Monday, June 28, 2010

The Gardening Blues

I look over my pitiful plot and mumble a whispered apology to the unfortunate seedlings that will grow-up in such a weed choked and frightful piece of scorched earth. No doubt, they will suffer needlessly at the hands of an individual that once killed a cactus. It isn’t that I don’t attempt to care for the inhabitants of my small garden; it is simply that I lack the devotion of carrying out such necessary chores as fertilizing, watering, weeding and executing Japanese beetles and slugs. In fact, my entire position on gardening is a “hands off” approach. I figure that perhaps Darwin’s “Survival of the Fittest” has a place in backyard horticulture. Any vegetable, that somehow miraculously manages to survive an entire growing season, is bound to be delicious and perhaps possessing of supernatural powers of healing and vitality.

I sigh, looking at the crooked rows, insect infestations, blight and barren patches of earth that mark the gardens of the inexperienced and those short on the asset of time. Standing with my bare feet in the grass, my toes are massaged by tickling blades. I bend down and grab a handful of weeds and give a good yank. The invader is torn from the plot and given a hardy shake, making it release its grasp on the nutritious soil. A few more extractions and I feel my body relaxing and the stress of the day melt away.

I suppose that it really isn’t necessary to be an expert gardener, to enjoy the experience of gardening. Perhaps growing organic veggies and healthful food from a backyard plot is secondary to the real benefits of hobby horticulture.  I wonder if the real benefits are tied to something more important and basic. Anyone can buy organic and healthy fruits and vegetables in a grocery store but where can you purchase happiness, peace and tranquility. Yes, I am sure there is a deep satisfaction in providing your own food but for some of us gardening is a little more.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

LC Bates Museum Discovered!

The LC Bates Museum on the campus of Good Will Hinckley is a great way to spend a rainy afternoon with little ones. Along with their regularly scheduled children programs and rotating exhibits they house many unique and interesting displays sure to pique the interest of even the most active youngster. The grounds also contain several miles of hiking (nature) trails that wind around throughout the property and make for a great spot to walk and perhaps have a picnic.

Monday, June 21, 2010

UNSEEN HAZARDS That Threaten Hunters

A few weeks ago, I received an e-mail asking if I was interested in conducting a review of “UNSEEN HAZARDS That Threaten Hunters, Campers and Hikers: What you should know about pathogens commonly found in wildlife” by fellow Mainer Jerry Genesio. As a rabid outdoorsman, the subject area interested me greatly and I immediately said yes!

The book is an eighty-six page read containing information on six pathogens well know to most outdoor enthusiasts. Included are the backgrounds, associated symptoms and possible treatments related to rabies, lockjaw, rabbit fever, undulant fever, Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease. Jerry’s twenty years working with biologicals have provided him with an in-depth understanding of zoological diseases and the steps that lead to their prevention. For individuals venturing into the wilds, the book is a great resource full of practical health wise advice.

Poor Jerry didn’t know what he was getting himself into, as my exploration of his book had me e-mailing him question after question. Fortunately, Jerry is patient and very interested in taking the time to formulate organized and thoughtful replies.

Q and A with Jerry Genesio:
1. Do you feel as a society we are vilifying the outdoors and making our kids afraid of venturing out the front door? - No, I don’t feel we’re creating unnatural fears in our children. I believe the fear is perfectly natural and very real. Having said that, however, I hasten to add it is fear that keeps us and those we love safe from harm. It is fear that keeps us from venturing too close to the edge, too far from the shore, too high in the tree, and too deep in the forest. We teach our children at a very early age to fear such recklessness. But we also teach them to safely appreciate panoramic views, the pleasure in being able to swim, the fun and fantasy of playing in a tree house, as well as the beauty and wonderment in the wild and wildlife.

I believe I can best explain my philosophy and respond to your query with the three quotes that are posted on my Natural Unseen Hazards Blog:

a. “Don’t Be Afraid – Be Aware!”
b. “Chance favors the prepared mind.” Louis Pasteur
c. “It’s better to look ahead and prepare, than to look back and regret.” Jackie Joyner Kersee
d. and the quotes by John Muir and Confucius printed on page 4 of the book.
e. Also please note that the book is dedicated to my children “whose love of and appreciation for nature have been inspirational.”

2. Deet or Permethrin and why? - Of the six insect repellents judged by Consumer Reports to be most effective, the active ingredient in four is DEET, one is another chemical compound called picaridin, and one is oil of lemon eucalyptus. See the May 26, 2010, post on

3. Are there any “natural” repellent products you would recommend? - Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus is the only plant-based product recommended by the CDC for protection against mosquitoes that carry West Nile Virus. The Repel brand plant-based Lemon Eucalyptus insect repellent just received a “recommended” rating from Consumer Reports. See my blog post of May 26, 2010 at

4. What are the top three things hunters can do to avoid illness and infection? - In my opinion, the top three things hunters can do to avoid illness and infection are: (a) wear latex gloves when field dressing, skinning, and/or butchering game; (b) protect against mosquitoes and ticks by wearing insect repellent, dressing properly, and carefully inspecting for ticks; and (c) cooking wild game properly.

5. In Maine what is our biggest single pathological concern? - I believe our biggest single pathological concern in Maine, i.e., the one concern that currently puts most hunters at risk, is Lyme disease. In 2000, there were fewer than 100 cases reported in Maine. In 2009, there were nearly 900 cases reported in the state.

“Researchers at the Maine Medical Center's Vector-borne Disease Lab track the progress of Lyme disease across the state by collecting and analyzing ticks. "We get 100 deer ticks off a single deer at a tagging station on opening day of hunting season," says Chuck Lubelczyk, field biologist for the Vector-borne Disease Lab. ‘Each tick, if you dropped it in the woods, could lay 3000 eggs apiece. So from one deer alone you could have 300,000 ticks next season.’ Small wonder the disease is spreading!” Lyme Disease Continues Its Spread In Maine by Bob Moore, Working Waterfront, 7/1/2008.

6. How should drinking water be treated? - I believe boiling for at least one minute is still the most effective way to treat drinking water.

7. You mention infection occurring in the skinning and preparation of animal meat; is it also possible to become infected gutting fish or even eating raw vegetables from the garden? - The digestive tracts of fish typically contain high levels of bacteria. Open wounds on the hands render anyone dressing fish or harvesting vegetables from the garden more vulnerable to bacteria. As for eating raw vegetables, one need look no further than the 2006 national recall of E. coli contaminated spinach.

8. Are there other pathogens on the rise that should be considered (Equestrienne Encephalitis, West Nile, Swine Flu, etc.) by outdoor enthusiasts? - The pathogens that concern me the most at this time are Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), West Nile Virus, and Dengue fever. There haven’t been any confirmed human cases of any of these diseases in Maine yet, but we know that several horses in Maine have died of EEE, and last year Maine state health officials urged pheasant hunters not to expose themselves to the blood of pheasants, and to thoroughly cook pheasant meat, because it was confirmed that several flocks in the state were infected with EEE. Also, recent outbreaks of Dengue fever in Florida and Texas, and recent cases confirmed among U.S. missionaries and tourists visiting Caribbean islands are worrisome. For further details click on the Eastern Equine Encephalitis, West Nile Virus, and Dengue fever tags on my blog at

9. Where can I order a copy of your book? - Unseen Hazards That Threaten Hunters, Campers, and Hikers is available through any bookstore in Maine that orders from Ingram, which is the overwhelming majority. It can also be purchased at the link above.

As an aside, I’ve also recently published a work of non-fiction titled Portland Neck: The Hanging of Thomas Bird. For details click the link above. You might also be interested in the book’s companion blog at

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Oh Crap - Response

A family friend sent this photo to me shortly after reading my "OH CRAP" blog post. He said that the pictures reminded him of me . . . jeez thanks! LOL!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

West Grand Lake Exposed

My hysterical laughter was uncontainable, heightened by the absurdity of the event that had just occurred. Despite the fact that $200 dollars worth of my brother’s fishing equipment, was now resting peacefully at the bottom of West Grand, my totally loss of self control was infectious enough to make my brother crack a wide smile. Seconds before, a salmon of truly epic proportions had leaped from the water, barely had “OH MY GA” escaped my lips, when his rod doubled over, flew across his back and disappeared into the murky depths.

The titanic nature of this fish will be debated for years, and I revel in the fact that I was the only observer of its true size. My halfhearted attempts to console my brother, between bouts of uncontrollable laughter, centered on the fact that though he had just lost a complete fishing outfit he would be saving a TON in taxidermist fees! Though I was light headed and gasping for breath, I seem to remember a swear word being mumbled at this point in the conversational exchange.This shining moment, was the start to one of the most enjoyable and memorable fishing weekends in recent memory, as family, friends, outlaws and savages all descended upon the small town of Grand Lake Stream, Maine for our annual spring fishing weekend.

New to this year’s entourage was the infamous Mr. President (AKA Duckman), who brought with him a laundry list of necessary and unnecessary gear. Included in his camping/fishing arsenal were 8-12 poles rigged with lead line, fish finder with GPS, 3-4 tackle boxes, 300 gallons of gasoline, coffee pot, propane cook stove, 65 pound “Danforth” anchor, 15 quarts of baked beans, downrigger and quite possibly lobster traps. To say Mr. President was “prepared” for any and all contingencies would be a major understatement. I believe at some point in the weekend, he mentioned that his life motto had something to do with, “what is the sense of having 18 feet of boat to only fill it with a 14 feet worth of gear.”

In all fishing adventures, there are highs and lows, times when the fish bite and times when the “strikes” go cold. While Friday was marked by incredible fishing action, with 15 salmon and lake trout brought to net, the rest of the weekend saw not a single strike. It is fortunate, for my already shaky fishing reputation that this cold front aligned precisely with the time I left my brothers boat and set foot in the boat of Mr. President. Rather than blame myself, for the dramatic turn of events, this transition provided me with the perfect scapegoat. Now this isn’t to say that this predicament was totally the fault of Mr. President. Several other factors were against us from the onset, including a 50 HP Mercury outboard that only operated on trolling speed or wide open and a downrigger that was secured to the side of the boat with bubble gum and dental floss. I don’t mean to infer that Mr. President’s fishing prowess is anything less than exceptional, I am simply trying to muckrake to divert attention away from the fact that I didn’t manage to land a single fish on Saturday or Sunday, despite hours of invested trolling time. Never mind that we were fishing in high winds, that tossed Mr. President’s 18 foot Lund about like a wine bottle cork on the Atlantic and that I had, at this point, lost all 5 DB smelts and was fishing with a lure fashioned out of tinfoil and duct tape. These “concerns” mean little to the dedicated sportsman and are simply speed bumps in the road of outdoor life and cannot, in good faith, be used as viable excuses.

As this long weekend of adventure rolled to a close, it was decided by the high council of family elders, that despite his personality flaws, bodily odor and inability to catch fish, Mr. President would be allowed to become a regular participant in the spring fishing trip. His supernatural abilities to move outhouses, spin tall tales, fix outboard motors and brew a semi descent cup of coffee outweighed any possible negatives. In all seriousness, we would be hard pressed to find an easier going and better individual than Mr. President.

Please take a few minutes and stop by Mr. President’s blog and check out an alternate set of lies and stretched truths concerning our forays in Grand Lake Stream! For more on West Grand Lake and stories from last year check out the previous post from the spring 2009 fishing season.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Ticks SUCK!

Other than biting insects that can instantly kill you, I would have trouble identifying another creepy crawly that annoys me more than the deer tick. These troublesome critters are the carriers of lyme disease, a potentially lethal affliction if left undiagnosed or unchecked. Even with massive doses of antibiotics, humans as well as animals can suffer debilitating effects their entire lives from the plague that these little creatures carry. My retriever Onxy has contracted the disease twice, despite taking multiple levels of medical precaution. This fact worries me as my family and I constantly venture into the woodlands. Along with bug suits and tucking and taping pant legs comes a new weapon in the tick prevention arsenal . . . Permethrin. Sure, it to will eventually kill you and the warning label alone is enough to scare your body into developing cancer but at least you won’t die of a tick bite!

Anyone struggling with ticks, like we are in central Maine should seriously give it a try. Since I started using I can seemingly sit in the leaf litter and tall field grass all day with not a tick in sight. Just MAKE SURE to read the back of the can as it has to be applied in a very specific way and cannot be applied directly to any bare skin. Yeah, I know . . . but like I said before at least you won’t die from a tick bite!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Turkey Two - 2010

I do not know what possessed me to purchase my second turkey tag of the Maine season. Perhaps somewhere deep in my psyche, lies a sick and demented morning person who revels in the sound an alarm clock makes at 4:30 AM. This love affair with the twilight before the impending sunrise is only magnified by my long beard obsession. Apparently my “ID” is in need of some extensive therapy work to cure me of poultry passion. I wonder what a therapist would have to say about that!

With time on the spring season getting short, I counted the number of days I had left to hunt and decided that I might just as well throw my hat back in the ring. Family and friends would want to hunt, and sitting on the couch eating turkey nuggets is no way to spend a glorious spring morning. After shooting my first turkey of the season on Thursday, I had an uneventful day hunting on Friday. The gobblers were lighting up early morning but nothing was moving around in the fields. Saturday, I put that old curmudgeon Lenny on the exact same set I had shot the first bird and he saw and heard nothing all morning. Meanwhile, I hunted and scouted out another location. Monday, I returned to this identical spot and shot my final bird of the season. At 7:30AM two tom turkeys strutted directly down the side of the field and taking aim and firing, I dropped the lead bird directly on top of my 40 yard marker stake! At 14lbs 14 ozs and having an 8 ½ inch beard and ¾ inch spurs he wasn’t a giant but still a beautiful bird.

If this entire scenario has taught me anything, it is that persistence pays huge dividends. Find a good spot to set-up and be confident in your decision. If you have doubts move but if you scouted hard and know the birds movement, make the commitment!

Lastly, I am sure you have heard me on numerous occasions extol the virtues of my Browning 10 gauge BPS but when the shot counts and you need to reach out and touch something it’s a deadly and powerful turkey machine. I thoroughly enjoy telling the story of a conversation I had with a friend of mine who had just started turkey hunting. He shared that while hunting he had a monstrous tom lock up just past his decoy at approximately 50 yards. Perplexed at how to get the turkey any closer he inquired what he might have done wrong and wanted to know what I would have done in the same situation? I responded that I would have pulled the trigger. Visibly confused and knowing I was an ethical hunter he asked why, I said well, because I own a 10 gauge. LOL!

Monday, June 7, 2010

First Turkey Photo!

After trying for months to capture anything but squirrels, raccoons and house cats on our wood lot game camera, this beautiful hen finally managed to stroll by. While our second game camera had managed to capture some exciting video of a huge tom, this is the first still turkey picture of the Spring . . . and its only about 50 yards from the house! Next assignment, to catch a tom in full strut!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Smoked Fish

Had a chance over the holiday weekend, to finally get around to smoking the two salmon and single lake trout (togue) from the previous winter ice fishing and spring trolling outings to West Grand Lake. The following are two recipes that work very well for both of these fish species. In my experience, I have found that many people actually prefer the lake trout over the salmon, due to its rich flavorful taste. For breakfast, try putting either smoked delicacy on a bagel with cream cheese and you will think you have died and gone straight to heaven! Either way, smoking is a fantastic way to enjoy eating both of these sporting favorites!

Smoked Salmon
1 qt. water
½ cup white sugar
½ cup non-iodized salt
Smoked Togue
2 qts. water
1 cup of non-iodized salt
½ cup of brown sugar
¼ cup of lemon juice (One lg. lemon)
¼ tbsp of garlic powder
¼ tbsp of onion powder

1. Soak fish overnight (8-12 hours)
2. Take them out and rinse them off
3. Pat dry and let sit until a glaze forms called “pellicle” (about 1 hour)
4. Place in smoker and use apple, hickory or alder depending on taste.
5. Let smoke for 8-12 hours until the desired level of doneness is achieved. Some people like smoked fish “dry” and some “wet” so taste testing is required near the end of the process.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Turkey Success - 2010

The simple pull of the trigger released an expected but monstrous KABOOM, that echoed across the field, shattering the morning silence with incredible voracity. A rainstorm of ruin, tore through the thin veil of maple leaves, twigs and raspberry bushes leaving them looking like a spaghetti strainer that had been run over by a bushhog. The devastating effect of 10-gauge number 5 turkey shot delivered a lethal payload of shock and awe to the neck of the unsuspecting gobbler. The end result for Tom turkey was almost immediate, in seconds the long beard’s final death throes were complete.

As my muscles relaxed, a huge sigh escaped my lips and I slumped back against the titanic twisted cow pasture pine. Checking my watch it read 7:15 AM, I had been on the sit for less than two hours, with only occasional distant gobbling to keep me hopeful. While expectations had run high, my track record to this point in the season had me less than encouraged. After weeks of attempting to seduce call shy birds, seemingly possessing the supernatural ability to pick out decoys and turkey blinds, I finally decided to switch tactics.

For the seasoned turkey hunter, there are three primary ways to hunt turkeys. In order of preference, for a majority of hunters, these include spot and stalk, sitting and calling and hedging their bets on travel routes. Hunters can of course combine any or all of these tactics to ensure success. Early season, decoys, calling and blinds can effectively be used to harvest turkeys, however, as the season progresses birds quickly adapt and begin to shy away from these attempts at trickery. To combat this predicament, roosting birds at night, heavy scouting and a careful study of turkey behavior will eventually outwit even the smartest long beards.

As the end of the month approaches, patterning turkey movements will put bashful birds in front of the barrel almost every time. Turkeys, like all animals, have specific feeding and bedding (roosting) areas and travel corridors between these zones. The astute sportsman can use this information to distinct advantage. In my case, this involved setting up on a short woods road running between two large fields. In previous outings, I had noted that turkeys were feeding and strutting between these two specific fields and they appeared comfortable using the easy to navigate woods road as sort of a turkey highway. Scouting had also identified large Tom tracks along this stretch of road, further increasing the chance of seeing a large mature gobbler. My extremely simple plan was to pull the infamous tactic sit, wait and see. With any luck, a turkey would be in my gun sight before 9:00 AM.

Throwing my turkey vest into the truck at 5:00 AM, I was thankful to have had an extra hour of sleep. Late season hunting calls for late morning starts, to better link with the habits of call shy prowling toms and the sleeping habits of exhausted turkey hunters. I was also extremely grateful that my load of equipment was lacking blind, calls and decoys, all of which had lost their sense of “turkey” appeal over the last three weeks of hunting. To get to untouched birds, it was a ½ hour hike and 20 less pounds of equipment made for an enjoyable early morning walk rather than seemingly endless death march.

Arriving at the base of the large pine on the edge of a small field at 5:45 I could hear low gobbles in the distance and knew that my chances were good. Pre-thought and pre-scouting had me already construct a small blind of dead branches and clear the area under the tree of debris. I supplemented my “natural” camouflage, with a light mossy oak printed netting to provide additional coverage to sparse areas.

With no slate or box call to yelp on, I was pleasantly content to sit and listen to the awakening morning. An excited chorus of song birds, crickets and crows created such and auditory spectacle that I almost forgot to listen to the approaching gobbles growing louder by the minute. Having been caught off guard by sneaky turkeys, on many occasions, I slowly repositioned and raised the shotgun. Waiting, five minutes passed and a mosquito made a lunch of my eyebrow, 10 minutes passed and my fingertips began to go numb, 15 minutes passed and my arm began to shake. Just as I prepared to readjust, a hen walked into view and I knew that any movement would cause her to signal an alarm putt and the game would be up. In the stillness of the morning, not a breath of air stirred and the shake of my shotgun barrel appeared as disruptive as a hurricane. Still I held on, closing my eyes and concentrating every physical effort not to move. As I opened my eyes, I noted a large red, white and blue head poking around behind the hen and the huge open fan of a mature Tom. While my original plan had been for the long beard to strut his way into a narrow opening on the edge of the field, the hen’s nervous nature had me quickly organizing an alternate route to my target. As the Tom spun his tail to my position, I wasted no time shifting the necessary ½ foot. Seemingly on instinct, my finger slipped into the trigger guard and with a quick twitch of muscle fiber the day was won.

At 17 lbs 8 ozs and brandishing 5/8th inch spurs he wasn’t the biggest Tom to wander to close to the end of my shotgun barrel, however, the 11 inch beard he was dragging beat my previous records by a full inch. To say I was excited would be an understatement! No matter how many turkey or deer I have taken over the years, the thrill of the hunt never seems to be dulled by the passage of time or the number of creatures harvested. I suppose if it ever does, it would be my signal that perhaps my time hunting is over and I should take up other pursuits. In the meantime, my turkey tale is still not yet complete, as Maine now allows the harvesting of 2 spring bearded turkeys and wouldn’t you know it . . . I have another tag and two more weeks of season to fill it!

Happy hunting all and for those of you who have not yet harvested a long beard good luck!
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