy they were young but all knew it was a good match. Now time proves it.

Pear blossoms in honor of the bride
Kimi's post today to her husband, "Thanks for sticking it out with me." really resonates. For one, it echos my mother's steady lifelong refrain – "98% of life is just sticking it out." And lately – maybe it's the state of the world or maybe just midlife – I'm feeling we could all use a reminder to ride the wave because a lot of beauty can come from seeing things through.
Fedco apple began as a spindly little thing but look at her now!
Hoping for blooms next year.
My garden – where it is all about perseverance (remember 2009 and six weeks of rain?) – tells me this, too. Fruit trees planted a few years ago are blooming for the first time! The raspberries and blueberries look incredibly promising. Asparagus, always intended but never accomplished, is finally in. But it will be several years of love and care (and weeding and frustration) until there is any harvest.
Sweet as a peach, my Eric. Guess what his favorite fruit is?
Reliance, Maine grown, bears early. Fedco Trees
And what about my own dear husband and partner? Beyond his smile and friendly nature, there comes his incredible persistence. His favorite quote is "the race goes not only to the swift but to those who keep on running." Creating our own vision for Birchwood Motel is a thrilling path we follow together. Thank you my dear for always encouraging us to run on.
Fingers crossed. Raspberries coming back strong.
Eight varieties provide berries for continental breakfast.
And thanks, too, to our loyal guests. We are blessed and honored to share our beautiful spot in Camden, Maine with you. When you return each year or pass a kind word about staying here to another, it is the greatest of compliments.
So thanks, Kimi and Pat, Mom, family, our beautiful garden and our wonderful guests for reminding me of what's important.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Big things in small packages

Two wonderful packages came my way that warm my small business-loving heart. First, my dear mother sent us some Easter treats from our favorite chocolatier, Harbor Candy Shop in Ogunquit — a must-stop on your next trip through Maine.
dark and milk chocolate non-pareils. guess how long they lasted?

Second was soap. I regularly purchase my soap from local makers right here in Midcoast Maine (Trillium and Sisters — check out their soap eggs!). But Facebook recently reunited me with a soap-making friend from my childhood. CATSOCO is her small family business in the foothills of the Catskills with a mission to "keep the Earth clean one body at a time!" Annie included a few extra treats with my order. My fave — "soul cleanser." The punniness made me smile as did my long, soothing soak.

This is "soap the way it should be" with soothing natural fragrance and a luscious lather that leaves your skin feeling great. Unlike commercial brands I've used in the past, small batch soap lasts longer and lathers all the way through the bar. Its long-lasting quality cancels out any additional expense. Besides, your skin is an organ, treat it well! Use natural soap.
"Soul cleanser" and other soapy goodness from CatSoCo

P.S. Birchwood Motel is now on Facebook. We'd be honored if you'd become a fan and spread the word.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Nothing like a great neighbor

Welcome Dot's Market, our new neighbors up the road from Birchwood Motel. We certainly felt welcome today when we stopped by to pick up lunch.

The woman at the counter was so lovely, informed and helpful it was hard to believe she wasn't the owner. The owner, Melissa — also working the counter — was equally engaging.

Eric enjoyed a grilled panini, Miss e crafted her own sandwich from selections off the colorful chalk board and I opted for a pre-made sandwich (which tasted as though it had just been prepared). We're talking quality oven-roasted meats, homemade flavored mayonnaise, fresh veggies, artisanal breads.

Stop in not just for lunch but for other prepared foods, great coffee, decadent baked goods, artisanal cheeses, beer, wine and soft drinks. While foods are made to go, there are a few tables where you can enjoy your treats in their open beautiful space.

Better check it out now. Come summer business should be so brisk it may be hard to make it in the door.

you know me by now...have to showcase the sweet stuff!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Love at first bite

Fetching Eric from Portland Jetport yesterday offered the chance for some casual exploring and a good dinner out. Airport trips usually mean a return through Portland. But then I saw a feature on South Portland in the latest issue of Maine. The Magazine. Huh? You mean the stretch of strip malls and chain stores off I-95 always purposely avoided?

Really most of this trip took us through serene Cape Elizabeth. Monster well-kept homes, lovely parks, folks outfitted to perfection to project a "living the simple life" image. This was a pleasant drive with a few stops along the way at state oceanside parks.

But the trip highlight lay 30 minutes to the north – dinner at El Camino in Brunswick. Cal-Mex, if you need a description. To me, food this fresh, thoughtfully prepared and fairly priced should only be labeled sublime.

First stop Red's Dairy Freeze – Since 1952! (Ice cream is always the first stop of any decent trip.) We went because Maine. The Magazine told us to and because they uniquely offer 10 soft-serve flavors.

Coffee soft serve – fun to veer from classic twist

Burning off the cone at Crescent Beach State Park, Cape Elizabeth

Portland Head Light in the immaculate and peaceful Fort Williams Park, Cape Elizabeth

puppy paesan – mini Roxy meets a standard along the seashore dogwalk

Time warp: Dining Room or Lounge entrance? Your choice into El Camino. Half expected to see a cigarette machine.

Divine Papusas – thick, tamale-like corn tortillas, one filled with fresh cheese the other with chorizo. Topped with cabbage and indescribably toothsome green and red sauces. Photoshopped in the hearts to declare my love to all.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Doughnut obsession continues

It's a fall ritual – first breakfast out after closing for the season is always at Chase's Daily in Belfast. My usual: Scrambled Tofu Breakfast Tacos, Peach Smoothie, coffee. This time out something new, at least to me, appeared in the baked goods case – handmade jelly doughnuts! Thick, obviously homemade strawberry or raspberry jam nested in a puff of dough, dusted with sugar. Not the standard 21st century glop. Call ahead. It took 3 more trips until I scored. This visit Eric drew the long straw and got the only strawberry. I was left with apple, a fine second.

Chase's Doughnut + Caldwell Farms Milk = Joy