Down on the Farm

As I have mentioned, life with my grandchildren is a whirlwind of activity. In addition to the Children’s Museum, library, trampoline and bouncy house places, parks, playgrounds, and the beach, there are butterfly parades at the local Audubon Society and trips to “the farm.”

Agricultural tourism is BIG in Maine. Every place, small or large, seems to have a special event, view, tour, or self-guided option. Thus we found ourselves at Pineland Farms, not once but twice in one week.

Pineland Farms, New Gloucester, MainePineland Farms, a large working farm in New Gloucester, Maine, a community nestled among the rolling hills a little outside Portland, offers the public a chance to discover, learn, and explore rural life.

Though the farm is open for self-guided tours any day, Friday mornings gives children and their parents (grandparents) an opportunity to collect eggs in the hen house, milk a cow, see a baby calf, or hoe the garden or sample its goodness (in season), all under the guidance and tutelage of the farm educators. Among other things, children are fascinated to learn where milk comes from (when they squeeze the teat) and having a big animal gently take hay from their outstretched hand.

The day we went a new born calf was a popular attraction.

Hours old calf, Pineland Farms, New Gloucester, MaineAfter tromping through the barns and around the farm, you’ll be hungry so visit The Market and cafe in the Welcome Center, where you can enjoy a farm fresh lunch or take home some farm fresh goodness (fresh baked bread, honey, local jams and jellies, maple syrup, cheese, etc.) many of which are made at or from ingredients grown on the farm. If open, you can visit the creamery and see how cheese is made.

Equestrian Center, Pineland Farms, New Gloucester, MaineOn the lovely, winding way back to Portland,the equestrian center is open for visitors to tour the stalls and see the horses or watch riders put their mounts through their paces. Wander across the street and and you’ll find a flock of sheep.

If you have any energy left over (or plan another trip), nature trails offer opportunities to watch for birds, fox and other forest creatures, or just enjoy the babbling brook, fields, ponds, and forests as you walk. Trails are open year round  for hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, or cross-country skiing. Fish in the pond in warm weather or go ice skating or take a long run down the sledding hill (bring your sled) in winter.

We returned to the farm again on Saturday for the annual Sheep Shearing Festival where we watched sheep being sheared the old fashioned way, by hand, and using those new-fangled clippers. Australian shepherds herded a small flock all to the tune of whistles and prompts by their shepherd. For young and old alike, it was fascinating to watch the dogs in action.

In addition to the working farm demonstrations, there were crafters available to let help you experience carding wool and spinning it into yarn and making a sheep “doll” by using needles to felt the raw wool into the appropriate shape, then take it home with you. You could purchase hand woven wool socks, hats, scarves, and mittens (not unwelcome on this blustery spring day), hold and pet a rabbit, and for the little ones “shear” their own shaving cream sheep, along with other craft activities.

Once again, a farm fresh lunch at The Market and cafe was welcome before we all headed home exhausted, yet content from our day in the country fresh air.

More about Pineland Farms: The site of a former “School for the Mentally Incompetent,” the old administration building and dormitories offer a natural setting for conferences. And if you like, you can stay in one of several original farm houses on the property.

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Gotta love ’em

It’s 9:30 am. My hair is standing on end, yesterday’s mascara rings my eyes like a raccoon, my shirt is covered with pear mango smoothie, scrambled egg mash, and snot.

After finally putting the usually happy but teething, and thus cranky and snotty nosed, toddler down for a nap, I just want to crawl back into bed, pull the covers over my head, and go back to sleep myself. But wait, I can’t — my bedding is rolled up in a wad at the end of the couch protecting it as best I can from the cat hair and dog slobber.

Such is life in the house of my one and five year-old grandchildren. Will I survive the rest of this visit? Does it get easier with time?

My daughter seems to breeze through early mornings with a crying toddler and a preschooler, long days at work, supper time, bath time, story time, and a little late night time with her hubbie, all with apparent ease. She amazes me.

I know I did that once — two under the age of two and then another 5 years later. I remember the non-stop schedule, the constant making meals or snacks and cleaning up. I remember the bundling and unbundling, and strapping everyone into their car seats, the chasing after a toddler when the older ones were doing more grown up things. But it has been a loooooooong time since my life was so multi-multi-tasking.

Living alone, I have been in the” slow lane”, navigating life’s meandering road for so long, it is hard to adjust to being in the middle of rush hour traffic — ALL DAY LONG!

Yet I love the time spent here — chaotic as it is. Drooling hugs, simple stories, playing games, singing songs, going to the playground, the children’s museum, the park, beach, farm, or library. It is all a part of life’s adventure. And truthfully, despite the non-stop run, run, run, a lovely part.

Children grow so fast. They are only little once. You have to take the time to enjoy every moment. Each is a gift.

Ezrah and ZayLove y’all!

Shocking

Returning to the US after 5 months in Mexico, means adjusting to some significant changes.

First, the weather. It is c-c-c-c-cold – going from 85 degrees to a high in the 40s or 50s is a shock to the system. As my grandmother used to say, “You’ll get used to it.” That is true, but “hurry spring!!!!”

Second, though it is only temporary, the pitter patter of tiny feet and all that goes with them — the tumbles, the tears, the tantrums, the snotty noses, the sweet smiles, the sticky hugs, and, of course, the constant clatter. Shocking and sometimes a test of endurance. Being with my grandchildren (and their parents) however, is something I would not miss for the world.

Most of all though, I have to get used to the sticker shock. Twice now I have gone out to buy ingredients to make a single meal for four, only to reach the check out and be flabberghasted at the cost. In Mexico, I could buy a whole week’s worth of groceries for what doesn’t even fill a single bag here!!! I don’t think I will ever get used to that.

Blue Bear and tomatoes

Portland

Traveling to and from Mexico, I take advantage of having my bags already packed and visit my daughter and family. This year that meant a trip to Portland — Maine, not Oregon.

Portland is a beautiful, historic, sea faring city, “Down East” as the natives call it, which means it is in the southern part of the state on the East Coast of the US, yet still just about as far north as one can get without being in Canada.

Blue Bear, Casco Bay, Portland, MaineIf you have never visited the East Coast of the US, especially in these northern climes, it is a rugged landscape, and the people are a rugged lot. They have an independent streak and are passionate about the environment. Many of the original “organic” or “all natural” companies had their origins in Maine.

It is a land of outdoor beauty and adventures — rocky shorelines with views of sailboats and fishing trawlers; rolling hills covered in maple trees that give up their sweet nectar in the spring and go out in a blaze of color in the fall; snowy winters for skiing, skating, sledding, ice fishing, or sitting around a warm fire.

Portland itself is quaint as only towns with 200+ years of history can be. Everything is historic from the wharf along the Fore River that leads to the sea, to the fishing boats, the brick streets, and the grand Customs House. Stroll along the waterfront or wander around downtown and you will find quaint shops, filled with souvenirs, antiques, handmade pottery, clothing, but also the necessities. It’s a small town, boutique atmosphere. If you want a shopping mall though, you will not find one; you will have to drive 20 minutes to the next town.

Lobster toys, Portland, MaineThere is plenty to do in Portland. Visit the Children’s Museum with your favorite little ones; they never run out of things to experience. Head to the Railroad Museum and ride the train along Casco Bay. Go whale watching. Walk the historic wharf area and purchase the catch of the day right from the boat. Or indulge in killer dark chocolate sorbet from Gorgeous Gelato, one of many ice cream and gelato shops competing for your taste buds.

Speaking of taste buds, Portland is a foodie’s heaven. Though chain restaurants can be found, local restaurants offering delicacies from cultures around the world, creatively transform the tiny spaces of the historic buildings into a feast for the eyes and palate.

The arts are alive and well in Portland, with dance, theater, puppet shows, and groups centered around activities like swing dancing. The library is not just a quiet repository for books but a center of community activities with concerts and visiting performers.

I wish I had more time to spend in Portland, and I especially wish I could have been there during the summer when the whale boats are running, the water is warm, and the town is humming. Perhaps I will visit again and have a chance to explore more.

Stay tuned.