March on a Small Maine Island

Thank you to all of my readers who have hung in there during this long hiatus from the blog. Winter was busy, but now I hope to check in more frequently and continue to share life on one of Maine’s lovely island communities with you.

As with everyone else in the country, talk here on the island is all about the coronavirus. Being somewhat isolated, we are probably safer than many people, but as the virus makes its first headway into the state, of course it makes sense to be cautious.  That caution has included cancelling events like a bean supper at the little church hall that serves as our social center, along with church services themselves for the next few weeks at least. But residents of small communities tend to take care of one another and we are no different. We’ll get through it together.

Meanwhile, life goes on. The days are longer, the weather is marginally warmer, and as I write this bright sunshine is sparkling off the water outside my office window.  I noticed the first crocuses barely breaking through the ground this morning.

Wherever you are, stay safe and healthy, and check back soon for more news about life on a small Maine island and occasional forays elsewhere.



Fall on the South Bristol Gut

Follow Route 129 out of Damariscotta into the tiny midcoast village of South Bristol, Maine. Soon after you enter the village, you’ll cross a bridge spanning the Gut onto Rutherford Island.  The area is home to one of Maine’s busiest and most authentic lobster fishing fleets. Stop by the South Bristol Co-op around 3 pm to see the lobster boats unload their catch, and while the weather holds, you can also enjoy a freshly steamed lobster out on the deck.

Fall is a great time to visit quintessential Maine villages like South Bristol.  Just before you enter the village you’ll find the Thompson Ice House,  where two annual events help keep an old tradition alive.  In winter, ice is still cut on the ice house pond, much as it was in the days before refrigeration.  Although no longer  shipped to far off places, the old tradition is still celebrated with great blocks of ice cut with hand tools and stored in the ice house. In summer, the ice house hosts an ice cream social serving ice cream chilled with the previous winter’s ice.

From there, watch on the right for the S Road school, built in 1860 and restored to its 1930s appearance. From time to time, docents open the school for an interesting look at what education was like in days gone by.  Across the bridge on Rutherford Island, you’ll find little Union Congregational Church where visitors always receive a warm welcome.

From here, continue on to Christmas Cove. Although bustling in the summer months, the famous  boating area is quieter now, making it a great place to take a leisurely drive and stop now and then for photos of quiet coves and pounding ocean surf. You’ll head home with lots of memories and perhaps a determination to come back in the summer months.

The leaves are just now starting to turn. Hurry, before the snow flies!

A Maine lobster boat, one of many in the South Bristol Gut. Photo (c) Nathaniel Hammond





Midcoast Maine: Boothbay Harbor

It’s peak tourist season here in Maine, with many vacationers traveling to the midcoast area. Here you’ll find charming little fishing villages, small towns with a mix of funky shops and luxurious boutiques, and of course plenty of swimming, kayaking, whale-watching and other fun in the sun. Let’s meander up the midcoast area starting with Boothbay Harbor.

Located on the Cape Newagen Peninsula, the year-round population of Boothbay Harbor is about 2500 people. At this time of year the streets are alive with the laughter and chatter of tourists, who vastly expand the population from May through mid-October.  Once a fishing camp for English sailors, today Boothbay Harbor is one of Maine’s most popular tourist stops.

Among the attractions are several lighthouses, including Burnt Island Light, the Cuckolds, and Ram Island Light, all of which can be seen on one of the many boat trips offered from downtown Boothbay Harbor. You can also catch a ferry out to Monhegan Island, well worth the trip to see this magical “artists” island.”  I’ll write more about Monhegan in a later post.

Fine seafood restaurants are also a draw here, but for gardeners the primary reason to visit Boothbay Harbor may be the Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, the largest in New England. I’ve escorted dozens of boatloads of tourists to the gardens, many of whom were hesitant about spending time here because they’ve seen botanical gardens in other parts of the country or around the world. To a person, far from being disappointed, they are always enthralled. If you have any interest at all in gardening, you should make the gardens part of your itinerary.

Midcoast Maine awaits, and I hope you’ll  find time to visit soon.  We’ll be making stops at other midcoast villages, so stop back here when you can.  Happy summer!

The Coastal Maine Botanical Garden in Boothbay Harbor welcomes visitors from all over the world. Photo (c) Karen Hammond





July on a Small Maine Island

Is there a better month anywhere than July on a small island off the coast of Maine? Although I’ve had the good fortune to travel widely, I haven’t found a better place to spend the peak summer month. Swimming, boating, lolling in the hammock, as well as fairs and festivals fill up the month. And the weather is glorious. Sometimes steamy, yes, and an occasional thunderstorm, but for the most part it’s a month of clear blue skies and gorgeous weather.

The Fourth of July has come and gone once again, but we still see fireworks on the mainland as small midcoast towns continue to celebrate summer with local fairs and celebrations. And occasionally we see them even closer to home. Our neighbors recently celebrated a special event with fireworks set off from their dock into the water. It was a spectacular sight right in our own backyard.

July has been my favorite month since childhood. School was over, hot weather and summer camp had arrived, and there was still plenty of time when I returned from camp to enjoy the beach and friends before having to think about school again. And when my camp days were over, it was time for a summer job followed by late-night swims and clambakes at the beach.

I’ve begun a book about year-round life on a small Maine island in response to many emails and inquiries, so stay tuned, continue to follow this occasional blog when you can, and feel free to share your own thoughts about Maine with me.

Savor the last days of July. We will recall them fondly next January!

A lobster bake on the beach is a highlight of summer in Maine. Photo (c) Nathaniel Hammond
Dock’s out! Float’s out! Families on a small Maine island enjoy summer’s every fleeting moment. Photo (c) Karen Hammond

May Comes to a Small Maine Island

After our long, cold winters everyone in Maine looks forward to spring and the arrival of warmer weather. In a very lucky year we may get a taste of good weather in April, but for the most part the first warm days arrive in May. And with them arrive the first snowbirds–our summer visitors and residents–who tentatively return to their warm-weather homes while hoping they’ve missed the final snowstorm of the season.

Here on the island we look forward to seeing our tiny streets and miniscule village coming alive again, although life will continue to be slow until the end of June when families with school-age children are able to return. In the meantime, all over Maine, seasonal restaurants and hotels are reopening in preparation for Memorial Day, which unofficially kicks off the summer season.

In the old song, “June is Busting Out All Over,” the month of May is said to be “full of promises,” and that pretty much sums things up. We keep a close eye on the gardens, willing the tulips to open (those that have managed to escape the ravenous deer), watching daffodils unfold and waiting for the lilies-of-the-valley to perfume the air. Glorious spring days alternate with days with temperatures in the 30s and the threat of hail. It takes patience to live in this state!

May also sees families busy with weddings, graduations and vacation plans. As the weather warms up, I’ll be writing about some great places to visit in Midcoast Maine and elsewhere in the state, and now and then some escapes well beyond Maine. So do continue to drop by and consider joining those who follow me on this blog, whether for some vacation ideas or just some idle musings.

Harbor view  (c) Karen Hammond

Welcome! And may you have a great May!

April on a Small Maine Island

We’ve all heard of April in Paris, which if you have been to Paris, you know it’s not really the best time of year to be there. May is a much better month, but the word April simply scans better in a song.

April in Maine can be a challenging month, because after our long winters (and this year was a very loooong one!) we’re  all more than ready for a warm spring and the promise of summer.  But as I write this, snow from last night’s storm is still waiting to be shoveled and there’s more snow predicted for  tonight. It’s a little frustrating for those of us eager to sit on the dock, put a boat in, or at least be able to pack away the winter woolies. But warm weather will come as it always does, and we’ll appreciate it all the more.  And truth be told, when the summer people return to our small island, we are happy to claim bragging rights for having made it through another winter.

As I work on another book about Maine, this time about life on the island, I realize again what a unique place it is.  When an ice pond formed in front of my house for the first time ever and cut off access to my car, friends offered ice choppers and strong backs to help me break it up and our trusty plow guy-hand shoveled ice over the frozen walkway so I could navigate my way out.  I brought muffins to a sick neighbor, and when a friend skidded on black ice and landed in a ditch

April on a small Maine island. Winter doesn’t bow out gracefully!

, three cars stopped to help him within minutes. Challenging as the weather can be at times, it also can bring out the best in people.

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you’ll return soon. As the weather warms, we’ll talk more about the many great places to visit in Maine, as well as what life is like in a small island lobstering village.

February on a Small Maine Island

You may know one or more of the jokes about Maine weather, such as “If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute,” or “We have just two seasons here: Winter and the Fourth of July.” Both sayings are proving true this winter, and over the last few days we have had snow, sleet, drenching rains, subzero temperatures, and a dusting of more snow to top it all off. The result  is a yard that looks and feels like a skating rink. In an emergency I guess we could pick our way out using crampons, ski poles, and wearing plenty of heavy clothes, but we’re taking the easy way out and staying home with a fire, a book, and a lap-warming cat. Fortunately we have a well-stocked freezer, and although cabin fever will set in before long, the temperatures are supposed to start rising tomorrow, the sun will come out, and we should be freed of our personal ice palace within a couple of days. It’s all part of life in Maine in the winter, and one of those weeks that make life in Maine in the summer all the sweeter.

Wherever you may be, I hope you are faring well through the winter season.  With February here, we know that March–and the first day of spring–

An island tree after a recent snowfall.
Photo copyright Nathaniel Hammond

can’t be too far behind.


January in Maine

Thanks for following the blog into the new year, which I hope will be a happy and healthy one for you. With the holidays over, the small island I live on has pretty much rolled up its sidewalks (except that there are no sidewalks to roll up, but you know what I mean). Summer cottages have long since been closed up for the season, and holiday guests have departed for home. A newcomer to the island called this season “creepy” because it’s so quiet and the winter light is so fleeting, but for many of us it’s a time for reflection and for tackling a big project. Because there are a lot of artists and writers out here, that usually means a book, several magazine articles, or a number of art works completed while the island, and life in general, move at a slower pace.

For anyone who needs a busy social life, this is probably not a good choice for a year-round home, but for the self-sufficient, winter can be fun.  There are always simple house parties, part lucks at the church community hall, trips to the movies on the mainland or even a trip to Boston when we’re in need of a city fix. A Christmas house guest and talented photographer rose at daybreak to catch the morning light and snapped some gorgeous photos, inspiring several of us to get out our own cameras.

However you start the new year, I wish you peace and happiness. I’ll return off and on to share more  musings

Sea smoke drifts around a small Maine island dusted with snow. Photo (c) Karen Hammond

about life on a small Maine island.

Thanksgiving on a Small Maine Island

Thanksgiving in New England is always a special event since we tend to go all out to celebrate it as part of our local history. Maine, of course, was once part of Massachusetts, and Plymouth, Mass. the  site of what we think of as the “first” Thanksgiving, So perhaps we have a special tie to the holiday

Guest of honor at the Thanksgiving feast. Photo (c) Karen Hammond

here. In any case, it’s a favorite holiday for many simply because it has no ulterior motives: It’s a time to get together with friends and enjoy good food and a relaxed day (and, if you’re so inclined, a football game or two).

As I write this, my little island is covered with snow that is still coming down hard. While this is not always the case at Thanksgiving, it’s also not unusual. We had flurries in October and this winter is setting up to be cold and long. It’s OK. One of the perks of living all or most of your life in this part of the country is knowing how to deal with the weather.

What’s on your Thanksgiving table? In Maine the traditional meal tends to include turkey, lots of stuffing, mashed potatoes, squash, possibly turnips (we’re big on root veggies here), and something green like green beans, peas, or Brussels sprouts. In my house we add creamed onions. And of course homemade rolls and plenty of gravy. And pies. And in my case, a cranberry cake that I have made for as far back as I can remember.  Despite all the cooking, it’s a relaxed day, the calm before the storm of the Christmas rush. I’ll carve out an hour or so to sit in front of the fireplace with the family cat and just…be grateful.

However you spend your Thanksgiving, whatever goodies your table may hold, I wish you a happy one and a festive start to the holiday season.

Leaf-peeping in Maine and a Lively Pumpkinfest

As I mentioned in a previous post, the Damariscotta Pumpkinfest is now in full swing, with most activities scheduled for the weekend. Among the festivities are a street fair downtown with food and entertainment, a pumpkin dessert contest, a parade, a pumpkin regatta, and plenty of other entertainment for the entire family.  Giant pumpkins line the streets, transformed into all kinds of figures by talented local artists. A highlight is always the pumpkin regatta, in which other giant pumpkins are hollowed out and “sailed” down the river. It’s always a fun day and if you are in the midcoast area, I urge you to come by. Note that parking is limited, so make use of the free shuttles. For details go to

Yes, the leaves are turning as we speak and although Vermont may be best known for fall color, we have lovely sugar maples here in Maine that pop against our evergreen trees. It’s a beautiful sight and changing every day. Many people consider fall the most beautiful time of year here.

For those of you following life on my small Maine island, all but an intrepid few of our summer residents have now made their way back “home” until next year.  The streets are quieter, making walking and running a little easier, and those of us who live here year all year grow closer as we get together for small gatherings and to work on events at the historical society or our little white church. Most of us spend our spare time readying our yards for winter, replacing summer flowers with pumpkins and cornstalks, hammering loose shingles, and in general getting prepared for another Maine winter. I know that many people love living where it’s always warm, but it’s hard to imagine a place without four distinct seasons.

If a fall visit is on your agenda, eat lots of lobster, and wild Maine blueberries, indulge in a cider doughnut or two, visit our fairs, and hop on a ferry to visit one or more of our beautiful islands. Enjoy!

Fall colors near Rangeley, Maine. (c) Nathaniel Hammond photography.